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.”
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.
So, as the Pew report pointed out, “more than half of the least secure group reports receiving at least one type of means-tested government benefit.”
And yet, whatever the poor earn is likely to be more heavily taxed than the earnings of wealthier citizens, according to a new analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. As The New York Times put it last week:
“According to the study, in 2015 the poorest fifth of Americans will pay on average 10.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes, the middle fifth will pay 9.4 percent and the top 1 percent will average 5.4 percent.”
In addition, many low-income people are “unbanked” (not served by a financial institution), and thus nearly eaten alive by exorbitant fees. As the St. Louis Federal Reserve pointed out in 2010:
“Unbanked consumers spend approximately 2.5 to 3 percent of a government benefits check and between 4 percent and 5 percent of payroll check just to cash them. Additional dollars are spent to purchase money orders to pay routine monthly expenses. When you consider the cost for cashing a bi-weekly payroll check and buying about six money orders each month, a household with a net income of $20,000 may pay as much as $1,200 annually for alternative service fees — substantially more than the expense of a monthly checking account.”
Even when low-income people can become affiliated with a bank, those banks are increasingly making them pay “steep rates for loans and high fees on basic checking accounts,” as The Times’s DealBook blog put it last year.
And poor people can have a hard time getting credit. As The Washington Post put it, the excesses of the subprime boom have led conventional banks to stay away from the riskiest borrowers, leaving them “all but cut off from access to big loans, like mortgages.”
One way to move up the ladder and out of poverty is through higher education, but even that is not without disproportionate costs. As the Institute for College Access and Success noted in March:
“Graduates who received Pell Grants, most of whom had family incomes under $40,000, were much more likely to borrow and to borrow more. Among graduating seniors who ever received a Pell Grant, 88 percent had student loans in 2012, with an average of $31,200 per borrower. In contrast, 53 percent of those who never received a Pell Grant had debt, with an average of $26,450 per borrower.”
The SCLC brochure advertising the campaign said it would call for a “decent life for all poor people so that they will control their own destiny,” and made no attempt to minimize the expense, saying, “This will cost billions of dollars, but the richest nation of all time can afford to spend this money if America is to avoid social disaster.”
Specifically, they demanded an “Economic Bill of Rights” with the following components:
People were to have a meaningful job with a livable wage.
People were to get a secure and efficient income.
People were to be able to access land for economic reasons.
Less well-off people were to have access to capital to promote business.
The middle class were to have a large role in government.
It was bold. And, according to Jeffries, it was exactly in line with how King had always seen the world, and his longstanding fixation on the radical redistribution of economic power. King had grown up during the Great Depression and escaped most of its harshest consequences because of his well-off family’s relative privilege, but “all he had to do was sit on his front porch and he could see the ravages,” said Jeffries. As a result, “Questions of economic justice were always on his mind. He wrote about it, he talked about it, he preached about it.”
I don’t envy the wealthy their money, but if they want to keep it, then it seems the prudent thing to do would be to help reduce the inequality gap lest their wealth be forcibly taken from them.
From Oxfam’s press release earlier this week:
In same period at least a million mothers died in childbirth due to lack of basic health services
Rising inequality could set the fight against poverty back by decades (1), Oxfam warned today as it published a new report showing that the number of billionaires worldwide has more than doubled since the financial crisis. (2)
The report, Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality, details how the richest people in the world have more money than they could ever spend while hundreds of millions live in abject poverty without essential health care or basic education.
In countries around the world, prosperity is not trickling down to ordinary people, but up to those at the top, whose exceptional wealth is growing ever more rapidly. The richest 85 people — who Oxfam revealed in January as having the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population (3) — saw their collective wealth increase by $668 million per day between 2013 and 2014. That’s almost half a million dollars every minute. (4)
- If African countries continue on their current growth trajectory with no change in levels of income inequality, then the continent's poverty rate won't fall below three percent — the World Bank's definition of ending poverty — until 2075. IMF (2014) 'Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality', IMF Policy Paper, Figure 8, Washington, D.C.: IMF, The target set by the IMF and the World Bank for ending poverty is 2030.
- In March 2009, there were 793 billionaires, according to Forbes. In March 2014 there were 1645 billionaires, according to Forbes
- Oxfam research in early 2014 found that the 85 richest individuals in the world have as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population. This figure was based on the wealth of the 85 billionaires at the time of the annual Forbes report in March 2013. Working for the Few report.
- In the period March 2013 to March 2014, Oxfam found that the wealth of the 85 richest individuals in the world, as identified in the Working for the Few paper detailed in Note 3, rose again by a further 14 per cent, or $244bn. This equates to a $668m increase a day; $463,888.89 every minute. Even It Up: Time to End Extreme Inequality report, pg. 3.
From the page on the report:
Economic inequality has reached extreme levels
From Ghana to Germany, Italy to Indonesia, the gap between rich and poor is widening. In 2013, seven out of 10 people lived in countries where economic inequality was worse than 30 years ago, and in 2014 Oxfam calculated that just 85 people owned as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
Extreme inequality corrupts politics and hinders economic growth.
It exacerbates gender inequality, and causes a range of health and social problems. It stifles social mobility, keeping some families poor for generations, while others enjoy year after year of privilege. It fuels crime and even violent conflict. These corrosive consequences affect us all, but the impact is worst for the poorest people. […]
This report delves into the causes of the inequality crisis and looks at the concrete solutions that can overcome it. Drawing on case studies from around the world the report demonstrates the impact that rising inequality is having on rich and poor countries alike and explores the different ways that people and governments are responding to it. […]
More: Time to End Extreme Inequality (PDF of full report available)
The Canada Revenue Agency (Canada’s equivalent of the IRS) has told OXFAM Canada that it cannot list ‘preventing poverty’ as a goal, only ‘alleviating’ it. The reason is “Relieving poverty is charitable, but preventing it is not.”
This is just one of many instances of Our Dear Leader using the CRA to punish critics for criticizing. OXFAM Canada opposes Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
Yet another example of so called conservatives showing their revolutionary goals.
By Jonathan Rieder
Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on the Mall in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963. AFP/Getty Images
What does white America owe black America? To even broach that question 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 seems straight-out wacky. Did not the election of a black president redeem the nation? At a minimum, it’s rude—refusing to avert the eyes from that elephant in the room: “America begins in black plunder and white democracy.” That’s how Ta-Nehisi Coates deemed it recently in his extraordinary “The Case for Reparations.”
Far from fringe lunacy, the idea of a primal debt was obvious to Martin Luther King Jr. Exactly 50 years ago this month in Why We Can’t Wait, his Harper & Row account of the Birmingham, Ala., protests, he made his own impassioned case for compensation. And yet no matter how much he shared Coates’ desire to square accounts, King would settle on a rival solution for the crimes of slavery and all the forms of racism that succeeded it.
The racist comments on Obama “was an adequate reaction against the one who insulted and defamed PRNK (People’s Republic of North Korea)”, a spokesperson for the external affairs ministry said in comments carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The North Korean spokesman criticised the US president for calling North Korea an “isolated state” that “condemns its citizens to hunger” by having a “reckless and irresponsible government” during his last visit to Seoul in late April.
According to the Pyongyang spokesperson, it was an “unpardonable insult against the people of PRNK who are leading a happy life under the benevolent socialist system”.
ahhh North Korea :
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
- Total $40 billion
- Per capita $1,800
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
- Total $12.4 billion
- Per capita $506
The average salary was about $47 per month in 2004. The average official salary in 2011 was equivalent to $2 per month while the actual monthly income seems to be around $15 because most North Koreans earn money in illegal small businesses: trade, subsistence farming, and handicrafts. The illegal economy is dominated by women because men have to attend their places of official work even though most of the factories are non-functioning. It is estimated that in the early 2000s, the average North Korean family drew some 80% of its income from small businesses that are legal in market economies but illegal in North Korea
Poor? yes. Benevolent?
According to Human Rights Watch, free religious activities no longer exist in North Korea, as the government sponsors religious groups only to create an illusion of religious freedom.
Today, four state-sanctioned churches exist, which freedom of religion advocates say are showcases for foreigners. Official government statistics report that there are 10,000 Protestants and 4,000 Roman Catholics in North Korea.
According to a ranking published by Open Doors, an organization that supports persecuted Christians, North Korea is currently the country with the most severe persecution of Christians in the world. Open Doors estimates that 50,000-70,000 Christians are detained in North Korean prison camps. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International also have expressed concerns about religious persecution in North Korea.
The Economist Intelligence Unit ranked it as the lowest country in the Democracy Index. Amnesty International Human Rights Watch and the UN’s commission on human rights in North Korea report of severe restrictions on human rights and crimes against humanity ‘without parallel in the modern world’. The government rejects these claims
North Korea is the model for everything that is wrong with humanity. That statement, while broad - is also correct. As they crawl their way around the edges of modern humanity, excerpting racism, oppression, crimes against humanity, starvation, concentration camps, and threaten world peace, the rest of us simply do not seem to understand how to effectively manage a state directly out of the 12th century.
Testimonies from former guards and former inmates of Yodok have revealed that prisoners are frequently subjected to torture, forced labour and execution.
Family members of those suspected of crimes are also sent to Yodok - a system of “guilt by association” used to silence dissent and control the population through fear.
