You know they exist, right? I mean you know there are people who work that are still poor, people who sometimes work 2 and 3 jobs. They’re real. You just don’t see them. Actually you see them but you don’t SEE them. Don’t get defensive, I don’t mean specifically YOU. I’m guilty too. It isn’t that we don’t care. We’re busy, and that’s just not where our minds are when our paths cross.
Okay, now that we admit these people are real and we probably do have some contact with them throughout the day, can you pick out anyone who might belong in the category ‘working poor’? You don’t need that defined, do you? It’s fairly self-explanatory, but just for the sake of clarity, these are people who spend 27 weeks or more in a year “in the labor force” either working or looking for work, but whose incomes fall below the poverty level. That’s the true definition according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seriously, I can’t make this up.
Are you familiar with the poverty guidelines? I had to look ’em up, and by the way the guidelines are different from the poverty threshold. I’ve read about it several times and I still don’t understand it. I’m pretty sure it’s a game the government plays to move your cheese (cheese here represents something of value to you) from one place to another.. A family of four making less than $24,250. per year is considered below the poverty level. That’s just over a couple of grand a month. For four people. I was trying to imagine what bills a family of four might have, you know, people who are trying to live within their means (who does that?). This is what I came up with:
- Rent – $400
- Car – $250
- Utilities – $200
- Groceries – $500
- Gas and transportation – $100
- School expenses – $50
- Daycare – $400
- Clothing, dry cleaning, misc – $100
There’s about $100 left. What do you think? Maybe they splurge and take the kids to the movies and out for a burger. Or maybe they’re smart and they put it in savings. I don’t even know if these are realistic figures. I certainly don’t know where you can find an apartment for $400/month. Not in a neighborhood where there are windows and locks on the doors that really lock. It’s a dangerous world! As for the food, for crying out loud, my spouse and I spend more than that monthly on groceries and we have no kids at home!
It just occurred to me that if these people are working 2 or 3 jobs, that means their kids are probably home alone quite a bit. Hmmm. That’s not good. I allowed for daycare but I don’t think that includes giving the little darlings dinner, a bath and a story before bedtime. Pretty sure it doesn’t.
Oh, but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here. We still need to identify who these working poor are. Once again, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is earning their keep! The working poor predominantly consists of young single, minority women. With children. So we have poor single kids raising younger kids and they’re doing it on a frazzled shoestring budget. I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel nauseous. Is it any surprise to you that education is directly linked to gainful employment and economic stability? You’re smarter than a radish, of course it’s no surprise!
Friends, we live in the United States. You know, ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’! Does that mean anything in the year of our Lord, 2015? We sent foreign aid in the amount of $37B in 2013 and $14B of that went to foreign militaries!! Can’t we send our own kids to school before we arm the rest of the world???
Okay, I’m winding down my rant and I’ll leave you with this bit of curiousity. There were 46.5 million poor people in the United States in 2012, BUT, only 10.6 million were considered working poor. So how do we classify the remaining 30 million? Let me go ask the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I’ll be right back.