Since the 1970s, most Americans have been getting poorer while the richer have been getting richer.
While the U.S. is still one of the world's wealthiest nations, it is now to the point where the U.S. has the income inequality of a highly corrupt third world country, with the top 1% owning 40% of the wealth.
Donald Trump was elected partially based on his promise to make America great again, increase the number of good jobs and raise the quality of life. But, since taking office his decisions have so far had the opposite effect and could have devastating consequences for the American people far into the future.
With Trump's radical restructuring of the federal government, defunding of critical social support systems, shredding of environmental protections, confrontational foreign policy, increased budget deficit, increase in military spending and rising interest rates, Americans are facing a greater potential for poverty now than at any time since the Great Depression that started in 1929.
While the temporary reduction in income tax for most workers starting in 2018 will mean they will get to keep a bit more of their hard-earned wages on pay-day, it is accompanied by deep cuts in the services their taxes pay for and will ultimately result in higher local and state taxes and much higher medical expenses. So, taking home a little more every week or two won't matter because the cost of living in other areas will increase vastly more. The money saved by cutting government services will be given to the rich and corporations.
Poverty is a complex issue and there are different types of poverty, yet, the U.S. Census only tracks poverty by household income and its methodology has never provided a truly accurate or useful measure of true poverty, just as the official unemployment rate paints a false perception of employment by ignoring the people who are no longer drawing unemployment compensation or those who are under-employed and unable to find full-time work.
According to the official U.S. Census figures on poverty, in 2016 there were 40.6 million people in poverty, 2.5 million fewer than in 2015 and 6.0 million fewer than in 2014. While these figures don't tell the whole story, they do show a continued strengthening of the U.S. economy after the massive sub-prime mortgage bank fraud that caused what is called the Great Recession.
The economic gains of the last few years are about to be reversed as Trumponomics undermines most components of the U.S. economy.
To better understand poverty and how poverty rates will change in the future one has to look at the different types of poverty and the future impact of current and planned policy changes.
The United States has the highest rate of child poverty of any other developed nation. It also has some of the highest rates of kids who are chronically ill, obese, neglected, abused and missing. Many claim that child poverty is now worse than it was in the Great Depression.
Poverty can cause severe damage to children and increases their chances of being poor as adults and continuing the cycle of poverty with their children.
Poverty can produce low self-esteem in kids and lead to drug use, teen pregnancy and crime.
Kids who have to work to help support their families have less time for studying and self-development and are less likely to get higher paying jobs later.
While the new tax bill increases the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000, Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers are slashing funding across the board for programs that reduce child poverty and make it more survivable. This is already throwing more children into poverty and those already in poverty into more desperate circumstances.
The long-term consequences of increasing the num ber of poor kids and worsening the conditions for those already poor will be severe and very long-term.
One of the big causes of poverty in many regions is the high cost of housing. Most metropolitan areas have severe shortages of affordable housing and peo-ple are forced to take in ever more roommates to cope with rising housing costs or spend hours commuting from more affordable areas. There has also been a huge increase in the number of working homeless, people who have jobs but can't afford to rent or buy a home.
According to a new report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, homeless encampments and other makeshift shelters increased by 1,342% between 2007 and 2017. Two-thirds of the increase occurred after the Great Recession was declared over.
Trump was elected partially on his promise to “rebuild” the country’s inner cities and address their “un- acceptable” conditions. But he is doing the opposite and wants to slash $6.2 billion from the budget of the already underfunded Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and eliminate many import- ant programs.
Trump's actions will worsen the housing crisis plaguing many American communities and greatly increase homelessness.
Some states and cities are stepping up and increasing the number of affordable housing units and increasing funding for emergency housing but without at least some federal funding, their efforts will be grossly insufficient.
The New York City Housing Authority alone has a $17 billion backlog of critical repairs to its buildings. With decreased federal funding, the abysmal state of affordable housing in New York City will plummet even further.
As federal funding is cut for other local programs such as schools, roads, health, nutrition, etc. property taxes will go up and up to help cover the shortfall and housing costs will increase even more, plunging more people into poverty.
