Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Friday, September 16th, 2016.

It Sucks to Be Poor in America


I beg to disagree

SHOULD the goal of public policy be to insure that all Americans can have good jobs — or good lives? Politicians of both parties say one thing. Policy experts of both parties say another.

Politicians routinely promise that, if elected, they will create more good jobs, which are understood to be jobs with solid wages, regular hours and, perhaps, generous employer-provided benefits. …

… Far from the campaign stops, in university and think tank offices, the emerging consensus is quite different: Americans should be able to enjoy good lives, even if they have “bad” jobs — jobs with low wages, irregular hours and no employer-provided benefits. Bipartisan experts tend to agree that the decline in employer-provided benefits and the rise of unconventional work arrangements are trends that should be accommodated, by reforms including new portable benefits and expanded income maintenance programs, like tax credits for low-income workers.

For several decades, this consensus has been reflected in what legislators have actually been doing. Slowly, incrementally, Americans have been moving away from a system in which a good job with a generous employer was the key to having a good life to a new system in which even people with low-wage jobs can have access to the basic goods and services that define a decent life in a modern society.

Seriously? From what I’ve seen, people with low-wage jobs and no benefits have access to shit. On what planet is this wondrous transformation taking place? I’m not seeing it. Here in Real World Land, those without money are just SOL. And isn’t there all kinds of data saying that financial insecurity leads to broken marriages and drug abuse and whatnot? I think there is.

Portable benefits sound fine, but how is it supposed to work? Ultimately you’d need at least some kind of government program supporting it. A national health care system would help a lot, for example.

I realize that we may be heading for a bright new future in which “jobs” are no longer the basis of the economy, but so far I haven’t seen anybody replace “jobs” with anything but rhetoric. The Earned Income Tax Credit for low-wage workers is nice (for families; if you are filing as a single adult you’re screwed), but in my experience it really doesn’t help that much. It makes the difference between barely hanging on, or not.

What do you think?

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