Well, it’s the end of August, and that means it’s time to consider the latest statistics for poverty in the United States. For the first time since the beginning of the Bush Administration, poverty is down compared to last year. However, if you counted up the number of times words like “but” or “however” were used in the article, you might come away wondering if that was worth mentioning. There are not actually fewer people living in poverty, just a lower percentage of Americans living in poverty; in other words, the poor are still poor and there are just as many of them as last year, it’s just that there are more Americans total. Furthermore, the percentage is still over 12% (just short of one in every 8 people). Another few “howevers”: both the number and percentage of Americans without health insurance is up to record levels; today’s numbers reflect conditions from a year ago, long before most people suspected a mortgage meltdown was on the horizon; and 29 states had median incomes below the national median.
The Washington Post has another round of “buts” and “howevers” to add, charitably calling the report a “mixed picture”. On the first page alone they note that “Although median household income, adjusted for inflation, rose for the second straight year, it has not reached the pre-recession high of 1999,” that increased houshold earnings weren’t because of higher wages — wages dropped by 1% — but rather because more people in the house were working (although apparently the Heritage Foundation chose to overlook that point), that the poorest families had the highest percentage gain (a fifty cent an hour raise is a lot bigger percentage of $6 than of $12), that income inequality is even bigger than last year, that the group for whom poverty decreased was the elderly, and that we still have higher poverty rates than we did during the last recession. Not before, during the recession.
On page 2 of the article, they tackle the health insurance side of the numbers. They do not point out the obvious, that there are more people without insurance than people in poverty — and people living in poverty qualify for insurance programs like Medicaid — which means lack of the ability to pay for medical care is now a huge problem in the middle class. The number and percentage of kids without health insurance grew for the second year in a row to 11.7%. That means pretty much every classroom in our nation has at least a couple uninsured kids on average. On a related note, I’d like to throw in Krugman on the dreaded socialism of schools and health care and The Glittering Eye’s rebuttal (ht to Pete Abel, who highlighted the story in his Center of Attention the other day). Even worse, fewer than 60% of people have employer-provided health insurance at all. This is the most important reason why I feel employer-based insurance is not the answer to our current health insurance crisis, and support at the very minimum a MediKids program, if not full-on Medicare For All.
In the end, these numbers must mean something real, or certain conservatives wouldn’t be arguing things like “but the poor are so much better off now!” with a straight face.
In closing: I’ve been meaning to talk about food and fat for a while, but there’s always something else to talk about, so here’s National obesity rates continue to rise and you can’t blame that on how BMI is calculated, you do have to eat to get flatter abs, diet might be the key to reducing violence, treating mental illness, and raising kids test scores, and so-called convenience foods often don’t save time; yes, Virginia, there are things the government does better than private industry; “The attempt to redefine woman-controlled contraception as “abortion” speaks volumes about both the anti-choice agenda (ban all female control over reproduction) and their understanding that their actual goals are so far to the right that they can’t be spoken out loud.”; this won’t help most of us, but here’s an item on how to fly a private jet for less; and finally, immigration raid on chicken processing plant. Interesting that they went after a relatively small player in the poultry game. Has Tyson cleaned up its act, or is this a political favor?
Cross-posted at Central Sanity.