(AP) US poverty rate swells to nearly 1 in 6

The ranks of America’s poor swelled to almost 1 in 6 people last year, reaching a new high as long-term unemployment left millions of Americans struggling and out of work. The number of uninsured edged up to 49.9 million, the biggest in more than two decades.

The Census Bureau’s annual report released Tuesday offers a snapshot of the economic well-being of U.S. households for 2010, when joblessness hovered above 9 percent for a second year. It comes at a politically sensitive time for President Barack Obama, who has acknowledged in the midst of a re-election fight that the unemployment rate could persist at high levels through next year.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Economy, Poverty, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--

25 comments on “(AP) US poverty rate swells to nearly 1 in 6

  1. AnglicanFirst says:

    How do the ‘impoverished’ in the USA compare with the truly ‘impoverished’ of the Third World?

    How much of our poverty is based upon a metric of ‘he has something that I don’t have?’ This sort of metric borders on a metric of ‘covetting.’

    How many of our ‘impoverished’ were impoverished during ‘good’ financial times as a result of negative cultural attitudes within their own communities and/or a lack of self-discipline combined with a distain for self-improvement through education?

    How much of our poverty is due to drug addiction and/or poor parenting by parents who see sex as a recreational activity or a means of achieving a supply of drugs?

  2. Teatime2 says:

    Please don’t, AnglicanFirst. Millions of people are hungry and hurting through no fault of their own, mainly because of the unemployment situation. Dismissing that and trying to play the blame game solves nothing.

    I saw a news report not long ago about the increase in American children who are failing to thrive and are small for their age because they’re not getting enough to eat. If you feel good about trivializing that simply because these malnourished children aren’t naked and living in the Southern hemisphere, then perhaps some meditation on compassion is in order.

    Bad things do happen to good and faith-filled people, to hard-working and honest people, to children. They really do. The “prosperity gospel” is a lie perpetrated by charlatans who are getting rich by taking advantage of desperate people.

  3. evan miller says:

    I’m with you, #1.

  4. AnglicanFirst says:

    I am not talking about those who have fallen on hard times or children or the disabled or the ill or the elderly.
    No Christian would deny giving those people the assistance that they need.

  5. drjoan says:

    There is a real disparity between statistics that speak to “childhood hunger (poverty)” and Mrs. Obama’s “childhood obesity.” The following are facts about persons defined as “poor” by the Census Bureau as taken from various government reports:
    80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. In 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
    92 percent of poor households have a microwave.
    Nearly three-fourths have a car or truck, and 31 percent have two or more cars or trucks.
    Nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite TV.
    Two-thirds have at least one DVD player, and 70 percent have a VCR.
    Half have a personal computer, and one in seven have two or more computers.
    More than half of poor families with children have a video game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation.
    43 percent have Internet access.
    One-third have a wide-screen plasma or LCD TV.
    One-fourth have a digital video recorder system, such as a TiVo.
    (See the Heritage Foundations, Understanding Poverty in the United States: Surprising Facts About America’s Poor)
    It doesn’t mean we stop caring for the poor; it means we look carefully and thoughtfully at the situation!


  6. Cennydd13 says:

    I’m concerned about everyone who is living in poverty, or who is on the edge of it. I’m concerned about the jobless……those who through no fault of their own have been searching for two years or more with no end in sight, and I’m concerned about those who’ve given up in despair of ever finding work…..any kind of work. I’m concerned about those who’ve retrained, only to find out later that their efforts were in vain when their jobs were eliminated and transferred overseas, and they had to retrain again……only to have the same thing recur.

    Where and when will it end? It will end when Congress eliminates thousands and thousands or pages of regulations, and when American companies can again compete and stand a chance against foreign competition in the marketplace. It will end when the playing field is levelled and American workers are paid living wages, and when the average of $40 that executives are paid for every dollar earned by their employees reaches a more equitable level.

  7. Cennydd13 says:

    And that’s just for starters.

  8. Teatime2 says:

    Amen, Cennydd.
    AnglicanFirst, Unfortunately, there are indeed so-called Christians who would deny assistance to the less fortunate. I know you’re not one of them but I guess I’ve come to bristle at anything that can be seen to feed self-righteousness and denial.

