Nearly 4,000 US communities have higher rates of lead poisoning than Flint

By Jerry White
16 November 2017

In an updated study, Reuters news agency has identified 3,810 neighborhoods where recently recorded child lead poisoning rates are at least double those found in Flint, Michigan during the height of that city’s water crisis in 2014 and 2015. In some 1,300 of these “hotspot” communities, the percentage of children six and under with elevated lead levels was at least four times the percentage in Flint during the peak of the crisis.

In pockets of Baltimore, Cleveland and Philadelphia, where lead poisoning has spanned generations, Reuters reported that the rate of elevated tests over the last decade was 50 percent or higher. An interactive map released with the study shows one census tract in Buffalo, New York—a former steel and auto center that, like Flint, has suffered decades of deindustrialization—where 68 percent of the children had high levels of lead.

Map of lead concentrations in the United States

The ingestion of any amount of the heavy metal, whether through tainted water, lead-based paint, contaminated soil or fumes and dust, can do irreparable harm to children. This includes impeding the development of the brain and nervous system, lowered IQ, memory loss, hearing and speech problems, and behavioral and attention-related problems. The toxin, which remains in the body and can be passed on for generations, is also responsible for a host of adult health problems, including decreased kidney function, high blood pressure, tremors and infertility.

In the year following the switchover of Flint to water from the polluted Flint River, which caused leaching from the city’s antiquated lead pipe system, five percent of the children who had their blood tested showed lead levels in excess of five micrograms per deciliter. This is the threshold requiring immediate public health intervention, according to the US government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which acknowledges that there is no safe level of exposure to lead.

Reuters used data collected by the CDC based on neighborhood-level blood testing results for 34 states and the District of Columbia. As devastating as the results are, they do not provide a full picture. The CDC funds 35 state and local health departments for lead surveillance. Reporting is voluntary in the remaining states, many of which do not have staff to collect data. Despite the well-known public health hazard, the US government does not require reporting and does not oversee the systematic collection and analysis of data on lead poisoning.

Dr. Kim Cecil of the Cincinnati Lead Study shows how the brain isdamaged by lead poisoning

Reuters says this is the first look at data broken down by census tracts, which are small county subdivisions averaging 4,000 citizens, or by zip codes, with average populations of 7,500. In December, Reuters noted that far from being the exception, Flint did not even rank among the most toxic cities in America. It pointed to Warren, Pennsylvania, a town on the Allegheny River, where 36 percent of the children tested had high lead levels, to a zip code on Goat Island, Texas, where a quarter of tests showed poisoning.

The newest map includes additional data collected this year by Reuters from Kansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Vermont, North Carolina, New York City and Washington, D.C. The newly identified areas with high levels of child lead poisoning include a historic district in Savannah, Georgia, areas in Rutland, Vermont near a popular skiing area, and a largely Hasidic Jewish area in Brooklyn, New York.

Like Flint, which has acres of land polluted by General Motors and other industrial firms, impoverished homes with peeling paint, and underground lead water mains and service lines, the areas throughout the US with the worst lead poisoning are invariably working class and poor.

There has been a sharp decline in poisoning since lead was removed from paint in 1976 and gasoline in 1995, the latter after more than a decade of resistance by the oil industry. The elimination of lead poisoning, however, is not possible due to lead pipes, residual lead paint in poor urban and rural areas, and former or current industrial sites polluted with lead.

T
he Flint River

“The dramatic decline in blood lead over the last several decades in the US is a public health triumph, resulting from control of lead in gasoline, paint, food, water, soil, consumer products and other sources,” said Marc Edwards, a professor of environmental and water resources engineering at Virginia Tech University, who was instrumental in exposing the lies of state and local officials who claimed that Flint’s water was safe.

He continued: “Before the increased use of lead in paint and gasoline, lead in water was once the dominant source of human lead exposure in the United States, and it was generally acknowledged to cause widespread lead poisoning, fatalities and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Flint is yet another reminder that we must remain vigilant to harm caused by all lead sources, especially lead pipes, which are out of sight and out of mind. It is also the only government-owned source of lead, which directly affects potable water, a product intended for human consumption. Flint is just the most recent example of how this inherent conflict has harmed people.”

