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Say Hello to the Highest Poverty Rate in 17 Years | The Nation

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Jamelle Bouie

Jamelle Bouie

 Politics, wonkery and everything in between.

Say Hello to the Highest Poverty Rate in 17 Years

The Census Bureau has released its poverty numbers for 2010, and the picture isn’t pretty: 46.2 million people were living in poverty last year, according to the bureau’s latest report, the largest number for the fifty-two years that the data have been published. This marks the fourth consecutive year in which poverty rose, with an overall poverty rate of 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and the highest rate since 1993. Indeed, with real median household income at $49,445—a drop of 2.3 prcent from 2009—incomes are lower now than they were more than a decade ago.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, poor households are much more likely to experience hardship than their middle or upper-class counterparts. Among other things, they are more likely to experience hunger, live in overcrowded housing, miss a rent or mortgage payment and forgo medical care. Here’s a chart for illustration:

Poor Hardships

The Republican plan for greater austerity—large spending cuts on all levels of government—would only exacerbate the pain suffered by lower-income families. According to the International Monetary Fund, austerity measures have a tremendously negative affect on economic growth. A budget cutback of 1 percent of GDP would lower incomes by 0.6 percent and increase unemployment by almost 0.5 percent. In the United States, this amounts to a $150 billion cut—pocket change to most conservatives.

In other words, the ideal world for Republicans is one where we cut trillions from the federal budget, and initiate a disastrous program of targeted economic pain.

Exciting.

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