Downward Economics

September 22, 2015

surreal-fog-jan-maklakThick, misty-fog this morning, but now well into Tuesday afternoon, faded sunshine is attempting to cut through the gloom, but seemingly having a hard time of it.
Part-n-parcel this time of year for the shoreline, yet still sucks.

An old guy now retired and surviving upon Social Security (formal name: Old Age Survivors Disability Insurance), I’m part-n-parcel of an expanding ‘hidden poor.’

(Illustration: ‘Surreal Fog,’ by Jan Maklak, found here).

Earlier this month, a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, discovered that more than 770,000 people over age 65 in California live in the gap between the federal poverty level, and the ability to afford a “decent standard of living.”
Apparently I live in that ‘gap,’ too.
Terrible stats via the Sacramento Bee: ‘By the official measure, 335,000 Californians over 65 are living in poverty, but by the alternate calculation, it is 1.1 million.’

Up here it’s seemingly the same — from our local Times-Standard:

“Many of our older adults are forced to choose between eating, taking their medications or paying rent,” said D. Imelda Padilla-Frausto, a UCLA graduate student researcher at the center and lead author of the study.
“The state might be emerging from a recession, but for many of our elder households, the downturn seems permanent.”
According to the study, about 772,000 elderly adults in California who are heads of households belong to this group of hidden poor, which is more than double the number of elderly (342,000) who meet federal poverty level guidelines.
Unlike the “official” poor, the hidden poor often do not qualify for public assistance.
In Humboldt County, 15.5 percent of single head of household elders are below the federal poverty level and another 32.4 percent are above the federal poverty level but below the county’s Elder Index.
Only 2.3 percent of older couple head of households in Humboldt County are below the federal poverty level — the second-lowest total in the state to Marin County’s 2.1 percent — but an additional 32.6 percent are among the hidden poor.
“At first glance, you might think your area is doing better with regard to the poverty level, but no. There are many elders in Humboldt who are struggling,” Padilla-Frausto said in a phone interview.

And it’s just not us old-timers, but even the entire US middle-class as a whole — the data doesn’t reveal the reality, at least in contrast to information from the US Census Bureau.
From the New York Times last Wednesday:

The median American household in 2014 had a lower income, in inflation-adjusted terms, than it did in 2013.
The $53,657 the household in the middle of the income distribution earned last year was down 1.5 percent from the year before, though the census said that shift was not statistically significant.
But even if that drop is a statistical blip and you assume that middle-class incomes were really flat, flat isn’t anything to celebrate in the current environment.
The 2014 real median income number is 6.5 percent below its 2007, pre-crisis level.
It is 7.2 percent below the number in 1999.

Old age and the middle class — downward economics…

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