Tuesday, May 01, 2018

The Souls of Poor Folk

 "The Souls of Poor Folk," an audit of US poverty was produced by the Institute for Policy Studies along with the Kairos Center and Repairers of the Breach, a nonprofit.

The audit found that more than 40.6 million Americans subsist below the poverty line and nearly half of the country's population cannot afford a $400 emergency.

 It also found that many Americans -- particularly those who live in the South -- are targeted by public policies that deprive them of political power and basic human rights.

For instance, 25 states -- including every Southern state except for Virginia and West Virginia -- have passed laws that preempt cities from raising the local minimum wage despite the audit's finding that in 2016 there was no state where an individual earning the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour could afford a two-bedroom apartment at market rent. In addition, every single Southern state has right-to-work laws in place that limit workers' ability to collectively bargain for higher pay.

In the 2016 election 14 states had new voting restrictions in place for the first time. Nearly half of these states were in the South: Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. In four Southern states -- Florida, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee -- onerous felon disenfranchisement laws deprive one in five Black adults of the right to vote.

There are 18 states that have refused to expand Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act, and a disproportionate number of these are in the South: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Nationwide, 2.4 million people earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid but are too poor to afford insurance in the marketplace, and 89 percent of those who fall in this coverage gap reside in the South. The refusal to expand Medicaid is a factor in the rural hospital closures that have hit the South hard in recent years.

As the audit documents, more than 250,000 Americans die senseless deaths every year simply because they are poor.

Exposure to environmental toxins further exacerbates the health problems of the poor and people of color. In the historically Black community of West Port Arthur, Texas, for instance, residents live so close to oil refineries that the cancer rate there is 15 percent higher and the death rate 40 percent higher than the statewide average. And in Lowndes County, Alabama, an estimated 80 percent of residents do not have access to a public sewage system, which has led to widespread dumping and the reapparance of hookworm, a parasitic infection that had been largely eradicated in the United States.

Taken from here

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