Nearly 50 Million Americans in Poverty, Worst Since LBJ

Nearly 50 Million Americans in Poverty, Worst Since LBJ

Even as the Obama White House prepares for a star-studded White House concert featuring Queen Latifah, Cyndi Lauper, and Justin Timberlake, figures from the U.S. Census Bureau reveal that roughly 50 million Americans–one in six–now live below the poverty line.

Additionally, one in five American children have fallen below the poverty line; the last time poverty levels were this high, Lyndon Baines Johnson was president.

“In the last three years, there’s been a great change in the kinds of people we are serving,” said Director of Community Services at Catholic Charities of Baltimore Mary Anne O’Donnell. “There are increasing numbers of people who owned a home, lost their jobs, end up living in their car and are coming with children to our soup kitchen.”

The U.S. government defines a family of four earning under $23,021 as living in poverty. Income used to compute poverty status does not include non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and housing subsidies.

Welfare program enrollments have exploded under President Barack Obama. Americans on food stamps now outnumber the combined populations of 24 U.S. states, costing taxpayers more than double the amount spent on food stamps five years ago. In January 2009, 31.9 million Americans received food stamps. Today, that figure is 47.79 million.

The Obama Administration’s shift to looser eligibility requirements and lax oversight enforcement has also created what the Wall Street Journal dubbed a “food stamp crime wave.” 

Also benefiting from the rapid rise in food stamps are companies like JP Morgan–which donated $808,799 to Obama’s 2008 campaign–who administer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. A recent report by the Government Accountability Institute found that since 2004, JP Morgan’s 24 state EBT contracts have totaled at least $560,492,596.02.

Other government programs, such as the disability program, have now morphed into proxy forms of welfare. A recent National Public Radio (NPR) investigation revealed that 14 million Americans now receive disability checks each month, costing taxpayers $260 billion annually. The report chronicled the rise of the “disability industrial complex,” a program fraught with fraud and abuse. In Hale County, Alabama, for example, one in four residents are now on disability.

Still, Obama promises that jobs and opportunity are on the way. “We’re going to fix our economy,” said Obama last week in Miami, Florida. “We’re going to fix our immigration system, we are going to make sure that our young people are getting a great education, we’re going to prevent them from being victims of gun violence, and we are going to make sure that everybody in this country has a fair shot and is doing their fair share.” 


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