Morning Read: Poverty, in numbers and in lives

The Associated Press, by way of the Glens Falls Post Star, is reacting this morning to news that one in six Americans now lives below the poverty line — including millions of our neighbors who used to cling, however tenuously, to the middle class.

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.

The Watertown Daily Times, on its editorial page, is reacting to the same Census figures, and suggests that government may be the only thing holding back poverty for millions more of our citizens.

But the data indicate even more Americans could slip into poverty without government assistance.

The Census Bureau estimated that extended unemployment benefits passed in 2009 to give workers up to 99 weeks of benefits lifted more than 3 million people above the poverty line.

Those benefits are running out, and the unemployment rate remains around 9 percent.

Social Security benefits lifted another 20 million senior citizens and disabled above the poverty line.

Americans are also losing their private health insurance through their employer, either due to unemployment or employers dropping benefits that have been too costly.

President Barack Obama is proposing a new jobs bill; Republicans are pushing back — what do you think?  Time for action in Washington?  If so — what?


21 Comments on “Morning Read: Poverty, in numbers and in lives”

  1. JDM says:

    what do you think? Time for action in Washington?

    No. The cure for poverty is not handouts.

    That has been tried, and continues to be tried. It failed, and continues to fail (obviously, with this statement “one in six Americans now lives below the poverty line”).

    Are one in six below the poverty line because we have no government money available? Of course not. What will more government handouts produce? More poverty.

    If we keep doing the same thing, we will keep getting the same results.

  2. tootightmike says:

    We have ever increasing poverty and unemployment at the same time as our huge corporations post record profits. The system is broken. The “economy” reflects the interests of a smaller and smaller group of rich and super rich folks, and it’s time for the people to stop supporting the myth of free capitalism.

  3. Walker says:

    Right, Mike. American corporations paid 40.6% taxes on their profits in 1961; now, they pay 10.5%.

    And JDM, we don’t need handouts, we need investments in infrastructure, creating jobs and carrying out badly needed repairs at the same time.

    We’ve tried creating jobs by cutting taxes and reducing regulation for the last thirty years. It hasn’t worked. Its time to return to well-regulated capital markets and a progressive tax system that isn’t riddled with loopholes.

  4. newt says:

    Yes, JDM, God forbid that we should have social programs to assist the disadvantaged and unfortunate (meaning to you, bums and loafers, I know). We might end up like Denmark, the nation with, the happiest population in the world.

  5. Brian says:

    Clearly the solution is to give Bill Gates deeper tax cuts.

  6. PNElba says:

    Conservatives are good at providing their ideology of what is wrong with our economy. But have you ever noticed there is never a single idea or policy proposal on how we can fix things or move forward? That is, short of tax increases on the poor and middle class, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, and gutting environmental regulations.

  7. PNElba says:

    A good example of the above is Doug Hoffman’s commentary in the Daily Enterprise the other day.

  8. Walker says:

    If you’ve got a minute or two, this guy is right on the money:

  9. oa says:

    Great link, Walker. True thing No. 1 on govt waste is especially pertinent just now.

  10. Pete Klein says:

    Question. How many of the rich would give to charities and other causes if the money they give was not tax deductible?
    How many people who don’t make enough money to itemize deductions give a greater percentage of their meager income to various organizations even though they can’t claim a deduction?
    I guess I’m thinking of the parable about the poor woman who gives from the little she doesn’t have while the rich dude gives from his abundance and expects to be praised.
    All these so called Christians who want to grind down the poor are fake Christians. No different from the money changers Jesus threw out of the Temple.
    To say this is a Christian country is a lie.

  11. hermit thrush says:

    great link, walker.

    as for brian’s original question, of course it’s time for more action in washington. it’s been time ever since the crisis began. the original stimulus didn’t fail — it likely kept the recession from sliding into a depression — but it also wasn’t big enough to plug the hole.* and that hole still needs to be plugged. there’s still a massive shortage of demand in the economy. and at this point, government is the only entity that can step in to provide it.

    * and that’s not just hindsight. people like paul krugman were screaming their heads of at the time that the stimulus was too small. strangely, he’s been right about just about everything regarding the economic crisis, yet very few people listen to him.

