San Francisco Erik Eckholm of the Times is one of the last reporters on the “poverty beat” in the country, and by god I almost feel a personal obligation to read his pieces and try to get the word out before the paltry news of the poor disappears from papers altogether. He was on the point noting that Census Bureau figures indicate the lowest poverty rate in a dozen years and falling family income by more than 4% to hardly $50,000 per year which is the lowest rate in a decade.
At least this year almost all of us can say that we have done our part, since even if we didn’t slip below the poverty line, most of us can see we did do our share to pull down family income averages by making way less money over the last year. Next year of course will be worse.
More people also lost health coverage. The only bright light there was that poor children were better covered. Huh? Well, the expansion of the SCHIPs program made a difference, and it shows up in the numbers.
Although this seems obvious, I can’t help pointing out that these citizen wealth investments are not like bank bailouts where after the handout, you get no change, a slapdown, and new reports of more trouble. When the government invests in the citizen wealth of the poor, it actually makes a difference and people are better protected and less poor.
With about 40 million people below the poverty line in the USA and 45 million without health insurance, I would argue those are numbers worth doing something about. If we can worry about Wall Street bankers and spend big money (rightly!) to prevent 9 million foreclosures, why can’t we spend money making sure that families are pushed back above the poverty line and get health care protection?
Yesterday, I talked about the money that is being lost in states from the bailout because of the problem some states are having making the 20% match. In a disaster like Katrina, the government has the authority to waive the match to allow access to FEMA funds. We have a poverty disaster now. Why don’t we bailout the poor with a billion or so to allow citizens in all 50 states below the poverty line to get a hand up?
If not, let Health and Human Services simply reclassify the poor as casual employees of AIG, and they could share in the gazillions there enough to crawl back to a level of higher income security.