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Saturday, September 27, 2003

The Poverty Numbers

The Census Bureau poverty report came out yesterday, in another effort by the Bush administration to blunt the impact of bad economic data by releasing it on a Friday (it had been released on a Tuesday or Thursday in prior years).

Key results: Median household money income in 2002 fell 1.1 percent. The official poverty rate rose, from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.1 percent in 2002. The number in poverty increased also, by 1.7 million people, to 34.6 million in 2002.

Predictably, the Democrats running for president are jumping all over the president on this one, and I expect we'll be hearing these figures tossed around quite a bit in the coming weeks.

The White House's defense against the criticism has been ultra-lame so far. From NYT

"At his daily press briefing, Mr. McClellan, rather than focusing on the census data, pointed instead to newly released figures from the Commerce Department that showed a larger-than-expected rise in the gross domestic product. A 3.3 percent increase in G.D.P. in the second quarter of this year, Mr. McClellan suggested, indicates that the economy is moving in a positive direction." (full briefing text)

That is the same quarter of GDP growth that everyone has discounted entirely because it reflects the spike in military expenditures for the Iraq war, rather than any other meaningful economic events. The slow growth the economy has been experiencing for a while now does not seem to be making life better for the millions of Americans who are out of work, and the president's economic program has failed to address most people's concerns to date. The administration should be ashamed of their disgraceful record of worsening the plight of those lowest on the economic ladder.