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Incomes at Their Worst Since 1996, Poverty At a 52-Year High, Inequality Deepening

| September 14, 2011

Back to the 1960s.

Florida’s poverty rate rose to the highest level in 16 years, with 3 million residents—one in six—living under the poverty line in 2010, the fifth year in a row that the poverty rate has increased significantly in the state, according to Census Bureau figures released Tuesday. In 2005, the rate was at 11.1 percent. It was at 16 percent in 2010, and expected to get worse before it gets better as the state continues to be roiled by high unemployment, high foreclosure rates and low-quality job creation.

Almost 4 million people going without health insurance in Florida. Only four states—Nevada, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas—have worse rates of uninsured individuals. Texas is worst, with a quarter of its population uninsured, and 18.4 percent of its population living in poverty, the seventh-worst rate in the nation. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is running for the presidency, boasting of his record in Texas in the past decade.

The rate of the uninsured for Flagler County is significantly worse. For those younger than 65, it was 25 percent in 2007, the last year for which Census figures are available, but also the height of the housing boom in Flagler, when unemployment was near its lowest rate of the decade and the county’s economic wealth at its height.

Household income in Florida also fell to the lowest level since 2005, to $44,243, a 3 percent drop from a year earlier.

The numbers are part of the Census Bureau’s annual income, poverty and health insurance report, which paints a grim picture of the economic consequences of the last decade across the country: while taxes were repeatedly cut during the Bush administration’s eight years, ostensibly to boost the economy, create jobs and reduce government’s role in the economy, and as federal revenue fell to historic lows in relation to the size of the economy, only those in the top tenth of the nation’s income brackets have enjoyed significant gains or avoided losses, while the rest have seen their standards of living erode considerably. (See the full report below.)

The national poverty rate is 15.1 percent, with 46.2 million people living in poverty. That’s the highest number ever recorded by the Census Bureau (the bureau started collecting figures 52 years ago), and the fourth straight increase. The number of poor people in the United States is equivalent to two and a half times the population of Florida. Put another way, the 46 million people living in poverty are equal to the total population of half the nation’s smaller states, by population count.

Median household income in the nation has fallen to its lowest level in 15 years, dropping to $49,445. That’s 7.1 percent lower than it was at its 1999 peak, and equal to where it was, after accounting for inflation, in 1996, half-way through Bill Clinton’s two terms.

Losses affected every income level, but in varying degrees. Those suffering the steepest income losses were the young: those younger than 65 saw their household income drop 2.5 percent. Those 65 and older saw their household income drop by just 1.5 percent. The figures continue the last several years’ trend: while workers have kept seeing their income erode steadily, the elderly have either held steady, seen slight increases or slight drops, and have been protected from wider economic shocks because they’re covered by Medicare, the health insurance program, and receive Social Security checks. In 2010, the number of elderly people living in poverty would have been almost 14 million higher if social security pay­ments were excluded from money income, quintupling the number of elderly people in poverty.

Those suffering the steepest household income losses—9.3 percent—were the 6.2 million households led by 15-to-24 year-olds, followed by the 25 million households led by people 45 to 54 years old, which experienced a drop of 4.3 percent in income.

Inequality is deepening, as the poor are getting poorer, and the rich, while not getting richer in the last year, have at least not gotten poorer. For example in the bottom 10th of the income bracket (the 10th percentile), households had an average income below $11,900. Those households saw their income decline 3.4 percent. The top 10 percent of households had incomes above $138,000. They did not see a significant change in their income. The contrast between rich and poor is much sharper when analyzed over the past 10 years: for those at the bottom of the income brackets, income fell 12.1 percent since 1999. For those at the top, income fell just 1.5 percent.

The number of uninsured Americans is just under 50 million, or 16.3 percent of the population.

There are some caveats to the poverty numbers, which overestimate poverty by some measures and underestimate it by others. The Census Bureau’s figures “compare the official poverty thresh­olds to money income before taxes, not including the value of noncash benefits” such as food stamps, the report cautions. “The money income mea­sure does not completely capture the economic well-being of individu­als and families, and there are many questions about the adequacy of the official poverty thresholds. Families and individuals also derive economic well-being from noncash benefits, such as food and housing subsidies, and their disposable income is deter­mined by both taxes paid and tax credits received.”

For example: if the value of the federal earned income tax credit was included in the calculations, the number of children classified as poor in 2010 would be reduced by 3 million. But if unemployment benefits, which are part of current calculations, were excluded, the number of people living in poverty would have been higher by 3.2 million. That number is set to rise as unemployment benefits run out for millions, and states such as Florida slash the number of weeks an unemployed person may collect jobless benefits.

