Elder Poverty and a GOP Sucker Punch - NOW Will Democrats Pledge to Defend Social Security?
by Richard Eskow | December 9, 2011 - 9:50am
Here are three things to consider:
Nearly one American in six over the age of 65 lives in poverty. A newly progressivized Barack Obama is rocking the populist bandwagon from Osawatomie to the Oval Office. And the Republicans have started attacking Democrats on Social Security - from the left.
This would be a good time for the President and other 'centrist' Democrats to offer the country a firm pledge not to cut Social Security benefits in any way, now or in the future.
Seniors in Poverty
Research teams working with the U.S. Census Bureau recently improved the government's approach to tracking poverty. They began including income from government programs - a request made by conservatives, but not an unreasonable one - adjusting for regional cost differences, and including medical care and other items that often get overlooked into their calculations.
The revised figures showed that poverty in this country is greater than previously believed. And they showed that nearly twice as many Americans over 65 live in poverty than earlier figures had suggested - more than 15%, rather than the previously reported figure of 9%.
Seniors are especially hard-hit by medical costs, despite the existence of Medicare. A study conducted by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College showed that the average couple reaching age 65 in 2009 could expect to pay nearly $197,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Medical care costs are rising much faster than general inflation. So are other costs, like transportation, that affect seniors and the disabled, Social Security's biggest pools of beneficiaries. That means elder poverty figures are likely to keep rising as these costs soar - and as the current cost of living adjustment for Social Security lags behind their actual living expenses.
The Cut of a Thousand Deaths
So why would so many Democrats, from Barack Obama to Dick Durbin, push a Social Security benefit reduction that would lower that cost of living adjustment even more? The " chained-CPI" is a terrible idea, a back-door cut to Social Security that would be both economically tragic for seniors and politically disastrous for anyone who supported it.
Social Security Works calculated that under the chained-CPI "the average earner at age 45 who begins receiving disability benefits would get a $333 benefit cut at age 55, and a nearly $700 cut by age 65. By age 75 ... that person faces a loss of over $1,000, an 8.1 percent cut." The President said of this change, "Most folks would hardly notice."
(You can get a sense of how much you'd lose under this proposal here, and then decide whether you'd notice.) http://ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011072706...
Some of these Dems have also suggested raising the retirement age even further than it's scheduled to be raised. That's a benefit cut, too.
What’s happening to poor is warning to us all
Jesse Jackson email@example.com November 14, 2011 7:58PM
Updated: November 15, 2011 1:20PM
The canary does not soar like an eagle. It doesn’t mark the change of seasons like a swallow. But the delicate canary captures the attention of the hardest miners, for it warns of impeding danger. When the canary keels over, miners run, realizing that the atmosphere is becoming a threat to life.
For societies, it is the poor who are the canary, warning of conditions dangerous to the economy and to life. Sadly, we pay less attention to our social canary than miners do theirs. The ads celebrate the lifestyles of the wealthy.
We should listen to the canary in the mine of America for it is now warning us that our economy is dangerously fouled, and our society is suffering lethal conditions. The poor in America are growing in number. More children are being raised in misery. More seniors are forced to choose between food and medicine. As the poor spread, the middle class declines and inequality worsens. The economy doesn’t work when 1 percent of the population captures as much income as the bottom 40 percent.
Evidence assembled by the Poverty, Promise and Possibility Initiative at the University of Chicago demonstrates that poverty is becoming ever more threatening. The percentage of Americans living in “extreme poverty” is growing, reaching the highest level ever recorded. In 2010, more than 20 million Americans, one out of every 15, were living in extreme poverty, defined as those with incomes of 50 percent or less of the poverty level. And now, new poverty measures adopted by the Census Bureau indicate the numbers may be worse than previously noted.
Yet, even as the poor grow in number, they become ever more isolated. America has outlawed segregation by race — but economic segregation grows ever more entrenched. The “very poor” are increasingly being pushed into “bad neighborhoods.” At least 2.2 million more Americans, a 33 percent jump since 2000, live in neighborhoods where the poverty rate is 40 percent or higher, according to a recent study by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
If Gandhi was right about poverty being the worst form of violence, then America is becoming a far more violent society
Super Collusion: Will Obama and Capitol Dems Betray the Middle Class, Seniors and the Poor?
by RJ Eskow | November 12, 2011 - 12:23pm
Two new reports suggest that the President and Congressional Democrats are about to betray everything Democrats once stood for. Under pressure from Barack Obama, Democrats on the "Super Committee" have sketched out an appalling "compromise" proposal that would almost certainly doom both their 2012 electoral chances and his own.