In January 2012, at least 31 North Koreans who had been detained in China were reportedly forcibly returned to North Korea. These people could be sent to political prison camps where they are at risk of torture, forced labour, or execution.
North Korean authorities refuse to acknowledge the existence of these political prison camps.
Amnesty International activists around the world have been signing petitions and writing appeals to the North Korean authorities, urging them to close Yodok and other political prison camps.
“North Korea’s authorities must acknowledge these camps exist - they must close Yodok political prison camp, and stop these appalling, systematic human rights abuses,” said Narayan.
The United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC] has presented North Korea with 268 recommendations to improve human rights in the country, 185 of which the North has said it will consider.
The recommendations were presented in Geneva on the 6th after a Universal Periodic Review [UPR], set to be made public at the upcoming UNHRC meeting in September.
North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations So Se Pyong later slammed the move as “a work of prejudice and a misunderstanding of the Republic.”
Nevertheless, the North has agreed to review 185 of the recommendations put forth and is expected to let the council know of its decision prior to the September meeting.
Rejected recommendations include the scrapping of “guilt by association,” future cooperation with the international criminal court, the implementation of recommendations as outlined by the Commission of Inquiry into North Korean human rights, a visit to to the country by a UN human rights investigation team, the closure of the nation’s political prison camps and the abolition of discrimination based on the songbun class system.
If you are interested in reading more on NK - nknews.org is one of the best sources - their ‘defector profiles’ are highly informative ‘people on the ground’ accounts of life inside the despotic feudal state.
WASHINGTON — Is a family with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television and a computer with an Internet connection poor?
Americans — even many of the poorest — enjoy a level of material abundance unthinkable just a generation or two ago. That indisputable economic fact has become a subject of bitter political debate this year, half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty.
Starkly different views on poverty and inequality rose to the fore again on Wednesday as Democrats in the Senate were unable to muster the supermajority of 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster of a proposal to raise the incomes of the working poor by lifting the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
House Republicans, led by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, have convened a series of hearings on poverty, including one on Wednesday, in some cases arguing that hundreds of billions of dollars of government spending a year may have made poverty easier or more comfortable but has done little to significantly limit its reach.
Indeed, despite improved living standards, the poor have fallen further behind the middle class and the affluent in both income and consumption. The same global economic trends that have helped drive down the price of most goods also have limited the well-paying industrial jobs once available to a huge swath of working Americans. And the cost of many services crucial to escaping poverty — including education, health care and child care — has soared.
“Without a doubt, the poor are far better off than they were at the dawn of the War on Poverty,” said James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research. “But they have also drifted further away.”
The point of this chart is that even though blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately poor, the largest group of poor people in America is … white people.
Despite that fact, when you say “the poor,” what pops into most people’s heads is an image of a black person, probably due in no small part to the fact that poverty in America is represented in the media as a largely black phenomenon (I’m not just saying that; there’s research backing that up).
More: The Missing White Poor
Fox News bashing Mario Batali: good morning, and you’re welcome. The folks at Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld addressed Mario’s recent week-long foray into food stamp living, more specifically, his blurb about how he hopes he’s not coming off like a yuppie. Greg and Co. argue that’s exactly it looks like.
Some suggestions from the Red Eye crew about how Mario can actually raise awareness about the impending food stamp cuts? Open a successful restaurant that employs all the people on food stamps. Donate some food from one of his posh restaurants. Accept food stamps at one of his posh restaurants. Hmmm, seems like they’re missing the point here about raising awareness. People on food stamps know how much being on food stamps sucks. The point is for everyone else to know how much it sucks.
We live in a universe with rich manifestations of incredible equilibrium. The universe, the galaxies, the stars, the planets and their moons, all maintain a cosmic balance within and around themselves. Deeper into every being, protons, neutrons and electrons maintain a rhythmic harmony.
The cycle of life and death in itself is a classic balancing phenomenon so essential for the survival of our planet. From our bones to dust and our moon to the cosmos we witness, experience and live illustrations of astonishing balance. So, we should be the master balancers in our personal lives, in our society and our world.
But, are we? Have we been able to balance things that we control, manage, influence or deliver?
Food worth over $750 billion gets wasted a year on our planet. On the other hand, one out of every eight human beings is severely undernourished! Over five million children die every year for lack of proper food!
Over 40 million tonnes of food is wasted every year in the United States alone, a country where over 50 million people face hunger! Where is the balance?
The wealth held by the three richest men on earth is more than the GDP of countries like Iraq or Kazakhstan. Where is the balance?
From Seoul to New Delhi to Chicago…repulsive images of skyscrapers towering over pathetic shanties with half-naked children fighting over scant resources flashed by. Haven’t we bungled it somewhere big time?
More: Times of Oman