Poverty among plenty -- and it's getting worse

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Check out the news this week:

The Associate Press reports that there are increasing numbers of homeless and poor people in Silicon Valley. The piece almost sounds like something I would write:

Simply put, while the ultra-rich are getting even richer, record numbers of Silicon Valley residents are slipping into poverty. "In the midst of a national economic recovery led by Silicon Valley's resurgence, as measured by corporate profits and record stock prices, something strange is going on in the Valley itself. Most people are getting poorer," said Cindy Chavez, executive director of San Jose-based Working Partnerships USA, a nonprofit advocating for affordable housing, higher minimum wages and access to health care.

That will come as no surprise to people who lived through the last tech boom in San Francisco and are struggling to live through this one. Great wealth does not trickle down around here; it sucks up housing, drives up costs, and creates homelessness and poverty for the most vulnerable:

The causes for the growing disparity are complex, but largely come down to one thing: a very high cost of living. The median home price is $550,000, and rents average just under $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in this region that is home to many of the nation's wealthiest companies including Facebook, Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Google. For a family of four, just covering basic needs like rent, food, childcare and transportation comes to almost $90,000 a year, according to the nonprofit Insight Center for Community Economic Development. "The fact is that we have an economy now that's working well only for those at the very top," said Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. "Unless we adopt a new approach to economic policy, we're going to continue going down this path, which means growth that does not really benefit the great majority of people in this country."

Meanwhile, there’s a new study out, using a new approach to economic data, that shows that almost a quarter of all California residents live below the poverty line. The raw data, which is a bit thick, is here. There’s a state Senate report on it here. Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF) held a hearing on the data -- but uncovering the facts, while valuable, isn’t going to get anyone off the streets. And I don't understand why this isn't on the front page of every major newspaper in the state.

Before my trolls tell me that I hate the rich, let me repeat: I don’t hate anybody and I don’t blame rich people for what this country has created. That’s the fault of the policymakers who, since Ronald Reagan too office in 1981, have allowed the United States to embrace increasing social inequality.

Great wealth can make a country, well, wealthy. But if it’s allowed to stick entirely to the top, then if can do more harm than good.

And the reality is that, particularly in the South and the West, tax policy is designed to help the wealthy at the expense of the poor:

The fact is, the more the poor are taxed, the worse off they are, whether they are working or not. We all pay a huge price for this shortsightedness. Medicaid payments, food stamps, disability benefits — all of these federal programs swoop in to try to patch up a frayed safety net.

In other words, it’s not the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith causing the poverty in California. It’s not laziness that causes poor people to live on the streets. And it’s not just happening in San Francisco.

Now, some of the people who like to comment on this blog suggest that poor people just move somewhere else, that it’s too expensive to live in San Francisco and that’s just the way it is.

That's a bit of a harsh approach, and undermines the entire idea of a city as a community, where people of different income levels can live. But it’s also impractical; one of the reasons people come here, besides the weather and the scintillating level of intellectual dialogue (present company excluded) is that there are jobs here. Oh, and most poor people can' t just pack up, hire a moving van, relocate to another city, pay first and last month's rent, and live on savings until they find a new job.

There was a time when the federal government taxed great wealth, and used the money to invest in cities, building (and subsidizing) housing and infrasructure and funding jobs programs. Much of that is now gone; revenue sharing is a ghost of the past, eliminated in the Reagan era.

So now we have almost a parody of American economic news: The New York Times reports that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is setting new records, and on the same page notes that the numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty are also setting records.

This is by far the biggest issue, the most serious crisis, facing the country, and (unlike wealth) it trickles down to every level of government. And it seems as if nobody is paying attention.

Comments

necessarily have to mean hundreds or thousands of miles away. Your article focused on Silicon Valley and of course, as the biggest driver of modern American economic success, that is bound to be an expensive place to live, in much the same way as certain parts of other wealthy cities like LA, NYC and London.

But just because those places have wealthy area's is not a big problem. Wealthy people consume a lot of minimum-wage services, and so successful neighborhoods always have many poorer people close by.

