How Pope Francis Undermined the Goodwill of His Trip and Proved to Be a Coward

Posted: 09/30/2015 12:39 pm EDT Updated: 2 minutes ago

After first refusing to confirm nor deny it, the Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis met with the Kentucky clerk Kim Davis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, where Davis’ attorney — who made the news public after the pope’s trip ended — said Francis told her to “stay strong.” And that simple encounter completely undermines all the goodwill the pope created in downplaying “the gay issue” on his U.S. trip.

The pope played us for fools, trying to have it both ways. As I noted last week, he’s an artful politician, telling different audiences what they want to hear on homosexuality. He did that in Argentina as a cardinal — railing against gay marriage when the Vatican expected him to do so — and he’s done that since becoming pope, striking a softer tone on the issue after Benedict’s harsh denunciations were a p.r. disaster for the Catholic Church in the West. But this news about Kim Davis portrays him as a more sinister kind of politician. That’s the kind that secretly supports hate, ushering the bigots in the back door — knowing they’re an embarrassment — while speaking publicly about about how none of us can judge one another.

I would have more respect for the pope if he had publicly embraced Kim Davis and made an argument for her, as he did in his visit with the Little Sisters of the Poor, who are battling against filling out a form to exempt themselves from Obamacare’s contraception requirement, claiming that even filling out the form violates their religious liberty — even though I vehemently disagree with the pope on that issue. I’d have more respect if he boldly, explicitly made a public statement (not the vague, general statement he made on his plane on the way home only in response to a reporter’s question about Davis), as he did in trying to stop the execution of a Georgia inmate who was put to death this morning. But by meeting with Davis secretly, and then at first having the Vatican neither confirm nor deny the encounter — and now having the Vatican say it “won’t deny” the meeting while it still won’t offer any other details — the pope comes off as a coward.

He shows himself to be antithetical to much of what he preaches and teaches. He talks about dialogue and having the courage of one’s convictions and the courage to speak out. But he swept this Davis meeting under the rug, seemingly ashamed and certainly not wanting to broach the subject. Even Davis’s supporters should find that insulting to them.

We all knew Francis was playing a p.r. game, and we were fine with that. He was focusing on climate change, immigration and other issues passionate to him — and certainly I, and I hope everyone, still welcome whatever influence he can have on those issues. And it appeared he viewed the LGBT rights debate as a distraction from a focus on those causes. He even told U.S. bishops in a meeting during his trip that they should stop complaining about it and turn their attention to other issues. The sense was that he was probably not passionate about gay rights, but not passionate about attacking them either.

But by telling Davis that she should “stay strong” — if her attorney’s account of the encounter is to be believed — the pope is only encouraging the bigots, even if he’s doing so quietly. We don’t know all the details yet regarding how Davis came to meet Francis — if, for example, it was one of the more vocally anti-gay U.S. Catholic Church leaders who brought her along, or if the Vatican invited her.

But the optics of it are bad no matter what. Rather than moving us forward on LGBT rights ever so slightly, as many viewed the pope as doing, he now, with this meeting, emboldens the haters in the church who will be pushing to make sure church doctrine continues to call homosexuality “intrinsically disordered.” And it sends a message to all those people who’ve experienced anti-gay discrimination — like the Catholic school teachers fired from their jobs in the U.S. simply because of who they are — that this pope is not going to end that discrimination any time soon. Rather than stopping that discrimination, he welcomed, with open arms in the Vatican’s own embassy, the bigots who promote that discrimination but who’ve turned themselves into the victims.

Life expectancy plunges for low-income Americans

By Andre Damon
29 September 2015

The gap in life expectancy between higher and lower-income Americans has soared in recent decades, according to the results of a new study commissioned by the US Congress.

In particular, the study, published this month by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, reveals a sharp drop in life expectancy for poorer Americans.

Men in the top fifth of the income distribution have had their life expectancy at age 50 grow from 81.7 years for those born in 1930 (aged 50 in 1980) to 88.8 years for those born in 1960 (aged 50 in 2010). Meanwhile, the poorest fifth of men have had their life expectancy fall from 76.6 years for those born in 1930 to 76.1 years for those born in 1960.

