By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Exhausted from working over 60 hours a week at two jobs, Jackie struggled to retrieve three small letters from her mailbox. Enclosed was a weighty message – “Shut off notice”.
“My check is spent, before payday,” the single mother of three said. “It’s tough when you have to choose between paying for lights and gas, phone and cable. Rent has to be paid, so that’s not even an option. I’m tired of feeding my children noodles and 99 cent hotdogs. They say that I make too much to get public assistance. I make less than $35,000 a year. When will someone help the working poor? I’m not asking for a handout. I just need a hand to get up off of the ground.”
Income inequality has been an ongoing problem in the United States, since the end of slavery.
Demands for income equality were sounded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the Civil Rights Movement.
“We’re tired of working full time jobs for part time income. And, we are tired of not being able to find work,” King said. “It didn’t cost the nation one penny to integrate lunch counters. It didn’t cost the nation one penny to guarantee the right to vote. Now, we are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power. If our nation can spend $35 billion dollars a year to fight an unjust evil war in Vietnam and $20 billion dollars to put a man on the moon, it can spend billions of dollars to put God’s children on their own two feet right here on earth.”
Billions of dollars continue to be spent on warfare, widening the gap between rich and poor.
According to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau, poverty in Detroit dropped for the third straight year in 2018.
“Three straight years of progress is a good start,” Mayor Mike Duggan said. “But if we can continue our success in bringing new jobs to Detroit and to train Detroiters to fill those jobs, our future is bright.”
Although the figures reflect progress, Detroit is still ranked fourth in the country for poverty. Flint holds the second spot, following Camden, New Jersey at the top.
“The rich brag about how poverty is dropping, while they get major tax breaks and add to their wealth. But, real people, like myself, struggle to keep a roof over our head,” Shakila McDaniels, said. “The struggle is real. I don’t blame fast food workers for wanting to make $15 an hour. But, the truth is…that’s still not enough to survive.”
Inequality.org, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies, has been studying income inequality since 2011. The group kept track of policymaker’s impact on leveling the gap.
“A year of Trump’s rule has done little for the well-being of working-class families. Meanwhile, the gap between the rich and poor has reached record-highs and are on track to continue to skyrocket,” noted the group.
Meanwhile, politicians tickle the ears of voters with promises to lessen the gap.
“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution,” Presidential candidate Joe Biden said at a recent fundraiser. . “I could take about $400 [billion] away (in tax loopholes given to the wealthy), and it wouldn’t change your standard of living one tiny little bit — not even an iota,”
Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is calling on corporations to increase spending on their workers.
“The American people want corporations to invest in their workers, not just dividends, stock buybacks and outrageous compensation packages to their executives,” Biden said.
Greater taxes on the wealthy are being proposed by Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren.
“I’ve proposed a two-cent wealth tax on the wealthiest 75,000 families in America. I’ve proposed imposing a 14.8% payroll tax on wages above $250,000 and a 14.8% tax on investment income for high earners as part of my Social Security expansion plan,” Warren said. “I’ve also proposed returning the estate tax thresholds to their levels at the end of the George W. Bush administration and instituting more progressive rates above those thresholds. The bottom line is that the wealthy and big corporations must pay more taxes than they do today.”
While politicians plan for the future, the working poor calls for immediate relief - today.
“My shut off notice says the bill has to be paid by the end of the month or they’re turning off my utilities. I can’t wait for future plans that may or may not come true. I need something that I can take to the bank today,” Jackie says. “Everyone talks a good game, but poverty is real. When will someone give poor folks a tax break or a discount on our utilities. I’m tired of being on the losing end of the stick. Can a sister at least get some free candles, so that me and my kids aren’t sitting in the dark? We’ve already given up cable, eating out and going to Chuckie Cheese. What’s next? Are they going to start charging for the air we breathe too? If so, I’ll have to take shorter breaths and work out a payment plan for that too.”