The U.S. Census Bureau figures
show that median household income actually dropped in 2011 by 1.5% to $50,054. This is the lowest level since 1995, The percentage of Americans in poverty
remains virtually unchanged at 15%. The absolute number of 46.2 million people in poverty remains at a record level, the highest since the Bureau began collecting this statistic 53 years ago.
No doubt Romney will use these figures to show that Obama' economic policies have failed. However, Obama can argue that Romney's economic plans would actually make the gap between rich and poor worse by giving tax breaks to the richest Americans.
Obama can also point out that the Census figures show that the number of Americans who lack health insurance has declined from 16.3% to 15.7%. Over 500,000 more young people were insured in 2011 over 2010.
The census data show that during the recovery that began in June 2009 the wealthiest Americans gained the most. Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said:
“The gains from economic growth in 2011 were quite unevenly shared as household income fell in the middle and rose at the top."
Average income actually declined for the bottom 80% of earners during the period but rose for the top 20%. Obama could use this as an argument that the richest should help share in any belt tightening because they have benefited most from the recovery.
U.S. unemployment remained at very high rates during 2011 at around or above 9%. The economy expanded only 1.8% in 2011 after a higher rate of 2.4% in 2010. The first six months of 2012 have seen a growth rate average of 1.9% on an annual basis.
The Gini index
that measures income inequality rose from .456 to .463. The high poverty rate can lead to higher health cost, and lower productivity in the future.
At one time there was a War on Poverty
in the U.S. That war was not only lost but it seems to have been forgotten as poverty has not become a key issue in the 2012 election campaign for either party. Both parties concentrate on jobs and the middle class.