The U.S. Census Bureau on September 13 released a report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the U.S.: 2010. Bloomberg News summarized key data:
The Bureau says 10.7% [or 941,000] of New Jersey residents had household incomes below the poverty line last year. It was 9.3% in 2009 and 9.2% percent in 2008. The Census Bureau also says more than 15% of the state’s residents have no health insurance. That number has risen steadily.
Poverty Benchmarks – 2011, a March report issued by Legal Services of NJ (LSNJ) indicated nearly two million New Jerseyans are living in or on the brink of poverty. The state’s Occupational Wage Survey (August 2011) shows that of those employed the average salary is $50,730, but of those in the bottom 25 percentile the highest salary is $24,460. In order to be living above the poverty level, a family of one adult with two children would need an annual income of at least $17,285, and a family of two adults with two children would need $22,113.
As LSNJ points out in its seminal report a wide range of groups are impacted. They include children, elders, people with physical or mental issues, those who are working but unable to make ends meet because their pay is too little, single parents with dependent children, and those with low educational qualifications.
With Governor Chris Christie showing no concern over this sharp rise in our poverty level, it is up to concerned citizens to speak out and make proposals. Our Democratic legislators should seek common cause with Republicans on specific bills and push for their enactment. Trying to right this wrong can only benefit legislators as they work toward re-election. The gap between the rich and the poor is well known, but the bigger gap between the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor has become obscene.
Our current governor’s support for millionaires and his toadying to the likes of the Koch brothers would stand in sharp relief to legislators who find ways to help those who can not feed their family, get health insurance, or pay their mortgage. A first step is to assure that the $139 million in urban aid is restored. Other steps could include more funding for legal services, after-school programs, SSI, family planning clinics, Work First NJ, Earned Income Tax Credit, NJ Cares for Kids, and healthcare eligibility for parents including legal immigrants in NJ FamilyCare.
Politics today are increasingly becoming a contest between crony capitalists and reformers. As inequality is on the uptick, the poor are suffering the most. It is time to rebalance that equation so that the poor as well as the middle class share more widely in the benefits of our economy.