They Need Food Stamps Not Just in Ghettoes
More Poor Live In Suburbs Than In Urban Areas
Most poor live on a few dollars a day, maybe work in minimum-wage jobs that barely cover rent; many moved to the suburbs. That suggests a metro government might work better than either a city council or a county board. These 2013 excerpts are from the Los Angeles Times, May 19, on suburbs by E. Alpert, and May 24, on food stamps by CD Cook (author of "Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis").
By Emily Alpert and by Christopher D. CookAs poverty mounted throughout the nation over the past decade, the number of poor people living in suburbs surged 64% between 2000 and 2011 — a much bigger jump than in cities.
More poor people moved to the suburbs, pulled by more affordable homes or pushed by urban gentrification. Some used the increased mobility of housing vouchers, which used to be restricted by area, to seek better schools and safer neighborhoods in suburbia. Still others, including immigrants, followed low-paying, service-sector jobs as the booming suburbs demanded more workers.
Change also came from within. More people in the suburbs slipped into poverty as manufacturing jobs disappeared, the authors found. The housing boom and bust also walloped many homeowners on the outer ridges of metropolitan areas, hitting pocketbooks hard.
Although there are more poor people living in suburbs, the percentage of people living in poverty increased only slightly. While the number of poor people in suburban areas now outstrips those in urban centers, the average U.S. suburb still has a much smaller percentage of its people living in poverty — 12% — than the urban average of 22%.
The federal poverty line stood at $22,350 for a family of four in 2011.
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JJS: People move around but political borders don’t. Perhaps cities and surrounding counties should merge into one regional government, like the ancient Greek polis or the contemporary Russian oblast. There’s little reason for maintaining many little overlapping and competing local governments within a regional economic unit (or within a bioregion).
The economic effects of a large population is felt not just in the city but throughout the entire region. For instance, cities like Boston and San Francisco don’t cover much surface area, are compact and dense, but do pull up land values all throughout the region. Why have a border cut through an otherwise unified area?
Since the social generation of site value is a regional phenomenon, it should be a regional government that collects land dues (or land taxes) and disburses rent dividends to regional residents. Getting a dividend solves the poverty problem. Doing the sharing on a regional basis resolves any jurisdictional issues.
The Case for Food Stamps
Food-stamp dollars don't disappear into a black hole. When more than 15% of Americans remain impoverished, slashing food assistance for the poor makes no sense in humanitarian, economic or public health terms.
Food stamps provide essential nourishment and public health benefits to low-income people as well as economic stimulus to rural and urban communities. These are returns on spending that you won't find in the corporate tax giveaways and military spending boondoggles routinely supported by both political parties, even as they scream for austerity when it comes to slashing "entitlements" and food assistance for the poor.
Cutting food stamps doesn't save money — it actually costs money in added public health expenses and lost job creation. As it is, public healthcare expenses for diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease cost taxpayers more than $100 billion annually.
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JJS: We give the poor food because they need it. But they wouldn’t be poor and wouldn’t need a handout if they just go justice. And that means giving everybody their fair share of the common wealth, of the worth of Mother Earth, of all that we spend for the nature we use. The amounts that people spend for land and resources make up the biggest single stream in the GDP. Currently most of that spending goes to a few well-connected owners and lenders. But it should go to all of us, and it could once we put in place a system of land dues and rent dividends.
Eventho' the poor pay most of their meager income for land, for the land beneath their apartment or trailer, land dues or land taxes would actually help them. Having to pay such charges, owners would no longer speculate; instead, they'd put their land to good use or sell to someone else who would. The end of speculation would both make lots-for-sale and housing more plentiful and more affordable. Plus, the putting-sites-to-good-use would generate more job opportunity.
Justice for the poor -- and everyone -- also means getting rid of taxes on wages, especially barely livable wages. So there you have it. No taxes on our efforts, land dues for our land claims, and a Citizens Dividend -- then you can kiss poverty goodbye, whether in the inner city or the suburbs.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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