THIS AMAZING ARTICLE APPEARED IN TODAY’S NY TIMES. I OFFER IT HERE AS AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT. THANK YOU. DEADHEAD1155
THIS AMAZING ARTICLE APPEARED IN TODAY’S NY TIMES. I OFFER IT HERE AS AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ IT. THANK YOU. DEADHEAD1155
I know that most of you that take the time to read this blog (and I can’t thank you enough) enjoy when I publish my own thoughts and ideas. Many times I find things while reading various new services online (what used to be a newspaper, I guess) that I feel need more exposure. And has been said in a better way than I would be able to do it. Thank you for taking the time to read these as well, please pass them along too if you would like. deadhead1155
By VICKI ABELESJAN. 2, 2016
STUART SLAVIN, a pediatrician and professor at the St. Louis University School of Medicine, knows something about the impact of stress. After uncovering alarming rates of anxiety and depression among his medical students, Dr. Slavin and his colleagues remade the program: implementing pass/fail grading in introductory classes, instituting a half-day off every other week, and creating small learning groups to strengthen connections among students. Over the course of six years, the students’ rates of depression and anxiety dropped considerably.
But even Dr. Slavin seemed unprepared for the results of testing he did in cooperation with Irvington High School in Fremont, Calif., a once-working-class city that is increasingly in Silicon Valley’s orbit. He had anonymously surveyed two-thirds of Irvington’s 2,100 students last spring, using two standard measures, the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. The results were stunning: 54 percent of students showed moderate to severe symptoms of depression. More alarming, 80 percent suffered moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety.
“This is so far beyond what you would typically see in an adolescent population,” he told the school’s faculty at a meeting just before the fall semester began. “It’s unprecedented.” Worse, those alarming figures were probably an underestimation; some students had missed the survey while taking Advanced Placement exams.
What Dr. Slavin saw at Irvington is a microcosm of a nationwide epidemic of school-related stress. We think of this as a problem only of the urban and suburban elite, but in traveling the country to report on this issue, I have seen that this stress has a powerful effect on children across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Expectations surrounding education have spun out of control. On top of a seven-hour school day, our kids march through hours of nightly homework, daily sports practices and band rehearsals, and weekend-consuming assignments and tournaments. Each activity is seen as a step on the ladder to a top college, an enviable job and a successful life. Children living in poverty who aspire to college face the same daunting admissions arms race, as well as the burden of competing for scholarships, with less support than their privileged peers. Even those not bound for college are ground down by the constant measurement in schools under pressure to push through mountains of rote, impersonal material as early as preschool.
Yet instead of empowering them to thrive, this drive for success is eroding children’s health and undermining their potential. Modern education is actually making them sick.
Nearly one in three teenagers told the American Psychological Association that stress drove them to sadness or depression — and their single biggest source of stress was school. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a vast majority of American teenagers get at least two hours less sleep each night than recommended — and research shows the more homework they do, the fewer hours they sleep. At the university level, 94 percent of college counseling directors in a survey from last year said they were seeing rising numbers of students with severe psychological problems.
At the other end of the age spectrum, doctors increasingly see children in early elementary school suffering from migraine headaches and ulcers. Many physicians see a clear connection to performance pressure.
“I’m talking about 5-, 6-, 7-year-olds who are coming in with these conditions. We never used to see that,” says Lawrence Rosen, a New Jersey pediatrician who works with pediatric associations nationally. “I’m hearing this from my colleagues everywhere.”
What sets Irvington apart in a nation of unhealthy schools is that educators, parents and students there have chosen to start making a change. Teachers are re-examining their homework demands, in some cases reviving the school district’s forgotten homework guideline — no more than 20 minutes per class per night, and none on weekends. In fact, research supports limits on homework. Students have started a task force to promote healthy habits and balanced schedules. And for the past two years, school counselors have met one on one with every student at registration time to guide them toward a manageable course load.
