By M.D. Kittle | Watchdog.org
One in seven Americans lived below the poverty line in 2012, statistically stuck from the U.S. poverty rate in 2011.
The new Census Bureau data show poverty persisted at near record levels last year, with 15 percent of Americans — nearly 22 percent of children — or some 46.5 million people considered poor.
And five years after the Great Recession, things aren’t so great for the 4.3 million workers who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more. The U.S. jobless rate declined last month to 7.3 percent, but the slight drop was due in large part to 300,000-plus of people who simply gave up looking for work.
It’s safe to say recovery hasn’t been nearly as robust as hoped.
The left is less than happy with the progress made in recent years in the war on poverty.
“An unacceptable number of American families are struggling to get by and failing to get ahead,” Reid Cramer, director of the New America Foundation’s Asset Building program, and a “leading voice on policies affecting low- and middle-income families,” said in a statement following the release of the Census Bureau numbers.
Cramer, much like the Obama administration, blames Republican policies, like the House’s Farm Bill that trims nearly $4 billion per year over the next decade from the federal food stamp budget. As of December 2012, a record 47.8 million people participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Program, a 70 percent increase since 2008.
But the problem still is about jobs, something liberals readily admit even as the left pushes for more government help.
“Unless we find ways to strengthen job opportunities and enhance the social safety net, we’ll continue to get disappointing news about the poverty rate from the Census Bureau each September,” Sheldon Danziger, president of the Russell Sage Foundation, a New York-based nonprofit organization that studies poverty, said in a statement.
So, if job creation is the secret to defeating the U.S.’ woeful poverty numbers, why would the Obama administration want to put 800,000 jobs at risk in one fell swoop?
That’s the question the coal industry is asking after the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday unveiled its revised proposal to cap greenhouse gas emissions at new power plants. The restrictive limits on CO2 effectively would kill the construction of new coal-powered energy plants and are expected to serve as a regulatory overture to strict limits on existing coal-fired facilities.
“What is a better safety net than a career?” asked Jason Hayes, associate director of the American Coal Council.
He points to West Virginia coal miners earning more than twice the state’s median income, with many coal jobs paying around $80,000 a year.
“You are buying a house. You are buying a truck. You are going to be taking your kids to the doctor because you have medical insurance,” Hayes said. “All of those things happen when people are working, and in the coal industry people work.”
Although its power is declining, coal remains a significant energy player, producing the juice to meet nearly 20 percent of total U.S. energy demand and generating about 40 percent of all of its electricity.
The Washington, D.C.-based National Mining Association, which represents coal and mineral mining companies nationwide, estimates the coal trade supports more than 800,000 jobs, many of them delivering wages well above state and national averages.
That’s an interesting figure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s long-term unemployment population, which accounts for about 37.9 percent of the total jobless rate, has declined during the past year by 733,000 people “as the recovery took hold” — some 60,000 individuals less than work in coal-industry-related jobs.
“Every job in coal mining supports nearly four others in allied occupations. And unlike so many part-time jobs added recently, these are some of the highest-wage jobs in the country, averaging $80,000 annually. As the president knows, you can’t have a middle class without a middle class income,” NMA President & CEO Hal Quinn wrote in an op-ed published on The Hill’s ”The Congress” blog.
Coal-fired plants, particularly the older smokestacks, also pack a pretty powerful punch to the environment. Environmentalists ask if not now, when will the U.S. deal with its greenhouse gas problem that they insist is driving severe climate change?
In explaining the need for the strict CO2 limits, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Americans have a “moral obligation to the next generation” to protect the environment. She said the proposal is a “necessary step to address a public health challenge.”
McCarthy, in a speech Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., said the proposed standards create a “path forward” for the coal industry, and that the CO2 limits are both achievable and flexible.
Coal industry officials say they are neither.
The technology required to come close to the EPA standards has yet to be tested commercially. The few coal plants under construction that would employ the technology to capture and store carbon emissions have spent heftily thus far.
“The regulation announced (Friday) by EPA effectively bans coal from America’s power portfolio, leaving new power plants equipped with even the most efficient and environmentally advanced technologies out in the cold,” Quinn said in a statement.
National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons said the EPA limits will hit U.S. manufacturers twice — both as users of the energy being regulated and as industries considered “next in line,” marked for similar EPA regulations.
“The decisions the EPA makes in these regulations — such as mandating technologies that are not yet commercially feasible — will have far-reaching consequences not only on our energy supply but also on the operations of all manufacturers,” Timmons said in a statement.
He called on Congress to set “firm limitations on how the agency uses the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.”
Hall said by forcing power plants to abandon the use of the nation’s largest and most reliable source of affordable electricity, EPA is “recklessly gambling with the nation’s energy and economic future.”
“The risk will be raised if this new source standard is applied to existing power plants next year,” the coal industry advocate said. “The result will be a risky reliance on less diverse and more volatile sources of electricity, leading eventually to higher utility bills for households and businesses and significant job losses for American workers.”
Contact M.D. Kittle at firstname.lastname@example.org