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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?

Social Security

Unemployment Insurance

Food Stamps

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.

Lind continues:

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.

Originally posted to NBBooks on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 10:19 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Weren't they saying just 2 years ago (6+ / 0-)

      that it was 37 million Americans?  Jesus.

    •  If you blog about reality, you will have to... (10+ / 0-)

      ...deal with the consequences! ;-)

      Tipped and Rec'd! (As always for your great work, NBB!)

      Two pieces from the very highly-regarded Mark Thoma's Economist's View blog, which should be read back-to-back, to get the full effect...

      1.) "Is The American Dream A Myth?"
      2.) "Will Economic Inequality Lead to Terrorism?"

      "Is The American Dream A Myth?"

      Is The American Dream A Myth?
      Mark Thoma
      Economist's View Blog
      Oct 20, 2009

      We've known for some time that the degree of social mobility in the US is much less than people believe. But given how widespread the mobility myth is -- the false perception that there is equal (enough) opportunity allows us to be more accepting of unequal outcomes than we would be if we knew how stagnant social outcomes actually are -- the evidence that rebuts this belief is worth repeating:

      Is The American Dream A Myth?, by Ronald Brownstein, National Journal: One tenet that separates the United States from other countries is our belief in upward mobility. A study of attitudes in 27 countries found that Americans, more than people elsewhere, tend to believe that intelligence, skill, and effort will be rewarded with success. This faith is vibrant even among groups to which opportunity has often been denied:... African-Americans and Hispanics were more likely than whites to believe that children of all races had adequate chances to succeed in America.

      But as Brookings Institution scholars Ron Haskins and Isabel Sawhill demonstrate in a compelling new book, America's record doesn't entirely justify this optimism. ... In the generation after World War II, the median income roughly doubled, increasing faster for those on the lower rungs of the ladder than for those at the top. Since 1979, the median income has advanced much more slowly overall, and it has grown much faster for the affluent than for those below them. Today,... family incomes are higher than in the 1970s almost entirely because women are working...; men in their 30s today earn less than their fathers did at the same age. In this environment, upward mobility becomes tougher. ...
      More than 60 percent of Americans whose parents scaled the top fifth of the income ladder have reached the top two-fifths themselves, Haskins and Sawhill found. By contrast, 65 percent of Americans with parents from the lowest fifth of earners remain stuck in the bottom two-fifths. Though we venerate the American Dream, studies show that children born to low-income parents in the United States are more likely to remain trapped near the bottom than their counterparts in Europe...

      "Will Economic Inequality Lead to Terrorism?"

      Will Economic Inequality Lead to Terrorism?
      Mark Thoma
      Economist's View Blog
      Oct 20, 2009

      Bruce Judson with a description of a "chilling call" that occurred while he "was a guest on OnPoint which is distributed nationally by NPR." As he notes in an email, "the post raises an important issue. All of the discussion of economic inequality essentially presumes that people continue to view the existing economic system as legitimate. As foreclosure rise, jobs disappear, and the divide between the have's and have not's increases, our ability to take this for granted becomes less clear":

      Will Economic Inequality Lead to Terrorism? A Chilling Moment on NPR, by Bruce Judson: Last week, It Could Happen Here was the subject of a 45-minute segment of Tom Asbrook’s OnPoint, which airs nationally on NPR. To demonstrate, how inequality can divide a nation, It Could Happen Here, which is a nonfiction book, opens with a fictional scenario involving American terrorists who threaten the nation with dirty bombs demanding an end to foreclosures by "vulture banks," and free access to healthcare and higher education for all. Tom Ashbrook asked hard questions about this scenario. I said to him think of a laid off engineer who works with radioactivity to create medical devices...

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 11:46:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Is this a GREAT country, or what? (3+ / 0-)

      Meanwhile, let's keep on shoveling more money into the war machine and giving more bailouts to big banks, with no accountability on executive bonuses or on what they do with the money.

      It makes me really realize to what degree our rulers truly care about the average American and who's interests they really serve.

      Well, the neo-liberalism of all these years has been a resounding success . . . . for the trans-national oligarchs on top and their backers and those allied with them.

    •  In your entire diary (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, mango, NBBooks, blue71340

      I can't find mention of the definition of the poverty line. Below what income is considered poverty? Just want to know if I am in poverty or not.

      Good read.

      As if we could make things better without making them worse.

      by A Voice on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 03:21:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Crapola (6+ / 0-)

    And its only gonna get worse.

  •  The confusing thing to me about blaming the (14+ / 0-)

    right wing conservative republicans, is the democrats role, i.e,, Clinton in NAFTA and the free trade agreements, which many point to the loss of manufacturing and industrial jobs from the U.S.  I don't get that.

  •  It should be noted that China a country of (8+ / 0-)

    billion has only about 20 million that are considered poor in their country.  The entire populations numbers of the US are considered middle class in China.  This happened in the last 20 years.

    Do you think these people are going to go back to being peasants and peons--not a chance.

    When I was China in 1985 and they were just starting to get results from their massive education push---400,000 students had just returned from abroad education in agriculture alone.  I was there as a guest.  Their way of planning considering the country as a whole is something that is progressive not communistic that is unless you are the 1%.  Yes, there is corruption but if you get caught you are dead.

    And their worst coruption they learned from us.  China sits on Walmart in China.

  •  Can see the frahing in SoCal (6+ / 0-)

    Lots of homeless everywhere in the daytime. See people digging thru dumpsters. And at night we hear gun shots, that are never reported on the news or in the police reports. Little kids run in groups during school hours. Notice more and more shoplifting in stors, see it everywhere. And register clerks are not scanning every item, will pick up three and scan one. Just one spark and we will have a conflagration.

  •  Like the global ecology (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snakelass, greengemini

    the US economy is fast reaching the point of no return. This is a third world country, by just about any measure you like.

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 10:38:34 PM PDT

    •  It is the arrogance (3+ / 0-)

      of dividing the earth into "worlds" that will be our ultimate downfall. And we absolutely deserve it. The first and second worlds will pay for the atrocities they performed on the third. It is only a matter of time.

      The very idea that there was no world until the Europeans and Americans discovered and subjugated it is preposterous. Civilizations were destroyed to make them the impoverished slave colonies they became.

      For all the whining about slave labor in third world countries, we really love those cheap shoes. We deserve to be made lower than the "third world".

      Wasn't it this country's Jesus that said, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last."?

      Oh well, not to worry. "In God We Trust".

      As if we could make things better without making them worse.

      by A Voice on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 03:36:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It is arrogance, now at least (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        snakelass

        Those terms of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd world were originally political science terms devised in the Cold War.  Where the 1st world was the western nations, the 2nd world were the Soviet and Warsaw Pact Republics and nations, and the 3rd was still up for grabs.

        3rd world nations were coincidentally also poor nations but that wasn't the original meaning of the term.  By the original meaning of the term, we could consider or argue that Finland, although having a Western European standard of living, as a 3rd world nation.

        But because most nations of the 3rd world were poverty stricken in national and personal debt and economics, we've come to define 3rd world as a typical country in Africa.

        That's why the terminology changed to "developing nations" because the original meanings have been lost and now those words signify the arrogance that you rightly attribute to the concepts.

        "Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people." - Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821

        by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 04:45:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I agree - except. (0+ / 0-)

        We will get what we deserve, but that does not mean that we don't have a responsibility to do everything we can to save the world.

        "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

        by shmuelman on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 08:47:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  The poverty line number is garbage (14+ / 0-)

    It's based on a basket of groceries in then 1960s, scaled using the CPI, and multiplied by 3. A worker at USDA was making an estimate for a project in front of her, little knowing how her work would be used 50 years later.

    The CPI includes the cost and relative value of cars, food, washing machines, and some markers for rent and medical costs. It does not include home prices or health insurance - which for most of us, are two of the largest expenses, and have been increasing at dramatic rates. I can choose not to buy a car or washing machine.

    The poverty line is the same for every place in the continental US - that is, if you're at that line in San Francisco, CA or Fargo, ND, you're assumed to have the same standard of living. We all know that in San Francisco, if you make less than $50k and don't have a free and clear house, that you're going to be living in that swell box your new washing machine came in.

    All of these assumptions are flat wrong, and the poverty line has absolutely no relationship to the amount of money required to live in our society - but it is used as if it does.

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 10:47:10 PM PDT

    •  which is why those of us (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, blue71340, JG in MD, Hill Jill

      surviving on a fixed income from the Veteran's Administration or those living on Social Security get fucked every year because COLA is based on CPI.

      We're not getting a COLA increase this year because of negative CPI.  Of course, CPI doesn't calculate rising costs in reality as you state.

      And as an expat, I won't get the 250.00 if that comes through just as I didn't get it this summer.  This summer, it was part of stimulus and I understand that it was meant to stimulate the US economy.  I get that and I am not griping, it makes sense.

      But now it is billed at helping out individuals getting screwed rather than stimulus.  I'll still get screwed, especially as my purchasing power has greatly decreased in the USD/Euro exchange rate.

