‘Dismal’ Prospects: 1 in 2 Americans Are Now Poor Or Low Income

'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California'
[Photo Credit: ‘Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California” (1936), National Media Museum’s Photostream, Flickr]

Frightening, eh?

Just think–literally every other person that you and I “lay eyes on” are no longer members of the much-vaunted Middle Class, to whom politicians on both sides of the isle incessantly pander.

It is incredible “how little press” this Associated Press [AP] piece got when it was originally published in December of 2011. I know that this piece is rather “dated,” but the content is of no lesser significance, in my opinion.

It is also quite appalling that the many vital and stark statistics from the 2010 US Census Bureau got so little mention at the time that the official report was published.

I am hoping that some of you can offer an explanation as to “why” this startling news was all but ignored by both the mainstream, and for the most part, the liberal media.

If ever there was a time in our nation’s history that ‘inequality and poverty’ should be front and center for discussion and action, it is truly now. Especially, since our politicians appear to be ‘bent and determined to inflict austerity upon the American populace.’

It is my hope that this diary, and the statistics contained in the article excerpt, will renew interest among progressive activists to fight for not just a higher minimum wage, but for a truly living wage.

[The italics and boldface in this diary and the excerpt below, are my own–not those of the original authors.]

‘Dismal’ Prospects: 1 in 2 Americans Are Now Poor Or Low Income

Dateline: Washington D.C., December 15, 2011, 4:59 am, EST, By Associated Press.

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.
“Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too ‘rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

“The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal,” he said. “If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years.” . . .

With nearly 14 million Americans unemployed, a new child welfare study finds one in five children are living in poverty. Nearly one in three live in homes where no parent works full-time year-round. NBC’s Chris Jansing reports. . . .

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family’s income.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million. . . .

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That’s up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure. . . .

Broken down by age, children were most likely to be poor or low-income — about 57 percent — followed by seniors over 65. By race and ethnicity, Hispanics topped the list at 73 percent, followed by blacks, Asians and non-Hispanic whites. . . .

Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low income has risen for three straight years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million. That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group based in Washington.

Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder — 6.9 million — earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.

The majority of low-income families — 62 percent — spent more than one-third of their earnings on housing, surpassing a common guideline for what is considered affordable. By some census surveys, child-care costs consume close to another one-fifth.

Shrinking Paychecks

Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.

A survey of 29 cities conducted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors being released Thursday points to a gloomy outlook for those on the lower end of the income scale.

Working-Age Poor Population Highest Since ’60s

Many mayors cited the challenges of meeting increased demands for food assistance, expressing particular concern about possible cuts to federal programs such as food stamps and WIC, which assists low-income pregnant women and mothers. Unemployment led the list of causes of hunger in cities, followed by poverty, low wages and high housing costs.

Across the 29 cities, about 27 percent of people needing emergency food aid did not receive it. Kansas City, Mo., Nashville, Tenn., Sacramento, Calif., and Trenton, N.J., were among the cities that pointed to increases in the cost of food and declining food donations, while Mayor Michael McGinn in Seattle cited an unexpected spike in food requests from immigrants and refugees, particularly from Somalia, Burma and Bhutan.

Among those requesting emergency food assistance, 51 percent were in families, 26 percent were employed, 19 percent were elderly and 11 percent were homeless.

“People who never thought they would need food are in need of help,” said Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, Mo., who co-chairs a mayors’ task force on hunger and homelessness.

[Here’s the link to the entire piece on the NBC News website.]

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Posted in Culture and Politics, Economics and Austerity, Politics, Social Safety Net | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

In Loving Remembrance Of “Murphee”

Also Known As “Big Baby” and “Biggun”

May 1998 – January 9, 2012

Murphee At ‘Bark In The Park,’ 2006

We dedicate this beautiful Phil Collins song, “You’ll Be In My Heart,” in honor of your precious memory.

It was you, Girl, who disproved the notion that one could have ‘only one’ Dog of a Lifetime.

Your sweetness, intelligence, low-key meek and gentle ways, wonderful personality, unique and adorable little mannerisms, your beautiful face, and your intense love and devotion to us, stay with us everyday.

In our hearts, you really ‘never left us.’

