A story in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Poverty across Wisconsin reaches highest level in 30 years," caught our eye. It details a new study showing that poverty is growing rapidly in almost half the counties in the state.
"Poverty in Wisconsin hit its highest level in 30 years during the five-year period ending in 2014, even as the nation's economy was recovering from the Great Recession, according to a trend analysis of U.S. census data just released by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers. The number of Wisconsin residents living in poverty averaged 13% across that post-recession time frame--the highest since 1984, according to the analysis by UW-Madison's Applied Population Laboratory. In 1984, the poverty rate peaked at 15.5% as the nation was recovering from a double-dip recession," writes Karen Herzog for the state's largest newspaper.
According to one expert, the study shows: "Poverty's not a Milwaukee issue; it's a Wisconsin issue," said Charles McLimans, president and CEO of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, which works with a network of pantries, soup kitchens, meal programs, and homeless shelters to distribute food in 36 counties in eastern Wisconsin.
New punitive rules on food stamps, signed by Governor Scott Walker last year, will certainly make the situation much worse for the state's most vulnerable citizens. Already, 15,000 people lost access to food stamps before Thanksgiving last year.
The study itself, from the University of Wisconsin Applied Population Laboratory, has some eye-opening details.
"During the most recent five-year span, poverty increased significantly in 31 of 72 Wisconsin counties, including 11 of the 15 most populous counties."
"Poverty rates were also up across every level of educational achievement during the five-year period."
"For those with a high school education, poverty rose from 8.9 percent to 11 percent. It also rose from 6.6 percent to 8.9 percent among those who had attended some college, and poverty also touched those with bachelor's degrees or more, rising from 3 percent to 3.6 percent."
"There is some good evidence that living in poverty and experiencing issues like food and housing insecurity can cause changes in the brain that can lead to behavioral issues and low performance in school, as well as chronic disease later in life," said one of the report's authors Malia Jones.
After pursuing a recipe of tax breaks for the rich, steep cuts in vital public services, two union-busting measures, the repeal of higher wages for construction workers, the only kudos Wisconsin has garnered recently is for being FIRST IN THE NATION for its rapidly shrinking middle class and for a record plant closing and layoff rate not seen since the Wall Street meltdown of 2008.
Make sure you take a moment to tweet @GovWalker @SenFitzgerald @SpeakerVos and the folks at the right-wing MacIver Institute @MacIverWisc and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity @AFPWI to tell them: "It's Not Working!"