4 out of 5 Americans agree: income inequality and economic insecurity a problem

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Hope Yen of the Associated Press has an analysis out today which indicates 80% of Americans deal with unemployment, near-poverty or reliance on public assistance at some point in their lives. Exclusive: Signs of declining economic security:

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or
reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of
deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an
increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and
poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the
trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his
administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that
his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse
income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several
measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families'
economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987.
In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy
"poor."

* * *

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in
poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed
substantially since the 1970s, census data show. Economic insecurity
among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in government data,
engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60,
according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the
Oxford University Press.

The gauge defines "economic insecurity" as experiencing unemployment
at some point in their working lives, or a year or more of reliance on
government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the
poverty line. Measured across all races, the risk of economic insecurity
rises to 79 percent.

"It's time that America comes to understand that many of the nation's
biggest disparities, from education and life expectancy to poverty, are
increasingly due to economic class position," said William Julius
Wilson, a Harvard professor who specializes in race and poverty.

He noted that despite continuing economic difficulties, minorities
have more optimism about the future after Obama's election, while
struggling whites do not.

"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if
steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad
front," Wilson said.

Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income
whites are generally dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns,
where more than 60 percent of the poor are white. Concentrated in
Appalachia in the East, they are also numerous in the industrial Midwest
and spread across America's heartland, from Missouri, Arkansas and
Oklahoma up through the Great Plains.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021
for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the
nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Still, while census figures provide an official measure of poverty,
they're only a temporary snapshot. The numbers don't capture the makeup
of those who cycle in and out of poverty at different points in their
lives. They may be suburbanites, for example, or the working poor or the
laid off.

In 2011 that snapshot showed 12.6 percent of adults in their prime
working-age years of 25-60 lived in poverty. But measured in terms of a
person's lifetime risk, a much higher number — 4 in 10 adults — falls
into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades,
particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income
inequality. For instance, people ages 35-45 had a 17 percent risk of
encountering poverty during the 1969-1989 time period; that risk
increased to 23 percent during the 1989-2009 period. For those ages
45-55, the risk of poverty jumped from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically
insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate,
some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with
more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare
or near-poverty.

By 2030, based on the current trend of widening income inequality,
close to 85 percent of all working-age adults in the U.S. will
experience bouts of economic insecurity.

"Poverty is no longer an issue of 'them', it's an issue of 'us'," says
Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who
calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream
event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and
Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs
that lift people in need."

* * *

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about
their futures, according to the General Social Survey, which is
conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say
their family will have a good chance of improving their economic
position based on the way things are in America.

The divide is especially evident among those whites who self-identify
as working class: 49 percent say they think their children will do
better than them, compared with 67 percent of non-whites who consider
themselves working class.

In November, Obama won the votes of just 36 percent of those
noncollege whites, the worst performance of any Democratic nominee among
that group since 1984.

Some Democratic analysts have urged renewed efforts to bring
working-class whites into the political fold, calling them a potential
"decisive swing voter group" if minority and youth turnout level off in
future elections.

"They don't trust big government, but it doesn't mean they want no
government," says Republican pollster Ed Goeas, who agrees that
working-class whites will remain an important electoral group. "They
feel that politicians are giving attention to other people and not
them."

This survey invokes the great political mystery of our day: Why do so many Americans vote against their own economic and social interests? What's the Matter with Kansas?, by Thomas Frank. They allow themselves to be divided by wedge issues based on race, religion, region, social issues and perceived economic class. If they ever come to their senses and realize that they we are all part of the 99% being played by the 1% über wealthy elite plutocrats, watch out.

One response to “4 out of 5 Americans agree: income inequality and economic insecurity a problem

  1. Add in the destruction of the public school system with Ed reform by billionaires, and we have the perfect storm of an ignorant populace and a greedy, plutocratic government.