As a result, there is now a life expectancy gap of more than 12 years between the poorest and wealthiest men, compared to a gap of just over five years three decades ago.

The changes are even more dramatic for women. Life expectancy at age 50 for the poorest fifth of women has fallen from 82.3 years for those born in 1930 to 78.3 years for those born in 1960. Meanwhile life expectancy for top-earning women has grown from 86.2 years to 91.9 years for the same period.

Over the past three decades, the gap in life expectancy at age 50 between the poorest and wealthiest women has increased from less than four years to more than 13 years.

The growing discrepancy in life expectancy between the rich and poor is the result of decades of attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and living standards, as well as social programs that benefit low-income households, such as food stamps, Welfare and Medicaid. While the rich have access to the best healthcare that money can buy, the poor are left with substandard care that they cannot afford.

Falling wages for low-income workers have left 16 percent of US households officially classified as food insecure, and the incidence of diseases related to poor diet have soared. The share of US residents who have been diagnosed with diabetes, largely a disease of poverty, has more than doubled, from under 3 percent in 1980 to 7 percent today.

Workplaces throughout the country have slashed decent-paying healthcare benefits beginning in the early 1980s and continuing to this day. Meanwhile, federal programs have been starved of funding as healthcare costs soar, with the ruling class increasingly targeting the principle healthcare program for elderly Americans, Medicare.

The trends revealed in the report (which only goes to 2010) will only be further exacerbated by the policies carried out under the Obama administration. According to an analysis released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of healthcare deductibles—the amount of healthcare expenses that must be paid out of pocket before an insurer will pay any expenses—has increased 67 percent over the past five years, while wages have risen only 10 percent since the 2008 financial crisis.

The 2008 financial crisis ushered in an escalation of the attack on workers’ living standards and healthcare. Corporations responded to the 2008 downturn by eliminating vast numbers of decent-paying jobs with good benefits, replacing them largely with low-wage and contingent employment during the so-called economic “recovery.” State, local and federal healthcare programs have been chipped away at through year after year of budget cutting and austerity.

But perhaps the most dramatic element of the assault on workers’ healthcare benefits has been the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act, the main purpose of which has been to shift the cost burden of healthcare onto beneficiaries.

Among the various regressive components of Obamacare is the so-called Cadillac tax, which imposes high taxes on better healthcare plans to create an incentive for insurance companies and corporations to reduce coverage. The effect of this proposal can be seen in ongoing negotiations in the auto industry, where the corporations are working with the United Auto Workers to establish a mechanism for reducing healthcare benefits to a level where they will not be subject to the tax, which goes into effect in 2018.

The National Academy of Sciences study itself was commissioned as a means of gauging the economic impact of various proposals to slash Social Security spending proposed in various forms by Republicans and Democrats alike.

In particular, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called for raising the retirement age from its current level of 67 to 70, a proposal that had previously been advanced by the Business Roundtable as well as other Democratic and Republican politicians. This measure, if enacted, would entail a massive reduction in benefit payments, and by extension significantly reduce life expectancy.

The study’s findings are also being used to drive more sophisticated, though no less reactionary, arguments for slashing workers’ healthcare benefits. Peter R. Orszag, the study’s co-chair, who served as Obama’s first Director of the Office of Management and Budget before becoming an executive at Citigroup in 2011, sought to present the higher life expectancy of higher-income earners as a major issue driving rising healthcare costs.

In an op-ed for Bloomberg, Orzag declares, “The life expectancy gap is widening markedly, and this is causing a big change in the pattern of lifetime government benefits. In evaluating any improvements to entitlement programs, policy makers will need to keep these trends in mind.”

Orzag’s argument is essentially a setup for various proposals to introduce means-testing into Social Security, along the lines of that proposed by Republican Candidate Chris Christie or expanded this year for Medicare by the Obama administration.