    Enter the “Heritage Foundation” article. My goodness, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen this exact piece trotted out to claim that there really aren’t many “poor” people in America, I could get a bunch of things updated/fixed around my house! I did a quick Google and checked with Snopes on the veracity and found the usual conservative sites running it without much further comment or analysis. I also found this brief commentary which represents my initial thoughts, particularly this section:

    [blockquote]Much of today’s poor were not poor in the recent past, when they were able to purchase the consumer durables” measured. Interestingly, my seven-year-old daughter made pretty much the same observation when I was talking about this.

    Another data colleague reflected on the interesting responses of who “bought stuff when employed, and now haven’t worked in years and it’s difficult to replace what they have. Where Heritage sees luxurious poor people, I see a desperately sliding middle class. And there’s no substantial research here to prove either view is right. [/blockquote]

    Moreover, it’s great to own a car but does it run? Does the “Heritage Foundation” understand that when it’s 105+ degrees all summer in Texas that charitable organizations use contributions and grants to buy and give out air conditioners and fans to the poor because it’s a life-threatening situation? That per health and safety laws, rentals have to be adequately heated and cooled? Refrigerators provided?

    The point is that we’re seeing people who previously had jobs, could support their families, and buy a few things that may be considered “luxurious” in the Third World now being unable to find jobs in the longterm or earn enough to pay for the necessities. Those luxuries have increasingly found their way into pawn shops, which has been reported extensively but isn’t mentioned much by the right-wing media.

    And the laughable part is that this wing is the one that’s long been on the side of producing cheap goods, encouraging consumer spending and investment risk-taking, and trading up for bigger and better. They’re also the ones who won’t hire more employees because they say the picture is too murky and people need to start spending.

    Um, how can people spend if they don’t have jobs? And, wait, didn’t you just pooh-pooh the notion of poor people in America because they own a $35 DVD player? You know, the one that you ensured was cheap and just about anyone with a minimum wage job could afford because it’s cheap entertainment? If the pawn shops are still taking them, they’re probably paying $5.

    The business class, their companies, and the government collude to create need, demand, and sales, not only here but abroad, as well. ($50 laptop for poor Third World kids, anyone?) So, it’s awfully rich when they turn on the people hardest hit by economic failure.

  9. evan miller says:


    It’s the right wing and the Tea Partiers, you know, those nativist xenophobes, who are always urging us to “Buy American,” not the liberals.

  10. clayton says:

    Right on, Dr. Joan! You might love this:

    [url=http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-august-18-2011/world-of-class-warfare—the-poor-s-free-ride-is-over]the poor are the problem[/url]

  11. Cennydd13 says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh or pull what hair I’ve got left out of my scalp, and I had trouble deciding if tis guy is seriously sarcastic or seriously nuts!

    I’m a 100% service-connected disabled veteran, and I receive Vetrans’ Disability Compensation each month. My wife and I are retired, and since we paid into the System like all other good folks who worked and paid according to Federal law, we each receive Social Security. She also receives her pension each month from the insurance company that she served for over 22 years. Does this make us parasites? [b]We don’t think so![/b]

    So where do people get off telling others in our situation that we are?

  12. Cennydd13 says:

    And evan miller, [b]I’m one of ’em![/b]

  13. evan miller says:

    Cennydd13, so am I.

  14. drjoan says:

    You can scoff at me as you wish. But remember those folks who went on the flash raid in Philadelphia were poor with cell phones. Where did they get them? The phone comes with the Government’s food stamps.

  15. Cennydd13 says:

    Some of those phones are available for plans costing only $10 per month……and believe me, you can’t get ’em with food stamps; it’s not allowed. Basic food necessities only, or so I’m told……but of course, that includes cigarettes, doesn’t it? And even the poorest can afford those.

  16. BlueOntario says:

    It’s kinda sad watching everyone talk past one another.

    There are poor people in Appalachia who come from generations of poor who have microwaves – because that’s how people cook these days. The $500 Amana is so ’70s. There are poor people in the South who have air conditioning because if you don’t have air conditioning in the South it’s because you’re dead. There are poor people who have computers and cell phones because that’s how you communicate.

