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Economic Recovery in Washington State? Not So Fast.

Posted by Lori Pfingst at Sep 20, 2013 04:30 PM |

There is talk of an economic recovery, but it’s clearer than ever that in Washington state not everyone is benefiting. 

While the stock market soars and companies report record profits, poverty remains stubbornly high and median income – already stagnant for decades – dropped in Washington state, according to figures released yesterday by the US Census.  It’s hard to say our state is in economic recovery when nearly one of every five kids  lives in a family struggling to put food on the table, afford safe housing, and pay for utilities – let alone save money for a rainy day. 

More than 185,000 people are in living in poverty today than before the recession, the Census reports.  The median income of Washingtonians has declined by more than $4,300 since 2007.

The Census release came out one day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached an all-time high. If it wasn’t painfully obvious before, it should be now: those profits aren’t trickling down. 

2013 poverty day

We won’t see a rebuilding of the middle class and sizable reductions in poverty until economic growth is more widely shared.  And when more people benefit from growth, the economy will pick up speed because demand for goods and services will rise, and employers will hire more people.   

We can reverse the distressing trend reported today. The answer is to bolster public investments that support pathways to work for low-income Washingtonians, including the State Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Working Connections Child Care, Affordable Housing for All, and WorkFirst – our state’s primary tool for helping low-income people find or keep a job. These kinds of help kept 40 million people out of poverty in 2011.  Our state needs investments in early education, proven to ease the impact of poverty on children and set them up for future success in school and life.  We need policies such as the Working Families Tax Rebate, that give a break to working families – not more tax breaks for large, profitable companies that don’t create jobs.  And we need to reform our state’s tax system so the majority of Washingtonians benefit from economic growth, not just those with the highest incomes.  

Recovery that is mostly for large corporations and the wealthiest people isn’t real recovery at all. If we want true recovery – where the current trends in income and poverty reverse – it’s time to reinvest in the middle class.  
  
  

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Watch the Poverty Forum Video

If you missed the half-day Poverty Forum that we co-hosted with Partners for Our Children in May 2016, you can watch it on YouTube now. It features a range of speakers and panelists talking about policy solutions for addressing income inequality and poverty in our state.

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Our agenda for the 2015-2017 biennium calls for an equitable, sustainable revenue system in addition to state investments that: promote a world-class education system; sustain a strong middle class; produce living-wage jobs, and ensure that all Washingtonians have equal opportunity to get ahead. 

Testimonies in Olympia

We testified in support of a number of important bills during the 2016 legislative session. Take a look:

  • Our testimony (at the 23:23 minute mark) on the House Bill that would take a two-generation approach to preventing poverty 
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  • Our House testimony (at the 9:25 mark) and Senate testimony (at the 1:44:54 mark) on the two-generation approach to poverty prevention bill 

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