The dismal new national and state poverty numbers make a pretty solid point: Americans, Missourians and Kansans aren’t doing well these days. The impact of the Great Recession has been deep and personal.
U.S. Census Bureau statistics show the nation’s poverty rate at its highest point since 1993 and the adjusted median household income at its lowest point since 1996.
The numbers for Missouri and Kansas, also plagued by high unemployment rates, are similarly disheartening. While Kansans’ actual median income bumped up $1,500 from 2009 to 2010, it remained $2,200 below what it was in 2007. Missouri’s median income dropped by almost $2,600 from 2009 to 2010.
The dire numbers make it clear that President Barack Obama was correct in calling for an urgent and unified jobs effort in Congress. As Obama said, the country can’t wait another 14 months to get the economy rolling.
The numbers show that 14.3 percent of Kansans, 14.8 percent of Missourians and 15.1 percent of Americans live at or below the poverty line. For a single person, that means living on less than $11,344 a year, or $22,314 for a family of four.
The biggest reason for the worsening circumstances of so many families is unemployment. And unemployment only has one solution. America needs to start creating jobs and creating them now.
Obama’s infrastructure initiative is a good start, as it produces immediate job growth and helps ensure long-term economic growth.
Beyond any specific program, the numbers show a need to protect the safety nets now in place to protect Americans fighting to escape joblessness and poverty.
To this end, the attack by some Republican Party candidates on Social Security is hardly helpful. Social Security needs some adjusting, but in the last few years it has helped seniors sustain themselves during a time when other investments have failed to provide needed income. Without it, poverty rates would be much higher.
As depressing as the latest census numbers are, they present a clear call to action.
Politicians must stop being consumed by elections more than a year out, and focus right now on the very real needs of Americans who, if given a chance, will do what they always have — power the greatest economic engine the world has ever know.
Copyright Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.