WASHINGTON, September 16 – Forty-four million people in the United States, one in seven Americans, lived in poverty in 2009. The number increased 4 million from the year before, the Census Bureau reported today. In Vermont, the poverty rate went up to 9.4 percent, a 1.4 percent increase over 2008.
“While poverty is increasing and the middle class is declining, it is incomprehensible to me that Senate Republicans are pushing for more tax breaks for the rich,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. “Senate Republicans should not be allowed to hold middle class tax cuts hostage in order to give more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires – especially when the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider.”
Measuring the impact of the worst recession since the 1930s, the stark statistical snapshot by the Census Bureau showed that the median income of all families declined by $337 from 2008 to 2009, and well below the levels of the late 1990s, another sign that Americans are working for lower wages. Middle-class families have seen their incomes go down by over $2,600 over the past decade going from $52,388 in 1999 to $49,777 in 2009 after adjusting for inflation. Middle-class families earned more income in 1998 than they did in 2009.
In Vermont, middle-class families saw their incomes go down last year by $800 from where they were in 2006.
The 43.5 million Americans were living in poverty in 2009 was a record representing over 14 percent of Americans. Since 2000, nearly 12 million Americans have slipped out of the middle class and into poverty. Over 20 million more Americans were living in poverty in 2009 than in 1973.
In Vermont, 9.4 percent of Vermonters lived in poverty last year, up from 8.8 percent just a few years ago.
Looking at health insurance coverage, a record 50.7 million Americans were uninsured in 2009. Since 2000, more than 12 million Americans have lost their health insurance.
In Vermont, more than 10 percent of the state population was uninsured in 2009 up over 1 percentage point since 2008.
The Census Bureau report provides more reasons to oppose a Senate Republican plan to extend tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Sanders would end tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent while keeping in place tax cuts that expire at the end of this year for the 98 percent of Americans with household incomes under $250,000. Ending the tax breaks for the rich would yield $700 billion in revenue over the next decade. The senator has proposed devoting half that amount for deficit reduction. He would invest the other half in badly-needed, job-creating projects rebuilding roads and bridges and other infrastructure projects.
“In my view, we should use half of the $700 billion we gain by not renewing tax breaks for the rich for deficit reduction, and half to invest in our roads, bridges, water systems and public transportation so that we can create millions of new jobs as we rebuild our infrastructure,” Sanders said.
“At a time when the middle class is collapsing and we have a $13 trillion national debt, we need to create jobs and lower our deficit – not provide more tax breaks for the very wealthiest people in our society,” he added.