But they don't have to live in Beverly Hills, the upper east side, belgravia or pacific heights. They live in the Valley, Queens, the east end and Oakland.

So if you cannot afford the rent in Mountain View, there are places not so far away that are more affordable, like most of the east bay. SF workers can choose Oakland or Daly City to live in.

Your problem, Tim, is that you think only in terms of SF, when the real city is all around you, extending for 50 miles north, east and south, and there are plenty of cheaper options. Not everyone has to live in the expensive area's.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 10:42 am

Oakland rents have seen big increases over the past 4 years. Read on...

"Matt and Jennifer Renner are moving back to the Bay Area after a few years living in Brooklyn and Boulder, Colo. They're seeking a two-bedroom in Oakland for about $1,900, Despite both having stable employment, good credit and excellent references, the pickings are slim.

"'In the four years we've been gone, it's staggering how much the rents have gone up,' Matt Renner said. 'We considered looking at San Francisco, but the rental market there was crazy, comparable to Manhattan.'"

Big increases in 4 years

"In 2008 when they were last here, it was a different story, he said. 'I was in a three-bedroom, really nice house in the Lower Haight for $3,000 a month,' Renner said. 'My wife had a nice one-bedroom in a safe neighborhood in Oakland for $875 a month. Now that's almost doubled.'"

http://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/Rents-rise-in-S-F-Oakland-San-J...

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

matters where you are in Oakland.

If you want to live in Piedmont, Rockridge or the "Hills" then, sure, it's pricey. Quality always is.

But there are parts of west and east Oakland where there are many abandoned homes that you can buy for 100K. How much could they rent for? Probably less than $1000 per month.

It's the "San Francisco entitlement syndrome" all over again. People whine that rents are too high in Pacific Heights, but they never look in Bayview or Exclesior, where they are much cheaper.

If you're flexible, there are affordable homes. If you're picky, make sure you are entitled to be so.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

So the poor get drive-by shootings while you look down on them from Pacific Heights. I'd say the sense of entitlement is all yours.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 1:35 pm

It's not exactly rocket science.

That's why some of us study hard and work hard - because we want to live in Pacific Heights and not in West Oakland.

But no, you think instead that the government should allocate homes regardless of means to pay, right? You feel "entitled" to live in Pacific Heights on an Oakland budget.

Why?

Posted by anon on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

Lots of people study hard and can't afford to live here. I went to UC Berkeley, graduated at the top of my class and I'm fairly middle class. Yet, I couldn't even dream of living in SF. What is it about making more more money makes you feel that you're more entitled to live here than anyone else? That's the real question. You reek of entitlement.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

If you cannot afford SF then live elsewhere. Why is that a problem.

I cannot afford to drive a Bentley, so I do without - I do not whine about it.

Posted by anon on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 3:15 pm

you really don't get it. the wealthy have rigged the system in their favor. they have shifted taxes that would have gone to support colleges and universities and a first-rate education for everybody to themselves. corporations millionaires and billionaires in this country take money out of your pocket and my pocket for themselves. money that should have gone to fix infrastructure educate everyone else has found its way into their offshore bank accounts. eventually even those few that make a decent wage in this country will find themselves just as poor as the rest of us. additionally I'm insulted by the continued assertion buy those at the top that the people who actually do the work don't deserve a decent place to live, a fair wage and affordable health care. everyone deserves to have a decent life not just a lucky few.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

is wrong with your life is so obviously the fault of everyone except for you.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 6:17 pm

Except that the paper trail is evident and shows campaign contributions to change the economic and financial rules to favor contributors who see an increase an profit some of which gets plowed back into buying politicians which leads to yet more favorable treatment...ad nauseum.

Posted by anon on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 6:27 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

Are you suggesting that the financial sector did not vigorously lobby over the past several decades of deregulation for the passage of Gramm Leach Bliley, the CFMA and for tax breaks for the upper incomes and keeping capital gains taxes at their lower level both by traditional lobbyists as well as by funding campaigns?

