In September 2010, the Associated Press prepared an advance report on the expected surge in the Census Bureau's official poverty rate, which rose from 13.2% to a 15-year high of 14.3%. Their stated preoccupation was not with the associated pain, but with "the unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before important elections when Congress is at stake."
Well, this year's official poverty rate will very likely be the highest seen since the mid-1960s, and there's a presidential election coming up. What's the AP, aka the Administration's Press, to do? It looks like the strategy is to get a comprehensive report out on how bad things are in July when few are paying attention, and then to give the official report short shrift when it arrives in mid-September. Here are excerpts from Hope Yen's nearly 1,500-word writeup:
The ranks of America's poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.
Census figures for 2011 will be released this fall in the critical weeks ahead of the November elections.
The Associated Press surveyed more than a dozen economists, think tanks and academics, both nonpartisan and those with known liberal or conservative leanings, and found a broad consensus: The official poverty rate will rise from 15.1 percent in 2010, climbing as high as 15.7 percent. Several predicted a more modest gain, but even a 0.1 percentage point increase would put poverty at the highest since 1965.
Poverty is spreading at record levels across many groups, from underemployed workers and suburban families to the poorest poor.
... In an election year dominated by discussion of the middle class ... millions could fall through the cracks as government aid from unemployment insurance, Medicaid, welfare and food stamps diminishes.
"The issues aren't just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy," said Peter Edelman, director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy.
He pointed to the recent recession but also longer-term changes in the economy such as globalization, automation, outsourcing, immigration, and less unionization that have pushed median household income lower. Even after strong economic growth in the 1990s, poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty, launched in 1964, created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs.
"I'm reluctant to say that we've gone back to where we were in the 1960s. The programs we enacted make a big difference. The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon," Edelman said.
Note how Ms. Yen failed to tag Edelman's group, whose "areas of work" include expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and whose efforts are supported by George Soros's Open Society Foundation, as "liberal" or "left-leaning." Later in her report, documenting discussions with the Heritage Foundation's Robert Rector, Ms. Yen had no problem tagging it as "conservative." How typical.
There are so many other problems with Yen's report it would take a term paper to vet them all. The only positive is that she at least had discussions with real people this time around.
Among the items notably missing from the discussion:
The overwhelming sense I have is that this is a "Let's get this done now, so we can just note it and move on in September when it will hurt Dear Leader" enterprise. Why else would you devote almost 1,500 words to a report which isn't coming out for another two months?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.