Sept. 26: Millions are climbing out of poverty

Sept. 26: Millions are climbing out of poverty

The New York Times looks at the promising new U.S. Census numbers that showed median incomes rising and poverty in America shrinking after years of post-recession stagnation.

Millions are climbing out of poverty

The New York Times looks at the promising new U.S. Census numbers that showed median incomes rising and poverty in America shrinking after years of post-recession stagnation. As Patricia Cohen reminds us, millions of Americans have been kept afloat by anti-poverty programs like Social Security and the Earned Income Tax Credit, but the most recent gains are due to the economy finally rebounding in a way that helps low-income workers gain ground.

 

Over all, 2.9 million more jobs were created from 2014 to 2015, helping millions of unemployed people cross over into the ranks of regular wage earners. Many part-time workers increased the number of hours on the job. Wages, adjusted for inflation, climbed. Another hidden benefit was lower prices at the pump,” Ms. (Diane) Swonk (an independent business economist) said. “People who couldn’t afford the commute before could now afford to accept a minimum-wage job.” There are different roads out of poverty, said Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, a social science research institution, but today, one of the most promising is to “go somewhere where they raised the minimum wage.”

 

In Louisiana, of course, the picture is not quite as rosy. We remain one of five states without a minimum wage law on its books, and the poverty rate didn’t budge in 2015 even as it shrank across the country.

 

Advocate: Don’t dither on flood aid

The news that Louisiana is in line for a $500 million “down payment” on the $2.6 billion in flood relief that’s needed for the Baton Rouge region to recover got a mixed review from The Advocate’s editorial page. As they remind us, timing is everything for flooded homeowners who need to decide whether to rebuild or more forward.

 

Congress could approve the package before it recesses or when it returns in December, or perhaps approve some parts of the aid now and other parts later. … But around kitchen tables right now, flooded homeowners are putting pencil to paper to determine if they can afford to rebuild. In many cases, part of that calculation involves what help, if any, they might receive from Washington. As Congress dithers — and the prospect of long-term uncertainty looms — those homeowners might opt to walk away from distressed properties and start over somewhere else.

The Nola.com/The Times-Picayune editorial board takes a similar view.

The entire Louisiana delegation and the Obama administration must work to ensure the state gets the full recovery package requested by the president and Gov. Edwards. It isn’t surprising that Congress is considering only part of the $2.6 billion right now. The continuing budget resolution has been bogged down over funding for the Zika virus and the Flint, Mich., water crisis, and time is tight. The new fiscal year starts in a little more than a week, and both chambers are getting ready to recess until after the election.

 

Few policy specifics in U.S. Senate race
If you’re wondering what types of policy choices the candidates running for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat would pursue if elected, don’t expect an easy slog. As star reporter Melinda Deslatte of the Associated Press writes, there has been precious little discussion of actual issues in the 24-candidate race that’s been dominated by accusations of soliciting prostitutes and the media circus that surrounds felon David Duke.

That’s not to say policy platforms and ideas can’t be found at all in the race. Some forums have delved into areas beyond personality, and some candidates have embraced the concept of answering those questions with direct and detailed answers. It’s just that a voter will have to dig for the information, and policy distinctions are not at the forefront of ad campaigns – or most candidates’ talking points – so far.

 

Too poor for plumbing
While Congress scrambles to come up with money to fix the lead-contaminated water system in Flint, Mich., the New York Times visits rural Alabama for a reminder that many poor families in America still don’t have the dignity of running water or indoor plumbing. From Sabrina Tavernise:

There is no formal count of residents without proper plumbing in Lowndes, but Kevin White, an environmental engineering professor at the University of South Alabama, said that a survey that he did in a neighboring county years ago found that about 35 percent of homes had septic systems that were failing, with raw sewage on the ground. Another 15 percent had nothing. “The bottom line is, I can’t afford a septic system,” said Cheryl Ball, a former cook who had a heart attack several years ago and receives disability payments. She lives in a grassy field on which only three of seven homes have septic tanks. Most banks now require proof that a home has proper sewage disposal before lending, but Ms. Ball paid cash for her mobile home — $4,000.

 
Number of the Day
3.534 million – Number of Americans whose income climbed above the federal poverty line in 2015 (Source: U.S. Census Bureau via New York TImes)