US Poverty rates are on track to reach the highest levels since the 1960’s

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In 2010, the official poverty rate was 15.1% - but economists and experts surveyed by the AP predict it will rise as high as 15.7% - the highest rate since 1965.

Back then, President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty and cut it in half within ten years thanks to his Great Society legislation.

Unfortunately, beginning with Ronald Reagan and culminating with Bill Clinton who “ended welfare as we know it,” the Great Society is dead – and poverty is back where it was before it. Time for a new Great Society today.

Thom Hartmann Administrator's picture
Thom Hartmann A...
Dec. 29, 2009 10:59 am


How do you define poverty, today? How was it defined in the 60's?

LysanderSpooner's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

Night and day. There is no comparison in terms of possessions or benefits.

Redwing's picture
Jun. 21, 2012 5:12 am

How do you know this? I will give the New Deal and the Johnson War on Poverty, etc., some credit for lifting more people out of poverty before the Reaganomic Neocons screwed over the Middle Class and made "poverty" a bigger swath of the bottom. Being unemployed and SOL may occur a bit higher on the socio-economic ladder than in the '60s, but the big change is all the money concentration at the top. This makes aspiration much harder and less likely.

Unemployment and underemployment is far worse today than in the '60s. The rot and decay of empire and corruption makes the reforming passions of Civil Rights and Gender Equity both nostalgic and beside the point, which is the addiction to empire. An empire which imposes itself on the world cannot be made moral by practicing "civil rights" within its citizenry. Dominating others does not lead to mutuality with peers and fellow Americans, and the overhead costs and returns of empire always make a few rich while impoverishing the imperial nation.

The gap between wealth and austerity, if not poverty, has grown radically in the past few decades. The vision of neighborhood solidarity and shared prosperity has been crushed by the narcotics of greed and narcissism. We have more "stuff," and poor people can also shove some piece of technology in their ears and play their choice of listening material. We are not as able to forage or draw upon nature as we were half a century ago. Every commercial district looks the same in relative demographic zones, so there are food deserts in urban ghettos and the global marketplace of choice for the microwave kitchen folk. Feast and famine are organized and accepted as given.

I think this is far more serious than it was in the '60s. We have a war on the poor where they had a war on poverty. They wanted to expand the Middle Class while we are trying to retain our place in a game of social musical chairs. This is not going to end well.

Apr. 26, 2012 12:15 pm
Quote LysanderSpooner:

How do you define poverty, today? How was it defined in the 60's?

For starters, medical access and the ability to afford required medicines. then move on to the ability to afford a minimal diet to maintain health.

If I don't replace the broken window panes in my newly found housing, I'll be heating the outdoors this winter. Money that should be spent on fruits and veggies will be going for glass and weatherizing the 1/4 inch gaps around the doors. The other option is to toss out the food budget entirely so I can keep from freezing-to-death by running the furnace full blast. . It's called poverty.

I can, of course, always spend several months income to hire an attorney to get the rental brought up to code....or several months income to pay for a move into something just like this place. Deposits were 3x the monthly rent...(over $200 just for the electric co.) plus moving costs.

The poor in the 60's had the common radio just as they now have the common TV or bottom--of-the-line computer. They are cheap and can be bought on credit with low, low monthly payments. However, the basic problems have intensified with the dismanteling of the safety net that was put on steroids by Democratic Pres. Clinton.

Currently, I'm looking for a used air conditioner. The heat index has risen way above 100 degrees on many days. Every window except one is painted shut. No way to get a cross-breeze to cool the house at night. Maybe I should just bust out the remaining window panes and call it good. I can deal with a few more bugs flying through.

The Gov. has declared a heat state-of- emergency throughout the state.The poor, of course, are the ones filling the morgues or falling ill.

The only was to understand what poverty actually to jump into it and experience it first hand.

Suggestion: If you're in the middle class and are on the slide into poverty, stay out of Missouri.

Retired Monk - "Ideology is a disease"

Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

In the 60s, the republican platform didn't treat poverty like the collateral damage of economic liberty, like they do today. The libertarians tolerate a level of poverty that the traditional conservatives did not.

