The Poverty Football


A recent report on the Bush economy tends to confirm our suspicion that while things are definitely improving for the likes of wealthy cockroach-killers like T. DeLay, the rest of us are hanging on by our fingernails. The Bushian economy is so skewed toward the coupon-clippers that it’s almost as if the rest of us don’t exist, especially if we happen to be Blues, viz.:

The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.7 million last year, and the median household income declined by 1.1 percent, the Census Bureau reported today. The worsening economic conditions fell heaviest on Midwesterners and nonwhites.

It was the second straight year of adverse changes in both poverty and income, the first two-year downturn since the early 1990’s.

The data, results of the Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey, the official barometer for measuring income and poverty rates, showed that lingering negative effects of the recent recession cut across a broad swath of the population. (emphasis added)

So there are three issues here (as there often are):

1): The rise in poverty itself, a rise which mirrors the rise in the poverty rates in the 80’s, the last time trickle-down was tried. This was, for those of us who lived through Reaganomics without benefit of silver-spoon-in-mouth, all too predictable. We knew what was coming. We’ve been here before. And we ain’t hit bottom yet, no matter what all those tame Admin “economic analysts” say, not as long as Junior’s “economic policy” (seems an awful fancy name for what amounts to the embezzlement of our financial future–and our kids’ and our grandkids’ for that matter) forces all the money to run uphill while it bankrupts any govt service that doesn’t have to do with capital gains or protecting private property, property rights being the only rights conservatives recognize these days.

It’s no accident that poverty is going up at the same time that various elements of the Bush Admin are hawking anti-labor regulatory rollbacks that would eliminate govt protection of the 40-hr week and the necessity for companies to pay overtime. The idea is obviously to create a society with a plethora of cheap help. Servants have been so hard to get since the rise of the Middle Class that the crust (upper) had to import them from undesirable places–Mexico, Columbia, Honduras….

Such a trial. It’s better if we can grow them at home–at least they’d speak English.

2) Then there’s the–I don’t know, can we say “suspicious”?–timing of the announcement:

As controversial as the data was the timing of its release. Typically the results of the annual survey have been released on a Tuesday in late September at the National Press Club in downtown Washington.

This year the bureau scheduled the release for a Friday, the first time it has done so, and moved the news conference from the centrally located press club to the bureau’s suburban headquarters in Suitland, Md. The switch prompted some advocates and lawmakers to speculate that the government agency had been pressured by the administration to move the date and place so that that the results, which most people expected to be worse than they were last year, would generate less attention in the weekend news cycle.

The effect of the move meant that the figures on poverty and income were released on the same day as the data on G.D.P., data that many economists expected to be more positive.

Census officials maintained that the delayed release had to do with nothing more than a work backlog.

“We were running into technical problems getting it all done; we were running behind,” Mr. Weinberg said. “So we decided, hey, how about some more time.”

Uh-huh. Right. Technical difficulties. Difficulties that just happened to cause Census officials–purely by accident, of course–to make their announcement on a Friday when it was almost sure to be ignored by both the press and the public, a tactic Karl Rove has been using to great effect for months.

Technical difficulties. Hah. That one’s so old it’s growing hair in its nose. Either Rove’s imagination is drying up, or else he’s so confident that the press will swallow whole any bushwah he decides to deal out that he doesn’t think it matters what excuse he uses because they won’t question it anyway–a safe assumption in the past. They did this time, though, a little anyway–maybe Karl’s magic spell is wearing off.

Which brings us to Issue #3:

3) The conduct of the press when covering Bush Admin spin-sessions. I refer you to this little section, quoted above:

The data, results of the Census Bureau’s annual Current Population Survey, the official barometer for measuring income and poverty rates, showed that lingering negative effects of the recent recession cut across a broad swath of the population.

“Lingering effects of the recent recession”? Are they kidding? So, despite a healthy body of non-Bushian economists making a persuasive case that much of the economic downhill-slalom effect is more likely a consequence of handing the nation’s tax policy over to corporate interests in toto (“Here, take it, I don’t want it, it’s too much for me.”) than a result of recessional afterburn, the Times’ own Paul Krugman being chief among them, they don’t even mention the alternative explanation? How fair and balanced of them.

Were it not for the occasional article actually questioning a Bush policy here and there–like the utter failure of Bremer’s Occupation Authority in Iraq–I’d suggest they change their masthead slogan to, “All the News Karl Rove Thinks Is Fit to Print”.

Maybe I will anyway.

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