The poisoning of Flint was brought into the national and international spotlight only due to the courageous efforts of the city’s working class residents and science professionals like Edwards and pediatrician and public health advocate Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. She was denounced by Governor Rick Snyder’s office for “slicing and dicing” the results of blood samples.

Flint became a symbol of everything that was wrong in America: corporate and political criminality and the indifference of both the Democrats and Republicans to the plight of working people. The media, celebrities and politicians from Barack Obama to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders poured into the town and legal proceedings were initiated against several lesser figures involved in the crime and cover-up. More than three years since the switch to the Flint River, however, nothing has been done to make the residents whole.

The new report from Reuters has been largely ignored by the rest of the corporate-controlled media, which originally presented the Flint crisis as an anomaly, until it was unable to deny the massive and nationwide scale of the problem. Far from committing the necessary resources, including an estimated $500 billion to $1 trillion to replace the nation’s lead pipes, the Obama and Trump administrations have failed to provide any significant funding to address this public health care threat, even as they have squandered trillions on bank bailouts, military spending and tax cuts for the wealthy.

Trump’s 2018 budget request includes a $1.2 billion, or 17 percent, cut to the CDC and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/16/lead-n16.html

Advertisements

Trump pedals nationalist poison at Ohio rally

Trump-Ohio-Visit-2-112315

By Jerry White
15 March 2016

With polls showing a close contest between Donald Trump and Ohio Governor John Kasich in the state’s primary for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump cancelled a planned event in Florida and scheduled a rally for the Youngstown area on Monday night. The stop in the economically depressed former steel center follows similar rallies in Cleveland and Dayton, two other Ohio cities ravaged by deindustrialization.

The far-right candidate is reportedly pursuing a “rust-belt” strategy aimed at exploiting the disaffection of sections of workers and lower-middle class people whose economic and social grievances have long been ignored by the Democratic Party and the trade unions. Posturing as a champion of workers and small businessmen, the billionaire insists he can “make America great again” by strengthening the military, building a wall to keep Mexican immigrants out and making trade deals that benefit the US, not China and Mexico.

In fact, Trump embodies the criminality of the ruling oligarchy in the United States, which has amassed vast fortunes precisely by impoverishing the working class and plundering society. In his remarks in Youngstown, he praised one of his closest supporters, billionaire asset stripper Carl Icahn, whose hostile takeovers of corporations like the airline TWA left tens of thousands of workers without jobs and pensions. Trump began his remarks by saying his first “job” was in Cincinnati, where he bought 1,164 rental units from the Federal Housing Authority. “I bought it for nothing and I sold it for a lot of money,” he gloated.

Fearing the growth of militancy and anti-capitalist sentiment among workers and youth, sections of the ruling class are encouraging the development of a fascistic tendency based on virulent American nationalism and militarism and the suppression of all forms of popular opposition. In his Youngstown remarks, Trump slandered Muslim and Mexican immigrants as the “enemy within.” He recited a poem about a kindly, naïve woman who had rescued and cared for an injured snake only to be fatally bitten by the sinister reptile.

The main thrust of his remarks was to blame mass unemployment and falling wages not on the ruthless operations of figures like Icahn and himself, but on “unfair trade agreements.” American politicians like Governor Kasich had signed on to deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trump asserted, either out of their stupidity or because they were being paid by China, Japan, Mexico or another foreign power.

In the Cleveland area, Trump said, auto parts maker Eaton was “going to Mexico” and “Ford was going to Mexico…We are losing jobs, income, factories are going to China, Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, India, to everybody.” If he were elected president, Trump declared, he would call up the executives at air conditioner maker Carrier, Ford, Nabisco and other companies moving operations to Mexico and tell them they would face a 35 percent tax on everything they were shipping back to the US. “Within 24 hours, I will get a call saying, ‘Mr. President, we have decided to stay in the US’… We are going to win again. Win at the border. Win at war.”

