Add this to the murky backdrop of the Social Safety Net! vs. Cut My Taxes! debate.
The percentage of Americans living in poverty last year rose to the highest rate in 17 years, the Census Department reported Tuesday.
The number of Americans living below the poverty line — $22,113 for a family of four, which seems preposterously low — increased by 2.6 million. More than 46 million people now live in poverty in the United States, the highest number of Americans living in poverty since the Census Bureau began counting 52 years ago. That means 15.1 percent of all Americans are now considered poverty-stricken. One in six.
Think those statistics are tough to swallow? It gets worse. The numbers are especially troubling for minorities, children and minority children, the Washington Post reported:
Among children, the poverty rate climbed to 22 percent. The black child poverty rate climbed to 39 percent, while the Hispanic child poverty rate reached 35 percent. The white child poverty rate was 12.4 percent.
Two out of every five black children, and nearly that same amount for Hispanic children, are born into a cycle of despair the likes of which we have not known for some time. We are dangerously close to, if not already at, the point at which we lose an entire generation of young Americans. If that’s not enough to make you want to do something like this with your time and resources, nothing will.
The New York Times has more on the plight of the middle class in these figures:
And in new evidence of economic distress among the middle class, real median household incomes declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year, to $49,400. That was 7 percent less than the peak in 1999 of $53,252.
“A full year into recovery, there were no signs of it affecting the well being of a typical American family,” said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard. “We are well below where incomes were in the late 1990s.”
According to the census figures, the median annual income for a male full-time, year-round worker in 2010 — $47,715 — was virtually unchanged from its level in 1973, when the level was $49,065, in 2010 dollars, said Sheldon H. Danziger, professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.
It’s a shame these numbers didn’t come out before the Republican debate on Monday night, or ahead of President Obama’s jobs speech last Thursday. It’d be comforting to know how our leaders feel about such depressing statistics about the true state of our union. Action is required.