So much for the "Jersey Comeback."
Gov. Chris Christie has been backing away from that slogan for several weeks now - pretty much ever since the announcement that the state unemployment rate hit 9.8 percent in July, the highest in 35 years. Indeed, at his town hall meeting last week in Howell - and on the endless stream of emails sent to the media from the Governor's Office - the "Jersey Comeback" slogan has been replaced with the "Christie Middle Class Reform Agenda."
And whatever that means, it sure doesn't mean a thing to the forgotten and growing number of New Jerseyans in serious poverty. Census Bureau poverty figures released last week will, no doubt, kill the "Jersey Comeback" nonsense for good.
According to an analysis of the census numbers by the Poverty Research Institute, a division of Legal Services of New Jersey, the number of people at or below the official federal poverty level in the state is at its highest in the last 30 years - and the number increased more since the official end of the recession in 2009 than it did during the downturn.
According to the Poverty Research Institute, from 2007 to 2009, the poverty rate in New Jersey rose from 8.7 percent to 9.3 percent. But from 2009 to 2011, the rate went from 9.3 percent to 11.4 percent.
The percentage increase from 2010 to 2011 represented an additional 57,000 people added to the ranks of the poor, for a total of 988,000 state residents living below the poverty line, the PRI said.
Meanwhile, Christie is still pushing a tax cut - that is, when he isn't out of the state campaigning for Republicans across the nation.
New Jersey's poor get nary a word or a nod from the governor. He's busy elsewhere. (He's also been busy increasing the staff in his office, where the payroll has increased 14 percent since 2010, to almost $10 million, according to a recent report by the Asbury Park Press. Payroll in Christie's communications operation, which sends out all those emails and posts all those YouTube videos, has increased 31 percent, with three people making six-figure salaries.)
And bear in mind what being officially poor means. The federal poverty level is set at an annual income of $11,702 for a single person, $15,063 for a couple, $18,123 for one parent with two children, and $22,811 for a couple with two children. In an expensive state such as New Jersey, you could have an income twice the amount of those figures and still be pretty darn poor.
And yet ... virtually all you hear about the poor these days is how they are milking the system for government benefits they don't deserve.
Yes, the poor will always be with us. But we used to do more than denigrate and ignore them.