If the sunshine seemed a little bit brighter this morning and the air a little bit sweeter, you were surely imagining it — Obama’s new smog allowances keep the skies permanently brown and sour, despite the collapse of American manufacturing. But America is on the rise in one exciting new respect: One of every six Americans is legally poor, and more Americans are officially in poverty than ever before! The Census Bureau just released its 2010 poverty data, which says 46.2 million Americans are The Poors — that’s an all-time record and a 17-year peak in percentage terms. The Census Bureau bases its poverty threshold on family size and number of kids, so it goes from a $10,956 annual income for a sad adult living alone to $21,756 a year for a now-mythical family of four with two children. So remember, when trying to put yourself “in poverty” because you make 20K a year giving handjobs behind Union Station, that you’re well above the poverty rate if you’re supporting only yourself with that free-lance consultancy income. But if you’ve got an unemployed “common law husband” and a couple of malnourished orc children hunting rats underneath the half-collapsed trailer you call home, then you are part of the hottest new demographic in this great nation.
Says the stock-market news site Marketwatch:
A record number of people were in poverty last year as households saw their income decrease, according to data released by the Census Bureau Tuesday demonstrating the weakness of the economy even after the recession ended.
The 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010 was the largest group for the 52 years that estimates have been published, and the number of people in poverty rose for the fourth consecutive year as the poverty rate climbed to 15.1% — the highest since 1993 — up from 14.3% in 2009.
Of course, one can argue that $913 a month is plenty for one person, especially when you add $150 a month in food stamps (not counted against the poverty threshold numbers) and especially if that person doesn’t own (or need) a car and car insurance and doesn’t require a couple a hundred a month for gasoline and $50 for a cell phone and $50 for cable and $300 a month for heating oil (or air conditioning) and can find a half-decent place with $375 monthly rent. This all theoretically possible, after all, especially if you lived in another country with affordable housing and public transportation.
But then you wouldn’t be in America, which would make you Un-American. So how can the CNN Republican Tea Party best solve these problems without inconveniencing giant energy corporations and cell phone contract providers? Perhaps last night’s popular GOP proposal to kill everyone without health insurance isn’t such a bad idea, after all. [Marketwatch/NYT]