Monday, July 29, 2013

Poverty Update

I was shocked when I read 1½ years ago in a Center for Public Policy Priorities study (.pdf) that 25% of Texas children lived below the official poverty level in 2009, the newest figures then available. But I was really blown away today when I read this on AP via TPM:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The four-out-of-five figure results from a survey by AP-GfK. The survey format allows interviews about related subjects and reflects opinions or impressions of American citizens of their own economic status, not published official statistics. But all of it taken together paints a relatively bleak picture that cannot easily be summarized. Please read the second linked article above; they do the numbers better than I could.

Have I experienced the trappings of poverty in my life? Well, yes, during two periods: my very early childhood and my recent old age. In the former case, my father nonetheless managed to stay employed full-time at a railroad job (therefore a union job), and we never missed meals or were homeless. Today's poor do not enjoy any protections to speak of, and my own income-free existence is cushioned mainly because I put away a lot of money while I was earning a lot, and Wall Street hasn't managed to kill my savings completely yet. If I had a few more years without income (note: I should start receiving Social Security fairly soon) or one more major medical event (another note: I should apply for Medicare this year), I could end up in literal, subjective poverty. I have some hope that will not happen.

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