by Jeremy Leaming
Right-wing activists and pundits are quick to bemoan discussion of the nation’s growing poverty, blasting discussion of economic inequality and poverty as an effort to stoke class warfare. It’s a refrain we’ve heard for decades.
But studies, by the Census Bureau and others, show that not only is economic inequality real and festering, but poverty is growing, while the middle class shrinks.
The Associated Press reported earlier this week that the “ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and a fraying government safety net.”
The nation’s social safety net has been diminished by a Republican Party that has grown beholden to the superrich, and is devoted to the proposition as Tim Dickinson wrote for Rolling Stone that “the wealthy should grow wealthier still, whatever the consequences for the rest of us.”
Of course moderate Democrats have also played a significant role in shredding the social safety net. The 1996 so-called welfare reform act took a major swipe at the social safety net.
The AP surveying “more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics,” found a “broad consensus that the “official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. That level of poverty, the AP continued, will represent the highest level since 1965.
In his new book So Rich, So Poor, Peter Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, laments the nation’s worn social safety net, writing that “the bottom has dropped out” of it. He said repairing the tattered social safety net is one of the most urgent challenges facing the country.
Talking to the AP, Edelman (pictured), also chair of the ACS Board, said the challenges go beyond the weakened social safety net, noting the “deep problems in the economy.”
“I’m reluctant to say that we’ve gone back to where we were in the 1960s,” he added. “The programs we enacted made a big difference. The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon.”
Not surprisingly, the Heritage Foundation, a longtime proponent of shredding the social safety net, claims everything is fine. A spokesperson for the group told the AP that the government should not do any more for the nation’s poor, maintaining that they live in decent homes, drive cars and have nice televisions.
We’ve heard this story for decades – America’s communities of poor have it good, they should stop complaining and asking for more free stuff. It’s repugnant rhetoric coming from individuals who have no problem with bailing out the financial industry and no earthly idea what it is like to be poor in America. Moreover, they espouse a philosophy that says anyone in the nation can pull themselves up, get a grand education and land a job that provides excellent health care insurance.
In other words, as Columbia Business School Professor and preeminent economist Joseph Stiglitz has noted the superrich and their apologists are seriously out of touch.
The effort to repair the nation’s social safety net will remain, for the foreseeable future, a daunting struggle.
The landmark Affordable Care Act, which seeks to help tens of millions people, many of them children, get access to decent health care is in jeopardy because the Supreme Court’s recent opinion on the Affordable Care Act, which said the states could opt out of the law’s plan to extend Medicaid.
The Congressional Budget Office reported yesterday that the high court’s ruling on Medicaid will likely lead to 3 million people remaining without health care insurance.