Here’s a catch-22: to keep up our massive funding for so-called anti-poverty programs—a mainstay of big government—we need to have… lots of poverty.

No problem.

The Census Bureau on Monday released new poverty statistics, arrived at by using a different method of calculation—and presto!—we have more poor people. According to the new figures, around 49 million Americans live in poverty, a 3 percent jump over the figure released by the government in September.

Yeah, the economy is bad, but surely we haven’t had that kind of increase in poverty in such a short time?

Income experts Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield of the Heritage Foundation explain what is going on in a terrific piece on National Review.  The old way of measuring poverty was flawed because it didn’t factor in government-funded benefits poor families receive.

That is why, no matter how much money we seem to pour into such programs, we don’t do much to end poverty. But the new system of calculating the numbers, which does take note of some of these benefits, is actually more flawed. It includes “income thresholds,” which ensure that, even if everybody’s income were to double overnight, the poverty rate would not change.

This gives a new twist to the idea that the poor are always with us. Of course, for advocates of certain government programs the poor are always valuable. That’s where the threshold system comes in:

[Using the new calculation] will ensure that “poverty” can’t be alleviated except by extreme income leveling. The new measure is designed to provide a never-ending argument for the Left to insist that we must continue to “spread the wealth,” as President Obama put it so memorably when he was Candidate Obama, by throwing more money into welfare programs.

Unfortunately, all that government money does very little to alleviate poverty:

The federal government continues to pour taxpayer dollars into welfare programs, currently spending four times the amount necessary to pull every single poor person out of poverty. But government fails to address the major causes of poverty: lack of work — even in good economic times — and the rise in the out-of-wedlock birthrate in low-income communities.

In good economic times or bad, the typical poor family with children is supported by 800 hours of work during a year. That amounts to 16 hours of work per week. If work for each family were raised to 2,000 hours a year — the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week throughout the year — nearly 75 percent of poor children would be lifted out of official poverty.

Illegitimacy rates are also a good indicator of whether a family will be poor. Kids living with a single mother are six times as likely to live in poverty as those living with married parents.

The irony of our government poverty programs is that they create habits that ensure more poverty.

If I were of a suspicious turn of mind…