Public Education Poverty
Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he loves the poorly educated. He loves them because they were the ones who supported him during his campaign and continue to support him no matter how much he hurts them.
America is full of the poorly educated who are products of America's mostly abysmal public education system and a deliberate full-spectrum dumbing-down of Americans that started after WW II when the oligarchs figured out that dumb people were easier to control and exploit.
While there are many exceptions, decades of liberal education policies have resulted in schools that can do more harm than good and have contributed to the rapid cognitive, moral and cultural decline that plagues the country.
The solution to the education crisis that Trump and the oligarchy have been pushing is to further cut funding to public schools and replace them with private charter schools, paid for with decreased public funds.
At present there are more than 5,000 public charter schools across the country and while some of them are excellent, the results overall have not been positive.
Because teacher pay tends to be lower at charter schools, many of the schools have difficulty attracting good teachers.
Then there is the profit incentive. While such schools were generally supposed to be non-profit, many investors use them as profit centers. Money is often skimmed off in higher building rents or outside management fees.
Another problem with charter schools is that many of them are religious and put more emphasis on religious indoctrination than essential education. Trump gave control of the Dept. of Education to major campaign contributor Betsy DeVos, who told an interviewer that she wanted to "help advance God's kingdom" through the school system.
Given her family's activities, her God's Kingdom could be a pretty brutal place. Her brother is Erik Prince, the founder and head of the criminal corporation formerly called Blackwater, a private mercenary army cum death squad service. Betsy married into the billionaire DeVos family, which founded and owns the corporate criminal cult called Amway.
Amway is essentially a giant pyramid scheme that uses mind control techniques and fraud to extract money from recruits. The company has been the target of countless law suits and legal actions by state and federal authorities, yet somehow stays in business and maintains its criminal business model.
DeVos has so far indicated that she supports corporate fraud in education by freezing the Obama era Borrower Defense rule that provides debt relief from students defrauded by private colleges. Eighteen attorneys general have sued DeVos for not enforcing the rule.
Donald Trump is himself guilty of education fraud with his bogus Trump University which was not a University at all and didn't provide much of anything to students who paid substantial amounts to learn how make money in real estate. He is perhaps one of the worst people on Earth to fix America's education crisis and appointed one of the least qualified people to run the Dept. of Education.
Charter schools also discriminate and some kids are denied admission because they don't meet the schools admission requirements for one reason or another. Often those real reasons are ethnic, gender or religious background.
The biggest problem with private charter schools is that most of them are not really accountable to the people or to parents and the incentive for profit can end up corrupting the mission of the school.
The actual solutions to the public school crisis are obvious and include:
- Abolish or restrict teachers’ unions so that bad teachers can be replaced and teacher costs & performance can be better managed. Schools must be run to primarily benefit students, not teachers.
- Provide nutritious organic meals and keep out all junk food. Studies have consistently shown that effective learning requires a healthy diet, yet, Trump is reversing hard-won gains to improve school lunches.
- Increase spending on public schools by reducing the military budget. It is criminally insane that so much is spent on needlessly enriching the war industry while neglecting the education of America's children.
- Support problem kids in specialized facilities designed to help them. A very small percentage of disruptive students ruin many schools and few teachers are trained to cope with children who suffer serious psychological problems.
- Increase parental engagement and provide mental health programs for students, parents and entire families. Many learning problems are related to a student's home life, not the school. All students should be taught effective emotional management techniques such as EFT.
- Adopt more effective teaching methods and more realistic curriculum that will actually prepare students for life in the real world. Students learn in different ways and one method is not suitable for every student.
- Ban cell-phones and WiFi from all schools. It is well-proven that microwave radiation disrupts brain function and can cause extreme mood swings. Children can't learn effectively if their brains are being microwaved.
- Reduce the role of computers in schools. Information does not equate knowledge and knowledge does not equate wisdom or skill. Sitting in front of a screen also alters brain function and actually makes learning more difficult. K-12 students need interactive learning away from electronic entrainment. They need to experience real things and interact with skilled experts.
- Root out school corruption and prosecute those who mis-allocate funds. The procurement practices of many American schools is not transparent or well-managed and vast sums are stolen or mis-used.