“We are sitting on a ticking time bomb,” said one Irvington teacher, who has seen the problem worsen over her 16 years on the job.
A growing body of medical evidence suggests that long-term childhood stress is linked not only with a higher risk of adult depression and anxiety, but with poor physical health outcomes, as well. The ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) Study, a continuing project of the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente, shows that children who experience multiple traumas — including violence, abuse or a parent’s struggle with mental illness — are more likely than others to suffer heart disease, lung disease, cancer and shortened life spans as adults. Those are extreme hardships but a survey of the existing science in the 2013 Annual Review of Public Health suggested that the persistence of less severe stressors could similarly act as a prescription for sickness.
“Many of the health effects are apparent now, but many more will echo through the lives of our children,” says Richard Scheffler, a health economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “We will all pay the cost of treating them and suffer the loss of their productive contributions.”
Paradoxically, the pressure cooker is hurting, not helping, our kids’ prospects for success. Many college students struggle with critical thinking, a fact that hasn’t escaped their professors, only 14 percent of whom believe that their students are prepared for college work, according to a 2015 report. Just 29 percent of employers in the same study reported that graduates were equipped to succeed in today’s workplace. Both of those numbers have plummeted since 2004.
Contrary to a commonly voiced fear that easing pressure will lead to poorer performance, St. Louis medical school students’ scores on the medical boards exams have actually gone up since the stress reduction strategy was put in place.
At Irvington, it’s too early to gauge the impact of new reforms, but educators see promising signs. Calls to school counselors to help students having emotional episodes in class have dropped from routine to nearly nonexistent. The A.P. class failure rate dropped by half. Irvington students continue to be accepted at respected colleges.
There are lessons to be learned from Irvington’s lead. Working together, parents, educators and students can make small but important changes: instituting everyday homework limits and weekend and holiday homework bans, adding advisory periods for student support and providing students opportunities to show their growth in creative ways beyond conventional tests. Communities across the country — like Gaithersburg, Md., Cadiz, Ky., and New York City — are already taking some of these steps. In place of the race for credentials, local teams are working to cultivate deep learning, integrity, purpose and personal connection. In place of high-stakes childhoods, they are choosing health.
Vicki Abeles is the author of “Beyond Measure: Rescuing an Overscheduled, Overtested, Underestimated Generation,” and director and producer of the documentaries “Race to Nowhere” and “Beyond Measure.”
Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 3, 2016, on page SR2 of the New York edition with the headline: Is School Making Our Children Ill?.
Above is a link to an article in today’s (2/1/2015) NY Times. It got me thinking about my own experiences in regards to the rising cost of Health Care. This will take me a couple of days to write as I need to contact my Insurance Company and they are closed today so hang in there.
This actually begins about a year ago. My wife has, for seven years, worked in a school as a Special Education Aid. In June of 2013 we were told that they were going to cut her hours from full time to twenty five but that for one last year she would be allowed to participate in the School System’s Health Coverage Program. Which I might add was very good. But that to do so she would have to contribute to the monthly premiums. Let me add here that the District was asking everyone to also pay into the monthly premiums for the first time so her job was not alone in this. The premium was low enough so that did not bother us. What really hurt was the loss of income. This was a major cut especially since I was dealing with work related health issues that I cannot go into here because of ongoing Litigation.
I work in an industry that supplies products to retailer stores. Most of my retailers have told me that they will no longer be hiring full time employees and only part timers (at about 25 hours a week) because of the new Affordable Health Care Act and it’s ramifications.