    There are poor people who have new microwaves because the one they bought last month is dirty. There are poor people who have a bajillion inch LED TV because it’s bigger than their neighbor’s. There are poor people who have computers and cell phones because it’s how you get your tickets to the concert or score your hit.

    It’s not the things, it’s how they are used.

    I gotta agree, though, about the shrinking middle class. That’s something let go far too long and perhaps irrecoverably. 200 years from now we’d probably disagree with the historian’s perspective on what’s going on and what could solve it, but they’d probably be right because what we’re doing sure ain’t working.

  17. Cennydd13 says:

    Yeah, and try living in the Deep South……or New York City, or any city on the eastern seaboard…..in the summer without air conditioning; I [b]dare[/b] ya! Baltimore’s a sweatbox!

  18. Clueless says:

    I am not poor, but I do live in the deep South. It was 115 degrees at one time this summer, with several weeks of over 100 temps. We very rarely use the airconditioning (or the heating despite record cold last winter, with several days below freezing. We have good insulation, fans and we sweat in the summer and bundle up in the winter.

    But then, when I grew up, we lived in Washington DC with no air conditioning. We used a fan, an open window and the expectation that it is okay to sweat, because it cools you down. Washington DC in the winter get’s below freezing. We walked to school in sweaters that came just below our elbows and shoes that were slit around the sides. My folks couldn’t afford coats or new sweaters and anyway they simply told us jovially “you’re not cold are you? Not a sturdy, game little chap like you?”.

    And so, no, actually. We weren’t cold. If anybody asked, we would look down our noses and say “Of course not, Asians don’t get cold. We’re much tougher than Americans”. Or “What’s wrong with my shoes? My shoes work fine, thanks. If I want new shoes, I’ll ask for them, and my folks will get them for me.”

    No. We were never cold. Or hot. And we were certainly never poor. Too bad about all the poor people nowadays. I wish I could have given them my parents. They they would have been immensely richer.

  19. Cennydd13 says:

    I’m a New Yorker by birth and upbringing (northern NY), and I’m used to really cold weather……having been stationed in Greenland and northern Canada, but I have to tell you that when I was stationed in Tampa, I froze in the winter because it was a damp cold, and I sweated off 20 lbs in the summer, and I really appreciated the air conditioned barracks when they were finally built.

    I understand why poor people need the things that some others say they shouldn’t have…….they’re no different than those who are better off than they are, and they have the same needs. The right to comfort has no bounds.

  20. Clueless says:

    “The right to comfort has no bounds”.

    Wow. A “right” to comfort.

    Not just the ancient rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Not the nouveau “rights” to have free access to somebody else’s labor in order to win necessities like emergency medical care.

    Now we have a “right” to comfort, which is to be funded by enslaving future and current generations with debt. Do our children have any “rights” to refuse to be so burdened? Or are they “different from those who are better off than they are” and have lost their “rights” to have needs?

  21. Clueless says:

    It is natural that the Boomers, (my generation) who grew up with certain expectations (a pension, air conditioning, the ability to retire etc) feel anger when their expectations are in danger of being withdrawn.

    It is also true that the Boomers can rightly point to the generations above them who set up the SS/Medicare ponzi scheme and who did have all the above good things, paid for courtesy of the Boom.

    This IN NO WAY, justifies our generations’ attempt to perpetuate this unfair transfer of assets from poorer younger generations to wealthier older generations.

    As to what makes somebody “poor” versus “rich” that debate was present in Jesus’s time and will continue long after we are gone. My folks were Asian. Kids in their country did not have the luxury of going to school in slit shoes, without coats. They worked or begged instead. That made me “rich” and them poor. I agree. I was “rich” even if I didn’t have warm clothes or shoes. I never thought I was poor. I wasn’t encouraged to think I was poor or to compare myself to the folks who had bikes and boots and down jackets and color TV sets. I was encouraged to compare myself to the kids who didn’t get to go to school, and to be grateful for what I did have.

    My kids were adopted from Latin America. My oldest had been starved for 3 years before she came. She grew 7 inches in six weeks when she first was able to eat all the food she wanted and needed. When she was six we were told she was mentally retarded due to her malnutrition. She was poor indeed.