D_NATURED's picture
Oct. 20, 2010 8:47 pm

Libertarians practice darwinism which is contradictory to a supposedly Christian based nation. Let libertarians live in the jungle where their rules apply.

Jun. 29, 2012 10:24 am
Quote DynoDon:

Libertarians practice darwinism which is contradictory to a supposedly Christian based nation. Let libertarians live in the jungle where their rules apply.

Just wait a while and we'll all be living in their metaphorical jungle that deregulation and wealth accumulation create.

D_NATURED's picture
Oct. 20, 2010 8:47 pm

Robert Kennedy toured the country to see the depth of poverty [22% at the time]. Appalatia was especially striking. Ryan would raise the poverty to 20% again, and kill some in their slide into poverty. The welfare ad, is now their strategy to hype the poverty levels and scare their base that THOSE people are increasing in numbers and will be after your piece of the pie.

The guy behind the false welfare ad is from the Heritage Foundation one of the koch tanks. If you have a refrigerator you are not poor. You may not be able to afford electricity, but you're not poor.

I didn't see the following thread until after I posted, either one could benefit from some of the weekend coverage on the topic.

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

When I visit the states, Citgo is the only gas I buy. The next chopping block has Soc Sec, Medicare, and Medicaid on it. Elderly, disabled, and children are expendable. The most vulnerable among us are the tastiest.[apologies to Swift]

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

The solution is simple. Eat the rich

The question is why do so many workers side with the union busters and wage minimizers. Gutting environmental regulations their own kids benefit on. Same with health care or workers safety. Now a balanced budget is top priority even if we have to let kids go hungry and homeless. Not a mumbling word over the tax dollars paving the lie to Iraq or the perpetual tax eating money machine called the drug war. Then when they outsource their jobs they blame the poor. Blame safety nets because they had no self confidence to demand fairness and equality for themselves. Not much chance they would do it for others. More money warehousing seniors and handicapped, white powder fortunes treating these citizenproducts. With "treatable" Neuro and Psychological diseases skyrocketing. Last cure was Polio and Wall St was pissed. The steel and cattlemen association leather for leg brace sales almost went out of business. Treating misery, even if they have to manufacture it.

Seems these red flags are obvious, let alone apparent. When the seniors and poor were freezing to death, exxon and chevron didn't say a word. When Citgo offered to sell them cheap oil and give it away to some, Boosh cried that it wouldn't be fair to free trade. Even the oil companies had no problem this one time to help American citizens. Same with offering to help during Katrina. Ignorance beyond anything. Common sense has been ruled illegal in the case of hemp. Full growd men spreading gossip. When the seniors heat was shut off what did the teabog ditto's do to help? Tried calling for a Boycott of Citgo. Swiftboaters or Wallbangers making sure of no recount. Blocking votes or for profit criminalization aimed at the lower incomes. Now products worth more inside a kochroach cage than free on the streets.

Blocking all exits from out of the ghetto's. Souder and Clintoons higher education ax blocking higher education assistance. Killing food-stamps for life for drug convictions not done for food stamp fraud or murder. Pretty clear the middle class is disposable with outsourced jobs and scabs replacing workers. Everything for the people is being slashed by the GOPerverts. Everything serving international corporations is being pushed on we the people. Privatizing schools health care and heating and food. That just ain't the America I was raised in. Most likely I just choose to ignore it like Martin Niemöller said. Or maybe I left it and worked my way out of it over time. "No matter how far you have gone on a wrong road, turn back."

Food Stamps Become a Weapon in the War on Drugs.jpg

Hugo Chávez Interview By Greg Palast, July 2006
Not only has Chávez delivered cheap oil to the Bronx and other poor communities in the United States. And not only did he offer to bring aid to the victims of Katrina. March 28, he made Bush the following astonishing offer: Chávez would drop the price of oil to $50 a barrel, “not too high, a fair price,” he said—a third less than the $75 a barrel for oil recently posted on the spot market. That would bring down the price at the pump by about a buck, from $3 to $2 a gallon. But our President has basically told Chávez to take his cheaper oil and stick it up his pipeline.
☛Boycott 'Citgo' and 'Petro Express'
☛Boycott Citgo Oil and Gasoline
☛Anti-American Hugo Chavez To Give Free Oil To Blacks

