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.
The state's 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.
The combination 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.
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Given the woefully out-of-date federal $22,000 threshold for a family of four, the true problem is far greater, likely double the official numbers or higher, showing dire Illinois conditions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:
Heartland 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 they lasted.
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.
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