“The poor are much poorer than they used to be.”

(noon – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

“The poor are much poorer than they used to be.”

Doesn’t that sound like the sort of extremely important economic news that almost everyone would already know?

The post linked above at the excellent economics blog Angry Bear explains that in 2009…

6.3% of people in the USA suffered severe poverty, that is lived in households with income less than half the poverty line. This is the highest severe poverty rate on record.

That means that over 19 million people in the USA live in households with income less than half the poverty line (severe poverty implies income significantly less than $ 11,000 per year for a family of four).

Angry Bear makes a case that “Welfare Reform” is responsible for millions of people falling farther into poverty than ever, but whatever the real explanation may be, the brute fact of extreme poverty for millions of Americans is starkly represented in the table below from the Census Bureau.


It’s worth remarking that in 1993, after 12 years of beneficent Republican administrations under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the percentage of families living in extreme poverty had risen to 6.2%, almost as high as it is today. Then there’s a steady decline from 1993 to 2000 to 4.5% in Bill Clinton’s last year in the White House, but the trend is reversed again under George W. Bush, and continues to worsen.

More than 19 million Americans were living in extreme poverty in 2009, and it’s hard to believe that the number isn’t growing right now, as extended unemployment benefits are exhausted for more and more Americans every day, and long-term unemployment continues to exceed all previous records.

In July, 44.9% of this country’s unemployed workers had been unemployed for over six months, nearly 20 percentage points above the high of all prior recessions, which was 26.0%, set in the summer of 1983.  

And what are our friends in Washington offering us to alleviate the dire poverty of so many Americans?

President Obama has proposed an additional $80 billion in federal spending to create new jobs and avoid the prospect of local governments laying off 500,000 more workers, but Obama’s bill has been side-tracked by a coalition of Republicans and conservative Democrats in the Senate.

Don’t they give a damn about so much misery, or are they just clueless, as the bloggers at Angry Bear suggest?

It’s almost as if most people had no clue what it is like to be poor so that they don’t even know that the poor are much poorer than they used to be.


    • jamess on September 19, 2010 at 18:49

    the poor

    don’t have some sort of Union,

    or Lobbyist Group.

    All humans, deserve a “Living Wage

    as FDR said.

  1. The bloggers at Angry Bear aren’t the only commenters who believe that “Welfare Reform” has left the poorest of the poor worse off than ever.

    Since Congress enacted welfare reform in 1996, thousands of single mothers have gone off welfare and found jobs, and child poverty rates have dropped slightly. Yet there is also evidence that the poorest families are now worse off as they have less income than when they were on welfare.

    Such mixed results appear frequently in trying to understand the law’s consequences, concludes Cornell researcher Rachel Dunifon in a review of more than 100 studies of welfare reform commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project.

    Congress is set to renew Bill Clinton’s “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act” this year, and at the very least it’s obvious that some of the rosy predictions about “helping” the poor by throwing families off AFDC didn’t quite work out as predicted.

    • Xanthe on September 21, 2010 at 01:24

    Is it this:  

    The poor will always be with you.

    Well, that settles that – move on.

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