The Real Numbers: Half of America in Poverty — and It’s Creeping Upward

Paul Buchheit
The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much, much worse.
 The Real Numbers Half of America in Poverty -- and It's Creeping Upward

The Census Bureau has reported that 15% of Americans live in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.

1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009 

Analysis of  Economic Policy Institute data shows that Mitt Romney’s famous  47 percent, the alleged ‘takers,’ have taken nothing. Their debt exceeded their assets in 2009.

2. It’s Even Worse 3 Years Later 

Since the recession, the disparities have continued to grow. An  OECD report states that “inequality has increased by more over the past three years to the end of 2010 than in the previous twelve,” with the U.S. experiencing one of the widest gaps among OECD countries. The 30-year  decline in wages has worsened since the recession, as low-wage jobs have replaced formerly secure middle-income positions.

3. Based on wage figures, half of Americans are in or near poverty. 

The IRS reports that the highest wage in the bottom half of earners is about $34,000. To be eligible for food assistance, a family can earn up to  130% of the federal  poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four.

Even the Census Bureau recognizes that its own  figures under-represent the number of people in poverty. Its  Supplemental Poverty Measure increases, by 50%, the number of Americans who earn between one-half and two times the poverty threshold.

4. Based on household expense totals, poverty is creeping into the top half of America. 

A family in the top half, making $60,000 per year, will have their income reduced by a total tax bill of about $15,000 ($3,000 for  federal income tax and $12,000 for  payroll, state, and local taxes. The  Bureau of Labor Statistics and the  Census Bureau agree that food, housing, and transportation expenses will deduct another $30,000, and that total household expenditures will be about $50,000. That leaves nothing.

Nothing, that is, except debt. The median  debt level rose to $75,600 in 2009, while the median family  net worth, according to the Federal Reserve, dropped from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010.

5. Putting it in Perspective 

Inequality is at its ugliest for the hungriest people. While food support was being targeted for  cuts, just  20 rich Americans made as much from their 2012 investments as the entire  2012 SNAP (food assistance) budget, which serves 47 million people.

And as Congress continues to cut life-sustaining programs, its members should note that their 400 friends on the  Forbes list made more from their stock market gains last year than the total amount of the  foodhousing, and  education budgets combined.

Arguments about poverty won’t end. Neither should our efforts to uncover the awful truth.

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5 Responses

  1. National Socialist says:

    5 War Veteran Amuses me. That he can still afford an internet

    • 5 War Veteran says:

      Odd that you say that because if you work and pay taxes you have paid for one too.

      I remember getting angry in 1973 because it took over $3 to fill my gas tank. Now people are happy because they are paying less than $80.
      In Venezuela, Libya, and Iceland they are paying 14 cents a gallon. In South Carolina the gasoline taxes alone are over 50 cents a gallon.
      Lindsay Graham our “senator” is trying to push amnesty for illegals which would add 1.3 million in unemployed to SC alone.
      I write between 30 and 50 political letters every month. Not that it does much good.

  2. carl says:

    in the past there was no middle class here there was poor working people and rich land owners and aristocrats.If you were living before the great wars ended and the GI bill came out the middle class was almost non existent.After the war was over and the unions were strong and productive,we produced 50% of the GDP of the world because most of the world was destroyed by the war.Today all those things are gone and our American miracle is over,because it was mostly luck and timing.Today it will take real work again like we showed during the war to make this country great and build a middle class.Then and only then we will be the American miracle again.This time we can’t count on luck alone.

  3. 5 War Veteran says:

    The government has always cooked the books. The recent government has been blatant about it. Believing they are above the law of the people.
    “Obama gave me a new phone!”

    Yes and I paid for the damned thing. So did you. Liberal and Elite are all for handout programs that remove the wealth from the working class. Destroying the American Dream.

  4. If you do not have a sucessul business, are not a professional or military brass, you are in the underclass. The middle class is shrinking. The gap between rich and poor is getting wider. When the gap gets wide enough the whole economy will fall right out through the bottom.

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