Based on this demagogy and his efforts to tap into deep social anger in communities ravaged by deindustrialization, Trump has been able to win a certain amount of support in cities such as Youngstown. This has been possible only due to the right-wing and anti-working class politics of the Democratic Party, aided and abetted by the trade unions.

Workers in Youngstown and similar cities have suffered from the decades-long policy of corporatism pursued by the United Steelworkers, the United Auto Workers and other trade unions, which have blocked any resistance to the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs. Through their alliance with the Democratic Party, the unions have worked to prevent workers from finding any political means through which to express their independent class interests. At the same time, the unions have long promoted economic nationalism, legitimizing the chauvinist poison now being spewed by Trump.

Demolition of US Steel Ohio Works in Youngstown

The history of Youngstown itself demonstrates that the only possible means of undermining such demagogues as Trump is by fighting for the unity of the working class—white, black and immigrant, in the United States and internationally—on the basis of a program that meets their common class interests.

In the early 20th century, the employers in the Steel Valley used nativism and anti-immigrant chauvinism to divide and weaken the working class. In 1924 Italian and Irish immigrants had to fight street battles with the Ku Klux Klan in neighboring Niles.

During the “Great Steel Strike of 1919,” Youngstown workers joined 350,000 steelworkers nationally in a struggle for higher wages, the eight-hour day and union recognition. Fearing the influence of socialism just two years after the Russian Revolution, the employers and the government once again used anti-immigrant chauvinism, along with federal troops, to violently put down the strike.

Steelworkers protest mill closures

A year before, on June 16, 1918, the great American socialist Eugene Debs gave an anti-war speech in nearby Canton, Ohio. “I have no earthly use for the Junkers [military aristocracy] of Germany, and not one particle more use for the Junkers in the United States,” Debs declared. For his anti-war stance, Debs was jailed under the Espionage Act of 1917. In the presidential election of 1920, however, Debs won nearly 1 million votes while he remained in a prison cell.

During the “Little Steel Strike” of 1937, Youngstown was again a center of militant opposition by workers seeking to establish industrial unions. This time the employers, including Youngstown Sheet and Tube and Republic Steel, brought in African-Americans from the Deep South as strikebreakers and to foment racial divisions. Left-wing militants and socialist-minded workers fought to unite black, white and immigrant workers in the same union.

On June 19, 1937, just a month after the Chicago police killed or severely wounded 23 strikers at Republic Steel during the Memorial Day Massacre, a similar event took place in Youngstown when 300 cops protecting the Republic steel mill fired tear gas and shot directly into a crowd of strikers. The “Women’s Day Massacre” left two dead and dozens injured, while scores of prominent strike leaders were later arrested in home raids. The strike was broken, and the “Little Steel” companies were not unionized until 1942.

In 1966, General Motors opened the Lordstown Assembly Plant in nearby Warren. The factory became the center of rank-and-file opposition to the corporation and the UAW bureaucracy in the 1970s, with a wave of wildcat strikes against speed-ups and other deplorable work conditions in 1972-74. Many workers who migrated to the area had also passed through the militant struggles of coal miners in Kentucky, West Virginia and other Appalachian states.

By the mid-1970s, however, American capitalism was in the midst of a historic decline, and its industries faced growing international competition. The ruling class responded with a wave of plant shutdowns and mass layoffs while increasingly turning to financial speculation as its chief form of wealth accumulation.

The trade unions, which wholeheartedly embraced a nationalist and pro-capitalist program, had no answer to the globalization of production. They abandoned any resistance and, in the name of making the US corporations more competitive, embraced the corporatist program of labor-management “partnership,” suppressing any opposition to the class war policies of the corporations and both big business parties.

