Read

User menu

Search form

2018 update: More evidence that half of Americans are in or near poverty

2018 update: More evidence that half of Americans are in or near poverty
Thu, 7/19/2018 - by Paul Buchheit
This article originally appeared on Nation of Change

Deniers like Nikki Haley refuse to admit that mass poverty exists in their prosperous nation. That would reflect poorly on their capitalist beliefs. But if the skeptics would look at the half of America they don’t care to see, the stark display of destitution might shock them. At least until they invent an excuse to remove it all from their minds.

The U.S. poverty rate in 2016 was between 12.7 and 14.0 percent. But the poverty threshold is based on an outmoded formula from the 1960s. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the threshold should be THREE TIMES HIGHER today. And it could be even higher if the true nature of poverty is considered.
 

Poverty Is Not Just a Dollar Figure

There is poverty in the diminishing quality of life for Americans who are unable to pay for medical treatment during years of declining health, and instead turn to life-threatening opioid painkillers, readily available in a nation with less than 5 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of the world’s opioid consumption. Poverty is the lack of community support in a winner-take-all society; the stress of overwhelming debt; the steady decline of jobs that pay enough to support a family; the inability to afford a move to a desired neighborhood; the deadening impact of inequality on physical and mental well-being.

The United Nations describes America as a nation near the bottom of the developed world in safety net support and economic mobility, with the highest infant mortality rate in the developed world, the world’s highest incarceration rate, and the highest obesity levels. Low-income Americans are often surrounded by food deserts, with insufficient access to clean water and sanitation, and with the pollution levels of third-world countries. The poorest among us are even susceptible – unbelievably – to rare tropical diseases and once-eradicated scourges like hookworm.

Part of the definition of poverty is “the state of being inferior in quality.” The extreme level of inequality in the U.S. is battering the poor with a sense of inferiority. It’s ripping apart once-interdependent communities, and it’s triggering a surge in drug and alcohol and suicide “deaths of despair.”
 

Wealth Is Almost Nonexistent for the Bottom 50%

Census data in 2011 showed that nearly half of Americans were in poverty or considered low-income. Since then average wealth for the poorest 50% has plummeted 27.5 percent, and average wealth for the poorest 40% is virtually ZERO. The median American household has less wealth in current dollars than it did 35 years ago.
 

The Poorest 50% Are Barely Sustained By Their Incomes

According to CareerBuilder, 3 out of 4 American workers are living paycheck to paycheck, unable to meet any major expense in health care or home and auto repairs. Charles Schwab says 3 out of 5 Americans live paycheck to paycheck. That’s 60 to 75 percent of us.

The United Way ALICE Project has calculated that 43% of U.S. households can’t afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone. The Federal Reserve concurs, estimating that 42% of U.S. adults are experiencing a high likelihood of material hardship.
 

Expenses Surging: Almost All Income for the Poorest 50% Goes to Vital Needs

For every $1 in expenses twenty years ago, an American household now pays $1.25. But for every $1 earned twenty years ago, the median household still earns just $1.

Housing, child care, and health costs are crushing Americans. Nearly HALF of renters are cost-burdened, paying 30 percent or more of their income to their landlords. The median American household in most states would have to spend over 10 percent of its income just to send a 4-year-old to full-time preschool. The employee portion of medical costs for a typical family of four averages over $12,000, or about 20 percent of median household income.

For many families, that’s 60 percent of their income just for housing, child care, and health costs. Many are mired in debt. The average household in the poorer half of America is anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 in credit card debt.
 

Retirement? Probably Not

Numerous sources report that half of Americans have little or nothing saved for retirement, and the most recent GoBankingRates survey concluded that 42 percent of Americans will retire with less than three months’ retirement expenses.
 

So Who Gets the Government Benefits?

Deniers argue that few American families are really poor, because they benefit from low-income government programs. But Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman have calculated that, on average in 2014, the 40% of American adults with incomes just below the top 10% – the middle class – received more in safety net government transfers (Medicare, Medicaid, tax credits, food stamps/SNAP, Veterans’ benefits, etc.) than the bottom 50% of Americans.

When Social Security is included, the richest 10% on average received approximately as much in government transfers as the poorest 50%.

Everyone benefits, thankfully, from essential government programs. But as the U.N. found, the American safety net is less supportive than that of almost all other developed nations. And the richest among us somehow manage to take the greater part of benefits meant for the poor. By any rational definition of poverty, half of our country’s households are dealing with it.

Originally published by Nation of Change

 
 

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Anti-fracking protesters (from left ) Richard Loizou, Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe Blevins with supporters outside Preston crown court. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Four UK protesters went to court last week to contest what may be Britain's most draconian sentences handed down for peaceful environmental protest since 1932.

gun rights, Florida elections, Parkland massacre, National Rifle Association, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school, youth voters, 2018 midterms

In 2014, less than a quarter of the students at University of Florida voted. Now, “I really do see a shift happening. Many students are eager to vote,” a current student said.

