The results of the latest Pew Poll, as well as a new study by the Census Bureau are now in, and they should not be surprising to anyone who's been a) Paying Attention; or b) Struggling to Make Ends Meet.
Three years into the Great Stagnation/Long Depression/Prosperity is Just Around the Corner propaganda campaign, the "P" word is finally being uttered in the mainstream media. The New York Times, wishing to expand upon the latest poverty numbers coming out of the Census Bureau a few weeks ago, actually commissioned a supplemental study to find out just how many people are really poor when geography and cost of living and social safety net programs are factored in. Researchers claim to be absolutely shocked to discover that a growing number of people (100 million strong) are just barely scraping by, and are just a paycheck or illness away from being out on the streets. From today's Times article:
" 'These numbers are higher than we anticipated,' said Trudi J. Renwick, the bureau’s chief poverty statistician. “There are more people struggling than the official numbers show.”
Outside the bureau, skeptics of the new measure warned that the phrase “near poor” — a common term, but not one the government officially uses — may suggest more hardship than most families in this income level experience. A family of four can fall into this range, adjusted for regional living costs, with an income of up to $25,500 in rural North Dakota or $51,000 in Silicon Valley.
But most economists called the new measure better than the old, and many said the findings, while disturbing, comported with what was previously known about stagnant wages.And this is the week that the Pew Poll released its figures showing only about half of us still feel ourselves superior to everybody else in the world. "Only" half, huh? Conservatism dies hard, though it's on the way out. Here's the chart:
'It’s very consistent with everything we’ve been hearing in the last few years about families’ struggle, earnings not keeping up for the bottom half,' said Sheila Zedlewski, a researcher at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan economic and social research group."
In his New York times column this morning, Charles Blow bemoans the Great Decline:
"We are settling into a dangerous national pessimism. We must answer the big questions. Was our nation’s greatness about having God or having grit? Is exceptionalism an anointing or an ethos? If the answers are grit and ethos, then we must work to recapture them. We must work our way out of these doldrums. We must learn our way out. We must innovate our way out.Nice and noble sentiments, and reminiscent of many a presidential campaign speech, from Reagan's "Morning in America" to Obama's recent and now-abandoned "Win the Future."
We have to stop snuggling up to nostalgia, acknowledge that we have allowed a mighty country to be brought low and set a course to restitution. And that course is through hard work and tough choices. You choose greatness; it doesn’t choose you."
The top-recommended Reader Comment is by Nan Socolow, who eloquently and concisely writes:
"As America is exceptional among nations, so was the Roman Empire exceptional among nations. So was the British Empire exceptional among nations, and the French Empire under Napoleon after the Revolution. It is wonderful to aspire to be Ronald Reagan's "shining city on the hill" again. But the time of that Shining City has come and gone, and so has morning in America. And now, because we have stretched the American Empire further than it can be stretched - with bloody wars in the Middle East, with crumbling infrastructure, with an economy that has spiraled down and down and circles the drain, with the gross inequality between the very rich and the poor among us, this century will not be the American century of Exceptionalism. Modern China is on the cusp of becoming an exceptional empire, as ancient China surely was. That President Obama is in Australia right now, agreeing to contain the growing Empire of China for the Australians, as America contained the Soviet Union decades ago, is telling. America has suffered for the past decades from egregiously sick government under the Republican party, from corruption and decay within, much as Rome suffered within in her waning years of Empire. Today, Americans, wired into the newest communications technology, are mindlessly dancing with the stars instead of working toward a rebirth of our exceptionalism. With ubiquitous noisy wire chatter of social media obscuring the facts of American existence today, how can we be exceptional? With our political and financial and cultural institutions as they have never been before - bereft and barren of compassion and empathy for the least of our citizens - we do not deserve to be called exceptional any longer."