More on the Working Poor in America

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Tax cuts for the working poor may be just the beginning of their tribulations. Federally mandated minimum wage was set forth to assure that the working class was not underpaid, but it too is adding to the heartache of American society.   According to BusinessWeek, after adjusting inflation, minimum wage at five dollars fifteen cent an hour, is thirty percent lower than it was in 1968, and minimum wage has not been adjusted in almost seven years (2004).   At these percentages there may be a need for reform. The government can not possibly expect the working poor to survive on five dollars fifteen cent an hour when a gallon of gas costs almost three dollars; it would cost almost a whole day’s pay just to fill up the gas tank.

The working poor are faced with another problem, lack of or unaffordable education.   Christopher Harris of Arkansas had to join the Army just to get an education because his father could not help him on the six dollar seventy-five cents an hour income he had working as a driver for the elderly (BusinessWeek, 2004). According to BusinessWeek, less than five percent of students from low income families are not able to obtain a college diploma since the cost of college tuition has sky-rocketed in recent years (2004).   Years ago a college education would have assured many individuals to at least live comfortably; sadly, this is not the case today.

Unequal tax cuts, inadequate minimum wage standards, and unaffordable education are just drops in the bucket when it comes to the working poor.   The working poor also face other   issues, such as unaffordable housing, job cuts, no employee benefits, unaffordable day care, and little to no health care insurance. According to Claxton and Hansen, the economy has lost almost a million jobs, almost forty-five million Americans have no heath insurance, and child care, along with housing take up almost eighty percent of a family’s income (2004). In addition, thirty-nine percent of the homeless people work but they can not afford a substandard apartment (Claxton & Hansen, 2004).

Thus far, one of the biggest issues of the working poor is the lack of assistance from government aid programs. According to a six month investigation by the Detroit News, the working poor are more likely to be placed on waiting lists, may only receive reduced public aid services, or may be denied service all together and as a result more American’s are experiencing hunger, homelessness, and chronic need (Claxton & Hansen, 2004). The fact remains that even with new welfare changes there is no new change with the working poor. Welfare is not helping the poor or the working poor to escape the harsh realities of poverty; instead it seems like a redundant cycle of hope, failure, and system malfunction.   Welfare may help for a moment, if it even does that.   However, with the TANF program, States keep pushing welfare recipients back into the minimum wage jobs that got the working poor there to begin with (Kornblum & Julian, 2004).

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[Author: Rebecca Linhart, Title of Paper © 2008] Do Not Copy Disclaimer