ACORN Grassroots Democracy Campaign youtube
New Video: ACORN and the Fight Against Voter Suppression
Help spread the truth about ACORN youtube

Acorn supports child prostitutes?
Attacking the Most Vulnerable, Tough Guys? +@@@%@+ Punks...
Attack Videographer Caught in Manipulation and Lies

ACORN "Pimp" James O'Keefe arrested for trying to wiretap a senators office

Chicago Teachers vs. Rahm Emanuel and Corporatized Education

Starving Babies and Illegal Food
High on Hemp

Poverty? Dubya Says Blame the Hippies!

The Bible is not my book,
and Christianity is not my religion.
I could never give assent to the long,
complicated statements of Christian dogma.
-- Abraham Lincoln

Southern man better keep your head. Don't forget what your good book said. Southern change gonna come at last. Now your crosses are burning fast. Southern man

I saw cotton and I saw black. Tall white mansions and little shacks. Southern man when will you pay them back? I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking. How long? How long?

Southern man better keep your head. Don't forget what your good book said. Southern change gonna come at last. Now your crosses are burning fast. Southern man

Lily Belle, your hair is golden brown. I've seen your black man comin' round. Swear by God I'm gonna cut him down! I heard screamin' and bullwhips cracking. How long? How long? Neil Young

Thank God for Hippies

...we condemned them, our children, for seeking a different future. We hated them for their flowers, for their love, and for their unmistakeable rejection of every hideous, mistaken compromise that we had made throughout our hollow, money-bitten, frightened, adult lives.
June Jordan

A Lie College Students Might Want To Tell

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
-- Abraham Lincoln

DdC's picture
Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am


Call Off the Global Drug WarBy JIMMY CARTER


IN an extraordinary new initiative announced earlier this month, the Global Commission on Drug Policy has made some courageous and profoundly important recommendations in a report on how to bring more effective control over the illicit drug trade. The commission includes the former presidents or prime ministers of five countries, a former secretary general of the United Nations, human rights leaders, and business and government leaders, including Richard Branson, George P. Shultz and Paul A. Volcker.

The report describes the total failure of the present global antidrug effort, and in particular America’s “war on drugs,” which was declared 40 years ago today. It notes that the global consumption of opiates has increased 34.5 percent, cocaine 27 percent and cannabis 8.5 percent from 1998 to 2008. Its primary recommendations are to substitute treatment for imprisonment for people who use drugs but do no harm to others, and to concentrate more coordinated international effort on combating violent criminal organizations rather than nonviolent, low-level offenders.

These recommendations are compatible with United States drug policy from three decades ago. In a message to Congress in 1977, I said the country should decriminalize the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, with a full program of treatment for addicts. I also cautioned against filling our prisons with young people who were no threat to society, and summarized by saying: “Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself.”

These ideas were widely accepted at the time. But in the 1980s President Ronald Reagan and Congress began to shift from balanced drug policies, including the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts, toward futile efforts to control drug imports from foreign countries.

This approach entailed an enormous expenditure of resources and the dependence on police and military forces to reduce the foreign cultivation of marijuana, coca and opium poppy and the production of cocaine and heroin. One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights in a growing number of Latin American countries.

The commission’s facts and arguments are persuasive. It recommends that governments be encouraged to experiment “with models of legal regulation of drugs … that are designed to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.” For effective examples, they can look to policies that have shown promising results in Europe, Australia and other places.

But they probably won’t turn to the United States for advice. Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations. At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009 the number was nearly 2.3 million. There are 743 people in prison for every 100,000 Americans, a higher portion than in any other country and seven times as great as in Europe. Some 7.2 million people are either in prison or on probation or parole — more than 3 percent of all American adults!

Some of this increase has been caused by mandatory minimum sentencing and “three strikes you’re out” laws. But about three-quarters of new admissions to state prisons are for nonviolent crimes. And the single greatest cause of prison population growth has been the war on drugs, with the number of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses increasing more than twelvefold since 1980.

Not only has this excessive punishment destroyed the lives of millions of young people and their families (disproportionately minorities), but it is wreaking havoc on state and local budgets. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pointed out that, in 1980, 10 percent of his state’s budget went to higher education and 3 percent to prisons; in 2010, almost 11 percent went to prisons and only 7.5 percent to higher education.

Maybe the increased tax burden on wealthy citizens necessary to pay for the war on drugs will help to bring about a reform of America’s drug policies. At least the recommendations of the Global Commission will give some cover to political leaders who wish to do what is right.

A few years ago I worked side by side for four months with a group of prison inmates, who were learning the building trade, to renovate some public buildings in my hometown of Plains, Ga. They were intelligent and dedicated young men, each preparing for a productive life after the completion of his sentence. More than half of them were in prison for drug-related crimes, and would have been better off in college or trade school.

To help such men remain valuable members of society, and to make drug policies more humane and more effective, the American government should support and enact the reforms laid out by the Global Commission on Drug Policy.

In a functioning democracy these reforms would have a chance. However we have this:
Big Business, in America, is almost whole devoid of anything even poetically describable as public spirit. It is frankly on the make, day in and day out, and hence for the sort of politician who gives it the best chance. In order to get that chance it is willing to make any conceivable sacrifice of common sense and the common decencies. Big Business was in favor of Prohibition, believing that a sober workman would make a better slave than the one with a few drinks in him. It was in favor of gross robberies and extortions that went on during the war, and profited by all of them. It was in favor of the crude throttling of free speech that was then undertaken in the name of patriotism, and is still in favor of it.
Mencken reflecting on 1924 Coolidge election.

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

❝Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.
-- President Jimmy Carter,
Message to Congress, Aug. 2, 1977

Marijuana: the law vs. 12 million people
Life magazine Oct 31, 1969. 25-35

I'm not convinced anything larger than a tribe can exist for any length of time. Manipulation of the population isn't new if you ask the slaves building the pyramids. The fascism of the Roman Christians. I just find it yuck pitooy that even with the censorship of the media, how can these simple obvious actions be ignored by the very people taught in modern schools. I believed for decades that the Great Depression and Grapes of Wrath and most of the black and white movies on late late shows were idiots for putting up with it. Kellogg creating the dust bowls or rocky and hearst implementing crude oil and pharmaceuticals. Then the anti war movement and cannabis freedom movements made more sense. My opinions were formed by returning vets telling me it was crazy. High ping pong ball made it easier than Canada. College grads couldn't find jobs pumping gas, when there were jobs pumping gas.

The 'Virtues' of Ganja
The Politics of Pot

I'm sure the only remaining drug worriers are those profiteering on the drug war. Wall St profits selling war toys and keeping the status quo free of renewable resources and a preventive based health care. Basically 21st century fascism.

Money Grubbing Dung Worriers
Forfeiture $quads

Cannabis between 1969 and 1972 as far as I can figure, was totally legal. No one mentioned it to us naturally. I happened to be supplementing my income in those days and was busted 4 separate times, 4 different amounts, the last being a pound. Not an arrest to this day. I stopped supplementing in 1972 to this day where once again it is totally legal for individuals to grow their own reasonable amount because of the Raich case making the determination. The Commerce Clause has Federal jurisdiction and that only deals with exchanges. Selling or giving it away. Individuals are under state laws, good or bad, protected or persecuted by the 10th amendment. Not legal across the board disregarding the Raich decision.

Conservatives Have Larger 'Fear Centers' in Their Brains

Jimmy was swift-boated the very same as Bush senior trashed McCain or Kerry or now Obama. They simply used his redneck brother billy and his beer. I'm satisfied GHQBoosh CIA, Dyncorp and OPEC connections setting up Iran Contra would have little problem sabotaging Carter's rescue, therefore his second term. They used the meaningless sexcapades of Clinton while a string of army basis sprung up through Slovakia to the oil fields. Afghanistan Unocal pipelines and removing ethanol and hemp from farmers. Nukes and Fluoridation or keeping Cannabis out of the market and competition from the status quo. The beat goes on but I still never thought it would get so in your face as it is today. Ignorance is bliss... Blow up your TV, throw away your paper. Go to the country, build you a home. Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches. Try an' find Jesus on your own.


