Low-Wage Nation: Poverty and Inequality Are Threatening Our Democracy

 

With its catchy "We are the 99 Percent" slogan, the Occupy movement focused millions of Americans on our nation's chronic inequality. As that movement regains momentum, it must pay more attention to the whole 99 percent.(palmspringsdude/Flickr)

We certainly should worry about how the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans isn't paying its fair share of the cost of running the country. But we should be just as worried about how people at the other end are doing.

 

It's not just about the continuing wave of foreclosures. Millions of people are stuck in low-wage jobs that don't pay enough to make ends meet. And millions more live on incomes so low that it's hard to imagine how they survive.

 

Low-wage work is a pandemic. A third of our population ekes by on less than $36,000 for a family of three. That's 103 million people living on less than twice the poverty line, but most of them technically aren't poor or don't consider themselves poor. Yet they struggle every month to make ends meet and are one medical emergency or protracted illness away from bankruptcy.

 

Why so much low-wage work? Because over the past 40 years, well-paying industrial jobs disappeared, unions lost much of their clout, the minimum wage stagnated, and the field of competition in many areas became globalized.

 

The result: half of U.S. jobs now pay $34,000 or less a year. A quarter of U.S. jobs pay less than $22,000, the poverty line for a family of four. And the wages for those jobs have been stuck for four decades. Today, they pay only 7 percent more than they did in 1973.

 

Most families cope by having both parents work, but the rising number of single moms means that millions of households have just one possible worker. It's no wonder that 42 percent of single-mother families with children under 18 are poor.

Meanwhile, our safety net is in tatters at a time when 20.5 million people have incomes that amount to less than $9,500 a year. That's half the poverty line, which is currently pegged at $19,090 for a family of three. This number grew by almost 8 million between 2000 and 2010. Why? Cash assistance for the mothers and children who need it in many states has been scratched.

 

Many politicians still crow about the supposed "success" of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the threadbare national welfare program that replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children during the Clinton administration.

 

At last count, Wyoming has a total of 617 people enrolled in its TANF program. The kids it covers comprise just 4 percent of the children in the state's poor families. Twenty-five states now provide less than 20 percent of their poor children with this kind of support.

 

Nationwide, the percentage of kids covered by these benefits has declined to 27 percent from 68 percent before President Bill Clinton and the GOP-controlled Congress "reformed" the welfare system. As a result, we have 6 million people whose only income is from food stamps. Food stamps provide an income of a third of the poverty line — about $6,000 for a family of three. This is the most urgent problem we face.

Rep. Paul Ryan and his House Republican colleagues want to make matters worse. They're touting a budget that would slash virtually every program that helps low-income people. Their rationale: we're helping too much.

 

But the House Republicans evidently think we're not helping the rich enough — their budget proposes massive new tax cuts for the wealthy. Robin Hood would turn over in this grave.

 

Seeing that work produces a decent income and that our people are prepared for the jobs of the future is cost-effective and will benefit corporate bottom lines. But there's an even more fundamental reason to act. The concentration of power and wealth at the top and the sense of political exclusion and impossibility at the bottom threaten a new order that's antithetical to the animating ideals of our country. Poverty and inequality are threatening our democracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins

 

AFRICAN AMERICA IS AT WAR

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICA

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON AFRICAN AMERICANS

THERE IS A RACE WAR ON BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

AMERICA'S RACISTS HAVE INFILTRATED AMERICAN POLICE FORCES TO WAGE A RACE WAR AGAINST BLACK PEOPLE IN AMERICA

THE BLACK RACE IS AT WAR

FIRST WORLD WAR:  THE APPROXIMATELY 6,000 YEAR WORLD WAR ON AFRICA AND THE BLACK RACE

Original Post

"We certainly should worry about how the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans isn't paying its fair share of the cost of running the country. But we should be just as worried about how people at the other end are doing."

Im somewhat lost (but not really) as to why columnist continue to write and act as if the OWS movements either dont understand this or don't get it.  Their successful re framing of the issue (99% vs 1%) has allowed people to entertain and discuss exactly how the 1% generate their "wealth".  The answer to that question also is the answer to why the 99 are in the condition their in. 

 

Good article but I hope that more articles like this stop treating the wealth of the 1% and the poverty of the 99% as if they're two different but parallel realities.

  I think although we are experiencing an unprecedented job crisis in our economy, I do believe we've been here before.  The exception is a lotta us live beyond our means-even though prices to survive are high.  However, I remember how my parents strategized the family budget and instead of going outside the rim of their financial abilties, cut corners and did a lot of things themselves.  We don't do that anymore.  A lotta of us depend on fast foods to feed our families-don't cook as we used to, have outrageous cleaner bills-when we can clean our clothes ourselves-have unnecessary gadgets when we really don't need them-I mean simple things that you  don't think about that can save you HUGE amount of money.  When we were little, we got three pairs of shoes a semester(every three month):  school shoes, tennis shoes and church shoes...if you mess that up, you were outta luck until next semester..so that's like 6 pairs of shoes a year.  Kids today?  They want their parents to pay over a $100 each for a pair of shoes....and they want more than merely one pair.  How ridiculous is that?  And more ridiculous are the parents struggling trying to get 'em instead trying to struggle to pay for rent/mortgage/utiliies/food.   So the question emerges:  Where are the priorities?   And the most important question:  What are you teaching children about money?  Cuz many folks have this "slave" mentality towards money.  Why?

 

I mean I know things are tight and jobs are hard to find but if you have the tools to weather the storm, you can manage your way through it.  But a lotta times, people don't have money sense and their interest is more about impressing others  or having it right now than staying within their financial envelope and saving up for what we want.  And that's where a folks get into money trouble.  Saving money is false negative to many of us.  And the thing is the economy is ALWAYS gonna go up and down....that's just life.  You never gonna know exactly what finanical position you're gonna be in until it happens....however, if you prepare consistently and have backup plans when things are good and put a "penny" aside whenever you can....this pattern of protection will help through those lean times.  But! I know! I know! This newbie generation is different....they want it now, are arrogant about how to get it and continue to spend money like water....especially when they have no jobs and some really aint looking-living with family or friends.  The motiviation just isn't there.  Cuz the problem really is how one sees money. 

 

And the solution is how to change the perception of money which can ensure total control over financial life.  One way is to ask yourself:  does it matter if that dress cost $25 or $325?  Does it matter if you have prepaid phones for your kids or a really expensive family plan one that rates seem to go up every month?  Isn't the goal for having phones in the first place is to be able to keep in contact as oppose to having the most fancy expensive piece of sensitive junk folks will be impressed with?  I mean come on people.    We are smart and if those on the other half of the world can manage to barely survive on $5 a month....what the hell are we doing...when in poverty here indicates we have much more than $5 a month?  Let's be real.   Yes this country is having a hard time but it will get better.  Always does.   Everything in life cyclist.  But many of us really need to change our behavior or rearrange our attitude towards money.  We have to.   Having said all that, I really feel that we are NOT as helpless as we project to ourselves.  We have a lotta money power. As a matter blackfolks are a billion dollar or more consumer base entity.  But I think many of us have become just LAZY about money monitoring/management and don't want to do the things to mitigate our financial circumstances.  Cuz we or should I say this generation have been GIVEN tooooooo much in the last 20 years or so thus evolving into a spend crazy group and now they really don't know or have a clue how to FEND for themselves during financial crisis situations.   And that to me is what is THREATENING our democracy.  That right there.     Cuz this won't be the last financial mishap this country will experience.  Oh noooooo.  You're only fooling yourself if you think that.  But!  

Laziness and "living within your means" are two of the myths that have been repeatedly debunked yet continue to be a major part of commentary no matter where this subject comes up.

 

The idea of living within your means is very attractive to those who stress the need for self responsibility and accountability.  The problem is that social economic conditions are just that---social.  When we are told to 'live within our means' what is almost always ignored is the declining value of "your means".  Living within 30K a year is much more difficult when the cost of living, healthcare, education, food, gas etc is rising.

 

So while its true that many of our grandparents valued and depended on thrift, the context of their thrift was different.  IF prices are falling along with wages- your struggle takes on a different dynamic.  This was what happened during the Great Depression.  Wages fell, but prices fell faster than wages.

Its true that education is a problem among the Black community, but not for some of the reasons many of us may think.  There's this idea that manufacturing and production based jobs are "old school" and outdated, as if everything in your home, car, office or pocket doesn't get produced somewhere using those same outdated or "low skilled" jobs.  That is yet another frame that deflects from the De-industrialistion of the U.S.

 

Even those who are educated are seeing their jobs retooled into contract based "painting by numbers".  Teaching is one field where this is rampant.

Originally Posted by Muhammad Cipher:

Laziness and "living within your means" are two of the myths that have been repeatedly debunked yet continue to be a major part of commentary no matter where this subject comes up.

 

The idea of living within your means is very attractive to those who stress the need for self responsibility and accountability.  The problem is that social economic conditions are just that---social.  When we are told to 'live within our means' what is almost always ignored is the declining value of "your means".  Living within 30K a year is much more difficult when the cost of living, healthcare, education, food, gas etc is rising.

 

So while its true that many of our grandparents valued and depended on thrift, the context of their thrift was different.  IF prices are falling along with wages- your struggle takes on a different dynamic.  This was what happened during the Great Depression.  Wages fell, but prices fell faster than wages.

Its true that education is a problem among the Black community, but not for some of the reasons many of us may think.  There's this idea that manufacturing and production based jobs are "old school" and outdated, as if everything in your home, car, office or pocket doesn't get produced somewhere using those same outdated or "low skilled" jobs.  That is yet another frame that deflects from the De-industrialistion of the U.S.