This had devastating consequences in Youngstown. The takeover of Youngstown Sheet and Tube loaded the company up with debt, and on September 19, 1977 the company shut down a portion of its Campbell Works mill. This threw 5,000 workers out of their jobs in what is still referred to as “Black Monday.” Two years later, YST closed its Brier Hill plant. This was followed by the 1980 shutdown of US Steel’s 90-year-old Ohio Works and then the closing of its McDonald Works, bringing to over 9,000 the number of jobs lost in Mahoning Valley since 1977.

In the wake of these shutdowns, the Youngstown area lost an estimated 40,000 manufacturing jobs, 400 satellite businesses, $414 million in personal income and between 33 and 75 percent of school tax revenues. According to the 2010 census, Youngstown had 66,982 residents, around 40 percent of its population in 1959.

The fundamental cause of the deindustrialization of Youngstown and countless other Rust Belt cities is not “unfair trade deals,” but capitalism. The nationalist policies of the unions served only to suppress the class struggle while driving a wedge between US workers and their class brothers and sisters internationally.

The attack on workers’ jobs in the US takes place amid a global breakdown of the world capitalist system, which is leading to the destruction of millions of jobs, including those of hundreds of thousands of steelworkers in China, and the resurgence of working class struggles around the world. In order to unify the working class, workers must reject all forms of nationalism—whether promoted by Trump, Democrat Bernie Sanders or the trade unions—and unify their struggles in a political fight to abolish capitalism, the source of poverty, inequality and war.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/03/15/trum-m15.html

US social crisis overshadows 2016 presidential election

shattered-flag-400x225

By Patrick Martin
26 February 2016

The primary campaigns to select the presidential candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties move into the decisive stage over the next four weeks, when two-thirds of all state primaries and caucuses will be completed. Eleven states have primaries on Tuesday, March 1, followed by Michigan and Mississippi on March 8 and Florida, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio on March 15.

The America media gives round-the-clock coverage to the minutiae of capitalist politics—the insults and smears and lies hurled back and forth between the various representatives of big business seeking the nominations of the two parties. But very little attention is being paid to the conditions of life facing the working-class majority of the American population.

The reality of life in America for working people is drastically at odds with the official picture of a society in the seventh year of a slow but steady economic recovery, in which the population is generally prosperous and certainly not in desperate straits. The seething anger among working people, expressed in only a very limited and distorted way in the presidential campaign, is the product of intractable and deepening economic and social tensions.

Numerous reports released during the first two months of 2016 document the staggering dimensions of the social crisis facing working people in the United States. A majority of Americans have too little savings to pay for an emergency expense of $1,000. One in four US adults is burdened by debts caused by medical expenses. More than one million working people are being cut off food stamps. One million retirees face pension cuts dictated by the Obama administration.

Of all these social disasters, only the lead poisoning catastrophe in Flint, Michigan has become an issue in the presidential campaign, for the most cynical of reasons—to present the crisis, falsely, as a race issue, rather than one facing the entire working class, white, black and immigrant.

Another report on the social crisis was publicized Thursday on the front page of the New York Times. A study by a recently established think tank, the Economic Innovation Group, found that more than 50 million Americans live in communities—defined by postal ZIP codes—that are severely distressed economically.

The study used measures of education, poverty rate, unemployment, housing vacancy rate, median income and trends in employment and business formation to calculate figures for economic distress, showing that tens of millions “continue to feel left behind by the economic recovery.”

It identified the ten worst urban areas, in terms of economic distress, as (in order): Cleveland, Detroit, Newark, Toledo, San Bernardino, Stockton, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Memphis and Cincinnati. The state of Texas had the largest number of people living in distressed ZIP codes, 5.2 million, while the state of Mississippi had the highest proportion of its population living in distress, 40 percent.

In the most distressed 20 percent of ZIP codes, the study found, “nearly a quarter of adults have no high school degree, over half of adults are not working, and the median income is only two-thirds of the state level.” Since the 2008 Wall Street crash, these ZIP codes lost on average 6.7 percent of their jobs and 8.3 percent of their businesses. Their housing stock was on average more than 50 years old.

