Thursday, March 22, 2007

Severe Poverty

I missed this tidbit last month regarding the increase in severe poverty in America. Here's an aspect of the class warfare being waged against the working class:

If you want to find the people behind the country's big jump in food stamps, you have to go to work.

That's where they are.

The number of American households bringing in a paycheck and collecting food stamps has risen from 19 percent to 29 percent in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


"We're seeing a kind of hollowing out of middle-class jobs," says Margy Waller, director of The Mobility Agenda in Washington, D.C., which conducts research on low-wage work. "We're just about to release a report that will show that about one in three jobs pays under $10 an hour."

To qualify for the government's nutrition program, you generally cannot earn more than 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

In 2007, a family of four earning $26,845 or less would be eligible.


And, at least in Ohio, the increase in minimum wage isn't helping much.

January's hike - from $5.15 to $6.85 an hour - doesn't necessarily lift a family off food stamps.

As Gauntner explains, a single parent with two children earning the new minimum wage still, in most cases, qualifies.

"Do I think it's good for people to get more income? Yeah," Gauntner says. "Is it going to take them off the food-stamp program? No."


"We need to invest in education, and we need to find some ways to bring some better jobs to Ohio," says Amy Hanauer, executive director of the nonprofit research group Policy Matters Ohio.

"And we should hold employers to higher standards when we can. We have a tendency in this country to throw up our hands and act as if there's nothing we can do about that."

Productivity and corporate earnings are up, Hanauer says, and businesses can afford to pay people enough to keep them out of poverty.

"I think this is a matter of insisting on standards," she says, "and having the will to do something about it."

According to the University of Missouri Extension, Missouri ranked 19th, in comparison with poverty rates in other states, with a poverty rate of 10.1% on a three year average (2001 to 2003). The USDA says the state's overall poverty rate (2004 data) is 13.0%, a 1.3% increase from 1999. That coincides with a 1.6% increase in per capita income. Rural Missouri has a higher rate of 15.8%.

The poverty rate for children in Missouri is 18.5%. For Greene County the overall poverty rate is 13.8%, for children it is 18.8%.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' --Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)