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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OCTOBER 25, 2000
2:19 PM
CONTACT:  Nader 2000
Jake Lewis or Stacy Malkan (202) 265-4000
Nader Says Low-Moderate Income Families Forgotten By Clinton-Gore Administration
 
WASHINGTON - 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 current Administration.

"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.’’

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