This argument was spelled out in a column by the Washington Post’s Robert Samuleson, who argued, “Social Security should be a safety net, not a gravy train…. Eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare should gradually increase to reflect longer life expectancies for most Americans. Benefits should be curbed for those near the top.”

The implication of such a policy would be to reduce benefits for all Americans through an increase in the retirement age, while transforming Social Security from a universal program to a means-tested anti-poverty measure, to be chipped away at and subsequently dismantled.

US health insurance deductibles rise sharply, far outpacing wage gains


By Kate Randall
25 September 2015

The steady increase in health insurance deductibles paid by US workers over the last five years is more than six times the average wage increase, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Businesses are steadily raising the amount employees must pay for health care before their coverage kicks in, resulting in workers and the families foregoing medical care because they cannot afford it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a major contributing factor to this phenomenon through its excise tax on “lavish” health plans set to go into effect in 2018.

Kaiser, a health policy research group that tracks employer and other health insurance plans and benefits, calculates that insurance deductibles have risen more than six times faster than workers’ wages since 2010. Four of five workers with employer-sponsored health insurance now pay a deductible.

Both the share of workers with deductibles and the size of those deductibles have increased sharply in the last five years, according to the study. Deductible amounts have risen by an average 67 percent during this same period, while premiums rose a comparatively moderate 24 percent as more employers shifted the cost of health insurance onto workers.

The 67 percent deductible hike has dwarfed the average rise in workers’ wages, which have increased a miserable 10 percent in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, according to the Kaiser study.

The 17th annual Kaiser/Health Research & Educational Trust analyzed the responses of nearly 2,000 small and large employers on health insurance coverage, costs and deductibles as well as actions businesses have taken in relation to the ACA, popularly known as Obamacare.

Last year, 98 percent of large firms (200 workers or more) offered insurance coverage compared to 47 percent of the smallest firms (three to nine workers) offering coverage. The 98 percent statistic, however, is deceptive as what constitutes “coverage” is being continually downgraded by the raising of deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

The survey found that the average annual premium for single coverage is $6,251, of which workers pay on average $1,071. For a family the average premium is $17,545, with workers contributing on average $4,955.

In addition to their portion of the premium workers then must cover the deductible, which must be paid before coverage for all but certain “essential” tests and services can begin. One in five workers has a deductible of $2,000 or more.

The Kaiser survey also provides an early look at employers’ response to the Obamacare tax on higher-cost health plans, often referred to as the “Cadillac tax.” Beginning in 2018 a 40 percent tax will be levied on individual plans with premiums exceeding $10,200 or family plans costing more than $27,500.

This tax is one of the key features of Obama’s health care legislation and is aimed at gutting health care for those receiving coverage through their employers, or close to half of the US population.

Fifty-three percent of large employers surveyed have conducted an analysis to determine whether any of their plans exceed the Cadillac tax thresholds, with about one in five in the group saying their plans with the largest enrollment will exceed it. Thirteen percent of large firms offering health benefits say they have already made changes to their plans to avoid stepping over the limit, while 8 percent say they have switched to a lower cost health plan.

“Our survey finds most large employers are already planning for the Cadillac tax, with some already taking steps to minimize its impact in 2018,” Kaiser study lead author Gary Claxton said in a statement. “Those changes likely will shift costs to workers, but exactly how and how much will vary for individual workers.”

Steps already taken by employers to lower health care costs include eliminating a hospital or a health system from the network on one of their plans (9 percent of firms) and offering a “narrow network” plan, one generally considered more limited than the standard HMO network (7 percent).

The Kaiser study shows that employers are waging a two-pronged attack on employee health benefits. Workers are required to pay steadily rising out-of-pocket expenses in the form of skyrocketing deductibles, while the coverage they are receiving deteriorates. The specific aim of the costs borne by workers is to discourage them to seeking treatment for themselves and family members.

