The Social Crisis in America

Tenants of Detroit apartment building living without utilities

By Andre Damon, 21 January 2010

Nearly 100 tenants at the Casamira Apartments in Detroit have been without electricity since Thursday, after their landlord refused to repair the electrical system after a power failure.

Millions more US children in poverty

By Tom Eley, 13 January 2010

The economic crisis has spread poverty to millions more US children, according to a recent report by the Brookings Institute.

Homelessness, utility shutoffs lead to house fires, freezing deaths

US cold snap highlights depth of social crisis

By Kate Randall, 7 January 2010

A cold snap in the US has been blamed for at least seven confirmed deaths, as homeless shelters struggle to keep up with demand.

Six million in the US with no income but food stamps

By Jerry White, 7 January 2010

Some six million Americans—one in 50 people in the US—are living on no income other than $100 or $200 a month in food stamps, according to an analysis of state data by the New York Times.

US home sales plummet, personal bankruptcies soar

By Tom Eley, 6 January 2010

New economic surveys released on Tuesday illustrate the economic distress confronting millions in the US and the fragility of its economic “recovery.”

New Year in America: A portrait of social misery

By Tom Eley, 5 January 2010

The new decade finds the US working class suffering a level of social misery not seen since the Great Depression. Unemployment, poverty, hunger, utility cutoffs, homelessness, foreclosures and bankruptcies have become common experiences for millions.

Three top Wall Street banks to award $49.5 billion in year-end bonuses

By Barry Grey, 5 January 2010

An article published in the business section of the January 1 New York Times notes in passing that the three top Wall Street banks will pay out an estimated $49.5 billion in cash bonuses and stock awards.

Survey shows sharp rise in US households seeking utility assistance

By Alexander Fangmann, 23 December 2009

A survey shows that more than 8.2 million US households received utility assistance through the federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for fiscal year 2009, about 2.1 million households more than fiscal year 2008.

New York City students protest scrapping of free transit fares

By a reporting team, 23 December 2009

Several hundred high school students demonstrated Monday against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) decision to eliminate free bus and subway fares for nearly 600,000 students in New York City.

Hedge fund manager makes $2.5 billion betting on US bailout of Wall Street

By Andre Damon, 22 December 2009

David Tepper, manager of the hedge fund Appaloosa Management, is set to pocket more than $2.5 billion this year after successfully gambling that the Obama administration would provide unlimited public funds to bail out the banks.

Obama holds stage-managed meeting with Wall Street bankers

By Tom Eley, 15 December 2009

Obama's Monday meeting with top finance CEOs, presented as a means of promoting lending to small business, in fact aimed to placate popular anger over the Wall Street bailout.

New York Governor Paterson defends Wall Street bonuses

By Peter Daniels, 15 December 2009

Speaking in New York City last week, Governor David Paterson went out of his way to praise Wall Street and celebrate the tens of billions of dollars in bonuses that the banks are preparing to hand out this month.

US Conference of Mayors report:

Recession drives up hunger, homelessness in US cities

By Jerry White, 10 December 2009

Over the course of the past year, US urban areas have seen the largest increase in demand for food assistance since 1991 and a sharp increase in family homelessness, according to a report issued Tuesday by the US Conference of Mayors.

Chicago journalism students targeted for Innocence Project work

By Naomi Spencer and Kristina Betinis, 5 December 2009

A journalism class at Northwestern University has become the target of an intimidation and smear campaign by the Cook County state attorney’s office in Chicago after they uncovered compelling evidence suggesting the wrongful conviction of an Illinois prisoner.

Food stamp usage at record levels

America the hungry

By Patrick Martin, 30 November 2009

A report in Sunday’s New York Times, detailing the sharp rise in food stamp use, gives a much different picture of America at the end of 2009 than the complacent assurances of economic “recovery” voiced by Wall Street and the Obama administration.

US food charities overwhelmed by demand

By Tom Eley, 28 November 2009

Responses from local food charities to a survey by Feeding America show that hunger has increased rapidly across the US. They paint a devastating portrait of a nation in the throes of a social crisis without parallel since the Great Depression.

New York City homeless population at an all-time high

By Sandy English and Ali Ismail, 21 November 2009

The number of homeless housed by the city is 11 percent more than last year and is the highest number of people seeking shelter on record, even before cold weather has started.

Interviews with homeless families in New York City

“There is no safe haven from the crisis”

By Sandy English and Ali Ismali, 21 November 2009

WSWS reporters went to an office run by New York City’s Department of Homeless Services in the Bronx.

A record 49 million Americans faced hunger in 2008

By Barry Grey, 17 November 2009

A yearly survey on hunger released Monday by the United States Department of Agriculture reported that a record 49.1 million Americans in 17 million households lacked dependable access to adequate food in 2008.

Wall Street banks go to the front of the line for H1N1 shots

By Tom Eley, 7 November 2009

While Americans wait in line for H1N1 shots and schools close due to outbreaks, major private firms—including Citigroup and Goldman Sachs—have secured for themselves a share of the scarce vaccine.

US executives’ pensions soar in value

More Americans have to work past 65

By David Walsh, 4 November 2009

Workers in the US are increasingly giving up on the idea of retiring at 65, or even 67, while top CEOs are planning to quit their positions and live like royalty.

Child deaths from abuse and neglect rise in the US

By Naomi Spencer, 28 October 2009

Five children died from abuse or neglect every day on average in the United States between 2001 and 2007, according to a new report. Over the period, 10,440 child deaths were linked to abuse or neglect.

Atlanta homeless shelters strain under economic crisis

By Naomi Spencer, 23 October 2009

As the economic crisis deepens, Atlanta, Georgia, emergency providers are straining to accommodate more than 7,000 homeless people, including many newly homeless families.

Letters from our readers

22 October 2009

A selection of recent letters sent to the World Socialist Web Site.

As unemployment and poverty rise

Obama turns to the financial elite for campaign cash

By Bill Van Auken, 21 October 2009

Under conditions of deepening social misery throughout the US, President Barack Obama came to New York Tuesday to raise millions of dollars in campaign cash from America’s financial elite.

The two Americas

By Andre Damon and Joe Kishore, 19 October 2009

Two reports in the media last week point to the interconnected phenomena of surging pay for bankers and record declines in the wages of the working class.

A record year for Wall Street pay

By Barry Grey, 15 October 2009

According to the Wall Street Journal, the major US banks and financial firms are on track to hand out a record $140 billion in compensation this year.

The American way of debt: Turning a profit by preying on the poor

By Nancy Hanover, 14 October 2009

A section of business has turned the growth of poverty into a gold mine. Standing behind the big banks are several layers of an increasingly complex and parasitic finance industry. At the bottom are the collection agencies, the scavengers who relentlessly pursue individual workers.

The socialist answer to unemployment and poverty

By Jerry White, 9 October 2009

Wednesday’s lineup of tens of thousands of people seeking housing assistance in Detroit is one of those events that suddenly reveals the social reality in America that is ignored and concealed by the media and the political establishment.

50,000 line up for housing aid in Detroit

By Jerry White, 8 October 2009

An estimated 50,000 residents of Detroit filed into Cobo Hall convention center on Wednesday seeking assistance to pay utility bills and keep from being evicted from their homes.

Detroit residents line up for housing assistance

“Most people out here have been unemployed for months”

By Andre Damon, 8 October 2009

Tens of thousands of people waited for hours Wednesday in Detroit to get applications for housing assistance. The turnout overwhelmed the event's planners, who thought no more than several thousand people would attend.

The new Forbes 400: Provocative wealth amidst social misery

By Tom Eley, 3 October 2009

The 400 richest Americans have so far weathered the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression with a combined $1.27 trillion, according to Forbes magazine’s annual list.

US Census Bureau report: 40 million living in poverty

By Kate Randall, 30 September 2009

The overall poverty rate in the US rose to 13.2 percent in 2008 as more workers lost their jobs across all sectors of the economy.

Detroit residents speak on utility bills, social crisis

25 September 2009

Several thousand Detroit residents attended an event hosted by DTE Energy to provide assistance to customers with difficulties paying their utility bills.