Also, the poverty thresholds, developed more than 40 years ago, “do not take into account ris­ing standards of living or such issues as child care expenses, other work-related expenses, variations in medi­cal costs across population groups, or geographic differences in the cost of living. Poverty estimates using the new Supplemental Poverty Measure, for which the Census Bureau expects to publish preliminary estimates in October 2011, will address many of these concerns.”

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19 Responses for “Incomes at Their Worst Since 1996, Poverty At a 52-Year High, Inequality Deepening”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    In the “better employment” days of the 1980’s and 1990s, I represented the high tech industry to Congress by being on the board of directors of the National Assoc. of Computer Consulting Businesses (NACCB). During that time I managed and owned companies that provided the best and brightest American computer experts to Fortune 500 companies in Northern California. Beginning in about 1995, I personally saw jobs of upper middle class American jobs being “out sourced” for pennies on the dollar to English speaking, well educated people in third world countries, primarily India. I paid my employees and independent consultants between $45 and $150 an hour ($90,000 -$300,000 annualized), for projects that lasted between 6 months and 5 years. Where as the people who took on those jobs in third world countries were paid between $5 and $20 an hour for the same work. Sometimes those jobs were done by people sitting in their native countries, over the internet. BUT, often those jobs were taken illegally by people who applied for student, and other types of visas. They came to the USA, lived 4 people in cooking on hot plates in one Motel 6 type double room, and simply overstayed their illegal visas.

    At that time, I complained several times to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. I even had photographic evidence of expired visas. My highly educated and skilled American workers just could not compete with the low ball hourly rates offered by the foreign agencies who brought in thousands of computer technicians under conditions that I would call indentured servitude. I gave up complaining to the INS when one of their managers told me that if I wanted anything done, I would need to implement a law suit against the INS. . . because they had such deep cut backs in personel that they could not possibly take on this out of control situation. Hundreds of thousands of very highly skilled and paid American technicians were thrown out of their jobs, within just a few of years! The ripple effect left Slilcon Valley in shambles, middle class mortgages and college tuitions went unpaid. . . you can just imagine the slippery slope!

    My point here is that we are suffering the effects of a global employment market place that unfortunately is completely out of line with the cost of living between 3rd world and first world countries. The internet and lax immigration enforcement has made it possible for an educated person who pays rent of $50 a month in India to compete for a job with a similarily educated person in the US. . . who is lucky to find an apartment for $800 a month.

    The problem began in the 1990’s, it is complex and the solutions are difficult, but Obama is doing what he can with a tiny band aid, since that is all the obstructionist Republians will allow.

  2. Shelly says:

    In regards to the previous comment : Horse Hockey ! Someone sounds like a liberal obammie lover who is not happy their little world is falling apart. Liberals take “everything” they can get from others and when thats gone, they take from their own kind. Well I guess theirs NO one else to take from now since you blood suckers have rob every hard working american who worked for $6.50/hr back in the 90’s. Not to many of us were rich spoiled GEEKS !

  3. Outsider says:

    Oh sure, Obama is doing all he can. He just directed the ICE to only pursue deportation of those illegals who have criminal backgrounds. (Not sure if his recently arrested relative, who was driving drunk without a license is included in this group.) There are 300,000 illegals in the deportation queue who are no longer being pursued. Oh yeah, and those awful, hateful, racist tea partiers are demanding strict immigration law enforcement. You have to go no further than the pages of this website to see what kind of reaction that gets them.

  4. Rob says:

    It took a judicial ruling to make the state of Florida comply with minimum wage laws.

    And the wealthy keep getting richer.
    Don’t tax the wealthy because they create jobs.

    The country should be swimming in jobs because the wealthy have been enjoying tax cuts for many years.

  5. NortonSmitty says:

    Outsider, Sherry is telling you about stuff I myself witnessed in the late ’90s era. I was a executive bodyguard for a company in Miami called World Wide Web Inc., one of Cisco’s crooked little spinoffs where the insiders made billions on rigged IPO’s.

    One day I was told to oversee the construction of one of the lower floors into basic cubicles for new code writers. Bare bones to the point of being sardine-like. Before we even completed it, we started getting dozens of Indian programmers that were there at least 12 hours a day writing basic codes for VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocols). They came complete with their own Indian Strawboss to keep them in line. And the American programmers that started the company were slowly shown the door.