"At DEA, our mission is to fight drug trafficking in order to make drug abuse the most expensive, unpleasant, risky, and disreputable form of recreation a person could have."
– Donnie Marshall,
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)

"We have spent over a trillion dollars trying to eradicate the world's most beneficial plant off the face of the earth. Imagine what a better world this would be if that money had been spent on treatment, education and studying the medical benefits of marijuana."
-- Steve Hager
- High Times Editor (1988 - 2003)

"The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies,
undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem,
depriving the sick of needed help,
and suckering well-intentioned conservatives
and countless frightened parents."
~ William F. Buckley, Jr.

"Narcotics police are an enormous,
corrupt international bureaucracy ...
and now fund a coterie of researchers
who provide them with 'scientific support' ...
fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others."
~ William F. Buckley, Jr. Requiescat In Pace
Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495

"The real menace of our Republic
is the invisible Government
which like a giant Octopus,
sprawls its slimy legs
over our cities, states, and nation."
- John F. Hylan
- Mayor NYC 1918-1925

"Give me control of a Nation's money
and I care not who makes the laws."
- Mayer Amschel Bauer (Rothschild)

Hemp Corporatism.jpg
“The Emperor Wears No Clothes”

DdC's picture
Mar. 22, 2012 1:39 am

Make sure you have a valid/up-to-date passport, it's the cheapest insurance you can get.

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

is-poverty-a-kind-of-robbery, one of the points made on the sunday poverty discussions was how hard it is to get the help offered to the poor through the various programs. In this article we get to see how there are leeches preying on those with gov't benefits. Payday loans are the worst.

Matthew Desmond, an assistant professor of sociology at Harvard, another speaker at the Yale symposium, described the extensive history of landlords, lenders and employers profiting from the rent and labor of slum dwellers. Desmond posed a question:

If exploitation long has helped to create the slum and its inhabitants, if it long has been a clear, direct, and systematic, cause of poverty and social suffering, why, then, has this ugly word — exploitation — been erased from current theories of urban poverty?

Desmond backs up his argument — that cash transfers to the poor get siphoned off by landlords — with evidence from his study of evictions:

If Milwaukee evictions are lowest each February, it is because many members of the city’s working poor dedicate some (or all) of their Earned Income Tax Credit to pay back rent, the majority paying steep fees to receive early payments through refund anticipation loans. The E.I.T.C., it would seem, is as much a benefit to inner-city landlords and H&R Block as it is to working families. In fixating almost exclusively on what poor neighborhoods lack, social scientists and policymakers alike have overlooked a fact that never has been lost on landlords: that there is good money to be made by tapping into the riches of the slum.

Desmond makes the case for the elevation of

the concept of exploitation to a more central position within the sociology of inequality. For who could argue that the urban poor today are not just as exploited as they were in generations past, what with the acceleration of rents throughout the housing crisis; the proliferation of pawn shops, the number of which doubled in the 1990s; the emergence of the payday lending industry, boasting of more stores across the U.S. than McDonald’s restaurants and netting upwards of $7 billion annually in fees; and the colossal expansion of the subprime lending industry, which was generating upwards of $100 billion in annual revenues at the peak of the housing bubble? And yet conventional accounts of inequality, structural and cultural approaches alike, continue to view urban poverty strictly as the result of some inanity. How different our theories would be — and with them our policy prescriptions — if we began viewing poverty as the result of a kind of robbery.

Again restoring EITC to AEITC would reduce the abuse, but it would cut out the loan sharks, pawn brokers, payday loans, you know, those entrepeneurs that abuse and exploit.

douglaslee's picture
Jul. 31, 2007 4:01 pm

There's a 1 in 20 Chance of the Apocalypse. Shouldn't We Act Now?

A new study published in Science argues that we as a civilization need to move "rapidly" -- as in almost immediately -- towards a carbon emissions free future if we are to have any chance of holding off runaway global warming:

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