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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. On this rebroadcast of today's To the Point, guest host Jim Rainey looks at what's become of the middle class. Without government assistance, would the ranks of the poor be even larger? Also, the Pasadena Rose Parade gets Occupied, and members of Congress keep getting richer, while their constituents lose ground.

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

Making News The Pasadena Rose Parade Gets Occupied 10 MIN, 8 SEC

In Monday's Rose Parade the most surprising float may be bringing up the rear. Members of the Occupy movement plan to unveil a giant octopus made from recycled plastic bags. Authorities intend to let them march down Colorado Boulevard, somewhere behind the last official entry. Larry Wilson, public editor of the Pasadena Star-News, has more about what should be an unusual postscript to the 123rd Rose Parade.

Larry Wilson, Pasadena Star-News

Main Topic What Does It Mean to Be Poor in America? 33 MIN, 51 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.

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

Credit Card Nation

Robert D. Manning

Reporter's Notebook Capitol Hill-Constituent Wealth Gap Widens 8 MIN, 34 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.

Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post (@PeterWhoriskey)

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