Economic Recovery in Washington State? Not So Fast.
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.
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.