The Census Bureau's new figures today on poverty in America are bound to prove the old saw that you can make statistics say almost anything.
The government said today the poverty rate in the United States in 2005 was essentially unchanged at 12.6 percent. Thirty seven million Americans were living under the poverty line last year, defined as $19,971 a year for a family of four or a little under $10,000 for a person living alone. The median income for all Americans rose about 1 percent to $46,300 a year. The percentage of Americans uninsured for medical care rose by 1.3 million people to 46.6 million Americans, or 15.9 percent of the population ( click here for the full report).
The demographic breakdown is telling, some might say scandalous: The poverty rate for children in America was basically unchanged at 17.6 percent. There are more children than adults living in poverty in the United States. The poverty rate for blacks is three times higher than the poverty rate for whites. The South and West are poorer than the Northeast and Midwest. And attention working women: you are still earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
The real median earnings for full time workers, both men and women, declined between 2004 and 2005. For men the dip was 1.8 percent to an average of $41,386, while median earnings for women fell 1.3 percent to $31,858.
So, bottom line, what do these statistics say? After three straight years of rising poverty rates nationwide, the Census Bureau portrayed today's headline numbers as a "stabilizing" of the number of Americans living in poverty. But even before today's numbers were released, liberal think tanks were saying it can scarcely be considered good news that four years into an economic recovery, the poverty rate has just now stopped increasing. The pattern in previous recoveries has been a decline in the poverty rate as well as an increase in median income.
With mid-term elections two months away, today's numbers are sure to add fuel to the fire over who has prospered -- and who hasn't -- in the Bush economy.