Under Obama Poverty Hit A Record 46 million In 2010

The number of Americans living below the poverty line rose to a record 46 million last year, the government said on Tuesday, underscoring the challenges facing President Barack Obama and Congress as they try to tackle high unemployment and a moribund economy. The Census Bureau’s annual report on income, poverty and health insurance coverage said the national poverty rate climbed for a third consecutive year to 15.1 percent in 2010 as the economy struggled to recover from the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. That marked a 0.8 percent increase from 2009, when there were 43.6 million Americans living in poverty. Man On Knees Begging To Obama

More than a fifth of Americans under the age of 18 lived in poverty last year, new U.S. Census figures show. The poverty rate for children rose from 20.7 percent in 2009 to 22 percent last year, making kids more likely than any other age group to be poor. For children under the age of 6, the picture is even bleaker–25.3 percent of them lived in poverty last year. Overall, 15 percent of Americans were poor last year, the highest rate since 1993. (The poverty line is $22,314 pre-tax income for a family of four, not including non-cash benefits, like food stamps.) The number of poor Americans in 2010 was the largest in the 52 years that the Census Bureau has been publishing poverty estimates, the report said, while the poverty rate was the highest since 1993. Since the low point in the labor market downturn in February 2010, nonfarm payrolls have increased by 1.9 million, showing that without stronger growth, it will take years to recoup about 8.7 million jobs lost as a result of the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The jobless rate rose to 9.6 percent in 2010 from 9.3 percent in 2009. Long-term unemployment, the percent of those without a job for 27 weeks or longer, increased to 43 percent from 31 percent, according to the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute.

About 1.5 million fewer Americans were covered by employer-sponsored health insurance plans, while the number of people covered by government health insurance increased by nearly 2 million. All told, the number of Americans with no health insurance hovered at 49.9 million, up slightly from 49 million in 2010. The economic deterioration depicted by the figures is likely to have continued into 2011 as economic growth diminished, unemployment remained stuck above 9 percent and fears grew of a possible double-dip recession. The report of rising poverty coincides with Obama’s push for a $450 billion job creation package, and deliberations by a congressional “super committee” tasked with cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the budget deficit over 10 years.

The number of those lacking health insurance increased to 49.9 million from 49 million, or about 16.3 percent of the population, a change the bureau said wasn’t statistically significant. The income figures declined even as the U.S. economy expanded 3 percent in 2010. Growth has slowed this year to an annual rate of less than 1 percent, sparking concern that the financial struggles of families will continue to worsen and hamper the recovery.

U.S. households have little to cheer about as job creation stagnated last month and hourly wages retreated. The unemployment rate has hovered at or above 9 percent for more than two years. Consumer confidence fell to the second-lowest level this year for the week that ended Sept. 4. “We would have hoped to have begun to climb out by now in terms of income and poverty rates, and that doesn’t seem to be happening,” said Sawhill, who was associate director of the White House budget office under President Bill Clinton. Analysts said poverty-related issues have relatively little hold on politicians in Washington but hoped the new figures would encourage the bipartisan super committee to avoid deficit cuts that would hurt the poor.

The data show that in 2010, a year when corporate profits were soaring and the economy was pulling out of recession, middle-class Americans continued to see their fortunes decline. The earnings of women who worked full time were about 77 percent of those of men, about the same gap as in 2009. “Even in good economic times, the number of Americans who were struggling to make ends meet and had declining income was going in the wrong direction,” said Boteach. “People are right to have some frustration that the economic gains of the last decade, when they were happening, weren’t shared.”

Since 2007, the year before the recession, median household income has fallen 6.4 percent, the census bureau said. The growing poverty rate is likely to become an element of budget fights in Washington as a special committee of lawmakers looks to trim $1.5 trillion from the U.S. deficit during the next decade, and it may give momentum to calls from Democrats to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. “Some in Congress have proposed cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid, which were effective in keeping millions of people insured and above the poverty line at a time of widespread job loss,” said Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

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