You’ve heard about the things that only the working poor understand. But, there are more things that they must deal with each and every day that most don’t have to fear, and the rich certainly don’t come close to worrying about. Here are ten things you may not think about when you consider the hardship of poverty:
1. Search for affordable housing.
I live in Washington, DC where affordable housing is a contradiction. Tuesday’s Kojo Namdi Show addressed the homeless population in Washington and all of the services the city does help with, such as finding long-term solutions and what happens when winter comes. A caller asked about the working poor and the correlation to one of the biggest costs in the city: finding housing that meets budgets. The District has added 77,000 new residents since 2005.
While there have been increases in housing, the units added are upper class condos and apartments that are far too expensive for working class families. That’s fine when higher wages are on the rise in the city, but not helpful since lower and middle wages have stagnated. The same is also happening in San Francisco.
2. Skip meals or live on poor quality foods.
Our government subsidizes unhealthy foods. Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables are expensive because of the power of the corn and wheat lobby, the beverage lobby and others who get tons of government money to lower the cost of their foods. Cereals, pastas, processed foods with high fructose corn syrup and sugars are more cost effective than fruits and veggies.
As a result, poverty ends up causing poor nutrition, and thats if they can afford to buy the lower quality foods to begin with. One in six Americans is food insecure, meaning sometimes they have to skip a meal to be able to afford one later or provide for their children or families. (Click image to make the image larger)
3. Work longer and harder for less.
Right wing conservatives like to pretend that the poor are lazy, worthless people who want to sit at home watching TV all day. This summer, Jeb Bush got caught saying that the poor should just “work harder” to be able to lift themselves out of poverty. It is sure to be his 47 percent line of the 2016 election. The truth is that most in poverty work if not full-time they work multiple part-time jobs. (Click image to make larger.)
4. Avoid violence.
While domestic violence impacts rich, poor and middle class alike, the Police Executive Research Forum released a new survey in 2012 that showed an increase in domestic violence cases when the economy was struggling. In 2010 there was a 40 percent increase in domestic violence calls reported by agencies. In 2012 that number ballooned to 56 percent. There was a 78 percent rise in women seeking help in shelters and 58 percent reported the violence they see has become more violent.
Economic stress can often lead to violence at home, but it exists whether you’re rich or poor. What often occurs, however, is when those being abused leave their situations, they must also leave behind a two-income household. Two incomes are a lot easier to live on than one.
5. Navigate the Veterans Administration and veterans care.
Nearly a quarter of all homeless people are veterans. While veterans have access to medical services, benefits and care, as you probably heard, the system is a little complicated. So, while government agencies (not Congress) have done a lot to reduce the number of homeless veterans (by 24,837 people) there are still nearly 50,000 left on the streets. More than 40,000 homeless veterans get some form of pension benefits every month, but it isn’t always enough to afford housing (see number 1). Trying to deal with the system, figuring out what you’re entitled to, what services are available or even where to go is a lot to handle, especially if your’e sick and you need care.
6. Pay more taxes.
Like I said in number 3, the right wing likes to pretend that the poor are just a bunch of takers. The reality is more that the one percent are the takers. The working poor do pay an income tax, but like everyone else they also pay sales tax, payroll tax and more. In fact, the bottom 20 percent of wage earners in the United States end up paying twice as much in taxes (as a share of their income) as the top one percent of so-called “job creators” pay. This is why people like Mitt Romney can end up paying a lower percentage in tax than his secretary or a school teacher might. Not cool.
7. Get less subsidies than a major multi-national corporation does.
So, we’ve established that the poor pay more in taxes while working harder, but these so-called takers get a hell of a lot less in assistance than the insane amount of subsidies oil companies do. The government spends about $60 billion on things like public housing, food stamps and rental subsidies while spending $92 billion in corporate welfare. Check this out (click to make larger):
8. Live shorter and more painful lives.
According to Kaiser Health News, those making less than $12,000 a year are twice as likely to report feeling physical pain compared to average Americans. Researchers aren’t really sure why but they’re focusing their attention on “obesity [see number 2], heart disease, etc, and others have looked at access to health care and physical environment.” If that isn’t depressing enough, they also live shorter lives, to the tune of 10-14 years compared to wealthier people.
9. Vote less.
None of these problems are getting fixed because those who are on the bottom rung aren’t voting enough. It’s easy to understand how and why. Tuesday is a work day and early voting is getting cut all over the place. Access to polling locations are also a problem. If it came between voting and being paid for an hour at work and you were poor, you’d probably do the same thing.
10. Being demoralized by shitty-ass politicians.
Perhaps the worst thing that the working poor have to deal with is shouldering the psychological weight of being the group at which the right wing points its finger when it seeks to blame someone. Whether it’s being called takers by Paul Ryan, told to work harder by Jeb Bush (see number 6) or being told they are getting a ton of handouts when they’re not (see number 7), all while dealing with pain and health problems (see number 8) politicians are assholes to the poor.
They like to say that the poor just keep popping out children so they can get more money off of it. Welfare moms is what they use to call them. That isn’t true. Most actually work really hard to get themselves off of welfare. The average person leaves the rolls within 5 years. Even if there isn’t a welfare-to-work program available for them, most try to snag some sort of vocational training to be able to find a good paying job.
There’s far too much for the working poor to have to deal with, the last thing being another republican primary filled with scapegoating and finger pointing to the most vulnerable among us. Whatever happened to compassion? What ever happened to caring for the least among us? If the GOP wants to claim Christianity they’d be good to remember:
Then Jesus said to his host . . . When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
— Luke 14:14
Otherwise they need to stick to policies they know something about.
Feature image via Vera Yu and David Li/Flickr