- Give students a much greater voice in school management and curriculum. Children often know what and how they need to learn, while adults remain clueless.
11. Expand vocational, technical and apprenticeship programs.
12. Dump the Common Core standards for one in which children are taught to be intelligent, not to parrot facts and figures.
13. Replace Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education with someone qualified for the position.
It is unlikely that any of the above solutions could be implemented due to politics, cultural bias and powerful special interest groups. The public school crisis will likely only worsen and continue to foster greater poverty.
Fortunately, the possibility of private charter schools gives parents the opportunity to work together to develop better schools on their own.
Student Debt & the Poverty of High Education
While there are many exceptions, the U.S. generally has one of the most expensive and least effective educational systems of all developed nations. This includes higher education, which is glaringly obvious from the massive student debt and labor shortage.
Student loan debt is the second largest form of debt in the U.S. with 44 million Americans owing a total of more than $1.3 trillion, equal to about 10.6% of all consumer debt.
All of that debt is big business and even when the principal is unpaid, many profit off of the various fees.
Trump has said that the federal government should not profit from student loans, but it continues to do so and private companies stand to profit much more with proposed changes.
While it is true that having a college degree significantly increases a person's chance of getting a job, the belief that an expensive University education will result in a well-paying job is becoming obsolete, but continues to be widely promoted because it is such a profitable racket. And higher education is a very profitable racket. College endowments have amassed more than $500 billion nationwide, with much of it hidden offshore. Some University deans are paid millions each year. The same institutions with tens of billions hidden away are the ones raising tuition, seeking government grants and donations from alumni and corporations. The greed of Ivy League universities knows no bounds.
The astronomical outstanding student loan debt clearly shows that spending big bucks to go to a University does not usually result in a good job. If it did then more students would be able to repay their loans and the unpaid balance would not be so incredibly high. It if it had been true even 20 years ago, the student's parents would have had good jobs and been able to pay for their children's college education and the debt would not be so high.
While there are hordes of University graduates with useless degrees looking for a decent job, there is also a severe shortage of skilled labor in many trades that pay very well.
In fact, the single greatest need for most American businesses is more and better workers. There are at least 6 million unfilled jobs waiting for the qualified workers who won't be coming out of the University system.
Most employers care far less about a college degree than they do about relevant work experience and job skills.
The mismatch between college graduate skills and available jobs is not just the responsibility of educational institutions. It is also the responsibility of students who allow themselves into being dumbed down and thinking that a degree in gender studies or 17th century French poetry is going to get them a good job and thinking that they may not actually have to work hard at a real job to earn a living.
With the vast amount of free online educational material available, there is simply no reason for most people to attend a University to acquire the knowledge they need for a well-paying job.
The failed University system contributes greatly to poverty in America. Not just from the vast student debt load but also because businesses can't find reliable people to fill vacant positions. The chronic shortage of skilled labor weakens the entire U.S. economy and more companies are forced out of business or to outsource or move their operations to another country with more available skilled workers.
The Republican's 542-page PROSPER higher education bill released on December 1 recognizes many of the problems and has some positive changes but could also make the student loan debt problem worse in the short-term. By the time the bill becomes law no doubt there will be a number of changes intended to further enrich the oligarchs at the expense of the people.
Many European countries offer their citizens free higher education, as do extremely poor countries like Cuba and Bhutan. So, why don't more American states pro-vide at least a more affordable and relevant higher ed-ucation?
While Betsy DeVos is unqualified for her position she is also serving to disrupt a broken system that would not be fixed under liberal leadership. By further smashing something already broken perhaps something better can built in its place, if enough people have the courage and wisdom to build something better to educate their children.
Poverty in the U.S. is not just about high housing and education costs but is primarily caused by low wages. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at a ridiculously low $7.25/hour since 2009. To keep up with inflation, the rate should have been $19.33/hr for 2017.
29 states have mandated a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum but only up to $11/hr.
While only a small percentage of Americans are actually paid the federal minimum wage, many more are still paid a low wage that they can't live comfortably on.
Over the last couple of decades, trillions of dollars in wealth have been taken from workers and transferred to the very rich.