      "Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people." - Heinrich Heine, Almansor, 1821

      by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 05:26:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A frank discussion of poverty is difficult (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, Hill Jill

      because so many living in poverty want to consider themselves middle class.

      We shouldn't even have a national poverty line, but regional measures that actually capture the costs of living.

    •  Molly Orshansky (0+ / 0-)

      Molly Orshansky is the person who originally calculated the poverty guidelines.

      This woman had no idea how many millions of people would be affected by her calculations. I often wonder how she felt the rest of her life (I don't know if she's still alive) about what she had done.

      Thank you for posting this information. People need to know what the word "poverty" means in the context of the U.S. government.

      People in poverty means truly destitute people in many parts of the US.

      WWTD: What Would Teddy Do?

      by JG in MD on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 12:32:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent work. (9+ / 0-)

    What would the situation look like in the U.S. now if the following three programs did not exist?

    Social Security

    Unemployment Insurance

    Food Stamps

    And ... this one as well.

    Slap it. Shoot it. Kaboot it.

    by adios on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 11:42:51 PM PDT

    •  But isn't that the point? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, danmac

      The countries we are competing with do have all those programs, provided by the governments.  So how can we compete with them if our companies have to provide those programs?

      Republicans want to take our country back; Democrats want to take it forward.

      by DrJeremy on Tue Oct 20, 2009 at 11:46:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I was just saying to a friend that the social (8+ / 0-)

    safety net found in Europe and in Japan was intiated by Americans after WWII.  FDR created a second bill of rights just before the end of WWII which included universal health care but because the plutocrats were able to label it as Socialist aka Communism they were able to brainwash dumb Americans that the programs were a bad idea.  The rich realized that between the Labor movement and providing a real safety net they would lose control the American workforce and they were not about to let that happen.  If you look at the boom and bust cycles in the economy we have has a major recession every 10 years since the 1970's and the recessions have helped depress wages.  The American worker just starts to climb out of the hole from the last recession and the powers that be find a way to pull the plug in order to keep people in their place.

  •  Document, Kossacks, Document! (4+ / 0-)

    I don't remember much of anything said on the MSM about Detroit last week other than Rush Limbaugh and refutations of what he was saying.  The best documentation I saw was done by Daily Kos contributers.

    Pictures and spoken words are visceral.  What's happening in Detroit, for instance, sounds like an economic Katrina, but it is not being covered adequately.  

    Its very hard not to take all this personally.  I am from Michigan and had a wonderful career there as a nurse, where it was possible to give truly good care to patients because of a pro-employee climate that was engendered by unionization.  I feel like Michigan is being kicked in the teeth for having the audacity to believe that regular working-types should be able to have a fairly compensated and good quality job.

  •  As someone who's gone from (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blue71340, JG in MD

    70,000.00 to unemployment in less than a year, I can tell you it ain't pretty. This morning I'm on my way to the lines at the labor department and the food stamp office. (note: I was refused food stamps this week because I was asked to provide proof of identity for an "ANTOINETTE Wright" in CAPS, no less. Who the hell is ANTOINETTE Wright?!? I have no earthly idea)So now, after two weeks of leaving messages, showing up on my deadline date to a closed office(statewide furlough;thanks for the heads up, folks at DHR!)I have to get my hustle on so I can feed my kids. GREAT Diary...

    Of all the disciplines, history is best qualified to reward our research.--Malcolm X

    by consciousempress on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 04:34:50 AM PDT

    •  Oh, and if I lived in NY still (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      danmac, blue71340

      my teacher's union would have prevented them from firing me in the first place...not this "right-to-work" bs state of GA AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!

      Of all the disciplines, history is best qualified to reward our research.--Malcolm X

      by consciousempress on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 04:37:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A Note About Food Stamps (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel

      In order to get food stamps, you have to have assets (not counting house and car) of $2000 or less.

      $2000.

      If you hear that someone is on food stamps, they are destitute. Income is pennies, assets are nil.

      WWTD: What Would Teddy Do?

      by JG in MD on Wed Oct 21, 2009 at 12:27:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Hoover-FDR comparisons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JG in MD

    are still holding true.  During Hoover's tenure the top 1% had most of the wealth (something 650% more than the bottom 11% combined) - and while only something like 20% lived BELOW the poverty level, some 60% lived right AT poverty level.  And yes, what's saving us is the tattered remnents of FDR's New Deal.

    I'm cutting Obama more slack than some folks around here do, because for Ceiling Cat's sake, he's only been in office 9 months.  (And he has a less-manageable Congress than FDR did in 1933.)  Even FDR didn't get the WPA going until 1935 and while Social Security passed in 1935, and regular monthly payments didn't start until 1940.

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