Contrasting the economic conditions in the distressed areas with those in high-income, high-growth areas (ZIP codes located mainly in the centers of finance and high technology, including New York City, Boston, Dallas and the San Francisco Bay Area), EIG executive director Steve Glickman observed, “It’s almost like you are looking at two different countries.”

Other studies document the failure of the state and federal governments to provide a social “safety net” adequate to meet the needs of working people. The majority of those who receive some form of public assistance have jobs, many of them full-time, but they earn so little that they cannot make ends meet. A majority of low-paid workers, those making $12 an hour or less, depend on some form of public assistance, principally food stamps and Medicaid.

Wages for the working class as a whole are stagnating. For the last quarter of 2015, total employment costs, the broadest measure of wages and benefits, rose a paltry 0.6 percent, bringing the total increase for the year to 2.1 percent. Only the plunge in oil prices, which has sharply reduced the cost of getting to work, has offset the impact of rising prices for necessities like food, education and medical care.

Extreme social distress has gone hand in hand with an immense growth in social inequality. The policies of the Obama administration have ensured a virtually unlimited stream of cash into the banks and financial system, and the wealth of the top 1 and 0.1 percent of the population has returned to pre-crisis levels.

Summing up data that has previously been reported on the WSWS, a recent article in Foreign Affairs noted, “[T]he share [of wealth] owned by the top 0.1 percent [increased] to 22 percent from nine percent three decades ago. In 2011, the top one percent of US households controlled 40 percent of the nation’s entire wealth.”

The states voting during the month of March include virtually the whole of the South, the most impoverished region in the United States. Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia hold primaries March 1, while Kentucky and Louisiana do so four days later. Later in the month come Mississippi, Florida and North Carolina.

Billionaire Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—herself a multimillionaire with close ties to Wall Street—are favored to sweep the Republican and Democratic primaries in the South. Yet these representatives of the American financial aristocracy are separated by an unbridgeable economic and social gulf from the working people of that region.

Trump, Clinton and the other big business politicians will jet from rally to rally, and spend tens of millions on campaign advertising. Meanwhile, the appalling living conditions faced by millions in the South were put on display as a series of major storms ravaged the region, destroying flimsily-built homes, particularly in impoverished rural areas where manufactured homes and trailers are commonplace.

The recent closures of Walmart stores across the region will reportedly create three new “food deserts,” neighborhoods where residents “will lack any place that sells fresh produce and meat once the last of the Wal-Mart stores slated for closure turns off the lights.” This includes parts of Arkansas, where Clinton was once first lady and served on the board of directors of the retail giant.

No section of the political establishment, from Trump to Democratic Party candidate Bernie Sanders, has any solution to the social crisis confronting the vast majority of the population. Both Trump and Sanders have in different ways sought to appeal to immense social anger—the former by promoting anti-immigrant and racist bigotry, the latter by calling for a “political revolution” that boils down to promoting the Democratic Party, which for the past seven years has presided over a historic transfer of wealth from the working class to the rich.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/02/26/cris-f26.html

Nearly 14 million Americans live in neighborhoods of extreme poverty

PovertyUSA

By Evan Blake
24 August 2015

A report released earlier this month found that the number of Americans living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty, where more than 40 percent of the population is at or below the federal poverty line, has nearly doubled since 2000, rising from 7.2 million to 13.8 million.

The report highlights the reality of deepening poverty and social misery since the Wall Street crash of October 2008, exposing the mass media’s lies that there has been any sort of economic recovery during that time.

The report, “Architecture of Segregation: Civil Unrest, the Concentration of Poverty, and Public Policy,” written by Paul Jargowsky of the Century Foundation, emphasizes that the years of the Bush presidency saw a marked increase in the overall spread and concentration of poverty, which only accelerated under Obama after the financial collapse of 2008.

Significantly, the data reveals that the total population of high-poverty neighborhoods encompasses all races, affecting the working class as a whole. Of those living in neighborhoods of extreme poverty, 5 million are black, 4.3 million are Hispanic and 3.5 million are non-Hispanic white.

