Our social safety net has a few holes and tears in it. Joblessness is one cause, stagnant wages is another determinant, and the widening gap between the very rich and the poorest among us is a third.
The effects on children are particularly disheartening. Their health will be affected, school performance will go down and family life will be more disrupted.
What is the worst is that we are better than this.
We can do better.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. poverty rate hit its highest level since 1993 last year with a record 46 million Americans living below the poverty line, according to a government report on Tuesday that depicted the grim effects of stubbornly high unemployment.
Underscoring the economic challenges that face President Barack Obama and Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau said the poverty rate rose for a third consecutive year to hit 15.1 percent in 2010. The number in poverty was the largest since the government first began publishing estimates in 1959.
The poverty line for an American family of four with two children is an income $22,113 a year.
The data showed that children under 18 suffered the highest poverty rate, 22 percent, compared with adults and the elderly.
The numbers would have been worse, analysts said, but for government assistance programs including extended unemployment compensation, stimulus spending and Obama’s health reforms, which appeared to reduce the number of uninsured young adults.
The Census report coincides with Obama’s push for a $450 billion job creation package, and deliberations by a congressional “super committee” tasked with cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the U.S. budget deficit over 10 years.
Analysts said poverty-related issues have relatively little hold on politicians in Washington but hoped the new figures would encourage the bipartisan super committee to avoid deficit cuts that would hurt the poor.
The South fared worst among U.S. regions, recording the highest poverty rate, a significant drop in median income and the largest number of residents without health insurance.