I saw this Marketwatch article on the front page of MSN.com: Study: 41 million in U.S. can’t afford basics
The article highlights a study (PDF) released yesterday about the working poor. A couple of quotes from the article stood out to me:
About 41 million people in working families can’t afford such basic necessities as health care and housing, according to the report. The study, which examined conditions in nine states and the District of Columbia, found that government programs close about two-fifths of the “hardships gap” — a measure of the difference between a family’s income, including all aid programs, and the local costs of goods and services.
What exactly are basic necessities? Neither the article nor the report really give a lot of details. I know that one can eat really cheaply if they really want to. No, it’s not fun but it can be done. I thought the table on page 10 of the study was interesting. A family of one adult and two children living in Washington D.C., “needs” nearly $57,000 to meet basic needs. That’s a lot of money!
I think the real issue here is HEALTH CARE IS TOO EXPENSIVE! Instead of trying to come up with ways to pay for health care, why don’t we figure out how to make health care less expensive for everyone? There’s so much wasteful spending in health care.
I downloaded the study and read through it briefly. Basically, here’s the authors’ summary of what needs to be done:
Our findings are clear. To fill in the gaps, we need to focus on better wages, mandates for employers to provide employment-based benefits, and work supportsâ€”or some combination of the three. Better wages and improved employment-based benefits for health care, retirement, and paid time off could make every job a good job. But there is a critical role for public work supports. Work supports must reach all families who need them. Despite low incomes, many families with low-wage workers do not have access to work supports because they are either ineligible or not receiving supports to which they are entitled. This problem is not unique to one locality, but is common across all of the states in our study. The work support that is most effective at reaching families is the EITC, and we should use this as a model to simplify the eligibility criteria and application requirements for other work supports.
I don’t have an answer for this. All I can say is that I’m leery of programs that make families MORE dependent on the government.