Jobs, We Need Better Jobs

Jobs, We Need Better Jobs

Investing in better jobs is the best way to end poverty.


The US is facing a problem, income inequality, stagnating wages, people in poverty, all and all for the average American the US economy isn't treating them too well. The problem is "the economy" is broad, and the problems in it are complex. Equally complex are people's lives, and the fabric of poverty. But there are trends, and facts which can help guide us through what is happening, and how we got here. There are also people with solutions, and ideas of where to go next.

As of 2017, the US poverty rate was 12.3%. To me, this feels like an astonishingly large number. It means in 10 people, 1 person is in poverty. Maybe we can understand it a bit more by diving into this number. How is the poverty rate figured out, and who all is in that 12.3%?

The poverty rate is split into two parts, the poverty guideline, and the poverty threshold. The poverty guideline is a broader scope, you can think of it as a rounded off version of the poverty threshold, often used for calculating statistics, such as "the number of people in Illinois eligible for Medicaid". What we are concerned with is the poverty threshold, which the guideline is based on. The threshold is also the number calculated to actually figure out if your family falls below or above the poverty line, and therefore what services you get (although some services use the poverty guideline).

The poverty threshold was first invented by Orshansky, a government worker in the Department of Agriculture, who knew that "families of three or more persons spent about one third of their after-tax income on food. She then multiplied the cost of the USDA economy food plan by three to arrive at the minimal yearly income a family would need. Using 1963 as a base year, she calculated that a family of four, two adults and two children would spend $1,033 for food per year. Using her formula based on the 1955 survey, she arrived at $3,100 a year ($1,033 x3) as the poverty threshold for a family of four in 1963." Although we do use an up-to-date price of food when figuring out the poverty threshold, that does not mean that the poverty threshold is up-to-date. One big reason for this is "families no longer spend one-third of their income on food and two-thirds on other basic needs. Food now accounts for something closer to one-sixth of the family budget. Housing, transportation and utilities are much larger components of family spending." Meaning that a more accurate picture would involve multiplying the price of food a family needs by 6, instead of by 3.

The government does have a more accurate method on hand though, Supplemental Poverty Measure, which "estimates the cost of food, clothing, shelter and utilities, then adds a further 20% for other expenses." By using the cost of several areas, it is able to provide a clearer picture of what it takes to get by in America. In 2016 the SPM showed that 14% of people were in poverty, opposed to the traditional method which only counted 12.7%.

Although this number is concerned, it isn't all too surprising. With unemployment at a low, and wages stagnating, it's no wonder that poverty is where it's at. The question now is, how come there aren't better jobs?

The main idea is that "jobs that require middle-range skills have been declining, while those involving skills at both the lower and higher end of the spectrum have been growing." Combined with a decline in union membership, and there are fewer jobs available, and for those who get jobs, there is less of an ability to advocate for better pay. It is also important to add that of people in poverty who are eligible to work, who are 18-64-year-old able-bodied non-student and non-retired folk, 62.6% work, and 44.3% are work full time (as of 2015). Clearly, it would be great to see this higher, but it shows that the majority of people in poverty are working. And for those who can't find work, there are services like Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF).

Upon seeing this you might think that it was a good thing that TANF is often only available for people who are working or at least looking for work. And it's completely understandable why, you are hoping to see the number of employed people in poverty go from 60% to closer to 100%, which is a great goal to have. The problem is that in making this a requirement we are assuming that people in poverty will only work if forced, and that is not the case, in fact, "the evidence indicates that such requirements do little to reduce poverty, and in some cases, push families deeper into it."

The problems here are not individual, no more so than being in poverty is. Low wages, poverty, they're symptoms of the US's larger problem, ignoring the problems of everyday Americans. One example of how to combat this trend is the Progressive Caucus' People's Budget. The People's Budget would focus on less military spending and higher taxes for the rich to pay for 500 billion in public investments, and going towards job-creations, all while running a deficit.

Right now the system is set up to prevent some people from succeeding. Although the reasons are complicated, the solution isn't; jobs, stable, well-paying jobs.

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A Thank You Letter To My Best Friend

All the things I should thank you for more often than I do.

To My Best Friend,

This thank you is long overdue. There are so many things I want to thank you for, and I’m sure I’m going to still be missing some by the end of this letter. But here is a small token of my gratitude for just being by my side in this life and making it all worthwhile.

Thank you first of all for accepting me and loving me for exactly who I am. This isn’t easy. I can be stubborn, difficult and confusing, but you love and accept me for me. There are days I wonder when you’ll finally come to your senses and move on and find a new BFF, one who isn’t so complicated, but to my amazement, you never do. You tell me you’ll take the good with the bad, and when I question whether I have any good left, you’re always there to reassure me and show me that I do. Thank you for loving me in my dorky and difficult moments, moments where if the rest of the world saw them, they’d probably walk away. Thank you for understanding me like no one else does; if we didn’t have the connection we did, I can’t imagine how lonely and big this world would feel. Because of you, this world seems like a little friendlier place, one I can see myself being a part of.

Thank you for being my biggest fan. Besides my family, you are my biggest supporter, and I know that when I win, you win, and when you win, I win. In this battle we call life, it doesn’t matter who’s in my opponents corner, because I know I am always going to have you in mine, and that’s the best asset I could ever ask for. You encourage me to chase my dreams like no one else does, and I can tell that you sincerely hurt when I hurt — not many people care about me in such a deep way. Whatever crazy dream I tell you I’m going to chase after next, you believe I can do it, even when the rest of the world thinks I’m crazy for even suggesting it. When something good happens, you’re the first person I want to tell, and when something bad happens, you’re the first one I go to for support.

