The poor get poorer | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 1, 2006

The poor get poorer

Posted By on Fri, Sep 1, 2006 at 5:57 AM

E.J. Dionne in Washington Post on the most recent poverty numbers from the Census Bureau:

The "good" news is that the poverty rate, the proportion of Americans who are poor, didn't change much between 2004 and 2005, falling in a statistically insignificant way from 12.7 percent to 12.6 percent. The bad news is that the poverty rate, having risen steadily in recent years, is still higher than it was in 2001, when it stood at 11.7 percent.

Worse is that the proportion of the poor who are very poor has risen. People are considered in deep poverty if they have half or less of the yearly income of those at the poverty line. In 2005 half the poverty line for a family of three was $7,788; for a family of four it was $9,985. (Try living on that.) According to the new report, 43.1 percent of poor people lived in that sort of deep poverty -- a record since 1975, when the government started assembling such statistics.

In the six economic recoveries since the early 1960s, this is the first time the poverty rate was higher in the recovery's fourth year than it was when the recession was at its worst.

The number of Americans without health insurance rose, too, to 46.6 million in 2005, up from 45.3 million in 2004 and 41.2 million in 2001. The proportion without insurance is up from 14.6 percent in 2001 to 15.9 percent in 2005.

What about the middle class? Yes, the median income of American households rose by 1.1 percent last year after five years of decline. But most of the growth was in households headed by Americans 65 and over -- who are helped, rightly, by substantial government benefits. In households headed by people under 65, incomes fell yet again.

Want to know why so many men out there are mad? Check out Table A-2 on Page 38 of the Census report. (I'm grateful to my friend Bill Galston for calling it to my attention.) Adjusted for inflation, men's earnings were lower in 2005 than they were in 1973.

Bush and his pals are doing just fine,  thank you. Unfortunately, most people live in the reality-based community. For more reality-based reporting, see Ernie Dumas this week on who benefitted from Bush's tax policy. Hint: Not the poor folks above.

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