Rico Saccoccio is a junior at Fordham University in the Bronx. He's from a middle-class family in Connecticut and he spent the summer living at home with his parents, who cover about $15,000 a year in his college costs. ...
...There's broad agreement that the way the U.S. measures poverty has some fundamental flaws — a topic that's likely to come up next month, when the new poverty numbers are released. Here are three key problems, as explained to me by Christopher Wimer, a researcher at Columbia.
1. It doesn't account for geographic differences. The poverty line is the same, no matter where you live — whether it's in New York City or rural South Dakota.
2. It's based on a 50-year-old formula that assumes Americans spend about a third of their income on food. But, after adjusting for inflation, the price of food has fallen significantly in the past 50 years. Today, people spend only about a sixth of their income on food. But they spend a bigger chunk of their income on other items, like child care and medical expenses.
3. It doesn't consider the value of of government benefits, such as food stamps and tax credits. ...
... But raising the minimum wage may not be a policy idea deserving of the passion it generates. It’s not a well-targeted, poverty-fighting weapon. Only 3% of workers age 25 and over earn the minimum wage or less. About half of all minimum wage (or less) workers are age 24 or younger, many of whom presumably live at home with their parents. The 2010 study “Will a $9.50 Federal Minimum Wage Really Help the Working Poor?” by researchers Joseph Sabia and Richard Burkhauser found that a federal minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $9.50 per hour — higher than the $9 that President Obama has proposed — would raise incomes of only 11% of workers who live in poor households.
In a 2012 study, Sabia and Robert Nielsen found ”no statistically significant evidence that a higher minimum wage has helped reduce financial, housing, health, or food insecurity among the poor.” Why? You have to earn a wage to benefit and 55% of poor, less-educated individuals between ages 16 and 64 don’t work. Indeed, nearly 90% of the wage earners who benefited from the 40% increase in the federal minimum wage between 2007 and 2009 were not poor. They lived in households with an income two or three times the poverty level. ...
3. Debunking Myths About Who Pays No Federal Income Tax
Baby boomers may have no one to care for them in their old age.
Shifting demographics mean that aging boomers will have fewer friends and family members to take care of them as they get into their 80s, according to a new study by AARP.
In other words, even though you may be supporting your own elderly parents, the chances of someone being there for you are numerically diminished.
The ratio of potential caregivers to boomers needing care will sink from 7.2 to 1 in 2010 to 2.9 to 1 by 2050, according to the study. ...
6. World population map at Gizmodo.
8 hour sleeping is a modern invention.
Imagine you are a denizen of the 18th century. It’s just past 8:30 P.M., you’ve got your night-cap on. You blow out your candles and fall asleep to the smell of the wax and the wick, which gently fills the air around your bed. Some hours pass. 2:30 AM. You awaken, grab your coat, and visit the neighbors because they, too, are up. Doing quiet reading, prayer, or even having sex. Well, apparently before the age of electricity, sleeping twice a night was completely ubiquitous.
Back in those times, we slept twice a night, getting up for an hour or two for recreation before heading back to bed until dawn. ...
... Most opponents of GMOs don’t seem to have a problem eagerly loading up their shopping carts with all kinds of exotic stuff from the health supplement aisle in the local supermarket. How many Whole Foods (and Whole Foods is just an example here, and probably one of the more benign ones) store assistants – many of whom are far from being trained in nutrition or pharmacology – have convinced these people that feelbetteramine is right for their gout, or for their insomnia, or for the “cognitive deficit” that they feel everyday at work? What kind of evidence of long-term safety exists for feelbetteramine that allows these GMO opponents to embrace the wondrous effects of this non FDA-approved concoction with alacrity? And proponents of health supplements are often big on anecdotal evidence; why don’t they, at the very least, admit anecdotal evidence about the benefits of GMOs (especially when the evidence is concrete, as in case of VAD) into their belief system?
To me there clearly seems to be a discrepancy between the reflexive rejection of untested GMOs by the anti-GMO crowd and their rapid embrace of the equally or more untested latest health supplement. All things being equal, as a scientist I at least know what the express purpose of Golden Rice is, compared to the hazy reports on salutary effects of feelbetteramine. So it seems to me that if I am really against GMOs because they are insufficiently tested, I need to mostly steer clear of the health supplement aisle. And did I mention that feelbetteramine can also set your love life on the path to glorious bliss?
Michael Golay, a nuclear engineering professor at M.I.T., has noted that many new technologies are initially slow to receive public acceptance, such as railroads and cars, in part because of fear of the unknown. But also, early versions sometimes have serious safety issues. The first trains, with wood burning locomotives, showered sparks on passengers and the countryside, for instance. As the public becomes accustomed to them and the designs improve, they become accepted as part of every day life.
This is clearly the case with nuclear power, which in the 1970s faced massive public resistance in Europe and the U.S., with huge demonstrations opposing its use and lengthy legal delays that ran construction costs skyward. The accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl clearly made the public wary in most, though not all, countries.
But it would seem that the public, over the long term, is capable of understanding and then accepting even complex systems. Predictions of massive increases in cancer rates from nuclear power failed to come true, and Three Mile Island became a tourist attraction. Combined with rising concerns about global warming and better reactor designs, expectations of a ‘nuclear revival’ became prominent in the U.S. ...