    I kind of got a kick out of it, as they were for the most part rabid free-market worshiping blowhards who were sure that their skills and degrees made them immune to the very market forces they worshiped and bet their families futures on. When I told them I was from Pittsburgh and saw what happened to the Steelworkers under Reaganomics, they laughed and explained to me the fact that a minimally skilled laborer couldn’t expect to make $16.50 an hour risking his life and health manufacturing steel in the new Global Economy when a Chilean laborer would do the same job for $3.25 a day. That’s just basic economics.

    But boy did they whine when those hard working Union laborer jobs were gone and Ayn Rand got around to replacing their over-educated $150 dollar an hour ass with a social climbing Bengali who would do more than the could for $20 an hour. Bye-bye, and welcome to the Global Free Market. Same kind of Karma that befell the Enron Energy Nazi’s when they were shocked, absolutely shocked, that they got screwed out of their million dollar stock options that were going to let them retire at 35 for screwing over the Grandma’s in California manipulating their $1,000 a month electric bills.

    And now we beg our Masters for Jobs. Any Jobs. But Slaves had Jobs. Instead of begging for Jobs, let’s FIGHT fo Good Wages!

  6. Jack says:

    Rob brings up an important point which conservatives seem to have missed, over 12 years of Republican control of the FL state and 8 years of Bushie, we should be swimming in pools of money from all the jobs created with tax cuts. But I guess the only thing trickling down is from the golden shower Bush sprayed into every Republican’s mouth, it somehow poisoned their minds.

  7. Liana G says:

    @ Sherry Eplay

    “BUT, often those jobs were taken illegally by people who applied for student, and other types of visas. They came to the USA, lived 4 people in cooking on hot plates in one Motel 6 type double room, and simply overstayed their illegal visas.”

    How did they get these jobs if they are illegal?

    Several months ago, CSPAN replayed an interview that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet gave to students at Columbia University. One of the things they mentioned is that every year, the US Gov’t is approached by high tech companies asking them to increase the number of H1B Work Visas (good for 6 years) issued so that they can bring in even more skilled workers to fill these high tech job vacancies.

    Since these companies do have a lot of clout, getting these visas extended should not be an problem.

  8. Sherry Epley says:

    Thanks, Norton Smitty, for your first hand account of our lost high tech industry and how those critical good paying jobs were “out sourced” to the cheapest bidder, in the name of maximizing profits. American greed, the lack of loyality to employees , loss of honesty, ethics, integrity are all contributing factors to our present economic disaster.

    Liana, good question. . . in those days there was a limit of something like 60,000 H1B visa issued per year. That quota was often reached by June or July every year. There were powerful lobbying efforts by fortune 500 companies to increase those limits so that they could get cheaper, English speaking, programmers from India and Eastern Europe. The biggest loop hole was that Indian placement agencies like TaTa would hire the programmers in India (technically as their employees. . .for pennies on the dollar, with no benefits or minimum wage, etc. ). Then those Indian companies would pay to bring their “employees” into the US for long term high tech projects. I know, first hand, that companies like TaTa often put their “employees” up in cheap hotels, with no rental car, sleeping 4-8 people in a double room with no kitchen. I personally talked to those programmers who couldn’t understand why the motel manager objected to them cooking on a hot plate in their rooms. Young men who worked 12 hour days for 6 months in a company 15 minutes from the Golden Gate bridge, but had never seen it.

    Not only did companies like TaTa take huge advantage of their 3rd world countrymen, but the owners personally raked in multi millions that were taken directly from the now almost non-existent American middle class worker. Adding insult to injury, since those Indian “employees” were often paid by sending checks to their families in India, and no US payroll taxes were collected.

    In addition, often the programmers who broke away from the indentured servitude of companies like TaTa over stayed their L1 visas (good for 3 years) or “student” visas and vanished into the wood work like so many other illegal immigrants.

    The horrible fact here folks is that these were not crop picking jobs that American do not want to do, these were the highly paid foundation jobs of the American high tech industry. Fact is, we are stuck in a consumer based economy. The American “techies” who had those jobs could afford to buy a big house, a nice car, they had “employer paid” health insurance, they paid a lot in taxes, they paid a lot in tuition for their kids to go to good colleges. They helped to simulate the economy and create the jobs that we are now missing. Now, that was true “trickle down” economy. They were sold out for the sake of higher stock prices and maximized profits. The Rich get Richer. . .And the beat goes on. . . the middle class is gone!

