The Myths Of Recovery: Why American Households Aren’t Better Off

Workers pack and ship customer orders at the 750,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center on August 1, 2017 in Romeoville, Illinois.

By Constantin Gurdgiev for Market Watch – The Census Bureau data shows that bulk of the gains in real income in 2016 has been down to one factor: higher employment. In other words, hours worked rose, but wages did not. American median householders are working harder at more jobs to earn an increase in wages. Which would be OK, were it not down to the fact that working harder means higher expenditure on income-related necessities, such as commuting costs, child-care costs, costs for caring for the dependents, etc. In other words, to earn that extra income, households today have to spend more money than they did back in the 1990s. Now, I don’t know about you, but for my household, if we have to spend more money to earn more money, I would be looking at net increases from that spending, not gross. Census Bureau does not adjust for this. There is an added caveat to this: caring for children and dependents has become excruciatingly more expensive over the years, since 1999. Inflation figures reflect that, but the real income deflator takes the average/median basket of consumers in calculating inflation adjustment. However, households gaining new additional jobs are not average/median households to begin with — and most certainly not in 2016, when labor markets were tight.

Sometimes The Poor Make It Big. Usually They Stay Poor

Shutterstock

By Jill Richardson for Other Words – We all want to live in a country where all it takes is hard work and some talent for anyone to succeed. We tell ourselves that we do. We even see examples of people who “came from nothing” and ended up rich and famous. And it’s true that it sometimes happens. Sometimes a child born into poverty grows up to become the president of the United States, a multi-billionaire, or an Olympic gold medalist. Most of the time, however, they don’t. And it’s not because they’re bad, lazy, stupid, or immoral. Often it’s because of our system itself. Take our school system for a start. By funding schools with property taxes, we guarantee that the children from the richest neighborhoods go to the wealthiest schools. If we lived in neighborhoods that were economically mixed with families of all incomes, this wouldn’t be a big deal. But we don’t. Instead we have areas of very wealthy people whose children attend wonderful schools, and areas of concentrated poverty where children attend failing schools.

2.5 Million Fewer Poor In 2016; Biggest 2-Year Decline In Poverty Since 1969

From Popular Resistance

By David Elliot for CHN – The poverty rate declined to 12.7 percent in 2016, down from 13.5 percent in 2015 and from 14.8 percent in 2014. That 2.1 percentage point drop is the largest two-year decline since 1969. Since 2014, the number of people in poverty has dropped by more than 6 million. Children remain disproportionately poor, with 18 percent (13.3 million) living in poverty, but the proportion of children in poverty also declined steeply over the past two years (down from 21.1 percent in 2014, nearly a 2.3 million decline). In part, the improvement in poverty was related to the increase in people with earnings (up 1.2 million since 2015), and the increase in the number of people working full-time/year-round (up 2.2 million since 2015). The lowest 20 percent of households saw their incomes increase by about 9 percent over two years. Also very important in reducing poverty were government programs. As shown by the Census Bureau’s Supplementary Poverty Measure, without Social Security, the total number poor would have been more than 26 million higher (with nearly 1.5 million more children poor). Low-income tax credits such as the EITC and Child Tax Credit prevented nearly 8.2 million from being poor (nearly 4.4 million children). SNAP/food stamps lifted nearly 3.6 million out of poverty (1.5 million children). Housing subsidies and Supplemental Security Income each lifted more than 3 million people out of poverty.

Newsletter – No #NAFTA2, Yes To Trade For People & Planet

16252087_10208425543224765_7115266824784863319_o

By Daniel Cooper Bermudez. The Trump administration is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico in secret, just as President Obama did with the TPP. Over the past two decades, NAFTA has resulted in workers losing their jobs and being replaced by machinery, ruined family farms throughout the continent, displaced communities and privatized social services, environmental disasters like the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and a widespread attack on labor rights and unions. This week, we explain our opposition to NAFTA2 and put forward a strategy to remake trade so it is no longer corporate-driven trade for the profits of a few, but people-driven trade to benefit all and protect the planet.

Disaster Coverage Blind Spot For Low Income Victims

1hh

By Neil Demause for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. as Hurricane Harvey has wreaked devastating flooding across southeast Texas, reporters’ ability to notice the nearly one-third of Americans living in or near poverty has again been put to the test. And though direct comparisons with Katrina are tough—Harvey is a different storm, playing out over days of rising waters instead of mere hours, and Houston chose not to call for residents to evacuate as New Orleans did in 2005—news coverage has revealed some of the same blind spots that have plagued reporting on previous natural disasters. The slow progression of floodwaters made for plenty of ready-made drama: At times, CNN seemed to have converted itself into a 24-hour rescue network, with tales of narrow escapes and heroic first responders.

