After nearly a decade of the Bush Admin playing with statistics to ensure no one would know how bad it was, I give full credit to Obama for allowing his National Academy of Sciences to correct their poverty formula (or at least begin correcting it) so it reflects the real world instead of deliberately violating it.
Having said that, I then have to add that the price for the Bush Economy is turning out to be a lot higher than anyone but pessimists like me thought it was. That's the reason Bush hid it in the first place.
The level of poverty in America is even worse than first believed.
A revised formula for calculating medical costs and geographic variations show that approximately 47.4 million Americans last year lived in poverty, 7 million more than the government's official figure.
According to the revised NAS formula:
_About 18.7 percent of Americans 65 and older, or nearly 7.1 million, are in poverty compared to 9.7 percent, or 3.7 million, under the traditional measure. That's due to out-of-pocket expenses from rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and a coverage gap in the prescription drug benefit.
_About 14.3 percent of people 18 to 64, or 27 million, are in poverty, compared to 11.7 percent under the traditional measure. Many of the additional poor are low-income, working people with transportation and child-care costs.
_Child poverty is lower, at about 17.9 percent, or roughly 13.3 million, compared to 19 percent under the traditional measure. That's because single mothers and their children disproportionately receive non-cash aid such as food stamps.
_Poverty rates were higher for non-Hispanic whites (11 percent), Asians (17 percent) and Hispanics (29 percent) when compared to the traditional measure. For blacks, poverty remained flat at 24.7 percent, due to the cushioning effect of non-cash aid.
_The Northeast and West saw bigger jumps in poverty, due largely to cities with higher costs of living such as New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Note, please, that the main victims on this list are not co-incidentally the main victims of Republican trickle-down policies and conservaDem pro-business policies: the old, the sick, working people, brown people, and the Kennedy-Country Northeast "Elite". The end total, according to the NAS, is that nearly 16% of Americans - 15.8%, about 1 in 6 - lives in poverty.
Which is kind of co-incidental - NOT - with recently released unemployment numbers, also having been refigured from the smoke-and-mirrors formula used by Chao's Labor Dept all those years, that show the real unemployment in the US is, like, 17%.
According to official statistics, the unemployment rate in the United States is now 9.8 percent. But those statistics understate the severity of the jobs crisis. The official statistics do not include the 875,000 Americans who have given up looking for work, even though they want jobs. When these "marginally attached" workers and part-time workers are added to the officially unemployed, the result, according to another, broader governement measure of unemployment known as "U-6," is shocking. The United States has an unemployment rate of 17 percent.
And even this may understate the depth of the problem. By adding the 3.4 million Americans who want a job but have not looked for one in over a year, businessman, philanthropist and Obama advisor Leo Hindery Jr. infers an actual unemployment rate of 18.8 percent. In other words, nearly one in five Americans is unemployed or underemployed.
The sound you hear is the sound of the social fabric in America rotting and beginning to snap. Thanks to the unemployment insurance system adopted during the New Deal years, and thanks in part to the stimulus that the Obama administration and Congress passed earlier in the year, we do not have hordes of out-of-work Americans standing in line at soup kitchens and riding the rails from town to town. Even so, the invisible decay of America's social order is just as real as the highly visible decay of abandoned McMansions in new developments that are turning into ghost towns across the continent.
This is more or less what we here at Fact-esque have been saying for years. It's what economists unblinkered by Chicago School ideology have predicted for years, what we've been seeing on the streets for years, what agencies that work with the poor have reported for years - beseiged food banks, growing soup kitchen lines, way more homeless than there are beds in shelters, and so on.
This is going to surprise people who watch Fox or even the major media because the MSM, with a very few (honorable) exceptions, spent the last decade or so dutifully reporting the Bush Admin's cooked numbers, sometimes right alongside stories about how overwhelmed NGO's dealing with the poor were becoming, without once making the connection and asking themselves, "Gee? Could those official govt numbers be wrong?"
These numbers did not get this bad overnight or in the 10 months of the Obama Admin. It took the right wing fully 25 years of dedicated effort and a full two terms of unrestricted "free market" economic policy to bring us to the worst depression since the '29 crash. Even if Obama and his ex-Goldman Sachs advisors did a complete 180 and killed trickle-down in favor of an FDR-style NRA - which they're not even thinking of doing - it would take years to get out of the mess conservative movement free market ideologues have got us into. Continuing trickle-down only slows the descent of the country into more abject poverty without embracing a mechanism (taxing the rich and the corporations, which heaven forbid!) to pay for the needs of those of us at the wide bottom of the pyramid scheme that is modern American business.
The effect of the trickle-down we are still practicing (the bank bail-out? the auto bail-out?) is the eventual impoverishment of a greater and greater slice of the American people, a greater split between the haves and the have-nots, and, as Lind points out, greater and greater strain on the body politic and the social contract that has kept that body from imploding for over 200 years.
What happens when a self-correcting system is taken over by people intent on preventing that correction at the time it's needed most? Looks like we're about to find out.