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FROM THIS EPISODE

A new study from the US Census Bureau suggests that nearly half of all Americans are either poor or "low income," a group some call the "near poor." Meanwhile, consumers who were saving at the beginning of the great recession, appear once again to be heaping on the debt. What's become of the middle class? Without government assistance, would the ranks of the poor be even larger? Also, last-minute campaigning in Iowa, and members of Congress keep getting richer, while their constituents lose ground. Jim Rainey guest hosts. (Thanks to KCRW volunteer Gideon Brower for special production assistance today.)

Banner image: People wait in line to receive free milk in New York City. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Producers:
Christian Bordal
Anna Scott

Making News Last-Minute Campaigning in Iowa 7 MIN, 36 SEC

We're down to the final week of campaigning in Iowa. You can't turn on the television without seeing one of the Republican presidential hopefuls. Even if you turn off the TV, there's a good chance one of the candidates will be at a coffee, or town hall near you.  $10 million has been spent this month alone in Iowa, where the race is still up for grabs. Ron Brownstein is Political Director of Atlantic Media.

 

Websites of Republican presidential candidates:

Newt Gingrich
Michele Bachmann
Mitt Romney
Rick Perry
Ron Paul
Herman Cain (campaign suspended)
Jon Huntsman, Jr
Rick Santorum

Guests:
Ron Brownstein, National Journal (@RonBrownstein)

The Second Civil War

Ronald Brownstein

Main Topic What Does It Mean to Be Poor in America? 34 MIN, 50 SEC

America's middle class is shrinking. The latest census classifies almost half of all Americans as either poor or "low income." As jobs disappear and government programs are cut back, more people are having trouble paying their bills and even buying food. As they lose ground, credit card debt is on the rise. Still, some conservative critics say the term "poor" mislabels those who aren't seriously deprived. Has the suffering reached anything like the levels of the Great Depression? Are the ranks of the poor expanding, or have definitions merely changed?

Note: This story was informed in part from sources in the Public Insight Network. You can find out more at https://www.publicinsightnetwork.org.

Guests:
Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin
Lawrence Mead, New York University
David Grodsky, unemployed specialist in bank regulations
Alica Espinoza, barista
Robert Manning, Rochester Institute of Technology

The Oxford Handbook of Economic Inequality (Oxford Handbooks)

Timothy Smeeding, Wiemer Salverda, Brian Nolan

Reporter's Notebook Capitol Hill-Constituent Wealth Gap Widens 8 MIN, 14 SEC

While many Americans scratch and claw to get ahead, members of Congress are doing just fine. A report in the Washington Post finds that members of the House and Senate have seen their net worth double over a quarter century, some growing considerably richer while in office, while the income of regular citizens has dipped. Washington Post reporter Peter Whoriskey wrote this week about the growing income gap.

Guests:
Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post (@PeterWhoriskey)

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