Up to 20% of Americans Live in Poverty, Statistics Reveal

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A lot of conversation has occurred about the minimum wage — or livable wage movement — popularized by a recent victory in Seatac, Washington, which spread across the state and has now gained the attention of President Obama.

Across the country, employees are striking, picketing, and staging walkouts, protesting low wages and poor working conditions. Walmart, in particular, provides associates a directory to help them locate their local medicaid office. Further, Jon Lehman, a former 17-year veteran Walmart manager, disclosed to PBS that he was instructed by Walmart Corporate how to direct his employees to apply for charity, community assistance, and state-provided welfare.

Federal poverty guidelines, provided by the U.S. DHHS, Office for the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, are used by programs to determine eligibility for financial assistance. For a single person living in the continental United States (Excluding Alaska and Hawaii), the poverty level is $11,490 a year. This amount represents approximately 7.3 months of gross income working full-time at $9 per hour. A month of employment — for purposes of this article — being defined as 173 hours of work.

After tax deductions, and before receiving a tax return, the net income (or take home pay) is actually somewhere between 8 and 9 months of work, based on a single individual claiming zero or one on their withholding statement.

For a family of four, the poverty line is $23,550.

It would be useful to have some sort of realistic measurement of necessary costs associated with maintaining a household at a reasonable level, rather than the poverty level alone. Fortunately, the IRS has adopted collection and financial standards which define what it considers to be necessary living expenses.

For 2013, in King County, Washington, the IRS states that necessary housing and utility costs for a single person are capped at $2,106 per month with food, clothing, and other necessary expenses being capped at $583 per month. In addition, out-of-pocket health care is capped at $60 per month for a person under age 65.

It’s math time again.

To be able to be able to pay just the IRS defined necessary living expenses in King County, Washington, this single person would need to earn $2,749.00 a month ($2106+$583+$60=$2,749) minimum. This amounts to $15.89 per hour. After considering tax deductions on gross income, the necessary hourly wage is higher.

These expenses do not include car payments or costs associated with keeping necessary career skills up to date, such as college or technical education.

These numbers, to me, represent a reasonable livable wage for a single person.

The Alliance for a Just Society recently published a report called the 15th Annual Job Gap Study. The study’s findings included the following:

Not earning a livable wage is unsustainable.

If the 39 percent of employers above continue to not pay a livable wage to their employees, they are going to contribute to a potential social services disaster. By some statistics, between 16 to 20 percent of Americans now live in poverty.

However, I believe if employees start earning a livable wage, it will strengthen the economy — locally and nationally — by virtue of these additional funds being used to consume goods and services. This will create increased revenues for both the public and private sector.

Employers are starting to wake up. Costco figured this out some time ago. They pay a livable wage and are not only profitable, but remain competitive. Henry Ford, the automaker, figured this out a long time ago: he paid his employees enough so they could afford to purchase his cars.

