Poverty in America — the almost official estimate

The situation today is worse than we believed it to be, especially among the elderly, according to the new Census Bureau estimate (h/t David Dayen):

A record number of Americans — 49.1 million — are poor, based on a new census measure that for the first time takes into account rising medical costs and other expenses.

The numbers released Monday are part of a first-ever supplemental poverty measure aimed at providing a fuller picture of poverty. Although considered experimental, they promise to stir fresh debate over Social Security, Medicare and programs to help the poor as a congressional supercommittee nears a Nov. 23 deadline to make more than $1 trillion in cuts to the federal budget.

Based on the revised formula, the number of poor people exceeds the record 46.2 million, or 15.1 percent, that was officially reported in September.

Broken down by group, Americans 65 or older sustained the largest increases in poverty under the revised formula — nearly doubling to 15.9 percent, or 1 in 6 — because of medical expenses that are not accounted for in the official rate. Those include rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and expenses for prescription drugs. [emphases added]

Life will become even direr for America’s senior citizens and low-income wage earners when the Federal government finally and completely commits itself to imposing an austerity regime on the country.

The Republican Party hates poor and old folk

The Washington Post reports that:

The top Senate Republican sought Thursday to clarify his party’s stance on Medicare heading into high-stakes talks with the White House, telling President Obama he wants “significant” changes to the program in exchange for lifting the legal limit on government borrowing.

After the entire Senate Republican caucus met with Obama at the White House, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said he would not insist on a controversial House GOP plan that would partly privatize the popular health program for the elderly. But with Medicare and Medicaid projected to be the major drivers of future borrowing, he said tighter eligibility requirements and reduced benefits must be part of any deal.

So, McConnell threatens to wreck the economy by shutting down the Federal Government if Obama and the Congressional Democrats in his party refuse to put the screws to the aged and infirm in the United States. Obama and the Democrats cannot avoid resolving this dilemma simply because they too are strongly committed to a low-tax economy and government and to the American empire as we have known it.

There is a lot of hypocrisy in the Republican’s current position on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as Paul Krugman argues here:

This has to be one of the funniest political stories of recent weeks: On Tuesday, 42 freshmen Republican members of Congress sent a letter urging President Obama to stop Democrats from engaging in “Mediscare” tactics — that is, to stop saying that the Republican budget plan released early last month, which would end Medicare as we know it, is a plan to end Medicare as we know it.

Now, you may recall that the people who signed that letter got their current jobs largely by engaging in “Mediscare” tactics of their own. And bear in mind that what Democrats are saying now is entirely true, while what Republicans were saying last year was completely false. Death panels!

Well, it’s time, said the signatories, to “wipe the slate clean.” How very convenient — and how very pathetic.

Anyway, the truth is that older Americans really should fear Republican budget ideas — and not just because of that plan to dismantle Medicare. Given the realities of the federal budget, a party insisting that tax increases of any kind are off the table — as John Boehner, the speaker of the House, says they are — is, necessarily, a party demanding savage cuts in programs that serve older Americans.

“This is,” as Jon Walker asserted, “chutzpah in its purest form.” It is unfortunate that the Republicans will get away with this gambit if the Democratic Party fails to take a sensible alternative to the American people, thereby forcing the Republicans to defend their reversal on Medicare and their attack on the elderly.