Thousands line up for utility bill assistance in Detroit

By Shannon Jones, 25 September 2009

In a sign of the immense social crisis in the United States, thousands of Detroit residents lined up Wednesday seeking assistance with utility bills.

US: 2008 census figures show severe impact of recession on workers

By Jerry White, 23 September 2009

The US Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey Data provides a picture of the social distress produced by the worst economic recession in decades.

US poverty rate hits 11-year high

By Shannon Jones, 11 September 2009

Data released by the US Census Bureau Thursday show a sharp rise in poverty in 2008 along with a fall in median income and an increase in the number of Americans without health insurance.

US income gap widest since 1917

By Bill Van Auken, 19 August 2009

The social chasm separating America’s financial oligarchy from working people is wider than at any time since 1917, according to the latest statistics from the Internal Revenue Service.

Paulson and Goldman Sachs: A dirty secret of the Wall Street bailout

By Barry Grey, 11 August 2009

An article in Sunday’s New York Times sheds a measure of light on the corrupt relationship between government officials and the banks which underlies the multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street.

US cities criminalize homelessness

By Ali Ismail, 10 August 2009

As the economic crisis continues to intensify, scores of US cities are enacting undemocratic laws that criminalize homelessness and trample on the rights of the growing number of homeless individuals and families.

Nancy Pelosi’s summer vacation

By Tom Eley, 8 August 2009

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will start the congressional recess with a two-day long meeting, unfolding at two of her multi-million dollar California residences, for top donors to the Democratic Party

The drug lobby demands, and gets, Obama pledge to protect health care profits

By Kate Randall, 7 August 2009

The Obama White House has acknowledged it made a deal with drug makers to block moves in Congress to obtain any cost savings beyond the $80 billion already agreed to by the pharmaceutical lobby.

Billions in bonuses for bailed-out bankers

By Patrick Martin, 1 August 2009

Nine Wall Street banks that were among the biggest recipients of the US government bailout paid nearly $33 billion in bonuses last year, including awards of $1 million or more to nearly 5,000 people.

Hunger, poverty on the rise in Chicago area

By Kristina Betinis, 1 July 2009

As unemployment rises and the state of Illinois experiences yet another budget crisis, a growing number of working people are falling into poverty.

Record bonuses at bailed-out US banks

By Andre Damon, 25 June 2009

Executives at Goldman Sachs were told last week that they could expect to receive their highest-ever bonuses this year.

While workers’ wages fall

Obama administration rejects limits on bankers’ pay

By Patrick Martin, 11 June 2009

The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it opposed any government-imposed limits on the salary and bonuses of the CEOs and other top officials of major banks that have received trillions of dollars in federal handouts and guarantees over the past eight months.

Stoking hunger and homelessness: North Carolina jobless rate remains in double-digits

By Rosa Lexington, 23 May 2009

Unemployment in North Carolina remained at 10.8 percent in April, one of eight US states with double-digit jobless rates last month.

Video: Protesting students and parents speak to the WSWS

21 May 2009

Both Kettering High School students and parents were eager to speak to WSWS cameras in defense of their principal and their school.

US: 12 million children face hunger and food insecurity

By Naomi Spencer, 11 May 2009

More than 12 million children are threatened with the risk of inadequate food and hunger in the US, including 3.5 million children under five years of age.

Wall Street pay back to pre-crash levels

By Barry Grey, 28 April 2009

The Obama administration is seeking to create conditions for the banks to make more money than ever and resume the semi-criminal policies that precipitated the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Wall Street Journal report: US executive perks “flourished” in 2008

By David Walsh, 4 April 2009

Executives in the health care industry led the way, with average compensation of $12.45 million, followed by technology CEOs at $8.83 million, those in consumer goods at $8.73 million, in oil and gas at $8.17 million and financial firm executives at $7.60 million.

Obama defends Wall Street as anger grows over bonuses, bailouts

By Patrick Martin, 19 March 2009

For the millions facing unemployment, foreclosure, poverty and homelessness there will be no bailout, and no million-dollar bonuses like those paid out to executives at AIG, with the consent of the Obama administration and Congress.