Photo Credit: spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

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  1. bensant57 The whole world is crapping on your American future because the rest of the world needs the money and the 1% do not need Americans anymore.
  2. Dorothy M Paulson Mr Robert Miner: I am a Democrat, not a communist, and I vote Democrat - always. I have never asked for nor have I ever received any kind of handout. What a ridiculous assertion that all Democrats ask for handouts because they don't work. I worked for fifty years for every dime I have. Democrats are not communists. Democrats work. Democrats don't all ask for handouts. I do know plenty of Republicans, however, who are Fascists, white supremacists, and other kinds of bigots. And one out of four corporations pays NO taxes whatever. That's a big handout. That being so, I will continue to vote Democrat. Do something about your lazy brain.
  3. Robert Polityka Disagree. It takes more than raising minimum wages. Reducing taxes, lowering APR on car loans, college loans and house payments, having copay for medical bills at a lower cost, Getting businesses to stay in America
  4. Holgar @Robert Moore Wages are a loss to the profit?  Really? Maybe I'm a little slow, but I'm having a hard time understanding why I should work for nothing.
  5. Holgar Tell it to Costco.
  6. Bawob You really do handle your facts well!  Unfortunately we are all under Big Brother's Mind Control media and don't see half the information we need to make informed decisions.  If you would look at http://nationallibertyalliance.org you will learn enough to make informed decisions in many areas of life.  I could give examples but one look by a wise man will keep him there.  A second area to learn and set your heart more at ease is an english language translation of the largest German union website, and see how well they have working conditions set up, much better than even our Henry Ford did with his $5.00 day.  http://international.verdi.de/ver.di_fremdsprachig/was_ist_ver.di_-_eine_einfuehrung_auf_englisch  These two sites are never allowed in the mainstream media, because they strike at the heart of our American thought control systems.  May God guide your learning.
  7. Bawob I'm demanding Henry Ford wages, retroactive 10 years.
  8. John Bruneau Agree! The single item holding down the economy is the price of gas! Remove high prices and bring gas to a $1.90 a gallon one WILL SEE THIS ECONOMY GROW LEAPS AND BOUNDS! But America is being held hostage by the oil companies.
  9. Rose Sam what % is by choice to live this way.
  10. Russ Hirn Jr. My only response to this (and THIS is from personal experience), if I want to make any real money with the limited education that I have now, I have to get into sales (which I suck at because I feel like scum pushing products on others). Or I can stick to my part time $15 per hour local municipal job driving a trash truck struggling to survive with what little that I have. Beat THAT situation :p
105 comments
bensant57
bensant57

The whole world is crapping on your American future because the rest of the world needs the money and the 1% do not need Americans anymore.

Dorothy M Paulson
Dorothy M Paulson

Mr Robert Miner: I am a Democrat, not a communist, and I vote Democrat - always. I have never asked for nor have I ever received any kind of handout. What a ridiculous assertion that all Democrats ask for handouts because they don't work. I worked for fifty years for every dime I have. Democrats are not communists. Democrats work. Democrats don't all ask for handouts. I do know plenty of Republicans, however, who are Fascists, white supremacists, and other kinds of bigots. And one out of four corporations pays NO taxes whatever. That's a big handout. That being so, I will continue to vote Democrat. Do something about your lazy brain.

Robert Polityka
Robert Polityka

Disagree. It takes more than raising minimum wages. Reducing taxes, lowering APR on car loans, college loans and house payments, having copay for medical bills at a lower cost, Getting businesses to stay in America

Bawob
Bawob

I'm demanding Henry Ford wages, retroactive 10 years.

John Bruneau
John Bruneau

Agree! The single item holding down the economy is the price of gas! Remove high prices and bring gas to a $1.90 a gallon one WILL SEE THIS ECONOMY GROW LEAPS AND BOUNDS! But America is being held hostage by the oil companies.

Rose Sam
Rose Sam

what % is by choice to live this way.

Russ Hirn Jr.
Russ Hirn Jr.

My only response to this (and THIS is from personal experience), if I want to make any real money with the limited education that I have now, I have to get into sales (which I suck at because I feel like scum pushing products on others). Or I can stick to my part time $15 per hour local municipal job driving a trash truck struggling to survive with what little that I have. Beat THAT situation :p

Tony Herrman
Tony Herrman

I agree with Adina.Wages have stagnated so long .....I make considerably less than I did ten years ago, yet the price of EVERYTHING I need for sustenance has skyrocketed!

Mark Horne
Mark Horne

Fantastic argument Robert Moore, but you have to start somewhere. And if my burger goes up 0.02 I think I will still make it. Especially if the end result is a little better economy a little less dependency on the govt and a person who is not killing themselves worrying if they have enough to pay rent and put food on the table for their kids.

Jason Bishop
Jason Bishop

No one is saying to spend your lifetime career on minimum wage. 1) Make life liveable for people who are on it. 2) Help create more jobs and economic growth with them spending more money. Giving the rich 5% more money only helps create more banking jobs in Switzerland and the Cayman Is.

