n Without Social Security payments, the poverty rate would rise to 54.1 percent of people 65 and older and 24.4 percent for all age groups.
n Without refundable tax credits such as the earned income tax credit, child poverty would rise from 18.1 percent to 24.4 percent
n Without SNAP and Bridge Card programs, the overall poverty rate would increase from 16.1 percent to 17.6 percent.
Once you factor in higher medical costs, such as Medicare Part B and supplemental premiums, plus higher drug costs, poverty levels for those 65 and older nearly double, from the 8.7 percent previously reported to 15.1 percent.
The report also showed that working-class adults ages 18-64 saw an increase in poverty from 13.7 percent to 15.5 percent, largely due to increased gas prices and child care.
The largest increases in poverty were seen in the Hispanic and Asian communities, 28 percent from 25.4 and 16.9 percent from 12.3 percent respectively. African-Americans saw a slight decrease, from 27.8 percent to 25.7 percent. Poverty rose in those classified as white from 9.9 to 11 percent as well.
Utilizing this new method of determining poverty rates and those living in poverty is a vastly more accurate assessment than the formula previously used by the government. That being said, it also points out just how wide the schism between the "haves" and the "have-not's" has become.
As the debate on the Fiscal Cliff rages over the next few weeks or months, I urge our elected representatives to look over the precipice at those who have already fallen over and are struggling mightily to climb back up. It's time to drop a rope over the edge and pull together.
Fred L. Goldenberg is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and the owner of Senior Benefit Solutions, LLC, a patient & consumer advocacy and financial services organization in Traverse City. If you have any questions or comments about this article or any other senior issue, he can be reached at 922-1010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.