Friday, June 9, 2017

Rent Due?

In the last post I included an article about the cost of living in America and the real truth about wages and the ability to pay rent when you are making the minimum wage.

With the current Administration of Clowns to the left and Jokers to the right we are stuck in the middle with no one to find ways to help those working poor who define what we call the middle class.

The debate over what defines "middle class" continues to be an issue that we clearly have no single marker that indicates this and where one lives is largely a matter of how that affects overall income stability.
Analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline blog found that the middle class shrunk in every state in the US between the years of 2000 and 2013 (the most recent data available).

"Middle class" is a tricky concept. Depending on where you live, you can feel middle class earning as much as $250,000 a year — about five times the US median income of $52,250 from the same time period.

In this analysis, Pew defined middle class households as those earning 67%-200% of a state's median income. So ... how much is that?
The Atlantic did an article around the same time frame when that study was released and debated that it is more of linguistic challenge versus an economic one when it comes to defining the "middle class."   And true that we use words to define and somehow conjure images that enable a myriad views that can be Racist - the Welfare Queen; Sexist - Single Mother; Xenophobia - Terrorist; Homophobic - Tranny and so on. 

So we have a generation who are sure that if we eradicate any language, signs, symbols of said imagery we will eradicate the concept and in turn educate people that talking like that is a bad bad thing and if you did not use such words you may be a better person.  I frequently say interchange the words and in turn tell me what your reaction would be when you replace "those illegals" with "those blacks/women/gays."  And I say it to those of color as well and let's just say the light bulb goes on and back off for a minute.  Hate runs a deep current. 

But the aspiration of the American Dream is consistent throughout.  The idea is that Middle Class is a person who owns a home, a car, has a job to pay for said home and car and can afford to go out to eat and go to a game or two and eventually send their children to college to ostensibly get a better house, car and job to start it all over again.  The circle of life Simba.

Where you live and who your family is a lottery.  You may manage to rise above your stature via luck and that "hard work" concept that is shoved down your throat with the Opioid they give you to shut you up and lessen your pain - be it physical or psychological.  Taking drugs in America to cure all ails really are the centerpiece of the American Dream.  Not doing well in school? We have a pill for that? Testing anxiety? Got a pill for that?  Having a bad day? Pill for that too?  Aching back?  Yep.  Incredibly stupid?  Not yet!

As I have said the hate for unions runs deep in the red sea.  And at some level Unions have failed to truly evolve in the same way many businesses have and in turn found themselves in the red.  The idea that the burger flipper deserves the same respect as the Teacher you see the plan.  Well a Teacher deserves the same respect as your Doctor.   Heard of Doctor for America?  Well would you go to a Doctor who has had 5 weeks of boot camp and a passion for helping the sick for the next two years then moving onto something more lucrative?  Well I would but then I have zero faith in conventional Medicine.  But this is all part of the idea of class in America.

The people who handle my food from inception to preparation deserve a living wage.  The Teacher who educates future Leaders, Doctors and Farmers deserves a living wage.  Why is that CEO wages are disproportionately higher to the point of extreme with no indication that this will ever change?  Well one down, 499 to go (as in the Fortune 500.

Nashville is finding out first hand the cost of being an "it" city.  Seattle now has found itself in a quandary as there is no middle class there and with costs of housing this may be a crash ready to burn.  But the median wage is also higher so the tradeoff is fine IF you work in the tech sector.  And that is why Google is recruiting there as the costs in the Bay Area are now stratospheric and rather than rise wages just transfer people and in turn move that problem northward. 

That calculator is just that - a calculator that approximates what it costs to live somewhere when you have certain wage.  True that the minimum wage in Seattle is now about $12/hr and rising in the next two years to $15 will it keep up to meet the cost of living?  I doubt it.

And so instead the local quality of life is what one reads and is told is the real reason you live there. Look at the Mountains, the Lakes the beautiful region that you will not have time to partake in as you are working all the time to keep said roof over one's head.  The other than is the legal marijuana and the liberal politics?  Sure and that is the real reason.  That and guess what Washington State has no income tax.  So where will you move?  To Seattle or to Nashville where the State Legislature overrides any city laws they find repugnant.  Where we have constant push back and pending legislation over LGBT rights?  Or the whole 91% Christian? Or the 33% Educated largely in secular education?  Or the wages that are just above minimum in a right to work state? Or where Racism and Sexism is a dish served with sweet tea and biscuits?   Well hell we have the Predators and a street dedicated to being drunk every day.  You just cannot buy wine on Sundays at the store so good thing!

Gee where would you go?  Well it is not easy unless you have a skill set that is linked to an income that can enable you to afford to live there.  And while they continue to tell and sell everyone on STEM education as that is where the "good" "high" paying jobs are.  Remember that when there are more applicants with equal skill sets applying to the job, the discrimination rate in hiring and in turn wages can be easily decreased.  So what is a good job today not so much tomorrow.  Tell that to the former Steel workers, Auto makers and those who were once proud members of the Middle Class.