  9. Yogi says:

    There is a difference between companies and rich people that appear to be American, but who operate outside the country for the most part to produce goods and services. These rich people pay no taxes in America, or very little. The people who are wealthy Americans that work in this country and create jobs in this country for Americans are the ones that government wants to increase taxes on. These people will cash in their chips here and take their business else where. Like it or not the American economy has to compete with the world. We better get to it and learn to make a profit at it while competing, or we disappear. Borrowing and government spending and increasing taxes and regulations won’t produce those results in this reality we all live in. Businesses are now voting with their hiring practices. Palm Coast and Flagler County isn’t better off since tripling the size of government, it is worse. The city may have cut it’s budget, but it hasn’t cut it enough and it has not offered businesses a good enough incentive to move here. They thumb their noses at this place. All you complainers stop complaining and start calling for the principles and ideas that have a chance to work. Your neighbors and our children are starving and facing increasing hardship because of the partisan rhetoric. History shows what works and what doesn’t. This isn’t a complicated formula.

  10. Yogi says:

    The Republicans and the Democrats both protect those people who are rich and outsource jobs. You people that root for either side are being played for idiots.

  11. Outsider says:

    Norton, I’m not doubting that happened and continues to happen. And I know Republicans push for lax immigration laws so they can get “cheap” labor. The problem with the “cheap” labor is that it’s only cheap for the employer. The rest of us get stuck paying for these folks’ medical bills, their kids’ education, their incarcerations and the loss of tax revenue since many don’t pay taxes. That’s why I believe we have to get illegal immigration, as well as these work visas for legal workers under control. I spend a good part of my life in hotels, and the vast majority of the housekeepers are either illegals or on work visas. How much more would it cost for the room to have an American doing that job for a decent wage? Five or ten bucks is certainly worth it to me. We also need a change in attitudes among businesses that the bottom line is all that matters. How about Americans working, and having money to purchase goods and services from American businesses? Yes, we need changes across the board; capitalism isn’t perfect but it made us the world’s economic superpower. You only need to look at China, which, after decades of communism remained a backward, secluded culture. It was only after the Chinese embraced capitalism, even in a limited form, that they became an economic power. And here we are, going towards what China and others have already proven doesn’t work.

  12. Sherry Epley says:

    While I am a Democrat, I agree that American greed is not limited to one party. I also agree that we need to require that ALL the people living and working in the US begin the process of becoming LEGAL immigrants. That would at least effectively put all those whose bodies are on US soil on a level playing field. Everyone would be subject to payroll taxes and have the benefits of minimum wages, etc. We are a country of immigrants but long gone are the days of Ellis Island when we could control who comes into our country.

    I do not believe that deregulation and lowering taxes for the wealthy creates jobs and puts people back to work. . . we’ve tried that for many years under the past administrations and it simply hasn’t worked. Just look at what deregulation of the banks brought us!

    What the federal government could and should do is:

    1. Make sure that any employees hired with any stimulus money are American citizens. . . including any sub-contracted projects. The sub-contracts/outsourced projects are often where illegals are brought in.

    2. Create incentives (tax breaks?) only for those companies who hire 100% of their staff as American citizens.

    3. Create penalities (higher taxes?) for those companies who out source jobs to foreign nationals, in any form.

    I agree that the government should not be adding to our tax burden by creating government jobs, but it is pretty much the only way they can really control who actually gets those jobs.

    You really don’t want to know the more scarey part of my high tech placement experience. . . . where foreign nationals are programming the systems that control such things as our banking systems, our electrical grids, etc. I’ll save that for another day and a much longer discussion. (smile)

  13. Lin says:

    Sherry Epley,
    I certainly can’t argue with what you have seen — but the conclusions and blame is another matter.

    “GOVERNMENT JOBS, ,, PRETTY MUCH THE ONLY WAY THEY CAN REALLY CONTROL WHO ACTUALLY GETS THOSE JOBS.” ? Does this mean that adding more government jobs is the answer to our current jobs crunch — if so, who is going to pay for them? I don’t want to give government any more control of the jobs situation. They have done such a great job, so far, not.

    Our unions also have to take some responsibility for demanding higher and higher wages and benefits that companies could not keep profitable. Wages are the largest expense for many companies and are the difference between profit & loss, in business or out of business. The multitude of regulations and ridiculously complicated tax code — so many loopholes don’t help business either. Like the help me healtcare plan — try to slip in exemptions for “some” companies.

    We have the jobs czar GE’s Immelt sitting at the right hand of our President — he of no federal taxes, outsourcing jobs. Who SHOULD BE IN control of who is getting jobs? Govt jobs are paid for by the already overburdened taxpayer — shrinking taxpayer base at that. We should shrink the size of government not increase it. Already we have only 50% federal income tax payers.

