22 September 2010
This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone in this country, but it looks like when the figures are officially released next week they will show that poverty in America rose by a record percentage. The previous record was back in 1980 when poverty rose by 1.3%. It is expected that poverty will have increased by 1.8% in 2009 -- from 13.2% to 15% of the total population. This means more than 1 out of every 7 people is living in poverty in America -- about 45 million people.
Child poverty has increased from about 19% to more than 20%. This means more than 1 out of every 5 children in America is living below the poverty level. Among working age people (ages 18 thru 64) the poverty rate rose from 11.7% to 12.4%. These are shameful statistics for a country routinely touted as the richest country in the world. Hell, they would be shameful statistics for any country.
There is little doubt that the Republicans will try to blame the current administration for this record rise in the poverty rate. That is not only laughable -- it is a damnable lie! This inexorable climb in the poverty rate started back in the Reagan administration with a deregulation of Wall Street and the financial industry, and a concerted effort to bust unions and depress the wages of workers. It was a beginning of a massive transfer of wealth and income from ordinary working Americans to the richest 1-5% in this country.
This accelerated during the Bush administration with massive tax cuts for the rich and the increase in the outsourcing of good jobs overseas. This created the conditions for an unavoidable disaster which came to a head in 2007 when the greed and incompetence of the financial giants triggered the current recession, and put 12-15 million Americans out of work.
Sadly, the Republicans seem to have learned nothing from their past economic mistakes. They fought the health care bill and the bill to put regulations on the giant Wall Street financial firms -- seriously weakening both bills and preventing much of the badly needed reform. Now they want to continue the massive Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans -- further throwing the wealth and income distribution out of balance and setting the country up for a deepening and longer-lasting recession.
They opposed the extension of unemployment benefits for those their policies threw out of work, and now they say they will oppose any stimulus plan to put Americans back to work. To say the Republican policies are mean-spirited and an invitation to economic disaster is an understatement.
The Republicans may want to blame Democrats for the increasing poverty rate and the continuing recession, but if they really want to see who is at fault all they have to do is look in the mirror.
Posted by Ted McLaughlin