Posted by anon on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 6:56 pm

markets way exceeds your feeble and biased grasp on the economy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

Ahhhhhhhh, the good old collective wisdom of the markets approach. The SAME collective wisdom that nearly destroyed our economy is 2008 and then had to run like welfare recipients themselves to the US taxpayer and the gov to bail them out from the wonderful results of their "collective wisdom.". Hahahahahahahaha

It is funny how whenever their "collective wisdom" which you imagine in your myopic view results in profits they keep all those profits to themselves. But whenever that same collective wisdom results in disaster, then they suddently want Joe Average US Taxpayer to "share" in their massive losses. Funny how that works isn't it Myopic Anon? LOL

Posted by Guest on Jul. 13, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

Poverty among plenty -- and it's getting worse
Thank you for this article.

Posted by Carissa on Sep. 22, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

Actually it is a right wing conspiracy. It's a conspiracy of greed. The rich in this country believe they're entitled to everything and everyone else is a lazy slob. The sad part of all this is that it has happened many times before. It happened in Venice, Rome and in almost every culture that has collapsed the Rich rigged the system in their favor. For a while it will work. Then the society collapsed. The same thing might not happen here if we get another wave of reform. If not I would not want to be among the rich.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

Actually it is a right wing conspiracy. It's a conspiracy of greed. The rich in this country believe they're entitled to everything and everyone else is a lazy slob. The sad part of all this is that it has happened many times before. It happened in Venice, Rome and in almost every culture that has collapsed the Rich rigged the system in their favor. For a while it will work. Then the society collapsed. The same thing might not happen here if we get another wave of reform. If not I would not want to be among the rich.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

many of the rich seem to be unaware that they are aggressively stoking the fires of a modern day Bastille Day

Posted by racer x on Sep. 19, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

Don't bother to speak the truth, the American Government has been bought by the rich, it has NOTHING to do with the underprivaliged being lazy. Furthermore, they allready know ALL of this, and don't care. The rich people who post from their walled comunities will only care if it effects THEM, that's human nature/stupidity.

Posted by GuestJones on Jul. 16, 2013 @ 9:04 pm

we elect governments that encourage and reward success.

Must be an America thing huh?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

in the system where you can vote for one of two parties which are exactly the same voting doesn't make sense. Obama's record on most issues is exactly like Bush's and yet I recall so many were jubilant, that message of change and hope...

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 11:21 pm

its kind of funny that you mention that because the encouragement and rewarding of success is mainly given to the mega-monopolies through corporate welfare via the infusion of tax payer money. on top of that they have a nice tax system for them selves 0% payment deferred indefinitely. from what i understand the free market doesn't hook up mega-monopolies as the FREE market, if you have to subsidize companies then their product probably isn't as good as a competitors. either in terms of quality of price or both.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

i agree with guest jones im underprivaledged poor and do not go along to get along putting me at disadvantage. i see corruption everywhere and the real truth is enough to get you killed at worst but puts you at odds with the working society we live.. this has everything to do with underground world that the worlds societies are built around.. these expose's of truth online most are only so far.. needs to be exposed more.. its hard.. i think it will only be better when on the other side.. i dont believe in the heaven hell christian thing now but alegorous of what we do with what we have here when there will be a continuation..

Posted by Guestj on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 10:20 am

some conspiracy theory to rationalize away their failure.

Those who succeed know the truth - the rewards go to those who are smart and who work hard. Nobody gives you anything on a plate.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 05, 2013 @ 10:41 am

Watch Bill Moyers' Two American Families, a story of two families in Milwaukee who work hard, are laid off from job after job, and end up having JP Morgan foreclose on their houses. These people did nothing wrong, the adult male of one of the households is working whatever job he can at the age of SIXTY hauling garbage.

Stop blaming the victim, you cruel American. The world is horrified by you.