They'd have it coming. Their draft plan literally takes crutches away from poor people to protect tax breaks for the wealthy.
Unfortunately, middle class and impoverished Americans would suffer much more than they would. Career politicians can always look forward to comfortable sinecures from the wealthy interests who will benefit from their proposal. But the rest of us would once again be punished for the excesses of the rich, then left to the untender mercies of our new Republican leaders.
The President's actively pressuring Super Committee members from both parties to come up with a budget-slashing deal, according to a report in today's Washington Post. In addition, Obama is also urging them not to cancel the automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that would be triggered under current law if they fail to make an agreement.
Another story, from the Huffington Post's Sam Stein, gave details on the Democrats' latest proposed "compromise." These two stories paint the picture of a President and a party who are willing to keep taxes low for the wealthy, and who would pay for it by proposing cuts that punish seniors, doctors and the poor.
Posted on Sun, Oct. 16, 2011
David Wilson: Cutting entitlements would increase poverty
By David Wilson
There is a so-called "supercommittee" working in Washington, D.C., right now that is considering proposals behind closed doors that would shift health care costs onto seniors and cut their Social Security checks. Instead of focusing on cutting waste and tax loopholes, they're treating seniors like we're just another budget number to cut.
But here is something you may not know. If the Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security cuts are made, it will have shocking impacts on poverty rates in Kansas and nationwide.
Given our economic environment, it is no surprise that poverty rates are skyrocketing. Between 2009 and 2010, 20,000 more Kansans were added to the poverty ranks, and the percentage of Kansans living in poverty rose to 14.3 percent.
What's more, 7.7 percent of Kansas adults age 65 or older were considered poor by the federal guidelines. (By the way, the U.S. Census Bureau defines a family of two adults, 65-plus, who have a total household income of $13,194 as being in poverty.)
Another important fact you need to know: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are very important in reducing poverty in America. Figures from 2008 show that Kansas' poverty rate for those 65-plus would have increased from 7 percent to 44.5 percent without Social Security income. Nationally, in 2010, 14 million additional older adults would be poor without Social Security, which would quintuple the number of people aged 65 and older living in poverty.
In these tough economic times, Washington shouldn't cut the benefits seniors have worked for and depend on. Cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits could dramatically increase seniors' health care costs, threaten their access to doctors and hospitals and reduce the benefit checks they rely on to pay the bills. Even more important, it would drive the poverty rates up in this country to unacceptable levels.
Hubert H. Humphrey, vice president and presidential candidate in the 1960s, once said, "The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped."
Read more: http://www.kansas.com/2011/10/16/2064204/c...
Rick Santorum Suggests Gay Marriage Wrecked The Economy
By Carlos Santoscoy
Published: October 13, 2011
Rick Santorum's latest anti-gay narrative is the indirect suggestion that gay marriage has wrecked the economy.
In remarks during Tuesday's Bloomberg debate on the economy, Santorum said the economy suffers when the family is in trouble.
“You want to look at the poverty rate among families that have two – that have a husband and wife working in them? It's 5 percent today. A family that's headed by one person? It's 30 percent today. We need to do something, we need to talk about economics. The home – the word 'home' in Greek is the basis of the word 'economy.' It is the foundation of our country. We need to have a policy that supports families, that encourages marriage.”
In the spin room after the debate, Santorum told a small scrum of reporters: “As I said, economy … starts at the home, starts with the family, it is the first economy, and if that economy breaks down the overall economy can't succeed.”
In August, Santorum said that marriage equality encourages “the family
Most States Experience Significant Rise In Levels Of 'Deep Poverty'
The Huffington Post Alexander Eichler First Posted: 9/23/11 11:41 AM ET Updated: 9/23/11 11:42 AM ET
The closer one looks at the Census data on American poverty, the more discouraging it becomes.
It was already known that the national poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent last year, the greatest percentage since 1993, and that the actual number of Americans living in poverty had hit 46.2 million, the highest number since the Census Bureau began measuring poverty in 1959.
It was known that the median household income fell more than 2 percent in 2010. And it was known that a million more children fell into poverty in 2010, bringing the total to about 15.7 million -- and that of all the children in America age six or younger, one in four now live in poverty.
The latest analysis of Census data, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, further illustrates how widespread the problem of want in America has become. According to the CBPP, 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, have experienced significant rises in their levels of "deep poverty" in the past four years -- that is, people living on incomes that are less than half the poverty line.
No states saw a decline in their deep poverty rates.
The findings make clear how far-reaching the effects of the recession have been, and align with other studies that have shown deep poverty increasing in the U.S. over the past two decades. Nationwide, some 6.7 percent of Americans were living in deep poverty in 2010 -- the highest rate since the government started tracking this number in 1975. Nearly one in 10 children are counted in this category.
As the CBPP noted in an earlier blog post, one reason for the rise in deep poverty in recent years is that low-income families have access to fewer public resources than they used to. Skyrocketing unemployment and falling wages have also played a role.
The below graphic is by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:
Where 30 Years of Real Class Warfare Has Left America
Former Associate News Editor, The Huffington Post
Posted: 8/24/11 04:09 PM ET
There's a novel idea being championed by Republicans this month. Everyone, from Mitt Romney to Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, seems to believe that the problem with the tax system is not that the very rich get off too easy, but that the very poor do. In fact, Republicans in Congress sound pretty eager to see payroll taxes on working Americans rise again in January.
This should strike most people as odd, since the super rich in this country are taxed just 17 percent of their earnings while the rest of us fork over around 36 percent. But the argument, Dallas Tea Party founder Phillip Dennis explained to Hardball viewers last month, is that, "The top one percent pays fifty percent of the taxes in this country."
"What," he asked, "about the bottom forty-eight percent who doesn't pay anything?" Yes, really: Americans are being asked to believe that if the top 1 percent managed to match the bottom 99 percent (which pays a rate more than twice as high,) that this would be evidence not of a truly breathtaking national wealth gap, but of a downtrodden upper class.
No one in America can leave their home, eat a meal, make a phone call or even turn on the lights without paying some sort of a regressive tax that disproportionately affects the poor and working class, so the premise of Dennis' argument is just factually untrue. What is true is that many Americans pay no federal income tax, because it has a progressive structure to counter that effect. It even manages to shake out surprisingly equitably among the poor and middle class, with those earning anything between $20,000 and $500,000 per year handing over a whopping 40 percent of their income to the government one way or another. Only the super rich seem to get off relatively easily, contributing just 17 percent.
This return to pre-depression insanity is the result of three decades of real class warfare stretched over three Republican and two Democratic administrations and every imaginable combination of legislative control. In this bizarre new America, the fantasy of supply-side economics lingers, now usually in the form of a "job creator" talking point. (You know what really creates jobs? A working class capable of making purchases.) So today, any suggestion that the wealthy aren't paying enough is branded class warfare, but "a broad-based, regressive increase" targeting the working poor might be just what the doctor ordered. As a result, the super rich are charged a before-deduction tax rate that is half of what it was under Nixon and a real tax rate that is half of what their secretaries pay. It's income redistribution, alright -- from the bottom, which pays taxes, to the top, which does not.
We also leave people born to poor families disgracefully little opportunity to become one of those wealthy tax-dodgers we're so intent on pampering. The United States bills itself as the land of opportunity -- and when it comes to politics, nobody has anything on us. Our dirty little secret is that when it comes to economics, that couldn't be furtherfrom the truth. In fact, the U.S. offers its citizens the very lowest chance among wealthy nations for upward intergenerational socioeconomic mobility. If you're born to a poor family in America, you're probably going to die poor, too -- and so will your children. Unless, of course, you or they manage a move to Denmark.
How America's Safety Net Has Become A Dragnet
Barbara Ehrenreich, Posted: Aug 12, 2011
The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America.
Perhaps the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation.
In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalization of poverty has actually intensified as the weakened economy generates ever more poverty. So concludes a recent study from the National Law Center on Poverty and Homelessness, which finds that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with the harassment of the poor for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering, or carrying an open container.
That could be me before the blow-drying and eyeliner, and it’s definitely Al Szekeley at any time of day. A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington, D.C. -- the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Phu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972.
He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one -- for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.
“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”
Speaker of the House John Boehner claims that the “poor and lazy” caused the current economic crisis
Boehner's "poor and lazy" comments to Rolling Stone reflect his party's beliefs
April 4th, 2011 10:34 am ET .
