Thursday, April 19, 2007

Families in Poverty Surge Under Bush

Poverty in America is much more widespread than has been previously acknowledged. According to the Census Bureau, nearly 37 million Americans — 12.6 percent of the population — were living in poverty in 2005. That means that four years into an economic expansion, the percentage of Americans defined as poor was higher than at the bottom of the last recession in late 2001, when it was 11.7 percent. But that’s not the worst of it.

The measurement criteria recommended by the National Academy of Sciences show a 2005 poverty rate of 14.1 percent. That works out to 41.3 million poor Americans, 4.4 million more than were officially counted.

Lawmakers must listen to what the new numbers are telling them. They must also realize that improvements in antipoverty programs — such as expanding the earned income tax credit for the working poor and providing better early education — are some of the best investments the nation can make. And we need economic policies and budget priorities that consider jobs for American workers more important than tax cuts for corporate executives.

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