I have a relative living in the United States, and I’m afraid she is going to fall through the cracks in the economic system there.
What I mean is that she is 79, renting a small apartment, has six grown kids who either won’t or don’t feel able to support her, and in about a year, she will run out of her meagre savings.
She is working casually in a fast-food business, earning a bit over a hundred dollars a week, with tax taken out. She does get social security to the tune of around $600/month – but it’s way short of what it takes to live a dignified life.
She won’t be eligible for welfare support until her savings are gone. Then, if she works more hours, she’ll be liable for more in taxes and, as a result, possibly lose her welfare.
In any case, government aid only covers 30% of her rent, and she will have to make up the difference somehow. How? By working and paying more taxes. And, unfortunately, there’s a two-year wait for housing.
There are medical problems. She had back surgery a year and a half ago and can’t handle hard physical work. There are migraines and panic attacks.
She might just be the face of poverty in old age in the U.S. One study says that one in four seniors live in poverty in the U.S., according to international measures. I certainly wouldn’t want to live there as a poor, ageing person.
Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want to be impoverished and living anywhere in the world.
Sitting here at my big mac computer and looking out at our green acreage on a perfect balmy evening, I realise I’m in a bubble. It could be so easy to forget about my relative or the one billion children living in poverty on the planet, but it feels like they’re right here in this moment.
I’m present to how much inequality there is in the world, and I feel powerless and sad.