From the lyrics: “We’ll show them together; Cause you’ll be in my heart; Believe me, you’ll be in my heart; I’ll be there from this day on–Now and forevermore.”

[Video Slideshow Credit: DogRatandCat, English Springer Spaniels, YouTube, 4:20]

Posted in Community, Community News, Culture and Politics, Dogs, Music, Music and Culture, Music and Politics, Pets, Tributes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Welcome To ‘Deconstructing Political Spin’

Open for business photo: Open for business n15.jpg
[Photo Credit: “Open For Business, Photo Bucket]

RESUMING POSTING ON JANUARY 17, 2014.

MAIN TOPICS OF DISCUSSION: POLITICS, MUSIC, AND DOGS.

PLEASE JOIN US!

Posted in Culture and Politics and Music, Deconstructing Political Spin, Dogs, Medicare and Medicaid, Music and Politics, ObamaCare, Pete Seeger And Music, Phil Collins, Politics--Music--Dogs, Rob Thomas, Santana, Social Security, US Broken Health Care System | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Reporter Steven Brill Discusses His Piece ‘Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us’

Health Care Costs by 401(K) 2013
Health Care Costs, a photo by 401(K) 2013 on Flickr.

The short piece and transcript below is linked to my comments at another blog.  I’ve done this because the transcript was too lengthy to reasonably be included in another blogger’s comment thread.

So basically I’m using this post, as a ‘receptacle’ for my additional comments.

The information covered here would likely be of interest to anyone who is  following the current fiscal crisis, especially as it pertains to Medicare Reform.

Below is an excerpt from the ‘Roundtable’ discussion on the [February 24, 2013] Sunday political talk show This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

The topic of discussion is Mr. Brill’s excellent piece entitled “Bitter Pill:  Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.”  Here’s a link to his article at Time magazine.

And here’s a link to the PNHP website [Physicians For A National Health Program] website, and their analysis of Mr. Brill’s piece.  As well as a  link to the full transcript of the Roundtable discussion.

This article makes an excellent case for Medicare-For-All. 

Please read on.

STEVEN BRILL, TIME CONTRIBUTOR:  Let me ask you something as an outsider. What I don’t understand about this, is everybody says it’s a terrible idea, an awful idea, and yet everybody voted for it. And the White House keeps repeating that they want a balanced approach and the president has all of these cuts in mind including cuts to entitlements. But I haven’t seen anything specific that he’s proposed.

RATTNER:  The president has put at least two specific entitlement cuts on the table. He’s proposed on the consumer price index on Social Security, he’s proposed limiting that. He’s proposed to raise the age for Medicare eligibility.

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE:  The president has come up with three different plans at various times post the sequester to try to force the Republicans to come back to the table to bring revenues into the equation.

BRILL:  When has he put out a statement saying let’s raise the Medicare raise to X. I haven’t heard that.

RATTNER:  Well, look, a couple of things. First of all, the president has talked about raising the Medicare age.

BRILL:  To what?

RATTNER:  To 67.But wait a minute, in fairness I think he has also backed off that a little bit for reasons that we can talk about, but the fact is, the president has a plan. This is his plan. $1.4 trillion cuts over the next 10 years, balanced between revenues and spending. He’s ready to have a dialogue. The Republicans, you guys are saying you actually like the sequester. You think it’s fine that the government can cut this amount of money. So, OK, that’s your position. Now let’s let it happen and we’ll see who is right.

WILL:  I want to go back to what you said, Mr. Rattner, about this is knock the economy sideways. $44 billion, or $85 billion out of a $1.6 trillion economy?At the end of the Second War World, with predictions that this was going to cause chaos and pain all over the — we cut federal spending 40 percent in one year. And what resulted was what we call the post war boom.

RATTNER:  I did not say it was going to knock the economy sideways. I said it was going to have an effect — OK, well I said it was going to have an effect on the economy. In the macro sense I think economists were talking about a few tenths of a percent off GDP. It might not sound like a lot. In a fragile economy it is a certain amount.But there are specific programs that are going to be affected. What every unemployed person gets is going to be reduced by 11 percent once the sequester goes into effect.There are going to be fewer agriculture inspectors to stand in food processing plants, which means those plants can’t process food. This is all going to happen.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I think the Democrats are counting on is that some time in April or May when this all starts to kick in, the Republicans are going to break again.

STRASSEL:  They’re not going to because they have put this central to their strategy. They chose to do this. They want to have this debate.Again, it’s not a fallback.Because I mean, look, I think there a are a couple of dangers here for the White House. They are warning of doom and gloom. How bad is it actually going to be when it happens? That’s a big question that has not yet been answered.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  We just don’t know, do we?

STRASSEL:  We don’t. And we don’t also know — a lot of people are not paying attention. How many American — this is not a government shutdown, OK. People are still going to get their passports, they’re still going to visit national parks. They’re still going to do all the things they’re used to doing.How many Americans are paying attention? And how many are going to decide that this is the Armageddon that the president building it up to.

BRAZILE:  It’s the government slowdown. A shutdown might occur in March 27 when the CR, the continuing resolution runs out.But this is going to have a real impact on the regional economies all across the country whether it’s the threat of furloughs to federal employees. George, we have to brace for it in the Washington region, of course. Don’t be so giddy George.But the truth is, is that it’s going to have an impact on children in Head Starts, teachers, firefighters, first responders, people who live in subsidized housing will see their checks drop. So this is going to hurt the economy at a time when people are finally getting their sea legs back.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  And George, the economy doing fairly well right now, was on track for about 3 percent growth. But if the add the effect of the sequester if it holds, along with what the tax increase that came at the begin of the year, economists now saying that could take over 1 percent off of the economic growth this year.

WILL:  Some economists.Other economists deny that you can have a discernible effect on, again, a $16.4 trillion with $44 billion.

STRASSEL:  Also, couldn’t you maybe have a positive effect?Look, what markets are worried about is the size of the deficit, the size of the debt. They actually want some proof that Washington is making the start of fixing this problem. You do this, you let this go into effect, hopefully you do it in a more targeted and intelligent and flexible way, but you do this, you send a signal to the markets that Washington is making a start. That could help the economy

RATTNER:  But what every poll also shows is that what the American people want is a balanced approach. They want it balanced between spending and taxes. As we said earlier, we’ve cut $1.7 trillion out of this relatively small part of the budget. We’re eating our seed corn. Our spending on R&D and infrastructure as a percent of our economy has gone down by half over the last 20 or 30 years. We’re not investing in the future. And these kind of cuts are the worst possible kinds of cuts.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  But the American public wants health care they can afford, and health care that works for them. And that gets to the subject of Steve Brill’s cover story in Time magazine this week, as I said, sending shockwaves to hospitals across the country.Let’s put up the cover right there, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.” And you had some shocking details here, Steve, You talk about sky-high medical bills for going to the emergency room for a fall in the face, people paying 1.50 for an aspirin, $300 for an x-ray that costs Medicare $20.But that’s just the beginning.

BRILL:  Right. And it actually that bares on the conversation we’re having, because a chunk of that money is paid by Medicare. Medicare is I point out in the article is very efficient at most things. It buys health care really efficiently, which is a great irony, because it’s supposed to be the big government of bureaucracy.Where Medicare is not efficient is where congress, because of lobbyists have handcuffed Medicare. Medicare can’t negotiate what it pays for any kind of drugs. It can’t negotiate what it pays for wheelchairs, diabetes testing equipment. And if congress took those handcuffs off of Medicare, you could get about half of the spending cuts that we’re sitting around here talking about.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Is that true?

RATTNER:  You could get a fair amount. Look, if Medicare were simply able to get the same prices for prescription drugs that Medicaid gets, it would save $120 billion over 10 years. So that’s roughly…

BRILL:  It’s actually a little more.

RATTNER:  But there’s a fundamental point here, Stephen, I think your piece was great. And I think you’re points are right, but I also don’t want people to be confused. I don’t believe that we can cut our way, change the pricing, do all the things you’re talking about and still save Medicare. The average person who’s at Medicare retirement age has paid in some like $122,000 in the system. They’ll get back $387,000 back in benefits. That’s three times. You’re not going to reduce that $387,000 by hospital cuts and this and that. We have to still have fundamental Medicare reforms to make those numbers work.

