The poverty rate jumped to 14.3 percent in 2009, up from 13.2 percent a year earlier and the highest rate since 1994, the Census Bureau said Thursday. Last year, a record 43.6 million people were in poverty, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive increase. “The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates have been published,” the Census Bureau said.
A chief executive officer of a Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 index company was paid, on average, $9.25 million in total compensation in 2009.
Eli Pariser of MoveOn captures the obscenity in a tweet:
In the US, the richest country on earth in terms of total wealth, 1 in 7 live in poverty.
As a New Yorker, it’s easy to see that things are completely out of whack when luxury real estate listings for multi-million dollar apartments are a dime a dozen.
As I’ve said, these are dark days for progressives and for America with inequality, injustice, hunger, poverty, human rights violations, oppression of women and so many other ills rampant. Our work is cut out for us.
UPDATE: More on income inequality from Joan McCarter:
Based on the preliminary data from the Census, Democrats on the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) have issued a report based on the Census data, showing that “income inequality skyrocketed in the past three decades, peaked under President Bush just before the Great Recession began, and may have been a root cause of the worst recession since the Great Depression.”
The report talks about how increasing income inequality has been compounded by financial deregulation, resulting in easier access to credit and more and more American families getting deeper and deeper into debt just to make ends meet.
Christine O’Donnell’s victory in the Delaware Republican Senate primary had Democrats exuberant – cheering victory by the ‘crazy Tea Party candidate.’ But when your electoral strategy is “let’s hope the lunatic wins cause we can’t beat a sane Republican,” it’s time for some serious soul-searching.
Nate Silver injects a dose of realism into overblown prognostications about a GOP landslide:
There’s the possibility that Republicans end up with a lot of half-loaves: independent voters get them almost close enough in some states and districts, base voters in some others, but they come up a few points short in a lot of key races and wind up winning “only” 30 House seats and 4 or 5 Senate seats. Or, just the opposite could be true. Independent voters rally them to surprising wins in some blue-leaning states, while base voters shore up the home front, and allow them to roll back the gains that Democrat made into Republican territory in 2006 and 2008.
He’s absolutely right – anything can happen on Election Day and expectations are beginning to get out of hand for Republicans. Unfortunately, if Democrats lose badly but retain the House and Senate, it will be hailed by the White House and pundits as a victory, perhaps a great victory, dampening the urge for introspection, the self-awareness needed to battle a dangerous radical rightwing resurgence.
Of course, it will be anything but a victory. The whiplash-inducing right turn America has taken since 2008, the deflation of hope, compel a sober and serious look at what Democrats have done wrong. We can take solace all we want in previous presidential poll numbers, we can say this is a normal cyclical dip, but that doesn’t explain or excuse this:
- George W. Bush is steadily and surely being rehabilitated and now the question is how much gratitude we owe him.
- Sarah Palin can move the public discourse with a single tweet, promoting a worldview consisting of unreflective, nationalistic soundbites.
- Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Fox are dominating the national conversation, feeding a steady stream of propaganda packaged as moral platitudes to tens of millions of true believers.
- In the face of overwhelming evidence, climate deniers are choking the life out of the environmental movement and willfully condemning humanity to a calamitous future.
- From ACORN to Van Jones, liberal scalps are being taken with impunity.
- Feminism is being redefined and repossessed by anti-feminists.
- Women are facing an all-out assault on choice.
- Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is being co-opted by a radio jock.
- Schoolbooks are being rewritten to reflect the radical right’s anti-science views.
- The rich-poor divide grows by the minute and teachers and nurses struggle to get by while bankers get massive bonuses.
- We mark the end of a war based on lies with congratulations to all, and we escalate another war with scarce resources that could save countless lives.
- An oil spill that should have been a historic inflection point gets excised from public awareness by our own government and disappears down the memory hole (until the next disaster).
- Bigotry and discrimination against immigrants, against Muslims, against gays and lesbians is mainstream and rampant.
- The frightening unconstitutional excesses of the Bush administration have been enshrined and reinforced by a Democratic White House, ensuring that they will become precedent and practice.
- Girls and women across the planet continue to get beaten, raped, ravaged, mutilated, and murdered while sports games induce a more passionate response.
O’Donnell’s shock victory is part of this larger picture. Granted, it may imperil GOP chances to grab one more senate seat, but if you see it as a loss leader, as one more huge step to the right, it’s cold comfort to those who have fought the radical right’s takeover of our national discourse.
Yesterday I posted what I believe is the photo that defines our age of denial, a Biblical image of dead sea life:
When things like this are happening before our eyes and we can’t muster the will to do something dramatic to fix it, when Democrats seek comfort in radicals winning primaries, when a great nation abruptly reverses course and barrels headlong toward the 19th century, we have no choice but to dig deep and ask ourselves what we’re doing wrong.
Die-hard Obama supporters demand incessant cheerleading, but their blinders are part of the problem not the solution. As citizens, we’re tasked with making sure elected officials do their jobs. If Democrats and progressives are satisfied with the direction we’re heading, it’s their prerogative. Some of us are not in denial and we’ll keep speaking out until there’s a legitimate reason to believe that we’re righting our ship, reclaiming the moral high ground and making actual – not imagined – progress.
Oxfam’s Joel Bassuk writes:
In less than a week world leaders will meet in New York to review progress on the Millennium Development Goals, including the goal to halve world hunger by 2015 (MDG1). Governments are no closer to achieving this goal today then they were ten years ago. But the genuinely good news is that it is still possible to halve hunger in the next 5 years.