YouTube radicalization, online hate speech, right-wing extremists, internet conspiracy theories, YouTube propaganda, Data & Society Research Institute

Exploring so called “alternative media” on YouTube will make you end up watching white supremacists. Both Google’s greed and the carelessness of mainstream conservatives are to blame.

act out 180

The purge is here. Facebook, Twitter and the silencing of anything that goes against the state. Next up, women's health and rights are under attack.

Gender Recognition Act, transgender, transmen, transmen, self-ID

The British government this week is weighing controversial changes to the existing Gender Recognition Act, asking the public whether they believe trans people should be allowed to “self-ID.”

Anti-fracking protesters (from left ) Richard Loizou, Richard Roberts and Simon Roscoe Blevins with supporters outside Preston crown court. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Four UK protesters went to court last week to contest what may be Britain's most draconian sentences handed down for peaceful environmental protest since 1932.

Hotel restaurant server, Agustin Medina Soto, leads the rally on Saturday, October 20, 2018. (Davíd Rodríguez/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Since Oct. 4, over 2,500 employees at SF's seven Marriott locations joined a national strike of 7,700 workers walking off the job in Boston,Oahu, Maui, San Diego, Oakland, San Jose and Detroit.

gun rights, Florida elections, Parkland massacre, National Rifle Association, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school, youth voters, 2018 midterms

In 2014, less than a quarter of the students at University of Florida voted. Now, “I really do see a shift happening. Many students are eager to vote,” a current student said.

"This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call—a clarion call—that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems," David Wagner, an invertebrate conservation expert at the University of Connecticut. (Photo: Alias 0591/Flickr/cc)

The human-caused climate crisis has sparked a global "bugpocalypse" that will only continue to accelerate in the absence of systemic action to curb planetary warming.

YouTube radicalization, online hate speech, right-wing extremists, internet conspiracy theories, YouTube propaganda, Data & Society Research Institute

Exploring so called “alternative media” on YouTube will make you end up watching white supremacists. Both Google’s greed and the carelessness of mainstream conservatives are to blame.

voter restrictions, voter ID, voter purges, Crosscheck

On Monday, the Palast Investigative Fund announced it was releasing the names of 90,000 Nevada residents purged from the voter rolls based on flawed evidence that indicates they have moved.

Posted 6 days 17 hours ago
For Freedoms, 50 State Initiative, billboard art, political art, 2018 elections, Donald Trump

The artists and founders involved with 50 State Initiative, a crowdfunded project to erect politically charged billboards, talk about their motivations.

Posted 6 days 17 hours ago
act out 180

The purge is here. Facebook, Twitter and the silencing of anything that goes against the state. Next up, women's health and rights are under attack.

Posted 5 days 18 hours ago
Gender Recognition Act, transgender, transmen, transmen, self-ID

The British government this week is weighing controversial changes to the existing Gender Recognition Act, asking the public whether they believe trans people should be allowed to “self-ID.”

Posted 6 days 17 hours ago
YouTube radicalization, online hate speech, right-wing extremists, internet conspiracy theories, YouTube propaganda, Data & Society Research Institute

Exploring so called “alternative media” on YouTube will make you end up watching white supremacists. Both Google’s greed and the carelessness of mainstream conservatives are to blame.

Posted 4 days 18 hours ago
People gathered in Toronto to watch the “bud drop” at the stroke of midnight, in celebration of the legalization on Wednesday of recreational cannabis use in Canada.CreditIan Willms/Getty Images

Canada on Wednesday became the first major world economy to legalize recreational marijuana, beginning a national experiment that will alter the country’s social, cultural and economic fabric, and present the nation with its biggest public policy challenge in decades.

universal home health care, healthcare legislation, Maine People’s Alliance

The Maine People’s Alliance, a grassroots organization, collected 67,000 signatures to get a measure on the November ballot that would provide home health care to all Maine residents.

For Freedoms, 50 State Initiative, billboard art, political art, 2018 elections, Donald Trump

The artists and founders involved with 50 State Initiative, a crowdfunded project to erect politically charged billboards, talk about their motivations.

youth climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, Donald Trump, carbon emissions, climate catastrophe, climate denial, Our Children's Trust

A federal judge has rejected the Trump administration's last-ditch efforts to derail a landmark constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs. The trial start date is Oct. 29 in Eugene, Oregon.

act out 180

The purge is here. Facebook, Twitter and the silencing of anything that goes against the state. Next up, women's health and rights are under attack.