The Wal-Mart family did not all become multi-billionaires by paying fair wages or from selling quality products at a fair price. They became enormously wealthy by driving smaller stores out of business with predatory pricing and then employing the displaced workers at a lower wage and giving them only random part-time work to keep them poor, desperate and on public assistance. At the same time they squeezed suppliers to provide ever cheaper products so the suppliers could not afford to pay their workers a living wage either.
Amazon's Jeff Bezos did not become the world richest man by paying his workers a fair wage. The wages workers should have been paid ended up in his greedy pocket.
The American system of capitalism ensures that the management of publicly traded companies pursue profits at any almost any price. If they don't then they are replaced with someone who will. This ultimately leads to criminal mega-corporations with the power to prey upon workers and customers and control regulators.
The inevitable outcome of unbridled capitalism over time is an oligarchy that becomes increasingly oppressive.
Theoretically, the excesses of corporations would be managed by effective regulation, but we are way past that point and corporations now control government to serve their needs.
Once upon a time labor unions also served to keep wages in line with corporate profits but the inherent corruption in unions has rendered many of them obsolete and impotent.
One by one, federal agencies are being given over to powerful corporate interests while laws are being re- written to create a fascist corporate police state that will further prey upon the American people and ensure that they are further impoverished and dis-empowered through wage poverty.
Intellectual, Moral & Cultural Poverty
While the wealthy have probably always looked down on the poor and feared the unwashed masses, it was the eugenics movement of the 1800s that laid the foundation for the deliberate dumbing down of Americans. But it was not until after the formation of the CIA under the direction of the Rockefellers that the dumbing down became institutionalized and it was not until the 1950s that research into mass and individual control was conducted and technology developed to carry out the dumbing down and control.
And while there is certainly some degree of conspiracy by the wealthy to carry out the dumbing down, much of it is also just a by-product of rapid industrialization and capitalism.
Contamination of Water, Food & Air
Our water, food and air have been poisoned with potent neurotoxins that are well-known to reduce IQ.
Fluoride is added to water and toothpaste even though it actually does nothing for dental health and dozens of studies have clearly shown that it reduces IQ and causes a wide range of serious health problems. Fluoride accumulates in the body and coats the pineal gland, which is the seat of intuition and our primary
B.S. detector. Fluoride is the primary active ingredient in most pyscho-active pharmaceuticals.
Mercury has been spewed into the air by coal fired power plants and garbage incinerators to the point where there is no part of North America which has not been contaminated. Mercury is in our food, water and air. If that were not enough it is placed into our mouths by dentists to slowly poison our brains and reduce our ability to think. A single molecule of mercury in the brain can kill countless neurons.
Our food is laced with dioxin, PCBs and dozens of different kinds of toxic pesticides and herbicides that are well known to compromise our health and radically alter the human micro-biome (gut bacteria). One result of this modification of the microbiome is brain-fog and the inability to think clearly. Another is the epidemic of cancer and other diseases.
Influence of Electronic Media
A 2015 study found that Americans watch more television than anyone else on Earth, with the average American watching 282 minutes of broadcast TV each day - or four hours and 42 minutes. Since 2015 viewing has continued to shift away from conventional TVs to smart phones.
For children, the situation is even worse. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, children and adolescents in the U.S. spend an average of about seven and a half hours a day engaged with various forms of entertainment media, such as television, video games, the Internet, and recorded music. The time spent being entertained surpasses all other activities except sleep and displaces vital learning experiences gained in play, sports, doing household chores and from socializing with peers or family.
While digital media can be an important learning tool, screen time also alters brain function and too much prevents the brain from ever developing normally.
While texting and tweeting can be a useful form of communication it can't take the place of face to face interactions with individual humans and leads to the severe deficits in communication and social skills prominent in the current younger generation. A surprising number of young adults lack the ability to write a coherent letter, engage in a meaningful face to face conversation or simply read a printed book.
The content of media is also a big factor in the intellectual decay of America. A typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Those who play violent video games will commit hundreds of thousands of simulated acts of violence, mostly killing opposing characters.
It is moronic to think that virtual acts of violence do not lead to real acts of violence. The U.S. military uses violent video games to help train and condition soldiers to kill and then extends the virtual battlefield into the real world.
