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8 Ways Being Poor Is Wildly Expensive in America

If you don't have money you end up spending more to survive.

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In one case, 600 workers won a lawsuit against a company that ran a warehouse for Walmart for making them sign forms saying they were voluntarily giving up their lunch time. According to the Huffington Post, “More than 60 percent of low-wage workers have some pay illegally withheld by their employer each week, according to a 2009 survey cited in the report. Low-paid workers lose a stunning $2,634 per year, on average, in unpaid wages, or 15 percent of their income, according to the report.”

7. Getting scammed. The poor are vulnerable to, and frequent targets of financial scams. This includes high-interest credit cards. Anything you buy on credit involves paying back with interest. That interest goes somewhere, which means there are people with a very big incentive to get you to borrow. But it’s not just credit cards. We have all read about the mortgage-fraud scams financial institutions were running on poor people who were unable to understand that an initial low-interest rate would balloon to a huge monthly payment. There are also insurance scams, supposed-savings scams, etc. 

8. Even the little things. When you are poor you can’t afford various things that save money. Cheap clothing doesn’t last very long. Washing clothes requires going to a laundromat, which costs more than using a washer and dryer. You might have to purchase bottled water because of conditions at your low-rent residence.

High-Wire Act

Being poor is a trap. It becomes one thing after another that keeps you poor. In the Atlantic this month, Barbara Ehrenreich calls being poor “a perpetual high-wire act.”

In today’s America one more way it's expensive to be poor is that you are the brunt of blame. Our society blames the poor for their predicament. You pay a high price of guilt and blame as the billionaires behind the bank fees, payday loan rates, wage theft and the rest of the above send out the propaganda that the poor are to blame for their own circumstances.

Inequality is costing all of us. Today the  3,000 richest Americans make more than the poorest 23 million. The average McDonald’s employee takes seven months to earn what McDonald’s CEO makes in an hour. Ninety percent of Americans are continuing to go further into debt. Those at the top are blaming the poor, calling them “takers” or “moochers” and calling themselves “producers” and “job creators.”

This is why it is time to raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation. A $10.10 minimum wage will help lift working people above the poverty line and help end the perpetual high-wire act of falling further and further behind.

Dave Johnson is a fellow at Campaign for America's Future.
 
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