September 20, 2019

If poverty were based on a ‘Comfortable Wage,’ the new poor may surprise you

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Article by WN.Com Correspondent Dallas Darling

In addition to inescapable truths, there are lots of inequality truths – something Pope Francis said was “the root of all social evil.” We live in a country where extraordinary wealth is concentrated in remarkably a few hands. 

The financial assets of the richest one percent of Americans equals those of the bottom 90 percent of all U.S. households combined. 

The Walton family alone, heirs to the Walmart fortune, has more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of all Americans, or a group totaling some 50 million families.1 In the meantime, top executives of S&P 500 companies each receive more than $10 million in annual compensation. This equals as much money in a single day as their typical employees earn in full year, and sometimes in a lifetime.

When the Rich Own It All

If this doesn’t disturb you enough, Scott Burns, an economist for The Dallas Morning News, predicted if income inequality continues to grow at its current rate, the richest Americans will own 100 percent of America’s wealth in 33 years. Federal Reserve data supports his claim. From 2013 to 2016, the top 10 percent of households increased their share of total wealth from an amazing 75.3 percent to a stunning 77.2 percent. That’s a share gain of almost 2 percent in three years. At this rate, they will have the remaining 23 percent of net worth held by the other 90 percent in just 12 more years, minus another economic recession. Burns’ found evidence too wealth inequality was juiced by President’s Donald Trump’s massive tax cuts for the rich.

Wealth Inequality Kills

No matter how you slice it, the rich have been getting richer. Lots richer to the extent other economists warn of an impending class war. Research shows such extreme inequality between rich and poor – now at historic levels in the United States – is a driving force behind many of society’s most profound and corrosive ills. Wealth inequality is not only associated with diminished levels of physical health, mental health, educational achievement and social mobility but trust, community life, and personal growth. They’re also linked to heightened levels of infant mortality, obesity, crime, violence, substance abuse and suicide and incarceration. Those who then make social and economic gains impossible make violent upheavals inevitable.

Two Types of Poverty

Although poverty can be defined in terms that denote inequalities of wealth, such as absolute poverty which implies a level at which the minimum requirements of healthy existence are not met, there are other ways like “relative poverty.” Those belonging in this category may not be “immediately” threatened with little to no access to safe water supplies, enough food, shelter and basic health care, but they can be threatened with other stressors. It includes “quality of life” in relation to whether they have access to goods and services, or an adequate income to purchase material goods and other resources or start a savings and emergency fund – both which will enable them to live a “normal” life free of emotional and psychological traumas.

The New Poor

Based on this idea of relative poverty, the New Poor in America may very well be those who don’t have what some economists call a “comfortable wage.” Unlike a living wage, which is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs like food, clothing and housing, a comfortable wage goes much further. Along with establishing an approximate income to meet a family’s basic needs there’s also financial independence while maintaining an adequate savings for emergencies like health care costs or home and auto repairs. A comfortable wage would not only provide enough funds to pay for childcare or care for a family member in need but prevent millions of Americans from having to hold multiple jobs or seek public assistance.

Equating a Comfortable Wage

But what is a comfortable wage? This depends on where you live, whether you own a home or vehicle, need childcare or have pre-existing medical expenses. Since the typical family of four (two working adults) spend 20 percent on housing and another 20 percent on childcare, if you lived in the North and West a comfortable wage would be $66,000-70,000. In the Midwest and South, it is $60,000-65,000. For other states like California and New York or Hawaii the figure is $85,000-125,000.Something else to consider is if a state has an income tax or the cost of property taxes and utilities. This wage would benefit half the population which owns barely 2 percent of the wealth.

Myths Believed Sadly Become True

If this figure seems high, it’s because we’ve bought into myths which support wealth inequality. Influential voices on the airwaves continue to provide false narratives, ridiculing those who are disadvantaged by prejudice, by discrimination and by dwindling resources. Corporations which own the mass media are raking in record profits with the help of government subsidies. And then there are legislators who are controlled by the super rich. While they incarcerate petty criminals, they themselves steal – and squander – America’s wealth. Millions moreover remain scarred by the Great Recession and recovery, leaving them not only bewildered but paralyzed to act.

Saving American Democracy 

Since the minimum wage does not provide a living wage for American families, covering only 64.3 percent of just the basic needs, a comfortable wage would prevent the coming class war which the rich are already waging on the working poor. Neither would American democracy no longer be threatened or undermined by demagogues who profit off people’s hopes and fears or who try and turn the United States into a fascist oligarchy.  Above all, it would do away with the real misfortune: Dependency on public assistance and loss of human dignity, which can shame people into not realizing their full potential. To be sure, in America personal freedom and liberty is based on those who control the most economic power first and then political power second.

Only Do the Math

“If the oldest and most fatal ailment of a Republic is the imbalance between rich and poor,” as Plutarch a Greek biographer suggested, then a comfortable wage is desperately needed to defeat poverty and class warfare. It’s also needed to beat back miserable wages that keep people in poverty instead of lifting them out. Especially since 25 percent (90 million) make less than $25,000 a year, and another 25 percent more (90 million) less than $50,000 a year. One has to only do the math to understand if the difference between a predatory class and their policy differences and poor aren’t narrowed, or education, health and social mobility continue to disappear, another republic will be destroyed.

Dallas Darling (darling@wn.com)

(Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com/dallasdarling.)

1 Eidelson, Roy, Political Mind Games. New York, New York: Green Hall Books, 2018., p. 3.2www.cncbc.com. “This Map Shows How Much You Need To Get By In Every U.S. State. March 14, 2018.

For more on this story and video and audio go to: https://article.wn.com/view/2019/08/12/If_Poverty_Were_Based_On_A_Comfortable_Wage_The_New_Poor_May/

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