And the problem with media is not just violence, it is also the cruelty and sexual promiscuity. A wide range of TV shows and movies portray cruelty as humorous and enjoyable and illicit sex as the ultimate pleasure.
Pornography is now widely available to most children and this has led to the early sexualization of children who lack the emotional maturity and self-control to manage their sexuality or responsibly engage in an intimate relationship. While increased sexual activity in children has not yet resulted in a higher number of pregnancies, it is resulting in a substantial increase in the number of infections of sexually transmitted disease (STD).
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the annual estimated cost of treating STDs in the U.S. rose to nearly $16 billion dollars last year. With Trump slashing spending on social programs and health care, especially for children, STDs will continue to increase and further impoverish the country.
Most STDs can be cured with enough treatment, but what can't be easily cured is the damage caused by the early sexualization of children.
An increasing number of children are being prosecuted for distributing pornographic pictures of themselves or their partners. Being a registered child pornography sex offender ruins their chances of success in life as an adult.
It may seem old fashioned to some, but a healthy society really needs a traditional family unit of a mother and father who care for each other and their children, and an increasing number of Americans are simply too damaged by digital media to fill the role of an effective parent or sustain a healthy long-term relationship.
Without the primary social unit of a functional family, the country has an increasingly bleak future.
The damage from media also renders many Americans unfit for employment. Being entertained by digital media instead of engaging in meaningful activity robs people of the learning experiences they need to be functional adults with a basic level of common sense and the cognitive foundation necessary to learn essential job skills.
This can be seen by the millions of young white males who have disconnected from society and who would rather live in their parent's basement, play video games and watch porn than get a job, have their own home, find a mate and raise a family.
Americans are already the least healthy and have the most expensive and the worst health care system of developed nations, but it is about to get much, much worse.
Trump and his gang are defunding federal spending on healthcare, health research and protection of the environment so that the money can given to the oligarchy.
An increasingly toxic environment and food supply means more illness, a less productive workforce and more pressure on a deeply flawed health care system. Ultimately it could mean a health care system that exists only for the rich, while everyone else has to make due without any meaningful health care.
But, it doesn't have to be this way. The U.S. has a GDP of more than $57k per person, Cuba has a GDP of about $6K per person. Yet with about 1/10 the financial resources per capita of the U.S., Cuba is able to provide high quality FREE healthcare to every citizen. Even very poor Bhutan is able to provide every citizen with free healthcare, and it has a GDP per capita of only $2.8K!
Canada, with a GDP of $42k is also able to provide free health care to every citizen and legal immigrant, even those on temporary work permits.
And guess what, poor little Bhutan and Cuba also provide their citizens with free higher education.
You might think that the comparison is unfair because Cuba has a socialist dictatorship and its citizens pay for the free health care and education with a loss of freedom and lack of consumer goods. But, Bhutan is not a socialist country and has plenty of freedom and consumer gadgets. It is the same with the many European countries who provide their citizens with free health care and education.
"The US government has a technology called a printing press (or today its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many US dollars as it wishes at no cost," - Ben Bernanke, November 2002
When the American oligarchy forced the country to embrace globalism to boost the profits of their multinational corporations, it was the beginning of the end of American manufacturing as production inevitably shifted to low and no-wage developing nations. Without well-paying manufacturing jobs the American middle class started its downward spiral. But severe poverty in America has been mostly forestalled since the 1980s by debt fueled government spending and consumer debt. With the decline in real wages came easy credit that has enabled many Americans to live beyond their means, for a while.
Economists measure debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in 2016 the U.S. debt
was 106.10% of GDP. This compares to an all-time high of 118.90% in 1946 after WW II and a record low of 31.70% in 1981.
In times of ultra-low or zero interest rates, debt can rise without it imposing too great of a burden. However, when debt is very high and interest rates increase it can have devastating consequences.
After the sub-prime mortgage scam made trillions of dollars disappear and the Great Recession started in 2008, the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to 0.25% and starting pumping money into the economy by buying junk mortgages and bonds in a process it called Quantitative Easing (QE). And it worked, the banksters who caused the recession were made even richer but the country did mostly pull out of the recession. In 2015 the Fed ended QE and raised interest rates to 0.50%.
