Release of Census Report on US Poverty Was Timed to be Drowned out By GOP Convention Coverage

Scoop: "While the Republican National Convention in New York City was underway, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.3 million in 2003, while the numbers of citizens without health insurance grew by 1.4 million. Alarmingly, children were among the hardest hit segments of the population with an increase of about 800,000 living in poverty during 2003. In all, almost 13 million of those under the age of 18 now live below the poverty line. Nearly 45 million, or 15.6 percent of Americans do not have health insurance. This was the third consecutive rise in these numbers from the Census Bureau, which indicate growing income inequality. Critics of the Bush administration accused the Census Bureau of releasing the data earlier than usual to diminish the impact on the November election, a charge denied by Census director Louis Kincannon, a Bush appointee."

World Unemployment Reaches Record High

"The United Nations labor agency says a record 186 million people around the world are unemployed, and hundreds of millions more have jobs that pay so little they can barely survive. The International Labor Organization says an extra 500,000 people were added to the unemployment totals in the last year. It cites factors like the SARS outbreak in Asia and Canada, the war in Iraq and a slump in global tourism due to terror fears. In its annual Global Employment Trends report the agency says a slight economic recovery in 2003 had little effect on the number of jobless. The number of people out of work in 2003 reached 6.2 percent of the total global labor force."

Bush's War on the Poor Starts with Children's Health

NY Times opines, "Quietly and painfully, most states are choosing to crimp the health-care safety net for their poorest and most politically defenseless residents. An ominous new study shows that up to 1.6 million impoverished and working-poor Americans - at least a third of them children - have been deliberately knocked from publicly financed health care programs in the last two years. Officials in 34 states are opting to slash Medicaid and poor children's health insurance coverage as a path of least resistance to the balanced budgets mandated by law. States have raised poverty standards beyond federal requirements, increased bureaucratic delays and even shut down children's health programs entirely to keep entitled poor people off the rolls. For each dollar thereby saved in the state budget, statehouses are losing $4 to $7 in federal aid. Yet more such counterproductive 'economizing' can be expected next year."

Paul Krugman: 'The Death of Horatio Alger'

"The other day I found myself reading a leftist rag that made outrageous claims about America. It said that we are becoming a society in which the poor tend to stay poor, no matter how hard they work; in which sons are much more likely to inherit the socioeconomic status of their father than they were a generation ago. The name of the leftist rag? Business Week... A classic 1978 survey found that among adult men whose fathers were in the bottom 25 percent of the population as ranked by social and economic status, 23 percent had made it into the top 25 percent. In other words, during the first thirty years or so after World War II, the American dream of upward mobility was a real experience for many people. Now for the shocker: The Business Week piece cites a new survey of today's adult men, which finds that this number has dropped to only 10 percent. That is, over the past generation upward mobility has fallen drastically."

Poverty Swamps America

Poverty in America is undergoing a massive increase, along with joblessness -- as our medical system collapses. Yet we can spend $87bn on Iraq. Julian Borger reports in the UK Guardians on the decay of America, in a three-part series.

Let Them Eat Tax Cuts

"A new study finds that Americans are going to bed hungry. Last year, a whopping 12 million Americans 'worried that they couldn't afford to buy food' and 32% of those 12m respondents 'actually experienced going hungry.' Although this is a country with well-stocked supermarket shelves, the Department of Agriculture stated that for the third year in a row, there has been an increase in the 'number of households experiencing hunger and those worried about having enough money to pay for food... Calling it 'the invisible problem, the Guardian notes that [America] is 'being gnawed away from the inside by persistent and rising poverty.' Two years ago, 'about 31 million Americans were deemed to be 'food insecure' (they literally did not know where their next meal was coming from.) Since then the problem has only worsened. In 25 major American cities last year, 'the need for emergency food rose an average of 19%.'"

Three Years of Bush, Three Years of Increasing Hunger

According to a Census Bureau survey of 50,000 households, 3.8 million American families were hungry last year to the point where someone in the household skipped meals because they couldn't afford them. That's an 8.6 percent increase from 2001, when 3.5 million families were hungry, and a 13 percent increase from 2000. Every year Bush is in office, the people suffer more. We MUST re-defeat Bush in 2004, and this time by a large enough margin that he can't cheat his way back into the White House.