BRILL:  Well, if you put Medicare in the context of the larger health care system, and this is something that everybody at this table is going to think that I should go to a mental hospital when I get finished saying this, the government and all of us would actually save money if you lowered — I said lowered the age for Medicare. If the Medicare age were 60 instead of 65, the economy and the taxpayers would actually save money. And George, please don’t look at me like that.

RATTNER:  You’re potentially right. And part of the argument — you’re taking people out of the Medicare age to 67 is you’re taking people out of the Medicare system.

BRILL:  Right. And what you would be doing, is you would be putting the most efficient player, which is Medicare — Medicare spends 80 or 90 cents to process a claim and the health insurance companies spend $18 or $20 or $25 to process a claim. Health insurance companies pay two, three, four times what Medicare pays for various services. So if you lowered the age, you would put more people into the bucket of much more efficient health care.And the worst part about it is, the reforms that we have now, with the president’s plan, are actually going to raise the costs because all of the people who are 60, or 62, or 63, who can’t afford the premiums that they’re going to have now, are going to be subsidized by the taxpayer.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  George, well that becomes an argument for a single payer system.

WILL:  That is one argument.Here’s an argument against that, for a different kind of reform, all the big numbers, billions and trillions, 12 cents is the most important number. 12 cents is the portion of every health care dollar paid by the person receiving the health care. Someone else is paying the rest. It was 47 cents 50 years ago when Jack Kennedy was president.Now, let me ask the five of you a question, you go to the doctor and he or she says they say I want to give you the following test? How many of you five say, how much does that going to cost?

BRILL:  Give me two.

WILL:  Don’t bother, because the doctor can’t tell you anyway.

BRILL:  George, you’re completely wrong. We have tried that experiment with 30 million to 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance and have to pay 100 percent right now. And they have no choice, they are powerless consumers. If you go to an emergency room and a doctor says you need a CA Scan, and the doctor may not even say it, they may just do it, you’re not sitting there as a consumer saying, gee, I wonder if this is the most efficient emergency room. I wonder if I really need that CAT scan.

STRASSEL:  No, we haven’t, because we only have a small group of Americans who are doing that. We have a much larger group of Americans, like George says, who are getting their health care through their companies and it’s largely paid for them and they have no skin in the game.The important part about your piece was that you mentioned that this is a seller’s market. There’s no transparency in the market. There’s no competition. There’s no ability for consumers to look around. We spend hours deciding which toaster we’re going to buy. We put no such thought or work into where we’re going to get our health care. And you have had companies like Safeway who worked with their employees to introduce some transparency. And you’ve seen a big reduction in health care costs.

BRILL:  There’s a difference between buying a toaster and buying a CAT scan.

RATTNER:  This is a huge moral question for the country, because I agree with George, that right now, most Americans do not see price in deciding whether to use health care. You see price in toasters, you see price in cars and homes, everything else. In health care, you don’t see price. And therefore, I have to believe, and I think your piece eluded to this, that when people go on Medicare, they really don’t see price, they tend to consume more than they otherwise would.26 percent of all Medicare spending is last year of life. We don’t know how much of that is really efficacious spending. These are really tough moral questions for the country. But we’re going to have to deal with them if we’re really going to get health care under control.

STRASSEL:  What you’re getting to, though, is the fundamental question, are you going to let consumers make those choices about end of life decisions or are you going to have Medicare about what procedures you can have and how much they’ll pay and government make those choices?

BRILL:  That’s a great though if the consumers you have in mind have the money, because you’re saying they’re not going to have insurance, have the money to make those decisions the way my friend Mr. Rattner can. And that is not the world we live in. They’re making decisions now, those consumers who don’t have insurance, because they don’t have the money, they can’t write the checks. They’re being sued for their bills. This world you describe…

RATTNER:  But once you go on Medicare, they’re in a different position once they go on it.

BRILL:  Once they’re 65. But there are 64…

RATTNER:  The point all of us are trying to make is that people who have either private insurance or Medicare, probably almost certainly consume more medical service than they need because they don’t see price.

