This is an excerpt from a story in the Kansas City Star from 2012 about U.S. Census findings.
“The poverty line is defined as an annual income of $23,492 or less for a family of four. A record 46.5 million Americans fall into that category, though the Census Bureau notes its pre-tax income calculations don’t include accumulated wealth, such as savings and home ownership. Nor does it include non-cash government aid such as food stamps and the earned income tax credit.”
Now let’s break it down and examine the statements in detail. We’ll start with, “The poverty line is defined as an annual income of $23,492 or less for a family of four.” If we round up to $23,500, that works out to one person who makes $1958 a month. $490 a week and $12.24 an hour.
As a single woman with no children or dependents and a strong tendency toward being a tightwad, I can tell you that I can’t live comfortably on that kind of an income. The U.S. Government expects not one, but four people to be able to live on that income.
Let’s run the numbers based on my living expenses. If you divide the $23,500 by four you get $5875.
I live in a studio apartment in Independence, Mo. and pay $400 a month in rent. That adds up to $4,800 of my budget, just to keep a roof over my head.
My water, sewer, and electricity is billed on the same bill and averages to $135 a month. That adds up to $1620 a year which means I just blew my government allotted budget by $545 and I haven’t even bought food yet.
I was going through a period of constructive discontent in 2013. My mom had just passed away and my tolerance for bullshit was at an all time low.
I wasn’t happy with my job because I got written up at the request of the security client for actually doing what I was supposedly being paid to do. I wanted to make a change and sat down to do my budget. This is the result as posted to my Facebook page at that time.
This is what real poverty looks like. This is also the reality of most of the citizens of the United States or the bottom rung employees as I call them.
I don’t like looking at my budget because the reality is soul crushing. I actually had to step away from the computer to cry. After all, with that kind of reality, how can I even dream about getting ahead? I’m still crying, but I want to finish this. People need to see past the numbers to the reality they are inflicting on others.
The U.S. Government claims that a family of four is not living in poverty if they make $23,500 a year. I call bullshit. With extra shifts that year, I made about $22,000 and I still didn’t have insurance, retirement or much savings. I drove a car with well over 200,000 miles and prayed it didn’t break down, because if it did, I had no money to get it fixed or replace it. Nor did I have the income or credit history to get a loan for a different one.
One person can not in reality live on $23,500. There is no way a family of four could either.
The problem isn’t in the government though. The problem is in the private sector and promoted by the corporate culture of maximizing the profit margins and making sure the shareholders are happy.
The share holders clearly make more money than I do because they have enough money to invest in a company not their own. I can’t afford insurance, but they get first dibs on the profits made from my labors.
I left my job shortly after I made that budget and went to work as a process server. Unfortunately, my financial standing has suffered a severe down turn because of the robo-signing that occurred in the credit industry. Something, I will point out, done to maximize profits. Now I have to make a choice between working for slave wages under demoralizing, soul crushing conditions in the corporate slave camps or being homeless.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go cry again.