Thursday, April 19, 2007

Giving freedom a bad name

David Seaton's News Links
When you are confronted by events like the Virginia Tech massacre and the universal broadcasting of the killer's delirious "manifesto", followed by the massive conservative defense of the convenience of students carrying concealed firearms... and then you read this article from the McClatchy Newspapers about growing "severe" poverty in the world's wealthiest country, then, like a puppy having its nose rubbed in its mess, you are forced to confront Lenin's terrible question: "Freedom - yes, but for whom? To do what?"

Certainly if "freedom", as interpreted by America's conservatives and libertarian fundamentalists, finally comes to stand for insanity, violent death and poverty, more and more people all over the world, but eventually even in America itself, will be ready to "make other plans" and there will never be a lack of people to "help" them. We are witnessing the baby of liberty being thrown out with the bathwater of freedom. DS

U.S. economy leaving record numbers in severe poverty - McClatchy Newspapers

Abstract: The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen. A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year. The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas. The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years. These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975. The share of poor Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily over the last three decades. But since 2000, the number of severely poor has grown "more than any other segment of the population," according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.(...) Over the last two decades, America has had the highest or near-highest poverty rates for children, individual adults and families among 31 developed countries, according to the Luxembourg Income Study, a 23-year project that compares poverty and income data from 31 industrial nations. "It's shameful," said Timothy Smeeding, the former director of the study and the current head of the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University. "We've been the worst performer every year since we've been doing this study." With the exception of Mexico and Russia, the U.S. devotes the smallest portion of its gross domestic product to federal anti-poverty programs, and those programs are among the least effective at reducing poverty, the study found. Again, only Russia and Mexico do worse jobs. One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to long-term research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the Washington University in St. Louis. An estimated 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty, Rank said. Two of three will use a public assistance program between ages 20 and 65, and 40 percent will do so for five years or more. These estimates apply only to non-immigrants. If illegal immigrants were factored in, the numbers would be worse, Rank said. "It would appear that for most Americans the question is no longer if, but rather when, they will experience poverty. In short, poverty has become a routine and unfortunate part of the American life course," Rank wrote in a recent study. "Whether these patterns will continue throughout the first decade of 2000 and beyond is difficult to say ... but there is little reason to think that this trend will reverse itself any time soon." READ IT ALL

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