PEEK

Living Standards Under Stress

A new report reveals that, by any indicator, standards of living are in decline.
It does not take much to understand why a hard-core Republican district in Mississippi would elect a Democrat to the House of Representatives by a nine-point margin. Mississippi is a state under particularly serious economic stress, a point brought home in a report released this week by the Campaign for America's Future.

"The Stress Test" shows in graphic detail the impact that seven years of conservative economic policies have had on working families. It explains why this week's Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that "nearly seven out of 10 Americans are worried about maintaining their standard of living."

The most recent, and perhaps most dramatic, threat to standards of living has been in the form of higher gasoline prices, which have risen 33 cents a gallon just in the past month, according to The Post. But the erosion in living stands has been a long time coming and it comes from multiple sources, according to the Stress Test report.

Consider this: In Mississippi, since 2000 the average weekly wage has done up, in inflation-adjusted terms, $33 since 2000. But there are plenty of indications that Mississippi families have nonetheless fallen behind, even if you leave out the whopping 128 percent increase in gasoline prices during that period. The percentage of people without health insurance increased 63 percent since 2000, and the number of jobs with health coverage declined 12 percent. Seventy-four percent more people—it's now almost one in 10—spend at least a quarter of their income for health care than was the case in 2000.

In Mississippi, the number of people who are below the poverty line is up 8 percent, bankruptcies are up 27 percent and home foreclosures are up 92 percent.

On a national level, "The Stress Test" reports:
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