Tags: Blow | poor | easy | work

NYT's Blow: No, the Poor Do Not Have it Easy

By    |   Tuesday, 20 January 2015 12:24 PM

New York Times columnist Charles Blow takes strong issue with a view expressed by 54 percent of the wealthiest Americans in a recent Pew Research Center survey.

That view: "poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return."

Blow's reaction: "this is an infuriatingly obtuse view of what it means to be poor in this country — the soul-rending omnipresence of worry and fear, of weariness and fatigue. This can be the view only of those who have not known — or have long forgotten — what poverty truly means."

He offers a slew of examples.
  • Many poor people work, but don't earn enough to avoid poverty—an estimated 11 million.
  • The poor pay a higher percentage of their income in state and local taxes than do the wealthy.
  • Many poor people don't have bank accounts "and are thus nearly eaten alive by exorbitant fees," Blow writes.
  • Poor people have difficulty getting loans.
  • Perhaps the best means of escaping poverty — a college education — is expensive.
"The list of hardships could go on for several more columns, but you get the point: Being poor is anything but easy," Blow writes.

One problem affecting the poor and middle class is sluggish wage growth. Hourly wages rose only 1.7 percent in the 12 months through December, the smallest gain since October 2012.

Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson offers four possible explanations for the sluggish wage growth.
  • "Shadow unemployment." Many unemployed workers who stopped looking for jobs, meaning they aren't counted as being unemployed, want a job, "expanding the pool of available workers and reducing wage pressures," Samuelson explains.
  • "Job insecurity." Workers aren't looking for new jobs, because they're afraid they won't find one. "Therefore, employers don't have to raise wages as much to keep good workers or recruit new workers," Samuelson says.
  • "Delayed pay cuts. Companies have skimped on annual pay increases, because they didn't sharply reduce pay in the Great Recession."
  • "More [global] competition and less [union] protection."
So which explanation is the winner? "No one knows whether all — or none — of these theories are correct," Samuelson writes.

"What seems true is that, one way or another, the mechanism connecting low unemployment to rising wages and higher inflation has weakened. We don't know by how much or for how long."

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New York Times columnist Charles Blow takes strong issue with a view expressed by 54 percent of the wealthiest Americans in a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Blow, poor, easy, work
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2015-24-20
Tuesday, 20 January 2015 12:24 PM
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