Poor Analysis


Poor Analysis

Bush is “pleased with lower poverty rate.” Here on our planet, the situation is different.

Wednesday was a good day at the beleaguered White House, a chance to finally spring some good news on Americans. “President Bush Pleased With Lowered Poverty Rate” was the headline cranked out by the press office:

Census Bureau data released today confirms that more of our citizens are doing better in this economy, with continued rising incomes and more Americans pulling themselves out of poverty.

Only slightly marring this great development:

The Census data also shows that challenges remain in reducing the number of uninsured Americans.

“Challenges remain in reducing the number”? That’s a clever lie, denying the truth that the number of uninsured Americans is in fact increasing and that the “rising incomes” are illusory. From the hardworking Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a mainstream centrist think tank, comes this analysis:

New Census data show that in 2006, both the number and the percentage of Americans who are uninsured hit their highest levels since 1999 …

Today’s figures also show that while the overall poverty rate declined slightly (from 12.6 percent to 12.3 percent) between 2005 and 2006, the decline was largely concentrated among the elderly. The poverty rates for children and for working age adults remained statistically unchanged as compared to 2005, and well above their levels in 2001, when the last recession hit bottom.

Now let’s get realistic. The federal poverty level is $20,000 annual income for a family of four. You try raising a family on that.

Social-service pros routinely measure “low-income families” as those whose annual income is 200 percent of the official poverty rate. The National Center for Children in Poverty breaks it down in language that even Bush, whose handlers are busy building his library, could understand, if he bothered to read anything:

There are 73 million children in the United States.
• 39 percent — 28.4 million — live in low-income families.

Yes, there are always poor people, but there are more and more of them you. And while Bush trumpets the “progress” in the Census figures, his regime is actually taking action that will guarantee worsening future numbers. As the CBPP’s Robert Greenstein points out:

Perhaps of greatest concern, the number of Americans without health insurance increased by 2.2 million in 2006, and the number of uninsured children jumped by more than 600,000. The steady progress of recent years in reducing the number of uninsured children stalled in 2005 and began to reverse in 2006, in part because funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) grew scarcer.

This is particularly noteworthy because the President has vowed to veto legislation that the House and Senate passed (in different versions) that would resume progress in this area and shrink the number of uninsured children by 3 to 4 million. In addition, on August 17, the Administration unveiled a controversial new policy that would force many states to cut back their SCHIP programs, forcing up to several hundred thousand more children into the ranks of the uninsured. Today’s sobering data on the rising number of uninsured children should prompt the President to rethink his positions on children’s health insurance.

That policy is the real news coming out of the White House.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 30, 2007

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