A long time pet peeve of mine has been the coverage of the economy by the mainstream media. Listening to them pontificate, you would assume that other than the state-backed-to-the-hilt Wall Street and the vaguely defined “middle-class”, no one else existed. When is the last time you heard remotely serious coverage of poverty?
Well, ask and you shall receive apparently, because I was just greeted with the following headline: “Census: 1 in 2 Americans is poor or low-income“:
Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.
The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.
“Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too `rich’ to qualify,” said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.
They even mentioned rising cost of living, ffs!
This fact of the working poor flushes the lie on the Right that poverty is just a matter of lazy people who don’t want to work. The rise in costs and wages not keeping up with inflation throws a monkey wrench in the Yglesias/Krugman type mainstream liberal claim that there somehow isn’t enough inflation. But also, notice how thanks to the convergence of the two more people are falling into the poor-but-not-poor-enough-for-help category.
Given that, contrary to common portrayal, the current economy has jack squat to do with a natural market order due to corporate welfare and the regular state intervention in finance, the purpose served by social spending is as a form of revolt insurance — “hey, minimally attached people, we have an offer for you! You refrain from questioning or attempting to dismantle this system, and we’ll give you some scraps to make the injustice a little more bearable. Deal?” This essentially history-book conservative scheme, save the occasional skirmish, has served its purpose longer than could have been expected.
Now? This is what a scalability problem looks like. How do you bribe half the country?