However, the report also highlights the racial disparities that exist within this most impoverished section of the working class, noting that over one quarter of the black poor lives in a neighborhood of extreme poverty, compared to nearly one in six of the Hispanic poor and one in 13 of the white poor.

Using data from the US Censuses for 1990 and 2000 and from the annual American Community Survey (ACS), the study found that poverty became more concentrated in nearly every major American city, while disproportionately impacting children as well as poor African-Americans and Hispanics.

While the 1990s saw a decline in the number of extreme poverty census tracts, since 2000 this slight improvement has been totally erased. Today there are 4,412 high-poverty census tracts, a 76 percent increase over figures from 2000. Furthermore, the number of “borderline” neighborhoods, those with poverty rates in the range of 20 to 40 percent, actually increased during the 1990s and spiked by 55 percent since 2000, reaching 17,391 in 2013.

Geographically, the Midwest region saw the greatest increase in the number of people living in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, with a rise of 7.8 percent since 2000. Some of the urban centers of this region, long identified with historic struggles of the working class, now ravaged by decades of deindustrialization, rank among those with the highest levels of concentrated poverty, including Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Toledo and Akron.

In Detroit, the number of high-poverty census tracts more than tripled since 2000, from 51 to 184. Whereas high concentrations of poverty had previously been largely confined to Detroit’s city limits, by 2013 similar figures were found throughout most inner-ring suburbs just outside the central city, including Dearborn, Southfield, Warren and Redford Township. The city ranked in the top 10 for each racial category, with 57.6 percent of all black poor, 51.1 percent of all white poor and 33 percent of all Hispanic poor residing in areas of extreme poverty.

Although concentration of poverty is popularly associated with the largest metropolitan areas, the report found that small to mid-size metropolitan areas with 250,000 to 1 million persons experienced the greatest increases in concentrated poverty. Among the most dramatic transformations seen in a city this size took place in Syracuse, New York, where “the number of high-poverty tracts more than doubled, rising from twelve to thirty,” according to the report.

The report points to the rapid growth of suburbanization, starting around 1970, as a major factor that initially led to the growth of concentrated poverty in the central cities of metropolitan areas. “In virtually all metropolitan areas, suburban rings grew much faster than was needed to accommodate metropolitan population growth, so that the central cities and inner-ring suburbs saw massive population declines,” the report notes.

More recently, gentrification in the central cities has caused property values, rents and taxes to skyrocket, forcing many poor residents to move from the central cities into decaying inner-ring suburbs. The report cites Ferguson, Missouri as a prime example of this type of impoverished inner-ring suburb, noting, “Three out of ten neighborhoods in Ferguson now have poverty rates of more than 40 percent.”

While the report focuses on discriminatory zoning ordinances and other legal aspects as the driving force behind the growth in concentrated extreme poverty, the real source of this phenomenon lies in the nature of globalized production under capitalism.

Since the 1970s and increasingly since the 2008 economic crash, American corporations have shifted production from their historic centers in cities like Detroit and St. Louis to low-wage countries, enabling them to secure an increased rate of profit.

Real unemployment levels have steadily increased in the US, so that today the labor force participation rate is a mere 62.6 percent, the lowest level since 1977, before tens of millions of women entered the labor force. Among men, that figure is currently 69 percent, its lowest level ever since records began in 1948.

The growth of thousands of neighborhoods of extreme poverty across the US, often touted as the wealthiest country in the world, is one expression of the irrational and outmoded nature of capitalism. Concurrent with the decimation of former centers of industrial manufacturing, there has been a steady increase in the growth of the financial sector of the economy, whose inherent instability is presently leading to new convulsions in the markets.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/08/24/pove-a24.html

Kids Count report: 22 percent of US children live in poverty

kidspic

By Tom Hall
22 July 2015

Twenty-two percent of all children in the United States live below the federal poverty line, significantly higher than during the height of the 2008-2009 economic crisis, according to a report issued Thursday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The latest edition of the Kids Count Data Book found that the number of children living in poverty rose by almost 3 million between 2008 and 2013, the latest year included in the data: from 13.2 million to 16.1 million. The US child poverty rate remains four percentage points higher than it was in 2008, when it stood at 18 percent.

“Especially worrying” to the authors is the fact that the percentage of children in high poverty neighborhoods has risen from 11 percent in 2006-2010 to 14 percent in 2013, the highest level since 1990. The report notes that children living in high-poverty areas are more likely to drop out of school or develop behavioral or emotional problems.

The percentage of children in high-poverty neighborhoods is significantly higher in former industrial centers such as Detroit, where 81 percent of children live in poor neighborhoods. This figure is also higher for African-American, Native American and Latino children, at 32, 30 and 24 percent respectively.

The report reflects the fact that Obama’s economic “recovery,” which has seen a massive increase in stock values and profits of major corporations, has been a catastrophe for the American working class, who have seen their living standards and those of their children decline precipitously during this period.

“Although we are several years past the end of the recession, millions of families still have not benefited from the economic recovery,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. “While we’ve seen an increase in employment in recent years, many of these jobs are low-wage and cannot support even basic family expenses.”

“Only the most highly educated and highly paid workers have seen their wages grow, while inflation-adjusted wages for the lowest-income workers have slowly but gradually fallen,” the report states. This shift toward unskilled, low-paid professions since the “recovery” has led to an additional 1.7 million children living in “low-income working families” between 2008 and 2013.

It is widely acknowledged among researchers that “at a minimum, families need an income of at least twice the federal poverty level to cover basic expenses,” the report states. A total of 45 percent of all US children lived beneath this threshold in 2013.

The bleak job situation facing the US population “remains one of the primary obstacles to further reducing economic hardship among children and families,” according to the report. In addition to low wages, the number of jobs created after the 2008 financial crisis has not been sufficient to keep pace with the natural growth of the labor force. Thirty-one percent of children in 2013 had parents that lacked access to secure employment, defined as having a full time, year-round job. This is an increase from 27 percent in 2008, or 2.7 million additional children.

Income levels for US workers remain far below what they were prior to the recession. Median household income fell by 8 percent between 2007 and 2013, according to figures from the Federal Reserve.

Even industries which were once associated with a decent standard of living, especially those in manufacturing, have now been opened up as low-wage platforms. In a move spearheaded by the Obama administration’s auto restructuring, auto makers have institutionalized a “second tier” of employees who now make less, in real terms, than autoworkers a century ago. Wages have been lowered to the point where manufacturers are now “insourcing” some production back into the United States, eager to exploit the emerging and highly profitable low-wage economy.

The difficult economic conditions faced by American children are among the worst of any country in the industrialized world. A report by UNICEF last year found that the United States has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, as measured by the percentage of children beneath the median national income. The United States has the sixth-highest child poverty rate out of the 41 countries in the study, lower only than countries such as Mexico and Greece.

The social crisis has hit major urban centers particularly hard. An earlier reportalso released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that child poverty had risen in 35 of the 50 largest cities in the United States since 2005. In six American cities: Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Milwaukee, Fresno and Memphis, the child poverty rate was higher than UNICEF’s figures for Greece, with Detroit and Cleveland topping 50 percent.

Even as the incomes of US workers have plunged, the profits of major corporations and the value of the stock market have soared. Major US stock indices have tripled since 2009, despite the fact that the real economy is still mired in slump, with the US economy barely growing over the first half of the year.

The wealth of the super-rich, meanwhile, continues to grow. A recent Forbesreport found that the wealth of the world’s billionaires, 536 of whom live in the United States, surged past $7 trillion earlier this year for the first time.

Even as millions of people have slid into poverty, the White House and Congress have slashed funding for social programs year after year. Total cuts to food stamps implemented over the past two years alone have added up to $13.7 billion. Meanwhile, federal extended unemployment benefits have been continually slashed, resulting in a smaller share of the unemployed receiving jobless benefits that at any point in the history of the program.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/07/22/kids-j22.html