Wednesday 27th of August 2014

in the land of opportunity .....

in the land of opportunity .....

The latest Census Bureau figures on poverty in America, combined with the data on inequality released a week earlier, confirm a shocking new reality. While a sliver of top earners are doing better than they ever have before, for tens of millions of Americans, insecurity - and, for a distressing number, destitution - is the new norm.

The current Population Survey data show that 15 percent of Americans, roughly 46.5 million people, live at or below the government-defined poverty line - which, as most who work with the hungry, the homeless, the uninsured, and the underpaid or unemployed know, is itself an inadequate measure of poverty. By more reasonable measures, poverty in this country is even more pervasive.

The headline one can take away from this is that three years into the recovery from the collapse of 2008, poverty numbers haven’t really gone down. Almost all the additional wealth being generated by a growing economy is going to those who already have the most. Median income has stagnated and, for young people, it is continuing to go down.

But there’s a deeper significance to the numbers: how they compare with the figures from recent decades. The percentage of people in poverty is roughly the same as in 1983, in the middle of the Reagan presidency, as well as in 1993, at the end of twelve years of Reagan/Bush trickle-down economics. A far higher portion of the population lives in poverty than was the case in the mid-1970s, after a decade of investment stemming from Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty; and far more live in poverty today than did at the end of Bill Clinton’s eight years in office - years in which the earned-income tax credit was expanded, unemployment was kept to near-historic lows, and poverty rates fell significantly.

That our poverty numbers have risen to such a high level exposes the fact that as a society, we are choosing to ignore the needs of tens of millions of Americans - as we have done for much of the period since the War on Poverty went out of fashion and the harsher politics of Reaganism set in. These ignored Americans include kids like the ones I interviewed in Los Angeles, forced to choose between applying to college or dropping out of school and getting dead-end jobs to support parents who had lost not only their jobs but their homes, too. They include the elderly lady I met outside Dallas, who was too poor to retire but too sick to take the bus to her work at Walmart. Her solution? She paid her neighbors gas money to drive her to a job that paid so little she routinely ate either 88-cent TV dinners or went to bed hungry. They include, too, the residents of New Orleans’s Lower Ninth Ward I met in 2011, who, six years after Hurricane Katrina, were still living in appalling conditions in a largely obliterated community.

In New York City, as Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has pointed out, nearly half the city’s residents are economically insecure. In Detroit, more than a third of residents live below the official poverty line. In New Orleans, two-thirds of African-American kids under the age of 5 live in poverty. And the list goes on.

With the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percentage of kids in poverty than America. Similarly, America also has a remarkably high percentage of people living in what is called “deep poverty,” at less than half the official poverty rate.

The Republicans claim that unless we slash what is left of the safety net by gutting food stamps (which alone keep 4 million people out of poverty and alleviate the hardship of millions more), putting stricter limits on unemployment benefits and other harsh measures, we’re doomed to go down the Greek road to ruin. In fact, this country has more than enough resources to grapple with poverty. What we’re sorely lacking is not resources but political will and empathy. In modern-day America, it has somehow become easier to bravely sally forth to do battle against assistance for the hungry, the destitute and the down-on-their-luck than to talk sensibly about the causes of mass poverty and rampant inequality.

That so many leaders of a country with a $17 trillion economy tolerate so much misery amid so much plenty - normalizing child hunger and allowing a significant part of the labor force to work full-time (if not more) and yet still be unable to pay basic bills - is one of the great scandals of our age.

That it is acceptable for billionaires to pay capital gains tax at a rate far lower than the income tax that middle-class Americans pay while 11.3 million people are unemployed and millions are bumping up against unemployment benefits limits, exposes the debased priorities of Washington. That the estate tax has been so eviscerated that only a few thousand estates per year are subject to taxes, while nearly one in four children lives in poverty, is simply hair-raising.

President Obama nodded to the scale of America’s poverty crisis in his speech commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. But the occasional nod isn’t enough. This is the greatest moral challenge facing America’s leaders. It calls out for concerted action, from the presidency on down.

Zoë Carpenter also takes a look at the Census figures and notes that the "spike in poverty triggered by the recession has become the status quo."

America’s Shameful Poverty Stats


welfare for crony-capitalism in the usa...

In the 1990s, that symbol was Claribel Ventura, a 26-year-old mother of six charged with child abuse. She scalded her 4-year-old son’s hands with boiling water to punish him for eating her boyfriend’s food. A Boston Globe investigation determined that Ventura was part of a family of 17 children, 74 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren collecting a total of $1 million a year in public assistance.

The Globe asked one of Ventura’s siblings what she would say to the taxpayers footing the bill for their family. “Just tell them to keep paying,” she replied. Even in liberal Massachusetts, the public was outraged.

Twenty years later, is the new welfare queen General Motors, General Electric, Boeing, and other big corporations receiving taxpayer funds? Have Claribel Ventura and Linda Taylor been replaced by federally financed flops like Solyndra?

Mike Lee, the Republican senator from Utah, is a successor to the conservatives who railed against welfare abuse in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The Tea Party leader does have proposals to revamp anti-poverty programs. But his main target this year is the much more arcane Export-Import Bank, which ostensibly exists to benefit exporters.

“In short, Congress allows the Ex-Im Bank to unnecessarily risk taxpayer money to subsidize well-connected private companies,” Lee wrote in a National Review op-ed, quoting Barack Obama (now an Ex-Im Bank reauthorization proponent) calling it “a fund for corporate welfare” in 2008.

“Whether the beneficiaries of particular Ex-Im Bank loan guarantees are respected, successful companies like Boeing or crony basket cases like Solyndra is irrelevant,” Lee added. “Twisting policy to benefit any business at the expense of others is unfair and anti-growth.”

Republicans have been urged to oppose corporate welfare and cronyism since Reagan budget director David Stockman suggested attacking weak claims, not weak claimants. But as the party of business, GOP politicians have often been reluctant to put their free-market principles into practice when it means allowing the well-heeled or well-connected to fail.

read more:

In Aussieland, our Turd-in-Chief picks and choses which business lives or dies... If it has wheels, it goes arse up. If it has chocolates or coal in it — or carrots — it gets welfare. Not that he loves carrots (I don't really know) but here carrots represent the country folks faced with alternating floods and droughts. They always whinge about farmhands and fruit pickers being too expensive and the rain being too fickle despite bumper crops between lean times and the surplus in grog production.

May as well sell the whole country to the Chinese and go on a holiday. I think that's what our Turd-in-Chief is doing in his overseas mission. Great holiday shots of him, bumping his chest forward like a retired sergeant major trying to hide a beer gut, in front of the Forbidden City... and grinning to the camera like a kid on arrival at Disneyland.