The census bureau figures that came out Tuesday, showing the largest number of Americans living in poverty since records began in 1959, are a damning indictment of American capitalism and the entire political system.
In 2010 there were 46.2 million people—almost one out of every six residents—living below the official poverty line, including 16.4 million children. Of these nearly half, or 20 million, were described as living in deep poverty, subsisting on less than half the income the US government says is needed for basic food, shelter, clothing and utilities.
As it is the government’s poverty threshold—about $22,000 for a family of four and $11,000 for a single person under 65—is insufficient to maintain a decent standard of living. A more accurate measure would be twice the official poverty line, or about $44,000 for a family of four. More than 100 million Americans—one in three—are below this threshold.And there's no help around the corner. Not this year. Certainly not before Christmas. Imagine that. Imagine trying to celebrate Christmas with kids or grandkids.
I'd be going crazy if we were having money problems. (The economic collapse coincides with all of our children becoming adults. We have 8 kids and so it's really not effected my husband and I because for the first time in our married life, we don't have to count every penny.)
I can't imagine how you pull off the holidays. And this is from a mother who worked two jobs when my husband was on strike and all eight kids were still living at home with many still believing in Santa. That was a very difficult Christmas. But I don't think I could survive this.
And can we pretend that 12 months from now things will be better? I don't think so. And this is Dean Baker on Barack's 'plan':
On the somewhat-more-worrisome side, Obama also proposed extending the 2 percentage point payroll tax cut to employees and increasing it to 3.1 percentage points (half of the Social Security tax). He also proposes to apply an equal size tax cut to the employer’s side of the tax on the first $5 million of business payrolls. There are two issues raised by this proposal.
First, the tax cut on the employer side is largely a gift to businesses that mostly do not need it. As a group, businesses are sitting on huge amounts of money and pulling in a record share of national income in profits. Giving them even more money is unlikely to have much effect on generating demand or creating jobs. On the plus side, limiting the tax cut to the first $5 million of payroll reduces the cost. It also means that at least some of the money will go to struggling businesses that really need it.
The second, more important issue raised by the tax cut is its linkage to Social Security. We are being told that it is the Social Security tax that is being cut, but there is no reason that Obama’s proposed tax cuts have to be tied in any way with the Social Security tax. Congress can vote to give whatever amount of tax cuts or credits that it wants to whichever individuals and businesses it wishes. There is no reason that the tax cuts have to be tied to Social Security’s solvency. The fact that they are linked raises some real concerns.
So, no, I don't see a big bounce in the economy coming anytime soon.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Thursday: