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Rising Poverty in America and Israel


By Stephen Lendman - Posted on 25 December 2010

Rising Poverty in America and Israel - by Stephen Lendman

The Working Poor Families Project (WPFP) "is a national initiative focused on state workforce development policies involving: (1) education and skills training for adults; (2) economic development; and (3) income and work supports."

Its newest publication is titled, "Great Recession Hit Hard at America's Working Poor: Nearly 1 in 3 Working Families in United States are Low-Income." It explains distressing data on the state of America's poor and low income families, their condition getting worse, not better.

Citing new US Census data, it said nearly one-third of US families struggle to meet basic needs. Between 2007 and 2009, the percent of low-income families (earning less than 200% of the official threshold) rose from 28 - 30%. Their plight "challenges a fundamental assumption that in America, work pays." Clearly, not enough.

Though mostly invisible to policymakers, they comprise the economy's backbone working cash registers, cleaning homes and businesses, preparing restaurant and hotel food, caring for children and the elderly, as well as numerous other low-paid, poor benefits service jobs, increasingly temporary or part-time.

Key study findings included:

-- over 10 million low-income families represented nearly a 4% increase over the previous year;

-- 45 million people, including 22 million children, live in low-income families, up 1.7 million from 2008;

-- 43% with at least one minority parent households were low-income, nearly double the percentage for white families at 22%;

-- income inequality kept growing with the richest 20% earning 47% of all income, 10 times that of lowest earners;

-- the number of children in low-income families rose by over 700,000 from 2008, one third of all children in the country; and

-- according to recent Pew Research Center data, 55% of America's labor force "suffered a spell of unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours or have become involuntary part-time workers" since December 2007.

As a result, many middle class families "fell into the low income trap," their numbers growing annually. In addition, unemployment and underemployment hit hard, especially with fewer better-paying full-time jobs, offshored to cheap labor markets or not available because companies cut payrolls to increase profits.

Measuring the full impact on working families is hard to gauge because broader social, economic, structural, and demographic factors are at work, many predating the current crisis, making current conditions worse.

At the same time, Wall Street and other corporate favorites got trillions of dollars in handouts. The largest ever defense appropriation bill passed (officially $725 billion, but, in fact, around double that amount, including supplementary add-ons, black budgets and more), and America's aristocracy got a holiday stocking-stuffer worth the lion share of Obama's yearend tax cut of up to $1 trillion by some estimates.

In contrast, temporary unemployment benefits were extended, and a destructive 2% payroll tax was enacted, a stealth scheme to drain hundreds of billions from the Social Security Trust Fund to wreck it and destroy the system altogether. At the same time, 2011 austerity cuts are planned, hitting entitlements hard when they should be generously increased.

Other data are also troublesome, including a new Rockefeller Foundation/Yale University Political Science Professor Jacob Hacker study, titled "Standing on Shaky Ground: Americans' Experiences with Economic Insecurity," described as "the first study to detail how economic insecurity affects the well-being of Americans."

It said in the 18 months preceding fall 2009, 93% of households experienced at least one "substantial economic shock." Hacker explained:

"This new report shows the extent to which American families have been rocked by economic shocks whose consequences include not just worry but also real economic hardship. This report dashes the notion that economic disruption is limited to low-income families by revealing that many middle-class and even upper-middle class (ones) are unable to meet basic needs."

Across the board, misery measures are rising, including unemployment, homelessness, hunger, food stamp usage, and inadequate income for essentials. While America's aristocracy gets richer, middle and lower income workers struggle to get by. Many can't because policy initiatives are few and inadequate.

WPFP explains that:

"The divide between higher and lower-income families goes beyond economics. Increasingly, families from different economic strata are also sorted into different neighborhoods, schools, and social networks. These families and their children are at risk of becoming isolated from educational and economic opportunities that could provide a path out of poverty."

Instead, growing numbers are getting poorer and more in need at a time less aid is allocated to help them. It's a shocking indictment of a dysfunctional system, the America dream gone bust except for society's most privileged.

Increasing Poverty in Israel

A new Tel Aviv-based Latet "alternative poverty study" revealed that 1.77 million Israelis are poor. About 850,000 children live in poverty, and 75% of impoverished Israelis miss meals because of cost, a 21% increase from 2009. In addition, 83% of poor children skip dental care, and 22% said their financial distress prompted suicide thoughts.

Moreover, 69% of poor people lack food nutritional security, meaning not enough to sustain good health. About 5% of children beg for money, 8% steal food of necessity, and half survive solely on "bread and spread."

Even employed individuals need help. Included are about 30% of the working poor as well as 60% of those unemployed, especially over three years.

Published annually, Latet "seeks to present the human face of (Israeli) poverty and the poor (who) hide behind the dry figures and statistics published by government institutions."

Executive Director Eran Weintraub said:

"Throughout the last decade, poverty in Israel has significantly increased. Social gaps widened and the obstacles to escaping poverty have increased. Netanyahu's macroeconomic neoliberal policy have improved the economy, but it abandoned and neglected (growing numbers of) people," Arabs and Jews.

"In any other enlightened place in the world, the failure of our anti-social policy would long have justified a civilian rebellion, but the poor in Israel have no political power. We hope to soon begin the change which will be a civilian protest that will lead the fight against poverty."

Latet works with 150 Israeli soup kitchens serving 60,000 of 223,000 poor families with 530,000 impoverished children. Israeli prosperity masks its dark side, hidden from the West, especially Americans fed one-sided Israeli propaganda, devoid of truth.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

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