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Income Down, Poverty Rate Rises and More Go Without Health Insurance:: Latest Census Reports Shows African Americans and Latinos Hardest Hit

By Adam Price

San Jose, CA – In late September the Census Bureau reported that, for the second year in a row, household income fell, the number of poor rose, and more Americans lacked health insurance. Household incomes, adjusted for inflation, fell 1.1%. 1.7 million more people fell below the government’s official poverty line in 2002. In addition, 2.4 million more individuals went without health insurance than the year before.

These reports also showed that the African American and Latino communities were the hardest hit. One million of those who fell below the poverty line were African American or Latino. Latinos and African Americans also lost the most in terms of their money incomes, which fell 3 to 4%, as compared to less than 1% for whites.

African Americans not only have the highest poverty rate (24.1%), but also had the largest increase in poverty last year. It is no surprise that the African American community has been hardest hit by the recession, as they are historically the ‘last hired and first fired.’ The loss of millions of manufacturing jobs has hurt African Americans especially hard, since Black workers rely the most on these jobs to achieve a better lifestyle. The Bush administration, along with some Democrat misleaders, is trying to blame China for the loss of U.S. factory jobs. But it is the big U.S. corporations, who move their production to wherever they can find cheap labor, who are to blame.

Latinos – many of whom work in low wage jobs without health benefits – have the most uninsured, with almost one-third (32.4%) not having health insurance, as compared to only 10% of whites. Fewer jobs are offering health insurance benefits; while others have raised the workers’ contributions so high that insurance is no longer affordable. Other workers who had jobs with health insurance have been laid off, and have had to take temporary or low-paying jobs without benefits.

These Census reports actually understate the suffering of the working class and oppressed nationalities. The poverty rate hides the true extent of poverty, since a family of three had to earn less that $14,500 to be counted as ‘poor.’ But to meet basic needs, a family of three needs at least $25,000 to get by. The fall in income is also understated, as the fall in income per person was 1.8%, much larger than the reported fall in household income. Finally, the number of people without health insurance only counts those who had no health insurance for the entire year. Three out of four people who lose their health insurance do so for less than a year, and would not be included. Thus, the number without health insurance at any one time is much more than the 15% of the total population, or almost 45 million people, reported.

Meanwhile, Forbes magazine just released its list of the 400 richest individuals. Their wealth rose 10% over the last year, to nearly $1 trillion dollars, or an average of $2.5 billion dollars each! At the same time, the number of millionaires increased 14%, and is at a twenty-year high! This just continues the trend of the rich getting richer while most of the rest of us slide back. The gap between the rich and the poor doubled between 1979 and 2000, with the richest 1% of the population having more after-tax income than the bottom 40%. Huge gains in executive pay, like the $140 million paid to the New York Stock Exchange’s Grasso, and tax cuts for the wealthy – thanks to Reagan and George W. Bush – contributed to the rise of the rich.

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