Perry says...

Perry Lundon
Local Columnist

I often write articles about issues or concerns that seem to have very little to do directly with the services, programs and assistance provided through DPCAA. The truth is that lower- and middle-income individuals and households are most impacted by the decision making on a whole host of issues or problems confronting the country. That is true in the United States but also true throughout the world because with wealth comes power, control, and greater capacity for self-determination.

We all know that being born into a wealthy family, while simply the luck of the draw, makes life easier. Yes, there are many people that were born poor that became wealthy and far fewer people born wealthy that became poor for life. There are numerous studies and reports on the Internet indicating that it is highly unlikely that when you are born into a poor family that you can become wealthy (top 5% of income), and yes there are those exceptions, more likely you can become middle income although less likely that you could even become upper income (top 20%) but becoming wealthy (top 5%) highly improbable. The likelihood of moving from a poor family to the top 1% is almost impossible, again there are always some exceptions. Moving up one social class is very possible but moving up more than one social class is very difficult. Therefore, being born into a wealthy family is more determinative of your future social class than intelligence, luck, effort and almost any other personal characteristic.

A vivid example of this is the impacts of climate change that will ultimately change how we live on a warmer planet. While climate change will have dramatic impact on the planet those with great personal wealth will likely see their standard of living only slightly inconvenienced. However, low-income people throughout the world will experience huge change in how they survive a more brutal and unforgiving environment that produces weather extremes and great geographic displacement. Rising sea levels, drought and other climate change induced environmental impacts will results in millions, if not billions, of people moving away from coastlines or drought-stricken regions of the world just to survive. It is likely that they will migrate to the more urban locations throughout the world. It has been reported that by 2030 as much as two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. The 12 largest cities in the world are each home to over 15 million. Delhi, India, Shanghai, China, and Beijing, China have tripled in size in a 25-year period and continue to grow. We often see in these highly populated urban areas huge slum areas populated by very poor individuals and families and that problem will grow more acute as the impacts of climate change effect those trying to simply survive an everchanging planet.

Health care policy is something that greatly impacts low-income individuals and households. Passage of the Affordable Care Act greatly reduced the ranks of the uninsured but did not solve the problems associated with a very dysfunctional health care system focus almost entirely on producing profit more than improving the health of the American public. The US still lags other developed countries of the world in providing some form of universal basic health care coverage for all citizens. Some of the best medical facilities in the world are in the US, however, over the past few decades medical facilities in many other countries are equal to that found in the US. It is very likely that if we could somehow eliminate or curtail the insidious profit motive in our health care and focus on how best to serve the medical needs of all Americans we would move much more quickly toward some form of universal health care. We would find that a universal health care system designed properly, given our corrupt political process of legalized bribery properly designed could be difficult, would save individuals, families, business, and governments money, just not the for-profit health care industry.

There are numerous studies that have shown that when business abuses the environment, particularly water and air, that the low-income populations are disproportionately negatively impacted. Less political clout by low-income communities and neighborhoods means the greater likelihood of exploitation and abuse by politicians and environmentally corrupt corporations. It has become clear that communities and urban neighborhoods that are populated by lower income households have poorer preforming school districts and far less opportunity to experience the full spectrum of learning afforded the wealthier communities and urban neighborhoods. Our reluctance to invest in maintaining and upgrading our physical infrastructure; roads, transit, water treatment (Gary, Indiana), electric grid, communications (Internet), disproportionately negatively impact lower income households. Just saw a news article about a community, largely minority populated, where raw sewage would periodically back up into tubs, toilets, and sinks. Something that should be unconscionable in the wealthiest country on earth and not something tolerated in most wealthier areas. Even something as benign as tax code enforcement impacts lower income taxpayers because the IRS has had its budget severely cut over the past several years and to enforce the tax code on the complex tax returns of the very wealthy is time consuming whereas focusing on the lower end of middle-income taxpayers is easier and can be completed quickly. Much of federal legislation enacted in the past few decades benefited mostly upper income households often at the expense of lower- and middle-income households.

When you read an article I have written and wonder how that relates to the lower income population it is important to understand that many decisions made by government disproportionately negatively impact lower income individuals and families. Those without the financial means to address the problems and issues created by unwise and, at times, malicious government legislation at all levels of government suffers the most hardship for poor legislative decisions. Governments at all levels should make decisions based on the impact or benefit to the many or most not the few.