Robert Moore
Robert Moore

Minimum wage - entry level (unskilled new employee). A higher "tenure" type minimum wage could be factored in for people working an otherwise "entry level" job....for reasons of, ie: the labor force in the area may be older more experienced "unskilled" types working the Diner, assembly, Mfg, etc. I am also aware that when lower skilled workers are not available, some companies do offer more anyway, without gov push. And....businesses are "in it" to make money. Wages are a loss to the profit. I don't know too many businesses open for the sole purpose of paying wages to the local populace. So, on the side of biz ....prices may have to inrease to gain the same expected profit. Maybe? People earning more and having more "disposable" income could potentially elevate the incomes of the local business climate......but... will the "buying power" be elevated for those wages? This is where the economies of scale come into play. And that is often missed in the "minimum wage" argument. I can honestly say that if I were in a different location of the US doing what I do for a living, I may make almost $15/hr more, and I am not a low wage earner. I am a cross skilled tradesman, with 7 years of secondary education and 35 years of experience. But, I make a lower rate where I live, because of the "labor pool/COL/demand for business, etc" ~~~ economies of scale. The same would as well apply to those locales that the minimum wage worker is employed and lives. Then...we go to the other side of the "employee" arena. Why? Why would a person want to keep a job for years that entailed handing a burger over and taking the dollars? Or, simply put the same type widgets together....for years? Most people I have encountered in those positions were always striving to do more....to get paid more. And most did. Those that truly tried. But. I also understand the high cost of living we have in this country. And....it is a result of the cost of government....in the first place. So government mandating a higher minimum wage....just leverages their ability to garner more money from the masses. If government were smaller in scope, instead of all these far reaching incursions into business, social, education and industry arenas....our costs of living would not be so high. If people think that raising the minimum wage and doing nothing else to rectify this nation's course is an answer, then a folly one embarks upon. The costs will increase, and exponentially, as government steps in even more as time goes on. Your ten dollars will be worth five dollars , instead of the 8 dollars it's worth today. If government would stop interfering with the markets, the world economy, and other matters the Constitution does not provide for them to embark upon......today's minimum wage would be worth more than $10 today....in value exchange for goods/services. I am not trying to rain on any ones parade on south or north main street.....but minimum wage....is the least of this nation's economic woes.

Karen Ravencroft
Karen Ravencroft

Raising the minimum wage is NOT going to pull anyone out of property. More jobs will be lost. And prices will rise too make up for the wages. Figure it out. Obama care has already put an extra cost on eating out by putting a charge on your ticket. Also it cuts your work week by 10 hours. Then with the extra cost of a worker (notice all taxes removed from your check and double it. That's basically the extra cost to an employer) where does the money come from.???? You're in the hole further than you were before the raise.

Jerry Baker
Jerry Baker

Disagree ,Minimum wage and poverty are two different discussion. They have nothing to do with each other.

Martha Adams Meek
Martha Adams Meek

Yes Randall and the loss of conscience when we turned out the mentally ill from their hospitals and put them homeless on the streets.

Steve Capwell
Steve Capwell

INFLATION. It will help no one, only hurt the middle class. I'm not greedy arrogant or stupid Matthew.

Matthew J. Kaeder
Matthew J. Kaeder

Yes it would and it is common sense. It is just the few greedy and arrogant who think not. Or the stupid.

Andy Harris
Andy Harris

when you raise one group with no skills, the unions push for higher wages for their members because the minimum wage went up so you end up in the same boat, it just costs all of us more to live and the poverty level remains the same but more are put on the welfare rolls.

Adina LaDolcevita
Adina LaDolcevita

No Elma not true. People, PLEASE do some good old fashioned research. Don't just regurgitate what a certain political position spews at you.

Barbara Buckley Short
Barbara Buckley Short

We will never lose the homeless until something is done about the mentally ill. It is a sin to leave them on the street! Open the hospitals and hire compassionate people to take care of them. It would be good practice for psyc. students.

Adina LaDolcevita
Adina LaDolcevita

Not true Patty. The prices have already gone up for quite some time now. It's time for wages to catch up a bit.

