By R. Neal

A new report by the Census Bureau says that the number of people living in poverty in the U.S. has increased by 1.1 million since 2003:

The nation's poverty rate rose to 12.7 percent of the population last year, the fourth consecutive annual increase, the Census Bureau said Tuesday.

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Overall, there were 37 million people living in poverty, up 1.1 million people from 2003.

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The median household income, meanwhile, stood at $44,389, unchanged from 2003. Among racial and ethnic groups blacks had the lowest median income and Asians the highest. Median income refers to the point at which half of households earn more and half earn less.

Regionally, income declined only in the Midwest, down 2.8 percent to $44,657. The South was the poorest region and the Northeast and the West had the highest median incomes.

The Bush Tax Cuts are working! This part was puzzling, though:

The percentage of people without health insurance did not change.

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The number of people without health insurance grew from 45 million to 45.8 million. At the same time, the number of people with health insurance coverage grew by 2 million last year.

Charles Nelson, an assistant division chief at the Census Bureau, said the percentage of uninsured remained steady because of an "increase in government coverage, notably Medicaid and the state children's health insurance program, that offset a decline in employment-based coverage."

Increase in government coverage? Is he talking about Iraq or the U.S.? I suppose these figures don't include the 300,000+ people being kicked off TennCare, the State of Tennessee's Medicaid program. Or Missouri's plan to cut 90,000 from Medicaid. Or all the other states considering similar Medicaid "reforms".

On a related note, I see that Wal*Mart has donated $1 million to the Salvation Army for Hurricane Katrina relief. That's certainly commendable, but I wonder how many working poor Wal*Mart employees in Mississippi and Louisiana who don't have insurance were affected by the storm? I wonder if Wal*Mart plans to offer these employees any assistance?

But really, let's not be too hard on Wal*Mart. They are just smart business people gaming the system to get taxpayers to subsidize their operations and their employee benefits so they can maintain those low, low prices. The real culprits are our elected "leaders", who can't seem to figure out a rational health care policy (or energy policy, or foreign policy or any other kind of policy) that protects the health and well-being of ALL Americans.

OK, then.