More poor

Let’s be clear: It wasn’t the bank failures alone that caused this economic disaster. It was the administration’s continued support for economic policies that deepened and extended the economic fallout and widened the class divide in hundreds of ways, and a Republican House that not only refused to support stimulus spending, it actively obstructed any attempts by the White House or Democrats to push any policies or nominations at all. It was a Federal Reserve that ignored their mandate to lower unemployment, and a Democratic president who echoed and validated the “deficit emergency” mantra of the Republican party:

We have so many people out of work that it will be a very long time until we have a low unemployment rate again:

Reporting from Washington— In a grim portrait of a nation in economic turmoil, the government reported that the number of people living in poverty last year surged to 46.2 million — the most in at least half a century — as 1 million more Americans went without health insurance and household incomes fell sharply.

The poverty rate for all Americans rose in 2010 for the third consecutive year, matching the 15.1% figure in 1993 and pushing many more young adults to double up or return to their parents’ home to avoid joining the ranks of the poor.

Taken together, the annual income and poverty snapshot released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau underscored how the recession is casting a long shadow well after its official end in June 2009.

And at the current sluggish pace of economic growth, analysts don’t expect many of these indicators of economic and social well-being to turn better soon.

Census officials wouldn’t say definitively what caused the surge in poverty, but it was evident that the root of the continuing misery was the nation’s inability to create jobs. The total number of Americans who fell below the official poverty line last year rose from 43.6 million in 2009. Of the 2.6-million increase, about two-thirds of the people said they did not work even one week last year.

Those with jobs were much less likely to be poor, but the recession and weak recovery have wiped out income gains of prior years for a broad spectrum of workers and their families. Inflation-adjusted median household income — the middle of the populace — fell 2.3% to $49,445 last year from a year ago and 7% from 2000.

“It’s a lost decade for the middle class,” said Sheldon Danziger, a poverty expert at the University of Michigan.

But don’t worry. The right-wing Heritage Foundation assures us that living in poverty isn’t all that bad:

“Poor children actually consume more meat than higher-income children consume, and their protein intake averages 100 percent above recommended levels,” wrote Robert Rector and Rachel Sheffield, authors of the study: “Air Conditioning, Cable TV, and an Xbox: What is Poverty in the United States Today?”

5 thoughts on “More poor

  1. Why is it that everyone believes that the Congress, the Federal Reserve, the President et al, are failing??? On the contrary. They are succeeding beyond the wildest dreams of the oligarchy and the plutocrats who support them. The other 95% of us? Well, that’s another issue. The real problem is the why of why we keep doing this to ourselves by allowing it to happen decade after decade? 5% of 300 million is 15 million. The other 285 million have hit the snooze control repeatedly.

  2. I just don’t even have words for the revulsion I feel toward the Heritage Foundation hacks who wrote that piece. Where did they get their reserach? Did they go into inner city housing projects and look with their own eyes? Hell – I can show them the delapidated house on the street behind me where families move in and out every few months – and ask them how cushy that looks. A$$hats.

  3. And, while Heritage didn’t note it, the poor, many of them, in northern areas have…the luxury of…heat!

    OMG! And some of us in this nation feel they even need assistance to be able to have that heat. Oh, the coddling of the socialist state!

    Yesterday, on NPR, a professor who photographs the poor of this era (transcript) said that in rural Maine there are families living in trailers, with holes in the floor and no heat.

    MICHELLE NORRIS (NPR Host): You know, how does – help me understand what you capture then? Because, you know, when you – and again, I have in mind those pictures from the Great Depression where people focused on empty refrigerators, distended bellies, homes that had dirt floors or were little more than shacks. And in that sense, that sort of beautiful portraits of great poverty helped create a very strong impression on America. When you go into homes and you photograph people who are living in poverty now, what do you see?

    PROF. STEVEN LISS: You know, I very often see the same thing, and the interesting thing is in places that people wouldn’t expect. You know, you see abject poverty 100 miles south of Chicago. In Hopkins Park, Illinois, you see people living in huts with mud floors, in Third World conditions. If you go up to rural Maine, you see children living in trailers with holes in the floor and no heat in the wintertime. These are things that that people don’t see, and that’s largely because, I think, the mainstream media hasn’t really fulfilled its obligation to provide that kind of imagery, to provide those kinds of stories, so that people can engage.

    NORRIS: Do you also find poverty, though, in more surprising places? Would you see it in, you know, communities of tract homes in the suburbs or high-rises and even in a place like Chicago?

