You see it everywhere.
People are going bankrupt and dying because they can’t afford medicine. They’re working 70, 80, and 90 hours a week while slowly crumbling from stress and heart disease. Some of them can’t even afford a place to live, despite having full-time jobs. They’re giving up sleep. They’re choosing which meal they’re going to eat that day.
This is America.
You don’t have to look at this world if you don’t want to. You can pay attention to the 10 percent who are doing extremely well. You can create echo chambers full of affluent people, and you can accuse everyone else of catastrophizing, as a way to soothe your conscience and emancipate yourself from any sense of genuine responsibility.
When someone dismisses discussions about poverty as “doomsaying,” they’re making a decision to ignore not only the evidence but the daily flood of testimony about the very real struggles people face. They’re saying they don’t really want to hear about it, they’re going to keep voting republican, or not voting at all, and waiting for billionaires to show up at the eleventh hour like the grinch who stole christmas.
Heads up, they’re not.
People don’t understand poverty.
Poverty runs rampant in America. The government underreports it, because they use an outdated definition. They also rely on a census, an imperfect snapshot of the population. Mark Robert-Rank does an excellent job deconstructing the poverty level. He shows why it’s a pretty lousy indicator of how many Americans are struggling.
Consider the thresholds.
You’re not officially “poor” in America unless you’re making $12,880 a year or less as a single individual, or about $26,000 if you’re supporting a family of four. Here’s the thing, tens of millions of Americans live somewhere marginally above the poverty line. Their lives don’t magically improve because they’re making $30,000 a year instead of $26,000.
Life doesn’t work like that.
The federal poverty line doesn’t reflect trends like the astronomical rise in housing costs over the last few…