Report that Shows Poverty Rise Also Comes Under Political Fire
The bureau reported today that the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.3 million last year -- a 3.8% rise -- while the ranks of the uninsured swelled by 1.4 million -- a 3.4% rise -- in the third straight annual increase for both categories. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, remained basically flat last year at $43,318. Whites, blacks and Asians saw no noticeable change, but income fell 2.6% for Hispanics to $32,997. Whites had the highest income at $47,777. The figures represent economic changes that have already occurred, Anirvan Banerji, director of research for the Economic Cycle Research Institute, said. "Once you are well into a expansion, you are still waiting for trickle down to the weaker and more vulnerable sectors of society," he said.
The news itself surprised no one, but the timing of the news raised many eyebrows. Some Democrats questioned why the reports were released together in August, rather than separately in September as had been done in the past. Many accused the White House of trying to downplay the bad news. Releasing the figures at the same time and not so close to Election Day, "invites charges of spinning the data for political purposes," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D., N.Y.) Census Director Louis Kincannon -- a Bush appointee -- denied politics played any role in moving up the release date. "There has been no influence or pressure from the [Bush] campaign," Mr. Kincannon said Wednesday.