As a whole, society has never liked to admit that we oppress the poor. While some strive to help those who are less unfortunate, most are just living for their own self-interest. While I understand that humans are naturally selfish, it seems that society has been moving farther away from goodness. While poverty is an issue worldwide and can be much worse in countries other than the USA, the current mindset of the upper class is (and really always has been) working against those who make less money.
For a few years now, a really hot topic in politics has been raising the minimum wage to a "living wage", which most agree to be $15/hour. Some major cities such as San Francisco and New York have already raised their minimum wage, and other places are making the changes gradually. But still, according to a study released last week by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is not a single place in the country where a person working a full-time minimum wage job can afford to rent a decent two-bedroom apartment. In the majority of states, you would have to make $17.90 per hour to afford to rent a modest one-bedroom apartment or $22.10 per hour to rent a two-bedroom place.
The nation's costliest housing is in Hawaii, where one would need to earn $36.13, or roughly $75,000 a year, to be able to rent a modest two-bedroom. The state's minimum wage increased to $10.10 an hour this year.
The cheapest housing in the U.S. can be found in Arkansas, where the minimum wage is $8.50 an hour. Yet one would have to make $13.84 an hour, or roughly $29,000 a year, to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
While the media makes it seem like raising the minimum wage isn't a popular idea, the issue actually has bipartisan support, and a recent poll found that 75% percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $12.50 by 2020. This support includes 92% of Democrats, 73% of Independents, and even a surprising 53% of Republicans. Those who are still against raising the minimum wage often argue that raising the minimum wage will have a bad effect on the economy, but the research disagrees.
Leading economists have found that increases in the minimum wage have no discernible effect on employment, including employment in high-impact sectors such as restaurants and retail. Also, a raise in the minimum wage predominantly benefits low-wage workers, precisely those most likely to put additional income directly back into our economy, which would kick start a virtuous cycle of greater demand for goods and services, job growth, and increased productivity.
Another common argument against raising the minimum wage is the view that if you want more money, you should just get a better job. There is a problem with that mindset because it's basically someone saying that they acknowledge that the job needs to be done, yet they think those who do it deserve to live in poverty.
Minimum wage isn't the only thing working against those in poverty, let's talk about public assistance, healthcare, and food stamps. Coming from a low-income family, I know what it's like to live off state-funded healthcare and food stamps. The Trump administration has made multiple cuts to SNAP in the past few years, including a plan to cut $4.5 billion over the next 5 years for the program. While the amount of families losing benefits from this specific cut is small considering there was $68 billion spent on SNAP in 2018 alone, Trump has proposed two other cuts that could be detrimental to those who rely on this assistance. In December, the Agriculture Department said it sought to place more stringent work requirements on the program. In July, the administration proposed a rule that would strip more than three million people of their benefits. The public comment periods for both those proposals have ended, and final rules are expected soon. "If the three proposals become final and are implemented, millions of SNAP participants will have their benefits reduced or cut altogether — particularly seniors, people with disabilities and working families — and 500,000 children will lose access to school meals," Kate Leone, the chief government relations officer at the advocacy group Feeding America, said in a statement.
The food stamp program kept over three million people out of poverty in 2018.
"Instead of declaring a war on poverty, the president has decided to declare war on our most vulnerable citizens," said Representative Marcia L. Fudge, Democrat of Ohio and chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee's subcommittee on nutrition in a recent statement regarding the cuts.
Earlier this year, the Trump administration also proposed a budget that would include a cut of nearly $1.5 trillion to Medicaid over the next 10 years, as well as abolishing all funding for the Affordable Care Act. In recent years, it's becoming more and more obvious that when you're voting Republican, you're voting in the interest of the 1% rather than helping those in need. With policies like cutting Planned Parenthood funding, wanting to get rid of DACA, and making detrimental cuts to public assistance, the republican party is declaring war on the impoverished citizens of our nation.
In order to see change really happen, we need to vote. Research your choices, and pick the candidates that are working in the favor of those who don't make upwards of $200,000 per year. Support the middle and lower class by making your voice heard. Advocate for the homeless in your community and protest against things such as hostile architecture, and fight for more shelters in your city. Advocate for children who are subject to punishment for their student lunch debt in their schools. Stand up for those who cannot do it themselves, and support candidates that fight for the low-income individuals of America. The 1% has been controlling our government and society for far too long, and its time we change that.