Last week the Census Bureau issued a report confirming what Americans already know (or sense) about our society—it's becoming what used to be called "a third world" country, or less formally, a Banana Republic. Such reports are becoming commonplace in 2012. I think this is the 4th one I've posted on this year, but I've skipped several others.
The most interesting thing about these reports is that everybody knows what's going on in the United States, but nobody seems to be able to do anything about it. At the very least, we know that nobody who is in a position to do anything about it seems to have a sincere desire to do anything about it. It took about three decades to get to this sorry point, and undoubtedly it would take a few more decades to put things back the way they used to be, assuming we started right now.
Unfortunately, that's not going to happen because the wealthy elites who have a stranglehold on this Great Nation don't want things to go back to the way they used to be. Why would they? They've worked very hard over the last 30 years to create the Kleptocracy we all now currently enjoy.
So what are we supposed to do now? Jam our heads up our asses and pretend the sun is shining? Or that it will shine again someday? Because that's what most Americans seem to be doing. Well, I suppose we should look at the report. Why not? It can't hurt us more than we're hurting now.
[Graph left from the WaPo story]
People with incomes between $20,263 and $62,434 collectively earned less than 24 percent of all income in 2011, even though they made up 40 percent of the population. The dip was part of a long, steady decline dating to at least the 1960s, when the middle class shared 29 percent of all income.
In contrast, the census data shows, the bottom fifth held its own as the poverty level flattened out, while the top fifth increased its share to half of all income. The top 5 percent gained the most income, rising almost 5 percent in a single year.
"This is a huge drop," said Tim Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "It's the working class. Their pay rate has gone down, the number of hours that everyone in the house works has gone down, their homes have lost value. These are the people really ravaged by the recession."
The nation's official poverty rate in 2011 was 15 percent, lower than many poverty experts were forecasting. The number of people living in poverty last year, 46.2 million, also was virtually unchanged from 2010. Since 2007, the last full year before the recession began, the poverty rate is up by 2.5 percentage points.
Despite an official recovery now entering its fourth year, the census said median household income declined by 1.5 percent, to $50,054...
The ranks of the new poor include people who have been jettisoned from the middle class after losing their jobs during the recession. Others are single mothers who have more trouble finding jobs in the weak economy.
I remember when I was jettisoned from the middle class. It happened in the years 2000-2001. I really liked this next part.
Economists expressed surprise that the poverty rate was not worse. Many had predicted that it would be higher than it was in 1964, when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a War on Poverty.
"It looks as though we've sort of hit bottom," said Georgetown University's Peter Edelman, author of "So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America."
"It's still very, very troubling; it's a very serious picture," he said. "We've added 15 million people in poverty since the turn of the century, since [President Bill] Clinton left office, 6 million before the recession and 9 million more since.
The fact it isn't worse is, at best, the sound of one hand clapping."
Georgetown's Peter Edelman thinks we've sort of hit bottom. It appears that Mr. Edelman lives in the Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Actually, he works at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., which is essentially the same thing.
Perhaps Mr. Edelman is not familiar with the growing public debt of the Federal Government. Perhaps he is not aware that much of that new debt supports the poor and those who have been jettisoned from the middle class. Perhaps he is not aware that policymakers intend (or will eventually be forced) to cut expenditures which prop up struggling Americans because those people don't have any money to donate to their political campaigns. So, no, I don't think we've sort of hit bottom yet.
However, Mr. Edelman rallies when he says that The fact it isn't worse is, at best, the sound of one hand clapping. What is the sound of one hand clapping? This is a Zen koan which older sages use to baffle young grasshoppers.
But we have no need for Zen mysticism. I can tell you what the sound of one hand clapping is.
It is the sound created by the efforts of policymakers to make America great again, to restore the middle class by creating good-paying jobs. It is the sound emitted by the efforts of policymakers to lift people out of grinding poverty.
Needless to say, and unsurprisingly, those efforts make no audible sound at all.