The ‘Fretful Zone’

November 19, 2011

Headline-writers at the New York Times found a verb this morning in the middle of the third graph of a story on the US Census Bureau and its new measure of gauging just how bad the epidemic of being poor:

Perhaps the most startling differences between the old measure and the new involves data the government has not yet published, showing 51 million people with incomes less than 50 percent above the poverty line.
That number of Americans is 76 percent higher than the official account, published in September.
All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.

(Illustration of Picasso’s “Poverty” found here).

Online NYT head: “Older, Suburban and Struggling, ‘Near Poor’ Startle the Census” — as in to alarm, frighten, or surprise suddenly, the Census Bureau.
In the lives of most-ordinary, walking-around US peoples, that fact most-likely doesn’t ‘startle‘ at all.
And the NYT story also comes up with another ‘startling‘ factoid, though, already well-understood by a way-big chunk of Americans: Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 28 percent work full-time, year round. “These estimates defy the stereotypes of low-income families,” Ms. Renwick (Trudi J. Renwick, the bureau’s chief poverty statistician) said.
And sometimes, startlingly so, a chunk of that chunk works two jobs.
The feeling evoked by one lady interviewed by the Times: “I try to work as many hours as I can, but my salary, it’s not enough for everything,” she said. “I pay my bills with very small wiggle room. Or none.”
A good overview/recap of children involved with US poverty can be found at Daily KosThe poverty rate for children under 18 increased from 20 percent in 2009 to 21.6 percent in 2010. That translates to 1.1 million more children living in poverty.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported in an economic survey, that US peoples’ incomes have dropped in the past decade, and is continuing to descend, and won’t get back up for another decade, if then.

From 2000 to 2010, median income in the U.S. declined 7 percent after adjusting for inflation, according to Census data.
That marks the worst 10-year performance in records going back to 1967.
On average, the economists expect inflation-adjusted incomes to rise over the next decade, but the 5 percent projected gain isn’t enough to reach prerecession levels.
“Standards of living in the U.S. will continue to decline as we deleverage and emerging markets take over as the growth engine of the global economy,” says Julia Coronado of BNP Paribas.

And these stagnant wages don’t help any kind of economic growth, though, it does keep the decent slow, and not-so-easy — the only real, true way to achieve and keep growth is by increased wages for working peoples.
In fact, this US wage/income downer has spread — from the UK’s The Guardian on Saturday:

The British middle class is in danger of suffering prolonged American-style wage stagnation as a result of widening income inequality and a weak jobs market for skilled employment, a top US economist says.

The summit will highlight how the incomes of middle-class, working-age households in the US fell marginally from $56,000 a year in 1989 to $55,200 in 2010.
Over the same period, the US economy grew by 60 percent.
For men in full-time employment the median earnings level was about $49,000 in 1973 and $48,000 in 2010.
While the trend in the US has been established for far longer, economists say a similar pattern has begun to emerge in the UK, where median wages flatlined between 2002 and 2008 – despite it being a period of 16 percent economic growth.

Those ‘near poor’ people just might be the new middle class.

Meanwhile, the US Congress is getting fatter, still, with nearly half the bunch being millionaires — The estimated median net worth of a current U.S. senator in 2010 stood at an average of $2.56 million.
From ABC News and a report from the The Center for Responsive Politics: “Despite the global economic meltdown in 2008 and the sluggish recovery that followed, that’s up about 7.6 percent from an estimated median net worth of $2.38 million in 2009 … and up 13 percent from a median net worth of $2.27 million in 2008. …
And the shitheads are immune from financial crime — trading stock on insider information would require jail time for anybody else.

The problem brings us around to OWS, again — the 1 percent is striking back at the 99 percent.
And the horror-hypocrisy on the right stymies everything.
Witness near-bonkers Rick Santorum (via Think Progress): If “you’re lower income, you can qualify for Medicaid, you can qualify for food stamps, you can qualify for housing assistance,” Santorum complained, before adding, “suffering is part of life and it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life.”
What an asshole.

Or Newt Gingrich, blubbering nonsense  against hecklers: “Hold on,” Gingrich told the crowd. “I want to answer you very directly. There is no such thing in America as 99 percent! We are 100 percent Americans! We are all part of America!”
Gingrich has some harassment problems, too — the media is after him on his Freddie Mac bullshit.
And last week, of course, the police-state images of police breaking-up OWS sites around the country — Berkeley to Denver to New York — with a visual vengeance not often seen in the good-old US of A.
A good post on a nasty, one-sided confrontation at UC Davis is found at The Dish.
And glimpse a near-perfect photo of the reality of the moment at Digby’s — maybe OWS has had a much-bigger impact.
However, the near-normal response of the police/military is over-reaction, they’ll do it just about every time.
Timing is near-about everything, and the nationwide crackdown on OWS occurred as if set by schedule, and for the most part, it was, though, few officials will discuss these ‘conference calls‘ at depth — yet.
And in a similar vein, a Washington lobbying firm has proposed a kind of Nixon-like ‘dirty tricks” program to undermine OWS and those sympathetic to the movement.
From msnbc’s Up w/ Chris Hayes (h/t Balloon Juice): CLGC’s memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct “opposition research” on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct “negative narratives” about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.

In the midst of a shitload of problems from climate change to the Eurozone is a possible movement/revolution — at least some of the 1 percent are taking it seriously, hopefully putting them in a fretful zone.

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