Saturday, September 14, 2019

The Pain being Poor in the USA

The rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. CEO pay keeps rising while workers’ paychecks have been all but flat for decades. As a result, income inequality now rivals that of the robber baron days of the early 1900s, when labor unions were virtually outlawed while corporate monopolies thrived.

The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found in a study released on September 9 that poor people live shorter lives than rich people. This is preventable.
The GAO  tracked a group of people who were in their 50s in 1992—and found that that the wealthier members of the group were much more likely than the poorer ones to be alive in 2014. 
The early death effect of poverty plays out in whole neighborhoods and towns. Take the coal community of McDowell County, West Virginia, where the poverty rate is nearly 32 percent. As of 2016, a man’s life expectancy there was 63.9 years, the lowest among U.S. counties.
Many on Social Security scrape by in retirement. The poorest people in the group don’t own homes or even cars. They have only what social insurance programs provided.
By organizing themselves into unions, workers can buy themselves more time on earth. That’s because median weekly earnings of union workers are about 22 percent higher than those of nonunion workers—$1,051 compared to $860. Organized labor also fights to get workers better health insurance and retirement benefits. Unions work to make workplaces safer and to hold companies responsible for unsafe conditions so workers don’t die on the job.

Unions lift people out of poverty and narrow income inequality. They help to close racial- and gender-based pay gaps. People with decent incomes and benefits are better able to access health care, afford healthy food and enjoy comfortable retirements.
The opposite also is true. The lower rate of unionism in recent years has allowed income inequality to grow, and that has led, as the GAO study shows, to disparities in life expectancy
As right-wingers legislated away union rights over the past four decades, the power of unions declined, and wages are roughly the same now as 20 years ago. That’s two decades of stagnation. For workers, not CEOs. Since 1978, CEO pay packages have risen nearly 940 percent.
Eight executives at Philadelphia Energy Solutions illustrate how the rich look out for themselves while stiffing everyone else. Together, those executives received almost $4.6 million in retention bonuses on the heels of the June 21 explosion and fire that shut down the refinery, pushed the company into bankruptcy and put about 1,000 employees—many of them members of United Steelworkers Local 10-1—on the street without pay or health insurance. The employees were the ones who risked their lives the day of the disaster by taking quick action to prevent the release of lethal hydrofluoric acid, saving untold lives inside the plant and across Philadelphia. The executives who ran the plant—and were ultimately responsible for the fire and explosion—got a big payoff. The workers got pink slips.
Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy longevity. Even the Grim Reaper favors the rich.

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