There have been several encouraging economic reports over the past two years, and compared to directly after Republicans crashed the economy in 2008, they are indicators of recovery for the nation, and simply outstanding for Wall Street, corporations, the oil industry, and the richest Americans. Along with every good economic report over the past year, there has been an accompanying shameful report for the richest nation on Earth revealing that the least advantaged Americans are sinking deeper into despair. There have even been reports that America’s storied middle class continues losing economic ground due to stagnating wages, and is declining at about the same pace as the poor who are getting much poorer. Despite the good economic news, the poor particularly find nothing whatsoever encouraging about the “outstanding recovery for the rich.”
In October, 78% of voters said they were worried that their financial situations will continue getting worse while the wealthy, Wall Street, and corporations get richer and richer. Some financial experts and pundits cannot understand why the poor and middle class are not celebrating the good news about the economic recovery. Despite promising economic trends, millions of Americans who have found work are barely surviving with poverty wages that are not keeping up with inflation, much less afford very modest housing for their families. A new report should clarify why most Americans, particularly poor Americans are not impressed, or encouraged about the recovery; no matter how good economic news appears.
The shocking report on the plight of the poor by the National Center of Family Homelessness (NCFH) revealed that as of 2013, one out of every 30 children in America is homeless. That works out to a shameful 2.5 million children (and rising) who are living on the streets, in cash-strapped shelters, in tents, in cars, or crammed together in “unstable housing with other families, relatives, or friends who are suffering equally financial and housing instability.” According to the NCFH director, Dr. Carmela DeCandia, “The impact of the Great Recession has really lingered for poor families despite other positive turns in the economy. Poverty is the driving factor behind family homelessness.” In fact, according to government statistics included in the report, 45-million Americans live in poverty and struggle to survive on an income at or below $19,530 for a family of 3, according to government statistics highlighted in the report. Of that 45-million, nearly half, or 22-million Americans, live in extreme poverty with incomes less than $11,157 for a family of four.
Family homelessness was not a big problem in America until the 1980s when cuts to social programs, particularly programs for low-income housing, sent many poor families into the street. Those who have a memory likely remember that it was in the 1980s that Republicans’ man-god, Ronald Reagan, told Americans that “government is the problem,” and their mortal enemy, and promptly slashed social programs for the poor. Reagan pulled a similar inhumane stunt while governor of California and ordered all of the state’s mental institutions shuttered killing countless jobs and sending thousands of mentally ill patients, en masse, into the streets. It is the Republican lack of humanity for those least advantaged, particularly America’s children, that Republicans pant to repeat when they take control of Congress.
In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the number of homeless children increased temporarily, but the statistics appeared to decline as victims found housing. However, thanks to the Bush-Republican Great Recession destroying millions of jobs, and GOP banking deregulation that created the housing crisis, child homelessness shot back up to a sickening 1.6 million by 2010. Due to Republican obstruction and cuts to housing assistance, and failure to even consider raising the federal poverty wage, the rate of child homelessness continues to climb. According to the report, child homelessness surged by 8% nationally by 2012 and it is down to poverty wages that are declining against the rise in the cost of living. Coupled with inhumane austerity cuts, the GOP is getting precisely what they apparently live for; more despair and destitution among the poor, especially children.
Obviously, child homelessness, like child poverty, is rampant across the former Confederacy where Republicans enacted right-to-work for less laws keeping wages at poverty levels. For example, 59,349 Alabama children were homeless during the 2012-2013 school year up from 35,239 the year before. Alabama’s minimum wage is $7.25, while a two bedroom apartment requires that tenants make at least double that rate; food is another issue altogether. 27% of Alabama’s children live in dire poverty and the incoming Republican Congress will make sure that percentage rises. In Mississippi, 26,108 children are without homes and with the minimum wage at $7.25, the child poverty rate is 35% and rising. In Arkansas, 29% of children are homeless, live in dire poverty, and like New Mexico and most of the South, the income required to rent a tiny two-bedroom apartment is at least double the minimum wage.
The NCFH report offered a “very simple solution” to address the nation’s epidemic of child homelessness. The solution starts with “agreeing as a nation that children living doubled-up in basements and attics with relatives and friends are homeless and need our help. The next step is to ensure an adequate supply of safe, affordable housing combined with essential services. To remain housed, parents need employment opportunities that provide adequate income; this necessitates education, job training, transportation, and childcare.” President Obama has called on Congress to address all of those “simple solutions,” but they have instead offered up tax cuts for the rich, environmental and workplace deregulation, and threats to eliminate the federal minimum wage.
There is a reason Republicans have ignored indicators of economic recovery that primarily benefited their wealthy supporters over the past five years. Despite the stock market is at record highs, the budget deficit at a record lows, taxes and spending lowest in 60 years, they intend to slash spending on social programs and cut taxes for their wealthy supporters. It is why the Republican Congress will expedite passage of the Path to Prosperity budget to inflict more, much much more, damage on the poor and middle class and give more wealth to the one percent. It is just what Republicans do regardless that their precious donors have reaped all the economic recovery, and with this latest report that their inhumane austerity has increased child homelessness and poverty, they will be emboldened to do what they do best; inflict more harm on the poor, especially poor children.