The Problem Isn’t Poverty, It’s Politics

Americans are getting poorer and the middle class is getting wiped out. That’s all you need to know about the latest Census Report which was released on Tuesday. The data merely confirm what everyone already knows, that the system only serves the interests of the rich.

Even so, the details are shocking. The income of the median household dropped 2.3 percent, (a loss of about $1,100 per year) nearly 50 million Americans have no health care, and 46.2 million people are living below the official poverty line, the highest number in over 50 years.

So things are bad, real bad. Kids are moving back in with their parents because they can’t find work, more families are “doubling up” (a non-working adult living in the house), 46.2 million people are subsisting on food stamps, and homeless shelters across the country are bulging beyond capacity. It’s all pretty bleak. And, of course, children and minorities have fared the worst in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

This is a clip from the New York Times: 

“…Blacks experienced the highest poverty rate, at 27 percent, up from 25 percent in 2009, and Hispanics rose to 26 percent from 25 percent. For whites, 9.9 percent lived in poverty, up from 9.4 percent in 2009. Asians were unchanged at 12.1 percent….

Poverty has also swallowed more children, with about 16.4 million in its ranks last year, the highest numbers since 1962, according to William Frey, senior demographer at Brookings. That means 22 percent of children are in poverty, the highest percentage since 1993.” (“Soaring Poverty Casts Spotlight on ‘Lost Decade’”, New York Times)

So, times are tough and they’re getting tougher. Still–up until about a week ago–the Obama administration seemed oblivious to the fact that there was a jobs crisis at all or that people were really hurting. Obama had been focused laserlike on trimming the deficits, which appears to be the cornerstone of his far-right agenda. Naturally, his inattention to the things that matter to working people has cost him in terms of his personal approval ratings which have dropped to their lowest level in 3 years (45 percent) while 62 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy. (Bloomberg National Poll) But the real cost has been to the American people, particularly Obama supporters, who thought that the president was serious about change. Now they know that he wasn’t. Now they know that he’s supremely indifferent to their situation however dire it may be.

So, yes, working people are losing ground and the middle class is getting clobbered, but that doesn’t explain the deepening pessimism which presently pervades the country. That has more to do with politics.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, He can be reached at

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at