Don’t Lie To Poor Kids About Why They’re Poor

Shutterstock

By Josh Hoxie for Other Words – Those at the bottom — and the top — deserve to know why their experiences are so different. Work hard and you’ll get ahead — that’s the mantra driven into young people across the country. But what happens when children born into poverty run face first into the crushing reality that the society they live in really isn’t that fair at all? As new research shows, they break down. A just released study published in the journal Child Development tracked the middle school experience of a group of diverse, low-income students in Arizona. The study found that the kids who believed society was generally fair typically had high self-esteem, good classroom behavior, and less delinquent behavior outside of school when they showed up in the sixth grade. When those same kids left in the eighth grade, though, each of those criteria had degraded — they showed lower self-esteem and worse behavior. What caused this downward slide? In short, belief in a fair and just system of returns ran head-on into reality for marginalized kids. When they see people that look like them struggling despite working hard, they’re forced to reckon with the cognitive dissonance.

Tax The Rich To House The Poor

20170728_114503

By the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Washington, DC – The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) released the “Reforming the Mortgage Interest Deduction: How Tax Reform Can Help End Homelessness and Housing Poverty” report today calling for Congress and the Trump administration to use mortgage interest deduction (MID) reform to end homelessness and housing poverty in America. The report identifies solutions to the homelessness and affordable housing crisis in America that would incur no additional cost to the federal government, those proposed by the NLIHC-led United for Homes (UFH) campaign. The report and UFH campaign call for modest reforms to the mortgage interest deduction (MID)—a $70 billion tax write-off that primarily benefits higher income households—and for reinvesting the billions in savings in affordable housing for the lowest income families with the greatest needs.

Newsletter: Fight For Health Care Begins

1health3

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese. Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were stalled again this week, due in large part to public pressure including courageous and persistent civil resistance in Congress. This was another battle won to prevent millions more from losing health insurance and tax cuts for the rich, but the fight for a universal healthcare system is far from over. In fact, we have barely begun. 1hcsenDr. Carol Paris writes, “Today, we breathe a quick sigh of relief. But we cannot celebrate a return to the status quo, a system that rations health care based on income and allows 18,000 Americans to die each year unnecessarily.” Dr. Paris argues that rather than focusing on the ACA, we must now advance National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA) – a publicly-funded and comprehensive universal healthcare system in the United States. Imagine the impacts National Improved Medicare for All will have when it is achieved…

How A Federal Program Is Destroying Public Housing

1housing

By Taya Graham for The Real News. Taya Graham: If there’s a single issue that illustrates Baltimore’s economic divide, it’s housing. While developers continue to reap generous tax breaks to build luxury apartments downtown, other neighborhoods suffer from neglect. In fact, when Under Armour billionaire Kevin Plank received $600 million in tax breaks to build Port Covington, he also won an exemption from the city’s affordable housing law. It’s this dichotomy between rich and poor, the haves and the have not, which the city has failed to address, a lack of balance even more profound in our public housing, which is literally falling apart, which is why we have assembled this panel of people to talk about how to solve this entrenched inequity. Jeff Singer is the former executive director of Health Care for the Homeless and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. Lucky Crosby is a former housing employee who was a key whistleblower about the deplorable conditions of public housing. Reverend Annie Chambers was the first Green Party candidate to win a city-wide election to the Citizen Advisory Board of Douglas Homes, a city-run housings facility.

Almost Half Of Americans Die Nearly Broke

Popular Resistance, Revolution, Rebellion, Capitalism

By Maurie Backman for USA Today – In a recent GoBankingRates study, 69% of adults admitted to having less than $1,000 in the bank, while 34% said they actually don’t have any savings at all. But apparently, this collective lack of savings doesn’t get all that much better with age. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found not so long ago that almost half of Americans die nearly broke. Of the general population, 46% of retirees die with savings of $10,000 or less. But that number climbs to 57% among retirees who are single. Now when we take other assets, like homes, into account, the picture gets a bit less bleak. Still, 57% of single-adult households and 50% of widowed households had no housing equity to show for when they died. The problem is that dying nearly broke isn’t just a matter of denying one’s beneficiaries an inheritance. Rather, it points to a frightening degree of financial vulnerability during retirement. If seniors are passing without much in the way of assets, it means that in the years leading up to their death, they’re ill equipped to handle a major unexpected expense, such as a significant medical bill. In fact, in that same GoBankingRates survey, only 37% of seniors 65 and older claimed to have $1,000 or more in the bank.

