By Dave Lindorff
Faced with the bad, but hardly surprising news, that poverty has increased in the US on his watch, to a record level not seen since before President Lyndon Johnson launched the War on Poverty in 1965, President Obama is declaring that the answer to poverty and joblessness is economic growth.
He's wrong, but, as they say on NPR's "Marketplace" program, "But first, the numbers."
According to new figures from the Census Bureau, the poverty rate in America in 2009 jumped to 15%, up from 13.2% of the population in 2008. That would be one in seven of us, or about 45 million people living below the poverty line of $22,000 for a family of four. Now, obviously, things are pretty tough for people who are earning a lot more than that. It's not easy getting by with a family of four on $35,000, especially in some parts of the country, so the real poverty rate is probably a whole lot higher than 15%, but let's not quibble. The point is that we now have the highest rate of poverty that the country has seen since the mid-'60s.
Obama is claiming that growing the economy is the answer for these people. As he put it at a White House news conference, "The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there...If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle."
The problem with this answer is that economic growth doesn't guarantee jobs, and it also doesn't guarantee that any jobs created, or already there, will pay better wages.
For the rest of this article by DAVE LINDORFF in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned online newspaper, please go to: ThisCantBeHappening!
Dave Lindorff is a founding member of the collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper www.thiscantbehappening.net
. He is a columnist for Counterpunch, is author of several recent books ("This Can't Be Happening! Resisting the (more...