The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty -- and It's Creeping Upward

anticapitalist:

The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much, much worse.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009

Analysis of Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous 47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty.

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to 130% of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.

4. Based on household expense totals, poverty is creeping into the top half of America.

A family in the top half, making $60,000 per year, will have their income reduced by a total tax bill of about $15,000 ($3,000 for federal income tax and $12,000 for payroll, state, and local taxes. The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau agree that food, housing, and transportation expenses will deduct another $30,000, and that total household expenditures will be about $50,000. That leaves nothing.

Nothing, that is, except debt. The median debt level rose to $75,600 in 2009, while the median family net worth, according to the Federal Reserve, dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010.

5. Putting it in Perspective

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for cuts, just 20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire 2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the food, housing, and education budgets combined.

Woah

(Source: anticapitalist)

The two sides of the US economic “recovery” | Kate Randall

"The US Federal Reserve is pumping $85 billion a month in virtually free money into the financial system, fueling the stock market boom. This is more money in a month than the $76.6 billion the federal government spent all of last year to provide SNAP benefits to 47.8 million impoverished Americans."

An article in the Wall Street Journal [last week], which reported that food stamp usage in the US has increased by 70 percent since 2008, received scant attention. But the figures it presented are shocking. A record 47.8 million people were enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as of December 2012.

The biggest driver of the explosive increase in SNAP is poverty. Almost 50 million Americans were living in poverty in 2011, according the US Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), which factors in expenses for food, clothing, shelter, utilities, health care and other essentials.

In 2010, about 87 percent of food stamp recipients were at or below the poverty line, which is set at the ridiculously low level of about $25,000 for a family of three. Only 3.5 percent of recipients had household incomes over 130 percent of the poverty line. Half of current SNAP recipients are children, and half of these children—some 10 million—live in extreme poverty, meaning family income is less than half the official poverty level.

One in six Americans receives food stamps. Last year’s average monthly benefit was a paltry $133 per person.

For families struggling to put food on the table—even with the aid of SNAP benefits—the much vaunted economic recovery has nothing to do with their reality. The past five years have seen not only a huge increase in the SNAP rolls, but also a dramatic increase in the ranks of the working poor. Three out of four households receiving SNAP benefits include at least one person who is working.

On the other side of the class divide, stock market analysts and the media celebrated the continuing surge in share prices. The S&P 500—the stock market index of 500 large US companies—capped a four-year rally Thursday, recouping all of its losses from the 2008 global financial crisis.

The S&P 500, which rose to 1,569.19, has rocketed 10 percent in the first three months of the year, becoming the last major US market gauge to hit a new high. The Dow Jones Industrial average has already eclipsed its previous high from late 2007. The Los Angeles Times commented on the S&P breakthrough: “The milestone underscored investors’ enthusiasm over the increasingly buoyant economy.”

The vast majority of Americans are not the beneficiaries of this “buoyant economy.” Rather, growing numbers of people have been thrown deeper into poverty and social distress. Long-term unemployment has become entrenched. Working families are saddled with growing debt and struggle to pay for housing and other basic necessities, let alone put aside anything for retirement.

The increasing chasm between ordinary Americans and the elite that is celebrating stock market records is not the outcome merely of impersonal economic processes. The growth of social inequality since the 2008 financial crash is the product of definite policies pursued first under Bush and then under the Obama administration. The political establishment has pursued a bipartisan policy of class warfare against the working class while bailing out Wall Street and assisting its continued plundering of social resources.

Read more

sinidentidades:

For many, prison is not that much different from the street. It is, for some, a place to rest and recuperate. For the prostitute prison is a vacation from turning tricks in the rain and snow. A vacation from brutal pimps. Prison for the addict is a place to get clean, get medical work done and gain weight. Often, when the habit becomes too expensive, the addict gets herself busted, (usually subconsciously) so she can get back in shape, leave with a clean system ready to start all over again. One woman claims that for a month or two every year she either goes jail or to the crazy house to get away from her husband.

For many the cells are not much differt from the tenements, the shooting galleries and the welfare hotels they live in on the street. Sick call is no different from the clinic or the hospital emergency room. The fights are the same except they are less dangerous. The police are the same. The poverty is the same. The alienation is the same. The racism is the same. The sexism is the same. The drugs are the same and the system is the same. Riker’s and is just another institution. In childhood school was their prison, or youth houses or reform schools or children shelters or foster homes or mental hospitals or drug programs and they see all institutions as indifferent to their needs, yet necessary to their survival.

