1 in 7 Americans Live in Poverty: The Bush Legacy

“For the first time in memory, [an] entire decade has produced essentially no economic growth for the typical American household.”

That was the conclusion drawn by Harvard economist Lawrence Katz in response to the most recent census figures that show that now 1 in 7 Americans live in poverty.

Median family incomes in 2009 were 5 percent lower than in 1999.  The number of US residents without health insurance climbed to 51 million in 2009.  Those numbers also fail to consider direct government assistance such as food stamps and tax credits, which are not counted when calculating income for purposes of determinig whether an individual or family falls above or below the poverty line.

If there’s a bit of good news in the report it is that things could have been much, much worse.  The number of uninsured is expected to shrink as the health care overhaul begins to take effect.  Millions of Americans did not fall below the poverty line simply as a result of expanded unemployment insurance and other governmental assistance.  Others were able to get by by sharing homes with siblings, parents or friends.  The Recovery Act kept approximately 6.2 million Americans out of poverty and lifted about 2.4 million children out of poverty as well.

Without a doubt children have been the hardest hit by the increase in poverty rates, particularly children of color.  35.7 percent of African-American children currently live in poverty.  That number is only slightly better for Hispanic children at 33.1 percent.

It’s hard to make the case for a freeze, or even worse, systematic cuts, of government assistance programs in the face of such staggering numbers.  But that is exactly what Republicans are doing by insisting on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans over the next 10 years.  Extending those cuts, which are set to expire on their own (and thus, despite the heated rhetoric, fail to qualify as a tax increase) will cost this country $830 billion in revenue.  Compare that with an estimated $90 billion in policy solutions targeted at reducing child poverty by about 41 percent over the next ten years and ask yourself just who the current Republican leadership intends to benefit.

The numbers are downright criminal.  This country has fallen into a wealth-disparity not seen since the days of the Robber Barons.  After surviving The Great Depression we made a promise–extended the social contract–to say never again.  Never again would Americans who were willing to work and support themselves not be able to do so because of unfair wage and hour laws.  Never again would young Americans be forced to chose between furthering their education as part of realizing the American Dream or dropping out and working to help feed their families.  Never again would families starve while Wall Street splurged.

It is far too easy to lay this tragedy solely at the feet of the Bush administration, though they certainly should bear the lions share of blame.  Much of the regulatory dismantling that allowed the corporate pillaging took place on the Democrats watch.  But the extent of the of the overreach that took place during the Bush administration and at the expense of the middle class can render one speechless.  And to think that Republican leaders insist this is good social policy is positively mind boggling. 

photo courtesy of Don Hankins via Flickr


Allan Y.
.6 years ago

Stop blaming a particular party for a situation that has been a nation discrace for decades. The government is at fault here, pure politics- both parties.
Aside from this, the article make no distinction between the truly poor, the unemployed, those receiving welfare, food stamps, and unemployment insurance - all three a mess in its mis-managment.

jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

Children are always the hardest hit. Congress should wake up and smell the coffee. People are getting tired of their anything the other party says or does is wrong attitude. Stop the politics and do something about the situation.

Desiree V.
Desiree Voyles6 years ago

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer......

Jax xx
Jackie E6 years ago

it seems to me that it's a world of haves and have-nots with nothing in between..........

Michael Kirkby
Michael K6 years ago

Jaette C. wants to collect all the taxes paid by the citizens back to Reagan. Why not go all the way back to Wilson who was responsible for ramroding through the graduated income tax? The graduated income tax was foisted on the people along with the Federal Reserve to support the war effort in 1913. Of course the first income tax was levied by Lincoln to support the Civil War in 1862. Interesting how government always does their best to bleed us dry due to their mismanagement. Don't even get me started on that criminal Lincoln. He was a big railroad lawyer who never met a monopolist he didn't like. Hey Becksie, lie me one about Lincoln will yah?
People criticize capitalism, blaming all our ills and woes on it. If practiced fairly and openly in principle with open market, competitive prices and the best products getting top billing; there is no system like it in the world. This was the market and barter system found in the original colonies prior to the Revolution. It's been all downhill from there. From the First Bank of America's inception; to the Civil War; to the Jekyll Island conference of 1913; two world wars, the first which was totally unecessary except for the machinations of a few International Banksters and the Second could have been avoided if the Treaty of Versailles remained unratified and the Germans were allowed honor.
Get rid of the Fed; give the monetary controls back to the US treasury; more states rights; smaller more efficient government. Nail them all.

Susan S.
Susan S6 years ago

Jaette C. says Sep 21, 2010 8:58 AM:
Shouldn't you be stating that it is the bloated Wealthy rather than the bloated Govt. that is the problem?

Nope!! I said it right. A bloated government is the middle class's worst nightmare. They waste more money than they do any good with. The government has never done anything except take our money and spend it foolishly. For example, LA has received $111M but has only created 55 jobs. Yeah, that's real efficient.

And, I don't know about you, but I have never been employed by a poor person or a company that is not making money. Companies could not get rich without CREATING JOBS and PAYING THEIR EMPLOYEES. It is the private sector that is going to create meaningful, sustainable jobs, not the government.

When are you going to wake up and open your eyes to the fact that the government is not the answer!! They throw YOUR money around, hoping it will stick to something meaningful. What a waste, and it's sad so many people here can't (or refuse) to see it. The only thing that makes sense is there are alot of people here on the government dole and don't want to work - they just want their handout to be bigger. I wonder how many here actually pay taxes vs. how many get a government handout.

Jaette C.
Jaette Carpenter6 years ago

Oops, not BARB S, I met Susan S. that made the bloating statement.

Jaette C.
Jaette Carpenter6 years ago

To Barb S. Shouldn't you be stating that it is the bloated Wealthy rather than the bloated Govt. that is the problem?

Jaette C.
Jaette Carpenter6 years ago

Let's go over this again....the trickle down theory doesn't work, never has worked....in fact it was a 'trickle sideways' deal that helped out rich folks and their rich buddies. Now the middle class is asking the upper aristocracy to simply pay their FAIR SHARE of taxes. And if corporations see themselves as a people, then they should be paying their fair share also. No breaks for the rich and famous during a crisis. Just pony up. In fact, I think we should go back and collect the back taxes that should have been paid all the way back to Reagan. That should even the playing field.

Mary B.
Mary B6 years ago

We need to stop believing anything ecconomists say. They will argue theory and politics till they die and still nothing will help the real problem which is lack of money at the low income levels where it is most needed and will be spent immediately.All of those stupid notions that charities and churches can take over the distribution of money and services to the low income are just flimsy excuses to keep taxes low for the well to do. We need some bold new thinking here instead of just a continual rehash of the same old blaming and useless solutions. Every time a debate starts to get heated up, I feel like I've fallen into a time-warp where all the usuals rush foreward with their scripts and repeat them once again. So why dont all of you imagine what you would be doing if you had $12000 a year to live on.And the government supplied that in place of welfare.There would always be some jobs available where you could make extra money, but full enployment was not expected or possible. What could you do for yourself if you were given enough money to supply the basics? And income is not taxed, only a sales tax on goods and services. And money is printed by the government to distribute to the people directly. Start there and see what you can come up with. You have to think of something new before you can bring about something new. All the rehashing of the old is a waste of time since nobody is learning from it any more and it just digresses into conflict.