Leo Kapakos NY Political Buzz Examiner
Speaker of the House John Boehner claims that the “poor and lazy” caused the current economic crisis during an interview Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. Boehner stuck to Republican Party talking points during the interview until Taibbi during a coffee break asked Boehner about today's young people. Apparently unaware he was still on record, Boehner, let Taibbi know how he really felt about poor Americans:
"Can't pay your student loan? Face it your parents were lazy and you couldn't afford college. The world needs ditch diggers and you were born into a family of them. Can't pay your mortgage? Your house was too expensive and you couldn't afford it."It's not going to happen in the US. The kids here are too fat, too lazy, to addicted to TV, fast food, cheap credit, and facebook.” I have news for you- there are plenty of jobs out there- the unemployed don't want them. Today's college student feels entitled to make at least $24 right after college. I'm not worried for this country- there are a few of them who actually want to work, take Mark Zucker(sic). You don't build a site like facebook out of thin air- it takes talent and hard work. I went to a community college and all I saw were people sitting in front of computers typing away, their eyes were fixed. Probably just facebooking away."
For the record Mr. Boehner, I was raised in the inner city and went to a community college and I did fine. Moreover, Mark Zuckerberg is not your typical American college student. Zuckerberg was a child prodigy who came from a well-to-do family and went to Harvard without the help of student loans. By the way, there are claims that Zuckerberg stole the idea and code for Facebook so he may have been a bit ethically challenged which you forgot to mention. If that’s true, he missed his calling on Wall Street – but I digress.
John Boehner and his comments are unfortunately a microcosm of the views of today’s Republican/Tea Party when it comes to America’s poor and middle class. Screw the less fortunate in society- they deserve it. The kids are fat, lazy, and they don’t want to work and their parents are buying homes that they can’t afford. If it were up to John Boehner, we wouldn’t have programs in place that benefit the poor and middle class. Programs like - the Federal Fair Housing Law, Medicaire, Social Security, Food Stamps, Federally sponsored student loan programs, Head Start, Unemployment Compensation, and Collective Bargaining Rights - would not exist.
"Entitlement Reform" Is a Euphemism For Letting Old People Get Sick and Die
by RJ Eskow | February 26, 2011 - 1:26pm
George Orwell would be proud. The latest Washington catchphrase deserves a place of honor in the 1984 lexicon, right between "War Is Peace" and "Love Is Hate." It's a virus of the language that's spreading faster than the stomach flu.
"The President's budget punts on entitlement reform," reads a statement by House Republicans. "Our budget will lead where the President has failed, and it will include real entitlement reforms." "You have to do entitlement reforms if you are serious about this budget," says Rep. Paul Ryan.
Reality check: Nobody's proposing 'entitlement reform.' That term is a cloaking device for some very ugly intentions. It's a meaningless manufactured phrase cooked up by some highly-paid consultant, and it diminishes the sum total of human understanding every time it's used. The phrase is a euphemism for deep cuts to programs that are vital and even life-saving for millions of elderly and poor people, but it's politically unpalatable to say that. So it became necessary to come up with yet another cognition-killing term designed to numb us from the human toll of our political actions. "Entitlement reform" is the new "collateral damage."
But this time the collateral damage is us.
Gotta hand it to 'em. This phrase is a masterstroke that's successfully concealing a brutal plan to slash funds for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Whoever crafted it did a hell of a job. "Reform" carries positive overtones of courage, and change, improvement, while the word "reformer" has been applied to great heroes like Teddy Roosevelt or Lincoln Steffens who fought for the powerless and the victimized.
And the term "entitlement" resonates with that word's other meaning - selfishness and the greedy assumption that one deserves to be served by others (as in "he acts so entitled)." It even appears in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) used to diagnose psychiatric problems, as one of the characteristics of "Narcissistic Personality Disorder":
"Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations."
Poverty in Egypt and America
Wed Feb 2, 2011 6:44PM
The American Dream
The days when the United States was a relatively egalitarian society are over. Now our society is made up of the ultra-wealthy, those that work for their system and those that the ultra-wealthy consider to be "useless eaters".
By any measure, the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us is rapidly growing in this country.
According to a joint House and Senate report entitled "Income Inequality and the Great Recession", the top one percent of income earners in the United States brought in a total of 10.0 percent of all income in 1980, but by the time 2008 had rolled around that figure had skyrocketed to 21.0 percent.