WILL:  The uninsured is not the germane cohort here, the germane cohort are people with high deductible insurance, that is no one expects your automobile insurance to cover your windshield wipers, or your oil changes. Insurance is for large, unpredictable events.People who buy high-deductible insurance, we now have enough of them that we have real data. Two things, they use the health care system less and there’s no discernible health cost to it.

At this point, Stephanopoulos brings the topic to a close.

Posted in "Bitter Pill" [by Steven Brill], Culture and Politics, Deconstructing Politics and 'Austerity' Spin, Economics and Austerity, Entitlements, Health Care, Health Insurance, Medicare, Medicare and Medicaid, Medicare-For-All, ObamaCare, Politics, Social Insurance Programs, Social Safety Net, Steven Brill, US Broken Health Care System | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Comfortably Numb,” Guitarist David Gilmour of Pink Floyd

UPDATE: In honor of my First Anniversary at Work Press, I would like to present Pink Floyd guitarrist David Gilmour, and David Bowie performing “Comfortably Numb.”

Found this version with David Bowie, so on the occasion of my “First Anniversary,” thought that I’d repost, featuring one of my favoriate guitarists–Pink Floyd’sAs a ‘Boomer’ and a musician (piano, euphonium and alto clarinet), I’ve always enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd.  And several of their songs bring back very special memories of my college days.

In this blog post, I’d like to feature Comfortably Numb, which highlights the considerable talent of  guitarist David Gilmour.

Gilmour is ranked #82 of the 100 Greatest Guitarists according to Rolling Stone magazine (a little low, IMHO).

So, here’s a fantabulous tune to “wind down with” on a cold winter’s evening.

Enjoy.

[Video Credit:  Pink Floyd * Comfortably Numb Guitar Solo – DAVID GILMOUR – P.U.L.S.E. * HD, TheMehdieval, YouTube]

The default setting for this video is 360p, so you might want to change the setting to the HD 720p.

Posted in 100 Greatest Guitarists, Culture and Politics, Guitarists, Music, Music and Culture, Music and Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let’s Celebrate Our Pets

Considering the fact that my blog tagline is Deconstructing Political Spin, I imagine that this post seems a rather odd ‘first diary.’

Regardless, I decided to post this dairy because my respite from the ‘rough and tumble of politics’ is my love for pets and music.

[Video Slideshow Credit: DogRatandCat, English Springer Spaniels, YouTube, 4:20]

I hope this lovely video slideshow tribute to the English Springer, set to the Phil Collins song “You’ll Be In My Heart,” brings a smile to your face.

This is a tribute to all pets–past and present. And it would be most gratifying to me, if readers were to take this opportunity to honor their pets by posting comments, videos, pictures–whatever.

So on behalf of Mr. HNPS and myself, I pay tribute to all of our pets, over our entire lifetimes.  They were/are:

Mickey, Lucky, Panda, Yogi, Misty, Chena, Mollie, Murphee, Bailey (Dogs) and Pepe, Bubba, JC, and Petey (Birds).

With Special Mention of:

“Chena,” Our ‘Alaskan Sourdough’ and petite field English Springer Spaniel [April 1989-September 2006].

“Our Dog of a Lifetime.”

Your exuberance, intelligence, energy, humor, incredible beauty, playfulness, vibrant personality, “smilng” face, and deep and abiding love and devotion to us live so vividly in our memories, that you are still here with us, Girl.  And,

“Murphee,” also known as “Big Baby” and “Biggun,” Our Terrier-Mix Shelter Dog [May 1998-January 2012].

It was you, Girl, who disproved the notion that one could have ‘only one’ Dog of a Lifetime.

Your sweetness, intelligence, low-key, meek and gentle ways, wonderful personality, unique and adorable little mannerisms, your beautiful face, and your intense love and devotion to us, stay with us everyday.  You, too, never left us.

“Thank you all, for the years of joy and unconditional love that you gave us.  You’ll be in our hearts . . . Always.”

Posted in Community, Culture, Culture and Music, Culture and Politics, Dog Rescues, Dogs, English Springer Spaniels, Music, Music and Culture, Music and Politics, Pet Adoption, Pets, Phil Collins, Shelter Dogs, Tributes, You'll Be In My Heart | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments