A new census report shows that the middle class is still suffering the impact of the financial crisis that started four years ago this week. Although poverty rates remained steady from 2010 to 2011, the news wasn’t good. The number of people living in poverty — 46.2 million — is the highest ever recorded in the 53 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it.
Perhaps most troubling is the fact that statistics like one in four children under the age of 6 live are living in poverty isn’t headline news, as Hannah Matthews, the director of child care and early education at CLASP, writes on The Huffington Post:
As is tradition on ‘poverty day,’ journalists, advocates, and politicians alike will express outrage for the dismal poverty statistics. In the midst of a presidential campaign that has left the needs of the very poor largely unspoken, both candidates may make reference to the need to do more for those at the bottom of the income scale.
But by week’s end, it’s far too likely that the poor among us will have fallen out of consciousness. And what’s worse, government policies are on the verge of making things much harder for the poorest families — rather than ameliorating a persistent problem. Beginning January 1, harmful, automatic spending cuts are set to hit many programs that provide critical supports for children and families, exacerbating the negative impacts of living in poverty. Child care assistance and Head Start will both be cut, as will early intervention services for young children, Title I funding for disadvantaged students and funding for maternal and child health services.
The report also showed that median household income fell to its lowest point — $50,054 — since 1995 and the gap between the rich and the poor grew larger. Steve Jarding, a lecturer at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, told Bloomberg News that “[w]eirdly, I think you’re going to see both sides take these numbers and suggest it’s evidence why ‘I should be elected.’”
And that’s exactly what happened.
In a White House blog post, deputy press secretary Amy Brundage pointed to the numbers and wrote that the president hopes Congress will vote this month to extend the middle class tax cuts and pass the jobs bill that has been before Congress for the past year.
Meanwhile, Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul said in a email statement that “Mitt Romney’s pro-growth agenda will revive our economy.”
Whether either candidate will continue to talk about poverty after the week is through remains to be seen, but one can only hope that the new report will spur renewed interest in those struggling the most at the bottom of the economy.