90 Million Children Go Hungry Every Day in South Asia

"The first ever scientifically measured report on child poverty in the developing world, sponsored by Unicef...details the sad lives of more than 1.2 million children from 46 of the world's poorest countries... According to the report, over 15% of children under five in the developing world are severely malnourished. In South Asia alone, more than 90 million children go hungry every day. Nearly 20% of the world's children do not have safe water to drink. Many have to walk more than 15 minutes to access water. While 134 million children between the ages of seven and 18 have never been to school, girls are more likely to go without schooling than boys. One child of every three lives in a dwelling with more than five people per room, or with a mud floor. The report points out that globalisation, pressure on developing countries to liberalise trade, and cuts to aid budgets are adding to poverty."

A Society at Risk

"We in America consider ourselves a generous people -- and in many ways we are. Yet hunger, homelessness and inadequate health care continue to expand, while a worrisome school dropout rate shows no improvement. Emergency food requests have multiplied an astounding 20-fold since 1984 -- including nearly a 20 percent jump just last year. Homeless families with children comprised 41 percent of the U.S. homeless population in 2002. In 2002, more than 41 million U.S. residents were without health insurance. The Bush Administration's proposed budget cuts $1.4 billion from No Child Left Behind funding, including money for reducing the number of high school dropouts. Though researchers and the media have looked at these factors individually, it is only by examining them together that we can see how a society, in general, looks after its citizens, particularly its most vulnerable. So asserts Neil Wollman, Ph.D., senior fellow of the Manchester College Peace Studies Institute."

Every Third Person Will Be a Slum Dweller within 30 Years, UN Agency Warns

The Guardian reports: "One in every three people in the world will live in slums within 30 years unless governments control unprecedented urban growth, according to a UN report. The largest study ever made of global urban conditions has found that 940 million people - almost one-sixth of the world's population - already live in squalid, unhealthy areas, mostly without water, sanitation, public services or legal security. The report, from the UN human settlements programme, UN-habitat, based in Nairobi, found that urban slums were growing faster than expected, and that the balance of global poverty was shifting rapidly from the countryside to cities. Africa now has 20% of the world's slum dwellers and Latin America 14%, but the worst urban conditions are in Asia, where more than 550 million people live in what the UN calls unacceptable conditions."

Poverty Up, Wages Down in 2002 as America Reels from Bush-enomics

"Some 1.7 million people in the United States slid into poverty in 2002 and incomes slipped for the second year in a row with blacks particularly hard hit, the U.S. government said on Friday in a report sure to provide ammunition for Democrats in the upcoming presidential race. The Census Bureau's annual report showed the number of people living below the poverty line rose to 34.6 million last year, from 32.9 million in 2001, when the national economy first went into recession. Overall, the percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty grew for a second year, rising to 12.1 percent from 11.7 percent in 2001. The poverty line was defined in 2002 as $18,244 for a family of four with two children... The report also said that real median income for all races fell 1.1 percent last year to $42,409. While blacks as a group suffered the most, analysts said, few groups escaped unscathed."

Bush's Marriage Initiative Robs Billions from Needy

"The Bush administration proposes to spend almost $2 billion of scarce welfare funds over the next six years promoting marriage. Our total federal welfare budget is less than $17 billion per year, the same amount it was in 1996.... Promoting healthy and stable marriages is not a bad idea as long as the programs don't take money away from helping welfare recipients obtain college degrees, which are proven to help boost women and children out of poverty.... Marriage alone hardly ever gets women and children out of poverty. Education and job training do.... 'There is...no more well established link to economic well-being than educational attainment,' according to a report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Interestingly, education and job training would do more than just help families out of poverty. The Minnesota Family Investment Program [found that] leading families out of poverty led to increased marriage rates."

Poverty Skyrockets Under Bush

"The number of Americans living below the poverty line increased by more than 1.3 million last year, even though the economy technically edged out of recession during the same period, a Census Bureau report shows.... The report indicated that the total percentage of people in poverty increased to 12.4% from 12.1% in 2001 and totaled 34.8 million. At the same time, the number of families living in poverty went up by more than 300,000 in 2002 to 7 million from 6.6 million in 2001. The number of children in poverty rose by more than 600,000 during the same period to 12.2 million. The rate of increase in children under age 5 jumped a full percentage point to 19.8% living below the poverty line from 18.8% a year earlier.... The new data, some analysts say, may raise the level of scrutiny on a variety of federal programs like welfare reform and the recently enacted increases in child tax credits, which excluded about 6.5 million low-income working families with children."