Some of the “creative” solutions encouraged by employers to help workers self-ration care include offering plans with access to a doctor or nurse over the telephone or Skype as an alternative to a trip to the doctor or emergency room. Employers are also offering online tools to show them the cost of a particular test or doctor visit, the distinct possibility being that sticker shock will keep them from seeking treatment.

The shift being effected in employer-sponsored health care is working in tandem with the central component of Obamacare, the “individual mandate.” Under this provision, individuals and families without insurance through an employer or a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid must obtain insurance or pay a tax penalty.

People can shop for insurance from private insurance companies on the health care exchanges set up by the ACA, where some low- and middle-income individuals receive modest subsidies to offset premium prices.

Customers buying coverage on the federal and other state exchanges have already discovered that many of the most affordable Bronze plans come with deductibles in excess of $5,000. Despite these high out-of-pocket costs, private insurers are already seeking and receiving double-digitpremium rate hikes from state insurance commissions.

Workers receiving coverage through either their employers or the Obamacare exchanges find themselves in the increasingly untenable position of trying to cover mounting health care costs for their families while their wages stagnate or decline in real terms.

Disaster capitalism is a permanent state of life for too many Americans

According to the Department of Homeless Services, the number of homeless people in New York City has risen by more than 20,000 over the past five years. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In the United States, disaster has become our most common mode of life. Proof that our daily existence was something other than a simmering, smoldering disaster has been historically held somewhat at bay by the myth that hard work equals some kind of subsistence living. For the more deluded amongst us, this ‘American dream’ even got us to believe we could be something called ‘middle class’. We were deceived.

For those not yet woke, I don’t see how y’all can stay asleep when story after story proves how screwed we are.

The New York Post, no bastion of bleeding heart liberalism, reported on Monday that “Hundreds of full-time city workers are homeless”. These are people who clean our trash and make our city, the heart of American capitalism, safe and livable, including for those who plunder the globe from Wall Street. These are men and women, living in shelters and out of their cars, who have government jobs – the kind of workers conservatives love to paint as greedy, gluttonous pigs.

When a full time government worker can’t “find four walls and a roof to call his own” in the city he serves, we are living in a perpetual state of disaster capitalism.

Across the country, the San Francisco Chronicle told the tale of the “Tech bus drivers forced to live in cars to make ends meet”. It’s arguable whether living in your car can really be considered “making ends meet”, but what can you expect of a newspaper serving a city where tech is supposed to answer all of our needs. Where housing is even more stupidly expensive than in New York City.

This, too, is perpetual disaster capitalism, creating havoc and inflicting disaster upon individual souls for corporate greed without even needing the pretense of a crisis for an excuse.

In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein defined “disaster capitalism” as “orchestrated raids on the public sphere in the wake of catastrophic events, combined with the treatment of disasters as exciting marketing opportunities”. She was riffing on neoconservatives using Hurricane Katrina as an excuse for a New Orleans land grab. She witnessed the same phenomenon in the 2004 Asian Tsunami and in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq.

The concept of public plunder after disaster has been embraced in similar linguistic terms by Democrats and Republicans alike. Condoleezza Rice famouslycalled 9/11 an “enormous opportunity”, and indeed it was a profitable one, for war contractors anyway. Similarly, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before”. Emanuel was good to his word. While American workers lost their jobs, lost their homes and even took their own lives as a result of the 2008 financial meltdown, the Obama White House instituted financial “reforms” that arrested no Wall Street executives, and left even Forbes predicting “ten reasons why there will be another systematic financial crisis”.

When our daily life is one of a state of chaos – and with hundreds slaughtered by police annually, and folks who work full time unable to stave off homelessness, and white anchors shot on live TV, and black worshippers shot up in church, and incarcerated victims behind bars “taking their own lives” daily, it’s hard to say that it’s not – the continuous state of disaster justifies disaster capitalism continuously, and we’re barely able to notice it, and powerless to stop it.

We live in such an interminable state of disaster, we barely see the locusts for the plague. Take the other major sad story this week: that Silicon Valley investor Martin Shkrelli has bought the drug Daraprim, raising its price 5,000%. No crisis necessitated this increase. The drug is 62 years old, and its initial costs had long ago been absorbed.

