The White House Council of Economic Advisors has a message for the 43.1 million Americans who live in poverty: Don’t worry, you’re not really poor.

In a report issued last week, the Trump administration said it would be OK to begin slashing health care, nutrition and housing programs because the “War on Poverty is largely over.” Since nobody is really poor anymore, we can focus on more important matters, like tax cuts that concentrate wealth in the hands of the already wealthy.

To pull off this historic feat, the president’s advisers are using a strategy recommended during the Vietnam War era by Vermont Sen. George Aiken, who advised the president to “declare victory and get out.”

In this case, economists have cooked up a new measure of poverty that shows it has been declining for years, including during the Great Recession, and now has been virtually eliminated.

The only problem with this strategy is that the War on Poverty is not being fought on the other side of the world. They are expecting us to forget about the presence of millions of poor people we see every day. For instance, this May an average of 496 people lined up for emergency housing in Portland every night, opting to sleep on an inch-thick foam mat because they had nowhere else to go. Where do they fit in the White House’s new chart?

According to the U.S. Census, 166,000 Mainers live on incomes below the poverty line, which is $20,000 a year for a family of three. Of them, 43,000 are children. About half of those children are in “deep poverty,” living in a family with an income that’s half the official poverty line. No matter how you do the math, that’s not enough.

The War on Poverty has been a punching bag of the right for so long that you would think it had been a huge failure. But the package of programs that were pushed through Congress are key parts of the social safety net. When politicians make derisive comments about the War on Poverty, remember what they are attacking: Medicare, which provides health care for the elderly and disabled; Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the poor; and the program commonly known as “food stamps,” which makes sure that people do not starve.

President Trump wants to introduce bureaucratic hurdles for Medicaid and food stamp recipients, claiming that good health and something to eat are a disincentive to joining the workforce. After eligible people are denied benefits because they failed to negotiate an ever-more-complicated process, Trump and his allies plan to use the savings to offset lost revenue from tax breaks for the wealthy.

The core argument of the council is that defining poverty by income is not accurate because it does not actually reflect real need. A retired couple who owns their own home can live comfortably on an income that would be challenging for a single mother who has to pay rent. The president’s council proposes measuring money spent by poor families rather than their income, which they argue would better reflect how people actually live.

But there are more problems with that approach than the income-based measurement. Housing costs have skyrocketed in recent decades, and the vast majority of people who live below the poverty line do not get any housing assistance from the government. According to research by Maine Housing, about 38,000 state residents spend more than half their monthly income on rent. That may look like increased consumption on the statistics sheet, but in real life, it’s a crisis.

The same is true for transportation. There may not have been many poor people who owned cars in the 1950s, but today it’s no luxury. People who live in places like rural Maine will find it hard to hold a job without a reliable vehicle, and that will cost them thousands of dollars a year to keep it fueled up and on the road. People spending more at the pump might look like increased consumption to the White House numbers crunchers, but having to pay more for gas when you live in poverty is not an improvement.

Poverty can’t be wished away or cured with a little bootstraps rhetoric. If we are ever really going to win the War on Poverty, it won’t be finding new ways to count the numbers that does it.

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