Note: cosmic debris diaried this a few hours ago, but it did not get the attention it deserved.
The National Academy of Sciences has issued its own estimates of the number of Americans in poverty, and yes, it’s much worse than the official statistics have been telling us for the past decade.
The new NAS formula estimates nearly 1 in 6 Americans, 15.8 percent, are living below the poverty line. That’s 48 million Americans.
By comparison, the latest official Census Bureau statistics are that 13.2 percent of Americans, or 39.8 million, are impoverished.
It should be noted that the Census Bureau is reportedly cooperating with the National Academy of Sciences to get this information out as quickly as possible.
There's more downstairs.
According to the Associated Press, the NAS took into consideration the rising costs of medical care, transportation, child care, as well as geographical variations in living costs. Unbelievably, the Census Bureau calculations never accounted for these costs, since they were first used in 1955. My guess is that this was a convenient way to hide the destruction of the working class beginning with the oil price shocks and Volcker interest rate shock of the 1970s, and horrific human impacts of the de-industrialization of the U.S. economy that was rapidly accelerated by the usury and speculation unleashed by Ronald Reagan’s deregulation mania. Not to mention the vicious attack on organized labor initiated by Reagan’s destruction of the air traffic controllers union.
Particularly troubling is the NAS’s finding that poverty among elderly Americans is actually twice what the official figure is. The NAS finds that 18.7 percent of Americans 65 and older - nearly 7.1 million - are in poverty. The traditional Census Bureau measure is 9.7 percent, or 3.7 million, elderly Americans in poverty. The Associated Press notes that the dramatic doubling of this statistics under the NAS measure is attributed to the NAS taking into account rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and the coverage gap in the prescription drug benefit.
In addition, Michael Lind reports in Salon.com that while the official U.S. unemployment rate is currently 9.8 percent, Obama advisor
Leo Hindery Jr. infers an actual unemployment rate of 18.8 percent. In other words, nearly one in five Americans is unemployed or underemployed.
The sound you hear is the sound of the social fabric in America rotting and beginning to snap. Thanks to the unemployment insurance system adopted during the New Deal years, and thanks in part to the stimulus that the Obama administration and Congress passed earlier in the year, we do not have hordes of out-of-work Americans standing in line at soup kitchens and riding the rails from town to town.
This is something I think should be shouted in the streets, to counter the complete bullshit that it is the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, with the various bailouts and rescues of the financial sector, that have saved us from a new Great Depression. What’s really saved us so far is the tattered remnants of the New Deal social safety net. What would the situation look like in the U.S. now if the following three programs did not exist?
I should note here that if you are a veteran Kossack, you probably already knew about the different measures of unemployment. Jerome a Paris, for example, gave us US unemployment already near 20% back in January of this year. What I think is significant is that one of Obama's top economic policy advisers is now discussing the actual rate of unemployment. At 18.8 percent, we are in the same territory as unemployment through most of the Great Depression in the 1930s. It's interesting that Hindery is taking up this issue at the same time that Paul Krugman is reporting that Obama's economics team is privately furious with Wall Street for it's bitter opposition to any type of meaningful financial reform.
Mass unemployment has yet to spawn a wave of crime or social unrest. But those possibilities cannot be dismissed. And the desperation is real, even if it is not signaled by desperate acts. The psychological toll of prolonged unemployment is devastating on individuals who have lost their roles as breadwinners or productive, self-reliant citizens. Employers prefer not to hire people who have been unemployed for long periods -- and laid-off workers today are spending an average of 26.2 weeks without jobs, the highest average since the Great Depression. And then there are the new graduates of high schools and colleges, a lost generation whose members may be crippled throughout their careers by the lack of opportunities in their youth.
As Fact-esque notes (and they deserve credit because that is where I first found this news),
This is more or less what we here at Fact-esque have been saying for years. It's what economists unblinkered by Chicago School ideology have predicted for years, what we've been seeing on the streets for years, what agencies that work with the poor have reported for years - beseiged food banks, growing soup kitchen lines, way more homeless than there are beds in shelters, and so on. . . .
These numbers did not get this bad overnight or in the 10 months of the Obama Admin. It took the right wing fully 25 years of dedicated effort and a full two terms of unrestricted "free market" economic policy to bring us to the worst depression since the '29 crash. Even if Obama and his ex-Goldman Sachs advisors did a complete 180 and killed trickle-down in favor of an FDR-style NRA - which they're not even thinking of doing - it would take years to get out of the mess conservative movement free market ideologues have got us into.