Tonight I was poking around at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities' website looking for some decent poverty trend data. They've done a pretty thorough job of chewing over the 2006 census info and a few other things, and the news isn't great.
- In 2006, both the number and the percentage of Americans who are uninsured hit their highest levels since 1999, the first year for which comparable data are available, with 2.2 million more Americans — and 600,000 more children — joining the ranks of the uninsured in 2006.
- While median income rose modestly (by 0.7 percent, or $356) for households in general, this merely brought median income back to where it stood in the 2001 recession year. In addition, median income for working-age households — those headed by someone under 65 — remained more than $1,300 below where it stood when the recession hit bottom.
- New Commerce Department data shows that the share of national income going to wages and salaries in 2006 was at its lowest level on record, with data going back to 1929. The share of national income captured by corporate profits, in contrast, was at its highest level on record.
- Other new data shows that income concentration, which increased in 2003 and rose sharply in 2004, jumped again in 2005. The share of pre-tax income in the nation that goes to the top 1 percent of households increased from 17.8 percent in 2004 to 19.3 percent in 2005. Only four times since World War II has the percentage of income received by the top 1 percent risen this much in a single year (in percentage point terms). One of those four times was 2004.
- In the belaboring the obvious department, detailed new tax data shows that the federal tax system has become much less progressive over the past several decades, particularly during the Reagan and Bush administrations. Over the same several decades, pre-tax income inequality has grown as well. Thus, during a period in which economic forces have been generating increased pre-tax inequality, changes in the tax system have exacerbated rather than mitigated the widening of the income gap.
Americans over the age of 16 are volunteering at historically high rates, with 61.2 million giving their time in 2006 to help others by mentoring students, beautifying neighborhoods, restoring homes after disasters, and much, much more. Although the adult volunteer rate for 2006, 26.7%, was down slightly from the 28.8% recorded from 2003-2005, a greater percentage of Americans adults are volunteering today than at any other time in the past 30 years.And we have reason to be especially proud, because Seattle, despite our rapidly increasing income inequality and all of it's consequences for our city, is number five in the nation in volunteering, lagging only behind Austin, TX, Omaha, NE, Salt Lake City, UT, and, in the number one spot, the home of Mary Tyler Moore, Minneapolis, MN.
Also, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has found the next best thing to Ten Year Plans to End Homelessness, and it's Project Connect, a corporate friendly volunteer fest that brings resources and homeless people together to show what can happen when people roll up their sleeves and get to work. Their website now highlights a recent Project Connect in Springfield, MA, attended, of course, by Mr. Philip Mangano, and just look at these outcomes:
And some people say we don't have homelessness on the run!
5 veterans were housed
351 applications for Section 8 and public housing were completed
141 people received housing counseling
76 Massachusetts IDs issued (paid for by the corporate donations)
76 birth certificates ordered (paid for by the corporate donations)
250 bus tickets issued
70 dental screenings
21 medical examinations, with 43 follow-up medical appointments made
131 chair massages
41 foot washes
50 pairs of eyeglasses ordered
29 Social Security/SSI applications
49 MassHealth/Commonwealth Care applications
29 veterans benefits applications
229 employment & training contacts
90 people received legal advice
150 people received consumer information and advice
21 people received immigration advice
65 people made phone calls
55 children cared for at the on-site child care center
600 children's books given away
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the more volunteerism and charity we have, the further we get away from a vision of what social justice looks like, and the more we become a society of haves and have-nots where people are too afraid, tired, hopeless, bought off, or just plain stupid to fight for anything more to the point. Charity makes the radical inequality we've grown accustomed to a bit easier to swallow, because we get to show we care.