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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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Saying You "Don't Take Political Stances" IS A Political Stance

All you're doing by saying this is revealing your privilege to not care politically, and here's why that's a problem.


I'm sure all of us know at least one person who refuses to engage in political discussions - sure, you can make the argument that there is a time and a place to bring up the political happenings of our world today, but you can't possibly ignore it all the time. You bring up the last ridiculous tweet our president sent or you try to discuss your feelings on the new reproductive regulation bills that are rising throughout the states, and they find any excuse to dip out as quickly as possible. They say I don't talk about politics, or I'm apolitical. Well everyone, I'm here to tell you why that's complete bullsh*t.

Many people don't have the luxury and privilege of ignoring the political climate and sitting complacent while terrible things happen in our country. So many issues remain a constant battle for so many, be it the systematic racism that persists in nearly every aspect of our society, the fact that Flint still doesn't have clean water, the thousands of children that have been killed due to gun violence, those drowning in debt from unreasonable medical bills, kids fighting for their rights as citizens while their families are deported and separated from them... you get the point. So many people have to fight every single day because they don't have any other choice. If you have the ability to say that you just don't want to have anything to do with politics, it's because you aren't affected by any failing systems. You have a privilege and it is important to recognize it.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

We recognize that bad people exist in this world, and we recognize that they bring forth the systems that fail so many people every single day, but what is even more important to recognize are the silent majority - the people who, by engaging in neutrality, enable and purvey the side of the oppressors by doing nothing for their brothers and sisters on the front lines.

Maybe we think being neutral and not causing conflict is supposed to be about peacekeeping and in some way benefits the political discussion if we don't try to argue. But if we don't call out those who purvey failing systems, even if it's our best friend who says something homophobic, even if it's our representatives who support bills like the abortion ban in Alabama, even if it's our president who denies the fact that climate change is killing our planet faster than we can hope to reverse it, do we not, in essence, by all accounts of technicality side with those pushing the issues forward? If we let our best friend get away with saying something homophobic, will he ever start to change his ways, or will he ever be forced to realize that what he's said isn't something that we can just brush aside? If we let our representatives get away with ratifying abortion bans, how far will the laws go until women have no safe and reasonable control over their own bodily decisions? If we let our president continue to deny climate change, will we not lose our ability to live on this planet by choosing to do nothing?

We cannot pander to people who think that being neutral in times of injustice is a reasonable stance to take. We cannot have sympathy for people who decide they don't want to care about the political climate we're in today. Your attempts at avoiding conflict only make the conflict worse - your silence in this aspect is deafening. You've given ammunition for the oppressors who take your silence and apathy and continue to carry forth their oppression. If you want to be a good person, you need to suck it up and take a stand, or else nothing is going to change. We need to raise the voices of those who struggle to be heard by giving them the support they need to succeed against the opposition.

With all this in mind, just remember for the next time someone tells you that they're apolitical: you know exactly which side they're on.


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