An Introduction to My Research on the United States Economic Crisis

“Halt, freeze, who goes there?
Do you have the right?
Do you have the right documentation?” –Enter Shikari

The letter said that if I didn’t attend the meeting, I would be denied access to food benefits. My partner received one, too. When we arrived, after nursing our dying car to the location, we were lectured about how we needed to fill out ten pages of paperwork, and we’d be required to show that we’d put in 30 hours per week searching for jobs.

“If the state doesn’t provide us with money, we can’t give you anything,” the preppy lady with an expensive suit and jewelry said. I bit my tongue to hold back from asking if she’d still get paid, since she works for an organization that gets taxpayer funding to kick the poor. I wondered how much she makes.

The benefits of having a job, according to those who have no fear for their wellbeing, include being able to own a house, get out of debt, and have a life purpose. These were written without irony on a powerpoint presentation, followed by statistics showing that the highest demand for jobs are in minimum-wage positions. I laughed openly, because I know these are all lies, designed to motivate the least fortunate among us to sell their time to our broken infrastructure.

This happened several months ago. The car is long gone, we’re in a different part of the country now, our food stamps are covered and we’re eating healthier, some very kind people have stepped in to help us find our feet, and we’re in line to get medical care. I tell this story because the climb to stability has been long and grueling, and my partner and I are not alone. I have come to accept that I may never be free of asking for help and paying it forward when I get a little ahead myself. Of course, being in the kind of poverty that the United States inflicts is nothing compared to countless types of suffering the world over, but I’m not here to compare traumas.

I’m here to bring attention to a crisis.

Life expectancy is dropping.[1] Millennials like me will live shorter lives than our parents if this trend continues, and more of us are turning to suicide.[2] These warning signs have been directly linked with economic disparity in Spain[3] [4] and Greece[5], with Greece having both a higher life expectancy[6] and lower budget deficit[7] than the US. When discussing wealth disparity, economists are beginning to discuss the 0.01% owning 0.99% of the wealth of the 1%,[8] because even the majority of the 1% are wage earners who make less than $400,000 per year.[9] Wealth inequality reached its highest point since the Great Depression in 2013, and it has shown no signs of slowing, according to the Pew Research Center.[11] This effectively means that the US is now a developing nation [12] and as of August 2017, the wealth disparity in the United States is worse than in Russia or Iran.[10]

The American Dream is dying or already dead.[13] If you’re not already rich, your chances of getting rich are steadily declining.[14] Back in 2009, only 4% of Americans earned six figures, and 0.5% earned 250,000 or more – so the other 3.5% are making less than a quarter million a year.[15] The widest gap in wealth, Slate noted recently, is between white women and women of color.[16] Wealth for minorities is expected to drop to less than zero by 2053, just ten years after minorities are projected to outnumber white people.[17] And the growth rate for the richest is exponentially increasing on the daily.[18]

99.9% of the country should be united on the issue of wealth disparity. The only reason we aren’t is propaganda. If you choose to take the time to read my research on this subject, I will fully cite my claims.

If this was a monarchy, the suffering of this country’s people would be unacceptable. Kings who hoard and let their people live in dire need have terrible reputations. If this was a democracy, it would demonstrate the failure of mob rule, but this is not a democracy. But because it is a monetary republic, our system is doing precisely what it is supposed to do.

I intentionally refer to the United States government as a “monetary republic.” That is the truest description of our constitution, our founders, and our governmental structure. It is not capitalistic, because the market has never been free of legal oversight.[19] Even the word “oversight” presumes that market forces have some kind of accountability, but that could not be further from the truth. If you have money in this country, the system is on your side.[20] [21] [22] If you don’t, you might as well be dead, in my personal experience. That is the country I live in, and that is the country I am trying to escape or die trying.

