photo: Old Sarge (flickr)

In the news in DC this week, six more banks got seized yesterday by the FDIC (in Ohio, Georgia (3), New Jersey, and Wisconsin), Elizabeth Warren traded in her TARP Oversight Committee job (that only had two more weeks to run) for two new jobs — Adviser to the President and Special Adviser to Timothy Geithner to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — home foreclosures hit a new record high, and the Census Bureau released a new report on poverty, which included nuggets like this:

  • The poverty rate in 2009 was the highest since 1994, but was 8.1 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. The number of people in poverty in 2009 is the largest number in the 51 years for which poverty estimates are available.
  • In 2009, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.1 percent and 8.8 million, respectively, up from 10.3 percent and 8.1 million in 2008.
  • The poverty rate and the number in poverty increased across all types of families: married-couple families (5.8 percent and 3.4 million in 2009 from 5.5 percent and 3.3 million in 2008); female-householder-with-no-husband-present families (29.9 percent and 4.4 million in 2009 from 28.7 percent and 4.2 million in 2008) and for male-householder-no-wife-present families (16.9 percent and 942,000 in 2009 from 13.8 percent and 723,000 in 2008).
  • The poverty rate increased for children younger than 18 (from 19.0 percent in 2008 to 20.7 percent in 2009) and people 18 to 64 (from 11.7 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent in 2009), while it declined for people 65 and older (from 9.7 percent in 2008 to 8.9 percent in 2009).

The reaction in DC? Yawns:

Deborah Weinstein, a longtime advocate for the poor, calls the news that one in seven Americans is living in poverty “a national emergency.”  . . .

The reluctance of political leaders on both sides of the aisle to directly confront the fact that growing numbers of Americans are slipping into poverty reflects a stubborn reality about the poor: They are not much of a political constituency.

Here in my neck of the woods, one of my kid’s classmates lost his home in to foreclosure this week. Some businesses are hiring (not many), but most are barely keeping their heads above water, and lots of empty storefronts remain empty. My school teacher friends in various districts all tell me the same story — higher class sizes, fewer support staffers, and lots of prayers that nothing big breaks that will need to be replaced because that will mean cuts somewhere else to fix it. Lots of budget cuts and forced furloughs, from city and state offices to my bishop and his office. But business is booming at the local food pantries and agencies that provide emergency assistance.

Too bad they aren’t seen as much of a political constituency.