The DC/Rest-Of-Us Divide And Its Consequences

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
A CBS poll shows that only 6% of the public is concerned about budget deficits or taxes. The rest of us are more concerned about jobs and the economy, with very good reason. The Washington elite are insulated from the pain the rest of us and are focused on the deficit instead of jobs and the economy. This post looks at the consequences of that divide.
In yesterday’s post, The Six Percenters, Richard (RJ) Eskow’s lays out the extent of the divide between the DC elites and the rest of the country.

Only 6% of Americans think Congress should concentrate on reducing the deficit or changing the tax code, according to the latest CBS News poll. Nearly ten times as many people, 56%, want it to focus on creating jobs and fixing the economy. Guess which set of policies is the center of attention in Washington right now?
Pick up any newspaper or turn on any news channel and you’ll hear a lot of talk about the deficit. But creating jobs and spurring economic growth? Nobody’s even discussing it.

Only 6% of the public is concerned about the deficit. The only thing Washington elites are concerned about is the deficit. The rest of us live on the other side of the planet from the people in DC who make the policies. Maybe the other side of the solar system.
You can see how this divide affects policy. There is a “deficit commission” but no jobs commission. There are millions of people needing jobs and millions of jobs that need doing, but Washington won’t “spend,” even on badly-needed infrastructure investment. People over 50 (laid off because they were paid more or their health care was expensive) can’t find jobs but the DC elite discuss raising the retirement age to 70. The deficit commission proposes cutting back the already-meager “safety net” while cutting tax rates for the really rich even more.
And while all of this goes on the rest of the people in the country are worried about jobs, foreclosures, bills, jobs, wages, jobs, and jobs – the things that matter to regular people. And they are feeling the consequences of the DC/rest-of-us divide.
gr-unemployed_07_10-300According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 14.8 million people are just plain-old unemployed. (Of those 6.2 million people have been out of work six months or more.) Another 2.6 million persons were “marginally attached,” meaning unemployed and wanting a job but had not looked in the previous 4 weeks. And another 9.2 million are employed part time but want full-time work.
That is 26.6 million people, 17% of the workforce. Just a stunning number.
On November 30 unemployment benefit extensions expire, unless Congress acts. That means that all state unemployment programs will revert back to no more than 26 weeks of benefits for anyone, no matter their circumstances or the unemployment rate in the state. A Hart Research Associates poll released Nov.15 found that by a majority of 60% to 37%, registered voters support Congress continuing unemployment benefits for workers who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits but still cannot find a job. 63% of independents but only 38% of Republicans support extending benefits. Only 24% of registered voters say that deficits are a reason to cut back unemployment benefits. (Chart source.)
A record 102,134 homes were seized by banks in September, according to RealtyTrac Inc.

Foreclosure filings, including default and auction notices, rose 3 percent from the prior month to 347,420. One out of every 371 households received a notice.

Fewer homes were seized in October, but only because banks had to stop foreclosures because the records fraud scandal came to light.
One in four home mortgage holders is “underwater,” meaning they owe more than the home is worth.
The Greenlining Institute warns that unless immediate action is taken to stem the tide of foreclosures 10-13 million more foreclosures can be expected over the next four years.
According to 2009 figures gathered by the National Coalition for the Homeless, many gathered pre-recession, 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness in a year and on any given night, over 7-800,000 people are homeless. 1.6 million people use transitional housing or emergency shelters.
Food Security/Hunger
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 17 million American families had trouble putting enough food on the table at some point last year. Of those 5.6 million had trouble throughout the year.
This has more than tripled since 2008.
According to the Census Bureau,

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2009 was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent in 2008 — the second statistically significant annual increase in the poverty rate since 2004. There were 43.6 million people in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase.
… As defined by the Office of Management and Budget and updated for inflation using the Consumer Price Index, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2009 was $21,954.

Health Care
According to the CDC, 59.1 million Americans were with no health insurance in the 1st quarter of 2010, up 3 million from 2008. 30.4 million of those were without health care for an entire year.
These numbers are from before the Congress cut off COBRA subsidies for the unemployed.
AP: Recession Rips at US Marriages, Expands Income Gap,

The recession seems to be socking Americans in the heart as well as the wallet: Marriages have hit an all-time low while pleas for food stamps have reached a record high and the gap between rich and poor has grown to its widest ever.
… In America, marriages fell to a record low in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.

Income Gap
AP: Recession Rips at US Marriages, Expands Income Gap,

The top-earning 20 percent of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4 percent of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4 percent made by the bottom 20 percent of earners, those who fell below the poverty line, according to the new figures.
… At the top, the wealthiest 5 percent of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, the data show. Families at the $50,000 median level slipped lower.

On each side the divide is so wide you don’t know how things are on the other side.
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