In spite of what we are repeatedly told, the recession is still with us. To see this, let us look at some information that may not be generally known. According to the Brookings Institution, income inequality is indeed high and rising in most places, with the Great Recession and its lackluster recovery exacerbating already-significant gaps between rich and poor households. In fact, this income inequality is higher today than before the Great Recession. Most metro areas experienced increasing income inequality because incomes near the bottom dropped substantially, while top incomes were stable or only declined modestly over this period. This inequality seems to impact poor households mostly through the housing market, by making rental housing less affordable relative to their incomes. Overall, in cities and metro areas where income inequality is greater, housing for lower-income households is less affordable.
Families have watched their incomes stagnate or fall as their housing costs have soared. Today, the majority of poor renting families spend more than half their income on housing, and millions of Americans are evicted every year. During the Depression, the number of poor families who faced eviction each year was a fraction of what it is today. These days, evictions are too commonplace to attract attention. If this is so, then why do we persist in calling our recent economic debacle a recession?
According to the New Yorker, 75% of families who qualify for public housing assistance do not receive it; waiting lists for rental assistance are long and have wait times of years, even decades. The government aid for housing doesn’t come close to meeting the need for these people.
How does this information make you feel – proud, dismayed, frightened, angry? Does this state of affairs seem compatible with a civilized society?
It seems to me that America has become a dysfunctional society. We no longer enact our stated values, and are moving inexorably closer to a totalitarian state. Economically, this is carried out as described above. We need to move toward an enlightened socialism where these sort of outrages are prevented. As it stands, we offer only a flimsy safety net that allows most people to fall through. Even worse, there are few structures in place that prevent these disasters in the first place. Is this how we expect to maintain our place in the global society? Is this the legacy we want to leave?
Since this is what has been given us, it is incumbent upon us to change it. We must begin now.
Copyright © 2016 Teresa Chupp. All rights reserved.