Tag Archives | Poverty

How Expensive It Is to Be Poor

The excellent Charles M. Blow dissects a Pew Center report entitled “The Politics of Financial Insecurity” for the New York Times:

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”

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This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.

“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.

Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.

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Inequity is at a boiling point in today’s America

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via Times-Standard

Communities all over the country are struggling to find answers to the issue of the increasing numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty. Most of those communities are themselves struggling with budget problems and, at best, are only able to come up with Band-Aid solutions. What’s happening here in the richest country in the world? Do we just have a lot of lazy people?

Let’s take a look at some numbers (compiled by Bill Moyers and Company): families of 4 living on less than $11,510 (poverty level for one person) number 20.4 million, that’s 1 in 15 Americans, 7.1 million are children; 25 percent of U.S. jobs pay below the poverty line for a family of four, less than $23,000/year; in 2011 28 percent of all workers earned poverty level wages. Overall 50 percent of U.S. workers earn less than $34,000/year.

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Most Americans Are One Paycheck Away From The Street

If you didn’t receive your next scheduled paycheck, could you stay in your home? MarketWatch reports that most Americans would be out on the street:

Americans are feeling better about their job security and the economy, but most are theoretically only one paycheck away from the street.

Google pay

Approximately 62% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair, according to a new survey of 1,000 adults by personal finance website Bankrate.com. Faced with an emergency, they say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (26%), borrowing from family and/or friends (16%) or using credit cards (12%).

“Emergency savings are not just critical for weathering an emergency, they’re also important for successful homeownership and retirement saving,” says Signe-Mary McKernan, senior fellow and economist at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on social and economic policy.

The findings are strikingly similar to a U.S.

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To Prison for Poverty – Part One

This season reminds us that there are a lot of things to be thankful for.

For instance, not having to go to jail for minor infractions like parking tickets.

But sadly, that’s not the reality for everyone. We live in a world where government and corporations continue to make money off of those who are poor, hungry and desperate.

To Prison for Poverty exposes two private probation companies who exploit and make million of dollars off of people who can’t afford small fines.

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The Just World Fallacy

Logo of the Conservative Party

Logo of the Conservative Party

Kitty S. Jones writes:

The Tories now deem anything that criticises them as “abusive”. Ordinary campaigners are labelled “extremists” and pointing out flaws, errors and consequences of Tory policy is called “scaremongering”. Language and psychology are a powerful tool, because this kind of use “pre-programs” and sets the terms of any discussion or debate. It also informs you what you may think, or at least, what you need to circumnavigate first, in order to state your own account or case. This isn’t simply name-calling or propaganda: it’s a deplorable and tyrannical silencing technique.

The government have [sic] a Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), which is comprised of both behavioural psychologists and economists, which apply positivist (pseudo)psychological techniques to social policy. They produce “Positive psychology” courses which the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) are using to ensure participants find satisfaction with their lot; the DWP are also using psychological referral with claims being reconsidered on a mandatory basis by civil servant “decision makers”, as punishment for non-compliance with the new regimes of welfare conditionality for which people claiming out of work benefits are subject.

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How We Punish People for Being Poor

By Kim Hill via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

By Kim Hill via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Rebecca Vallas writes at Talk Poverty:

This past weekend, I was part of a panel discussion on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry with New York Times reporter Michael Corkery, whose reporting on the rise in subprime auto loans is as horrifying as it is important.

In what seems a reprisal of the predatory practices that led up to the subprime mortgage crisis, low-income individuals are being sold auto loans at twice the actual value of the car, with interest rates as high as 29 percent. They can end up with monthly payments of $500—more than most of the borrowers spend on food in a month, and certainly more than most can realistically afford. Many dealers appear in essence to be setting up low-income borrowers to fail.

Dealers are also making use of a new collection tool called a “starter-interrupter device” that allows them not only to track a borrower’s movements through GPS, but to shut off a car with the tap of a smartphone—which many dealers do even just one or two days after a borrower misses a payment.

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Here’s What Happened When One City Gave Homeless People Shelter Instead of Throwing Them in Jail

(Disinfo carries some Brave New Films titles, check out Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price and Koch Brothers Exposed).

via Alternet:

Kilee Lowe was sitting in a park when cops picked her up and booked her into jail overnight.

After she got out the next morning, she returned to the park. The same officer who had thrown her into a cell not 24 hours before booked her again. It was back to jail for Kilee.

Kilee has been cycling in and out of the criminal justice system for years. After three and a half years in federal prison, she’s been homeless for a little over a year now.

“Just because I don’t have a credit card in my pocket,” she says, “does not make me a criminal.”

Kilee lives in one of hundreds of American cities that have criminalized homelessness. Sometimes the “crime” is loitering. Sometimes it’s panhandling.

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Money Makes Parenting Less Meaningful

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Pic: “Parents’ Joy” by Karl Lemoch (PD)

According to this study, having a higher socioeconomic status makes parents value the experience of raising children, particularly so for women. In contrast, poverty is associated with an increased risk of child abuse.

Via EurekAlert!:

Money and parenting don’t mix. That’s according to new research that suggests that merely thinking about money diminishes the meaning people derive from parenting. The study is one among a growing number that identifies when, why, and how parenthood is associated with happiness or misery.

“The relationship between parenthood and well-being is not one and the same for all parents,” says Kostadin Kushlev of the University of British Columbia. While this may seems like an obvious claim, social scientists until now have yet to identify the psychological and demographic factors that influence parental happiness.

New research being presented today at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) conference in Austin offers not only insight into the link between money and parental well-being but also a new model for understanding a variety of factors that affect whether parents are happier or less happy than their childless counterparts.

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Debating Poverty At The United Nations: Do The Media Hate The Poor?

United Nations, New York: One is always proud to be invited to speak at the United Nations, one of the few global institutions that is still taken seriously, and that can generate international resolutions and shape programs free of total domination by the big powers.  

When you are an outsider like I am, it’s a bit of an ego boost to think that the world might be listening to little old you, and that, at least for one session, you are among the chosen to hold forth on something serious in what critics deride as ‘The House of Babble.’

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I have been around the world body for years, even as recipient of a prize for a TV documentary from the UN Correspondents Association  (UNCA). In that case, the film offered a strong critique of the UN cockup in Bosnia, but then, the award was presented to me by the then (and sixth) UN  Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali, who clearly hadn’t seen it

So, yes there is pretense and hypocrisy,  but there are also sincere and dedicated people—diplomats and international civil servents– working to improve the world.… Read the rest

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