It’s More Expensive to be Poor than to be Rich
|January 20, 2014||Posted by Staff under Inequality / Concentration|
This 2014 excerpt of The Atlantic, Jan 13, is by Barbara Ehrenreich.
Low-wage jobs are a trap: They pay so little that you cannot accumulate even a couple of hundred dollars to help you make the transition to a better-paying job. They often give you no control over your work schedule, making it impossible to arrange for child care or take a second job. And in many of these jobs, even young women soon begin to experience the physical deterioration —- especially knee and back problems —- that can bring a painful end to their work life.
It is actually more expensive to be poor than not poor. If you can’t afford the first month’s rent and security deposit you need in order to rent an apartment, you may get stuck in an overpriced residential motel. If you don’t have a kitchen or even a refrigerator and microwave, you will find yourself falling back on convenience store food, which —- in addition to its nutritional deficits —- is also overpriced. If you need a loan, as most poor people eventually do, you will end up paying an interest rate many times more than what a more affluent borrower would be charged.
A nonfunctioning car can mean lost pay and sudden expenses. A broken headlight invites a ticket, plus a fine greater than the cost of a new headlight, and possible court costs. If a creditor gets nasty, a court summons may be issued, often leading to an arrest warrant. No amount of training in financial literacy can prepare someone for such exigencies.
The criminalization of poverty has accelerated since the recession, with growing numbers of states drug testing applicants for temporary assistance, imposing steep fines for school truancy, and imprisoning people for debt.
We need to wake up to the fact that the underpaid women who clean our homes and offices, prepare and serve our meals, and care for our elderly—earning wages that do not provide enough to live on—are the true philanthropists of our society.
Ed. Notes: You may agree with the author that raising the minimum wage solves poverty, but does it? Actually, the whole notion that income must be tied to employment is damaging and must be jettisoned. The very rich are not employed and are the very richest. If they are worthy of welfare — the subsidies to big agri-business, the over-priced contracts with weaponeers, the tax breaks for oil companies, the lenient enforcement of polluters — then the all classes are worthy of fair welfare, a simple monthly check to the citizenry.
Indeed, the US Constitution was written and passed to “promote the general welfare”. The best way to do that is share common wealth. Our common wealth is all the money we spend for the nature we use, all our payments for land and resources that now go to the 1%. Instead, it should go to us all. Each of us should be getting a dividend from the worth of Earth. At the same time, we should not be paying taxes on wages, sales, or buildings. Government should just use fees, dues, licenses, auctions, etc, to redirect our spending for nature — our social surplus — into the public treasury then back out again as dividends to all.
Doing that will make life amazingly better for us all, especially the people who’d no longer be poor.