A new report by the Census Bureau shows it is not getting any easier for our country's poor and middle class. The nation’s poverty rate last year was nearly unchanged from the year before, and households with incomes in the 20th to 60th percentile had their overall incomes fall to 23.8 percent of total income. At the same time, households in the top 20 percent had their share of total income climb to an all-time high of 50 percent.
The report paints a bleak picture just 52 days before voters head to the polls.
Teresa Hayes Santos needs her coffee before she heads to work. On this particular morning she is stopping by a local coffee shop before heading to her job at Notre Dame. Santos has a job and says while she is better off than she was last year she is not sure that applies to everyone else.
"Overall there are pockets where it has improved, where things are better. I think we have declined," says Santos.
The recent report by the Census Bureau paints a bleak picture. The numbers show the overall poverty rate in 2001 was not different from 2010. And that the median household income has dropped. According to the report and the White House, real median income declined by $777 to $50,054 in 2011.
Saint Mary's Economics Professor Richard Measell has studied the report.
"I would say the poor are staying about the same so they are not seeing much movement. But the higher income people tend to move up," says Measell.
Measell says the report, which came out on Wednesday is part of a long term trend -- one the country has been seeing for the last 20 years. And with 52 days left until the election, and the economy being the number one issues, the report will only add fuel to the fire.
"There are so many economic statistics out there that each campaign will choose to emphasize the stats they believe will benefit their campaign," says Sean Savage, Saint Mary's Political Science Professor.
"These are tough times but you know what? Your optimism is my optimism. America is coming back. We are going to make sure that we have the jobs that we need. American is going to remain strong and we are going to make sure we remain the hope of the earth," Mitt Romney said at a campaign stop Thursday.
In a blog post, the White House says the report is an another example while congress should pass the president's payroll tax cut. "While we have made progress digging our way out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, too many families are still struggling and Congress must act on the policies President Obama has put forward to strengthen the middle class and those trying to get into it," the blog says.
The report also shows the share of Americans without health coverage fell from 16.3 percent to 15.7 percent, or 48.6 million people. It was the biggest decline in the number of uninsured since 1999, boosted in part by increased coverage for young adults under the new health care law that allows them to be covered under their parents' health insurance until age 26.
Congress passed the health overhaul in 2010 to address the rising numbers of uninsured people. During this election year, the law has come under increasing criticism Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has pledged to push a repeal if he is elected. The main provisions of the health care law will not take effect until 2014.
Additional information provided by the Associated Press and the LA Times