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Wall Street: Up or Down, Low Income New Yorkers Losing Either Way

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 By Michael Clifford/Chris Thomas, Contact
March 5, 2007

Today's opening bell on Wall Street could say a lot about the strength of our economy, but a new study finds very poor New Yorkers are losing either way. The study, by McLatchy Newspapers, finds the number of Americans living in severe poverty has now reached a 32-year high, despite the recent economic recovery. Mark Dunlea with the Hunger Action Network of New York State says the economic gap keeps widening, not just between rich and poor, but for middle-income New Yorkers as well.

"The poor have already lost. The problem is how much danger the middle class is in, given that people are just hanging on, and now there is discussion of possibly moving to recession. That's a very frightening situation."

A study of 2005 census numbers finds the number of Americans now living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, and New York ranks third for the number of very poor residents. This is the first time poverty numbers have gone up during a period of economic recovery, according to Arloc Sherman with the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, and he says there needs to be a shift in national priorities.

"Do we patch up some of the safety net at the bottom? The place where we have ample funds, where we've been directing hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars, has been towards tax cuts especially toward the very wealthiest Americans."

Dunlea gives credit to New York's new governor for early moves on healthcare and adding money for emergency food programs, but he says Spitzer needs to do more on housing and welfare.

"We've not seen from Governor Spitzer a really heavy investment yet in anti-poverty programs, starting with poverty in upstate New York, but you know poverty wherever it occurs. We have lots of poverty in Westchester County, New York City, Nassau and Suffolk counties."

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