The Census Bureau's latest report on the overall poverty rate is making headlines, but the more important political story is getting less media attention than it deserves. Buried in the data is the disclosure that three key constituencies that supported President Obama in 2008 — African Americans, Latinos, and women — are now suffering some of the worst poverty rates in the country. If they turn against Obama because of their economic plight, his re-election prospects will be dim.
And their situation is bleak. The poverty rate for African Americans in 2010 rose to 27.4 percent from 25.8 percent a year earlier, and for black children it was 39 percent. Obama has been under increasing pressure from black leaders, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to formulate an agenda specifically to help African Americans, but so far he has refused. He says his overall agenda is the best thing for blacks as well as whites and other ethnic and racial groups.
But the data make clear that many minority citizens have been left out of whatever recovery is occurring. The poverty rate for Hispanics increased to 26.6 percent from 25.3, and it was 35 percent for Hispanic children.
The rate for women was 14.5 percent, up from 13.9 percent, the highest in 17 years. [Read about the president's latest jobs proposal.]
The poverty rate for whites was better at 9.9 percent, compared with 9.4 percent a year earlier.
It was another part of the Census report that gained media attention--that 15.1 percent of all Americans lived in poverty last year, an increase from 14.3 percent in 2009. This is the third consecutive year that there was an annual rise in poverty. Most of that period spans the Obama administration.