Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, addressing the "African-Americans Speak Out for Palestine" forum on January 31, 2009 in Detroit. (Photo: Alan Pollock), a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Poverty Increasing Due to the Capitalist Crisis
New figures illustrate the failure of the system to meet people’s needs
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
An Associated Press investigation has further revealed that poverty is increasing at a significant rate inside the United States. This conclusion was drawn from a survey of economists, research centers and assorted academics with varying political viewpoints.
The general view of those consulted indicates that the 2011 Census data will show that the 2010 poverty rate of 15.1 percent will rise to 15.7 percent. This would place the poverty level at the same place as it was in 1965.
As the capitalist crisis continues and deepens in many ways, the number of people impacted by unemployment, underemployment, industrial restructuring, the foreclosure and eviction epidemic, the lowering of salaries and work benefits, is accelerating. Economic growth overall is miniscule and in European states closely allied with the U.S., recession has already been declared in Britain and the Eurozone countries.
The increase in poverty is most severe among the nationally oppressed communities. African Americans have the highest rate of poverty at 27.5 percent. Latina/os are not far behind with a poverty rate of 26.7 percent.
Overall it is estimated that 47 million people are living in poverty in the U.S. This represents 1 in 6 people residing in the country. (Atlanta Black Star, July 23)
At present the federal government says that in 2010 a family of four had to make for than $22,314 in order to rise above the poverty level. For an individual one had to earn more than $11,139.
However, these income figures are quite low. Most families who are earning much more than these above cited incomes feel strongly that they are in poverty.
The Atlanta Black Star report says that “An additional 9 million people in 2010 would have been counted above the poverty line if food stamps and tax credits were taken into account.”
The intensifying attacks on public education and public sector jobs, incomes and benefits will also contribute to the impoverishment of the working class and oppressed. The high foreclosure rates in the cities and suburbs will also contribute to the decline in educational and municipal employment as a result of the subsequent draining of tax revenue and consumer spending.
Some of the key findings of the Associated Press report say that poverty will remain above the pre-recession level for many years to come. This same report also predicts that poverty will increase in the suburbs as well which is now at 11.8 percent.
Poverty will also rise among part-time workers and people over 65 years old. In addition, poverty among children will climb above its 22 percent level of 2010.
Presidential Election Politics and Poverty
With this being an election year it is not surprising that this survey on poverty in the U.S. has not gained widespread media exposure and become a focus of debate between the Republican and Democratic contenders. In fact there has been virtually no discussion on the deepening crisis within the economy and the way forward in regard to job creation and poverty elimination.
In 1959, the first year that poverty rates were measured by the federal government, the rate stood above 22 percent. The lowest level was recorded at 11.1 percent in 1973.
The decline in poverty between the late 1950s and the early 1970s can be attributed to the upsurge in the civil rights and Black Power movements that reached unprecedented heights during this period. The administrations of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were forced to address the mass demonstrations, rebellions and labor actions among the African American population and other oppressed and progressive forces.
Reforms were implemented that created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs. Affirmative Action programs were enacted to give meaning to the Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Fair Housing bills of 1964-68.
Peter Edelman, the director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy, said that “The issues aren’t just with public benefits. We have some deep problems in the economy.” (Atlanta Black Star)
Edelman continued pointing out that “The problem is that the tidal wave of low-wage jobs is dragging us down and the wage problem is not going to go away anytime soon.” Even the Federal Reserve Chairman recently stated the current official unemployment rate of 8.2 percent would not improve much over the next several years.
The stagnation of the U.S. capitalist economy and the overall worsening conditions for the masses of working people and oppressed will not be resolved by providing more tax cuts to the rich. Neither can progress be made by proposing job creation initiatives that largely involve tax credits and other incentives to businesses for the hiring of workers and youth.
Both political parties allied with the ruling class have no plans or programs to eliminate joblessness and poverty. Consequently, the solutions to these problems must come from those most seriously affected, the working class and the oppressed.
There needs to be demands put forward for a series of programs which will mandate the creation of tens of millions of jobs for people throughout the country. It is also necessary to provide everyone with a guaranteed annual income, healthcare coverage, quality education and housing.
Moreover, the crisis is not limited to the U.S. but is worldwide. On the European continent jobless figures in Spain are above 25 percent and remain very high in France, Greece and Italy.
The national debt is skyrocketing in the European states as the municipal debt is increasing exponentially in the cities and suburbs of the U.S. Numerous cities are facing bankruptcy and other emergency financial measures imposed by the courts and state governments at the aegis of the banks and corporations.
Socialism: The Only Way Out
Since the capitalist crisis shows no sign of abating, it is necessary for those who are genuinely committed to the liberation of the workers and the oppressed to expose the fact that a new economic system is needed in the U.S. and throughout the imperialist world. This economic system is socialism, where the wealth of the society as a whole will be utilized for the benefit and uplifting of the majority.
Socialism could bring about full-employment for workers and oppressed people through the production of goods and services that are needed by the people. Vast sums of wealth, property and land could be transferred to the masses in order to increase incomes and provide the necessary conditions for the elimination of exploitation and class stratification.
The special oppression of African Americans, Latina/os, Asians, women, LGBTQ communities, youth and seniors could be addressed directly under socialism. All oppressed groups would be able to realize self-determination and full equality.
In order for this to take place there must be a revolutionary party that can organize and provide the theoretical and ideological basis for the transformation of society. The utter bankruptcy of the two-party system in the U.S. is reflected in the lack of real debate and discussion around fundamental issues of concern to the majority of people within the country.
Politics through character assassination and slander is not the way forward. The organizers of today must expose the fact that a programmatic struggle is needed to address the concerns of the workers and oppressed and this can only be done through a movement that is independent of both capitalist parties.