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Poverty . . . Any Ideas?

31 Jan

Poverty . . . Any Ideas?

This piece, on worldwide poverty, brings to mind our microcosm in the U.S., as addressed by the President in the State of the Union address Tuesday night (January 28, 2014).

I had some thoughts on the wage inequality that the President raised. I don’t believe it will be touched by raising either the federal employees’ minimum wage to $10.40 an hour, nor the country’s minimum wage to $10.40 an hour.

First of all, most federal employees already make far more than $10.40 an hour, so that statement was just window dressing anyway.

Secondly, what can be done on $440 a week? Not much here. Even two married people, both making minimum wage, would be barely able to scrape by on $880 a week in coastal Virginia.

Should we federally control prices? In a free market? Never. That would be the worst of Soviet communism, come to fruition on our own soil.

So how do we equip people to live in this expensive economy?

Certainly not by preparing them to be minimum wage workers all life long.

Our newspaper, not a bastion of liberal nor of conservative thought, laid it all out again last week (these statistics are well known and have often been reported by bipartisan sources): point #1) there is a huge difference in wages between high school graduates (or dropouts) and college graduates, point #2) college graduates tend to marry each other and point #3) college graduates are the ones who still believe in the institution of marriage and embark on it, trying to make it last (high school graduates and dropouts tend to be the ones who believe that the entire institution of marriage is flawed so we should all just cohabitate whenever we wish).

I have had people who don’t believe in the institution of marriage try to give me anecdotal evidence that suggests the above points are not true. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. But the points are true.

So, given that, I was less than encouraged that neither the State of the Union nor its rebuttal led to a discussion of strengthening the family.

It seems that finishing college and embarking on long-lasting marriages is the way forward economically for Americans.

Yes, we used to be able to make it in single-earner households. Some, by drawing down their requirements, still do. But most of us do not. World War II changed that by putting women to work. The economy grew to the point that it costs the wages of a husband plus the wages of a wife to live.

Society shifted. Life is like that.

Any constructive ideas from others about the way forward?

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One Response to “Poverty . . . Any Ideas?”

  1. Jason January 31, 2014 at 2:17 PM #

    But you have to factor in the increasing costs of college. In the last 30 years college tuition rates have increased 1,120%. The average cost of one year of in-state college is almost $23,000. Multiply that by four years and that’s a hefty sum of debt to have hanging on you right out of school. Double that for a married couple and you’ve got some serious debt. Tack on car loans, mortgages, and the costs of having children and you’re barely making ends meet, if at all. This is also one of the reasons educated people are having fewer children and waiting longer to have them. Even the President commented that he was in his late forties before he finally paid off all his school loans (granted, he also had three years of law school). But still – he was a UC law professor, state senator, and US senator – not exactly low-paying jobs – before he managed to pay off all his loans.

    There is a lot of nuance to this – not every college costs 23k/year, there are scholarships, grants, etc – but claiming that college and marriage are the tickets to economic prosperity is a bit much.

    Not going to college might mean that you’re not going to make as much money in your life, but going to college means all that extra money goes right back into paying off loans for the next 20 years.

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