Record Numbers of Families Have No Work, No Welfare, No Safety Net

Analyzing recently released government data, the Children's Defense Fund reports: "Single mothers without work and welfare income reached its highest level in recorded history... The number of jobless women with children not receiving welfare rose by 188,000 in one year, leaving a record three quarters of all single mothers without public assistance and causing a sudden surge in extreme child poverty. Single parents and their children entered the 2001 recession with less protection from a failing economy than in any recession in the last 20 years. Congress is working on a revision of the 1996 welfare reform law set to expire in September that could make the problem worse." The CDF report is available at: www.childrensdefense.org/pdf/no_work_no_welfare.pdf

NY Considers Housing Homeless in the River

CNN.com reports: "New York City officials flew to the Bahamas Wednesday morning in Mayor Michael Bloomberg's private jet to assess the possibility of using retired pleasure cruise ships docked there as homeless shelters. The 'fact-finding mission' was a preliminary step by the Department of Homeless Services in determining the feasibility of the idea, and the department was not likely to decide anytime soon whether the city's homeless will be docked in the river, said spokesman Jim Anderson. The idea came from the Bloomberg administration, said Anderson, as a creative way to tackle New York City's all-time high homeless numbers. About 67,000 people, including 16,000 children, stay in shelters each night in the city, according to Anderson. " The Democrats invested in people to reduce homelessness by Putting People First. Bush policies have driven record numbers of them into the river!

Poverty in George Bush's America

Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian writes, "New Haven is a metaphor for the America which on Tuesday elects its Senate and House of Representatives. It is the country's fourth poorest city, where the ghetto laps at the walls of a university worth $11 billion in tax-exempt endowments, educating America's next generation of rulers. A sign at the freeway turn-off advertises New Haven as the birthplace of George Bush. It is a city with the same infant mortality rate as Malaysia and a terrifying rate of deaths from AIDS… But it is located in America'c richest state, Connecticut, which has, proportionally, more millionaires than any other."

Under the Long, Cold Reign of the GOP-Ruled Congress, Plight of Poor in America Now Reaches Nightmarish Depths

"New Haven is a metaphor for the America which on Tuesday elects its Senate and House of Representatives," writes the Guardian's Ed Vulliamy. "It is the country's fourth poorest city, where the ghetto laps at the walls of a university worth $11 billion (£7bn) in tax-exempt endowments, educating America's next generation of rulers. A sign at the freeway turn-off advertises New Haven as the birthplace of President George Bush. It is a city with the same infant mortality rate as Malaysia and a terrifying rate of deaths from AIDS - one day care centre alone commemorated the loss of 600 clients at a memorial service on Wednesday. But it is located in America' richest state, Connecticut, which has, proportionally, more millionaires than any other." Want this to change? Help the Dems end the long, cold GOP reign of the House on Tuesday!!!

Central America's Recurring Disasters Cause Malnutrition

Miami Herald reports: "Natural catastrophes are lashing Central America with greater frequency, causing crop failures and food shortages that regularly imperil more than eight million people, the United Nations food agency said Friday. ''These recurring droughts -- and other natural disasters -- leave poor families with no crops to feed themselves,' a regional director for the U.N. World Food Program, Zoraida Mesa, said in a statement. In a study of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, the U.N. agency identified what it called a 'drought corridor' where poor farm families increasingly face annual food shortages. In the corridor, residents have lost their ability to cope with new catastrophes, the survey found. Families have sold small farm animals and reduced the quantity of food they eat." Bush wants billions for bombs & W-ar, while slashing funds for hunger and misery, and we wonder "Why they hate us?"

Conservative Myth of America's Well-Being Denies the Suffering of Millions

Michael Parenti writes, "Conservatives are fond of telling us what a wonderful, happy, prosperous nation this is. The only thing that matches their love of country is the remarkable indifference they show toward the people who live in it. To their ears the anguished cries of the dispossessed sound like the peevish whines of malcontents. They denounce as 'bleeding hearts' those of us who criticize existing conditions, who show some concern for our fellow citizens. But the dirty truth is that there exists a startling amount of hardship, abuse, affliction, illness, violence, and pathology in this country. The figures reveal a casualty list that runs into many millions."

The Black Commentator: Bush Fights Phantom Terrorists, But Abandons Americans Most In Need of Protection

The Black Commentator writes, "George Bush's corrosive breath is wafting into the ghettos and barrios, threatening to stupefy every mind in its path. So deeply poisoned has the post-September 11 American political atmosphere become, that a perfectly sensible public safety program for the poorer population must be packaged as a cloak and dagger mission in service of the national security state. In a world of Us-or-Them, every human and social need is held hostage to the White House War on Terror. To justify a modest effort to protect the poor against chemical or biological attack, the Community Action Partnership of Washington, DC found it necessary to generate headlines like this one in the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger: "Joining the War on Terrorism Urged: Terrorists Likely to be From Poor Areas, Poverty fighter Says."

