Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nearly One-Third of Working Americans are Poor

According to a new report by the Working Poor Families Project, nearly one-third of working families are now considered low-income (earning less than 200% of the official poverty level). This means that even many who have jobs are struggling and barely able to make ends meet. The report also found that there were over 10 million low income workers in the U.S. last year, with 45 million Americans (22 million children) living in low income homes (an increase of 1.7 million from 2008). Meanwhile, the richest 20% of families took home 47% of all income.

It is clear that the recession has impoverished many through job loss. The ranks of the working poor, however, have remained largely invisible while growing larger. Corporations have used the recession as a justification to cut pay, benefits and hours of employment, implement furloughs, and hire short-term temps. More than half (55%) of adult workers have suffered unemployment, a pay cut, a reduction in hours, or have been forced to work part-time, since the recession began in 2007. As a result of corporate cut backs, productivity has risen, and corporations have earned record profits, giving the illusion that the economy is healing, while workers’ income is actually declining.

Concurrent with this immiseration of working families has been an orgy of money grubbing by the wealthiest Americans. In addition to the billions of dollars in year-end bonuses to bankers and stock brokers, there were billions more in tax breaks. The estate tax was set to rise from 0 to 55% for estates worth over $1 million, before a small cabal of 14 billionaires (including Gallo, Koch, Walton, Mars) convinced congress to raise the ceiling to $5 million, and only charge 35% for anything above that.

Tax cuts, bail outs and endless war, have all contributed to an increasing federal budget deficit, which will soon be reduced by cuts to social programs that benefit the poor and working class. These cuts will no doubt come from medicare, education, and social security.

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