It’s easy to be angry at Shkrelli, his smug smile and his greedy choices that may well equal the deaths of those priced out from the malaria, Aids and cancer medicine they need. But Shkrelli is just a tool. He lives in a world where disaster capitalism will reward him. He now says he will make the drug “more affordable,” but the richest nation on earth can’t stop him from deciding what “affordable” will mean. He may repulse us, but he represents our American way of disastrous living. Disaster capitalism no longer just reacts to chaos for profit, or even creates chaos for profit. It creates the conditions by which the spectre of social, spiritual and biological death hang over our heads on a daily basis so oppressively, the crises become seamless.

And it asks us to accept that when you work full time driving workers to the richest corporation in the history of the human race and must live in your car, you should be grateful that you’re “making ends meet”, keep calm and carry on.


German government adopts drastic measures to deter refugees


By Peter Schwarz
19 September 2015

The German government wants to drive away refugees by leaving them to starve and refusing them all medical support. A draft law to this effect has been in discussion between the various ministries since Monday and will be debated in parliament in October.

According to the Süddeutscher Zeitung, which has seen the text of the bill, it represents the “harshest restriction of support for refugees in the history of post-war Germany”. So-called “Dublin refugees” would have no right to receive pocket money, accommodations and medical aid, but would merely be provided with a return ticket and some provisions.

The “Dublin refugees” are those who have travelled through other European countries before reaching Germany. Since Germany does not lie on the outer borders of the European Union, this affects almost all those seeking asylum in the country. Under the Dublin Agreement, the country in which a refugee first arrives is responsible for accepting them and their asylum application.

In the last weeks, the Dublin Agreement had collapsed as a result of the high number of refugees fleeing to Europe from Syria. By tightening up the right to asylum, the German government clearly wants to “stabilise the Dublin system again”, according to the Süddeutscher Zeitung.

This change in policy is being conducted on the backs of refugees, who are refused the most basic rights. They are to be scared away through hunger and homelessness, and transported back like cattle to countries where unspeakable conditions prevail and where they are confined in virtual concentration camps.

Three weeks ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel, responding to a wave of solidarity from the German population, had promised to let in refugees from war-torn areas in the Middle East, underscoring this with the words, “We can do it”. Since then, her government has systematically worked to close off Germany’s borders—and the other European countries have followed suit.

The border between Hungary and Serbia, through which numerous refugees had come to Austria and Germany last week, has now been hermetically sealed off by a metres-high barbed wire fence, guarded by a massive police-military force.

Hungarian President Viktor Orban has received much international criticism for his brutal treatment of refugees. However, by closing the border he is merely doing what the German and other European governments have demanded of him. By tightening up the asylum laws, Germany is adopting Orban’s own brutal methods.

Following the closure of the Hungarian border, many refugees have sought to travel from Serbia to Austria via Croatia and Slovenia. In the last two days alone, 11,000 refugees have crossed the Serbian-Croatian border.

Since Croatia has offered them virtually no support, dramatic scenes have ensued. On Thursday at the Tovarnik border crossing, thousands of refugees sat for hours without any food or water. When they attempted to continue their journey on foot, they were held back by police.

In the meantime, both Croatia and Slovenia have sealed their borders. On Thursday night, Zagreb closed seven of eight border crossings to Serbia and placed the army on standby. Slovenia halted a train and sent back 150 refugees to Zagreb, saying their papers were not valid. Train links between the two countries were halted temporarily.

In the Mediterranean, EU military operations are entering their second phase. Refugee ships will not only be observed but captured, the traffickers arrested and the boats sunk. This escalation of military operations is also aimed at sealing off escape routes for refugees.

The European Union is also working at top speed to close the routes for refugees from Turkey via the Greek Aegean islands. At present, some 2 million refugees from Syria are in Turkey. In a 2002 agreement, the Turkish government had pledged to return “illegal” immigrants coming from Greece, but is not currently complying with this agreement.

