Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How about you economists do some fucking math instead

This post almost, almost manages to get past classism and fat hate, but you know us poor people gotta have our ice cream to soothe the pain of poverty.

Big idea assholes- do some math.

Let's take a family of 4 at the top of the poverty threshold with an annual income of $22,000 or about $1833 per month gross income. Let's say they live in a 2 bedroom apartment with a rent below national average at $800 per month plus utilities. They have 2 kids who share a bedroom. One kid is in daycare and the other goes to an after school program while both parents are working. The kids are covered under SCHIP, but the parents either don't get or can't afford healthcare for themselves offered through work. They get paid twice a month on the 1st & 15th. They pay $113 per month in payroll taxes, which leaves them $1720 net or $860 per paycheck.

The first of the month rolls around. They pay all but $60 of their paychecks to cover rent and have to manage that $60 for groceries for the next 2 weeks. That's $1.07 per day per person for food. The kids eat 2 meals a day during the week at school, but dinners and weekends are tough. The USDA calculates that a thrifty grocery budget for a family of 4 for a week to be somewhere between $130 and $160. They have less than half of that to spend for twice as long. They eat whatever cheap, high calorie foods they can find, but will still need to rely on a food pantry. This is a famine period and their metabolisms will slow down because they simply cannot get enough calories for their metabolisms to function normally.

The 15th rolls - hurray!But first they have to pay for all the things they didn't pay for on the first. There's daycare for 2 kids, with a lowball estimate $600 a month (I paid $1000 per month for the Kid in Seattle, and $400 a month in Atlanta with a scholarship 10 years ago), plus utilities, transportation, clothes (kids grow). All that plus groceries has to come out of the remaining $260. This is when poor people start doing the bill paying shuffle, pay a little, promise more later (all while knowing you don't have more to give them later) and fend off utter ruin as long as possible.

At this point our little family has been hungry for 2 weeks, so they probably splurge and have a few days of real meals. And then it's back to hungry, because even if they spent all of that $260 on food they would still be at the bottom of the USDA guidelines for a poverty food budget.

But those couple of days are going to be grand. Fatty meats, desserts,fruit just because, starchy mashed potatoes. Their metabolisms are already in slow mode, so any extra calories they consume at this point will be stored by their bodies as fat, because by the 20th they are going to be back on a starvation diet. It's the poor person version of bulemia. But there isn't enough money anywhere in their budget to pay for housing and food and the cost of working (childcare and transportation).

So most of the month lunch is a candy bar and a coke (or 800 or so calories in fat and sugar for under 2 bucks) and dinner is hamburger helper and a can of green beans( a little more than 5 bucks to feed 4 people and about 400 calories per person).

That is why poverty and obesity go together. It's not because twinkies are the prozac of the lower classes, but because our Darwin approved bodies recognize starvation and fight to hold onto every possible calorie. It's the thrifty fucking gene in action, and a wee bit of math would have shown that out.

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