Friday, May 18, 2018

43% of American Households Struggling to Afford Basic Middle Class Life

The United Way has compiled a new study that ought to be shocking news for the wealthiest nation in the world.  It is even more shocking in the context of the Trump/GOP tax cuts which gave little of no meaningful tax cut relief to average Americans while showering lavish tax cuts on the 1% and large corporations - corporations that have not shared their huge tax cut windfall with employees in the form of salary increases and/or improved benefits. A piece in CNN looks at the shocking findings which are compiled on a state bay state and county by county basis.  Here are story highlights:

The economy may be chugging along, but many Americans are still struggling to afford a basic middle class life.
Nearly 51 million households don't earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone, according to a study released Thursday by the United Way ALICE Project. That's 43% of households in the United States.
The figure includes the 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that the United Way has dubbed ALICE -- Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what's needed "to survive in the modern economy."
"Despite seemingly positive economic signs, the ALICE data shows that financial hardship is still a pervasive problem," said Stephanie Hoopes, the project's director.
California, New Mexico and Hawaii have the largest share of struggling families, at 49% each. North Dakota has the lowest at 32%.
Many of these folks are the nation's child care workers, home health aides, office assistants and store clerks, who work low-paying jobs and have little savings, the study noted. Some 66% of jobs in the US pay less than $20 an hour.

As noted, if one goes to the study itself, a state by state report is available.   Here's a summary for Virginia:

ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed – defined: Despite being employed, many households earning more than the Federal Poverty Level still cannot afford housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.

In Virginia, there are 859,079 ALICE households, while another 342,112 households live below the poverty level. In total, 39 percent of Virginia households earn below the ALICE Threshold.

• Households with income below the ALICE Threshold – including both ALICE households and those living in poverty – make up between 22 and 66 percent of households in the 95 counties and 38 independent cities in Virginia.

Nearly one third – 32 percent – of senior households in Virginia qualify as ALICE, more than triple the 9 percent of senior households in poverty.

• The racial and ethnic makeup of ALICE and poverty-level households nearly mirrors the overall Virginia population: 70 percent of Virginia households are White, while 61 percent of ALICE households and 58 percent of poverty-level households are White.

There are 890,549 families with children in Virginia, and 37 percent of them have income below the ALICE Threshold.

• Reflecting the changing household composition across the country, “other” households – single and cohabiting households younger than 65 with no children under 18 – account for 48 percent of the state’s households with income below the ALICE Threshold.

• Several demographic groups in Virginia are more likely to fall into the ALICE population, including women, LGBT individuals, people of color, those with lower levels of education, those with a disability, undocumented or unskilled immigrants, younger veterans, formerly incarcerated people, and immigrants facing language barriers.

As disturbing as the Virginia figures are - Virginia, an increasingly blue state, ranks among the top ten wealthiest states yet has 39% of its household earning less than the ALICE threshold - in Louisiana, a red state,  23 percent of all Louisiana households are ALICE and another 19 percent live in poverty.  Altogether, 42 percent of all Louisiana households cannot afford basic expenses – housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and taxes. 

What is dumbfounding to me is who working class whites have shifted to supporting Republicans.  even though GOP policies are harmful to their own financial best interests.   Here in Virginia, Medicaid expansion would aid 400,000 Virginians in working class families who are struggling.  Yet Republicans oppose Medicaid expansion.  It is disturbing that GOP calls to racism and religious extremism outweigh simple economic sense for many in the GOP base.  Denigrating others and/or feeling superior to others do not pay the bills.  This ought to be a no brainer.

No comments: