I recently got my salary letter. My raise was not wonderful. The next day, my spouse went to the hospital for surgery. It was needed, unexpected, and tucked in at the end of the year since we’d already hit the deductible with a procedure in June. I have health insurance. It’s not good but I won’t go bankrupt this year. All I can wonder is: why is the economy allegedly so good? Where is my raise? If an educated person is unable to see wealth mobility, is it possible?
The problem with the economy here in the US is: it only works for some. Income inequality is at record highs. Food prices are 40% higher than they were ten years ago, in part because investors have been buying commodities. In other words, the rich are getting rich by making the poor pay more for food. Cutting food aid, as our government is considering and the president is pushing, makes it even more difficult for those in poverty to get healthy foods.
Income inequality makes a country less productive. Meritocracy is a lie. Wealthy people aren’t smarter, more productive, and better for society. It’s bad for society and even bad for them to believe this. And let’s be honest–a lot of them make terrible bosses. They aren’t cut out for it.
Living in a poor neighborhood can change your biology. It’s stressful to be poor and the stress of being unfairly scrutinized and blamed for your poverty is crushing. This creates a cascade of harmful hormones.
Poverty shortens lives. Poor people live on average, 15 years less than rich people in the US and they are more likely to die from cancer.
On the other hand, there are some lies persisting about people in poverty. They are NOT terrible parents and they DO value education. In general, poorer people abuse alcohol and drugs LESS than wealthy people do. Most families in poverty have two working parents.
The welfare budget in the US is less than one half of one percent in the US. About 60 percent of people in the US will spend at least a year in poverty. This is a rate twice as high as in Europe. There is little government assistance to help. Poverty in the US is escalating despite the low unemployment rate. The new jobs do not pay well. The raises these days go to those making above $100,000.
Poverty myths are so prevalent here that even poor people believe them. It’s why they can be convinced to vote against the social safety net and be proud of voting that way. There have been a few people here in the US who got rich on their own–kind of–not considering that the government seized lands from the natives who had cleared and settled the land. Americans grossly overestimate economic mobility with less educated people being the most likely to believe the meritocracy and poverty myths.
The myths exist to keep people in their place. How many politicians have you heard hint that if you don’t vote for them, the economy will go south, the rich will yank your job, you’ll slip into poverty and it will be your fault? Politicians will repeat the lies of welfare queens and poor people buying too many lattes. Ironically, the boyhood home of the politician who spoke so dishonestly of welfare queens is having hard times financially and needs government assistance.
Lattes do not create poverty. An unequal society and persisting myths do. The poor do not need financial advice. To assume this is snobbery. An occasional latte is not making anyone broke. Poor wages and high fixed costs such as for housing and health care are doing that. A latte is a cheap treat to keep them from wanting to die. As one woman said, “I’m poor and I like doing face masks to cheer myself up. I’m poor and I like to eat a meal I didn’t have to make when I’m too tired to keep going. Bite me.”
Since the war on poverty is far from over, we should be putting money into keeping society stable and working towards equality. And when I write dystopias, income inequality will be part of the unhealthy society. You know what else, I’m 100% with the poor woman and face masks.