Wednesday, May 1, 2013

NYT: City Report Shows a Growing Number Are Near Poverty

TIMES NOTES WORSENING POVERTY, MIRRORS NATIONAL OBSERVATION BY BILL MOYERS
The New York Times, April 22, 2013, City Report Shows a Growing Number Are Near Poverty
OPENING OF THE TIMES ARTICLE by Sam Roberts:
The rise in New York City’s poverty rate as a result of the recession has apparently eased, but not before pushing nearly half of the city’s population into the ranks of the poor or near-poor in 2011, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg administration.
That year, according to the city’s measure, about 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, a benchmark used to describe people who are not officially poor but who still struggle to get by. That represents a rise of more than three percentage points since 2009, when the nation’s recession officially ended.
By the city’s definition, a family with two adults and two children could earn $46,416 a year and still fall within 150 percent of the city’s poverty level. Unlike the official but rigid federal poverty level, the city’s measure balances the added value of tax credits, food stamps, rent subsidies and other benefits against expenses like health and day care, housing and commuting that reflect New York’s higher living costs. The city says a two-adult, two-child family is poor if it earns less than $30,949 a year. The federal government sets the level at $22,811.
Though more New Yorkers were working in 2011 than the year before, larger shares of children and working adults were classified as poor in 2011, and the proportions of Asians, noncitizens and Queens residents — overlapping groups — each rose by more than four percentage points since 2008.
The city’s analysis warned that cutbacks in federal programs could threaten any recovery and place pressure on the next mayor to maintain or expand public assistance.
“The recent increase in the state minimum wage affects the working poor and near-poor, and paid sick days are important, but missing rungs in the ladder make it really hard to climb out of poverty,” said Nancy Rankin, vice president for policy research and advocacy at the Community Service Society, which lobbies on behalf of the poor.
“The next mayor is going to face a very difficult budget situation in which he or she will struggle to maintain basic services and have little room to expand welfare-related programs or services to needy New Yorkers, a fiscal situation that is getting very little attention in the current mayoral race,” said Steven Malanga, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative group.
Mark Levitan, director of poverty research for the mayor’s Center for Economic Opportunity and the author of the city’s analysis, said those he called the near-poor — people making up to 50 percent above the poverty level — were often not eligible for food stamps and other federal benefits available to the poor because of their higher incomes.
Without tax credits and food stamps, the proportion of poor people would have soared to nearly one in three, according to the analysis by the center, which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg established in 2006 to devise innovative antipoverty strategies.
In the five years after that, though, more New Yorkers plunged into poverty — 21.3 percent by the federal rate and 23.6 percent by the city’s own standard were poor in 2011 compared with 19.8 percent by both measures in 2007, before the recession. Still, while the city’s measure is the highest since it was first calculated in 2005, the official rate is lower in New York than in many other major cities.
While the center’s annual report, to be released this week, suggested that a better job market may have reversed the rising poverty in 2012, its outlook for this year and beyond was more problematic.
“Coinciding with the end of the slump in the job market is the end of the recession-related expansion of the safety net,” Dr. Levitan wrote, which could reduce food stamp benefits on top of prior cutbacks in unemployment insurance, tax credits and the payroll tax rate.
Commentator Bill Moyers has noted how worsening inequality is a fixture of American society. (Actually, the level of income inequality is a greater disparity in New York City than in the rest of society.)
From April 12, 2013, in Alternet: Bill Moyers: We Are Living in the United States of Inequality
"A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government."
The article begins: April 12, 2013, from Bill Moyers.com:
The unprecedented level of economic inequality in America is undeniable. In an extended essay, Bill Moyers shares examples of the striking extremes of wealth and poverty across the country, including a video report on California’s Silicon Valley. There, Facebook, Google, and Apple are minting millionaires, while the area’s homeless — who’ve grown 20 percent in the last two years — are living in tent cities at their virtual doorsteps.
“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government,” says Moyers, “while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”
Inequality matters. You will hear people say it doesn’t, but they are usually so high up the ladder they can’t even see those at the bottom. The distance between the first and the least in America is vast and growing.
The Washington Post recently took a look at two counties in Florida and found that people who live in the more affluent St. Johns County live longer than those who live next door in less rich Putnam County. The Post concluded: “The widening gap in life expectancy between these two adjacent Florida counties reflects perhaps the starkest outcome of the nation’s growing economic inequality: Even as the nation’s life expectancy has marched steadily upward…a growing body of research shows that those gains are going mostly to those at the upper end of the income ladder.”
That’s true across America. In California’s Silicon Valley, Apple, Facebook and Google, among others, have reinvented the Gold Rush. But down the road in San Jose it’s not so pretty a picture. Do the math: in an area where one fourth of the population earn an average of about $19,000 dollars a year, rent alone can average more than $20,000 dollars a year, and that difference adds up to homelessness. We talked to Associated Press reporter Martha Mendoza, who brought this story to our attention.
For the rest of the article, go to Bill Moyers: "We Are Living in the United States of Inequality."