Earn minimum wage in the US? You can afford to live in exactly 12 counties

Study finds one-bedroom rentals are affordable in a dozen mostly rural counties in the west, and two-bedrooms are entirely out of reach for low-income workers

Alastair Gee
The Guardian UK
Thursday 8 June 2017

A person working a full-time minimum-wage job will find it virtually impossible to rent an affordable home anywhere in the US, according to a study that sheds new light the country’s housing crisis.

The report reveals that there is not a single county or metropolitan area in which a minimum-wage worker can afford a modest two-bedroom home, which the federal government defines as paying less than 30% of a household’s income for rent and utilities. And in only 12 counties in the country is a modest one-bedroom home affordable, according to the report, published Thursday by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

This applies even in places that have raised their minimum wage higher than the baseline federal level of $7.25, which equates to around $15,000 a year. In Los Angeles County the minimum wage is rising to $15 for all employers by 2021, but the current wage required for a one-bedroom there is $22.98. In New York City the minimum wage is rising to $15 for all employers by 2019, but the wage needed for a one-bedroom soars above this, at $27.29.

Less-overheated real estate markets present difficulties to low-income workers as well. Averaging rents across Alabama and Montana, someone earning minimum wage would have to work approximately one-and-a-half full-time jobs to be able to afford a one-bedroom home.

Americans earning minimum wage are do not need a study to know how difficult things are.

Alicia Hamiel, 23, a mother of two children in Philadelphia, earns $7.75 an hour at McDonald’s and works 26-38 hours a week, based on what the scheduler allots her. She and her family are currently living in a single room that rents for $400 a month.

“I feel like I’m failing as a mom,” she said. “If I can’t make sure they have a roof over their heads, what am I doing? I feel like I’m doing the best that I can.”

She was once so desperate that looked into staying at a homeless shelter, but there was no room. “I apply for other jobs, I call, I go to interviews. And it’s just like, either I’m not qualified or they just tell me, you know, they don’t want to hire me.”

The study is “well-executed”, said David Bieri, an associate professor of public policy at Virginia Tech, who was not involved with the project. “We learn from it that housing in the coastal US is exceedingly expensive,” he said, and that in cities, wages are “not really moving in line with increased pressures”.

The most expensive counties and metropolitan areas in the US are indeed maritime, or thereabouts: in the San Francisco bay area and in the Honolulu, New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC areas. San Francisco renters must earn $58.04 an hour to afford a two-bed home. The 12 counties where a one-bedroom is affordable are in Arizona, Oregon and Washington – as the report notes, these are states with their own, higher minimum wages – and are mostly rural.

While numerous localities and states have boosted the minimum wage, they may need to be more ambitious. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the minimum wage is about $8.50, but housing costs for a one-bedroom would require a wage of $13.77 an hour. In Saint Louis, Missouri, the minimum wage is $10 but $13.27 is needed; in Tacoma, Washington, the minimum wage is $11.15, lagging the one-bed cost of $17.02.

Raising the minimum wage “definitely is something that would increase quality of life for low-wage workers and is important”, said Andrew Aurand, the principal author of the study, but it “still does not raise the minimum wage to a level that would allow a minimum wage worker to afford a home”.

He suggested that the government could offer increased rental assistance and boost programs such as the National Housing Trust Fund, which invests in affordable homes. The Trump administration has signaled it is moving in the opposite direction, proposing cutting funding for the federal housing agency by almost 15% and indicating it would like to ax the trust fund.

Elsewhere in the report, the authors note that some of the occupations predicted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to add the most positions in coming years – such as nursing assistants, retail salespersons and home health aides – all currently earn too little to be able to pay for a one-bedroom apartment, as calculated on a national basis.

Those opposed to raising the minimum wage contend that it could cause job losses and does not help to reduce poverty levels, and their arguments seem to have won out in around two dozen states that have passed laws preempting cities from raising the minimum wage.

Yet this “is bad for workers and it’s bad for the economy because it’s stifling consumer spending”, said Tsedeye Gebreselassie, a senior staff attorney at the National Employment Law Project. Extensive research, she pointed out, finds a positive effect.

Marco Ascencio, 21, who lives with his mother and two sisters in a two-bedroom house in Inglewood, in Los Angeles County, has no doubt that it should be higher.

He works around 37 hours a week cleaning aircraft for American Airlines and 15 hours making pizza dough at Little Caesars, earning $10.55 an hour for both; his mother also has a full-time minimum wage job cleaning planes, and a sister has just started in a new position. “How is it that three people are working,” he said, “and we’re still struggling?”

Their home rents for around $2,000 a month, and in addition to paying for housing, Ascencio is saving for college tuition. He feels as though the family lives on a knife edge: if his mother became injured and lost her job, or if they were evicted and had to move into a more expensive place, he fears their financial net would break.

“I don’t want to be a 25-year-old still working, earning $10 an hour, and still living in my mom’s house, in the living room – it’s kind of scary.”

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