Tuesday, September 21, 2010

U.S. Poverty Rate Increases: Women, Oppressed Nations Hit Hardest

Poverty Rate Increases: Women, Oppressed Nations Hit Hardest

Recent census data shows economic crisis impoverishing millions more

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Despite claims that the recession has been over now for 16 months in the United States, the findings of the Census Bureau show clearly that the working class as a whole has been deeply impacted by the loss of jobs, pensions, healthcare and housing. Among the most oppressed segments of the people living inside the country, women and the internally colonized people of color, the situation is far worse.

In a September 20 article published in the Wall Street Journal it declares that “The longest recession of the post World War II period now has an end date. The paper continues by citing that “The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) announced Monday that the downturn started in December 2007 was longer than the 1973-1975 and 1981-1982 recessions.” (Wall Street Journal, September 20)

The NBER did not say that the economy had improved but only that the recession had ended. NBER also stated that it was impossible for there to be a ‘double-dip recession and that any downturn in the U.S. would be another recession and not the one that they said had already passed out of existence.

In a separate report released the same day as the NBER assessment, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted that the U.S. economy would grow only 2.6 percent and not the 3.2 percent rate that had been earlier announced. The OECD report also indicated that the current crisis could result in long-term structural damage to the economy.

Another report released by the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) in Britain said that the U.S. economy would only expand by 2.2 percent in 2011, down by .03 that is predicted for 2010.

Impact on Women and African-Americans

These forecasts and summations based on the most current economic data illustrates that the capitalist system in the United States is by no means out of recession as far as working people are concerned. Even though large banks and corporations are reporting higher profits, these optimistic figures do not translate in the creation of jobs and social benefits for workers, particularly those within the oppressed nations.

The data related to the economic status of women in the current period shows that many more have been thrust into poverty over the last several years which only reinforces existing patterns of oppression, exploitation and inequality. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) emphasized in a statement on September 17 that “the rate of poverty for women rose 13.9 percent last year, the highest rate in 15 years. (Ms. Magazine, September 17)

NWLC’s analysis also noted “The data shows that over 16.4 million women were living in poverty in 2009, including nearly 7 million women in extreme poverty, which means that their incomes were below half of the federal poverty line. Poverty among men also rose from 9.6 percent in 2008 to 10.5 percent in 2009, but these rates remained substantially lower than poverty rates among women.” (Ms. Magazine, September 17)

Nonetheless, when the rates of poverty among women within the oppressed nations in the U.S. are taken into consideration, it reveals that historical discrimination based on race and gender is still very much in evidence in the second decade of this century. Although women and peoples of color have made tremendous strides in fighting and winning concessions related to civil rights and employment opportunities, the social imperatives of U.S. capitalism continues to be based on the super-exploitation of the most oppressed workers.

The NWLC statement went on to point out that “poverty rates were substantially higher for women of color, approaching one in four among African-American women (24.6 percent compared to 23.3 percent n 2008); Hispanic women experienced a similar increase from 22.3 percent in 2008 to 23.8 percent last year.” Other data shows that nearly four in ten single mothers (38.5 percent) were living in poverty in 2009, representing an increase from 37.2 percent in 2008.

Women in the age range of 15-44 experienced widespread job losses that resulted in the termination of health care benefits. The Guttmacher Institute analyzed the census data related to private insurance and found that 2.3 million women within this age group loss their coverage between 2008 and 2009 forcing many onto the Medicaid roles but increasing those without any health care insurance by 1.3 million.

The Women’s Health News Digest states that the decrease in coverage impacted family planning support services. In an article from this publication it states “We also found that publicly funded planning providers were struggling to meet a growing need for subsidized contraceptive care, even as they had to make do with fewer resources.” (HealthNewsDigest.com, September 17)

In regard to children, 15.4 million lived in poverty in 2009, an increase of 1.4 million in one year. At the same time the traditional wage differential between men and women remained unchanged over the period between 2008 and 2009.

With specific reference to African-Americans, who have the highest unemployment statistics in the United States, the rate of poverty is twice as high as the general figures for the overall population. The Washington Informer reported that “In 2009, the poverty rate for African Americans reached 25.8 percent.” (Washington Informer, September 18)

What these figures indicate is that any serious effort to address the economic crisis in the U.S. must pay special attention to the plight of African-Americans, Latino/as and women. The Obama administration’s refusal to acknowledge the disparate impact of the economic crisis on women and the oppressed nations dooms his existing policies to failure.

The recently released census data also has serious implications for organizing around the worsening plight of working people and the oppressed. If the special oppressions of women and people of color are not taken into consideration, it will not be possible to build a fighting movement that can effectively take on the capitalist system.

Oppression and exploitation based on race and gender must be uprooted in order to build a society devoid of institutional discrimination. True equality among working people can only be achieved by destroying all forms of inequality based on gender and nationality.

No comments: