Tag Archives: The New Poor

Income Inequality & The New Poor: Who Speaks For Them?

In the daily spin cycle of political madness, it is rare to hear the GOP nominees talk about their plan for improving life for average Americans. Instead, what you hear is vitriolic attacks against their contenders, talk of trips to the moon, tax plan proposals that are proven to benefit the 1%, war, more war, ways to secure the border against the massive waves of immigrants stealing American jobs (not patriotic outsourcing corporations), and an ongoing barrage of negativity aimed at President Obama.

Strip away the rhetoric and one can only surmise that they are not in touch with the average American whom they so desperately wish to represent. This is underscored by small things like the fact that Romney, the lead contender for the GOP nomination, receives the most votes from those making over $200,000.

If they had a clue, they could speak more persuasively and authentically about issues which matter to a larger section of the country, not just the moneyed elite, the bigots, the Tea Party and the like. You know, like President Barack Obama did so beautifully in his State Of The Union address. So, beautifully that 91% of those surveyed, regardless of party affiliation, agreed with the direction and umm progressive plan that he proposed.

Just for your edification, the middle class is loosely defined as:

  • Individuals whose role in society is “conceptualizing, creating or consulting”
  • College educated
  • Salary ranging from $25,000 upwards to $100,000

For a fuller definition, see Wikipedia source here

Stories of The New Poor

They are doing their best to talk around the realities that many of us are facing and so I thought it would be germane to share some real stories of what the middle class, better defined as the New Poor, are going through.

1. A friend of mine, who is a single mother and has an MBA in Business, was gainfully employed until 2009.  In her early 40’s she finally attained her piece of the American dream which allowed her to buy her own home, provide an excellent education for her daughter and have a modest savings.

She was out of work for one year and in that time, ran through her savings and 401K. Unemployment not being sufficient, she began living off her credit and was dogged by the prospect of losing her new home. Tenaciously, she treated her job search like a job, spending three hours a day working her contacts, calling and submitting resumes and spending one day a week at the library.

Going on interviews was an exercise in terror,  as she ran headfirst into the stereotype most educated Black people endure all their lives. Interviewers love you in print, love your articulation and intelligence via the phone but once they meet you the story changes. First to be fired, last to be rehired in a bad economy. Lest we forget, that the African American employment rate is double that of Caucasians historically.

Finally, she found a job through a temp agency, which required that she take a 1/3rd pay cut with no health benefits. Her blood pressure medication costs her a whopping $150 a month and of course, with the stress of her finances, she’s had intermittent health problems ever since her layoff. Yet, despite her qualifications, three years later, she can’t find a job in her former salary range and now only makes enough money to pay her basic bills. She’s thankful that her sister lives with her to share the load and lives in fear of an emergency that she will not have the funds to deal with.

Her daughter, now in public school, straight A and brilliant, is now one year away from college and she’s been told that the cost of her education will now be solely on her. These are the hard choices we make in spite of years of planning and preparation.

2. Another friend of mine, in her 50’s, bought a co-op during the good old days in 2007. She had lived in her one bedroom apt. for 20 years when she sold it at a considerable profit to buy a really nice 1 bedroom condo in NY. Since 2008 she has changed jobs three times. She’s a nice Jewish girl but the reality is that salaries have declined and when companies discover they can do more with less, the people get shafted.

During her bouts of unemployment, her parents helped her because her available income and 30 years of savings quickly evaporated. Her current job doesn’t cover the cost of her basic living expenses anymore so she lives off a combination of credit and her home equity line of credit.

3. My boss retired in early 2008 at 62. He had already lost 50% of his savings when the stock market began it’s course correction in 2007. Thankfully, his home is paid off and in great shape but he too has no discretionary equity to work with so any emergency or extra expense is covered by his home equity which is now $5,000.

He and his wife pay approx. $1,200 a month in health care coverage which eats up a huge chunk of his savings. I won’t tell you about the co-pay because you might get ill. So much for your golden years.

4. And then there is me. You can read my story here.

This is the reality for those who have not been foreclosed on, who are not “welfare queens”, and for those who have been educated to compete and contribute in a free-market society. How much personal meaning does that have these days?

In many cases, this the reality of working people who had already managed to elevate themselves from blue collar working class backgrounds, regardless of race. They are struggling and suffering, mostly in silence.

This contrasted against the greediest amongst our society whom continue to flourish and fight against paying higher taxes as generational poverty becomes a stark and frightening reality. If this trend continues what will it mean to the future of our country? Or, doesn’t that matter?

Who speaks for them? I will give you a hint, the name does not include the letters GOP. Amongst many other frightening realities, it is the spectre of reactionary and regressive policies that do not benefit the masses, or reflect 21st century progressive values, homelessness, lack of medical coverage, hunger and poverty which make this a critical election year.