US: Congressional Democrats balk at rescinding tax cuts for the rich

By Bill Van Auken, 11 March 2009

Elements of the Obama administration’s $3.55 trillion 2010 budget proposal are facing stiff opposition from leading congressional Democrats who are determined to defeat attempts to rescind tax cuts for the rich.

Retirement funds in danger for millions of Americans

By Mike Bryan, 6 March 2009

For millions of Americans, the deepening recession has meant a dramatic drop in funds put aside for their retirement. Companies have stopped making matching 401(k) contributions, and many workers have been forced to tap into their already dwindling retirement funds.

“This is America—we don’t disparage wealth”

Obama announces token executive pay limits

By Tom Eley, 5 February 2009

At a White House press conference on Wednesday, President Obama announced new measures that purport to limit executive pay. The central aim, however, is to prepare public opinion for a new and larger Wall Street bailout.

After freezing death of 93-year-old, Michigan city suspends electricity shutoffs

By Tom Eley, 30 January 2009

Amidst widening public outrage over the freezing death of 93-year-old Marvin Schur, municipal authorities in Bay City, Michigan have announced plans to temporarily suspend the utility shutoffs. Since Schur died, more frozen bodies have been found in Michigan.

Letters on a tragic death

29 January 2009

A selection of letters sent to the World Socialist Web Site in response to the death of a Michigan man who froze after his electricity was cut off.

Michigan man, 93, freezes to death after city cuts off electricity

By Tom Eley and Jerry White, 28 January 2009

The frozen body of 93-year-old Marvin E. Schur was found by neighbors at his home in Bay City, Michigan, several days after the municipal power company had restricted his access to electricity due to outstanding bills.

Poverty wages for day laborers recruited for inauguration

By Jeff Lassahn, 20 January 2009

The Labor Ready temp agency in Virginia offered $7.55 an hour for day laborers to work the inauguration festivities in Washington DC—picking up trash and horse manure in freezing cold weather for long hours.

Six die in New Year’s Day house fire in Washington DC

By Kate Randall, 3 January 2009

Six people died in a New Year’s Day house fire in Washington DC. Authorities suspect “a catastrophic electrical failure” as the cause of the blaze.

US: Economic stress drives rise in child abuse and domestic violence

By Kate Randall, 30 December 2008

Social service agencies across the US are seeing growing numbers of domestic violence and child abuse cases as the economic crisis deepens.

House fire in Philadelphia kills seven

By Naomi Spencer, 29 December 2008

An intense house blaze has claimed seven lives in a working class neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

US: Homelessness on the rise in San Francisco

By Marge Holland, 29 December 2008

Local charities in the San Francisco Bay Area are seeing a sharp increase in those without shelter or food, as well as a change in the composition of the needy.

Children displaced by Katrina face severe health risks

By Debra Watson, 11 December 2008

Thousands of children displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina are suffering serious illness or chronic conditions of ill health, according to a recent report by the Children’s Health Fund (CHF).

A great step forward

9 December 2008

The occupation of Republic Windows and Doors by 250 workers in Chicago, Illinois is an important step forward and one that deserves the full support of the working class throughout the country and internationally.

US: The social and historical roots of the Highland Park fire tragedy

By Tom Eley, 6 December 2008

Conditions in Highland Park provide a microcosm of the rise and decline of heavy industry, and especially auto manufacturing, in the US. The city saw the deaths of three young children and their aunt on October 22 following the cutoff of utilities to their home.

Layoffs soar as US plunges deeper into recession

By Barry Grey, 4 December 2008

New economic reports show that the severity of the US recession and the speed with which it is developing are greater than anticipated by economists and business forecasters. Data released Wednesday reveal a sharp rise in layoffs in virtually every sector of the economy.

Obama warns US governors of “hard choices”

By Tom Eley, 3 December 2008

The president-elect warned governors at the Philadelphia conference to be prepared to make sharp cuts in social spending in the months ahead.

Poverty and hunger on the rise in the US

By David Walsh, 27 November 2008

More than 30 million people in the US are now dependent on food stamps, a benefit available to the poor, according to figures soon to be released. The number of people using food stamps jumped 9.6 percent from August 2007 to August 2008.

