Middle-class Money Going To The Wealthy

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - September 21, 2011
| Del.icio.us

On Sept. 13, the Census Bureau reported that a record 46.2 million Americans live in poverty. That’s the largest number since the bureau started counting the poor more than 50 years ago and it’s up almost a point to 15.1 percent of the nation’s population from last year’s count. At the same time, the number of Americans without health care coverage rose to 49.9 million, a little less than one-sixth of the nation’s populace.

This news came two days after the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. During various events held to remember that day, many, including President Barack Obama, spoke of how the horror of 9/11 united Americans and demonstrated what we as a nation can do when we are united.

But what, exactly, did a united America do during the past decade? Momentarily, at least, our special forces and CIA succeeded in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Then the neoconservatives in charge of President George W. Bush’s foreign policy launched the country into the mire that was Iraq. They did it either by deceit those “weapons of mass destruction” they claimed Saddam Hussein had aimed at us or through sheer stupidity. Either way, an unattended Afghanistan suffered a re-invasion by the Taliban and Iraqis rebelled against the presence of American troops, a rebellion that persists at a muted level to this day.

Ten years after the attack on the Twin Towers, our troops remain in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The two wars have cost us dearly: in deaths, dismemberments and dollars some 3 trillion to 4 trillion of the last. They’ve cost Afghanistan and Iraq even more, some 200,000 dead, countless maimed, and enormous physical destruction.

At the same time, in the midst of unity based on righteous anger and deceit (or stupidity), we hardly noticed as our elected officials, via tax policy, transferred even more wealth from the poor and the middle class to the wealthiest among us. Three tax cuts during the Bush administration have contributed to the greatest gulf between rich and poor in the United States since the eve of the Great Depression in 1929.

Those tax cuts also contributed mightily to our newly discovered national debt a debt that, prior to 9/11 and the tax cuts, looked as if it might be erased. Today, thanks to the Tea Party, nothing matters save that the debt. Its members will endanger the national credit, allow the poor among us to flounder, privatize Social Security and Medicare anything to cut that debt except taxing even the wealthiest among us.

On one thing Americans do stand united: that we don’t really care all that much about poverty, so long as it doesn’t affect us or ours. Look at a map that charts the nation’s poverty rate state-by-state.

The states with high poverty rates share large numbers of blacks and Hispanics, the first of whom have a 27.4 percent poverty rate, the second 26.6 percent. Blacks compose 37 percent of Mississippi’s population, and it claims the nation’s highest poverty rate at 22.7 percent.

The other high poverty states compose all of the old Confederacy and the deindustrialized Midwest, in both of which large black populations live. Add California and the Southwest that claim large Hispanic populations as well.

And where is America’s poverty rate low? Bet on states with low minority populations, like Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Wisconsin, and sweep the table.

Ten years after 9/11 we stand triumphant, pledging “never to forget.” But considering the number of our citizens living in poverty, who won? And who have we forgotten?

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