New Census Figures on Poverty Show 'Crisis of Democracy'

Amid “renewed assaults” on vital social programs, a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows little improvement in the rate of poverty and rate of those with health insurance coverage.

According to the agency’s annual report on poverty, health coverage and income, 46.5 million people lived at or near poverty level (15%), while 48 million people (15.4%) had no health coverage in 2012.

The figures show little change from the previous year, the report states.

“The Census Bureau’s annual poverty report gives us new data to describe what are essentially the same grim conditions for poor and low-income Americans,” Stephen Pimpare, author of A People’s History of Poverty in America, said in a statement.

And, he continues, it comes at a time when vital services that alleviate poverty are on the chopping block.


“The continuing crises of poverty, homelessness, inequality and insecurity ensnaring an ever-larger share of the population is a crisis of democracy — the American economy and political system have become utterly unresponsive to our most basic needs. And this year’s report comes at a time when many are actively seeking to make it worse, with the right ramping up renewed assaults on those very social programs — Food Stamps (SNAP), disability insurance (SSDI), and unemployment insurance (UI) — that, however imperfectly, radically reduced poverty from what it would otherwise be,” Pimpare, who is also adjunct associate professor of social work at Columbia University and the City University of New York, added.

Echoing Pimpare, Jennifer Jones Austin, Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, said in a statement that “Despite the high level of need, the federal government continues to cut vital services and assistance designed to help the most vulnerable among us.”

Cuts have hit “meals for homebound seniors, vocational training programs for those who’ve lost their jobs, food for low income families, the list goes on,” Jones Austin stated.

Yet Pimpare says that reducing poverty “is actually fairly easy,” noting that “Lots of other rich democracies have demonstrated that.”

“Poverty is not a policy problem, it’s a political problem. It’s a problem of power. We should use the census report to talk about what to do about that.”


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