The 2006 Census Report
Relative to recent history and building strong foundations for a stable future, the Bush years have been a disaster for middle class wealth and expectations, and Monday’s release of the annual Census report on poverty and health insurance prove it yet again: skimpy household income gains for a few, declining wages for most, and a record number of uninsured Americans. Bush, our very own Number One, is celebrating.
Used to be that poor urban or rural families manufactured babies by the dozen on the assumption that the more hands, the more money to be made, or rather subsist on. Something like that is going on for middle class families—not through the manufacture of babies so much as the return to the workforce of as many household members as possible: formerly stay-at-home spouses, retirees, kids who might have opted for college in brighter times. For those already in the workforce, hours have gotten longer. That’s how average household incomes rose in 2006, however meagerly (0.7 percent), and how individual wages fell for the third consecutive year.
Immediately, Number One took the numbers as vindication for his low-tax policies of the last six years saying the data confirmed “that more of our citizens are doing better in this economy, with continued rising incomes and more Americans pulling themselves out of poverty.” He called the gains “substantial.” He said “poverty levels improved significantly, with nearly half a million fewer people living below the poverty line in 2006 than in 2005.” He did not say that there are about 5 million more poor people today than there were in the last year of the Clinton administration. He did not say that median household incomes were still $1,000 below what they were in the last year of the Clinton administration. He did not say that, while the poverty rate declined among the elderly (the single most pampered group of Americans next to the superrich, although that won’t last), it did not decline for everyone else. And he did not say that the number of the uninsured increased from 44.8 million in 2005 to 47 million in 2006. He only said that “challenges remain in reducing the number of uninsured Americans.”
Challenges? Try intentional obstacles bred by his own moonlighting on behalf of the insurance industry. Try indifference to fostering a stronger middle class rather than nurturing a new aristocracy. Try imagining what the country might have looked like without six and a half years of Darwinian economics for the masses and how, as Kevin Philips once wrote, “the Jacksonian notion that government should not interfere on the side of the rich was reworked into the theorem that government had no business interfering on the side of the downtrodden.”