Poverty Fuels European Extremism

1aus

By Andrew Spannaus for CounterPunch. Less stable employment conditions and the stagnation or regression of salaries have created the fertile ground for populist movements on the right in particular, which now mix their traditional nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, with criticism of the economic orthodoxy of the supranational European Union (E.U.) institutions. In recent years the prevailing response from economists has been that many Western nations are simply unable to compete in sectors dominated by low costs and the high efficiency unleashed by globalization. This narrative, however, is used to hide a more troubling reality: government institutions have contributed directly to the economic difficulties with their own actions, driving down living standards through multiple waves of austerity and blocking attempts to break from the neoliberal principles that dominate among E.U. institutions.

Our Economy Is Based On A Massive LIE That's Killing People

EconomyLieRedactedThumbnail (1)

By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. If you’ve noticed lately that corporations have been pillaging our world’s ever-dwindling natural resources as if they’re a Vegas style buffet while placing a premium on food, shelter, and medicine, then congratulations! You’ve seen that our country’s free-market capitalist system is reinforcing false scarcity–creating scarcity where there is none in order to make us pay more than we should for basic necessities. Advertising is a perfect example of how our economy reinforces your insecurities in order to make you buy and consume things you don’t really need, all while making corporations even richer. But by way of technology, there is hope that some human beings still want to create systems where everyone can benefit instead of a select few. Lee Camp has this and more on the latest Redacted Tonight.

I Was Taken From My Family And Jailed For 57 Days Because I Am Poor

web17-sc-debtors-lexington-detention-1160x768 (1)

By Twanda Marshinda Brown for ACLU – “I don’t care if you have one, two, three, four, five, six, or seven kids.” This is what the judge told me when I tried to explain that I was a single mom with seven kids. I could not afford to pay $100 a month toward traffic tickets. The judge threatened me with jail. I was scared. This all started when I got two traffic tickets in March last year in Lexington County, South Carolina. I did something wrong. I drove without a tag light and on a suspended license. I wanted to go to court and make it right. But when I got there, the judge treated me like I was nothing. She sentenced me to pay more than $2400 for both tickets — more than the law allowed, my attorneys told me. I did not have the money to pay that day, so the judge decided that I had to pay $100 each month. I knew I could not afford that. So, I explained that I could pay $50 each month. The judge wasn’t hearing it. She said, “I want my money on the twelfth.” She made clear that if I missed one payment, she would have a warrant out for my arrest. I did everything I could to pay my traffic fines. I made five payments in a row. But then I started missing payments when I could not pay the court and support my family at the same time.

Texas House Votes To Stop Jailing Those Too Poor To Pay Fines

AP433839955396

By Johnathan Silver for Mint Press News – Legislation that would make it easier for poor people to satisfy traffic tickets with alternatives to payment cleared the Texas House on Tuesday on a vote of 75-70. The bill needs to be approved by the Senate again before moving to Gov. Greg Abbott‘s desk. Senate Bill 1913, by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would allow courts to ask defendants if they are too poor to pay for traffic tickets; fines for other low-level and fine-only offenses; or court costs. After making that determination, courts would be allowed to reduce or waive fines and costs and offer community service as an alternative. “They’re not getting off scot-free. We’re getting something for something,” the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, told members Monday. “We are filling our jails up with people who should not be there.” For fine-only offenses, jail time only comes into the picture when someone doesn’t pay their fine — a risk borne by thousands of Texans, according to a recently released report by Texas Appleseed and the Texas Fair Defense Project. Those who can’t afford to pay often find themselves hit with additional fines or other restrictions, such as being blocked from renewing their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations. Critics call it debtors’ prison.

Trump To Pitch Deep Cuts To Anti-Poverty Programs, Medicaid

Trump speaking in front of a picture of his own face at the Republican National Convention in July 2016. Photograph Carolyn Kaster-AP

By Erik Wasson and Steven T. Dennis for Bloomberg – President Donald Trump plans to propose $1.7 trillion in cuts to a category of spending that includes major social and entitlement programs for lower-income Americans, as part of an effort to balance the budget within a decade. The White House will issue a formal budget request Tuesday that includes $274 billion in cuts over 10 years to means-tested anti-poverty programs, including food stamps, according to a Republican congressional aide and a White House document obtained by Bloomberg News. The administration has prepared talking points for Republicans on Capitol Hill touting that the “budget strives to replace dependency with the dignity of work through welfare reform efforts.” The upcoming budget request for fiscal 2018, which include dropping the top individual tax rate to 35 percent, is already attracting criticism from Democrats. Trump’s proposal will also call for $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid, the health program for the poor, the Washington Post reported. “This budget continues to reveal President Trump’s true colors: His populist campaign rhetoric was just a Trojan horse to execute long-held, hard-right policies that benefit the ultra-wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Sunday.