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Labor Day 2006: Work Harder, Get Less

Press Release

Location: Fort Lauderdale, FL

Wrong direction abundantly clear as family income falls vs. rising costs

Economic data released this past week shows that Labor Day under President Bush means a stark reality for thousands of families who have to work harder just to stay above their family income from the year before.

The past five and a half years have been characterized by a drop in real income for families, an increase in the number of people in poverty, a dramatic increase in the number of Americans without health insurance, and increased difficulties with obtaining an affordable college education.

"The foundation of the American dream is that if you work hard, you can get ahead," said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "Americans continue to work hard, but they can't keep up with increases in health care premiums, gasoline and energy costs, and college tuition. Continually passing tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans just doesn't help the average American family address these increased costs."

This past week saw the release of Census Bureau statistics on the economy. The findings were grim:

· The typical American household's real (inflation-adjusted) income rose a modest 1.1 percent from $45,817 in 2004 to $46,326 in 2005. Despite the gain in 2005, real median household income has declined by $1,273 during the Bush administration's first five years.

· The poverty rate in 2005 was 12.6 percent, statistically unchanged from its level of 12.7 percent in 2004. Since 2000, the poverty rate has increased by 1.3 percentage points. There were nearly 37 million people in poverty in 2005, an increase of 5.4 million during the Bush administration. The Census defines the poverty line for a family of four as $20,144 in 2005.

· The number of uninsured Americans rose to 46.6 million in 2005-1.3 million more than in 2004. More Americans are now without health insurance than at any point since the Census Bureau began collecting comparable data starting in 1987. Since 2000, the number of uninsured Americans has grown by 6.8 million.

"This Labor Day we should stop and ask ourselves, ‘are we better off now then we were five years ago?' " said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "Unfortunately for million of American families who now make $1,300 less a year than just five years ago, the answer is a resounding no."

Since 2000, the following costs have been squeezing the average American family:*

· Cost of gasoline: UP 73%

· Cost of employee health insurance premiums: UP 55%

· Cost of college: UP 28%

Additionally, the national minimum wage has not risen since 1997 and neither Congress nor the President have pushed to increase the minimum wage. At the current minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, a person working 40 hours a week, and never taking a vacation, would make only $10,712 a year -almost $10,000 below the poverty line for a family of four

"I believe that we need a new direction for America" said Rep. Wasserman Schultz. "We need to raise the minimum wage, repeal tax giveaways that encourage companies to move high paying jobs overseas, make college tuition deductible from taxes, expand Pell grants and cut student loan costs."

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