It may one day be termed the economic recovery that wasn't. For months economists have been baffled by the seemingly conflicting signs of recovery in the U.S. economy. They see publicly traded companies reporting record earnings with no traditional corresponding increase in employment, capital investment or stock price.

While the Dow's every hiccup sends bearish traders running for cover, the market is still above the once unimaginable 10,000 mark.

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released an update on poverty in America, and the news doesn't shock us: The rich getting richer; and the poor are growing. There's no change to report for the middle class.

The report is an annual appreciation of the divisions in our county. While median household income remained unchanged from 2002, the number of people in the United States with incomes below the poverty line grew by 3.8 percent to 35.9 million.

That's 12.5 percent of the richest country on the planet living in poverty. Poverty, according to the Census Bureau, for a family of four is an annual income of $18,810.

Children are even more poverty stricken in this country, where 12.9 million youngsters live in poverty and 17.6 percent of all the kids are needy.

It's a disgrace.

The median income in Umatilla County, according to old Census Bureau data is twice that at $36,249, but there are the same 12.5 percent of our neighbors living beneath the poverty level. That's about 9,000 of our neighbors, and growing.

The story is much the same in Morrow County.

We are not up to speed with Oregon in terms of income and other factors, but we're right in step with poverty.

Also released this week the number of Americans covered by health insurance through their work decreased by a small margin even while government coverage increased through Medicaid and Medicare.

The children of this country covered by health care insurance remained a dismal 88.6 percent. That's 8.4 million of the most vulnerable of our people are uncovered.

There always has been an economic underclass; poverty has always been with us. Even in those dream worlds of equality, based on Communism and Socialism, there were divisions in status, income and lifestyles.

But for this country at this time to see its poor becoming poorer is a reversal of trends over the past 20 years that cannot be tolerated.

While we bemoan the 12.5 percent of Americans in poverty today, that's much smaller than the 1980s and 1990s when there was no mystery about where our economy was heading.

The people who want to be our next president must look at this most recent trend with alarm. Their leadership will be measured by how they stop this trend. That also will solve the mystery of this recovery that hasn't happened yet.

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