The EU now wants to ensure that Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan keep hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees by offering financial inducements.

As well as seeking to repel refugees fleeing war in the Middle East and Africa, the tightening of Germany’s asylum laws is also meant to stop the influx of refugees from the poorer Balkan countries and Eastern Europe.

To this end, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro have been declared “safe countries of origin”. Refugees from these countries will be refused the right to work, preventing them being granted legal residency status, which requires having a job. Moreover, they will now have to remain in a reception camp for six months instead of three, and would only receive benefits in kind, rather than money.

Rave SWAT Teams

Cops Cracking Down on ‘Evil’ People Who Dance Late at Night

The motion is a reactionary step following the death of two people at last month’s HARD Summer music festival.

Los Angeles, Ca — Last week, local politicians in Los Angeles voted unanimously to create a new police task force that will be entirely focused on electronic dance music events. Earlier this summer, Los Angeles County council members proposed banning these types of events entirely. While that option is still on the table for them, they are now moving to crack down on these events until they are able to initiate a complete ban.

The recent proposal to create a police task force was put forward by county supervisors Hilda Solis and Michael Antonovich. The motion reads “Ultimately, in the interest of public safety, a ban of electronic music festivals at county-owned properties remains a possibility that will continue to be evaluated.”

“I want to emphasize that our efforts around this motion, above all, are about the health and safety of those attending these events. No lives should be lost while attending any music event,” Solis said in a statement.

The motion is a reactionary step following the death of two people at last month’s HARD Summer music festival at the Pomona Fairgrounds.

While deaths at events are a concern, they are largely due to the prohibition of these drugs, which makes them more dangerous. To make matters worse, the zero tolerance policy at events prevents drug users from getting the help they need when something does go wrong.

The development of a rave task force is reminiscent of the fear-mongering propagated about raves in the late 1990s.

In April of 2003, the government passed a law that everyone could agree on, the Amber Alert Bill. The Amber Alert is a notification system that sends warnings about missing and abducted children.

At face value, this seemed like something that was completely positive, and when it comes to rescuing abducted children, the Amber Alert system has surely saved many lives. However, the piece of legislation that put this system into effect is a perfect example of how the government is able to pass unpopular laws, by attaching them to popular bills.

In the case of the legislation that set up the Amber Alert system, there were also completely unrelated issues covered in the bill. For example, hidden deep within the bill was one of Joe Biden’s pet projects, the RAVE ACT, a law that imposes legal penalties on hosts and participants of late night dance parties.

According to the Wikipedia entry for the RAVE ACT:

On Thursday (April 10, 2003) the Senate and House passed the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act (formerly known as the RAVE Act) as an attachment to the child abduction-related AMBER Alert Bill. The language of the original act was changed slightly before the bill was passed without public hearing, debate or a vote.

Festivals and other events are not to blame for overdoses, or other personal decisions that attendees make on their own. This is especially important to consider when the events host anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 people.

In an area with that many people, as populated as some towns are, it is inevitable that a wide variety of situations can pop up. In fact, any large event that hosts so many people see occasional deaths. Due to the large volume of people, the chances increase that something will go wrong somewhere. This goes for sporting events to parades and other types of events that are considered wholesome and family-friendly.

Some other factors to consider are the many unintended consequences of the drug war, which causes drugs to be more dangerous, and limits harm prevention policies that could be put into place to prevent overheating and drug overdoses.

John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist.

US poverty rate and income growth stagnated in 2014


By Niles Williamson
19 September 2015

The US Census Bureau released its annual income and poverty report this week which showed that median household income and the national poverty rate held steady between 2013 and 2014.

The report found that 14.8 percent of the country’s population lived in poverty in 2014, statistically unchanged from a year prior. Blacks had the highest poverty rate in 2014 at 26.2 percent, which was a one percentage point increase over 2013. Among children and teenagers under the age of 18, approximately 15.5 million, or 21.1 percent, lived in poverty.

