Let's be clear: It wasn't the bank failures alone that caused this economic disaster. It was the administration's continued support for economic policies that deepened and extended the economic fallout and widened the class divide in hundreds of ways, and a Republican House that not only refused to support stimulus spending, it actively obstructed any attempts by the White House or Democrats to push any policies or nominations at all. It was a Federal Reserve that ignored their mandate to lower unemployment, and a Democratic president who echoed and validated the "deficit emergency" mantra of the Republican party:
We have so many people out of work that it will be a very long time until we have a low unemployment rate again:
Reporting from Washington— In a grim portrait of a nation in economic turmoil, the government reported that the number of people living in poverty last year surged to 46.2 million — the most in at least half a century — as 1 million more Americans went without health insurance and household incomes fell sharply.
The poverty rate for all Americans rose in 2010 for the third consecutive year, matching the 15.1% figure in 1993 and pushing many more young adults to double up or return to their parents' home to avoid joining the ranks of the poor.
Taken together, the annual income and poverty snapshot released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau underscored how the recession is casting a long shadow well after its official end in June 2009.
And at the current sluggish pace of economic growth, analysts don't expect many of these indicators of economic and social well-being to turn better soon.
Census officials wouldn't say definitively what caused the surge in poverty, but it was evident that the root of the continuing misery was the nation's inability to create jobs. The total number of Americans who fell below the official poverty line last year rose from 43.6 million in 2009. Of the 2.6-million increase, about two-thirds of the people said they did not work even one week last year.
Those with jobs were much less likely to be poor, but the recession and weak recovery have wiped out income gains of prior years for a broad spectrum of workers and their families. Inflation-adjusted median household income — the middle of the populace — fell 2.3% to $49,445 last year from a year ago and 7% from 2000.
"It's a lost decade for the middle class," said Sheldon Danziger, a poverty expert at the University of Michigan.