In a previous article, I detailed some more statistics which show how the middle class is being systematically wiped out....
*According to Harvard Magazine, 66% of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
*The bottom 40 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation's wealth.
*For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
*According to Professor Emmanuel Saez of the University of California at Berkeley, the gap between what the top 10 percent of Americans earn per year and what the rest of us earn has been widening sharply for the last 30 years. His measurements show that the top 10% percent of Americans now take in approximately 50% of the income.
But it is not just in the United States where the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. This is truly a worldwide phenomenon....
*A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research discovered that the bottom half of the world population owns approximately 1 percent of all global wealth.
*More than 3 billion people, close to half the world's population, live on less than 2 dollar a day.
*Average income per person in the poorest countries on the continent of Africa has fallen by one-fourth over the past twenty years.
*Approximately 1 billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry each night.
*Every 3.6 seconds someone starves to death and three-quarters of them are children under the age of 5.
*It is estimated that the entire continent of Africa only owns approximately 1 percent of the total wealth of the world.
*According to the most recent "Global Wealth Report" by Credit Suisse, the wealthiest 0.5% control over 35% of the wealth of the world.
Are you starting to get the picture?
This is all about the ultra-wealthy globalists having it all and the rest of us having next to nothing.
Many of these ultra-wealthy globalists have most of their assets well out of the reach of conventional taxation. In fact, it is now estimated that a third of all the wealth in the world is held in "offshore" tax havens.
So if you think that you can just "tax" these guys and even everything out you are dreaming. They are playing a whole different ballgame than you and I are playing.
If the IMF, the World Bank and the globalists get their hooks deep into the new Egyptian government, things are not going to be getting better for the Egyptian people. The "global economic system" is not designed to benefit the average man or woman on the street.
Hopefully the Egyptian people will wake up and realize this.
Hopefully the American people will wake up and realize this.
More Americans Die of Poverty than Terrorism
by Jon Stepanian October 02, 2010 07:45 AM (PT)
It's obscene that our country is spending hundreds of billions of dollars on the military when so many of our neighbors are suffering from poverty, hunger and the inability to meet their basic needs. Can we really justify this in the name of "National Security"? I don't think we're very secure at all when one in seven Americans lives below the poverty line.
The reality is that many more Americans die of poverty than terrorism. According to the U.S. State Department, 56 American civilians died due to terrorism worldwide in 2005. That same year, 472 lives were cut short due to homelessness in Los Angeles County alone.
Having these numbers doesn't curb military spending, though. It's important to note that last year the United States made up 46 percent of all worldwide military spending and dished out more than seven times as much money as the next runner up, China.
For fiscal year 2011, $1,398 billion (48 percent) of our nation's budget is allotted for military spending. Of that, $399 billion is for paying off the interest on loans from previous military expenditures. In contrast, this year we'll only be spending $1.79 billion on homeless assistance grants like help with back rent for at-risk families.
These discrepancies raise some questions about our nation's priorities. Is war more important to us than feeding the hungry? Is the $600,000 we spend on a cruise missile sent to blow up someone's home in Iraq worth more than the six or so lovely U.S. houses we could build with such money?
When we look at our priorities, we also need to look at how we can shift them. For example, the proposed Afghan war spending for 2011 is $119.4 billion dollars. That's enough to provide one year of scholarships for 15,144,040 university students, or one year's salary for 1,828,484 elementary school teachers, or enough to retrofit our energy grid, providing 72,101,449 American households with renewable wind power and new jobs. (Find more budget tradeoffs at the National Priorities Project. http://www.nationalpriorities.org/tradeoff... )
The gap in our nation's budget between what we spend on military programs compared to our own social needs is more than unjustifiable and unnecessary — it's dangerous.
The Census Bureau's 43.6 Million Poor Are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
by Jon Stepanian September 25, 2010 08:40 AM (PT)
With the recession over, the stock market towering above 10,000 and all the right wing outcry for extended tax cuts for the rich, you might assume we're well on our way to economic recovery. But that really isn't the case, is it?