    Now however, she is still short and always will be, however thanks to a great deal of hard work, tutoring, etc. she is a senior in college, works part time, lives independantly in an apartment she pays for herself, and has no debt. She is always bouncing checks and scratches to get by, but I think I would call her “rich” now. Certainly the other children in the orphanage she came from would call her amazingly rich.

    I think we can agree that nobody should have so little food that they are in danger of dying or becoming so malnourished that their brains will be permanantly damaged. I think we can agree that nobody should die of cold if this can be helped. However neither should kids struggling to pay rent and to pay off their college loans be burdened with paying for adults who feel that they have a “right to retire” because other adults in generations before then had that luxury. We all know that the Millenials and Gen. X will not be retiring. The debts we ran up are too great to permit that. The boomers should not be so selfish as to expect that we should have what it is clear generations who follow us cannot have. It is less important whose “fault” this is. It is not important if the burdens that will fall on future generations are the fault of our generation or the fault of the generation who set up the Ponzi scheme. It is more important that we stand in solidarity with our children and grandchildren to pay the debt down, rather than dreaming up imaginary “rights” that they will never share.

  22. Cennydd13 says:

    Right, and in order to help pay the debt down, we need [b]jobs,[/b] and right now, they’re kinda scarce, aren’t they? But there does appear to be a tiny glimmer of hope…..at least in Merced, California, because when I drove back to Los Banos this morning, I noticed a new sign at the local tractor and farm implement company on Hwy 59 which says “Now hiring mechanics.”

  23. Clueless says:

    The way to get jobs is to get rid of the red tape, regulations, taxes on small business, and litigation.

    Right now, the US worker is highly productive, but thanks to government regulation, and government encouraged litigation, it is cheaper to send jobs offshore.

  24. evan miller says:

    I grew up on a farm (where I now live) in the Blue Grass region of Kentucky in a 200 year old brick farmhouse. I recall picking up sacks of wheat in the field at a temperature of 102 when I was 13 years old. We had no air conditioning either in the house or in the cars and we heated the house with coal (every room had a fireplace). I filled 24 coal buckets a day. Like Clueless, in the sumer we sweated, used fans, wore minimal clothes and drank out weight in iced tea, and in the winter we bundled up and shut off most of the house except when entertaining. We were not poor, though money ws never plentiful (both parents had advanced degrees and my siblings and I attended private schools) but that was country life. Now, softened by the comforts I’ve come to expect over the last 35 years since I left home for the Army, I feel hideously deprived if I have to do without central heating and air. As a poeple, we have become soft and “entitled.”

  25. Teatime2 says:

    The funny thing about the “good ole days when we were kids” is that they, well, weren’t good, in the long run for many of us. I grew up in the Rust Belt with contaminated rivers, the sky red and burnt orange with factory smoke, and undoubtedly contaminated soil. There was no central air or heat in our house. We had a furnace, yes, but no vents/ducts in all of the rooms. The warm air produced was supposed to travel naturally, I guess. I was cold much of the time in the winter and it wasn’t pleasant.

    I moved far away, to a much less-polluted environment, after college but I struggle with Crohn’s, Lupus, and other issues. (I’m in my 40s.) Too many neighbors, family, and friends in my age group back home either had cancer, have cancer or died from cancer. Others like myself have autoimmune or other diseases. Arthritis is endemic. I hardly have any family left and fat chance I live to a ripe old age. I don’t think the president of U.S. Steel, Westinghouse, General American, or the other industries spared a thought for the contamination and death left behind. Sorry if I don’t join in with the nostalgic chest-thumping.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of becoming “softer” but I’d hope we would become smarter and improve our priorities, health and quality of life being among them. That’s why I find so much of this ironic. The people who deny that hunger and poverty exist in America tend to be the same ones who make it their business to get lower-income people to spend their money on the latest gadgets, ensure they’re cheap enough to afford, and tie time- and money-saving tasks or services to them. Then, they claim you can’t be poor if you lose your job, can’t find another one but have some inexpensive electronics.

    Nutrition, health and safety are basic needs and shouldn’t denote social class. The fact that the elite often make their fortunes by producing inferior (even shoddy or dangerous) products (even food!) for mass consumption by the poor and then trash the less advantaged is immoral. Healthy food, safe shelter and protection from the extreme elements aren’t luxuries. Or shouldn’t be.