The women at Riker’s Island come there from places like Harlem, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuyvesant, South Bronx and South Jamaica. They come from places where dreams have been abandoned like the buildings. Where there is no more sense of community. Where neighborhoods are transient. Where isolated people run from one fire trap to another. The cities have removed us from our strengths, from our roots, from our traditions. They have taken away our gardens and our sweet potato pies and given us McDonald’s. They have become our prisons, locking us into the futility and decay of pissy hallways that lead nowhere. They have alienated us from each other and made us fear each other. They have given us dope and television as a culture.

There are no politicians to trust. No roads to follow. No popular progressive culture to relate to. There are no new deals, no more promises of golden streets and no place else to migrate. My sisters in the streets, like my sisters at Riker’s Island, see no way out. “Where can I go?”, said a woman on the day she was going home. “If there’s nothing to believe in,” she said, “I can’t do nothin except try to find cloud nine.”

What of our Past? What of our History? What of our Future?

— Assata Shakur

Taken from her book “Assata: In Her Own Words” (pages 61-61)

(Source: disciplesofmalcolm)

That time when we fought poverty and won | Matt Bruenig

The standard conservative response to poverty is to shrug. The standard liberal response to poverty is to talk about education, education, and then after that some more about education. The range from shrugging to rambling about education is apparently the Overton window for talking about poverty. Anything outside that range is totally shut out of the conversation. I do not see much hope in moving conservatives off of their total apathy on the issue of poverty, but part of me holds out hope that liberals might move. Although they are currently on the wrong track, they at least seem to think poverty is a bad thing, which is a good start.
Of course, thinking poverty is a bad thing will only get you so far when you cannot be pried away from the wrong solutions that you have fixated on. And that happens to be the case for the education-obsessed liberals. As I wrote before, the biggest enemies of poverty reduction are those who think like Education Secretary Arne Duncan:


“What I fundamentally believe — and what the president believes,” Duncan told me, “is that the only way to end poverty is through education.“


Interestingly, it is not even clear that education is a way to end poverty. Since 1973, the percentage of the population with a college degree has increased from 12.6% to 30.4%, and the percentage of the population with a high school degree has increased from 59.8% to 87.6%. Meanwhile, the poverty rate has never been lower than it was in 1973. So how much more education do you suppose we need to knock out poverty? Somehow 40 straight years of educational attainment gains have not caused any drop in poverty rates. It is not just poverty of course: in this same 40 straight years of educational attainment gains, the average market income of the bottom 90% of households hasn’t risen either.
Oddly, Duncan and those like him are not just saying education is a way to end poverty or that education is the best way to end poverty. No, they are saying that education is the only way way to end poverty. Whatever you think about education as a possible way to end poverty, you are undeniably and inarguably wrong to say that it is the only way to do so.
I present to you the massive drop in the elderly poverty rate from 1967 to 2000 (see chart above).
Between 1960 and 1995, the elderly poverty rate dropped from a whopping 35 percent to just 10 percent. Ten percent is not an acceptable amount of poverty of course, but no one would argue that it is not a huge improvement. So how did we manage to do this as a society? The graph kind of gives it away: we sent old people checks through the Social Security program. It turns out that when you have more money, you are less likely to be poor. Believe it or not, this counts as radically outside-of-the-box thinking in our present political climate.
So Arne Duncan is wrong. The Education Reformers are wrong. The Teach for America robots are wrong. It is simply not true that education is the only way to end poverty. And saying that it is to get more money from the Walton Family for your education reform non-profit is viciously stupid.
Additionally, focusing only on education to reduce or eliminate poverty is extraordinarily cruel. It says right from the start that if you are past the point where more education is practical, your poverty will not end. Sorry moms and dads of the world who are simply not in a position to get a degree: I hope the afterlife treats you better.
This focus is also cruel because it claims that the poverty children face is impossible to remedy for as many as 18-22 years. Sorry poor children of America (which by the way is more than 1 in 5 children): if you play your cards right, maybe you will be out of poverty after you get out of college. With the modern life expectancy at 78 years of age, that’s only 28% of your life that we will force you to live in poverty prior to you having even a chance of getting out of it.
We fought poverty once without increasing the education of a single person, and it was super effective. We fought poverty once by giving people cash, and we eliminated 71% of the poverty that was targeted. There is no mystery here, and it pains me to watch those with the microphones pretend that this is some sort of deeply complicated thing. If you want to make poor people not poor, you give them more money, ideally taken from the rich.