When we have 43.6 million people living in poverty, the greatest number in our country's recorded history, it seems pretty hard to argue that the Great Recession is behind us. Worse still is that this number, one in seven Americans, doesn't begin to reflect how widespread poverty really is in this country. For example, the U.S. Census Bureau defined poverty for a family of four as earning less than $21,954 in 2009. If a family of four made $22,000 that year, they weren't considered poor and consequently weren't counted in that 43.6 million. Can a family of four get by on $22,000? How about $30,000? When we talk about poverty, are we fooling ourselves into believing that the real number of people living in poverty isn't much, much higher?
Generally when we think about poverty, we think about those of us who are unable to meet basic needs or those of us who are going into debt to do so. Things like food, housing, transportation, utilities, clothing and health care add up quickly. But that's not how the Census Bureau calculates poverty statistics. For it, poverty has an absolute cutoff and statistics are formulated with no regard to regional expenses, changes in food prices or even taxes. It's clearly not the most accurate system. What we need in its place is a metric to judge poverty based on the cost of necessities.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard, formulated by Dr. Diana Pearce, the director of the Center for Women's Welfare, does just this. It calculates the income a family needs to meet its bare minimum expenses without any outside assistance and it does this on a county by county, state by state basis (pdf). http://www.hwcli.com/documents/358.pdf
What this metric includes are "no frills" expenses like health care, clothing, rent and transportation. (Not included are expenses like car repairs, fast food and personal savings.) The result is a much more accurate measure of the minimum income needed for individuals and families to just get by.
Currently, the Self-Sufficiency Standard has been calculated for 37 states and the District of Columbia. It shows a steep difference between the actual cost of affording basic necessities and the federal poverty line. (Find the Self-Sufficiency Standard for your state at http://www.selfsufficiencystandard.org/pub... )
For example, according to the Self-Sufficiency Standard the average single adult living in Brooklyn needs to have an annual income of at least $28,367 (pdf) to pay for his or her basic necessities. http://www.selfsufficiencystandard.org/doc... In contrast, the federal poverty threshold (pdf) for the same individual is $10,830, a disparity of 262 percent. http://www.coverageforall.org/pdf/FHCE_Fed...
More staggering still is the gap in other areas of the country, like my home county of Suffolk, New York. In pricey Suffolk, the Self-Sufficiency Standard for a family of four is $86,245 — a whopping 391 percent greater than the federal poverty threshold.
The Self-Sufficiency Standard (like the forthcoming non-binding federal supplemental poverty measure) is a fairly new way of looking at poverty. Its adaptation is not universal, hence the fact that it's only been calculated in 37 states.
Nonetheless, the fact remains that the vast amount of data already collected points to a much greater number of real poor and struggling in this country; perhaps a much greater number than we're willing to admit to ourselves.
When I spoke with Dr. Pearce about this subject, she made some alarming points. For example, three in 10 California households (pdf) http://www.selfsufficiencystandard.org/doc... and one in three Mississippi households (pdf) http://www.mepconline.org/images/admin/spo... below the Self-Sufficiency Standard.
These numbers indicate families sacrificing necessities like food, home heating, medical care and even shelter to pay other bills. To try and get a sense of what this all meant nationally, I asked Dr. Pearce what portion of Americans she thought were below the Self-Sufficiency Standard. Her response: one in four.
Cenk Uygur's blog
How the Rich Conduct Class Warfare
by Cenk Uygur | September 15, 2010 - 11:17am
First, let me get this out of the way -- I have no problems with the rich. I plan on being rich. I'm an American. I believe. We all believe we can get to the top and enjoy the spoils of wealth. We are Americans.
That's never been the issue. And in my lifetime the poor or middle class have never come close to declaring anything other than envy for the rich. But there is a class war going on. It's being conducted by the rich on the middle class in this country.
Again, let's be clear. It's not by all of the rich or even most of the rich. There are great philanthropists among the rich. In fact, over 40 billionaires just pledged to give away half of their money to charity. Bill Gates earned his money, is giving it away and has no interest on declaring war on the middle class.
I'll even give you the classic line -- some of my best friends are rich. So, this isn't about some ridiculous stereotypes or populist demagoguery. This is about stone cold facts.
Some of the wealthiest people in this country have been systematically trying to reduce their own taxes and make sure their companies are not regulated by the government. This makes sense. They want to make more money. But in the process, they have bought our politicians, corrupted our system and ultimately given us enormous income inequality.
This income inequality doesn't seem just, but that isn't my main issue. The real problem is the results of that inequality. It leads to speculative bubbles, crashes, recessions and depressions. It leads to the middle class losing their pensions, having stagnant wages for the last thirty years and lacking opportunity to move up the chain. It kills our economy and ultimately it kills the American Dream.
