Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Overwhelming Evidence that Half of America is In or Near Poverty

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

And it's much worse for minority families.

By Paul Buchheit March 23, 2014
The Charles Koch Foundation recently released a  commercial that ranked a near-poverty-level $34,000 family among the Top 1% of poor people in the world. Bud Konheim, CEO and co-founder of fashion company Nicole Miller,  concurred: "The guy that's making, oh my God, he's making $35,000 a year, why don't we try that out in India or some countries we can't even name. China, anyplace, the guy is wealthy."

Comments like these are condescending and self-righteous. They display an ignorance of the needs of lower-income and middle-income families in America. The costs of food and housing and education and health care and transportation and child care and taxes have been well-defined by organizations such as the  Economic Policy Institute, which calculated that a U.S. family of three would require an average of about $48,000 a year to meet basic needs; and by the  Working Poor Families Project, which estimates the income required for basic needs for a family of four at about $45,000. The  median household income is $51,000.

The following discussion pertains to the half of America that is in or near poverty, the people rarely seen by Congress.

1. The Official Poverty Threshold Should Be Much Higher

According to the  Congressional Research Service (CRS), "The poverty line reflects a measure of economic need based on living standards that prevailed in the mid-1950s...It is not adjusted to reflect changes in needs associated with improved standards of living that have occurred over the decades since the measure was first developed. If the same basic methodology developed in the early 1960s was applied today, the poverty thresholds would be over three times higher than the current thresholds."

The original poverty measures were (and still are) based largely on the food costs of the 1950s. But while food costs have doubled  since 1978, housing has more than  tripled, medical expenses are  six times higher, and college tuition is  eleven times higher. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics and the  Census Bureau have calculated that food, housing, health care, child care, transportation, taxes, and other household expenditures consume nearly the  entire median household income.

CRS provides some balance, noting that the threshold should also be impacted by safety net programs:  "For purposes of officially counting the poor, noncash benefits (such as the value of Medicare and Medicaid, public housing, or employer provided health care) and 'near cash' benefits (e.g., food stamps..) are not counted as income."

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/overwhelming-evidence-half-america-or-near-poverty

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