The Senate Welfare Bill Needs Improvement - Call Your Senators

The NY Times writes, "Measures to extend benefits to the poor and provide child care for parents struggling to hold jobs are widely opposed in Congress because they allegedly cost too much. Yet some of the same people opposing these measures favor tax cuts, including estate tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. There is one word to describe their priorities: disgraceful. A society that wants to encourage work should be a society that provides its neediest population with the means to reach that goal." The Senate is starting work on a welfare bill, following passage of a dreadful Republican bill in the House. Call your Senators (202-224-3121) and tell them America's poorest families need help!

Without Any Hearings, Republicans Will Shred Food Stamps Program

"Five states could eliminate the food stamp program and receive lump sums of federal money to feed poor people in any way they wanted [or simply let them starve when deep budget cuts were needed, as they are now] under a new provision of the welfare bill coming to a vote this week in the House of Representatives. A similar proposal, part of the House Republican manifesto known as the Contract With America, touched off a furor in 1995. It was dropped from the welfare bill that President Bill Clinton eventually signed in 1996... House members have held no hearings on the proposal. It materialized suddenly on Friday, when Republicans introduced the welfare bill that they plan to take to the floor this week. 'We are a national community,' [Senator Paul] Wellstone said. 'As one country, one people, we have agreed that the nutritional status of poor children will not be left up to an individual county or state.'" Defeat ALL Republicans in November!

Mobilize Against Poverty in Washington DC on May 20-22

"On Pentecost 2002, American churches and faith-based organizations will invite our fellow citizens to hear and speak the truth about poverty in America and around the world. It's time to change the national conscience and debate by reminding our nation of its obligations to those who are poor. God will judge our nation, not by its wealth and military power, but by how we treat the poor among us and beyond our borders. An international war against terrorism that doesn't target global poverty is doomed to failure. The upcoming federal and state debates on welfare reform, food stamps, childcare, and international debt and aid must become moral discussions and not just political ones... Across the country, food banks, soup lines, shelters, and social services are all in greater demand while resources are shrinking. It's time for a 'Marshall Plan' to overcome global and domestic poverty." Mobilize in Washington DC May 20-22.

Welfare Moms Confront The Heritage Foundation

Writes Liza Featherstone: "Nearly 2,000 welfare recipients and supporters gathered in the nation's capital on Tuesday, for a rally sponsored by the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, a coalition of low-income community groups urging Congress to pass legislation that will 'reduce poverty, not caseloads.' The entire day was an exciting show of power by an increasingly organized grassroots welfare-rights movement... The delegation asked [Heritage Foundation welfare critic Robert Rector] to spend two days living the life of a low-income American: one day in rural poverty, another in an urban ghetto. The coalition asked him to do this within thirty days and to meet with low-income community leaders beforehand to determine the specifics. 'I'd be happy to do that,' said a nervous, somewhat ashen Rector. He also agreed to invite HHS chief Tommy Thompson to join him. The crowd cheered." Way to go – that's the kind of activism this country needs – protest the right-wing stink tanks!.

Bush Wants to Do to America What He Did to Texas

"Forget any Texas miracle; the single most accurate image for George W. Bush's Texas... would be a poor Hispanic woman waiting an hour at an unsheltered bus stop, infant in arms and toddler in tow... Set aside... 'the environment,' for the moment; polluted air at least has to be breathed by rich and poor alike. The worst form of pollution coming out of Texas right now is economic, and it has been and is being feverishly exported to the rest of the country. Only a Mark Twain or a Charles Dickens could do full justice to the seamless regressiveness of the set-up in Bush's Texas. Every burden is shouldered most by those who can bear it least. Every cost is paid most by those who have less. Every risk is borne most, to such an extent that the least mistake or ignorance can be life-threatening, by those who can scarcely afford any risk at all... Product liability? Consumer safety? You've got to be kidding." So writes Margie Burns in Online Journal.

Bush 'Compassion'? Bush Will Not Back New Marshall Plan to Reduce International Poverty

"An official in British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government failed to win the backing of the Bush administration in an effort to launch a new Marshall Plan to help the world's poorest nations. Gordon Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, discussed the proposal in a meeting Monday with Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in O'Neill's office... Brown wants rich countries including the United States and Britain to double the aid they give the world's poor nations to $100 billion annually as part of an effort to cut world poverty in half by 2015...Brown's effort is intended to address the growing gap between wealthy and poor countries, a disparity that many feel is fueling political tensions and terrorism." No way is the Bush gang going to sign on to this. They need those bucks to give to their Defense Industry backers for a Missile Defense system that won't work.

