Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nearly poor

So they redid some census stats, using much better cost of living metrics. Much to their surprise they discovered there are millions of poor people in the United States.
All told, that places 100 million people — one in three Americans — either in poverty or in the fretful zone just above it.
They're calling them the "near poor." People who make just a little more than the official poverty level and when you factor in their cost of living, it's damn little. Shockingly, the Heritage Foundation disapproves of this designation. They feel it overstates their quality of life. After all, they're not actually starving. And don't forget they own refrigerators and cell phones. But moving back to the study:
Perhaps the most surprising finding is that 28 percent work full-time, year round. “These estimates defy the stereotypes of low-income families,” Ms. Renwick said.
You can bet most of the rest of the "near poor" are working part time year round as well. Because that's the only kind of job they can get. Those would be the really nearly poor, who also qualify for some social safety net assistance. Like Walmart employees. But wait, we have more surprises:
Another surprising finding is that only a quarter of the near poor are insured.
Shocked. Shocked to learn that people who are struggling to make ends meet for the bare necessities of life can't afford to pay exorbitant rates for private health insurance. Who would have thought?

News flash for all those on the fainting couch over these shocking statistics. These people have always existed and have nearly always been ignored. In the old days, we called them "the working poor." Don't make enough to get ahead, but make too much to qualify for social safety net assistance, which they're mostly too proud to take, even if they did qualify.

I know these people. Hell, I've been these people off and on in the course of my long life. This is the long standing reality for millions of Americans:
“Living paycheck to paycheck,” is how she describes her survival strategy. “One bad bill will wipe you out." [...]

Ms. Sheppard pays $2,000 in rent and says her employer classifies her as part time to avoid offering her health insurance, even though she works 40 hours a week. Unable to buy it on her own, she crosses her fingers and tries to stay healthy.

“I try to work as many hours as I can, but my salary, it’s not enough for everything,” she said. “I pay my bills with very small wiggle room. Or none.”
But Republicans say she should be paying more of civil society's costs so the ultra-wealthy "job creators" can keep more of their "own" money. This is the future most of our young people can look forward to. But still, the very serious people can't figure out why the Occupy movement protests.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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