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News flash- poor people still poor

April 4, 2011

A new article in the NYT is discussing how economic security is beyond reach of ordinary Americans. I'm not sure how this is even news, or why this is any revelation of anything new. I suspect if you looked back at the last 100 years in America you'd discover the same thing with possibly a few years of exceptions here and there. I'm not even sure why we're talking about it when one party in power thinks it's a great idea to cut government funding of everything from infrastructure programs to medical care and food banks for the poor. I mean even that's a misleading term, the poor, the unfortunate, who are we looking at here?

According to the report, a single worker needs an income of $30,012 a year — or just above $14 an hour — to cover basic expenses and save for retirement and emergencies. That is close to three times the 2010 national poverty level of $10,830 for a single person, and nearly twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to attain economic stability, and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker.

That's no small change. The burger place near my work just put up a sign that they are hiring at $10 an hour which sounds like pretty good pay for flipping burgers. And by pretty good I mean I'm surprised the fast food industry pays any more than minimum wage, not surprised that somebody should earn that much for doing what I certainly wouldn't want to have to do for a living. It's scary to me how much my income is not above that dotted line and I think what it took to get me here. Are we really going to expect every single person in America to get years of education and work experience where they can reach a level that they can actually have a savings account? This doesn't even cover trying to pay for healthcare which I suspect most entry-level jobs are no longer providing.

The numbers will not come as a surprise to working families who are struggling. Tara, a medical biller who declined to give her last name, said that she earns $15 an hour, while her husband, who works in building maintenance, makes $11.50 an hour. The couple, who live in Jamaica, Queens, have three sons, aged 9, 8 and 6.

“We tried to cut back on a lot of things,” she said. But the couple has been unable to make ends meet on their wages, and visit the River Fund food pantry in Richmond Hill every Saturday. With no money for savings, “I’m hoping that I will hit the lotto soon,” she said.

Medical billing? I remember when that was supposed to be the cash cow for people to train and do for a living. Like nursing it was supposed to be a given that it would provide stable employment for a ton of people. I think there's a misperception that the poor are out of work people who hit their limit of savings and are struggling. But the real case is they've probably been struggling all along. They've been doing all the things that were supposed to grant prosperity: getting training, getting a job, working hard.

To develop its income assessments, the report’s authors examined government and other publicly available data to determine basic costs of living. For housing, which along with utilities is usually a family’s largest expense, the authors came up with “a decent standard of shelter which is accessible to those with limited income” by averaging data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that identified a monthly cost equivalent for rent at the fortieth percentile among all rents paid in each metropolitan area across the country.

They chose a “low cost” food plan from the nutritional guidelines of the Department of Agriculture, and calculated commuting costs “assuming the ownership of a small sedan.” For health care, they calculated expenses for workers both with and without employer-based benefits.

Ms. Kuriansky said that the income projections do not take into account frills like gifts or meals out. “It’s a very bare-bones budget,” she said.

They said they are still working on stratifying this to cities and states. Meaning I bet these numbers will rise in what kind of income it takes to live in a city somewhere, which is of course going to be where people have the best chance of getting employed to begin with. We all know the job market is rotten right now and I'm sure we all have that number in our heads about bare minimum to survive. But if we keep cutting taxes for the wealthy and closing off opportunities for the lower middle class and lower class what can we expect for our future? I mean these people did the right things. Medical billing usually requires some training, and frankly building maintenance is not a job without experience and skills needed. I know I couldn't turn around tomorrow and work in that industry successfully.

I think we have our eye on the wrong ball here. We've been worried about the high unemployent rate and the ever growing time it takes the average unemployed person to find another job. But it's not Joe the office worker who's having to dip into his precious 401k who I think should tug at our heart strings here. Compounding all the difficulties of just getting a job in this economy we're ruining the financial futures of those lucky enough to get these "low level" jobs. And that's not really sustainable economic development.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 4, 2011 10:05 pm

    More Breaking Nooz. Obama is aiming for a BILLION DOLLAR CAMPAIGN.I guess he plans on pandering some more to the Koch Bros and Ass-ociates. ain't getting ONE PENNY of my money. He ain't getting my vote either.jc

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