Toronto Erik Eckholm summarized the Census Bureau’s report in a clear but painful way:
“With the country in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were surviving only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance.
And the numbers could have climbed higher: One way embattled Americans have gotten by is sharing homes with siblings, parents or even nonrelatives, sometimes resulting in overused couches and frayed nerves but holding down the rise in the national poverty rate, according to the report.
The share of residents in poverty climbed to 14.3 percent in 2009, the highest level recorded since 1994. The rise was steepest for children, with one in five affected, the bureau said.”
His story leading the Times was not an editorial, but it could have been. It would have been easy to point out that we now have almost twice as many people in poverty as we have as union members. It may be that “millions were surviving…only because of expanded unemployment insurance and other assistance,” but it was only short weeks ago that the extension for exactly that “expanded unemployment insurance” was won from a recalcitrant Congress and the “party of no.”
He could have mentioned that that the “highest level” of poverty since 1994 has now wiped out the gains of almost 20 years, but as he could have pointed out in his paragraph about “couch surfing” the obliteration of home ownership and citizen wealth increases for African-Americans, Hispanics, and other low income families with more to come.
In fact just reflect on this for a minute. The United States Census Bureau is now citing personal charity, the willingness of millions of families to take in relatives, friends, neighbors, children and others into their homes as a key factor in why the numbers of the poor only climbed by 4 million rather than 6 or 8 million! For all of the headlines from the big donors and back patting in Washington, a huge factor holding people together so that they can “survive” is still the good will of others, likely other low and moderate income families, willing to share at the edge of the abyss.
Hope may not be a plan, but such help now seems to be a public policy!
The results in Canada are moving this way as well. The Globe and Mail report on paycheck surveys including a similarly telling several sentences:
“Younger workers are having the greatest trouble meeting their current expenses, with two thirds of those aged 18-34 saying it would be very difficult, difficult or somewhat difficult for them to meet their current financial obligations if they missed even one paycheque.
Among households, the situation is most precarious for single parents, with three quarters saying they would have some trouble making ends meet if their pay were delayed.”
Had enough bad news yet? All of the reports on 2009 are clear that 2010 will be the same, if not worse. Foreclosures will rise putting more pressure on even the roofs over the loaned couches for so many.
And, there is no belief that help is on the way.