Now let us move ahead to the summer of 2014. Although my wife’s coverage wouldn’t end until August 31st I began to look at various options open to us. The company I work for used to have GREAT insurance but since I hadn’t needed it for seven years I had my homework to do. As it turns out, the premiums were constantly on the rise, and the types of coverage were constantly changing. At one time were able to pick from three tiers of coverage depending on our family/personal needs. Of course each had different monthly premium costs but that was to be expected. By 2014 there were still some choices but not as good, and of monthly premiums were up as well. The best one that I could find was a $3,000 family deductible but prescriptions were in three tiers. The tiers ranged from $50 to $15 per month for a prescription depending on what kind of medicine it was. Okay so far, as prescriptions were concerned it was up from the tier program that my wife’s insurance had but not by that much. But, now instead of a $15 copay for a Doctor visit (yes I know that that is very very low, but remember that her insurance was through a Public School System) I now had to pay full price until the family hit the $3,000 deductible. Not wanting to feed the deductible for the last quarter of the year, we all changed our existing appointments to the beginning of this year.
November 2014, open enrollment time. Holy Shit!! My Company now cut our benefits even more. No longer did we have three plans to choose from, now we had only one. And here it is: The premiums pretty much held, the family deductible stayed at $3000 for the family and, (are you ready for this?), now any copay for prescriptions doesn’t kick in until we hit that $3000 deductible. Then it was an 80/20 copay based on a three tier system.
I looked into the Affordable Health Care act and it would cost me $1800 a month in premiums and not much better in deductibles and prescriptions costs. Before my wife’s policy originally ran out I checked Cobra and that was going to be $2800 a month but the coverage was still really good. But who has $2800 a month to shell out for premiums, and remember that because of the A.H.C.A. we lost a chunk of monthly income because of her hours being drastically cut. So as you can guess we hung in there with the insurance offered by my employer and started an Health Saving Account with what little I could afford and prayed that my employer would not cut their contribution to it.
I happen to take about seven types of prescriptions for various reasons. Some because of my genetic make up and others because of my genetic make up. (Yes you read that right). One prescription that has always been in the highest tier came up for renewal last week. I went to CVS and it came to $542 under our new plan. I did not bring it home. I went home, logged onto the manufacturers website and applied and received a discount card which brought it down to $252 a month. HOLY SHIT. Well that was yesterday. Tomorrow, Monday I am going to call the insurance company, which won’t do much other then make me feel like I gave it the ‘All American Try’, then the Pharmaceutical Company that makes the medication and see if they can do better for me, and lastly put in a call to my Physician and if necessary see if something else exists that will cost me less a month. So hang in there, I will be back momentarily, in print time, with an update.
Monday February 2, 2015:
Here is the update. I called UMR (our Insurance Carrier and a division of United Health Care). They were very nice but all they would do is reiterate what I wrote above. They did suggest that I call OptumRX the company that deals with prescriptions for them. Which I did. They told me that under our NEW plan the fees were correct and that there was nothing to do except call the prescription discount card people that I downloaded. They were also very nice but said that the fee was correct based on the Parent Company’s policy. Next it was suggested that I call the Pharmaceutical Company itself because they have a Patient Assistance Program. [You see where this is going, right?] Well under their guidelines, and looking at our current W2 forms, we make too much to be considered for their program. Not a lot more but still too much.
So there it is, I have said it for many years now. Insurance is going to break the backbone of this once great Country. Blame it on Obama Care. Blame it on Congress. Blame it on anything you like, but a run away freight train will still, eventually derail and cause a major accident. And that is what we have here.
Well tomorrow I will call the Doctor and see if I can get some samples to hold me over until I figure out this whole mess. I will keep you all posted.
In the mean time: “Attica, Attica, Attica!!!!!!!!!!!” Google it youngun’s.
Said my son Adam some years ago.
You are probably wondering why he said this to me. Adam, now 19, and I were going somewhere, he was in his very early teens, and after getting into the car I asked him to wait a minute. That I needed to run into the house to get something that I forgot. Upon my return Ad asked me what I forgot that was so important. My watch, I replied. He then made the proclamation that I was a dinosaur. Yes a dinosaur. Can you believe that? Well maybe today but then. No way!!! I asked him what he meant.
Well he began to tell me that no one needs a watch anymore. My phone has a clock on it, my car has a clock on the dashboard, the cable box told us the time, so does the microwave, coffee maker, computer, and even our stove.
