Report: Poverty Rate to Hit Record Level on Obama’s Watch

September 13, 2010

Report: Poverty Rate to Hit Record Level on Obama’s Watch
“Another Blow to Democrats Struggling to Persuade Voters to Keep Them in Power”
Obama Promised He Was On Track to Improve the Federal Debt, Revive the Economy, and Save Millions of Jobs

“Obama focused on the $787 billion stimulus plan, an ambitious package of federal spending and tax cuts designed to revive the economy and save millions of jobs…. The stimulus package was a huge victory for Obama less than one month into his presidency. Still, he declared, ‘We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time.’… The only thing certain is that Obama is on track to boost a federal debt that stands at $10.7 trillion. Clearly mindful of that, Obama said: ‘We will need to do everything in the short term to get our economy moving again’ as well as ‘begin restoring fiscal discipline and taming our exploding deficits over the long term.’” (“Obama: Stimulus lets Americans claim destiny,” Associated Press, 02/17/09)

Credibility Crash: Demographers Expect Grim Findings in Upcoming Census Figures for 2009 as U.S. Poverty Rate is On Track for Record Increase

The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama’s watch, with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led to the national war on poverty.

Census figures for 2009 — the recession-ravaged first year of the Democrat’s presidency — are to be released in the coming week, and demographers expect grim findings.

It’s unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The anticipated poverty rate increase — from 13.2 percent to about 15 percent — would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade voters to keep them in power.

“The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and making sure there are enough jobs out there,” Obama said Friday at a White House news conference. He stressed his commitment to helping the poor achieve middle-class status and said, “If we can grow the economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into that virtuous cycle.”

[Related: Obama comments on ‘painfully slow’ economic growth]

Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.

Should those estimates hold true, some 45 million people in this country, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last year. It would be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 percent during the energy crisis.

Among the 18-64 working-age population, the demographers expect a rise beyond 12.4 percent, up from 11.7 percent. That would make it the highest since at least 1965, when another Democratic president, Lyndon B. Johnson, launched the war on poverty that expanded the federal government’s role in social welfare programs from education to health care.

Demographers also are confident the report will show:

_Child poverty increased from 19 percent to more than 20 percent.

_Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit, based on their higher rates of unemployment.

_Metropolitan areas that posted the largest gains in poverty included Modesto, Calif.; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.; Los Angeles and Las Vegas. (Hope Yen and Liz Sidoti, “US poverty on track to post record gain in 2009,” Associated Press, 09/11/10)

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