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Monday, November 19, 2012

Poverty and the American Two-Party System

Poverty and the American Two-Party System

By Kate Randall
WSWS.org
November 19, 2012

Nearly 50 million people are living in poverty in the United States.

This was the dire news delivered eight days after the presidential
election in a report from the US Census Bureau.

The new report’s findings, which factor in expenses and
government provided benefits, providing a more accurate
picture of US poverty are a damning indictment of
American capitalism.

Based on data from 2011, three full years into Obama’s first term,
the report is also a commentary on the reactionary character of the
administration and its response to the worst economic crisis since
the Great Depression.

The shocking news that nearly one in six Americans is living in
poverty prompted virtually no comment on network or cable news
broadcasts.

It was met with silence in Washington, where Democratic and
Republican politicians are conspiring to implement draconian
cuts to social programs that will throw millions more into the
ranks of the poor.

Barack Obama has made a practice of all but excluding the word
“poverty” from his political vocabulary, and his first post-election
press conference, held the same day as the release of the Census
report, was no exception.

He felt no need to note the dire growth of poverty as he
set the stage for negotiations with the Republicans over
a multitrillion-dollar austerity package that will savage
basic social entitlement programs such as Medicare and
Social Security.

The sharp growth of poverty, homelessness and hunger in America
over the past four years is the result not simply of purely economic
forces.

It is above all the result of a calculated drive to utilize the crisis
to lay siege to the living standards and democratic rights of the
working class.

Obama’s first term was devoted to protecting and expanding the
wealth of the financial-corporate oligarchy at the expense of the
vast majority of the population.

His second term will be focused on carrying through a historic
retrogression, in which all of the gains won by the working class
over a century of struggle are to be reversed.

The multitrillion-dollar bailout of the banks on the one side,
and the attack on wages, pensions, health care and working
conditions on the other, inaugurated by Obama’s wage-cutting
restructuring of the auto industry, are to be intensified and
combined with an assault on what remains of social welfare
programs.

The most significant finding of the Census report is the sharp
growth in the ranks of the working poor.

The report takes as its starting point the 144 million people
who worked full-time or part-time year-round in 2011.

Some 9.4 percent of these workers, an estimated 13.6 million
people, were living in poverty according to the official poverty
threshold, which is absurdly low and dramatically underestimates
the real number.

Of the 97 million workers working full-time, 5.1 percent or
about 5 million people, lived in poverty.

The poverty rate among the estimated 46.7 million part-time
workers was a staggering 18.5 percent, or about 8.6 million
people.

According to the Census Bureau, more than a quarter of those
living in poverty had a job, but they earned so little, either due
to low wages, scant work hours or a combination of both, that
even if they were able to qualify for some sort of government
benefits, they still subsisted below the poverty line.

For those without jobs, the situation was even grimmer.
Of these, fully a third were living in poverty.

And with the agreement of Obama and Congress, federally
funded extended unemployment benefits are set to expire
in January, depriving 2 million jobless workers of cash
assistance and plunging even more households into poverty.

The Obama administration has implemented no policies to
provide jobs for the unemployed or alleviate the suffering
of millions of workers, young people and seniors that is
brought into focus by the Census report.

No measures have been implemented in the wake of the
Wall Street crash and economic slump to provide relief to
those who have lost jobs, gone into foreclosure or struggled
under the weight of medical bills or massive college debt.

Meanwhile, the rich have grown richer and social inequality
has soared.

The new poverty statistics should serve as a stark warning.

The mythical “American dream” has become a social nightmare
and this is only the beginning, it is not a temporary change.

This poverty wages and brutal exploitation, is the “new normal”
under the profit system and the political domination of two parties
controlled by the financial aristocracy.

Decent jobs and living standards are incompatible with the “free
market” system routinely eulogized by Obama and defended by
both parties.

The fight for jobs, decent wages, education, health care and
housing is a fight against the capitalist system and all of its
political defenders.

The urgent issue facing working people and youth is the building
of an independent mass socialist movement to fight for a workers
government and the socialist reorganization of economic life.

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/nov2012/pers-n17.shtml

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