The vast majority of the population in the United States has seen little or no benefit from the supposedly ongoing economic recovery and a booming stock market. Wages and income remain stagnant while the poverty rate remains unconscionably high, especially in urban areas.

The steady decline of the official unemployment rate from its peak of 10 percent in October 2009 to 5.1 percent in August has had little impact as those returning to work find jobs at lower wages and many others have simply given up looking for work and are no longer counted as unemployed.

The labor force participation rate, the percentage of the working aging population currently employed, has fallen from a peak of 67.3 percent in 2000 to 62.6 percent in August, its lowest level in 38 years.

While the official poverty rate in 2014 was below the recent peak of 15.1 percent in 2010, the total number of Americans living in poverty in 2014, 46.7 million, marked an all-time high. The Census Bureau noted that 6.6 percent of the population lived in what is termed deep poverty, less than 50 percent of the poverty line or less than $12,115 annual income for a family of four.

The poverty line in 2014 was set at a meager $24,230 in annual income for a family of four. An individual who made less than $12,071 was officially counted as below the poverty line. If an individual or family makes a dollar more than these limits they are not considered to be poor.

In a much better measurement of the precariousness of life for most workers in the United States the Census Bureau reported that fully one third of the American population, more than 105 million people, live at less than twice the official the poverty rate.

The report notes that individuals and families often move in and out of poverty, with a smaller but significant number experiencing long-term poverty. The loss of a job or even a single paycheck can thrust a family into poverty.

Millions of Americans lack any savings they can rely on in the case of a financial emergency. Between 2009 and 2012, 34.5 percent of the population experienced a spell of poverty for two or more months while 2.7 percent lived in poverty for the entire four-year period.

Breaking down the poverty rate by geographical region, the South continued to be the most impoverished and was little changed from 2013 with 19.5 million, or 16.5 percent of the population, living in poverty. The West ranked second with a poverty rate of 15.2 percent (11.4 million), the Midwest third at 13 percent (8.7 million), and the Northeast fourth at 12.6 percent (7 million).

The poverty rate is particularly acute in urban areas throughout the country, with Detroit, Michigan (39.3 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (39.2 percent), Fresno, California (30.5 percent), Memphis, Tennessee (29.8 percent), and Milwaukee, Wisconsin (29 percent) topping the list for cities with populations over 300,000.

Detroit, once the center of auto manufacturing in North America, has been decimated by the shuttering of countless factories over the last four decades. In 2013 and 2014 the city of Detroit was forced into bankruptcy in an undemocratic process overseen by an unelected emergency manager in which wages and benefits were clawed back from city workers and retirees.

While tens of thousands of households in the city have had their water and other utilities shut off because they cannot afford to pay their bills, a handful of billionaires and multi-millionaires, including Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert, have benefited handsomely from the restructuring and decimation of the city, snapping up land and properties often for as little as one dollar.

Meanwhile 57.1 percent of children and teenagers under the age of 18 in Detroit officially lived below the poverty line in 2014. Among major American cities only Cleveland, Ohio had a higher child poverty rate, at 58.5 percent.

Cleveland, not coincidentally, is another city where the billionaire Gilbert and other wealthy vultures have snapped up property, gentrifying select areas of the downtown entertainment district.

The Census Bureau report also notes that median household income has yet to return to pre-2008 levels, before the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession contributing to the persistence of high rates of poverty.

The report notes that median household income in 2014 was statistically unchanged from 2013 at $53,657, 6.7 percent lower than it was in 2007 and 7.2 percent below its peak in 1999.

While the ratio between the income of the richest ten percent and the poorest ten percent remained unchanged between 2013 and 2014, income inequality in the United States has risen significantly between 1999 and 2014.

Over the last 15 years, income for the 50th percentile, median income, fell by 7.2 percent while income for those in the bottom 10 percent fell by 16.5 percent. While income has fallen over the last decade and a half for the bottom half of society, those in 90th percentile saw their annual income increase by 2.8 percent, and those even higher on the scale saw much larger gains.