- October 25 - Ralph Nader charged today that the lack of
affordable housing, the number of children who go to bed hungry every
night and the more than 32 million Americans who live in poverty put the
lie to the Gore-Lieberman claims of broad-based prosperity under the
"Much like their Republican counterparts, Gore and Lieberman have great
faith in the discredited concept of trickle-down economics,’’ Nader
said. “But, the cruel truth is that few of the benefits of a booming
stock market and good economic times at the top have trickled down to
millions of American families.’’
Despite a decade of economic growth, Nader said the majority of workers
are making less today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, and working longer
than they did in the 1970s. Forty-seven million workers—a third of the
work force—are making less than $10 an hour, he said. Many of them are
in the $5.15 to $7 range.
From 1979-1998, the inflation-adjusted incomes of the poorest one-fifth
of the population did not improve at all, while incomes increased very
fast at the top. According to Business Week magazine, “people feel
overworked and underpaid, especially in contrast with their CEOs, who
now make nearly 500 times the average employee’s wages.”
The net financial wealth of the top one percent of households equals the
combined wealth of the bottom 95 percent of American households. Earlier
this year, Microsoft’s Bill Gates’ wealth was equal to the combined net
wealth of the poorest 120 million Americans.
Low-income workers in the U. S. historically have earned less than their
counterparts in advanced European economies. The typical low-wage worker
in Europe earns 44 percent more than in the United States. One in five
children exist at a poverty level in the U. S., more than three times
the rate of child poverty in comparable western European countries. More
than a fourth of Hispanic and African-American children in the U. S.
live in poverty, with many more in “near poverty.”
Income inequality is also a result of erosion in the minimum wage. The
buying power of the minimum wage has fallen by more than 20 percent
since 1979, even as productivity has increased more than 35 percent.
“The minimum wage should be raised sufficiently to lift families out of
poverty,’ Nader said. The poverty threshold for a family of two adults
and two children is $16,895 according to the U. S. Census Bureau. Just
to pull a family of four—two adults and two children—out of poverty
would require a minimum wage of $8.50 an hour. Repealing the
Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 and other obstructive labor laws, which keep
tens of millions of low-paid workers from forming trade unions, would
lift their wages and working conditions and help reduce the number of
working poor in America.
Nader said too many Americans are not only living in poverty, but are
also hungry. Estimates suggest that there are 31 million Americans
suffering from hunger, 12 million of them children.
“The nation is also in the midst of a housing crisis with the shortfall
of affordable housing exceeding 5.4 million units,” Nader said. He said
the Clinton-Gore Administration had failed to develop an urban policy
and has ‘’lurched from one piecemeal effort to another.’’
Nader said the federal budget surplus, if it becomes a reality, should
be significantly applied to revitalizing urban communities in what he
described as a ‘’Marshall Plan’’ for the cities.
“Inner cities have waited too long through endless political promises,’’
Nader said. ‘‘We need a full-scale serious effort if we are to
revitalize our cities and depressed rural areas and end poverty.’’