Friday, August 27, 2004

Oops--Poverty Increased Again

For the third year in a row, poverty increased in BushAmerica. Golly whiz, Martha, what a surprise.

Poor and Uninsured Americans Increase for Third Straight Year

By Peter G. Gosselin, LA Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — An additional 1.3 million Americans slipped into poverty last year and another 1.4 million went without health insurance, the government reported Thursday.

It was the third year of bad news in both categories and further evidence that the U.S. economy had not snapped back from the downturn of earlier this decade.

The Census Bureau numbers also showed that the annual income of middle-class Americans, which fell in 2001 and 2002, had leveled off last year. Census analysts said the income of households at the center of the economic spectrum was $43,318 in 2003, a statistically meaningless $63 below its 2002 level.
Kerry seized on the new numbers as proof that Bush's economic policies had failed. In a statement, the Democratic candidate ticked off trends since 2000 — median household income down more than $1,500; an additional 5.2 million individuals without health insurance and another 4.3 million in poverty.

"While George Bush tries to convince America's families that we're turning the corner, slogans and empty rhetoric can't hide the real story," Kerry said.

In addition, some Democrats charged that the administration had released the Census Bureau's numbers a month early to avoid delivering bad economic news during the fall election campaign. Census officials denied the charge, and some independent observers questioned whether the early release was of much help to Republicans.

It was clearly political--Rove decided it was better before the convention when they have both the time and the forum to do some damage control than it would have been in October when they had neither. But it's also true that it might not make all that much difference either way. Yes, this story will be forgotten by November, but the reality of an economy that isn't creating jobs and isn't boosting incomes will still be with us and will most likely have deepened even more. Their hopes of a bump next month are looking slimmer by the day (Wall Street is awfully shaky after the oil manipulations of this summer), and too much HappyTalk at the convention about how much better everything is could backfire on them.

The Bush campaign countered that the income and poverty numbers painted an incomplete picture by not including the tax cuts championed by the president. In any case, they said, the trends were not as bad as they first appeared.

Uh, they're saying the tax cuts helped us? Let's see. Karlo at Swerve Left has done us all a favor by digging out the numbers, and guess what? The Bush Campaign just told another lie.
The wealthiest 20% of households in 1973 ate up a healthy 44% of total U.S. income, but then gobbled up 50% in 2002 while everyone else's share fell! The bottom fifth's share fell from 4.2 to 3.5%.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, "For the bottom four quintiles, the effective individual income tax rate turns upward in 2004." The current CBO report also states that, "The differential increase in effective tax rates among quintiles is reflected in a shift down the income distribution in shares of taxes paid. The share of taxes paid by the top quintile falls from 65.3 percent in 2001 to 62.8 percent in 2014, even though that group's share of income does not change. Four-fifths of that decline occurs for the top 1 percent of taxpayers, whose share falls by 2 percentage points, to 20.7 percent of federal taxes in 2014. The share of taxes paid by each of the middle three quintiles climbs by about 0.7 percentage points."

As the cheerleaders for our leader are wont to remind us: Things are getting BETTER! For the top fifth of the population, that is.
Jim Gilliam (see my links) has the following numbers recently released by the Congressional Budget Office concerning the percentage change in the tax burden by average income:

$1,100,000: -2.1%
$182,700: -0.9%
$75,600: +0.8%
$51,500: +0.2%
$34,200: -0.1%
$14,900: -0.1%

Evidently, when the Shrub folk refer to tax-cuts benefitting the middle-class, they're talking about the average Joe who's making a million a year. It makes me feel good. I ain't so average after all!
So if the Bushies figured in the actual CBO numbers instead of the ones they invented, taxes would have gone up for the most of the people he's claiming saw decreases, and down for the poor an insignificant 1/10th of 1 per cent, which doesn't even begin to meet inflation. I'm at the bottom level. If he thinks $150 extra in my pocket this year is something for him to brag about, he must be riding the white-powder horse again.

Bush made no mention of the figures in three campaign appearances in New Mexico, but campaign aides rushed out "talking points." On poverty: "The poverty rate is still below the average rate of the 1980s and 1990s." On health insurance: "The percentage of uninsured is still below its highest point during the Clinton administration.

Both of those claims are equally false, not that that's going to stop them from being repeated endlessly endlessly endlessly by the Mighty Wurlitzer. Unfortunately they'll be slamming headlong into undeniable realities when they're doing it and convention HappyTalk ain't gonna cut it--not now, and not in November