  12. oa says:

    A lot of people listen to Krugman. They’re just not in the White House or Congress:

  13. newt says:

    And many of those in the White House and Congress will not be there after 2012 because they did not.

  14. Hillary in 012 says:

    Liberals are good at whinning. But have you ever noticed there is never a single idea or policy proposal in how we can fix things or move forward? That is, short of tax increases, increases in entitlements and regulations forcing our businesses to move out of this country.

  15. Mervel says:

    There are two issues I think. One is a normal compassionate response to a depression which I believe is a strong social safety net for those who are truly falling through the cracks. I think we should do that it is part of being civilized and part of America this can happen in both the private and the public sector but the fact is the public sector has to lead the way there is simply not enough money to take care of that problem in private charities, it is simply not there.

    But that won’t help with creating jobs and I don’t think a stimulus will either. Just look at the word, stimulus, it means temporary, companies know it means temporary, it won’t change the actions of those who create jobs who are small and medium sized businesses.

  16. Walker says:

    Mervel, it’s called priming the pump. You put money into fixing roads and bridges, etc. That creates jobs. The people who get those jobs buy stuff with their paychecks. The stuff they buy creates demand for more stuff which causes companies to hire more workers, which puts more money into circulation. It goes round and round, and slowly pulls us up by our bootstraps. Why do you think government spending preparing for WW II finished pulling us out of the great depression?

    The general belief among economists (at least not those working for Koch brothers funded think tanks) is that the first stimulus helped, it just wasn’t big enough.

  17. Hillary in 012 says:

    Walker: Earlier you mentioned corporations now only pay 10.5% in taxes. My guess is that is Federal taxes. Remember they also pay state and local taxes. My son worked in Syracuse for 15 years. The company recently closed its door and moved to Mexico. Reasons: 1. TAXES 2. Union wages! Raising taxes is not always in the best intertest of preserving jobs.

  18. Mervel says:

    Priming the pump is not fully accepted as always working to create new jobs by many economists. The economists are split on this.

    How much infrastructure did the last stimulus actually create? The fact is a 10 month stimulus would be too small and I think effectively worthless.

    However I would say at this point what do we have to lose? We are already in so much debt everyone knows that we are going to have to devalue the currency at some point; if it does create some jobs that is a good thing and if it does not well we can honestly say that this stuff does not work and move on to Republican solutions.

  19. Walker says:

    Mervel, those economists who don’t believe in priming the pump, believe that cutting taxes and deregulation is the better solution– that’s the Republican solution. We have been doing that now for thirty years, and look at the hole we’ve dug ourselves into.

    And yes, Hillary, that is Federal taxes. As for union wages, a company doesn’t have to move to Mexico to avoid unions– they move to Mexico to find impoverished workers who will work for pennies. If the U.S. keeps going for the next thirty years as it has for the last thirty years there will be plenty of American workers ready to work for pennies, and the Republican Solution will have worked it’s miracle, transforming the richest, most egalitarian country on the planet into a banana republic.

  20. tootightmike says:

    Right on walker. Don’t think for a minute that there isn’t a giant capitalist conspiracy to undermine and collapse all those social programs and extensive medical benefits that are currently available in European nations. The Republican capitalists and their ilk in the global economy are tired of hearing about how the Scandinavians, French, Brits and even the Greeks have a more comprehensive health care system than we do. Their solution is to pressure those governments into austerity programs that will eventually gut social programs worldwide.

  21. Mervel says:


    Most economists realize that priming the pump is not a long term solution, maybe right now it would be okay, but I doubt it will be effective particularly given the political nature of the last stimulus. I don’t think we have dug ourselves into a hole the past 30 years. I think we had a massive real estate bubble funded by the US federal government bankrolling speculation on Wall Street through Freddie system and that bubble collapsed. I don’t buy the basic narrative, if Democrats think they are going to win with some sort of European social restructuring opportunity they are totally nuts. We should look at states that both avoided the bubble and basically did not have this depression and see what they have been doing. The wonderful part about our federalist system is that we have 50 different economic experiments going on at once and we can compare what is working and what is not.

    Certainly we can make choices about government social programs, I think we need a better social safety net for example. But that won’t help the economy.

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