The number of city residents living below the meager federal poverty line ($17,600 for a family of three) increased from 1,500,484 to 1,546,046 from 2008 to 2009. When those numbers were released the federal government, Mayor Michael Bloomberg immediately said: “What we’ve learned is that even as we struggled through the national recession, New York City really has avoided the large increases in poverty that has been seen in much of the rest of the nation.” The City’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) issued a statement the same day also downplaying the problem, highlighting thatNew York Cityhad a marginally smaller rate of increase than some other parts of the nation. HRA claimed: “New data from the US Census Bureau shows thatNew York Cityhas performed well in several key areas in the fight against poverty, softening the worst blows of the recession for many residents.”
I must respectfully suggest that such claims of success are absurd. Would the captain of the Titanic brag that everything was fine because his ship was sinking at a slightly slower rater than other ships? I think not.
Let’s look at the facts. One in five New Yorkers is now living below the absurdly low federal poverty line. The already disturbingly high child poverty rate increased from 26.5 percent to 27.1 percent citywide. How can the City claim victory when more than one in four of its children live in poverty?
Bronx already was the poorest urban county in the whole country, and its child poverty rate jumped in the last year from 39.7 percent to 40.4 percent. How can the City claim victory when, in one of its county’s, nearly half of the children live in poverty?
On October 22 of 2010, 36,136 New Yorkers – including 14,514 children – slept in City homeless shelters. How can the City claim victory when it can practically fillMadison Squaregarden with homeless children?
On top of that, according to USDA, between 2006 –2008, an average of 1.4 million New Yorkers lived in food insecure households, meaning they can’t afford a complete supply of food. How can the City claim victory when its population of people facing hunger is more than twice the population of the entire city ofBoston?
It is important to note that middle class families are also suffering mightily. In the last year, the average household income dropped citywide from $51,116 to $50,033.
Yet the number of billionaires based in New York City increased from to 56 to 57 in the last year and their collective net worth increased by $19 billion (from $183.5 to $202.65 billion), according to data recently released by Forbes magazine and analyzed by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.
A New Yorker working full-time at a minimum wage salary ($7.25 per hour) for 52 weeks would earn $15,080 in a year, often too little to feed their family. According to the Coalition’s calculations, that means that New York’s 57 billionaires collectively have as much money as the annual earnings of 13 million minimum wage workers. Those billionaires have an average net worth of $3.6 billion, which means that, on average, each billionaire has as much money as the annual earnings of 232,000 minimum wage workers.
It’s no wonder thatNew York Citynow has a higher inequality of wealth index thanBurkina FasoorIndiaand thatManhattan, with an even greater disparity than the city as a whole, has higher inequality than Haiti or Brazil.
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If you would like to do any events in NYC, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger would be glad to help.
– Joel Berg