Cheering for death sentences seems to be the latest craze at Republican presidential debates. Last week audience members rooted for Rick Perry’s Texas-style executions and last night peopled shouted at Ron Paul to let a willfully uninsured man die away — it was a hypothetical. These cheerleaders of death might have something else to applaud. The Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging held a hearing today asking, “Is poverty a death sentence?”
This question arises as the nation comes to terms with the staggering poverty figures released by the Census Bureau today. In 2010 the share of the population living in poverty rose to 15.1 percent (1 in 6) making the number of people living in poverty hit 46.2 million, the highest level since 1959. The share of children in poverty reached 22%.
But it can get worse. Bob Greenstein, president of the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities and a frequent guest on The Last Word, predicts poverty may rise even higher in the near future. He noted “in each of the previous three recessions, the poverty rate did not begin to fall until at least a year after the unemployment rate began to drop.” The unemployment rate did not move in August.
Another sobering figure released by the Census Bureau revealed the number of Americans without health insurance climbed by 900,000 to 49.9 million, another record.
This is the reality Americans have been living in for a long time. How much longer do they have to wait, how much bigger do these numbers have to grow for Washington to pay closer attention?