Poverty among plenty -- and it's getting worse

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Check out the news this week:

The Associate Press reports that there are increasing numbers of homeless and poor people in Silicon Valley. The piece almost sounds like something I would write:

Simply put, while the ultra-rich are getting even richer, record numbers of Silicon Valley residents are slipping into poverty. "In the midst of a national economic recovery led by Silicon Valley's resurgence, as measured by corporate profits and record stock prices, something strange is going on in the Valley itself. Most people are getting poorer," said Cindy Chavez, executive director of San Jose-based Working Partnerships USA, a nonprofit advocating for affordable housing, higher minimum wages and access to health care.

That will come as no surprise to people who lived through the last tech boom in San Francisco and are struggling to live through this one. Great wealth does not trickle down around here; it sucks up housing, drives up costs, and creates homelessness and poverty for the most vulnerable:

The causes for the growing disparity are complex, but largely come down to one thing: a very high cost of living. The median home price is $550,000, and rents average just under $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in this region that is home to many of the nation's wealthiest companies including Facebook, Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Google. For a family of four, just covering basic needs like rent, food, childcare and transportation comes to almost $90,000 a year, according to the nonprofit Insight Center for Community Economic Development. "The fact is that we have an economy now that's working well only for those at the very top," said Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. "Unless we adopt a new approach to economic policy, we're going to continue going down this path, which means growth that does not really benefit the great majority of people in this country."

Meanwhile, there’s a new study out, using a new approach to economic data, that shows that almost a quarter of all California residents live below the poverty line. The raw data, which is a bit thick, is here. There’s a state Senate report on it here. Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF) held a hearing on the data -- but uncovering the facts, while valuable, isn’t going to get anyone off the streets. And I don't understand why this isn't on the front page of every major newspaper in the state.

Before my trolls tell me that I hate the rich, let me repeat: I don’t hate anybody and I don’t blame rich people for what this country has created. That’s the fault of the policymakers who, since Ronald Reagan too office in 1981, have allowed the United States to embrace increasing social inequality.

Great wealth can make a country, well, wealthy. But if it’s allowed to stick entirely to the top, then if can do more harm than good.

And the reality is that, particularly in the South and the West, tax policy is designed to help the wealthy at the expense of the poor:

The fact is, the more the poor are taxed, the worse off they are, whether they are working or not. We all pay a huge price for this shortsightedness. Medicaid payments, food stamps, disability benefits — all of these federal programs swoop in to try to patch up a frayed safety net.

In other words, it’s not the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith causing the poverty in California. It’s not laziness that causes poor people to live on the streets. And it’s not just happening in San Francisco.

Now, some of the people who like to comment on this blog suggest that poor people just move somewhere else, that it’s too expensive to live in San Francisco and that’s just the way it is.

That's a bit of a harsh approach, and undermines the entire idea of a city as a community, where people of different income levels can live. But it’s also impractical; one of the reasons people come here, besides the weather and the scintillating level of intellectual dialogue (present company excluded) is that there are jobs here. Oh, and most poor people can' t just pack up, hire a moving van, relocate to another city, pay first and last month's rent, and live on savings until they find a new job.

There was a time when the federal government taxed great wealth, and used the money to invest in cities, building (and subsidizing) housing and infrasructure and funding jobs programs. Much of that is now gone; revenue sharing is a ghost of the past, eliminated in the Reagan era.

So now we have almost a parody of American economic news: The New York Times reports that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is setting new records, and on the same page notes that the numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty are also setting records.

This is by far the biggest issue, the most serious crisis, facing the country, and (unlike wealth) it trickles down to every level of government. And it seems as if nobody is paying attention.

Comments

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

as your snippy quip does not apply. The reason he lost his biggest client because they had to buy insurance forcing them to cut back on purchases from his company.

45,000 people die unnecessarily each year in the United States because of lack of access to health care and health insurance. That's a big deal. That's 15 9-11's every year.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

How do you know those 45,000 wouldn't have died anyway?

Or if we gave them unlimited healthcare even though they cannot pay, how many others who could pay would die?

And maybe those we spend healthcare dollars on are more economically productive?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

the death panels of the present pay or die healthcare system.

Everyone dies, the 45,000 per year die prematurely and avoidably.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 02, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

Well, the adjustment goes too far, some parts of California are cheaper than others. In fact there are many counties in the state that are expensive but you live longer than places like West Virginia. The adjustment was to get more welfare in areas expensive like San Diego but San Diego it has a lot lower poverty problem than even Houston Texas. Yet, the adjustment overstates cost of living. There is homeless problems in Texas and food insecurity and so forth. In fact San Diego did better on these measures than major metro areas in Texas but the adjustment overstates poverty compared to southern states or Texas which is high too at 17.9 before an adjustment. In fact even Los Angeles doesn't not looked as bad as poor areas in Kenucky or Starr County in Texas but the adjustment would make one think so.

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Posted by Guestagain on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 8:03 pm

Its making people sick ,mental ill and defintely wont last to long dont not believe another 5 years will pass without the mass standing for human dignity and not being paid to do it.

Posted by Robert on Dec. 14, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

Its not a question of taxing the rich, its about bankrupting the Wall St. racket that has devoured our countries resources, and given us ghettos soon to be gas chambers. "Oh, no, they could never do that! They might want us poor and stupid, but they want us to stay alive a long time." Put Glass-Steagall back into law, and watch Wall St. scream in death-agony. Their bankruptcy will be a blessing to mankind. Amen.

Posted by Steger on Jan. 07, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

Wall Street, Banks financial bail outs stealing the public Tax Payer blind.

Republican 1993 43 nay today 2013 138 nay democrats stooled the thunder but loosed the creditability

So the republicans have a credibility issue it’s not as if they did not deserve it. So the Demarcates stolid the Republicans issue on NAFTA steal it back but trump the Democrats and restore some credibility being Americans and so called Patriots. At the same time from tariffs would pay down the national debt from 30 million losing there jobs and lower pay. When it comes to inflation, inflation is inevitable at some time. It can be controlled or un-controlled. Controlled inflation the tax benefits help the nations debt Un-controlled inflation only helps the ones that have been profiting from 20 to 30 years of Class warfare on Americans. With returning America to work and prosperity manufacturing returns. Returning manufacturing to the economics table of growth poetical out of rescissions and tax dollars to maintain government functions and stopping the blame game with out a pot to piss in.

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 575

(Democrats in roman; Republicans in italic; Independents underlined)

H R 3450 RECORDED VOTE 17-Nov-1993 10:36 PM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT

Ayes Noes PRES NV
Democratic 102 156
Republican 132 43
Independent 1
TOTALS 234 200

---- AYES 234 ---

FINAL VOTE RESULTS FOR ROLL CALL 55

(Republicans in roman; Democrats in italic; Independents underlined)

S 47 RECORDED VOTE 28-Feb-2013 11:56 AM
QUESTION: On Passage
BILL TITLE: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Ayes Noes PRES NV
Republican 87 138 6
Democratic 199 1
Independent
TOTALS 286 138 7

---- AYES 286 ---

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Posted by Guest on Feb. 27, 2014 @ 7:50 am