Poverty is on the increase, inequality — not based on personal effort — but systematically driven is on the increase. Those who have are fewer and fewer, those without are increasing, and those in the middle are on a downward spiral. What is the proper faith response? Where are the strong calls to justice and prophetic witness?
From the U.S. Census Bureau: Poverty
The data presented here are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), 2011 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC), the source of official poverty estimates. The CPS ASEC is a sample survey of approximately 100,000 household nationwide. These data reflect conditions in calendar year 2010.
- The official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent — up from 14.3 percent in 2009. This was the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points, from 12.5 percent to 15.1 percent.
- In 2010, 46.2 million people were in poverty, up from 43.6 million in 2009—the fourth consecutive annual increase in the number of people in poverty.
- Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for non-Hispanic Whites (from 9.4 percent to 9.9 percent), for Blacks (from 25.8 percent to 27.4 percent), and for Hispanics (from 25.3 percent to 26.6 percent). For Asians, the 2010 poverty rate (12.1 percent) was not statistically different from the 2009 poverty rate.
- The poverty rate in 2010 (15.1 percent) was the highest poverty rate since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available.
- The number of people in poverty in 2010 (46.2 million) is the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
- Between 2009 and 2010, the poverty rate increased for children under age 18 (from 20.7 percent to 22.0 percent) and people aged 18 to 64 (from 12.9 percent to 13.7 percent), but was not statistically different for people aged 65 and older (9.0 percent).
From the AP via Yahoo!: Behind the poverty numbers: real lives, real pain
At a food pantry in a Chicago suburb, a 38-year-old mother of two breaks into tears.
She and her husband have been out of work for nearly two years. Their house and car are gone. So is their foothold in the middle class and, at times, their self-esteem.
“It’s like there is no way out,” says Kris Fallon.
She is trapped like so many others, destitute in the midst of America’s abundance. Last week, the Census Bureau released new figures showing that nearly one in six Americans lives in poverty — a record 46.2 million people. The poverty rate, pegged at 15.1 percent, is the highest of any major industrialized nation, and many experts believe it could get worse before it abates.
The numbers are daunting — but they also can seem abstract and numbing without names and faces.
Associated Press reporters around the country went looking for the people behind the numbers. They were not hard to find.
There’s Tim Cordova, laid off from his job as a manager at a McDonald’s in New Mexico, and now living with his wife at a homeless shelter after a stretch where they slept in their Ford Focus.
There’s Bill Ricker, a 74-year-old former repairman and pastor whose home is a dilapidated trailer in rural Maine. He scrapes by with a monthly $1,003 Social Security check. His ex-wife also is hard up; he lets her live in the other end of his trailer.
There’s Brandi Wells, a single mom in West Virginia, struggling to find a job and care for her 10-month-old son. “I didn’t realize that it could go so bad so fast,” she says.
Some were outraged by the statistics. Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund called the surging child poverty rate “a national disgrace.” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., cited evidence that poverty shortens life spans, calling it “a death sentence for tens and tens of thousands of our people.”
Overall, though, the figures seemed to be greeted with resignation, and political leaders in Washington pressed ahead with efforts to cut federal spending. The Pew Research Center said its recent polling shows that a majority of Americans — for the first time in 15 years of being surveyed on the question — oppose more government spending to help the poor.
“The news of rising poverty makes headlines one day. And the next it is forgotten,” said Los Angeles community activist and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
Such is life in the Illinois town of Pembroke, one of the poorest in the Midwest, where schools and stores have closed. Keith Bobo, a resident trying to launch revitalization programs, likened conditions to the Third World.