Posted by Vol Tear on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

and or do like me, live on your budget, cut corners where you can:
it has always been like this until 2011, when everyone and anyone
can get freebies, medicaid, even illegals. so the rich pay for the
people who can't or won't work and make it in america.
i hate communism/socialist they want power, one group support
another group........I believe in working and making it on your own.

Posted by Guest on Oct. 27, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by glkjdfkl on Oct. 27, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

this is simply a barricade against trolls

it is a signpost to indicate to the reader that other anonymous posters on this thread are beginning to purposely diminish the conversation into repetitive reactionary hyperbole, and/or petty, mean spirited personal attacks and irrelevant bickering

the barrier is put in place to signal that there is probably little point in reading more replies in the thread past this point

proceed at your own risk

Posted by glkjdfkl on Oct. 27, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

That's an idea that only progressives like Tim claim, i.e. that it shouldn't matter if you are broke and unemployed, you still have a "right" or "entitlement" to live in Pacific Heights or Los Altos or Beverly Hills.

It is obvious, evident nonsense.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

Noone should have a right to live in Pacific Heights. Everyone should live in the same manner. Regardless of income. No rich. No poor. It is called Communism. We don't have to accept Capitalism. Capitalism is theft. People think they earned the right to exploit others; because they worked hard.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

You don't have to be a communist to believe in more equality and opportunity for all. You just have to be a compassionate human being.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 10:59 am

You should care whether you have enough, but not whether somebody else has more than you.

Sadly the left cannot resists dredging up comparisons with others as a susbstitute, as the left loves it's class warfare games. And to play those, one needs a bad guy, so let's pick on the successful for that role.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:16 am

Exactly that.

The One Percenters don't even *need* to engage in organized class warfare to excersize their rapist-like depredations upon the rest: their great wealth translates to great power, which even when excercised on an individual basis forms a potent and inexorable tool that can only be overcome by concerted "class struggle" in the form of a democratically controlled government; public action.

That the Power Elites don't *need* organized class warfare does not mean they don't engage in it; as they obviously do through the thoroughly corrupt campaign finance system, which serves them as they take greater control over the government which represents the the one part of society which might provide a check on their power.

When French peasants watched their erstwhile royals being carted of in tumbrils, it wasn't "envy" which they felt.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:31 am

You are poorer than in other counties poor you, give those people who are poor in other countries same chances you have and lets see how they will complain not only wont complain but will rise as Chinese and Indians have done. Oh wait its ot suppose to be who is poor is suppose to be our poor. Outdated assholes who think are entitled. Fuck you

Posted by Guesttt on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 6:08 am

What the GOP always forgets to mention is that through supply side economics as well "starve the beast" philosophy that has been practiced by all republican administrations since Reagan have fatally brought this country to it's knees. Tax cuts for the wealthy have never benefited anyone but the top. Corporate vultures who babble about how great capitalism is while they ship all of our jobs overseas truly know how to milk the system. Bain is a perfect example. After the GOP has raped America for all that it is worth, now that we are in such severe debt. Don't blame the capitalist who got us here. Blame the poor, the takers, cut food stamps, vilify social security, vilify government itself. The vanity of the right never ceases to amaze me. The GOP caused the housing bubble through deregulation, then bailed out the banks with taxpayer dollars. It's all so incredibly corrupt and yet you have people on the right still blaming the poor. Why? Because it's an easy out. The poor really have no say! Does anyone on the right know what it's like to try and feed your family on $200.00 a month.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 06, 2013 @ 8:34 am

The problem is that the 1% parasites have latched onto government and are sucking it dry. The more money we pay in taxes, the more that the parasites are sucking leaving less and less to provide services. We've got to starve the beast not to drown it in the bathtub, rather with intent to cause the 1% parasites to fall off and die.

Posted by anon on Jul. 06, 2013 @ 8:50 am

Note the pathetic grammer of this dead weight parasite, this is where America's money is horded and kept.

