Tuesday, February 10, 2015

NYTimes: It Is Expensive to be Poor

Everyone knows that the poor struggle to make ends meet. However, not many people realize how more expensive it can be poor than wealthy. Since state and local municipalities often rely on regressive taxes for funding, low-income families must pay a larger share of their income than wealthier people. In sum, low-income families are the hardest hit financially. Regressive taxes and predatory lending practices put low-income families severely at risk in falling back into poverty.

Earlier this month, the Pew Research Center released a study that found that most wealthy Americans believed “poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.”

This is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means.

“Easy” is a word not easily spoken among the poor. Things are hard — the times are hard, the work is hard, the way is hard. “Easy” is for uninformed explanations issued by the willfully callous and the haughtily blind.

Allow me to explain, as James Baldwin put it, a few illustrations of “how extremely expensive it is to be poor.”

First, many poor people work, but they just don’t make enough to move out of poverty — an estimated 11 million Americans fall into this category.

So, as the Pew report pointed out, “more than half of the least secure group reports receiving at least one type of means-tested government benefit.”

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