 

Even those who are educated are seeing their jobs retooled into contract based "painting by numbers".  Teaching is one field where this is rampant.

Well this is just the beginning. . .

Brother Muhummad Cipher wrote: 

Laziness and "living within your means" are two of the myths that have been repeatedly debunked yet continue to be a major part of commentary no matter where this subject comes up.

 

No myths my brotha.  This is where you are in view incorrect.

 

The idea of living within your means is very attractive to those who stress the need for self responsibility and accountability. The problem is that social economic conditions are just that---social.

 

Yes I agree that it is social.  But young people don’t know or understand what living within “your means” defines.  They think that they can continue "socially" spending out of control and expect their parents to come to their rescue. Maybe I should break it down this way:  And I’m speaking from my neck of the woods where jobs are very scarce and homelessness is increasing with a younger population of folks I call newbies.  Thus causing it to be  more adult children moving back home to live with their parents than ever before.  No?  And here is where the laziness comes in.  Instead of these return nesters taking a job that is not as “attractive” to meet the "mean" necessary at the time to survive or lemme break it this down even more….meet the basic needs or necessities of daily living where they can SAVE money to move out….many will NOT take those jobs cuz citing “it is beneath them” to do so.   Now it’s not beneath them to eat all the food in the house, sleep all morning and stay out late at night, making this behavior is a form of laziness not to be accountable for oneself when it is "available" to do so.  I’m just sayin.  No?  Cuz right now I’m targeting just one group of folks.  And they are not using their imagination to make money.

 

When we are told to 'live within our means' what is almost always ignored is the declining value of "your means".

 

Again…it is the definition of your “means.”  And I’m talking basics here my brotha.  Every day living stuff:  rent, food, utitlities.  Not even talking about car note, insurance, registration.  Just day to day living.    

 

 Living within 30K a year is much more difficult when the cost of living, healthcare, education, food, gas etc is rising.

 

I agree.  So you can mitigate your circumstances by riding a bike instead of driving a car if you’re traveling close to home.  Food prices continue to rise….but!  It cost more to eat out via restaurants and fast food than to cook your own meals.  As a matter of fact, it is cut in half and  is healthier…and for those who don’t know how? Learn how to cook.  So that within itself can reduce the need for emergency health care by doing things much healthier.  Feel me?  And education?  There isn’t a way to get around that but to shut off the television if you have children and teach them how to focus primarily on homework and creativity during after school hours.  This will also reduce the possibility of children repeating a grade as a result of failing a subject.  This will save money as well.  I’m just suggesting there are things that can be done to adjust to the flucunation[sp] of the economy and to improve the quality of living life. 

 

… while its true that many of our grandparents valued and depended on thrift, the context of their thrift was different. IF prices are falling along with wages- your struggle takes on a different dynamic. This was what happened during the Great Depression. Wages fell, but prices fell faster than wages.

 

Yeah but in the great depression rent wasn’t like mortgages.  Yeah it was a different time but many of those people LEARNED how to survive by weathering the storm.  It is the same in this current crisis.  Learn how to weather the storm.  Why?  Cuz you have to.  Bottom line.  No? 


Its true that education is a problem among the Black community, but not for some of the reasons many of us may think. There's this idea that manufacturing and production based jobs are "old school" and outdated, as if everything in your home, car, office or pocket doesn't get produced somewhere using those same outdated or "low skilled" jobs. That is yet another frame that deflects from the De-industrialistion of the U.S.

 

That’s why it is important to work with your hands and to teach children how to work with their hands.  It’s old school only cuz we’ve been doing it for a long time and have outsourced this skill to other countries.  But it is still NEEDED here.  And in my view, there really isn’t a job that’s low-skilled…cuz you can always improved that skill and take it to a higher plane.  That’s what happened in computer technology.  Each year or every 2 months, the computer gets better and better….this includes phones and other high technologies.  But it all started as a “low skill.”  No?

 

Even those who are educated are seeing their jobs retooled into contract based "painting by numbers". Teaching is one field where this is rampant.

 

True.  But that’s because the higher ups refuse to see the VALUE of education.  They got theirs…but they don’t want anyone else to have what they have.  Simple.  Dog eat dog.  Plus they don't see the value and importance of teachers.  Cuz as long as they are still getting their paychecks, they can careless abotu the teachers or the students-even though it's their job to give quality education.  However, these folks are humans and I believe in personal karma. Whatever goes around, come around.   I see it unfold everyday.  So before this country collapse as many are predicting, it is gonna be an evolution of the “best” kind moving forward.  Cuz why? For many many reasons.  But mainly cuz the unique people in this country are the most intelligent, dynamic and innovative humans on this earth and they are not finished producing and creating unprecedented accomplishments...just ain't.  No other countries can do what we have done....and are doing.  But! 

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