portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts united states

corporate dominance | economic justice | social services

Hightower: Hunger / Homelessness / Job Insecurity Skyrockets Among 'Middle Class'

this is not being reposted to elicit some b.s. "selected sympathy" for the middle class,

but to illustrate just how FUCKED the U.S. 'economy' is right now

Despite George W's recent cheer leading effort to convince us that - sis-boom-bah, the economy is surging and The Boom Is Back! - most Americans are shaking their heads and saying, a boom for whom?

With the mass offshoring of both blue-collar and white-collar jobs, and with the Wal-Martization of wages and benefits here at home, it's no longer just the unskilled, down-and-out, abject poor who are left out by our "boom boom" economy, but also skilled, formerly-middle-class workers.

There's a quiet crisis spreading in the America that Washington and Wall Street either never visit or ignore. I'm not talking about the inner cities, but the middle-class suburbs, where even hunger is a growing problem. "Food insecurity," as the jargonists label it, is up by 15 percent in the last four years. That's one-and-a-half million new people now struggling to put food on their tables. One soup kitchen serving 11 Connecticut suburbs says 80 percent of its clients have jobs - mostly low-wage, no-benefit, Wal-Martized jobs.

Likewise, affordable housing needs have long been ignored by both government and commercial developers, so 94 million of our people now have "significant" housing problems. That's one-third of the population of the richest country on earth. Worse, 40 million of us now have housing problems ranked as "severe," meaning their housing is either severely substandard, severely unaffordable, or both. Housing prices go up, while most people's incomes stay flat or go down... and the affordable housing crisis mushrooms.

Meanwhile, the richest among us get the bulk of federal housing subsidies. Not only do multimillionaires enjoy full mortgage deductibility on their main mansions, but also on their Park Avenue condo, their Aspen getaway home, and the summer place at the beach.

If the elites continue to ignore the hard realities faced by a growing majority of us, they'll need to build mighty high fences around their own compounds.

"Hunger a Growing Problems in Suburbs," New York Times, March 23, 2004.

homepage: homepage: http://www.jimhightower.com/air/read.asp?id=11338
address: address: Jim Hightower

Federal Poverty Level 09.Apr.2004 20:00


Forgive my sarcasm here, but the federal minimum wage is $5.15/hr. The FPL (federal poverty level) is $18,850 for a family of four. That means that if both parents work full-time at the federal minimum wage, they are earning approximately $20,000 a year, so how can they be poor?

Federal poverty level is ridiculous 09.Apr.2004 22:52

George Bender

As Ralph Nader pointed out in his recent Portland speech, the federal poverty level is completely out of touch with reality. He said it takes about $35,000 a year to support a family of four, not $18,850.

Would you want to support a family of four on $20,000 a year? I used to make about $20,000 a year as an office worker, with only myself to support, and it was barely adequate. I couldn't afford to keep a car on the road, so I lived without one.

Also, you can't assume that a family has two working parents. Or that those parents work full time, or that they manage to stay employed throughout the year. Layoffs are common for working-class people, and it can take a long time to find another job.

According to Nader, about 40 percent of U.S. households have less than $35,000 a year in gross income, so do not have an adequate income to support a family.

In my opinion this is the most important issue in U.S. politics. I suspect it is a personal issue for a large percentage of the people who use this website.

'Ted' 09.Apr.2004 23:01

What's Your Point?

"approximately" [wherever you pulled this one from 'Ted'] $20,000 - $18,850 = $1,150

that comes to (an extra . . .?) $22 per week for the year.

wow, 'Ted' - all of $22 per week! incredible! what an amazing income disparity you've called attention to there!

would it be better if they set the FPL for a family of four at $17,850, 'Ted'? how about $21,850? what would be a good, "un-sarcastic" number for the FPL to be set at 'Ted' - just to make you happy?

or maybe they should raise / lower the minimum wage? what would make things 'equitable' for you, 'Ted'? "fair and balanced"?

d'ya think they'd set the Fed. minimum wage so that each American could rake in an extra $22 per week? is that sarcastic enough, 'Ted'?

how much is John Kerry worth again - $850 million, including the Theresa Heinz fortune? GWB - he's got a lot wrapped up in petroleum doesn't he?


how much is the U.S. government pouring into the Iraq military occupation right now, 'Ted'? (answer: $4 billion per week)

how many veterans of 'Iraqi Freedom' have adequate military benefits thanks to GWB/Cheney, or will even be able to land a full-time job to support their families when they return stateside this month / next month, 'Ted'?

what's your point, 'Ted'?

where are your priorities in making the "sorry, I'm sarcastic" distinction, 'Ted'?

ever tried living on $5.15 per hour, let alone supporting a family?

how about living on $8.00 per hour?

have you ever tried that, 'Ted'?

assuming the two parents even work ___full time___ at one or more jobs . . .

are you - or any of your friends / family - actually employed ___full time___ (that is they work at least 40 hours a week, 50 weeks per year)

at any job, anywhere in the U.S.?

c'mon 'Ted' - tell us all again HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU KNOW that are working at a ___full time___ American job. with or without benefits (vacation time, health care, etc.) right now.

poor - or not poor - by federal standards, ever heard of mortgages, loans, HEALTH CARE COSTS, and credit debt? know how fast those can wipe out your income no matter how high or low your salary / hourly wages are?

'Ted' -

does the United States Government provide a national standard health care plan for working individuals or families? what happens when a hard working mother is sick or injured - even if only for one day - at her job? For one day off the job, she's out $40 (@ $5.15 per hour), not to mention doctor visit costs, prescriptions . . .

finally, 'Ted':

WHERE in the originally posted article is ANYTHING WHATSOEVER mentioned about "federal poverty level", minimum wage, or "being poor"?

What's Your Point? 10.Apr.2004 12:58


Sarcasim. Get it? (Elbow in ribs...)

Nudge, Nudge 10.Apr.2004 15:13

What's Your Point?


stay off this site if you're a Disinformationalist Flame Bait Troll.

(nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no MORE)

RE 'What's Your Point' 11.Apr.2004 08:15


My point was just how ludicrous the Federal Poverty Level is. The sarcastic nature of the comment was meant to reflect how rediculous the Bush economic "boom" really is. I agree with you, Mr. Whats-Your-Point, and I agree with the original author. The concept of the Federal Poverty Level relates directly to 'Hightower:' article, because the FPL is used to determine important benefits to assist the homeless, hungry, etc.

It's one thing to rage against the machine, but it's another thing entirely to understand the inner parts of the machine so that democratic participants can understand it and challenge it at its weakest point.

'Ted' on RATM: 12.Apr.2004 00:18

What's Your Point?

yeah well,

the 'Machine' is about to BREAK. and not necessarily because 'we the American people' are "challenging it at its weakest point".

(falling dollar, petroleum prices and supplies, US trade deficit, military spending, jobs vs. real income vs. interest rates, etc. etc.)

grumble grumble 12.Apr.2004 08:24

losin' it

Federal Poverty Level was always a joke. Some bureaucrat just basically pulled it out of her ass in the '60s, and it's been indexed to inflation ever since, but it never meant shit and it means even less now.

I'd dig up some documentation and post a URL but I'm grumpy from looking for supporting info for a story on Portland street violence and not having any. Dead people aren't very interesting by themselves. "Gang related"? What the hell does that mean? Says who? Somebody's posting bullshit stories about gun shipments from Jamaica. I can't even find public domain maps I can use.

Sorry to get all off-topic.