Vol. 19, No. 4,883 - The American Reporter - December 18, 2013




by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
Dummerston, Vt.
February 21, 2013
On Native Ground
THE MINIMUM WAGE SHOULD BE A LIVING WAGE

Back to home page

Printable version of this story

DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- We know about the 42 million Americans that are still living in poverty, five years after the collapse of the financial markets in 2008.

What is even more frightening is how many Americans are close to joining the ranks of the impoverished.

According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a national non-profit organization that promotes policies and strategies to help people build and protect their savings and assets, nearly half of all Americans - 43.9 percent - have almost no savings.

In other words, nearly half of all Americans do not have enough liquid assets to survive a job loss, a medical emergency, or some other unexpected crisis.

Of this number, 88 percent are employed, and 75 percent are employed full-time. Half have at least some college education. And 1 in 4 households earning between $55,465 and $90,000 are just 90 days away from poverty.

That was just a taste of many startling figures in CFED's 2013 Assets & Opportunities Scorecard. Even more startling are the disparities between white households and households of color.

CFED found that nearly two-thirds of households of color (62.6 percent) are liquid-asset poor, compared to about a third (34.8) of white households.

They also found that white households have 11 times the median net worth ($110,973) of a household of color ($10, 824). And home ownership for white households - 72 percent - is 26 percent higher than households of color, at 46.2 percent.

Regardless of race, the bigger their problems, few American households have the basic tools to prepare for an emergency.

Nearly a third (30.8 percent) don't have savings accounts. More than half (56.4 percent) have subprime credit ratings, meaning they have no access to loans at reasonable rates of interest. And two out of three college students graduate with student loan debt, an average of about $26,600 per student.

Taken together, the median net worth of American families has declined from its peak of $96,052 in 2006 to $68,948 in 2010, the last year for which data are available).

So what would help put money into the pockets of low- and moderate-income Americans? CFED offers these ideas for state governments to adopt:

  • Lift asset limits for public benefit programs such as cash welfare, health insurance, and food assistance;

  • Expand tax credits for working families at the state level, so they match those offered on the federal level;

  • Fund Independent Development Accounts (IDA), which match the deposits of low-income savers - provided they participate in financial education programs and use the savings for targeted purposes: buying a home, going to college, or starting a small business, etc;

  • Increase consumer protections to prevent predatory short-term lenders from ex++ploiting vulnerable families;

  • Do more to support micro-enterprise, or self-employment, by everaging existing federal programs;

  • Increase job quality standards, with higher minimum wages and paid medical and family-leave benefits;

  • Assist first-time homeowners with programs such as home-buyer education, down payment assistance, and competitively-priced mortgage products;

  • Prevent and protect homeowners against foreclosure with a fair review process, tighter regulation of mortgage servicers, and limits on lenders' ability to sue for outstanding debt;

  • Improve access to public health insurance programs by raising income eligibility limits and streamlining the enrollment process;

  • Improve access to quality K-12 education, and integrate financial literacy education into K-12 curricula.

  • Provide more incentives to save for college.

These simple, common-sense steps would narrow the gap between the 1 percent and the 99 percent, They would also strengthen our democracy and return the working class to its rightful place as the engine of economic growth in America.

But in an age when amoral capitalism prevails, is it possible to return our economy to the days when both workers and bosses shared in prosperity, rather than live under a system that has as its primary directive to make as much money as possible and the public interest be damned?

The answer to that question is simple. If we don't restore equity to our economy, so that more and more Americans aren't living in constant fear that they are a handful of paychecks from disaster, we cease to exist as a nation that is sometimes united in one American spirit.

AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2013 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter