Archive for category Poverty

45 Million Americans Still Stuck Below Poverty Line

Poverty

Via Mark Gongloff, HuffPo.

More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans in poverty fell from 15 percent in 2012, the biggest such decline since the year 2000. But the level of poverty is still higher than 12.3 percent in 2006, before the recession began.

The percentage of Americans in poverty went up sharply from 1989 to 1992. Then it went down from 1993 to 2000. Then it went up again from 2001 to 2010. Then it started trending downward, slowly. Does anyone see a connection to politics?

UPDATE:
DSWright: Poverty Unchanged By Wall Street Recovery

Trickle-down economics has consistently failed everywhere and every time it has been tried. The theory is simply wrong.

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Facts About The Low-Wage Economy

The high cost of low wages

According to the National Employment Law Project (PDF), low-wage jobs made up 22 percent of job losses from Bush’s Great Recession, but accounted for 44 percent of employment growth after the recession. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession.

On FDL today, Peter Van Buren points out some facts about the low-wage economy:

  • One in four U.S. employees are low-wage workers. That is 20 percent higher than in the United Kingdom, and the highest percentage among industrialized nations.
  • The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
  • In 1968 the federal minimum was $1.60 per hour, approximately $10.70 in 2013 dollars
  • 88 percent of minimum-wage workers are adults, with more than a third over age 40.
  • The percentage of low-wage workers with at least some college education spiked 71 percent since 1979, to 43.2 percent today.
  • The way you functionally subsidize companies paying low-wages to workers– ponying up the difference between what McDonald’s and others pay and what those workers need to live via taxpayer-paid SNAP (food stamps) and other benefits– is a hidden cost in plain sight.
  • If the nation’s largest private employer Wal-Mart increased wages to $12 per hour it would cost the company only about one percent, so that made-in-China $10 item would run you all of $10.01.
  • A Paychex/IHS survey, which looks at employment in small businesses, found that the state with the highest percentage of annual job growth was Washington, which also has the highest statewide minimum wage.
  • Nationwide, even a small hike to $10.10 an hour would put some $24 billion a year into workers’ hands to spend and lift 4.6 million Americans out of poverty. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of our economy.
  • Two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are not employed by small businesses. Better yet, one survey shows three out of five small business owners favor raising the minimum wage; their profits depend on a strong local economy, which requires more money in local consumers’ hands.

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‘We’re moving toward a winner-take-all economy’

Dead End One Way

Reportedly 18% of workers in the U.S. now can’t afford to retire.

Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet interviews journalist Jessica Bruder, who gives a bleak picture of the many older Americans who are forced to work past retirement age, and concludes:

The social contract is falling apart. With the death of pensions and the increase of short-term, temporary jobs bearing no benefits, we’re moving toward a winner-take-all economy with no safety net to help people weather hard times.

Lance Roberts looked at employment statistics and found:

With 24% of “baby boomers” postponing retirement, due to an inability to retire, it is not surprising that the employment level of individuals OVER the age of 65, as a percent of the working age population 16 and over, has risen sharply in recent years.

More info:
Can’t find a job? Blame grandma

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Paul Ryan Poverty Plan: Punish Poor Americans for Being Poor

Blame the victims

Via Media Matters

Failed 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is back again with a so-called “poverty plan” that blames the victims. In reality, poverty is the result of systemic inequality of opportunity – not a lack of individual initiative.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals’ “spirit” and personal life choices.

…The “discussion draft” submitted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to the House Budget Committee on potential solutions to poverty in America includes the proposal that low-income Americans would have to sign “contracts” in order to remain eligible for social safety net benefits, such as food stamps, or SNAP. The contract would include: benchmarks, such as finding a job, enrolling in employment training, or even meeting “new acquaintances outside circle of poverty”; a “timeline” in which individuals are contractually-obligated to meet those benchmarks; bonuses for meeting benchmarks early; and “sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract”

…Annie Lowrey of New York magazine explained that Ryan’s proposal is based on the assumption “that the poor somehow want to be poor.”

Ryan’s poverty-shaming plan is nothing more than a vehicle for right-wing propaganda.

Here’s a better alternative than the Tea-GOP is offering: a $15 per hour minimum wage.


More Info:

The Worst Part Of Paul Ryan’s Poverty Plan Is Based On A Media Myth
Seattle raises minimum wage to $15 an hour
Fast food workers vow civil disobedience

24 Comments

Everybody Should See This Film

According to the description on this YouTube post, Michael Moore didn’t make any money off this film, even though it’s another masterpiece by the worlds best documentary artist who has a knack for making people laugh at tragedies which must be fixed.

I hope I’m not helping to deprive Mr. Moore of any earnings, but he is known for not trying to squeeze every last penny from his works, and just wants to help America break free from the capitalist’s embarrassing stranglehold on the citizens who worked really hard to get them where they are.

You should buy the film on Blue-ray to get the extras, which add greatly to the film and offer solutions by American businesses and leaders who want to do things to bring capitalism back into a workable sphere.

Enjoy:

7 Comments

In case you forgot,

…GOP economics is as bunk as everything else they do.

Despite the constant claims that paying people enough to actually live will destroy jobs, on average the states that raised the minimum wage are seeing higher than average job growth.

This could very well be due to other factors, and not because of the minimum wage, but certainly the minimum wage isn’t killing jobs.

Actually, turns out there is more evidence, and when we add that we start to see actual trends. As the Washington Post points out, raising the minimum seems to create jobs.

Naturally facts won’t change the arguments from the right. But I already wrote about that.

12 Comments

If Walmart Paid Its Employees a Living Wage, How Much Would Prices Go Up?

Via Slate:

In the series “The Secret Life of a Food Stamp,” Marketplace reporter Krissy Clark traces how big-box stores make billions from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps. What’s more, the wages of many workers at these stores are so low that the workers themselves qualify for food stamps—which the employees then often spend at those big-box stores.

This video crunches the numbers on how much Walmart, the single biggest beneficiary of the food stamp economy, might have to raise prices across the board to help a typical worker earn a living wage.

Are safety-net programs designed to help struggling Americans padding corporate profits at taxpayer expense? BTW friends don’t let friends shop at Walmart.

16 Comments

Connecticut Enacts $10.10 Minimum Wage

Chris Rock

Via Think Progress:

This week, the Connecticut General Assembly passed a bill to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed it into law yesterday.

If implemented nationally, a $10.10 minimum wage would put it in line with where it would be if it had kept up with inflation since the 1960s, although far behind the increases in workers’ productivity since then. It would also lift nearly 5 million people out of poverty, close the gender wage gap by 5 percent, and reduce spending on public programs by tens of billions of dollars. There is also real world and academic evidence to suggest that it won’t hurt job growth and could benefit the economy.

Given that the November midterm elections (like 2010) are expected to be dominated by Faux-News-watching senior citizens, it really looks like President Obama will be the only president since FDR whose administration did not enact any increase in the federal minimum wage.

America needs a raise!

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

UPDATE:
Half A Million People With College Degrees Are Working For Minimum Wage

72 Comments

Half of Americans are Poor or Low-Income

Poverty graph
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

h/t Paul Buchheit.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Relative Poverty Measure (see Table 4), which is “most commonly used in developed countries to measure poverty,” 18 percent of Americans are below the poverty threshold and 32 percent are below twice the threshold, putting them in the low-income category. In other words, half of Americans are poor or low-income.

The bottom half of America own just 1.1% of the country’s wealth, or about $793 billion, which is the same amount owned by the 30 richest Americans. ZERO wealth is owned by approximately the bottom 47 percent.

Our politicians can either do something about inequality, or Americans will do something about our political system.

Recommended viewing: Jacob Kornbluth’s film “Inequality for All” with Robert Reich. Now on Netflix.

More info:
Inequality for All

UPDATE:
After-tax profits for American corporations hit another record high last year, rising to $1.68 trillion. American workers have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth, as their pay stayed flat or declined between 2000 and 2012, despite a 25 percent bump in productivity.

14 Comments

Robert Reich: The ‘Paid-What-You’re-Worth’ Myth

Inequality graphs

As usual, Robert Reich says it better than I could (emphasis added).

“Paid-what-you’re-worth” is a dangerous myth.

…The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they’d be unionized if they didn’t come close to matching the union contracts.

Today’s Walmart workers don’t have a union to negotiate a better deal. They’re on their own. And because fewer than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, non-union employers across America don’t have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. The result has been a race to the bottom.

…The reason Wall Street bankers got fat paychecks plus a total of $26.7 billion in bonuses last year wasn’t because they worked so much harder or were so much more clever or insightful than most other Americans. They cleaned up because they happen to work in institutions — big Wall Street banks — that hold a privileged place in the American political economy.

…The “paid-what-you’re-worth” argument is fundamentally misleading because it ignores power, overlooks institutions, and disregards politics. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing whatever should be done to change what people are paid, because nothing can be done.

It’s not that working Americans are lazy/incompetent. Capitalists are greedy and powerful.

UPDATE:

Conservative Myths About the Minimum Wage, Debunked
Contrary to conservative myths, raising the minimum wage would boost the economy, benefit all workers, and won’t hurt consumers.

49 Comments

Paul Ryan’s Free School Lunch Story Never Actually Happened

You can’t make this stuff up. Or more to the point, right-wingers make this stuff up all the time. They have to, because their ideology is not reality-based.

h/t TPM

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) fired up the audience Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference with an anecdote about what he called the heartlessness of giving out free school lunches — but it turns out that “moving” story never really happened.

Here’s the quote:

“The left is making a big mistake here. What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul. The American people want more than that. This reminds me of a story I heard from Eloise Anderson. She serves in the cabinet of my buddy Governor Scott Walker. She once met a young boy from a poor family. And every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. But he told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch—one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids’. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.

WaPo’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked Ryan’s story, and gave it “four pinocchios.” The story Ryan attributed to Eloise Anderson is actually taken from a book by Laura Schroff, who is in reality a supporter of federal programs for hungry kids such as school lunches and SNAP (aka food stamps).

Debunking this stuff is easy. When a right-winger like Ryan poses a counter-factual argument, such as “poor children would be better off without free school lunches,” it’s always based on a lie.

More info:
A story too good to check: Paul Ryan and the tale of the brown paper bag

UPDATE:
Jon Stewart Shreds Paul Ryan’s Free School Lunch Fib (VIDEO)

UPDATE:
Conservatives Offer Americans Empty Stomachs and Empty Rhetoric

39 Comments

Capitalism is a Failing System

This editorial by Richard D. Wolff caught my attention:

Janet Yellen, the United States’ Federal Reserve’s new chair, and I were graduate economics students around the same time at Yale University. The professor who shaped the macroeconomics we learned was James Tobin. He taught us to be Keynesian economists: that is, to accept capitalism as the sole object and focus of our studies, to celebrate it as the best possible system and to preserve it against its own serious faults. Keynesian economics teaches that to secure capitalism’s blessings requires systematic government intervention in the workings of the economy.

So far, conventionally Keynesian and even neo-liberal.

No courses at Yale troubled Yellen or myself with any analyses of how exploitation lies at the core of capitalist production. We were never taught that the majority of industrial workers produce more value for employers than what employers pay them. We were prevented from encountering arguments examining how this idea of “more” (or, in economic terms, of a surplus) contributed fundamentally to the systemic inequalities that define capitalist societies.

Now we’re getting interesting:

Capitalism’s dysfunctions have led me to appreciate and independently learn what Marxian economics has to teach me, outside of Yale’s mainstream economics. Yellen and her cohorts avoided and bypassed all that.

Convinced that we can do better than capitalism, many have analyzed the incipient alternatives emerging from capitalism’s deficiencies, such as cooperatives, workers’ self-directed enterprises and others. For us, Occupy Wall Street represents a powerful surge against capitalism, yet another sign of the waning tolerance for a system that Yellen will try to preserve.

The whole article is worth a read.

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