A Quick Note on the Nature of Money

“The economy is not real. The economy is a construction. The economy is an idea, a notion. It requires our belief, like a dollar bill or a pound note, requires us to believe in the myth of its value. And as soon as we withdraw our consent, as soon as we disobey, it’s over.” –Russell Brand, interview with Bob Roth

As many of you know, I’m not a fan of money at all. I also don’t think that poverty is in any way unique to the United States. It amazes me, though, that this subject is still so widely up for debate in the minds of the American people. We are rivaled in wealth disparity among OECD countries only by Mexico and Chile.[23] I was unable to find numbers on how the United States compares to its 41 peers as a developed country. I’m most familiar with my own country’s economics and legislative system, and I’ve only experienced the injustice of poverty here, so I feel most capable of researching my own country.

Currency itself is archaic in a modern world where debts can be bought and sold, and money is mostly digital. That’s why this is still a worthwhile discussion to have. Just because wealth distribution is broken, does not necessarily mean that the redistribution of wealth is a simple or effective process. Wealth is still money, currency, assets, and net worth. Addressing this problem requires acknowledging that a poverty-creating and poverty-punishing system is unjust.

This isn’t a topic I will be addressing in the book I’m working on right now, so it belongs on the blog. So far, this has been the first two pages of a 36-page document full of research on what’s happening to our economy – so if this introduction seems choppy, that’s because this topic is complex. My aim is to tell my story, advocate for those who are dealing with the same roadblocks I am, and unearth as many creative solutions as possible for those who can and want to help but aren’t sure how. Read on in the Justice and Advocacy category.

For further reading, check out the new 2018 release “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America” by Alissa Quart. I’m reading it now, follow me on Goodreads to see my progress and reviews!

The in-depth research in this article was made possible by my Patreon supporters.

References:

[1] https://www.cnn.com/2017/12/21/health/us-life-expectancy-study/index.html

[2] http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/apr/19/deaths-of-despair-stalk-millennials-in-unforgiving/

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0213911114000764

[4] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bruno_Casal/publication/289129438_The_economic_crisis_and_death_by_suicide_in_Spain_Empirical_evidence_based_on_a_data_panel_and_the_quantification_of_losses_in_labour_productivity/links/5689965508aebccc4e17260d/The-economic-crisis-and-death-by-suicide-in-Spain-Empirical-evidence-based-on-a-data-panel-and-the-quantification-of-losses-in-labour-productivity.pdf

[5] http://greece.greekreporter.com/2017/07/22/study-economic-crisis-shortens-life-expectancy-of-greeks/

[6] http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Greece/United-States/Health

[7] http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Greece/United-States/Economy

[8] http://review.chicagobooth.edu/economics/2017/article/never-mind-1-percent-lets-talk-about-001-percent

[9] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/06/how-much-you-need-to-earn-to-be-in-the-top-1-percent-at-every-age.html

[10] http://fortune.com/2017/08/01/wealth-gap-america/

[11] https://journalistsresource.org/studies/economics/inequality/income-inequality-research-distribution-class

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-developing-nation-regressing-economy-poverty-donald-trump-mit-economist-peter-temin-a7694726.html

[13] http://www.businessinsider.com/the-american-dream-of-social-mobility-2017-3?r=US&IR=T

[14] https://www.stlouisfed.org/~/media/Files/PDFs/Community%20Development/EconMobilityPapers/Section1/EconMobility_1-1Chetty_508.pdf?d=l&s=tw

[15] https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1110/getting-rich-what-are-your-odds.aspx

[16] https://slate.com/human-interest/2018/03/for-women-of-color-work-life-balance-is-a-different-kind-of-problem.html

[17] http://fortune.com/2017/09/19/racial-inequality-wealth-gap-america/

[18] http://www.businessinsider.com/income-gap-between-upper-middle-class-and-very-rich-2017-7

[19] https://money.howstuffworks.com/free-market-economy2.htm

[20] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/mar/12/lobbying-10-ways-corprations-influence-government

[21] https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-corporate-lobbyists-conquered-american-democracy/390822/

[22] https://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

[23] https://www.keepeek.com//Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/measuring-income-inequality-and-poverty-at-the-regional-level-in-oecd-countries_5jxzf5khtg9t-en#.Wp23PujwZPY#page13