No. of Recommendations: 77
Studio flat near Dallas** $400/month.
Utilities $225/month (electricity, gas, water, cellphone)
Food $100 (rice and beans in bulk, 100 servings)
Bus pass $65/month
Clothing $100/month

Add it all up, this person has $290 left over each month. I'm sure I've left things out but play along. This is for academic discussion.


Well, it's easy to have an "academic discussion" and make up your own facts. I'm always amazed when people talk about "the poor" when they probably don't actually know too many people who are really poor in America. A lot of assumptions get made.

Yes, in a perfect world your figures aren't necessarily wrong. But it leaves out a lot of things. I think your rent estimate is low. I have a friend who lives in the cheapest apartment he could find in Fort Worth and his cost is $650/month. Trust me, it's NOT a nice place.

DART trains and buses don't run 24/7 and they don't in most towns. Lots of people who make low wages don't work regular hours. My brother, for example, who makes $10 an hour here in Memphis, works a shift where he goes in at 5 and works until the work is done, often ending at 1 or 2 in the morning. Even if there was good public transportation for him to take (there is not here) the buses don't run where he could take the bus to and from work.

He also works that shift because that frees up his time to take my mom, who can no longer drive, to doctor appointments, etc. and run needed errands for her. I appreciate all he does there.

Your scenario also leaves out things like paying deposits, etc. on apartments, utilities, etc. That can result in a significant up-front cost for people, and often because they have bad credit or poor credit, the costs are higher for them than they would be for you or me.

And I think it's great that you've factored in health insurance, and I don't think you're too far off on your cost for the insurance and the HSA contribution, judging from my brother's figures. However, your scenario doesn't take into account someone who gets sick and who doesn't have sick time at their work. My brother has been very fortunate in his current job in that they will hold his job for a few days if he can't come to work, but in other jobs, he hasn't been so lucky. And of course he doesn't get paid if he doesn't work even if he doesn't lose his job. So a week unpaid is $400, and even in your scenario, a week lost from work puts your guy late on his rent and utilities and/or no money for food. If he loses his job, he's really screwed.

I think you're pretty low on your food cost estimate. The CNPP's "thrifty food plan" figures $39/week for an adult male, or $170/month. Yes, I believe someone COULD do $100 week--I don't think it's impossible. But when you factor in other issues that people may face, like whether there's a grocery on the bus line, how much they can schlep on the bus or walking (makes it hard to buy in bulk and take advantage of discounts for larger packages, etc.), or whether their only option is the neighborhood bodega with a poor selection and jacked up food prices. It also ignores the fact that in some areas of the country, food is taxed (TN for example) but is not in TX.

Your example leaves out things like shampoo and soap and razor blades, etc. It also leaves out laundry cost, which is probably a coin operated machine, if our poor person is lucky enough to have on in his building. Yeah, it's easy to say that cost for these is negligible, but when you've got a budget that tight, you have to be concerned about every dime.

retirement is not some universal God given right. Not everyone will be able to quit working, just the facts. Retirement age is a relatively new social construct brought about by the very agency we are arguing about.

I don't disagree with you here. Except that even though it's not a god-given right, for a lot of people it's a need, or an inevitable outcome. People get sick. They become unable to work, or it becomes simply impossible for them to be hired. If a person has no skills other than their ability to lift heavy things, the chances of getting a job doing that at age 70 is pretty slim.

Me, I'm glad for social security. I gladly pay into it, and I don't begrudge those who will benefit more from it than I will. I am grateful for the opportunities I've had, and I have plenty in my life. I do realize that not everyone is so fortunate, and yes, for some it's the result of some bad decisions, for others it's not.

I don't want to live in a society where I'm stepping over an old, sick person on my way to the store, you know?
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