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 The nation's middle class is at "its smallest size in the last 30 years," the IMF says. (Photo: Gilbert Mercier/flickr/cc)

IMF Warns that US Needs to 'Urgently' Tackle Poverty

Nation's increasing inequality threaten its economic well-being, IMF says

Andrea Germanos

Invest in the nation's infrastructure, raise the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, improve paid family leave, and raise the ceiling for social security contributions.

These suggestions, long-advocated for by progressive organizations, are now being encouraged by none other than the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which warned Wednesday of an "urgent need to tackle poverty" in the United States.

While praising the "overall good shape" of the nation's economy, the IMF said in its assessment that "the U.S. faces potentially significant longer-term challenges to strong and sustained growth. Concerted policy actions are warranted, sooner rather than later."

The nation's economic well-being, it said, is threatened by factors including the shrinking middle class—now at "its smallest size in the last 30 years"—as well as "income and wealth distribution [that] are increasingly polarized" and rising poverty. "One in seven Americans is living in poverty," including 40 percent of whom are working, the body added.

Underpinning the IMF's suggestions, which also include non-progressive measures like ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership, is the benefit of continued economic growth—an idea challenged by some on the left including authors and climate activists Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein.

The IMF's new findings come less than a month after a paper released by three of its economists concluded that austerity policies were fueling inequality, which in turn hurts growth—"the very thing that the neoliberal agenda is intent on boosting," while the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned at the start of the month of the challenges of rising inequality and called on global governments to take measures to "safeguard living standards for all."


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