Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans – nearly 1 in 2 – have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.
You gotta love this guy:
Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.
Apparently if you lost your job, your credit, and your savings when the economy collapsed in 2008, you were supposed to sell everything you owned, or give it away, in order to look appropriately poor. Donate those designer clothes, and don some sackcloth and ashes. Car? Who cares if you need it to look for work, get rid of that car, and your refrigerator, too. If you're poor you have no right to a refrigerator.
Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.
Housing costs have accelerated hugely in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. Families are paying more than a third of their income for housing; then there are utilities, energy costs, transportation, child care, and health care. Divide all of that into $15,000 a year, and see what's left over.
What is truly shocking here, is the complete lack of concern about this on the part of most of our elected officials, and the mainstream media.
Fortunately there is one group of Americans whose income does not appear to be shrinking or stagnant. From The Guardian:
Chief executive pay has roared back after two years of stagnation and decline. America's top bosses enjoyed pay hikes of between 27 and 40% last year, according to the largest survey of US CEO pay. The dramatic bounceback comes as the latest government figures show wages for the majority of Americans are failing to keep up with inflation.
America's highest paid executive took home more than $145.2m, and as stock prices recovered across the board, the median value of bosses' profits on stock options rose 70% in 2010, from $950,400 to $1.3m. The news comes against the backdrop of an Occupy Wall Street movement that has focused Washington's attention on the pay packages of America's highest paid.
No sackcloth and ashes for this crowd. No shame, or sense of propriety, either. The "job creators" are delivering record profits without adding jobs.
Time for some new solutions?
Cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org