That time when we fought poverty and won | Matt Bruenig

The standard conservative response to poverty is to shrug. The standard liberal response to poverty is to talk about education, education, and then after that some more about education. The range from shrugging to rambling about education is apparently the Overton window for talking about poverty. Anything outside that range is totally shut out of the conversation. I do not see much hope in moving conservatives off of their total apathy on the issue of poverty, but part of me holds out hope that liberals might move. Although they are currently on the wrong track, they at least seem to think poverty is a bad thing, which is a good start.

Of course, thinking poverty is a bad thing will only get you so far when you cannot be pried away from the wrong solutions that you have fixated on. And that happens to be the case for the education-obsessed liberals. As I wrote before, the biggest enemies of poverty reduction are those who think like Education Secretary Arne Duncan:

“What I fundamentally believe — and what the president believes,” Duncan told me, “is that the only way to end poverty is through education.

Interestingly, it is not even clear that education is a way to end poverty. Since 1973, the percentage of the population with a college degree has increased from 12.6% to 30.4%, and the percentage of the population with a high school degree has increased from 59.8% to 87.6%. Meanwhile, the poverty rate has never been lower than it was in 1973. So how much more education do you suppose we need to knock out poverty? Somehow 40 straight years of educational attainment gains have not caused any drop in poverty rates. It is not just poverty of course: in this same 40 straight years of educational attainment gains, the average market income of the bottom 90% of households hasn’t risen either.

Oddly, Duncan and those like him are not just saying education is a way to end poverty or that education is the best way to end poverty. No, they are saying that education is the only way way to end poverty. Whatever you think about education as a possible way to end poverty, you are undeniably and inarguably wrong to say that it is the only way to do so.

I present to you the massive drop in the elderly poverty rate from 1967 to 2000 (see chart above).

Between 1960 and 1995, the elderly poverty rate dropped from a whopping 35 percent to just 10 percent. Ten percent is not an acceptable amount of poverty of course, but no one would argue that it is not a huge improvement. So how did we manage to do this as a society? The graph kind of gives it away: we sent old people checks through the Social Security program. It turns out that when you have more money, you are less likely to be poor. Believe it or not, this counts as radically outside-of-the-box thinking in our present political climate.

So Arne Duncan is wrong. The Education Reformers are wrong. The Teach for America robots are wrong. It is simply not true that education is the only way to end poverty. And saying that it is to get more money from the Walton Family for your education reform non-profit is viciously stupid.

Additionally, focusing only on education to reduce or eliminate poverty is extraordinarily cruel. It says right from the start that if you are past the point where more education is practical, your poverty will not end. Sorry moms and dads of the world who are simply not in a position to get a degree: I hope the afterlife treats you better.

This focus is also cruel because it claims that the poverty children face is impossible to remedy for as many as 18-22 years. Sorry poor children of America (which by the way is more than 1 in 5 children): if you play your cards right, maybe you will be out of poverty after you get out of college. With the modern life expectancy at 78 years of age, that’s only 28% of your life that we will force you to live in poverty prior to you having even a chance of getting out of it.

We fought poverty once without increasing the education of a single person, and it was super effective. We fought poverty once by giving people cash, and we eliminated 71% of the poverty that was targeted. There is no mystery here, and it pains me to watch those with the microphones pretend that this is some sort of deeply complicated thing. If you want to make poor people not poor, you give them more money, ideally taken from the rich.

Katrina, All Over Again | Chris Hedges

Hurricane Sandy, if you are poor, is the Katrina of the North. It has exposed the nation’s fragile, dilapidated and shoddy infrastructure, one that crumbles under minimal stress. It has highlighted the inability of utility companies, as well as state and federal agencies, to cope with the looming environmental disasters that because of the climate crisis will soon come in wave after wave. But, most important, it illustrates the depraved mentality of an oligarchic and corporate elite that, as conditions worsen, retreats into self-contained gated communities, guts basic services and abandons the wider population.

Sheepshead Bay, along with Coney Island, the Rockaways, parts of Staten Island and long stretches of the New Jersey coast, is obliterated. Stores, their merchandise destroyed by the water, are boarded up and closed. Rows of derelict cars, with the tires and license plates removed and the windows smashed, line the streets. Food distribution centers, most of them set up by volunteers from Occupy Sandy Recovery, hastily close before dark every day because of the danger of looting and robbery. And storm victims who remain in their damaged homes, often without heat, electricity or running water, clutch knives against the threat of gangs that prowl at night through the wreckage.

This storm—amid freakish weather patterns such storms will become routine—resulted in at least $71.3 billion in property damage in New York and New Jersey. Many of the 305,000 houses in New York destroyed by Sandy will never be rebuilt. New York City says it will have to spend $800 million just to repair its roads. And that is only the start. The next hurricane season will most likely descend on the Eastern Seaboard with even greater destructive fury. A couple of more hurricanes like this one and whole sections of the coast will become uninhabitable.

This is the new America. It is an America where economic and environmental catastrophes converge to trigger systems breakdown and collapse. It is an America divided between corporate predators and their prey. It is an America that, as things unravel, increasingly sacrifices its own.

thepeoplesrecord:

Study: Black male incarceration jumped 500% from 1986 to 2004November 12, 2012
A report has been released at Meharry Medical College School of Medicine about the devastating impact that mass incarceration has on our society.  The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is one of the most thorough examinations of the impact that mass incarceration has on the African American community.  The study’s authors argue that the billions of dollars being spent keeping non-violent offenders behind bars would be better spent on education and rehabilitation.
“Instead of getting health care and education from civil society, African American males are being funneled into the prison system. Much of this costly practice could be avoided in the long-term by transferring funds away from prisons and into education,” says Dr. William D Richie, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Meharry Medical College, lead author of the paper.
The study’s authors note that 60% of all incarcerations are due to non-violent, drug-related crimes. The authors also note that the cost of substance abuse in the United States is as high as half a trillion dollars per year.
“Spending money on prevention and intervention of substance abuse treatment programs will yield better results than spending on correctional facilities,” the authors claim in the study.
Finally, the authors note that while crime rates have declined over the last 20 years, incarceration rates has climbed through the roof. The inmates occupying these jail cells are disproportionately black.  In fact, the black male incarceration rate has jumped by 500% between 1986 the 2004.  The authors note that, even for those who don’t abuse drugs before going to prison, the likelihood of substance abuse after prison goes up dramatically.
You can read more of the study at this link
The mass incarceration epidemic affects all of us, even those who haven’t gone to prison: It affects the child who grows up without  a father who has been incarcerated, the children who are bullied at school by that child, the woman seeking a husband who can’t find a good man to marry, the list goes on and on.  When so many of our men are marginalized and incarcerated, this has a powerful impact on the sociological ecosystem of the black community, the same way an economy crumbles when a few large companies go bankrupt.
The point here is that we cannot look at the holocaust of mass incarceration as someone else’s problem or something that just affects criminals.  The punishment should fit the crime, and when every study imaginable says that black people are more likely to go to jail for the same crimes, this means that Jim Crow is alive and well.  Something must be done at the grassroots, state and federal levels.  We cannot allow this epidemic to exist any longer.
Source

thepeoplesrecord:

Study: Black male incarceration jumped 500% from 1986 to 2004
November 12, 2012

A report has been released at Meharry Medical College School of Medicine about the devastating impact that mass incarceration has on our society.  The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is one of the most thorough examinations of the impact that mass incarceration has on the African American community.  The study’s authors argue that the billions of dollars being spent keeping non-violent offenders behind bars would be better spent on education and rehabilitation.

“Instead of getting health care and education from civil society, African American males are being funneled into the prison system. Much of this costly practice could be avoided in the long-term by transferring funds away from prisons and into education,” says Dr. William D Richie, assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Meharry Medical College, lead author of the paper.

The study’s authors note that 60% of all incarcerations are due to non-violent, drug-related crimes. The authors also note that the cost of substance abuse in the United States is as high as half a trillion dollars per year.

“Spending money on prevention and intervention of substance abuse treatment programs will yield better results than spending on correctional facilities,” the authors claim in the study.

Finally, the authors note that while crime rates have declined over the last 20 years, incarceration rates has climbed through the roof. The inmates occupying these jail cells are disproportionately black.  In fact, the black male incarceration rate has jumped by 500% between 1986 the 2004.  The authors note that, even for those who don’t abuse drugs before going to prison, the likelihood of substance abuse after prison goes up dramatically.

