POORER AND POORER

An additional 1.7 million Americans slipped into official poverty last year, ground down by pernicious joblessness. The poverty roll rose to 34.6 million, more than a third of them children, according to new census data. The grimness of this trend is hardly reversible in the immediate future as President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress pay for the tax cuts, postwar Iraq and other programs with budget deficits that are projected to sap $5 trillion from the nation's revenue flow over the next decade.

A dark dynamic in the rising poverty is the near tripling of the long-term unemployed in the past three years, to 1.9 million formerly productive workers who have simply given up looking for jobs in the depressed market.

The ominous context for the mushrooming poverty, jobless and deficit problems in America was spelled out last month by a bipartisan report from the Committee for Economic Development, the Concord Coalition and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. They warned that the coming decade would be "the most fiscally irresponsible in our nation's history," unless the president and Congress somehow lose their cut-taxes-and-spend enthusiasm.

RETURN TO INDEX