Do you know which population turns out to be a remarkably lucrative source of revenue for both the private and the public sector in the U.S. today? You might be surprised to learn that it is those amongst us who are the most economically distressed. That’s right. A wealth transfer of money from the least well-off to the most well-off is happening every day, under the radar, all over this country.
The Economic Hardship Reporting Project has begun to examine just this puzzling reality. A new piece by EHRP editor Barbara Ehrenreich “Preying on the Poor“ and co-editor Gary Rivlin’s recent blog “America’s Poverty Tax” detail the astonishing ways in which hundreds of billions of dollars are extracted annually from those least able to afford it.
Did you know, for instance, that over $100 billion per year is, in effect, stolen from low-wage workers by unscrupulous employers? Compare this to the $26 billion afforded to poor and low-income people through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) anti-poverty program which isn’t enough to lift struggling families out of poverty.
Or how about the whopping profit for the payday lenders who charge fees that work out to interest rates of 400% or more? These high-priced lenders suck $600-$700 per year, per customer: ten million-plus people with scant to no alternatives to find ways to pay the bills
State and local governments, reeling from federal spending cuts, also extract billions of dollars a year from their low-income residents who incur fee upon fee once they fall into the criminal justice system through misdemeanors such as broken taillights or because an unreported change of address causes them to miss a court summons.
This week, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives vowed to extract even more money and pain from our nation’s most vulnerable rather than ask a penny from the rich and powerful in order to keep the U.S. from defaulting on our national debt. Are hundreds of billions of dollars per year from our families struggling to put food on the table not enough? Do the wealthy need more in order to preserve low tax rates and corporate tax loopholes?
Read more about this systematic padding of the powerful through the pennies of the poor in today’s Economic Hardship Reporting Project and in the weeks and months to come. These revelations are essential to the current national debate on the values and ideals of this country, its budgetary priorities, and how we address growing poverty and economic inequality.