Bush v. America: Welfare Cuts Leave Poor Families Without a Safety Net As Recession Begins

"Deepak Bhargava, director of a coalition of groups known as the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, said, 'We now have a welfare system in which time limits will be hitting in a majority of states at precisely the time when the labor markets are the weakest and when families are in the most trouble.' More than 120,000 families have already lost their benefits or had them reduced because of time limits on welfare. The lifetime limits kick in at different times in different states. Between now and next July we'll see welfare benefits exhausted for large numbers of families in at least 26 states... The cynicism that resulted in millionaire senators cheering the passage of welfare reform is now being confronted by the cold reality of a take-no-prisoners recession that threatens to leave millions of American families jobless, and all but helpless as well." So writes NY Times columnist Bob Herbert.

Falling between the Cracks: the Quiet Desperation of the Working Poor

"When I am walking in the park and no one knows I am poor," writes Catherine Allegretti of Hartford, CT, "I am complimented on my children's behavior, intelligence and health. These are things that matter to our society. My income is the only aspect of my life that is socially unacceptable. Systems that are set up to help poor people often do so, but in the process criticize and ridicule. We are told to get real jobs, to farm our children out to day care centers, to save more and not do drugs. When substance abuse is not an issue and we do the best we can, we become a threat to society, dissing the puritanical work ethic, television, marketing, McDonald's and The Gap. ..But after food, day care, transportation, property tax, health care and heating bills, our income falls far below the national poverty level and basic needs are not met."

In Economy with Eroding Safety Nets for Poor, Payday Loan Sharking Has Become Big Business

Mary Pat, a single working mother of two, cannot afford dental insurance, but developed an excruciating abscessed tooth. The $300 up-front-in-cash cost of a root canal was too much. In desperation, she turned to a payday loan shop, which gave her $300 in exchange for a $345 post-dated check. When she couldn't cover the check five days later, she had to refinance the loan for another $50. On and on it went for four months, until the loan shark netted more than the original loan in refinance fees. But, in many places these outfits are allowed to charge unlimited interest. Alas, people like Mary Pat, often driven by medical needs, are becoming favorite prey for such operations. A local church pantry, in fact, investigated when they found a growing number of their patrons were loan shark victims.

No Second Chances: Bush's Business Bosses Work to Shut Down the Chance to Start Again

To an unprecedented degree, the Bush administration is acting as an arm of corporate interests, who are doing their best to shut down any opportunities for people to recover from misfortunes and setbacks. Once you're down on your luck, they want you to stay there.

Wednesday is National Call-In Day to Cancel Crushing Debt to the World Bank and IMF

"Many countries still spend more on debt service than on health care and education. In light of the HIV/AIDS and other health crises in Africa, it is not tolerable for countries to continue to spend more on debt than on health care and basic education. It is time for the World Bank and the IMF to use their ample internal resources to cancel the debts owed them by the most impoverished countries. The Jubilee USA Network is calling for President Bush to use U.S. leverage to make the World Bank and IMF cancel the debts of the poorest countries now using their own resources." Call the White House on Wednesday at 202-456-1111.

Bush Warns Of Economic Downturn To Justify Tax Cuts To The Top 1%, While Slashing Safety-Net Programs For The Needy

"Although President [sic] Bush has warned about a faltering U.S economy, his proposed budget for 2002 cuts money for long-term jobless benefits and ends two welfare programs..Nearly $320 million in supplemental payments to states with low welfare benefits would end, as would a $2 billion fund to help states contend with economic downturns. Money for worker retraining and extended unemployment benefits for displaced workers would be cut by $541 million, or nearly 10%. Grants to state and local governments to help welfare recipients keep jobs would fall 19%, from $850 million to $690 million, and end in 2005." In addition, Bush's budget underfunds the nutrition program to women and children by 100,000 recipients, based on the administration's own unemployment projections. Robin Hood-in-reverse strikes again! Bush is gouging every program he can to justify giving over 40% of his tax cuts -- or nearly one trillion dollars -- to the wealthiest 1%.

Bush's Compassion Means Promoting Drugs in Housing Projects

While pushing for up to a trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy, Bush wants to do away with the Public Housing Drug Elimination Program, which funds security officers, alarms and after-school programs for housing projects. Under his 2002 budget, Bush will slash in half the currently budgeted amount of $310 million for these services. Bush claims that his "faith-based" program (which is now being tooled towards tax credits that the impoverished could never use) will replace these services. Needless to say, advocates for the poor are concerned about what kind of message this will send to housing project residents about their personal safety. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) responded with heavy sarcasm: "Reducing funds needed to improve the lives of the poorest children in America, those who live in public housing, is a very odd way to show compassion".