“A lot of the people here just feel like they are on an island, like no one even knows that they exist,” he said…
From Robert Reich writing in the Christian Science Monitor: What you won’t hear about during the 2012 election: Why progressive ideas like wage increases and medicare won’t be mentioned during presidential debates
We’re on the cusp of the 2012 election. What will it be about? It seems reasonably certain President Obama will be confronted by a putative Republican candidate who:
Believes corporations are people, wants to cut the top corporate rate to 25% (from the current 35%) and no longer require they pay tax on foreign income, who will eliminate capital gains and dividend taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year, raise the retirement age for Social Security and turn Medicaid into block grants to states, seek a balanced-budged amendment to the Constitution, require any regulatory agency issuing a new regulation repeal another regulation of equal cost (regardless of the benefits), and seek repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan.
Or one who:
Believes the Federal Reserve is treasonous when it expands the money supply, doubts human beings evolved from more primitive forms of life, seeks to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and shift most public services to the states, thinks Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, while governor took a meat axe to public education and presided over an economy that generated large numbers of near-minimum-wage jobs, and who will shut down most federal regulatory agencies, cut corporate taxes, and seek repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan.
Whether it’s Romney or Perry, he’s sure to attack everything Obama has done or proposed. And Obama, for his part, will have to defend his positions and look for ways to counterpunch.
Hence, the parameters of public debate for the next fourteen months.
Within these narrow confines progressive ideas won’t get an airing. Even though poverty and unemployment will almost surely stay sky-high, wages will stagnate or continue to fall, inequality will widen, and deficit hawks will create an indelible (and false) impression that the nation can’t afford to do much about any of it – proposals to reverse these trends are unlikely to be heard.
Neither party’s presidential candidate will propose to tame CEO pay, create more tax brackets at the top and raise the highest marginal rates back to their levels in the 1950s and 1960s (that is, 70 to 90 percent), and match the capital-gains rate with ordinary income.
You won’t hear a call to strengthen labor unions and increase the bargaining power of ordinary workers.
Don’t expect an argument for resurrecting the Glass-Steagall Act, thereby separating commercial from investment banking and stopping Wall Street’s most lucrative and dangerous practices.
You won’t hear there’s no reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid – that a better means of taming health-care costs is to use these programs’ bargaining clout with drug companies and hospitals to obtain better deals and to shift from fee-for-services to fee for healthy outcomes.
Nor will you hear why we must move toward Medicare for all.
Nor why the best approach to assuring Social Security’s long-term solvency is to lift the ceiling on income subject to Social Security payroll taxes.
Don’t expect any reference to the absurdity of spending more on the military than do all other countries put together, and the waste and futility of an unending and undeclared war against Islamic extremism – especially when we have so much to do at home.
Nor are you likely to hear proposals for ending the corruption of our democracy by big money.
Although proposals like these are more important and relevant than ever, they won’t be part of the upcoming presidential election.
But they should be part of the public debate nonetheless.
That’s why I urge you to speak out about them – at town halls, candidate forums, and public events. Continue to mobilize and organize around them. Talk with your local media about them. Use social media to get the truth out…
John Gray’s essay from the BBC: A Point of View: The revolution of capitalism
Karl Marx may have been wrong about communism but he was right about much of capitalism, John Gray writes.
As a side-effect of the financial crisis, more and more people are starting to think Karl Marx was right. The great 19th Century German philosopher, economist and revolutionary believed that capitalism was radically unstable.
It had a built-in tendency to produce ever larger booms and busts, and over the longer term it was bound to destroy itself.
Marx welcomed capitalism’s self-destruction. He was confident that a popular revolution would occur and bring a communist system into being that would be more productive and far more humane.
Marx was wrong about communism. Where he was prophetically right was in his grasp of the revolution of capitalism. It’s not just capitalism’s endemic instability that he understood, though in this regard he was far more perceptive than most economists in his day and ours.
More profoundly, Marx understood how capitalism destroys its own social base – the middle-class way of life. The Marxist terminology of bourgeois and proletarian has an archaic ring.
But when he argued that capitalism would plunge the middle classes into something like the precarious existence of the hard-pressed workers of his time, Marx anticipated a change in the way we live that we’re only now struggling to cope with…