As the deadline for the Senate super committee draws nearer two new studies highlight what's at stake. First new census data shows that 20 million people now live in deep poverty - a record 35-year high. This means that one in 15 Americans struggle for the basic necessities of life: food, shelter, water.
Meanwhile, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, 30 Fortune 500 corporations paid no taxes for the past three years. On top of that 280 of the most profitable corporations, shelter half of all their profits.
"Deep poverty" is defined as living at 50 percent of the poverty level. Workers living in deep poverty have "an income of $5,570 or less for an individual and $11,157 for a family of four." This amounts to half of the 46 million living below the poverty line.
The growth of poverty extends far and wide, leaving no sections of the country unscathed. Not only are traditional inner-city neighborhoods and rural areas affected - but also increasingly suburban communities. "As a whole, the number of poor in the suburbs who lived in high-poverty neighborhoods rose by 41 percent since 2000, more than double the growth of such city neighborhoods" writes AP.
Today the crisis presents new demographic twists: "As concentrated poverty spreads to new areas, including suburbs, the residents are now more likely to be white, native-born and high school or college graduates - not the conventional image of high-school dropouts or single mothers in inner-city ghettos."
Many now in crisis may never be able to dig themselves out of hole the capitalist economy has put them in.
In the midst of this ever-growing misery, however, corporate America, protected by loopholes and tax codes that favor the super wealthy is doing just fine. The New York Times writes that the 280 companies that sheltered half their profits "faced federal income tax bills equal to 18.5 percent of their profits during the last three years - little more than half the official corporate rate of 35 percent and lower than their competitors in many industrialized countries."
The growth in poverty alongside the refusal of big business to pay taxes is a stark reminder of the legislative choices facing the super committee. Only two roads are possible: either tax the rich to provide short-term stimulus and jobs so that the economy can recover or cut vital lifelines to the ever growing poor.
Incredibly, the GOP-led super committee seems bent on taking the low road. The New York Times says it "is also considering proposals to revamp the tax system, simplifying the corporate structure and possibly lowering corporate rates."
It is this callous and arrogant disregard for growing inequality in the face of corporate profiteering that is fueling the Occupy Movement.
Today the Senate is considering the infrastructure component of the Rebuild America Jobs Act (S.1769). Click here to call you senator.
Only the high road of mass democratic struggle and pressure combined with legislative action can force Congress to act.