If there’s one of President Donald Trump’s promises that everyone should be able to get behind, it’s adding good jobs so that more Americans can rise on the economic ladder.
So I don’t begrudge Trump bragging about job announcements though he has little do with them. But he’s also boasting a lot about the booming stock market – the Dow Jones industrial average topped a record 21,000 last week.
That bounty for investors, however, hides two key facts, six-plus years into the economic recovery: Way too many Americans are still looking for work in some places, and poverty is far too rampant in some pockets.
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In January, 13 counties in California still had double-digit unemployment rates, and the state had seven of the 10 metro areas in the nation with the highest joblessness. California’s statewide poverty rate in 2015 was 15.3 percent, compared to 12.4 percent in 2007, the year the Great Recession began.
The poverty rate for children under 18 was even higher – 21.2 percent, up from 17.3 percent in 2007, according to a new analysis by the California Budget & Policy Center. In 15 counties, primarily in the Central Valley and Inland Empire, the child poverty rate was more than 4 percentage points worse.
A new Public Policy Institute of California study found that poverty rates for the youngest children, 5 and under, vary widely between regions of the state, averaging 20 percent in Northern California and nearly 30 percent in the Los Angeles area and Central Coast. Without safety-net programs, poverty rates would be 24 percentage points higher in the Central Valley and Sierra, compared to only 8 points higher in the Bay Area.
Taken together, the studies again show the growing gap between coastal and inland California – a huge issue that politicians, policymakers and community leaders must all tackle.
Children Now, an advocacy group based in Oakland, issued a report last week calling on the state’s leaders to increase support for infants and toddlers, especially the 62 percent born into poor families.
Assemblywoman Autumn Burke, a Democrat from Inglewood, has introduced a bill that would commit the Legislature to cut the child poverty rate in half over the next 20 years. On Wednesday, Assembly Republicans released their plan to address poverty and help the middle class, including expanded tax credits for child care and an education bonus for CalWORKs recipients. Bipartisan agreement, anyone?
The economic struggles of many Americans were a big reason why Trump won. One analysis found that Trump won 442 of the 527 counties where median household income dropped between 2009 and 2015.
Yet so far, his tax proposals and spending priorities are tilted toward the wealthy. The current Obamacare replacement plan would hurt poorer families. And safety nets could be frayed by cuts in domestic programs to boost military spending.
If Trump isn’t going to look out for the poor, it’ll be up to leaders in California.
By the numbers
Child poverty rates in selected California counties:
California Budget & Policy Center