Key to any discussion of living wages and the social safety net (embracing such programs as the Earned Income Tax Credit, minimum wage laws, social security or child care subsidies) is a knowledge of how much money a person or family needs to maintain an acceptable standard of living. The Economic Policy Institute has issued an updated version of their wonderful tool for gaining insight into this critical question. The Cost-of-Living calculator will tell you how much income is needed to support anywhere from a single person to a family of 6, in any city or county in the country. Two major take-aways will occur to anyone who spends some time with the calculator: (1) the cost of living varies tremendously between different areas (mainly rural vs urban) and (2) in urban areas, current minimum wage laws and the EITC fall far short of providing a basic living for workers at the low end of the wage spectrum.
In this thoughtful op-ed piece in the Chicago Tribune, former education secretary Arne Duncan (2009-2015) argues that the challenges of all Americans who are economically, socially and politically marginalized, whether they live in inner-city neighborhoods or in the nation's rural hinterland, share a common interest in a strong social democratic program built on educational opportunity, decent jobs at living wages, affordable housing and universal healthcare.
Predicted shortfalls in the Social Security trust fund are not due to an aging population: the boomer retirement was planned for. The unexpected factor has been erosion of wages and growing wealth inequality, both of which have damaged the system’s solvency, writes Rick Ungar in Forbes magazine.
The poverty-alleviation website Equal Voice for Families is issuing a bi-weekly report entitled “Making It in Trump’s America?” The latest sum-up includes budget battles, healthcare, voting rights and sentencing reform.
Los Angeles counts 58,000 homeless: up 23% in just the last year. The urban area’s mix of too many low-paying jobs and high housing costs, typical of most big American cities, is driving the crisis, writes Steve Lopez on the L.A. Times opinion pages.
The majority of the homeless are not counted in official statistics because they have taken shelter (often in terribly crowded conditions) with friends and relatives. This Chicago Tribune piece looks at a city program that offers help to the families of students stuck in crowded housing.
This article from the Economic Policy Institute carefully analyzes the income required to support a basic lifestyle in different regions of the United States. Nearly one-third of American families fail to meet the minimum thresholds. These numbers have broad implications for minimum wage laws and social safety net programs.
A basic primer on the federal program that helps support over 4 million Americans from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. An analysis of the program’s effectiveness, compared to Aid for Families with Dependent Children, which it replaced, concludes that poverty has worsened since the 1996 welfare reform. The authors call for better employment support and more adequate income support.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities “Housing” page provides a wealth of information on federal programs aimed at providing low decent housing for low-income citizens.
May 2017 – With new funding authorized by a recent referendum issue, L.A. County is setting up a program to help citizens in precarious circumstances before they lose their homes.