If you have been reading the stories regarding the recent Paris attacks, with more promised, you probably have also seen the discussions regarding how poverty is part of what has led to this whole problem-- worldwide poverty on a level often we can't even imagine in the United States. I don't have answers for the problem, maybe nobody does, but I posted a huge comment in someone else's blog where she was writing about this book: '$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America' by social scientists Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer. My comment, which virtually was a rant, ran over the limit. I decided not to cut it down, not post it there, and instead bring it here with a few modifications--
A beginning answer to the working poor in the US is to up the minimum wage to $15 an hour but also understand that some will not then be able to hire the help they used to hire. This is particularly true for senior citizens who might want to hire some assistance, but their own income has not risen with the cost of living.
Likewise farm laborers will lose some work-- where often the owner of the farm doesn't make a lot of money for the many hours he/she puts in (I know my husband would not want to figure out what he actually makes for his many hours with the cattle and sheep. I don't think it's $2 a day though because we often don't break even by the end of a year, and he puts in a LOT of hours. By the time ranchers pay for feed, fencing, etc. etc., they are doing it for the love of the animals and to provide healthier meat for other families. But if that small rancher had to make a living wage from it, it'd likely not be an option, which explains the growth of corporate farms with far less healthy meat-- but it can make money.
Small operations like ours would often like to hire extra help but as the wages rise, it becomes out of the question. In our ranching/logging community, I know many people who don't make much and what they do is sometimes off the grid-- i.e. they are paid in cash and nobody reports any of it. We convinced one man that we had to pay him on the grid and it would be better for him. Because he had skills, we paid him $20 an hour. He hadn't wanted to do it on the grid because of paying taxes and some other complications. Once though he did, he then got other jobs and more steady employment. His off the grid work looked good but in the end limited him by no 'record' of what he was doing.
Having a niece who was on welfare back when the rules changed gave me another insight. She actually benefited from the law change, as back then they gave her work for I believe two years and training. That enabled her to get a 'real' job when the two years ran out. She has worked since and has a job with respect attached.
Recently, I have gotten a view into the minimum wage economy when our home vacation rental here in Tucson needed to find an agency to clean between renters. Living in Oregon most of the year, we can't do it ourselves. We already had this season's renters or we might've just plain quit renting it with the complications of using an agency where we don't know the people and the house is full of art, books and gourmet cooking tools. With the new system, we aren't sure what we will end up paying per cleaning, as it's done with a minimum but no maximum. Two will come in, each getting $22 an hour with the agency, of course, getting part of that. The workers also have travel time between jobs; and of course, this is all on the grid.
Tucson has enough wealthier retirees, some with plush pensions or who invested well, that there are a lot of agencies that do cleaning. Not so many probably where I live in Oregon (I had never hired anybody to clean any home of mine until we got this vacation rental).
When we have come here to do the maintenance on the house, we've hired what we can using those who work from job to job, independent contractors-- most of whom are on the grid. Talking to one of them this time, my husband said the guy told him he has a hard time getting workers. Too many people in this area don't want to work or lack any skills. The contractor said he would hire more but instead has to do it himself. If someone does not want to work and can get money for doing nothing, how do you make them?
America has many tiers to its culture and I think it's hard to evaluate what anything means today. Ethics vary from community to community as well as era to era. My mother worked, in her middle years, as a home cleaner for wealthy ladies, coming in once a week. My dad had worked with his muscle all his life but when he couldn't do the heavier work, he became a school janitor. They didn't ever ask for government assistance and that means no food stamps either. They considered themselves middle class as I always saw them too. But that was maybe based on things other than income.
There at least had been a respect for work in our culture even among the poor. I am not sure we will be ahead to form a guaranteed hand-out society even with problems like this Homeless in LA huge problem. We know that many homeless don't want to work or be tied down to a job. That is just a fact and some of it based on mental problems but some just their personalities.
The thing is though-- working a job for 40 hours a week should mean you can live on it with enough to cover food, clothing and shelter. Guaranteeing that higher minimum wage though isn't simple. How do we find those who can afford to pay the salaries if more want $15 an hour jobs maybe with no skills or work ethic. We can guarantee the handicapped are given enough to live on. Should we guarantee those, who could work but choose not to, also get one?
It's a bigger problem than words will solve. Seeing again the fear from the right wing and their resentment of the poor, Seeing the working middle class's anger at those they believe are sucking at their tit, and I think it's going to be hard to get any of this fixed. The right fears the poor getting money for nothing, but for some reason don't worry when it's the rich.
Most recently, when I saw the maps of the states that are trying to refuse any Syrian refugees, even when well vetted, it doesn't look like this is going to get fixed soon. Those states mostly have Republican governors and it looks from that map that the country is turning strong right. (Oregon's governor said we'll take them for which I am proud of her). Logic though is missing on votes like Kentucky's recent turn to a right winger for their governor. And if any of the Republicans get in the Presidency, and I mean any of them, it'll be worse and maybe worldwide with their big mouths on war with total ignorance (willfully so) of history. :( They know where they want their tax money to go, that that they are willing to pay, and it's for wars and war machinery not the poor.
All this worries me with grandchildren coming up into the world and what kind of world is it going to be? My granddaughter says they'll fix what we messed up. My generation thought that once too...