Advocates and human service providers reacted strongly to new Census data showing that one in five New York City residents now live in poverty, the highest level since 2000. The latest figures, which were announced on Wednesday, show that almost 1 in 3 children in New York City were poor in 2010. Several nonprofit leaders highlighted the growing levels of income inequality in the City, noting that rising poverty coincided with continued increasing wealth for the richest New Yorkers. In response, advocates reiterated calls for a restoration of the “millionaires” tax – a temporary personal income tax surcharge on high income households.
“While City and State officials have spent years denying the extent of the poverty and inequality here, the new data leaves no doubt that poverty is soaring here, while inequality is surging,” said Joel Berg, the executive director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. “The fact that 57 people now have as much money as 4 million working families is nothing short of obscene. I am still a committed capitalist but it has never been clearer that today’s distorted crony capitalism needs to be reformed to once again ensure everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a shot at the American dream. These new numbers leave no doubt we need fundamental changes in failing City and State policies in order to create pathways of upward mobility again for both middle class and lower income New Yorkers. They also further demonstrate the need for Congress to immediately pass President Obama’s jobs plan.”
“The recent census data about poverty in New York City is just the latest evidence of the growing income inequality in our city,” stated Mark Dunlea, Executive Director of the Hunger Action Network of NYS. “We witness every day at emergency food programs the impact of the steep raise in poverty. New York City now has the greatest income inequality since right before the Great Depression – the richest 1% of New York City residents now receive 44% of the income, a share four times greater than 30 years ago. This great wealth gap is a fundamental reason for the Great Recession and unemployment crisis. The efforts of our elected officials from City Hall to the State Capitol to Congress to ignore this problem to instead focus on the relatively minor problem of the so-called deficit is a recipe for continued economic disaster.”
“New census data lay out in stark terms the impact of the economic downturn on children in New York City,” said Jennifer March-Joly, Executive Director of Citizen’s Committee for Children. ” Importantly, we know that early approaches to the economic crisis advanced a combination of federal stimulus funds, tax increases, and budget reductions, while recent actions taken on the local, state, and national level have focused almost exclusively on budget cuts. These reductions have compounded the negative impact of the recession and have weakened the economy and our safety net, which has put low-income households on the edge with lost jobs; declining investments in public schools, child care, and after school programs; and cuts to basic community supports. The alarming new census data demonstrates that budget cuts have moved us in the wrong direction, and demands an urgent reexamination of tax policy.”
In response, advocates called for new and balanced approaches for addressing New York City’s financial challenges.
“The bad news for the neediest New Yorkers and children in particular keeps piling up,” said Richard Buery, CEO of the Children’s Aid Society. “This is exactly why all New Yorkers who care about children and the poor must come together and demand that the wealthiest pay their fair share, especially now when things have gotten so bad for so many. It is time to reinstate the Personal Income Tax so that those who can afford a life of luxury contribute equitably to ensuring that an entire generation of American children is not lost. Much like the City did in the 1990s to hire additional police and combat a surge in crime, the administration should work with Albany to levy a tax on the richest City residents to help fight this generation’s greatest threat—children living in poverty.”
“We need to return to a balanced approach of managing the economic crisis, in which everyone must share in the sacrifice,” said Jennifer March-Joly. ” While national leaders spar over proposals to nominally increase taxes for wealthy individuals, New York State could raise $5 billion a year in much-needed revenue by simply extending the existing surcharge on personal income tax for individuals earning over $250,000 annually. These resources could be spent shoring up the critical social safety net on which an ever-increasing number of New York children and families rely. At the local level, we should also recall how City residents joined together during the recession that followed 9/11 by supporting a temporary and progressive increase in City income taxes. This temporary tax increase enabled the City to get out from under an economic downturn and to protect children and families with continued investments in essential public services.”