Congress Should Stop Making the Great Unshared Recovery Worse
Statement by Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs
WASHINGTON, D.C.—There were nearly 6.7 million more poor people in 2012 than in 2008, a year deep in the Great Recession. Three years into the Great Unshared Recovery, poverty is worse than in 2008, median income is down, and people are slipping out of the middle class. More than one-third of our nation is near poor—106 million people live below twice the poverty line, one lay-off or crisis away from poverty.
Some programs are working to reduce poverty. Nearly 4 million people rose out of poverty because of food stamps in 2012, of whom 1.67 million were children. But will Congress slash at food stamps despite their effective role in reducing hardship? This week the House is expected to take up an extreme and damaging bill that would deny food stamps to four to six million people, cutting $40 billion over ten years. Other programs are reducing hardship: the number of uninsured people has declined to 47,951, largely because of the beginning help of the Affordable Care Act and enrollment in Medicaid. House members are intent on undoing that help, too. Unemployment benefits also keep people out of poverty; if there were no unemployment benefits, 1.7 million more people would have been poor. Unfortunately Congress has already cut back both the benefit level and the time these benefits can be collected on the mistaken theory that since the recession is over unemployment is no longer a problem.
More than 16 million children are poor—they are still the age group suffering the most poverty. And there are more than 7.1 million children living in extreme poverty—below $9,142 for a three-person family. Yet 57,000 fewer children will receive Head Start this fall than the year before, with more cuts scheduled in the new fiscal year if Congress does not stop them. That is just one example of the way Congress keeps low-income people from making gains. Education, housing, job training, unemployment insurance and other cuts combined with ongoing tax breaks for those at the top keep this the Great Unshared Recovery.
The Great Recession may be over for people and corporations at the top. According to a recent analysis, income for the top 1 percent rose 31.4 percent over the past three years. But for everyone else, progress is painfully slow. For the remaining 99 percent, incomes grew by a fraction of a percent (0.4 percent). And 15 percent of our people are poor for the second year in a row – up from 13.2 percent in the Great Recession year of 2008.
Congress must protect the programs that provide opportunities and prevent harm to young and old alike. Today’s data show the cuts we have made are blocking millions from making progress. Threats of harsh new cuts are exactly what the nation doesn’t need.
First Look: a table summarizing poverty and health insurance findings.Check our CHN poverty data page as we keep adding more analyses and state tables