    LISS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Again, it – our goal in the course of this effort is to take invisible poverty and make it visible once again. Now, that’s hard to do because, as you say, you go into the tract homes and all, and everything looks just fine, but then, you go to the Catholic Charities relief center in that community and you find people there, families there that you never would have found before. We’ve seen in the course of the four or five years that we’ve undertaken this project, we’ve seen the change, and it’s startling. And again, I don’t think people really understand or have had an opportunity to see the new face of poverty, and that’s something we’re endeavoring to do. (My emphasis)

    On the whole, I don’t think we know how the truly poor live in this country; the MCM certainly doesn’t focus on them, even if they’re mentioned occasionally. There were a few stories about families who’d lost their homes due to unemployment living in one motel room, their possessions pared down to what they could carry or stuff in their remaining vehicle — but somehow that’s not a topic of ongoing discussion and reporting.

    Too disturbing to those not making all that much, with their jobs also somewhat precariously theirs? The PTB don’t want to scare people out of consuming…while they can.

    I kept wondering this summer what the poor of Oklahoma, with weeks on end of temperatures well above 100 degrees, the poor of any of the heat wave struck areas — what these poor did about staying alive in temperatures like that, with the nights staying in the 90’s. When I asked someone who was a tel rep living in Oklahoma, she said, “Oh, everyone has AC, you have to to be able to live here.” Does she know that for a fact? Or is it what people who still have income believe because they can’t imagine living in those temperature without AC?

    Having a TV? Well, when the new HD format came in, old style TVs were a dime a dozen, they were set on the curb for garbage pickup. Nice TVs at that (I picked up two small ones, one for the deck and one for backup), even big screens if a person could lug one home. And older TVs were readily available at rummage sales and thrift stores, usually for around $5-10 for small, up to $20-25 for larger, more for the really big ones. So having a TV is not impossible, even for the poor. And thank goodness they have a way to watch those presidential debates, at least those on broadcast TV, eh?

    Basic cable, meaning just the broadcast stations in the area and no C-Span or any other actual cable stations runs about $12-13 a month in my area of Northern NJ Suboonia. Adds to the monthly drain, but still doable, and lots of areas here require really big, tall antennas to get broadcast stations out of NYC. For flatlanders, rabbit ears used to be able to bring in broadcast TV; now, one of those converter boxes is required. (I didn’t buy one because I figured someone with less money than I should get to use one of those coupons–I wouldn’t get any PBS on an indoor antenna.)

    In most suburban areas, getting groceries is a major problem if one doesn’t have a car. I live in a small former vacation community now totally year-round living, and I can walk to a local grocery store. However, I can only carry so much back from the store. It’s not a problem for me, as I do have a car and am above the poverty level, but I remember thinking when I was recovering from my burns and graft surgery what I would have done had I been at the level the Feds consider poor. I had to put the AC in because I was told, so nicely wrapped in layers of gauze as I was, that I was not get sweaty; it would delay my healing.

    What do the actual poor of this nation do??? Most do not have credit cards, so can’t carry over some of their immediate and emergency expenditures. This means they can’t make those emergency expenditures, so the electricity is cut off. Some turn to payday type loans at usorious interest rates, and then they’re into a real trap.

    All I can say is that these Heritage people wouldn’t last two weeks on what the poor live on. I recall reading about some Canadian legislators who tried to live on either welfare level income or the poverty level income for, iirc, a month, perhaps two weeks. They had to give up very shortly after beginning because being poor takes up so much time they simply could not do their jobs as legislators (I can’t find this on google, so far. Anyone remember this report?).

    Surviving while being poor is a full time job.

  4. I think that they are trying to warn us that “If you think you’re poor now, you ain’t seen how poor you can really be.” And they are telling the politicians that there is plenty of room still to squeeze people and they need not be afraid to keep turning the screws.

    Rector and Thomas Sowell have been writing this same old article for years and years. Sowell manages to throw in the point that people can’t be poor because they are so fat. This is what that little zinger about poor kids eating meat is all about. Upper class kids don’t get so much meat because their parents know that red meat is unhealthy and they feed them more vegetables which are more expensive and harder to prepare than hamburgers and mac and cheese from a box.

  5. Hot dogs are cheaper than the buns. So, we should talk about what kind of meat, too. 30% fat hamburger? That’s cheaper than Angus. A fast food hamburger? Cheaper still. What’s a little e-coli among friends, plus whatever else they use as extenders.

    Hell, my ex-husband was worrying about how his older car would look in his family’s neighborhood.

    So, yeah. Poverty? No big.

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