When the House last week passed the Republican version of a federal government budget, I emailed a friend at the United Way of Northern New Jersey that said, “ALICE got mugged.”
Who is ALICE?
It’s the acronym of a 2008 study sponsored by the United Way that examined the 25 percent of the Morris County, NJ population who earns between $20,000 to $60,000. It stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.” The working poor.
The United Way brought together a team of really smart statisticians who took the spin off the issue and in hard numbers showed how hard it is to survive on such limited income.
And let’s set something straight: $60,000 is not a huge income unless you are a single 25-year-old.
This is not the 1950s. You can’t get a new car for $2,000, or a suburban house for $12,000, Gasoline is not 23 cents a gallon.
An annual income of $60,000 qualifies you in most New Jersey counties for an affordable home. In Morris County it is a less than one half of the median family income of $114,000, according to the 2009 Census update.
An income of $20,000 annually is $384 a week. In Morris County you have to work almost three full weeks at that rate to make the average rent of about $1,100.
But the GOP’s federal budget targets program that help these folks get by. It goes after Medicare and Medicaid which helps seniors and the disabled pay medical bills at the time, especially for seniors, when the most expensive medical costs are going to strike.
This is called balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.
And there aren’t enough of them. Even if they cut all the benefits for this group from the federal budget that would not trim the federal debt a whit.
In Morris County 2 percent of the population have earnings below the federal poverty level, about $21,000. That’s fewer than 10,000 people.
Let’s see them squeeze $14 trillion from that group.
Of course the group that has the money — the oil companies, utility companies, computer companies and the banks — won’t let their GOP buddies raise their taxes. So they go after the poor.
And as an aside, if you haven’t read “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis, do it now. It’ll make you realize that our financial system is being run by the equivalent of 13-year-olds stoked on Doritos and Monster playing an endless game of Gears of War with your money.
The problem with the whole cut spending-raise taxes issue is that debate is really right next to the real issue.
Reform is the real issue, but reform is hard because it doesn’t generate airtime on CNN or FOX and it forces know-it-all-one-issue rookie Congressmen to consider compromise and long range planning.
And of course defense spending is off the table.
But our European forces are ready should an Austrian Arch Duke get assassinated by some Serbian nationalist and World War I breaks out again. And Kansas and Nebraska are so safe that no foreign powers have tried an attack there.
Along the East Coast over the last 20 years air bases have been shut down in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and they’re going to shut down Fort Monmouth.
We aren’t any less safe because of those cutbacks because new technologies have replaced the old ones.
But this, too, is an old argument.
Defense is a jobs program. No Congressman worth their franking privilege is ever going to tell the folks back home that they favor closing the local military base.
So how about this: Offer to trade the base for a long-term economic development plan that promoted local businesses, addresses environmental issues and finds new technologies?
Picatinny Arsenal has a public-private partnership that promotes such activities and has had some success. Are there no local business or environmental problems that need solving in Kansas?
We need new thinking before it’s too late.
We need new thinking before they pull the rug out from under ALICE and she ends up living on the street with her kids.