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Can the U.S Afford a Dignified Safety Net?

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”
-- Martin Luther King, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (1967)

  • The Bush administration has allocated more than $357 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service report dated October 7, 2005.

  • U.S. taxpayer handouts to U.S. corporations are widely estimated to be about $125 billion a year, but the actual figure could be much higher. The $2 trillion plus federal budget pays for thousands of programs channeled through dozens of agencies, making it nearly impossible for taxpayers to track down all instances of corporate welfare. What is clear is that wealthiest corporations that need taxpayer money the least -- such as agri-business and the oil industry -- tend to receive the most, because the most powerful corporations can pay for most powerful lobbying year after year.

  • Over three quarters of those living below the poverty line are mothers and children. Approximately 36 million adults and children in this country are food insecure or hungry.

  • Women who work full-time earn 76.5 percent as much as men, according to the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research. And the New York group Legal Momentum said that the poverty rate is 39 percent higher among women than men.

  • In the United States and worldwide, well over 90 percent of all caregivers are women. Most caretaking work is unpaid. Many people are poor either because they are dependents or because they have taken on responsibility for the care of dependents.

  • Marital rape is more common in relationships of more than four years. Research suggests that the economic dependence of women in longer-term relationships may increase the risk of being raped by husbands.

  • The overall U.S. poverty rate is 24 percent for African Americans, and 29 percent for persons in mother-only households. Black and Hispanic single-mother households have poverty rates just under 40 percent.

  • In 2003, 6.0% of elderly households in the U.S experienced food insecurity because of lack of resources. 2.6% lived in severe poverty (with an annual income below 50% of the federal poverty line), and another 6.7% were classified as near-poor (with an annual income between 100% and 125% of the federal poverty line.) 58% of the adults over 65 are women. The elderly population is expected to double by 2030.

  • Food insecurity and hunger contribute to malnutrition, which can exacerbate disease, increase disability, decrease resistance to infections, and extend hospital stays, which are paid for with public money.

  • In 2003, 43.6 million Americans lacked health insurance. The U.S. spends more money than any other country on health care, but ties for 26th place in life expectancy.

  • Income for this country's wealthiest one percent skyrocketed 201 percent between 1979 and 2000. In this same time period, income for the middle 20 percent rose only 15 percent and income for the bottom 20 percent rose only 9 percent.

  • The average CEO in the U.S. now takes home a paycheck 431 times that of their average worker, and over 1100 times more than someone working full-time at minimum wage. In 2004, the average CEO was paid $11.8 million. Studies show that the rise in CEO pay does not correspond to CEO performance as reflected in company growth and earnings.

  • From 1990 to 2004, the average production worker’s pay has increased by 4 percent after inflation, compared to 319 percent for CEOs. If the minimum wage had risen as fast as CEO pay during this 14 year time period, the lowest paid workers in the U.S. would now be earning $23.03 an hour, rather than $5.15 an hour.

  • For his work in 2004, Citigroup CEO Charles Prince received $19,922,941 in total compensation. Citigroup’s Sandy Weill has received $1.1 billion in cumulative pay since 1990.

  • For his work in 2004, American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault received $21,390,204 in total compensation. Chenault still has another $73,695,723 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

  • For his work in 2004, Anheuser-Busch CEO P. T. Stokes received $33,222,996 in total compensation.

  • For his work in 2004, Exxon Mobil CEO Lee R. Raymond received $38,076,382 in total compensation. In previous years, Raymond cashed out $43,649,925 in stock options. He still has yet another $65,077,965 in unexercised stock options.

  • In 2004, JPMorgan Chase CEO William B. Harrison received $16,084,055 in total compensation.

  • 46 large companies paid no federal income tax in 2003, despite collectively earning $30 billion in profits.

  • Wal-Mart's Walton family has 771,287 times more money than the median U.S. household.

  • The U.S. currently has 374 billionaires. The growth in billionaires took a dramatic leap since the early 1980s. Back then, the average net worth of the richest individuals on the Forbes 400 list was $400 million. Today, the average net worth is $2.8 billion.

    Some sources and helpful links:

    United for a Fair Economy

    AFL-CIO Paywatch

    Center for Economic and Policy Research

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