In her writeup covering the Census Bureau's latest release of income and poverty data, Hope Yen at the Associated Press quoted University of Michigan economist Sheldon Danziger, who specializes in "Applied Policy, Labor Markets, Poverty and Social Welfare," describing the news that the official poverty rate was statistically unchanged, moving from 15.1% of all Americans to 15.0%, as "good news and surprising."
Mr. Danziger should consider moonlighting as a stand-up comedian. With laugh lines like that and another one which will be seen in the excerpt after the jump, he's a can't-miss prospect, even if his delivery is as deadpan as Steven Wright's. But, as will also be seen shortly, he has stiff competition from White House bloggers. In both cases, audiences will be laughing at them, not with them (bolds are mine):
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US POVERTY RATE UNCHANGED; RECORD NUMBERS PERSIST
The ranks of America's poor remained stuck at a record level last year while household income dropped. Still, the number of people who don't have health insurance declined.
... The overall poverty rate stood at 15 percent, statistically unchanged from the 15.1 percent rate in the previous year. Experts had expected a rise in the poverty rate for the fourth straight year, but unemployment benefits and modest job gains helped stave that off, the bureau reported.
... While unemployment eased slightly from 2010 to 2011, the gap between rich and poor increased. The median, or midpoint, household income was $50,054, 1.5 percent lower than 2010 and a second straight annual decline.
In a blog post, the White House said the latest figures show that government policies can help the poor, middle class and uninsured, while more work remains to be done.
... By total numbers, roughly 46.2 million people remained below the poverty line last year, unchanged from 2010. That figure was the highest in the more than half a century that records have been kept. The 15 percent poverty rate was about the same as it was in 1993 and was the highest since 1983.
... Some economists were just relieved that the poverty level wasn't higher in the struggling economy.
"This is good news and a surprise," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan economist who closely tracks poverty. He pointed to a continuing boost from new unemployment benefits passed in 2009 that gave workers up to 99 weeks of payments after layoffs and didn't run out for many people until late 2011. Also, job gains in the private sector helped offset cuts in state and local government workers.
"It would indicate the stimulus was even more effective than believed," he said.
Someone to remind Mr. Danziger of the following:
- The stimulus plan was a two-year bill passed by Congress in February 2009.
- It allocated about $800 billion over calendar 2009 and 2010.
- The administration predicted that the unemployment rate would be about 5.6% today because of the passage of that bill.
- The current unemp
loyment rate is 8.1%, with indicators of worker discouragement at alarming levels.
- In any event, the stimulus was not really relevant to calendar year 2011 the year covered in the Census report, because spending under its programs ended in 2010.
- The economy's overall performance since the recession ended is, as I noted in my latest column, "the worst economic stewardship since FDR extended the Great Depression."
Beyond that, the 1.5% drop in household income negates any supposed benefit one might be tempted to celebrate in those supposedly magical extensions of unemployment benefits Mr. Danziger and Ms. Yen seem to love so much. The Obama administration's policies have significantly lowered Americans' standard of living at most levels, blown up many of their carefully planned-out retirement strategies, and caused unprecedented misery in the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
In reality, none of this is a darned bit funny. Instead, it's just another tiresome example of the press trying to convince Americans that things aren't as bad as anyone with eyes knows they are.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.