But, to this day I feel naked if I go out without my watch strapped to my wrist. I have come to realize that the wrist watch is no longer a useful device but is now a piece of jewelry.
So be it. Maybe I am a dinosaur fore I am of the last generation that knows what dialing a phone really means, I still read a printed newspaper (granted only on the weekends) and I still wear a watch (not as jewelry but as it was intended for to tell me the time). Now this does not mean that I do not embrace technology because I do. In fact I love technology and wish that I had the money to buy all the new gadgets that keep coming out. So I am really a dinosaur evolving.
So let’s take this one step further and to what I really wanted to write about. Time. Yes time. Some years ago when my boys were still in Elementary School, my wife and I went to Back to School Night. I noticed that in many of the classrooms the digital clocks on the wall were covered by an analog clock that the Teacher hung over it. So of course I just had to ask why. My son’s Teacher explained that the children had no concept of time since a digital clock was just a readout. Only by seeing the hands (and second hand) on the analog clock could they conceptualize the idea of time. They could see for themselves when they were told that they had twenty minutes to finish an assignment just how much time they had left. And it is true. I am a Scout Leader and my wife works in a School. We find ourselves discussing this every once in a while and it came up again just a week ago.
Alice, my wife, runs a Pottery Program in a day camp nearby in the summer. There is no clock on the wall of the Studio so she went out and bought one. It was an analog wall clock. One night she told me that many of the children could not read the clock or tell the time on it. Having seen this first hand with Scouting I wasn’t really amazed. Yet it does make me pause and think.
Time is a concept invented by man to help get thing accomplished. Probably to plan when to plow and plant the crops. I imagine that is how it began. First they judged time by the sun. When it rose began a day and when it set ended a day. From there it moved to counting weeks which became months which in turn became years. Before the concept of time no one got old. They just lived and then died. End of story. But no not the end of the story.
With the invention of analog clocks time measurement became more precise. A workday went from 9am to 5pm. not from shortly after the sun rose to just before it set. But not too precise. Remember when you would say “It’s a quarter to 3”? Even if you were off a couple of minutes who cared it was still a quarter to 3 or we would say “almost a quarter to 3”. But with digital time now it is 2:45 or 2:47. Much more precise. Now when we are late for work, we are 0:0:48 late and the time clock knows it and so does everyone in the office.
The more precise time gets the less healthy we are. Time causes stress. Oh my God if I don’t leave right now I will be stuck in rush hour traffic. Crap, I have been with this client 75 minutes (used to be over an hour) how will I make it to see all of my customers today if I don’t get out right now. AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
But wait. Didn’t I just write that a Teacher told me that children today cannot tell time or discern the movement of time thanks to digital clocks? So digital clocks may actually be good for our stress levels, is some strange way. Whew I feel better already. Wait till I go to see my Cardiologist again and he sees just how low my blood pressure is and how relaxed I have become. And all of it due to my digital wristwatch strapped to my arm. I may even live to be a hundred now I am so relaxed (poor Alice now she’ll never get rid of me).
Oops got to end here. According to my wrist watch it is 10:07am and I haven’t eaten breakfast yet. If I don’t eat soon I may as well just eat lunch and then the day will be half over. And if the day is half over then tomorrow at this time I will be at work and I will have wasted my whole Sunday.
AAARRRGGGHHH. Freakin’ time. Screws up everything.
Till next time. There’s that time word again. We just can’t escape it. No really I have to go it’s almost time for lunch.
2:24pm- Post Script- Thanks to Samsung and Google Android the wrist watch will not die. It will now become Dick Tracy’s two way radio.
Lest we all forget the true meaning of today I post the following. With one caveat, Our Great Nation was founded by an act of Treason based on Economics. This is something that even @newtgingrich would have to agree with me on. With that in mind, please read on and never forget!!!
