Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Photo:  Bess Watts
Rochester, N.Y.-- The portion of Americans living in poverty last year rose to the highest level since 1993, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, fresh evidence that the sluggish economic recovery has done nothing for the country’s poorest citizens.
And in new evidence of economic distress among the middle class, real median household incomes declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year, to $49,400.

An additional 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, census officials said, making 46.2 million people in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch at the Census Bureau. That represented 15.1 percent of the country.   The poverty line in 2010 was at $22,113 for a family of four.

The reason why we have such large income and wealth disparities is because the top 2 percent want it that way. A decade of GOP policies, deregulation, shipping our jobs overseas to emerging middle-class markets in Brazil, India and China, funding two unnecessary wars, plus tax breaks for the rich have put our middle class in dire straits. No economy can function with a middle class that has no spending power, and that’s just fine for the opulent minority.

The national Republican master plan-- which is being implemented in every state with a Republican Governor, is to lower wages for all working people-- union and non-union, get rid of pension plans, health care plans and all other benefits that all Americans currently receive thanks to union bargaining over the last 100 years.

Then, their vision includes to privatize everything under the sun. This will allow various companies and corporations, the very ones that put these governors into office in the first place thanks to the Citizens United v. FEC court decision, to profit off of cheap labor and your hard earned tax dollars. You will no longer have to worry about companies and corporations hiring illegal immigrants because Republicans and the corporations they work for are creating their very own 3rd world workforce made up of what use to be America’s middle-class.

Under GOP rule, your government will no longer be accountable to you the resident taxpayer-- you will have to suffer with the products and services delivered by a private company-- a private company only motivated by profit off of your tax dollars and you will have no say about any of it. Think about that the next time you want a pothole filled on your street.

What is so perverse about this trend is just how vastly it misunderstands what went wrong with the American economy in the first place. And, what makes this go-around extraordinary is that national political leaders from both major parties have been pushing that same agenda.  Spending is not our problem-- it's our priorities that need fixing.

“The figures we are releasing today are important,” said Robert Groves, the director of the Census Bureau. “They tell us how changing economic conditions have impacted Americans and their families.”

According to the Census figures, the median annual income for a male full-time, year-round worker in 2010 — $47,715 — was virtually unchanged from its level in 1973, when the level was $49,065, in 2010 dollars.

“That’s not about the poor and unemployed, that’s full time, year round,” said Sheldon Danziger, professor of public policy at the University of Michigan. Particularly hard hit, Professor Danziger said, have been those who do not have college degrees. “The median, full-time male worker has made no progress on average.”

The youngest members of households — those ages 15 to 24 — lost out the most, with their median income dropping by 9 percent. The recession continued to push Americans to double up in households with friends and relatives, especially those aged 25 to 34, a group that experienced a 25 percent rise in the period between 2007, when the recession began and 2011. Of that group, 45.3 percent were living below the poverty line, when their parents incomes were not taken into account.

Until the voting public creates a governing body that puts people before profit, perhaps then we might see some relief for the middle-class working family and an economy where most people can participate. Simply put, the American people are hungry for our leaders to restore a vision for a national future founded on the premise that social justice and material prosperity are not competing values-- that they can co-exist and are necessary to each other for a healthy, sustainable and growing economy. The sooner we recognize that, the better.

Commentary by Ove Overmyer

The data from this article, "U.S. Poverty Rate, 1 in 6, at Highest Level in Years," was the primary source information for this commentary and originally appeared at The New York Times Service.

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