    For the 1st 2 years of the present admin, the dems had both houses & the presidency — nothing got “fixed”. Can’t lay the blame on repubs — they are all the same in my opinion. They just don’t get it.
    They are all running around trying to get re elected.

  14. Liana G says:

    “The horrible fact here folks is that these were not crop picking jobs that American do not want to do, these were the highly paid foundation jobs of the American high tech industry.”

    So Sherry, you’re not opposed to the exploitation of “crop picking jobs” because they are doing jobs “that Americans do not want to do”. I will also add that exploiting them keeps the cost of food cheap which some are happy with. It seems that you are only opposed to those workers who are taking middle class America jobs here in America. Forget the fact that these workers are being exploited too! Unless bringing it up is self serving. Though theirs is not as worse as the crop picking jobs, their jobs can and are being outsourced.

    When we allow ourselves to think only in these terms, we should not be surprised when businesses – which operate solely to make a profit and not to provide employment for folks, and thus, are run by individuals with similar views – operate this way.

    Out of India ( CBS 60 Minutes)

    “(CBS) For decades, American manufacturers of everything from blue jeans to semiconductors have searched the world for the cheapest labor they could find.

    It may have cost hundreds of thousands of American jobs, but it’s made American products more affordable. Now, some of the most familiar companies -ones we deal with every day – are moving a whole new class of jobs overseas.

    They call it outsourcing. Not the old economy assembly line jobs, but jobs in the new economy — anything that involves a computer or a telephone.”…

    To many American employers, India is Nirvana. It has a stable democracy, an enormous English-speaking population, and a solid education system that each year churns out more than a million college graduates — all happy to work for a fraction of the salary of their American counterparts.”…

    The U.S. government does not keep track of how many American jobs have gone overseas, but there are estimates that in just the last three years, as many as 400,000 jobs have gone to places like China, Russia, and India.

    “The reason the companies are coming here is to really be more competitive and that cannot be bad for the U.S. economy,” says Iyengar, who believes the effect of outsourcing on the Indian economy has been quite dramatic.”… At which time, India would probably outsource to China, for the same four reasons the U.S. outsources to India — money, money, money and money.

    What would be the savings to a multi-national company?

    “You save anywhere between 30 to 50 percent,” says Wipro chairman Roy.

    And this is enough to dazzle even the most patriotic CEO, and so, JP Morgan Chase is hiring Indian stock analysts.”…

  15. Sherry Epley says:

    Reply to Liana. . . of course I think it is wrong to exploit anyone for any type of job! I only made the comment about the higher paying jobs going off shore because you often hear during the illegal immigrant and NAFTA debates that “only those jobs that US citizens do NOT want to do are being affected”. As a consumer driven economy, we enjoy the benefits of cheaper goods produced elsewhere, BUT, now we’ve reached the point that so many of our jobs have gone elsewhere, there are no reasonable pay checks for a large percentage of unemployed and UNDER employed citizens of the USA. Where the pay check dwindles, so does the spending. . . and then our consumer driven economy slowly grinds to a halt.

  16. palmcoaster says:

    Already In Wall Street demonstrations for jobs needed, for taxing the wealthy accordingly as we all middle class pay, for taxing the large corporations the same as small businesses, against these wars paid with our taxes, for humane health care etc. are being held. We will need to get peacefully on the streets and demand change from this conservatives and also from the President. Stop these wars and bring soldiers and our dollars to repair our infrastructure creating more jobs. Stop all foreign aid. Tax imports so Apple, GE and the others are forced to bring back our manufacturing jobs. Lets do it now!

  17. palmcoaster says:

    And we will be forced to foot the following too. When enough is enough? This is just highway robbery!
    And we are broke and jobless.

  18. Layla says:

    Now you know why the Tea Party exists.

    As for citizenship, I have no problem with this as we are and have always been a nation of immigrants. However, the only time politicians offer amnesty of citizenship is when they need votes to stay in office and our immigration system never gets fixed. It only brings a greater flow of immigrants.

    We have no business doing this until this country is out of debt and people are working again.

    I don’t think I am alone in not wanting millions of illegals to decide the next Presidential election.

    Fix our immigration system, and enforce our immigration laws. Seize corporations and business if you must. We cannot become a nation that allows politicians to pick and choose which of our country’s laws they will enforce.

  19. dealingwithidiots1 says:

    So much for Obamacare….just found out my “part- D” is going up $5.00 a month next yr!!!

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