Lost amidst the hoopla and funny
hats of this week’s Democratic National Convention, and its historic nomination
of America’s first-ever human presidential candidate, was the timely release of
an “upbeat” U.S.
Census report on poverty.
Proving that a
“household” can still do the job a single wage-earning dad used to, median
household income rose 1.3%, crossing $50k for the first time – a terrific
starting salary for a recent college grad, but kind of depressing when split
between the two household heads of a family of four holding down three jobs to
earn it. Factor in inflation, and
those briefcase-toting households actually earned $1,100
less than they did in 2001 –
the year President Bush took office.
At least Alice In Wonderland ran to stay in place.
But let’s turn those upside-down
smiles back upside-down again, Wonderland-style, with more dubious great news
from the report: for the first
time during the Bush presidency, the percentage of U.S. citizens living in
poverty has not risen, holding steady at
12.5%. While that year-to-year percentage is considered “virtually unchanged,” “statistically
insignificant,” and “flat,” the actual number of citizens living in poverty
has increased year-to-year -- up from 36.5 million Americans to
37.3 million. It’s easy to see how
those 816,000 new poor might feel “insignificant,” or especially “flat”… but
it’s hard to imagine they see themselves as “unchanged.”
The key to this sunny
statistical anomaly is that the number of Americans swelling the ranks of the poor is irrelevant, as long as
the population itself keeps growing at the same rate. In some dark, oil-depleted Mad Max future
of a half billion
U.S. citizens, 62.5 million of them could be utterly impoverished, bashing each
other with rocks over the discovery of a discarded oil dipstick from a Nash Rambler, and we will no doubt be boasting that
our poverty population has
remained “unchanged” since way back at the dawn of the 21st century.
(Except that too would be
technically inaccurate – back in the faux Millennium year of 2000, the waning days
of Clinton’s Adulterous Presidency, the
U.S. poverty rate was the lowest in twenty years.)
Maybe, like the
moment in time the Terminator travels back to in order to
Connor's mom and ensure his own bleak future, these are the days that determine
whether ours is a future of hunting-with-rocks, or something marginally
better. The party of “Change” has
gone as futuristic as Deep Impact and selected a black presidential
while the party that scolded Americans for “whining” about the economy has their hands full defending their recent
(On the other hand, they went all Battlestar Galactica
on us in picking a female VP
poised to inherit the presidency.)
the outcome, start stockpiling rocks.
Just in case.