WSWS interviews workers at Detroit “poverty summit”

17 November 2008

On Thursday, November 13, the World Socialist Web Site sent reporters to Cobo Center in downtown Detroit to interview young workers and social workers attending the Detroit Poverty Summit about the dire conditions that are rapidly worsening in that city and across Michigan.

Social workers at Detroit “poverty summit” describe impact of layoffs, foreclosures, utility shutoffs

By Tom Eley, 15 November 2008

A "poverty summit" at Detroit's Cobo Center attracted thousands of social workers and representatives of charities from throughout the state of Michigan.

Declining social conditions of students and youth in the US

By Ed Hightower, 12 November 2008

As the world financial crisis deepens, young workers and students in the US face increasing economic hardship and declining job prospects.

Utility cut-offs on the rise in the US

“More than an energy issue, a serious public health issue”

By Tom Eley, 6 November 2008

Utility companies are suspending heating and electrical service to customers at a far higher rate than in previous years, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story.

WSWS speaks with family members of Michigan fire victims

By the, 1 November 2008

WSWS reporter D'Artagnan Collier spoke to family members and a teacher of one of the victims of the fire in Highland Park, Michigan which killed four people on Wednesday, October 22.

Detroit residents denounce social decay in fire deaths

30 October 2008

The following video is part of a series by the World Socialist Web Site reporters on the dire social conditions prevailing former auto production centers in Detroit.

Detroit residents and firemen denounce social decay in fire deaths

By Daniel Douglass, D’Artagnan Collier and Tim Tower, 29 October 2008

Residents and firemen in Highland Park, Michigan have denounced the social conditions that led to the deaths of three children in a tragic house fire last week.

Living on thin ice: Frozen River

By Hiram Lee, 28 October 2008

Frozen River, set on the US-Canadian border in northern New York state, is a sincere effort and a compassionate portrayal of a working class family’s struggle to stay afloat.

Warnings of deep recession as US layoffs spread coast-to-coast

By Patrick O’Connor, 27 October 2008

Mass layoffs in the United States have spread from the financial sector and automobiles to virtually every sector of the economy. But the response of the political establishment, including Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is to rule out any new programs to create jobs.

Highland Park, Michigan residents speak on deadly fire

24 October 2008

The World Socialist Web Site sent a reporting team to Highland Park, Michigan, where a house fire killed four people in the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 22, 2008. Residents spoke to the WSWS about the terrible social conditions in the city.

Detroit area house fire kills four

By Tom Eley, 23 October 2008

Early Wednesday morning three children and their great aunt died in a house fire in Highland Park, Michigan. The likely cause of the fire was an electrical space heater the family was using for warmth after companies suspended gas service.

Stella D’oro strikers rally in the Bronx, New York

By A. Wood and Steve Light, 22 October 2008

Two hundred bakery workers, on strike at the Stella D’Oro plant in the Bronx, New York for more than two months, held a rally Saturday to oppose wage-cutting demands by the private equity firm, which took over the company in 2006.

Housing crisis accelerates blight in Detroit neighborhoods

By Debra Watson and Anne Moore, 21 October 2008

Dire conditions in a once prosperous East Side Detroit neighborhood underscore the impact the wave of home foreclosures is having on working people across the US.

Letters from our readers

21 October 2008

The following is a selection of recent letters sent to the World Socialist Web Site.

Detroit residents speak on economic crisis and US elections

By a WSWS reporting team, 20 October 2008

Reporters for the World Socialist Web Site and SEP supporters spent Saturday morning at Eastern Market in Detroit speaking to residents about the economic crisis and the US presidential elections.

US infant mortality rate now worse than 28 other countries

By Patrick O’Connor, 18 October 2008

A report issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that at least 28 other countries now have lower death rates for infants in the first year of life.

“Working Poor” report: Nearly 30 percent of US families subsist on poverty wages

By Tom Eley, 16 October 2008

A report released Tuesday by the Working Poor Families Project reveals that more than 28 percent of American families with one or both parents employed are living in poverty.

