On a day dominated by all bad news on the foreign affairs front, the US Census Bureau delivered a spot of sunlight: New figures from 2011 show that the new health care reform law is actually working. The percentage of uninsured Americans actually went down, after steep jumps in the previous two years. Over 4 million more people had health care coverage in 2011 than in 2010.
Despite predictions from opponents that Obamacare was going to take away your private health care and force everyone into government coverage, the numbers show definitively that's not happening. For the first time in a decade, the rate of private health insurance coverage didn't go down. The biggest beneficiaries of the new law are young people between 19 and 25, whose uninsured rate dropped 2.2 percent. Those figures should only get better as more provisions of the law start to kick in.
The good news on the health care front came along with some less happy developments. Median household income dropped again, by 1.7 percent in 2011, while going up 5 percent for the richest 5 percent of Americans. Median household income is now 9 percent lower than it was in 1999, and 8 percent lower than in 2007, when the economy imploded. Poverty rates were stable, but still depressingly high. Those numbers would be much, much higher, though, but for a host of anti-poverty programs that Republicans have proposed slashing. The Earned Income Tax Credit kept nearly 6 million people above the poverty line ($22,811 a year for a family of four), and food stamps kept another 4 million above the line. Government might not be the answer, but it's certainly helping quite a bit at the moment.