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
It takes money to make money, they say, but if you don’t have money you lose money. Those with the money have been cutting themselves so much of the money pie that half of us are poor or almost poor now. According to the US Census Bureau, half of Americans are poor, or just on the edge. Fifteen percent (46.5 million) are in poverty, while “half of Americans are in or near poverty.”On top of that 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck.
Republicans constantly talk about how good the poor have it. In 2002 the Wall Street Journal called the poor “Lucky Duckies” because they are “the beneficiaries” of the progressive tax system and pay little or no taxes. But the reality is that it just plain sucks to be poor. It’s actually more expensive not having enough money to get by.
Here are nine examples of why it is expensive to be poor.
1. Getting around. When you don’t have the money to get a nice, reliable car you are stuck with time-consuming and not-inexpensive public transportation—if it is available at all. Investment in public infrastructure has declined dramatically since the Reagan tax cuts, and that was a long time ago. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “Infrastructure Report Card” gives our country’s transit systems a D, saying, “45% of American households lack any access to transit, and millions more have inadequate service levels.” Additionally, “deficient and deteriorating transit systems cost the U.S. economy $90 billion in 2010, as many transit agencies are struggling to maintain aging and obsolete fleets and facilities amid an economic downturn that has reduced their funding, forcing service cuts and fare increases.”
The alternative to relying on our crumbling and increasingly expensive-to-ride public transportation systems is finding an old beater to drive. Old cars break down and this costs money. It costs time. It can cost you a job. Lower-priced older cars will often be the ones that use a lot of gas, sometimes getting less than 20mpg. At today’s gas prices and today’s wages you’re eating up an hour or more’s pay every day just to get back and forth.
2. A place to live. When you rent a typical apartment you have to pay the first month’s rent, a security deposit and sometimes the last month’s rent. You have to have a reference and usually a credit report. If you are poor you may not have any of these things, and you have to live somewhere else. That can be expensive. You might be in a week-to-week situation in a budget motel, requiring you to pay with a money order. Money orders cost money so you’re even paying a fee to pay for your place to sleep.
A 2012 McClatchy news story, Motel families live in limbo, explained,
They are not technically homeless. Yet they have no home beyond a week-to-week existence. Though comprehensive statistics are hard to come by, it’s clear that this lifestyle is becoming more common.… Typically, these families can’t afford the upfront costs of an apartment, so it’s either a motel or a shelter or the street.… Some families move from motel to motel, often for years, trying to be closer to jobs or to escape the harsh culture that sometimes develops.
3. Eating. Eating when you are poor is a problem. Of course, first is having money to get food at all. Then when you can get food you are faced with food choices that can lead to health problems. If you don’t have fridge or a stove you might depend on cheap fast food. If you don’t have a car (or gas for the broken-down car you have) you depend on what is nearby and local stores in bad neighborhoods are expensive compared to gleaming suburban supermarkets. Never mind buying in bulk at Costco, the membership fee alone is more than you can probably afford.
Meanwhile Congress is cutting food assistance, forcing even more people to rely on local food banks. The problem is so bad that the food banks are overwhelmed, often running out of food completely. But food banks can’t help people who don’t have places to store or cook food—they are out of luck.
4. Banking. If you are poor you either don’t have a bank account (8 percent of American households) or have one that costs so much your money drains away. 28.3% of Americans conduct at least some of their financial transactions “outside of the mainstream banking system,” meaning they have to rely on expensive alternatives like non-bank money orders, check-cashing services, prepaid debit cards and payday loans.
For the poor, even being lucky enough to have a bank account means high fees. You don’t have enough to meet the minimum balance requirements so you pay a monthly fee that eats away at any money you have. You will pay a fee averaging $6 to cash your paycheck. You will be hit by terrible fees if the money runs out before the month does. Overdraft fees are incredible. A Pew graphic illustrates how the median overdraft for a $36 transaction racks up a median $35 in fees. “If an overdraft was treated like a short-term loan with a repayment period of seven days, then the annual percentage rate for a typical incidence would be over 5,000 percent.”
If you are not able to get a bank account (or don’t want to risk paying 5000% for writing a check), things are even worse. You turn to payday lenders. Payday loans cost an average of more than 138 percent in interest and fees. According to Think Progress,
“Most take out nine repeat loans per year with an interest rate as high as 400 percent. Forty-four percent of borrowers ultimately default, even after paying back their loans several times over, and thus are pushed ever closer to poverty. Critics have called the practice ‘legalized loan sharking’ and describe the industry as ‘bottom feeders.’ In recent years, major banks have also joined in the practice.”
5. Low pay. Low wages are expensive. When you are paid so little you have to try to get a second job just to have a place to live you don’t have any time left—and time really is money. When you are always working (and getting to and from work) you can’t look for better work. Even if you can look, the time involved and the transportation costs are so high you are eating into the little time and money you might have. The kinds of jobs you end up with if you find one are expensive because you don’t get any paid time off, so any day you get sick or have a child problem you lose money. That’s expensive.
6. Getting paid and not getting paid. Some low-wage employers like Walmart pay you with a debit card. CNBC reported,
Christon works at Walmart. Her paychecks are deposited onto a prepaid debit card—an improvement over old-fashioned paper paychecks, which led to high check-cashing fees. It’s hardly a good substitute for direct deposit, however. One cash withdrawal per period is free, but others cost $2. She can avoid the fee by shopping at Walmart and getting cash back at checkout.
Wage theft is much more common than people realize. Wage theft is restaurants stealing tips, employers demanding free time or not even paying the minimum wage, refusing to pay overtime pay when it is due, calling an employee a contractor or a temp, making various deductions from wages, and other ways that workers end up not getting paid for their work. Poor people are vulnerable, and have to take what they can get. Sometimes employers take advantage of that.
In one case, 600 workers won a lawsuit against a company that ran a warehouse for Walmart for making them sign forms saying they were voluntarily giving up their lunch time. According to the Huffington Post, “More than 60 percent of low-wage workers have some pay illegally withheld by their employer each week, according to a 2009 survey cited in the report. Low-paid workers lose a stunning $2,634 per year, on average, in unpaid wages, or 15 percent of their income, according to the report.”
7. Getting scammed. The poor are vulnerable to, and frequent targets of financial scams. This includes high-interest credit cards. Anything you buy on credit involves paying back with interest. That interest goes somewhere, which means there are people with a very big incentive to get you to borrow. But it’s not just credit cards. We have all read about the mortgage-fraud scams financial institutions were running on poor people who were unable to understand that an initial low-interest rate would balloon to a huge monthly payment. There are also insurance scams, supposed-savings scams, etc.
8. Even the little things. When you are poor you can’t afford various things that save money. Cheap clothing doesn’t last very long. Washing clothes requires going to a laundromat, which costs more than using a washer and dryer. You might have to purchase bottled water because of conditions at your low-rent residence.
Being poor is a trap. It becomes one thing after another that keeps you poor. In the Atlantic this month, Barbara Ehrenreich calls being poor “a perpetual high-wire act.”
In today’s America one more way it’s expensive to be poor is that you are the brunt of blame. Our society blames the poor for their predicament. You pay a high price of guilt and blame as the billionaires behind the bank fees, payday loan rates, wage theft and the rest of the above send out the propaganda that the poor are to blame for their own circumstances.
Inequality is costing all of us. Today the 3,000 richest Americans make more than the poorest 23 million. The average McDonald’s employee takes seven months to earn what McDonald’s CEO makes in an hour. Ninety percent of Americans are continuing to go further into debt. Those at the top are blaming the poor, calling them “takers” or “moochers” and calling themselves “producers” and “job creators.”
This is why it is time to raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation. A $10.10 minimum wage will help lift working people above the poverty line and help end the perpetual high-wire act of falling further and further behind.