You can read more of the study at this link

The mass incarceration epidemic affects all of us, even those who haven’t gone to prison: It affects the child who grows up without  a father who has been incarcerated, the children who are bullied at school by that child, the woman seeking a husband who can’t find a good man to marry, the list goes on and on.  When so many of our men are marginalized and incarcerated, this has a powerful impact on the sociological ecosystem of the black community, the same way an economy crumbles when a few large companies go bankrupt.

The point here is that we cannot look at the holocaust of mass incarceration as someone else’s problem or something that just affects criminals.  The punishment should fit the crime, and when every study imaginable says that black people are more likely to go to jail for the same crimes, this means that Jim Crow is alive and well.  Something must be done at the grassroots, state and federal levels.  We cannot allow this epidemic to exist any longer.

Source

You got the far right, and then you’ve got the center-right—the Republican Party, Democratic Party. And without no one who’s really progressive on the left telling the truth about the suffering. But, you know, the truth is, is that, you know, if 40 percent of white babies were going to bed every night either starving or not having enough to eat, it would be a different discussion. And each baby has the same value, but we’ve got 40 percent of the babies of color who are going to bed without, and we’re told to be silent and somehow capitulate to a debate about deficit, when we know we need massive investment for jobs with a living wage, massive investment for public housing, massive investment for public education, and we’re getting privatization on each front? There’s no way we’re going to be silent. You would have to crush us to the earth and introduce us to the worms before we’re going to be silent. Dr. Cornel West

A new study finds that certain brain functions of some low-income 9- and 10-year-olds pale in comparison with those of wealthy children and that the difference is almost equivalent to the damage from a stroke.

Study: Poverty dramatically affects children’s brains (via robot-heart-politics)

Wow. It’s almost like what people have been saying all these years are actual facts.

(via talix18)

(via pieceinthepuzzlehumanity-deacti)

The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can’t pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can’t necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That’s what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier. That’s what money has bought Romney, too. He’s a guy who sold his dad’s stock to pay for college, who built an elevator to ensure easier access to his multiple cars and who was able to support his wife’s decision to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s great! That’s the dream. The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it. Ezra Klein (via azspot)

(via randomactsofchaos)

As U.S. Inequality Widens, Scholar Cornel West and Broadcaster Tavis Smiley Launch Poverty Tour 2.0

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: … and Cornel West, how would you respond to maybe some of the strategists for President Obama’s re-election campaign saying you’re playing a discordant note here as they’re trying to focus on the middle class and to assure a victory for the president in November?

CORNEL WEST: No, I mean, we would say that the mendacity and mediocrity of Romney is such that it’s fairly clear that Obama will win. The problem is, is that Obama himself, though better than Romney, is still very much part of a system that has failed poor and working people. It’s fairly clear capitalism is not working for poor and working people in America. And we have to bear witness to that. We have to tell that truth. Of course we’re very sensitive when it comes to the fear of a right-wing takeover of the White House with Romney, would be catastrophic. But as I have also noted, so far, Obama has been disastrous. So the question is, how do we acknowledge that this suffering is real, keep track of not just the statistics, but the precious humanity of the folk who are catching hell?

AMY GOODMAN: Cornel West, I wanted to ask you about a New York Times profile of Valerie Jarrett, perhaps the most important adviser to President Obama. And in it, they talk about a moment where she calls you up to, well, basically chew you out, to ream you. Can you explain what this was about?

CORNEL WEST: Well, I think it had to do with a—both an interview I had given that reflected on the president and then my claims, of course, that the president was a—what was the language, though, Brother? Was it a—

TAVIS SMILEY: A black mascot and a puppet.

CORNEL WEST: A black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. I was talking about the Wall Street government of Geithner and Summers and others two-and-a-half years ago. And she asked me to take it back. I said, “No, I thought I was speaking the truth.” And she then went at me and tried to just keep me in line. I said, “No, I’m not that kind of Negro. I’m a Jesus-loving free black man who tells the truth and bears witness, be it in the White House, crack house or any other house.” And then I had heard that she called me crazy and un-American. And I said, “Well, you know, under many circumstances, being called un-American is a compliment.”

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

CORNEL WEST: That I am anti-injustice in America. Usually if you’re anti-injustice in America, you’re often viewed as being un-American or anti-America. So that’s a compliment. [++]