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'Dismal' Prospects': 1 in 2 Americans Are Now Poor Or Low Income

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'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California'
Photo Credit: 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California" [1936], National Media Museum's Photostream, Flickr

Frightening, eh? Just think--literally every other person that you and I lay eyes on are not members of the much-vaunted "Middle Class," to which politicians on both sides of the isle incessantly pander.

I still cannot believe how little 'press' the AP piece below, on the 2010 US Census Bureau Statistics, got when it was published just over a year ago. I forget when and where I first saw this piece, although I posted it on several blogs. I apologize that it is dated, but the content is not of any lesser significance, in my opinion.

I am hoping that some of you can offer an explanation as to why this startling "news" was all but ignored by both the mainstream, and for the most part, the so-called liberal media.

If ever there was a time in our nation's history that 'inequality and poverty' should be front and center for discussion and action, it is truly now. Especially, since our politicians appear to be 'bent and determined' to inflict austerity upon the American populace.

It is my hope that this piece, and the statistics it references, will renew interest among progressive activists to fight for not just a higher minimum wage, but a living wage.

For the most part, I will let this article excerpt speak for itself.

[The diary and excerpt italics and boldface are mine.]

'Dismal' Prospects: 1 in 2 Americans Are Now Poor Or Low Income

Dateline: Washington D.C., December 15, 2011, 4:59 am, EST, By Associated Press.

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." . . .

With nearly 14 million Americans unemployed, a new child welfare study finds one in five children are living in poverty. Nearly one in three live in homes where no parent works full-time year-round. NBC's Chris Jansing reports. . . .

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family's income.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million. . . .

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That's up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure. . . .

Broken down by age, children were most likely to be poor or low-income — about 57 percent — followed by seniors over 65. By race and ethnicity, Hispanics topped the list at 73 percent, followed by blacks, Asians and non-Hispanic whites. . . .

Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low income has risen for three straight years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million. That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group based in Washington.

Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder — 6.9 million — earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.

The majority of low-income families — 62 percent — spent more than one-third of their earnings on housing, surpassing a common guideline for what is considered affordable. By some census surveys, child-care costs consume close to another one-fifth.

Shrinking Paychecks

Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.

A survey of 29 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors being released Thursday points to a gloomy outlook for those on the lower end of the income scale.

Working-Age Poor Population Highest Since '60s

Many mayors cited the challenges of meeting increased demands for food assistance, expressing particular concern about possible cuts to federal programs such as food stamps and WIC, which assists low-income pregnant women and mothers. Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger in cities, followed by poverty, low wages and high housing costs.

Across the 29 cities, about 27 percent of people needing emergency food aid did not receive it. Kansas City, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., Sacramento, Calif., and Trenton, N.J., were among the cities that pointed to increases in the cost of food and declining food donations, while Mayor Michael McGinn in Seattle cited an unexpected spike in food requests from immigrants and refugees, particularly from Somalia, Burma and Bhutan.

Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 51 percent were in families, 26 percent were employed, 19 percent were elderly and 11 percent were homeless.

"People who never thought they would need food are in need of help," said Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo., who co-chairs a mayors' task force on hunger and homelessness.

[Here's the link to the entire piece on the NBC News website.]

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Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

He was definitely one of the best. I've bookmarked the video for future use.

And you're right--it is the perfect explanation for my rhetorical question.

Alexa

“If a dog won’t come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” -- Woodrow Wilson

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