Tuesday, January 04, 2011
The Working Poor
Unfortunately, there is every indication that things are only going to get worse and that average American families are going to be financially squeezed even more in the months and years to come.
The Working Poor Families Project has just released their policy brief for the winter of 2010-11. What they have discovered is that the number of working poor in the United States is higher than they have ever seen it before and it continues to increase at a staggering pace. The following are some of the key findings for 2009 that were pulled right out of their report....
* There were more than 10 million low-income working families in the United States, an increase of nearly a quarter million from the previous year.
* Forty-five million people, including 22 million children, lived in low-income working families, an increase of 1.7 million people from 2008.
* Forty-three percent of working families with at least one minority parent were low income, nearly twice the proportion of white working families (22 percent).
* Income inequality continued to grow with the richest 20 percent of working families taking home 47 percent of all income and earning 10 times that of low-income working families.
* More than half of the U.S. labor force (55 percent) has “suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers” since the recession began in December 2007.
Unfortunately, things are not going to be getting any better for the working poor. In the new "one world economy" that our politicians keep insisting is so good for us, millions upon millions of American workers now find that they have to compete for work with laborers on the other side of the globe that are willing to work for slave labor wages. This is causing millions of jobs to leave the United States and it is forcing wages down.
Millions of Americans now find that they are making substantially less than they used to. If that has happened to you, perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Or perhaps it is not that comforting.
In any event, American workers are not just competing with each other anymore. Now there is the constant threat that all the jobs could just be sent overseas.
As wages are forced down, a record number of working Americans are finding themselves forced to turn to food stamps and to other government anti-poverty programs. Millions of Americans have been forced to take part-time jobs in order to supplement their incomes. Millions of others have been forced to take part-time jobs because that is all they can find.
This is all part of a long-term trend. The numbers don't lie. About the only people doing well are those on Wall Street and the very rich. Nearly every other segment of the population is getting poorer.
The following are 10 statistics that I have shared previously, but I think that they do a really good job of highlighting the plight that the working poor in this country are now facing....
#1 In 2009, total wages, median wages, and average wages all declined in the United States.
#2 Since the year 2000, we have lost 10% of our middle class jobs. In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs. Meanwhile, our population is getting larger.
#3 As 2007 began, only 26 million Americans were on food stamps, but now 42 million Americans are on food stamps and that number keeps rising every single month.
#4 Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factories have closed down for good.
#5 One out of every six Americans is now enrolled in at least one anti-poverty program run by the federal government.
#6 Half of all American workers now earn $505 or less per week.
#7 The number of Americans working part-time jobs "for economic reasons" is now the highest it has been in at least five decades.
#8 Ten years ago, the United States was ranked number one in average wealth per adult. In 2010, the United States has fallen to seventh.
#9 In 1976, the top 1 percent of earners in the United States took in 8.9 percent of all income. By 2007, that number had risen to 23.5 percent.
#10 According to one recent study, approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010.
The United States is becoming poorer as a nation even as the boys up on Wall Street are busy grabbing a bigger share for themselves.
We are rapidly becoming a nation that will have a very small privileged class of ultra-wealthy and a very large class of "workers" that is just barely trying to survive.
So is the answer even more government handouts and even more government social programs?
Of course not.
What middle class Americans need are middle class jobs.
But as I have written about previously, the United States is rapidly bleeding middle class jobs with no end in sight.
Globalism has permanently changed the game. The middle class way of life that so many millions of Americans have been enjoying for so many decades is disappearing.
Just because things were a certain way yesterday does not mean that things are going to be the same way tomorrow. The long-term economic trends that this column keeps talking about day after day after day are taking us all to a very dark economic place.
But instead of facing reality, our federal government, our state governments and our local governments just keep borrowing massive amounts of dollars to try to paper over all of our problems.
It is not going to work. Unless something is done to fix our structural economic problems, the economic decay is just going to get worse and all of this debt is eventually going to collapse our entire financial system.
If you are a member of the working poor I wish I had better news for you. Things are not going to be getting better, and unfortunately millions more Americans will probably be joining you soon.