Sunday, September 19, 2010

"unfortunate timing for Obama"

"The number of people in the US who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama's watch..."
The following headline caught my eye:
World poverty falling sharply but patchily
The source points out that the gains made by the poor can be contributed "...from robust economic growth in countries such as China and India, the world's two most populous countries."  It (The New Zealand Herald) describes some of the poorest sections in China and other places while emphasising other United Nations provided data.  (side note: IMHO The UN has too much influence in New Zealand...and I don't trust them for a minute...the UN that is!).  You can read the full story here but I have a slightly different take on the rationale behind the story.
Sure those with the improved status of living standards are deserving of anything that comes their way down the economic highway.  But where did that growth come from in China?  Have you ever heard of Wal-Mart ?  Of  course you have...the world knows Wal-Mart!  And who in the world knows Wal-Mart best?  That's right, China!  Wal-Mart is probably China's biggest customer; which makes you, the Wal-mart shopper, China's biggest paver of economic highways.  So there!  The New Zealand Herald should rewrite their story and give credit where credit is due.  The headline then should read, "World Poverty Falling Sharply Thanks To Wal-Mart Shoppers" 
Now what does all this have to do with Obama...  Well at the same link that I found the first headline I also discovered this, "Rising Tide Of US Poverty Nears 60's Levels".  You can read the entire story as soon as I finish my little rant right here. 
There's something about that heading that created a scenario that has some scientific backing. "Rising Tide" mmm, I'm sure that means that somewhere else is experiencing an "ebb tide" (the opposite of rising tide).   So one can equate (not to be confused with the Wal-Mart brand) from the combined stories that when Americans are sinking into poverty the Chinese are climbing the ladder of success.  But hey, the tide always changes...and I'll be looking forward for the change in November.  ~ Norman E. Hooben
Rising tide of US poverty near 60s levels By Hope Yen and Liz Sidoti Sep 15, 2010
The rate of America's working-age poor is expected to hit its highest since Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty. Photo / AP

The rate of America's working-age poor is expected to hit its highest since Lyndon Johnson launched the war on poverty. Photo / AP

WASHINGTON - The number of people in the US who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama's watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels.
Census figures for 2009 - the recession-ravaged first year of his presidency - are about to be released and demographers expect grim findings.
It's unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The anticipated poverty rate increase - from 13.2 per cent to about 15 per cent - would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power.
"The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there," Obama said.
He stressed his commitment to helping the poor achieve middle-class status and said: "If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle."
Demographers found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 per cent to 15 per cent. Should those estimates hold true, about 45 million people in the United States, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last year.
It would be the highest single-year increase since the Government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 per cent during the energy crisis.
Among the 18-64 working-age population, the demographers expect a rise beyond 12.4 per cent, up from 11.7 per cent. That would make it the highest since at least 1965, when another Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson, launched the war on poverty that expanded the federal government's role in social welfare programmes from education to healthcare.
Demographers are also confident the report will show:
* Child poverty increased from 19 per cent to more than 20 per cent.
* Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit, based on their higher rates of unemployment.
* Metropolitan areas that posted the largest gains in poverty included Modesto, California; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida; Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
"My guess is that politically these figures will be greeted with alarm and dismay but they won't constitute a clarion call to action," said William Galston, a domestic policy aide for President Bill Clinton.
"I hope the parties don't blame each other for the desperate circumstances of desperate people. That would be wrong in my opinion. But that's not to say it won't happen."
Lawrence Mead, a New York University political science professor who is a conservative and wrote The New Politics of Poverty: The Nonworking Poor in America, argued that the figures would have a minimal impact in November.
"Poverty is not as big an issue right now as middle-class unemployment."
But if Friday's report is as troubling as expected, Republicans in the midst of an increasingly strong drive to win control of the House, if not the Senate, would get one more argument to make against Democrats in the campaign home stretch.
The Republicans say voters should fire Democrats because Obama's economic fixes are hindering the sluggish economic recovery. Rightly or wrongly, Republicans could cite a higher poverty rate as evidence.
Democrats almost certainly will argue that they shouldn't be blamed. They're likely to counter that the economic woes - and the poverty increase - began under President George W. Bush with the near-collapse of the financial industry in late 2008.
Although that's true, it's far from certain that the Democratic explanation will sway voters who already are trending heavily toward the Republicans in polls as worrisome economic news piles up.
Hispanics and blacks - traditionally solid Democratic constituencies - could be inclined to stay home in November if, as expected, the Census Bureau reports that many more of them were poor last year.
Beyond this fall, the findings could put pressure on Obama to expand government safety net programmes ahead of his likely 2012 re-election bid even as Republicans criticise him about federal spending and annual deficits. Those are areas of concern for independent voters whose support is critical in elections.
Experts say a jump in the poverty rate could mean that the liberal viewpoint - social constraints prevent the poor from working - will gain steam over the conservative position that the poor have opportunities to work but choose not to because they get too much help.
"The Great Recession will surely push the poverty rate for working-age people to a nearly 50-year peak," said Elise Gould, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. She said that means "it's time for a renewed attack on poverty".
To Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland public policy professor, the big question is whether there's anything more to do to help these families.
The 2009 forecasts are largely based on historical data and the unemployment rate, which climbed to 10.1 per cent last October to post a record one-year gain.
The projections partly rely on a methodology by Rebecca Blank, a former poverty expert who now oversees the census. She estimated last year that poverty would hit about 14.8 per cent if unemployment reached 10 per cent. "As long as unemployment is higher, poverty will be higher," she said.
A formula by Richard Bavier, a former analyst with the White House, predicts poverty will reach 15 per cent. That would be the highest level since 1993.
The all-time high was 22.4 per cent in 1959, the first year the Government began tracking poverty. It dropped to a low of 11.1 per cent in 1973 after Johnson's war on poverty but has since fluctuated in the 12-14 per cent range.
In 2008, the poverty level stood at US$22,025 ($30,174) for a family of four, based on an official government calculation that includes only cash income before tax deductions.
It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth. It does not factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits or food stamps, which have surged to record levels in recent years under the federal stimulus programme.
Beginning next year, the government plans to publish new, supplemental poverty figures that are expected to show even higher numbers of people in poverty than previously known.
The figures will take into account rising costs of medical care, transportation and childcare, a change analysts believe will add to the ranks of both seniors and working-age people in poverty.

1 comment:

Lew Waters said...

It never ceases to amaze me. Socialism the world over is failing and they are ever so gradually moving towards a more capitalistic economy while America, who once stood for freedom and liberty, steps in to embrace socialism to be more like failed economies.

People need to wake up!