Jul 24 2012
Poverty in the U.S. is soaring to levels not seen in several decades according to the Associated Press (Hope Yen; 7/23/12):
The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy …
The AP’s broad survey of economists, think tanks, and academics reveals a consensus that the official poverty rate of 15.1% in 2010 may surge as high as 15.7% for 2011, although even a 0.1% increase will make it the highest since 1965.
In February the Congressional Budget Office indicated that the last 3+ years with over 8% unemployment have been the longest sustained period of high joblessness since the Great Depression, and the AP sees a connection to poverty.
Poverty is closely tied to joblessness. While the unemployment rate improved from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 8.9 percent in 2011, the employment-population ratio remained largely unchanged, meaning many discouraged workers simply stopped looking for work. Food stamp rolls, another indicator of poverty, also grew.
Although Maslow Windows are transformative decades that feature JFK-style economic booms — note the dramatic decrease in poverty during the 1960s Maslow Window (above) — they are typically preceded by a financial panic like that of 2008, a great recession and a slow recovery. Therefore the strong desire for a return to Maslow-level prosperity begins to dominate the political discussion.
In 2010, just before the election, I indicated that,
current trends support a continuing political realignment fundamentally motivated by the drive for prosperity more than any particular candidate.
While well-documented for the 2010 election, we are beginning to see the same widespread drive for prosperity surface in the current presidential campaign. For example, Rasmussen reports (7/19/12) that by a 2-to-1 majority, voters believe the government should focus on “economic growth” rather than “fairness.” This is partly due to the stumbling economy but also because only 1 in 5 voters believe that more government involvement in the economy results in increased fairness.
In early 2011, I expressed the strong connection between prosperity and winning:
History shows that as we approach a Maslow Window (such as the one expected in 2015), the leader who can best manifest prosperity and model ebullience wins. In the early 1800s it was Jefferson, in the mid-1840s it was James Polk (of all people), in the early 20th century it was Theodore Roosevelt, and in the 1960s John F. Kennedy. It appears that long-term economic circumstances do more to determine our leaders than the reverse.
While it is far from clear who will wn the U.S. presidency in 2012, for the first time, perceptions of President Obama’s economic policies are beginning to decline. Yesterday The Hill announced a new poll that shows
53 percent of voters say Obama has taken the wrong actions and has slowed the economy down. Forty-two percent said he has taken the right actions to revive the economy.