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One in two

That’s half, folks. Half of all Americans. So it ain’t just you.

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

“Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too ‘rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.
“The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” he said. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.”

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax reduction, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.

And in case you think establishment conservatives are unsympathetic to your plight, they are.

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far. He said some people described as poor live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

What? Some poor people still have cars they aren’t living in? So much more work to do, eh Robbie?

In the meantime, you poor folk should stop complaining and watch that big-screen TV.

UPDATE: I have been kicking this story around in my head for a little while and I wondered why a quote from a Heritage Foundation douchebag is even in the story. I went back to the story and saw no corresponding quote from an advocate for the poor. The closest thing was the quote, included in the snippet above, from Sheldon Danziger, the poverty expert from the University of Michigan. Being an expert in poverty doesn’t necessarily mean he is an advocate for the poor, although he may be. It just means he knows what he is talking about.

It’s just another example of the MSM’s fetish with the bullshit idea of “balance,” which in this case apparently means that if you report that nearly half of all Americans are impoverished or low income, you have to find some asshole willing to say that poverty isn’t so bad.

I guess the next time the AP reports on a rape, it will have to find someone to say that rape isn’t so bad. You know, for balance.

Hey, if you are a reporter writing about a rape and need that “rape isn’t so bad” quote to ensure complete, balanced reportage, try this guy. One caveat: The victim has to be Latino.

Cross-posted at Redsoxville.

Ryan’s new sneak attack on Medicare

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Ayn Rand fanatic, never tires of trying to shred the government safety net. His latest scheme involves reaching across the aisle — all the way to the Senate, actually — to a so-called Democrat who shares Ryan’s passion for privatization:

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is teaming up with Paul Ryan, the House’s top budget guy and the author of the GOP’s controversial budget which proposes phasing out traditional Medicare and replacing it with a private plan… The move makes Wyden the first elected Democrat to endorse creating a premium-support system to compete with traditional fee-for-service Medicare…

The policy… allows insurers to compete with traditional Medicare turning Medicare essentially into a public option on a private insurance exchange. Wyden and Ryan would give patients subsidies that could be applied to either private insurance or fee for service Medicare…

Unlike previous plans, those subsidies would rise and fall with the cost of the plans themselves — not at a fixed rate below the explosive rate of health care inflation… This plan relies mostly on the theory that competition among insurers could hold down costs — a proposition with little evidence behind it — and would therefore save the government much less, if any, money at all.

The talking points for selling the Wyden-Ryan plan sound a lot like Mitt Romney’s plans for Medicare, so don’t be surprised if Ryan endorses Romney for president. Let’s hope voters can see past the smoke and mirrors of these cold-blooded frauds.

Virtually Speaking tonight

Thursday, Dec 15 | Double Header

8 pm eastern | 5 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking A-Z: This week in liberalism. | Stuart Zechman and Jay Ackroyd| discuss the truth and lies, clarity and obfuscation, that characterizes our political and media environment. Follow @Stuart_Zechman @JayAckroyd Listen live on BTR. Beginning midnight Friday, listen here.

9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd |Jay talks with Doug J of Balloon Juice  Planned segments: GOP in disarray over the presidential nominating process; the inability of the  US political system to implement obviously good public policy, and stop obviously bad public policy; ‘What digby said’ (response to a very topical two-three minute clip; persistent tribalism among ostensible allies in the progressive blogosphere. Follow @JayAckroyd Listen live and later on BTR.

A Very Special Holiday Episode

Charlie Pierce:

It cannot be emphasized enough. Of the three issues under discussion, the polling data on two of them simply could not be clearer. The American people want taxes raised on the very wealthiest among us, and the American people do not want Paul Ryan’s clammy hands anywhere near the Medicare program. Public opinion is (distressingly) ambivalent on the detainee provisions, but it’s not overly popular with the people who have to implement it, and it has retired Marine generals throwing bricks at it, and, dammit, the president taught constitutional law, or so we are told repeatedly.

None of these “compromises” will solve a single one of the country’s critical problems. None of these “compromises” will create a single job. All they will do is toss away almost every one of the major political advantages the Democratic party has going into the 2012 elections. My god, six months ago, Paul Ryan was a squawking albatross around his party’s neck. (Remember how he said he’d “given up fear for Lent,” and then proceeded to start charging people a fee to come to his town meetings, and setting the cops on constituents who showed up at his office while he was on vacation? Ah, thim was the days.) The “Ryan Plan” was well on its way to being an anchor. Now, thanks to the Democrats, and to a preposterously compliant elite political press, Ryan’s rehabilitation is nearly complete. Nice work, fellas.

Here’s a tip, gang: The American people are not angry at government because people yell at each other and nothing ever gets done. The American people are angry because people yell at each other and nothing the American people really want ever gets done. They want higher taxes on billionaires. They want Medicare kept out of the hands of the vandals. If they think about it a little, they even like their jurisprudence with a little habeas corpus sprinkled on top. Instead, they get endless platitudes, and the steady, futile placating of an insatiable political opposition.

Jesus wept.

An evangelical speaks

“Fuck your prayer, show me solidarity.”

Bastards

The lot of them.

Fundraiser

Go fill Digby’s stocking.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

The education bubble

What happens when it bursts?

Time magazine’s Person of the Year was the Protester, but it should have been Pepper-Spray Cop. More here.

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