Here are some numbers on the rich versus the middle class that demonstrate what I'm talking about:
All of the money went to the top. Do you know that between 1979 to 2007 income for the bottom fifth of the country went up by just 16%, but for the top 1% income it went up a staggering 281%?
The rich got much richer. This is not an accident. People like the Walton family and the Koch brothers have been doing this for a long time. The Waltons don't want to pay estate taxes for understandable reasons because they plan to inherit and pass on billions of dollars. It is cost efficient for them to buy our politicians for a couple of thousand dollars in campaign donations. The Koch brothers hate taxes and regulation of their businesses. If you want to know how they have hijacked our system you should read this brilliant article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08...
Meanwhile, you know what happened to the poverty rate - it went skyrocketing up. Now, one in seven Americans lives in poverty. That's 45 million people. Last year, we had the highest increase in poverty since the government started keeping these numbers in 1959.
The poor are growing, the middle class is shrinking and the rich are getting even richer. This is how you build a Third World country. So, the next time you hear about class warfare, understand which direction it's going in.
Some of the wealthiest people in this country pulled the wool over your eyes and picked your pockets. I don't have anything against the rich and I understand their motivation. But the rest of us are crazy to keep letting it happen. At some point, you have to fight back. Not with pitchforks, but at the very least with your votes.
Now that you know the game that's being played, it's incumbent on you to make sure you join the battle. Help us save this country and rebuild our once great middle class.
AlterNet / By Zach Carter
Treasury Makes Shocking Admission: Program for Struggling Homeowners Just a Ploy to Enrich Big Banks
The Treasury Dept.'s mortgage relief program isn't just failing, it's actively funneling money from homeowners to bankers, and Treasury likes it that way.
August 25, 2010
The Treasury Department's plan to help struggling homeowners has been failing miserably for months. The program is poorly designed, has been poorly implemented and only a tiny percentage of borrowers eligible for help have actually received any meaningful assistance. The initiative lowers monthly payments for borrowers, but fails to reduce their overall debt burden, often increasing that burden, funneling money to banks that borrowers could have saved by simply renting a different home. But according to recent startling admissions from top Treasury officials, the mortgage plan was actually not really about helping borrowers at all. Instead, it was simply one element of a broader effort to pump money into big banks and shield them from losses on bad loans. That's right: Treasury openly admitted that its only serious program purporting to help ordinary citizens was actually a cynical move to help Wall Street megabanks.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has long made it clear his financial repair plan was based on allowing large banks to "earn" their way back to health. By creating conditions where banks could make easy profits, Getithner and top officials at the Federal Reserve hoped to limit the amount of money taxpayers would have to directly inject into the banks. This was never the best strategy for fixing the financial sector, but it wasn't outright predation, either. But now the Treasury Department is making explicit that it was—and remains—willing to let those so-called "earnings" come directly at the expense of people hit hardest by the recession: struggling borrowers trying to stay in their homes.
This account comes secondhand from a cadre of bloggers who were invited to speak on "deep background" with a handful of Treasury officials—meaning that bloggers would get to speak frankly with top-level folks, but not quote them directly, or attribute views to specific people. But the accounts are all generally distressing, particularly this one from economics whiz Steve Waldman:
The program was successful in the sense that it kept the patient alive until it had begun to heal. And the patient of this metaphor was not a struggling homeowner, but the financial system, a.k.a. the banks. Policymakers openly judged HAMP to be a qualified success because it helped banks muddle through what might have been a fatal shock. I believe these policymakers conflate, in full sincerity, incumbent financial institutions with "the system," "the economy," and "ordinary Americans."
Mike Konczal confirms Waldman's observation, and Felix Salmon also says the program has done little more than delay foreclosures, as does Shahien Nasiripour.
Here's how Geithner's Home Affordability Modification Program (HAMP) works, or rather, doesn't work. Troubled borrowers can apply to their banks for relief on monthly mortgage payments. Banks who agree to participate in HAMP also agree to do a bunch of things to reduce the monthly payments for borrowers, from lowering interest rates to extending the term of the loan. This is good for the bank, because they get to keep accepting payments from borrowers without taking a big loss on the loan....MORE http://www.alternet.org/story/147955/treas...
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