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Poverty and health care: Pinched

THE recession ended, at least technically, only six months into Barack Obama’s presidency. For many voters, it certainly does not feel that way. Unemployment in August still stood at 9.1%, nearly twice its level at the start of the downturn. And on September 13th the Census Bureau released its latest figures on income, poverty and health coverage. The data, for 2010, represents the first full year of numbers since the recession’s end in June 2009. Laymen would be forgiven for not noticing much change.The data was remarkable for breaking a few records, none of them good ones. Income has, inevitably, dipped after previous recessions, but never by so much. Real median household income was $49,445 in 2010, down 2.3% from 2009—indeed, income fell even further after the recession than in the recession’s final year. This follows more than a decade of bad news. Since the peak in 1999, real median household incomes have plunged by a miserable 7%, and are now back where they were in 1996.The ranks of the poor continue to swell. The number of people below the poverty level (defined last year as $11,139 for an individual or…

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