Posted by: mulrickillion | March 16, 2012

American Poverty, 50 Years Later

Posted by Barbara Ehrenreich at TomDispatch, March 15, 2012 —

We call it “the nation’s capital,” but that’s increasingly a misnomer.  Consider Congress, where as last year ended 250 members, or 47% of our representatives, were millionaires, and the estimated median net worth of a senator was $2.56 million.  Or consider the city of movers, shakers, and lobbyists they live in.  In Washington D.C., “the top fifth of earners in the District make an average of 29 times the income of the bottom fifth.”  In average annual household salary that translates as $259,000 versus $9,100.  For the capital’s top 5%, that number is $473,000, “far above the $292,000 averaged by their counterparts in other large cities.”

Washington as the people’s capital?  More reasonably, it’s the capital of American wealth in a country in which the super-rich, after taking some lumps in the Great Recession, are again outpacing everyone else. As TomDispatch regular Barbara Ehrenreich points out, half a century ago Michael Harrington pointed a finger at the world of American poverty, calling it “the other America” — and that label stuck.  Today, in a country where Hispanic and African American wealth was nearly wiped out by the bursting of the housing bubble, the elderly have increasingly seen their savings evaporate, and the poor are ever less “other” and ever more us, a new Harrington might consider labeling the world of the wildly rich, that 1% and their eternal bonuses, as “the real other America.”

It’s all too fitting that the leading Republican presidential candidate is a quarter-billionaire.  He may be running as a Washington outsider, but unlike most Americans, he’ll be right at home in the new Washington.

Ehrenreich’s post today is the beginning of something new.  With it, she launches the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (developed with colleagues from the Institute for Policy Studies and the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism).  Beginning this spring, it will pay laid-off or underemployed journalists to produce original work on what she calls the “greased chute” of poverty.  Stay tuned, you’ll hear more about it at this website or you can check out it out early at EconomicHardship.orgHer latest piece is a joint TomDispatch/Nation article and will appear in print in the new issue of that magazine. Tom

Tomgram: Barbara Ehrenreich, American Poverty, 50 Years Later | TomDispatch


  1. An excellent and insightful statement of facts (something that rarely comes across the printed page in American publications). It is amazing that in our nation’s capital we have one of the highest rates of homeless people per capita of any city in the nation. Perhaps, someone should forward this article to our First Lady before she plans another million dollar vacation at the taxpayers’ expense. I would, but I don’t have her email address.

  2. Yes, the numbers on the nation’s capital are interesting, because they give us fodder for thought. As for the first lady and taking vacations, I think that all presidents and their wives have taken vacations. As for the costs of these vacations, I do not have that information on hand. Otherwise, thank you for your comment.

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