Oxfam’s new report, ‘Halving World Hunger: Still Possible,’ points to countries such as Vietnam and Brazil as evidence of what is possible. By supporting poor food producers and providing social safety nets for people who cannot produce or buy enough food, Vietnam and Brazil have dramatically cut hunger at home. For instance, Brazil has reduced malnutrition by 73 percent in the last six years.
If more governments – north and south – work together to deliver the right policies and the necessary investment the success stories of Brazil and Vietnam can be replicated across the globe.
World leaders meeting at the MDG Summit in New York must show they haven’t given up on the Millennium Development Goals. They must put their weight behind a global action plan that will bring all countries together to tackle hunger.
The intro to the Oxfam report states:
Unless an urgent rescue package is developed to accelerate fulfillment of all the MDGs, we are likely to witness the greatest collective failure in history.
In most discussions of right and wrong, sins of commission tend to get more attention than sins of omission, but not doing something that could save lives is still ethically reprehensible. If we can spare millions of children the ravages of hunger, poverty and disease and we don’t, then it is indeed an epic collective failure.
Did you wake up this morning from your summer slumber to discover that Democrats are about to get shellacked in the midterms, that unemployment is proving intractable, that the economy is verging on a double dip recession, and that all the political class can seem to stay focused on, at least rhetorically, is deficit reduction?
Missing the beach yet? It gets better.
The big agenda item for Congress between now and the election is whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, set to expire at year’s end. We can’t afford more government spending to rescue the economy and put the jobless back to work, but we can afford starving the government of revenue by extending those massive Bush era tax cuts. Even Peter Orszag agrees.
Peter Orszag reveals depressing inner Obama on economy … Austerity, Dem style, is a LOSER, folks.
Peter Orzag’s first column for The New York Times illustrates why the Dems are poised to receive a crushing defeat in November.
Consensus is quickly congealing around President Obama’s reported $50 billion infrastructure proposal: the left says it’s a good idea, but a paltry sum relative to the size of the hole we’re in. The right, having successfully framed Obama as a profligate liberal, is pouncing on “more big spending.”
What happens when over a hundred billion dollars in borrowed cash gets plunged into infrastructure spending and it fails to kick-start the economy? According to this administration, spend another $50 billion on the same failed policy. Barack Obama will unveil his new economic stimulus plan in Wisconsin today, while Russ Feingold looks for a place to hide…
President Obama will announce an additional $50 billion in infrastructure spending. Yeah, that’s what voters have been waiting for — more spending. Should be a good sell on the campaign trail.
It comes as something of a relief, then, that infrastructure and public works remain a top White House priority. Bang for the buck, these is the kind of investments that make a real difference. … Because this is an excellent idea that would improve the economy, it’s very likely to be killed by Congress. But (a) I’m glad President Obama is stepping up and doing the right thing anyway; and (b) it’s good to have lawmakers put on the spot before the election, taking a position on sensible, effective economic proposals like this one. I’d like to see a bigger, more ambitious package, but it’s a step in the right direction.
This is all perfectly sensible. At the same time, if it’s offset by other items in the budget it probably won’t have any net stimulative effect. Essentially, we’ve given in to the deficit hawk brigade without even a fight. Not that it matters, I suppose. It’s too small to be more than a pinprick, and Republicans will probably filibuster to the death the right of our nation’s oil and gas companies to their federal subsidies anyway. But I’m sure it will give Fox News something to roar about for the next month.
I’m sure many of you have seen anecdotal evidence of this in your lives, but here it is, spelled out:
With the battle over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy shaping up as the major political event of the fall, opponents of repeal were handed a bounteous gift this summer when Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and 38 others announced that they formed a pact to give at least half their wealth to charity. After all, what better illustration could there be of the great social good that wealthy people can do when the government lets them keep their hard-earned dollars to spend as they please?
The problem is that the exceptional philanthropy of the superwealthy few doesn’t apply to the many more people defined as rich in the current debate over the Bush tax cuts — individuals earning over $200,000 and couples with revenues over $250,000. For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans. In 2001, Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.
More on that Gates-Buffett Giving Pledge:
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced today that 40 signers, including at least 30 billionaires and other wealthy families, had officially made the Giving Pledge–a promise to give away more than half their fortunes.
…Some people may write off the pledge as a gimmick aimed at simply improving the PR of the super-rich, which could certainly use some improving. But the list could become a strong financial force for philanthropy, if for no other reason than peer pressure, publicity and the inspiring example of others.
America’s rich have been searching for new status symbols in the wake of the Great Recession. Yachts, private jets, seaside mansions are so 2007. But being wealthy enough and generous enough to get on the Giving Pledge list may quickly become the ultimate badge of status–both in the U.S. and abroad.
The billionaire’s pledge is undeniably a good thing, and Buffet and Gates are setting an excellent example and saving lives. Still, for the 40+ signers, you have to ask yourself if being left with a few hundred million or even a few billion dollars after you’ve given away half your fortune should be considered a sacrifice in any meaningful sense of that word.
It looks like the economic pain of the past couple of years is finally changing attitudes about gambling investing:
Investors withdrew a staggering $33.12 billion from domestic stock market mutual funds in the first seven months of this year, according to the Investment Company Institute, the mutual fund industry trade group. Now many are choosing investments they deem safer, like bonds.
If that pace continues, more money will be pulled out of these mutual funds in 2010 than in any year since the 1980s, with the exception of 2008, when the global financial crisis peaked.
For individual investors, the lure of easy money in the market invariably crashes into the reality of a game rigged in favor of big players like Goldman Sachs.