The Fed interest rate is now 1.5% and is expected to increase to 2% in 2018, 2.5% in 2019 and 3% in 2020. However, as the rate increases so will the cost for the federal government and consumers to borrow money and service existing debt that is on an adjustable or variable interest rate.
According to the U.S. Treasury, in fiscal year 2017 the federal government spent $458 billion on debt interest, compared to $214 billion in 1988. But, it is important to keep in mind that much of that 2017 interest was at an extremely low rate compared to 1988. If interest rates double in the next two years as expected, the cost of new debt will skyrocket and because the U.S. must borrow new money at higher rates to pay the lower interest on old debt even debt at a low rate will increase in cost.
In contrast to the $458 billion spent on debt interest, the U.S. has budgeted only $193.1 billion for the Dept. of Education for FY 2018, down significantly from 2017. Had the U.S. federal government been run intelligently for the last 30 years with a balanced budget, there would be an extra $458 billion available in 2018 for education, health care and infrastructure, just from debt servicing.
Trump had long promised to get federal spending under control and reduce the budget deficit from the $666 billion of 2017 but in reality the budget deficit is now projected to exceed $1 trillion in FY 2018 while federal spending on essential social and environmental programs is slashed. The money from defunded federal programs is being redirected to pay for tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations while taxes for the working class will actually increase when all factors are taken into account. Even the modest cut in federal income taxes for most Americans is only temporary.
This means that the safety nets that had shielded tens of millions of Americans from the worst effects of poverty will be pulled out from under them and millions more will be pushed down into poverty as hundreds of billions are pulled out of the economy, state and local taxes increase to compensate for federal cuts and interest rates continue to climb.
Because most Americans live from paycheck to paycheck and can't handle even a modest increase in their cost of living, vast numbers of Americans will be pushed off the cliff.
As more Americans grow poorer, the rich will become even more wealthy and powerful and will consolidate their control over federal and state agencies and further loot the country.
Is There a Solution?
An increasing number of Americans are waking up to the fact that the capitalist model has failed them and their country has been hijacked by an increasingly powerful oligarchy that is in fact their greatest enemy. But, it is too late. The oligarchy is now so powerful and deeply entrenched into the fabric of American society that there is little or no hope for a political solution. There are simply not enough Americans intelligent enough to support a functional democracy. Far too many cannot grasp what has happened and will continue to support their own impoverishment and erosion of their Constitutional rights because their political leaders utter the right simplistic sound bites and tweets.
In the absence of hope for positive change, an increasing number of Americans are simply moving to another country and a record number are renouncing their U.S. citizenship. But most Americans lack the financial resources to move away and/or don't want to leave behind friends and family.
A few people move to intentional communities where residents share a common philosophy or ideology. Some of the communities are eco-villages and some are religious in nature.
While communal living can certainly reduce the cost of living and provide a more socially enriching environment, most such communities also offer limited financial opportunities and may restrict the expression of divergent views. A successful community requires intelligent, hard working people with integrity—something in short supply.
It is easy to focus on the negative and highlight what is wrong, but the reality is that America is still one of the wealthiest nations, and for now, things really aren't that bad for most Americans in most regions and the U.S. is still a land of opportunity for those who are willing to take risks and work hard.
Many immigrants succeed while some native-born Americans with the same or more opportunity languish in poverty. This is because the immigrants have a different mental outlook and come from a place far worse than the U.S. where opportunity is non-existent or very limited.
Poverty is also relative. Being poor in America would be a big step up for the poor in many developing nations.
While it is indeed very difficult to crawl one's way up from the very bottom and the system is often designed to keep the poor trapped in poverty, it is also true that hard work, integrity, reliability and basic work skills are in high demand and rewarded.
Business is about filling needs and there are many needs that need to be filled by those with the skills to do so. Acquiring the needed skills is often not so difficult. There is a video on just about everything on YouTube and other web sites. Many businesses are more than willing to take on an intern or apprentice that is eager to learn and work hard.
The world is changing very rapidly and needs people who can adapt to the changes and fill the needs that are emerging.