Poverty in America

Xiaobei was watching a documentary on poverty in America, and some of what I saw and hear just makes me angry. Not angry at the situation people are in, but the situation they put themselves into. There was this women, single mom, two children, a dog, a house, and she’s struggling to pay the bills. She doesn’t know what to do. This is just dumb. Don’t get a dog if you can’t afford it. If you make the mistake to get one and you see the expenses are just too much, donate or sell the dog. Same for the house. Americans are living in this utopia that everyone can have a house. They are further indoctrinated in the belief that it’s only ok if you have a house. No, no, no, you do not need to have a house. Sell your house, and go rent. Or, rent a room in your house to help you pay the bills. It’s perfectly ok not to own a house, it does not make you any less a person.

That said, what the documentary did not speak about is how much per hour the woman was making. And minimum wage in US is sadly low. Wages below poverty level for non-student, non-summer, primary household income jobs should not be legal. I was curious about the numbers, so I did the math. It’s not much of a raise – current US minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year at 40 hours and 52 weeks. The poverty line for a household of 2 is $15,510 (Wikipedia numbers from US HHS). But there are a lot of assumptions in that – in particular, that the household has a single income.

Maybe a better measure would be to bind the minimum wage on the state’s cost of living, an official statistic that doesn’t get fudge and would be fair. Many modern countries are doing this. Why not the US too?

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