Thursday, August 18, 2016

What if ... ?

... it was you and your family?  Looking for work.

The economic downturn that began in December 2007 was associated with a rapid rise in unemployment and with an especially pronounced increase in the number of long-term unemployed.  Of those who lost full-time jobs between 2007 and 2009, only about half were employed again by 2010.

If that was your family, what would you have done for the years?  Scrambling for work became the norm for the 8.8 million workers (BLS) that previously had been employed full time.  So you applied everywhere you could, but there weren't any jobs.  You lived on your spouse's salary perhaps and on whatever savings you might have had.  Unemployment, food stamps, ....

There just weren't any jobs to be had.  The economy stabilized by '10, but recovery wasn't easy for the long-term unemployed.  It was a life changer for all of them.  Opportunities disappeared, kids' college vanished, retirement receded into the distant neverland.  Roughly 7 million families lost their homes during the great recession, and 2.5 million businesses were shuttered.  American households lost roughly $16 trillion of net worth.

That was the Great Recession, brought to you by Wall Street and the finance industry.  

Poverty is done to you.  It's not something you choose.  Is that true?

Today, 23% of our children live in poverty.  That means they don't eat well, their health will suffer, they live in higher crime areas, their education will often be interrupted, their home life will be insecure, and most will be exposed to street violence, gangs, drugs, and the death of a friend or family member from that environment.  Dads who can't provide for their families tend to disappear or die.  Single moms will face difficult choices for survival.

They should just get a job, right?  But remember, ... there aren't any.  
Too, a full time job at the federal minimum wage means you can afford $375 for housing, but the median one-bedroom rental is $1000+.  You'd need three full-time jobs to afford it.  Part of the reason, the minimum wage is worth 25% less than it was fifty years ago.

So for those children living in poverty ... they didn't choose that dilemma for themselves, and their parents didn't either.  Poverty isn't something you choose, it's done to you, or at least that was Nelson Mandela's take on the subject.  Interestingly, sociologists and economists agree, poverty is done to you.

You might appreciate a look at poverty from a different perspective.  It's perhaps worth noting that conservatives commonly blame the behavior of the poor for their poverty citing drugs and alcohol, gangs and crime, and the 'sinful choices' folks make.  Liberals commonly blame the rich for exploitation of the workforce, of resources, and their influence on government policies.  So who's right and who's wrong?  Both, pretty much all the time.

Poverty is complex with interrelated and unrelated causes. Society's responsibility is just to do their part.  There's much that can be done to make a lasting difference.  Curious what works?  Take a look at what the UN University came up with.

You might appreciate Wealth vs. Ethics as well.