Elma Eaton
Elma Eaton

What about the millions who will become unemployed? It'd the same money just counted differently.... Stupid idea.... At least now they aren't leeches on society!

Patty Hunt
Patty Hunt

Disagree! The price of everything would have to goe up!

Sean Eoghan Hughes
Sean Eoghan Hughes

Didnt you see how much the big banks make on ebt cards. Imagine what they'd get with living wage. Working is much more more then making money. It gives you something to accomplish. We need feeding stations because most can't feed themselves properly and we'd quit subsidizing walmart and kroger and all the manufactured food companies. The true beneficiaries of " domestic welfare".

Jesse Hart
Jesse Hart

To any of you who are so dead set against interfering with the market when it comes to labor, where do you draw the line? How low is too low? Is slavery okay?

Yvette Unser
Yvette Unser

This is why the unemployment rate is down. They ran out of it and now we get this! Hope this gov't is happy!

David Stallworth
David Stallworth

Agree. The poor and middle class tend to circulate more money into the economy than the rich, who simply stash their excess money away for a rainy day more often than not.

Lisa Quigley-Moon
Lisa Quigley-Moon

Sometimes you have to work 2 or 3 jobs until you get to a point you can get by on 2 jobs then one job. I look at that New Jersey brat sewing her parents a a bulls eye for what is wrong with the thought process of the younger generation. But it is our fault for giving these brats everything. I also blame us for not paying attention to who we allowed to teach in our schools & colleges. Who let in all these communist teachers? we did

Lisa Quigley-Moon
Lisa Quigley-Moon

$10.00 an hour is not a livable wage. It works for & was always for kids in school entering the work world. McDonalds food server was a job you did in school not a job to support a family unless you were the manager & even then skimpy. You want a livable wage? Go to school get an education. Does not have to be college it can be a trade school.

Ron Masterson
Ron Masterson

Why don't you try living on minimum wage for awhile and then get back to me.

Michael C. Baker
Michael C. Baker

Is it that we need a livable wage, or people need to learn how to live within their means and work together? What ever happened to the "flop house" where single people could share living quarters? How about women who think that the state should help them raise their babies instead of them working their differences out with their husbands and keeping their marriages together? Oh year, that presupposes that they were married in the first place. How about its OK to live with Mom and Dad until you are ready to start your own married family?

Ingrid Meijer Yaple
Ingrid Meijer Yaple

I recently found myself having to return into the job market. It's amazing how many people think that living on $10 an hour is acceptable. I made $15 an hour about 20 yrs ago for the most menial work there was but then, that was in Canada..

Katy Phillips
Katy Phillips

Absolutely agree ! Then our government would not have to subsidize employees , even though they are working over 40 hrs a week. Major companies get away with substandard wages so they can fill their pockets. How much money do they realky need.

Ron Scott
Ron Scott

Get rid of illegals and everyone could have a job.

Tracy Schlipf
Tracy Schlipf

Wage increase, I agree with, but I fear that corporations, greedy as they are, will use it as an excuse to raise prices. Not to mention that smaller companies, those with a small margin of profit, and now forced to pay higher wages to all employess, may truly need to raise prices on their goods in order to absorb/offset the higher wages. Cost of living will grow exponentially compared to any wage increase...an increase that many won't see to begin with.

Ron Jackson
Ron Jackson

You raise the min.wage and the only thing. That happens is everything else goes up and NOTHING will be gained.the poor will be just as poor so in the end I do not support raising the min.wage!

William Bosien
William Bosien

Yep....thanks to our federal and local govt failed ideas, lack of wisdom, lack of depth, no foresight, shallow self centered egos, nepotism, corruption, wasteful spending, not heeding voice of constituent voters....sad.

Roy Wells Sr.
Roy Wells Sr.

somehow I think the rate is MUCH higher than 20%

Holgar
Holgar

@Robert Moore
Wages are a loss to the profit?  Really? Maybe I'm a little slow, but I'm having a hard time understanding why I should work for nothing.