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US poverty on track to post record gain in 2009

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By HOPE YEN and LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writers – Sat Sep 11,
2:13 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The number of people in the U.S. who are in poverty

is on track for a record increase on President Barack Obama's watch,
with the ranks of working-age poor approaching 1960s levels that led
to the national war on poverty.

Census figures for 2009 — the recession-ravaged first year of the

Democrat's presidency — are to be released in the coming week, and
AP – FILE - In this April 13, 2009 file photo, a
'No trespassing' sign is seen at the edge of a demographers expect grim findings.
homeless camp …
It's unfortunate timing for Obama and his party just seven weeks before
Barack Obama important elections when control of Congress is at stake. The
Video: Obama's Latest Plan
to Save the Economy FOX anticipated poverty rate increase — from 13.2 percent to about 15
News percent — would be another blow to Democrats struggling to persuade
Barack Obama
voters to keep them in power.
Video: Nation Divided Over
'Ground Zero Mosque' FOX "The most important anti-poverty effort is growing the economy and
News making sure there are enough jobs out there," Obama said Friday at a
White House news conference. He stressed his commitment to helping
RELATED QUOTES the poor achieve middle-class status and said, "If we can grow the
^DJI 10,462.77 +47.53 economy faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up into
^GSPC 1,109.55 +5.37 that virtuous cycle."
^IXIC 2,242.48 +6.28
Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends
found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant
rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent.

Should those estimates hold true, some 45 million people in this country, or more than 1 in 7, were poor last
year. It would be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in
1959. The previous high was in 1980 when the rate jumped 1.3 percentage points to 13 percent during the
energy crisis.

Among the 18-64 working-age population, the demographers expect a rise beyond 12.4 percent, up from 11.7
percent. That would make it the highest since at least 1965, when another Democratic president, Lyndon B.
Johnson, launched the war on poverty that expanded the federal government's role in social welfare programs
from education to health care.

Demographers also are confident the report will show:

_Child poverty increased from 19 percent to more than 20 percent.

_Blacks and Latinos were disproportionately hit, based on their higher rates of unemployment.

_Metropolitan areas that posted the largest gains in poverty included Modesto, Calif.; Detroit; Cape Coral-Fort
Myers, Fla.; Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

"My guess is that politically these figures will be greeted with alarm and dismay but they won't constitute a
clarion call to action," said William Galston, a domestic policy aide for President Bill Clinton. "I hope the parties
don't blame each other for the desperate circumstances of desperate people. That would be wrong in my
opinion. But that's not to say it won't happen."

Lawrence M. Mead, a New York University political science professor who is a conservative and wrote "The
New Politics of Poverty: The Nonworking Poor in America," argued that the figures will have a minimal impact
in November.

"Poverty is not as big an issue right now as middle-class unemployment. That's a lot more salient politically
right now," he said.

But if Thursday's report is as troubling as expected, Republicans in the midst of an increasingly strong drive to
win control of the House, if not the Senate, would get one more argument to make against Democrats in the
campaign homestretch.

The GOP says voters should fire Democrats because Obama's economic fixes are hindering the sluggish
economic recovery. Rightly or wrongly, Republicans could cite a higher poverty rate as evidence.

Democrats almost certainly will argue that they shouldn't be blamed. They're likely to counter that the
economic woes — and the poverty increase — began under President George W. Bush with the near-collapse
of the financial industry in late 2008.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100911/ap_on_bi_ge/us_poverty_in_america 9/11/2010
US poverty on track to post record gain in 2009 - Yahoo! News Page 2 of 2

Although that's true, it's far from certain that the Democratic explanation will sway voters who already are
trending heavily toward the GOP in polls as worrisome economic news piles up.

Hispanics and blacks — traditionally solid Democratic constituencies — could be inclined to stay home in
November if, as expected, the Census Bureau reports that many more of them were poor last year.

Beyond this fall, the findings could put pressure on Obama to expand government safety net programs ahead
of his likely 2012 re-election bid even as Republicans criticize him about federal spending and annual deficits.
Those are areas of concern for independent voters whose support is critical in elections.

Experts say a jump in the poverty rate could mean that the liberal viewpoint — social constraints prevent the
poor from working — will gain steam over the conservative position that the poor have opportunities to work
but choose not to because they get too much help.

"The Great Recession will surely push the poverty rate for working-age people to a nearly 50-year peak," said
Elise Gould, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. She said that means "it's time for a renewed
attack on poverty."

To Douglas Besharov, a University of Maryland public policy professor, the big question is whether there's
anything more to do to help these families.

The 2009 forecasts are largely based on historical data and the unemployment rate, which climbed to 10.1
percent last October to post a record one-year gain.

The projections partly rely on a methodology by Rebecca Blank, a former poverty expert who now oversees
the census. She estimated last year that poverty would hit about 14.8 percent if unemployment reached 10
percent. "As long as unemployment is higher, poverty will be higher," she said in an interview then.

A formula by Richard Bavier, a former analyst with the White House Office of Management and Budget who
has had high rates of accuracy over the last decade, predicts poverty will reach 15 percent.

That would put the rate at the highest level since 1993. The all-time high was 22.4 percent in 1959, the first
year the government began tracking poverty. It dropped to a low of 11.1 percent in 1973 after Johnson's war
on poverty but has since fluctuated in the 12-14 percent range.

In 2008, the poverty level stood at $22,025 for a family of four, based on an official government calculation
that includes only cash income before tax deductions. It excludes capital gains or accumulated wealth. It does
not factor in noncash government aid such as tax credits or food stamps, which have surged to record levels
in recent years under the federal stimulus program.

Beginning next year, the government plans to publish new, supplemental poverty figures that are expected to
show even higher numbers of people in poverty than previously known. The figures will take into account
rising costs of medical care, transportation and child care, a change analysts believe will add to the ranks of
both seniors and working-age people in poverty.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100911/ap_on_bi_ge/us_poverty_in_america 9/11/2010