Posted by GuestJones on Jul. 16, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

notice how he didn't use abuse, but you did.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 16, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

'grammAr' with "A" :)

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 11:28 pm

The USA has always devoured and profited by using ambitious persons from other Countries who might be willing to do almost anything to improve their circumstances and gain a better life. If an individual comes from an abusive and/or impoverished Nation, I sense they see Americans as having a sense of 'entitlement'. 'Entitlement' is an over-used cliche & incorrect. It would be foolish and weak to for Americans to meekly accept degradation and erosion of our quality of life. The USA is still the most affluent Nation on this planet. There is no reason for American Citizens to regress. Although middle and lower income Americans continue to struggle, the USA remains very wealthy. There are ample financial resources in the USA; American citizens should be able to live & work without struggling for the BASICS: food, civilized shelter, health care & access to education. The USA should pay attention to successful Northern European Nations (e.g., Denmark, Germany, Sweden) who value & focus on the well-being of their own Nations and Citizens.

When you disparage Americans, you display ignorance. It's wonderful to be bright and motivated; it's foolish to retain a '3rd world' perspective. Smart & hard working people can can earn a great deal of money in this Country. However, no sum of money can eliminate internalized anger & hostility. If you prefer to have the perspective that deprivation is normal & acceptable, why bother living here?

Posted by Guestagain on Feb. 18, 2014 @ 7:52 pm

You are poorer than in other counties poor you, give those people who are poor in other countries same chances you have and lets see how they will complain not only wont complain but will rise as Chinese and Indians have done. Oh wait its ot suppose to be who is poor is suppose to be our poor. Outdated egoisitical assholes who think are entitled all their life . Fk you

Posted by Guesttt on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 6:11 am

have more. But sadly the left disregard the fact that the poor in the US would be wealthy in many other places, and focus instead only on those who have more as if the successful have committed some moral crime.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 8:39 am

The wealthy have what they have because they steal it from the poor. It is the wealthy who are so jealous of the pittances that the many poor have that they scheme to elaborate lengths to take it from them, perpetuating the "us against them" dynamic.

Posted by anon on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 9:37 am

Did Steve Jobs steal money from you just because he made something that you wanted to buy? Of course not.

Did he steal money from you by providing you or your neighbors with a well-paid job?

Did he steal from you when he provided you with an investment opportunity - Apple stock - which has created many millionaires?

No.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2013 @ 11:23 am

Jobs had a great idea and implemented it, never went to college so his ability to think of what people need and how to get it to them was never impeded by a teacher telling him to "sit down and shut up" mind you like most of these "millionaires" and "billionaires" who also never went to school.
Jobs also didn't take anything away in terms of a real job, that's apple's mission to send thousands if not millions of jobs overseas.
how many people make enough money to play with the market and still FEEL like they have a safe enough allowance to live on? because if you don't FEEL safe with what you have you cant gamble it away or make trillions like these people.
that last question was rhetorical here is some stats from 2010 to help see the picture. of the top 1%, 94% of them own stocks that are more than or equal to $10,000. of the bottom 20% of society, 79% own 0 stocks at all. this info is credited to http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html. its a nice long article that makes you read and think and look at trends. fun stuff if i wasn't afraid the NSA would be recording me. if people want the TRUTH look up JOHN TAYLOR GOTTE

Posted by anima on Oct. 23, 2013 @ 11:35 pm

Steve jobs is dead. He left behind 100 billion dollars. With all his money he could not buy one second more of life. He was very young when he died.. Point being if he could come back what would he change...

Posted by Guest on Feb. 10, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

Can I just say what a comfort to find a person that truly understands what they're talking about online. You definitely realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people ought to look at this and understand this side of your story. It's surprising you are not
more popular because you most certainly possess the gift.

Posted by GSA on Sep. 09, 2013 @ 1:12 am

You're trippin'. Up until last month I was living comfortably in SF for $26,000 a year.

My idea of "comfortable" is probably different from yours, but that is definitely your problem. If you have a college degree from a name-brand school and you seriously can't "dream" of living here, dream harder.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 4:58 am

We should remember that the next time we have to decide how much city workers should be paid with our money.

Posted by anon on Mar. 13, 2013 @ 5:53 am