Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
A State in Crisis
By Stephen Lendman
Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, June 7, 2010
This writer's earlier articles addressed greater social misery
in America than since the Great Depression, because of unemployment,
homelessness, hunger, bankruptcies, despair, and rising poverty levels.
According to the National Academy of Science, 47.4 million Americans
were impoverished in 2008, 15% of the population, but the true number is
much higher since the government's income threshold is $22,000 for a family
of four, way short of what's needed throughout urban America where even half
again as much is too little.
Illinois is a microcosm of the nation.
Facing the largest per capital budget deficit in America, equal to half its
operating budget, it's in deep crisis, one of many problems being
poverty, the issue the Heartland Alliance addressed in its May 5 report
titled, "2010 Report on Illinois Poverty," deepening under budget-balancing
social safety net cuts, making a bad situation worse for growing numbers
throughout the state, suffering under dire economic conditions, exacerbated
by bad public policy.
The Heartland Alliance "advances the human
rights and responds to the human needs of endangered populations -
particularly the poor, the isolated, and the displaced (in search for) a
more just global society" - no easy task in today's environment, in Illinois
or throughout the nation, given that 32 states are officially insolvent,
including Illinois, and nearly all of them are severely challenged.
Years of Mismanagement Pushed Illinois Over the Edge
budget crisis threatens vital services like food stamps and unemployment
insurance, besides healthcare, education, and various programs for the
needy, under consideration for cuts or elimination.
of material hardship and high unemployment threatens to impact Illinois'
economy for years, yet will worsen from draconian counterproductive
measures, the very policies earlier enacted with new ones being considered.
Illinois Poverty in 2008
Based on US Census poverty guidelines,
over 1.5 million Illinoisans are impoverished (44% of them in extreme
poverty), or 12.2% of the population. Another 16% are at risk, a potential
28.2% total, or over 3.5 million people, and those numbers are conservative.
Among them are over half a million children and one-third of the state's
Blacks, another half million.
Given the woefully out-of-date
federal $22,000 threshold for a family of four, the true problem is far
greater, likely double the official numbers or higher, showing dire Illinois
conditions that reflect the state of the nation - worsening, not improving.
Other Heartland figures show:
-- nearly one million Illinoisans
unemployed or underemployed, and many more have stopped looking altogether;
-- in the last decade, offshoring cost thousands of high-paying
manufacturing and other jobs, replaced with lower-paying service ones; from
2000 - 2008 (before the economic downturn's full impact), 168,500 service
jobs replaced 203,000 manufacturing ones, a trend very much evident
-- nearly one in five working age Illinoisans live in
-- workers with less than a high school diploma are
nearly four times more likely to be unemployed; 54% of working age adults in
extreme poverty have a high school degree or less;
-- despite their
known benefits, early childhood programs are being eliminated, likely when
the Illinois Preschool for All program expires in summer 2010;
one in eight adults avoided doctor visits in the past year because of cost;
-- 52% of Illinois school children qualify for free or reduced cost
school lunches, an indication of impoverished families; the 2008 number was
42% higher than in 2000, and today it's much higher still;
impoverishment means doing without health insurance and doctor visits when
-- 50% of Illinoisans choose between paying for food or
utilities like heat in winter;
-- 44% decide between buying food or
paying rent or mortgages;
-- for 36%, the choice is between food and
medicines and medical care;
-- in March 2010, one of every 371
Illinois homeowners got a foreclosure notice; a far larger percentage is at
-- residents with disabilities face severe cutbacks in
benefits; many can't meet expenses for rent, mortgages health care, and
-- from mid-2006 - mid-2008, the number of
homeless children enrolled in public schools increased 32%;
nearly one-fourth of state residents have no savings, checking or money
-- the average Illinoisan is over $11,300 in debt;
-- one of every seven state households is in extreme asset poverty,
having zero or negative net worth and no ability to handle emergencies;
-- over 20% of Chicagoans are impoverished, another 21% at risk; suburban
areas are also heavily impacted, though less than the city proper;
-- around 40% of region households earn less annually than $50,000; given
the area's high cost of living, they're effectively impoverished based on a
September 2009 University of Washington School of Social Work Research
Center & Center for Women's Welfare Social IMPACT study showing the minimum
family need, in the eight regional counties, to make ends meet is $52,000 in
Chicago; in suburban DePage county, it's nearly $62,000;
metropolitan Chicago has been hard hit by job losses, declining incomes, and
increased home foreclosures and bankruptcies, the same pattern common
-- 52% of regional residents in extreme poverty
aren't employed, including seniors, the disabled, and children.
Hearland noted that its project began earlier when America was prosperous
and future prospects looked favorable. Their recent annual reports caution
that earlier good times haven't continued, nor were all boats lifted while
Today's situation is dire. "The Great Recession has
crumbled economic stability for millions of families" though loss of jobs,
incomes and benefits, homes, businesses, savings and futures. And as always,
those hardest hit will be slowest to recover, and many won't ever make it.
Most study data was the latest available through 2008, so didn't fully
capture today's conditions. Nonetheless, "the magnitude of hardship
reflected here is staggering," and suggests much worse ahead next year.
For growing numbers in need, what's coming "will be nothing short of
devastating" because lawmakers are fighting hard times counterproductively,
cutting back when stimulus is needed. The result, of course, is predictable
- hard times for years to come. Perverse governance is the problem, harming
millions of the most vulnerable, their numbers growing exponentially because
nothing is being done to help them - in Illinois or nationally.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
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