Thank you for being you. You are incredible my dear, and I can’t wait to constantly remind your husband that he got crazy lucky and out kicked his coverage big time. You are beautiful inside and out. On the outside, you are so gorgeous; you’re very own unique and incredible definition of beauty, and I know I’m one of many who see it. You’re intimidating to stand next to in pictures because I know your light shines so bright, but I’ll gladly stand next to you and take a picture, because I’m so excited to show the world how breathtakingly beautiful my best friend is. On the inside you are even prettier, with a warm heart, a sharp mind and an unbelievable personality. You are hands down the funniest person I know, and I still can’t believe that someone as funny and hilarious as you chooses to spend her time with someone as dweeby and awkward as me. I mean, half the time we’re laughing at some fail I had or something stupid I did, so I guess I contribute a little bit to our constant laughing. You are so kind and so sweet, and have the biggest heart of anyone I know. God spent a little extra time when he made you, because you’re the total package: you’re beautiful, awesome and amazing, all wrapped in one, and I’m so lucky he put you in my life—he knows I’d be lost without you.

Thank you for being there for me whenever I need it. It was once said that “all that relationships are are being there for someone when they need you,” and you’re a pro at this. Whether it be because another boy is being stupid or I’m feeling alone, I know all I need to do is call you, and I’ll instantly feel better. You help my through the countless problems Lord knows I have trouble solving, and you reassure me that no matter what, you’re always going to be there for me. This is huge, and something very few people have been able to do for me, but you always have, and I know you always will be. And that is the most reassuring thing I know, knowing that if all hell breaks loose, the world falls apart and I have no one, I’ll have you. And that is all I need.

Thank you for being a spark, a light in my life that no matter how dark the world around us gets, is always there to light my way and show me the way home. Thank you for laughing with me when God blesses us with a funny moment, and crying with me when God is trying to tell me something. Thank you for standing beside me in the greatest of moments and the darkest of hours. Thank you for being the one I share my fondest memories with: all the nights we stayed up really late, all the exciting adventures we went on and all the inside jokes we still laugh about today. Thank you for growing up with me; for being there every step of the way and creating some of my happiest moments with me. Thank you for all the memories I've shared with you, and I can't wait for what crazy adventure we're going to go on next.

So thank you for accepting me, loving me, and supporting me. Thank you for being your wonderful self, and thank you for being there for me, through thick and thin, even when I'm at my lowest. Thank you for shining your brilliant light into my life and illuminating my world.

Oh, and thank you for being my maid of honor. I know I won’t need to ask you for a while, but you had to know it was coming, right?

Thank you for being the godmother to my future children, the sister to my family, and another daughter to my parents.

And finally, thank you for being the best to my friend.

Cover Image Credit: EnkiVillage

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Irish-American History Is Just As Important As Any Other Culture, You Can't Prove Me Wrong

I cherish being Irish and I will not let anyone let me feel bad for that.


Depending on when you're reading this, Saint Patrick's day has either just passed or is around the corner. For me, Saint Patrick's day is tomorrow. I've been debating this article for some time now because I didn't know how it would be perceived. At this point, though, I feel it's important for me to get out. No, Irish people were never kept as slaves in America, and I will never be one to try and say they were. However, Irish people were treated tremendously awful in America. A lot of people tend to forget, or just try to erase entirely, the history of the Irish in America. So much so that I felt shameful for wanting to celebrate my heritage. Therefore, I want to bring to light the history that everyone brushes under the rug.

In 1845, a potato famine broke out across Ireland. This was a big deal because the Irish lived off, mainly, potatoes. They were cheap, easy to grow, and had tons of nutrients. So when the famine struck, many people either died of starvation or fled to America in seek of refuge. When the Irish arrived in America they were seen as a threat to the decency of America. People viewed them as drunk beasts, sinful savages, barbaric, violent, belligerent, stupid, and white apes. When the Irish would go to look for jobs, many times they found signs that read "Irish Need Not Apply," even when the job was hiring. Therefore, the Irish did the jobs no one wanted, and even jobs African slaves wouldn't do. The biggest example of this is when Irishmen built canals and drained swamps. They were sent to do these things because of the enormous amount of mosquitoes; in the swamp, they would get bit and ultimately die of malaria.

Also, during this time, Irish people were poor and therefore lived in the same neighborhoods as the free African Americans. A lot of the Irish people were friendly with their neighbors of color and even got into interracial relationships. Because the Irish lived in these neighborhoods they were seen as dirty and even a lot of people at this time put African Americans higher on the totem pole than Irish. One person during the time even said, "At least the black families keep their homes clean."

The main reason American's outlook on Irish people changed was that most Irishmen took up fighting for the Union in the Civil War. I make this argument, not because I think the Irish suffered more than African slaves. I don't say this in means of trying to erase the struggles of the African slaves. I do not think that any of our ancestors should have been treated the way they were. I mean to say that the Irish did in fact suffer. Irish people were treated wrongly on the basis of...nothing. Simply because my ancestors hailed from the shores of Eire, they were treated with malice. And I write this simply because I want people to remember. I want people to understand what happened.

On Saint Patrick's Day this year, next year, and for the many years to come, I want people to embrace the Irish culture. I want the folks of Irish heritage to not be ashamed of where they come from; to not be ashamed to share their culture the way I have for many years. I want everyone to have a beer, wear some green, eat a potato or two, and dance the Irish step; to celebrate the history of Irish people with a bit more understanding than before.

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