Fires claim lives of seven in New York City

By the Bill Van Auken, 14 October 2008

Two deadly fires that broke out in separate working class neighborhoods of New York City over the weekend claimed the lives of seven people, four of them children.

WSWS: New York workers denounce Wall Street bailout

5 October 2008

While congress debated the $700 billion bailout of the Wall Street banks, the World Socialist Web Site spoke on the streets of New York to workers and young people who denounced the bailout of the banks and expressed a growing anger about the housing crisis, the loss of jobs and rising tuition for college.

SEP presidential candidate speaks with workers in Detroit

28 September 2008

Socialist Equality Party presidential candidate Jerry White went with a team of supporters to speak with workers at a crowded farmers market in downtown Detroit on Saturday, September 27. Many spoke with the World Socialist Web Site and contributed to the campaign.

California: foreclosures and homeless on the rise

By Rafael Azul, 27 September 2008

Stagnating wages, increasing unemployment and rising food and fuel prices are driving a wave of foreclosures in California, forcing hundreds of thousands into destitution. The housing crisis has left many working class families homeless or forced to go to food banks to survive day to day.

The ties that bind: Dodd, Schumer and Wall Street

By Barry Grey, 24 September 2008

There is nothing mysterious about the abject servility exhibited by the members of the Senate Banking Committee toward Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at Tuesday’s hearing.

As economic crisis deepens, rich get richer

Forbes publishes list of 400 wealthiest Americans

By Tom Eley, 24 September 2008

Even as the US careens into its greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, the financial aristocracy whose parasitism and criminality has brought on the crisis has held its own—and then some.

Paulson warns: No limits on CEO pay

By Barry Grey, 23 September 2008

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson opposed proposals from some Democrats as well as Republicans that the Bush administration’s plan for a massive taxpayer bailout of the most powerful banks and financial institutions include provisions limiting the pay of CEOs whose companies benefit from the government handout.

Obama’s response to financial meltdown: Deception and subservience to Wall Street

By Bill Van Auken and SEP vice presidential candidate, 19 September 2008

As hundreds of millions of people in the US and around the world confront the onset of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, with all of its implications for their jobs, livelihoods and the future of their children, the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate Barack Obama have seized upon Wall Street’s implosion as a means of reinvigorating their faltering campaign.

Unemployment and poverty grip New York State

By Sandy English, 18 September 2008

Two new surveys issued by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) highlight the increasingly bleak economic situation for New York State’s workers and professionals.

WSWS interviews director of homeless shelter in LA

10 September 2008

The World Socialist Web Site interviewed Dwight Smith, director of Isaiah House, an emergency shelter in Santa Ana, California, about the rise in the number of homeless people, especially among the working poor.

New York: city and state universities face deep budget cuts

Students’ thoughts

By Peter Kloze, 9 September 2008

Hundreds of thousands of students in New York City’s public university system have returned to classes for the fall term to learn that the state legislature has approved drastic cuts in funding that pose a serious threat to their right to a decent education.

High fuel prices impoverish New York City taxi drivers

3 September 2008

On September 4, 2008, the World Socialist Web Site published, "High fuel prices impoverish New York City taxi drivers," a report featuring interviews on the difficulties facing cabbies working in the city.  Taxi drivers in the US have been among those hit hardest by the steep rise of gasoline prices over the last year. Along with other workers and small business owners in the transportation industry around the world, taxi drivers are now facing a precipitous fall in their standard of living.

Social crisis in Detroit: Food banks struggle to meet need

18 June 2008

The World Socialist Web Site interviewed workers and professionals in Detroit about the worsening social conditions as gas prices and food prices soar. Larry Porter speaks with Wayne Wells, the president of the Gleaners Food Bank, the largest food distribution organization in the city, about the sharp rise in the need for emergency food aid.

Social crisis in Detroit: "I'm 67, and it's impossible"

15 June 2008

For several weeks, the World Socialist Web Site has interviewed working people in Detroit about the worsening social conditions as gas prices and food prices skyrocket. In this segment, our reporters spoke with Ola Horne, 67.