As I have pointed out previously, one of the cherished right-wing claims – that there is no poverty in America or what poverty exists is negligible – is a fantasy.
Yesterday, the US Census Bureau released the 2010 figures on poverty in America (the full report can be found here). This is significantly more recent than the 2007 pre-Lesser Depression data used by the right-wing Heritage Foundation in its own report on poverty.
The data is depressing. The Census Bureau summarizes:
The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that in 2010, median household income declined, the poverty rate increased and the percentage without health insurance coverage was not statistically different from the previous year.
Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.
The nation’s official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
In other words, there are 2.6 million more people in poverty today than a year ago. That’s two million, six hundred thousand people. And for the rest, the median income has actually declined. That certainly qualifies as evidence for the death of the American worker.
As has been reported virtually everywhere, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s August jobs report is out. It sucks:
Nonfarm payroll employment was unchanged (0) in August, and the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment in most major industries changed little over the month. Health care continued to add jobs, and a decline in information employment reflected a strike. Government employment continued to trend down, despite the return of workers from a partial government shutdown in Minnesota.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks and over) was about unchanged at 6.0 million in August and accounted for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.
Even more fun:
In August, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $23.09. This decline followed an 11-cent gain in July. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.9 percent. In August, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees decreased by 2 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $19.47.
This in a time when, via the Center for Economic and Policy Research, “the the U.S. economy is currently short about 10 million jobs (14 million using a less conservative estimate).”
The relevant post on the White House blog by Katharine Abraham led with, “Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 17,000 and overall payroll employment was flat in August.”
See that? They picked the figure that increased, put it first, and rendered it numerically. For the real number, they described it in terms of an abstract metaphor.
The White House blog post finishes:
The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates are subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report.
Yeah, those figures do tend to get revised. Downward.
This isn’t a big deal or anything, but I take it as symptomatic of a larger underlying condition. You remember how the Obama campaign used to be the group that spoke the truth? How Obama himself was able to say in public that in times of hardship, when people got bitter, they “cling to guns or religion”?
No more of that. He and his advisors have certainly acclimated to their new environment. “To our most valiant brother,” says Shakespeare’s Claudius, “So much for him.” Insert your own Obama-Hamlet comparison at your leisure.
The employed work multiple jobs to stay afloat (slightly less in 2010 than 2009, but I do not know what the figures are/will be for 2011), and businesses try to only hire the employed or recently unemployed. The result is to create a class of long-term unemployed with few prospects.
The Downward Spiral blog summarizes the current state of the Lesser Depression succinctly:
Now it is finally conformed: the recession that began in 2008 never ended. Trillions of dollars were borrowed and spent by the federal government that merely bought us a couple of years of stabilization before the crash resumed. Don’t give me any guff about how it’s not “officially” a recession unless we experience two consecutive quarters of negative GDP. First of all, as I’ve written before, without the insane levels of federal deficit spending, GDP levels would still be deeply in the red. Secondly, all of that nonsense about a “jobless recovery,” was just that–nonsense. Without jobs, people don’t earn money, hence they cannot go to the mall and spend, hence our consumer based economy cannot grow. It’s as simple as that.
No telling what next month’s figures will be, of course. But given that reports of consumer spending’s health in July were somewhat exaggerated, and worldwide industry is taking a sharp turn for the down, my general belief is that, perhaps, the market cannot continue to go up indefinitely.
Here we go again?
Robert Reich shows that it’s not that hard to talk about economics from a progressive point of view. He’s done a few of these that make seemingly complicated topics entirely understandable – they deserve wide dissemination (and can be found on his site).
This is one of the most straightforward and clearest explanations of wage stagnation I’ve seen, which is essential in understanding how we got to where we are. He did miss one important dot – when the superwealthy have all the money, and their political power dismantles regulation, it leads to massive increases in speculation, and the inevitable economic crash (and bailouts, which follow from the imbalance in political power).