More than 40% of US households can't afford household basics
According to a new study by the United Way, 43% of U.S. households can't afford basics like housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, and a cell phone.
The political implications are profound – or they would be if the Democrats were to pause long enough in their Trump-bashing to highlight economic insecurity as a campaign issue. But since the Democrats are apparently too stupid to stop their demonization of the president and address an issue near and dear to the hearts of Trump's base, Republicans may yet hold on to the House.
The figure includes the 16.1 million households living in poverty, as well as the 34.7 million families that the United Way has dubbed ALICE – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. This group makes less than what's needed "to survive in the modern economy."
"Despite seemingly positive economic signs, the ALICE data shows that financial hardship is still a pervasive problem," said Stephanie Hoopes, the project's director.
California, New Mexico and Hawaii have the largest share of struggling families, at 49% each. North Dakota has the lowest at 32%.
Many of these folks are the nation's child care workers, home health aides, office assistants and store clerks, who work low-paying jobs and have little savings, the study noted. Some 66% of jobs in the US pay less than $20 an hour.
The study also drilled down to the county level.
For instance, in Seattle's King County, the annual household survival budget for a family of four (including one infant and one preschooler) in 2016 was nearly $85,000. This would require an hourly wage of $42.46. But in Washington State, only 14% of jobs pay more than $40 an hour.
The list of "basic" household expenses may be questionable. But even if you disagree with what the United Way believes to be essentials, there is still a question of basic economic security that isn't being met.
You might argue that health insurance isn't a "necessity." But not having it generates insecurity. The question isn't what a family needs; it's what it needs to feel secure. When one serious illness can lead to bankruptcy, that question becomes political more than personal.
There are some Democrats who recognize the danger of talking about impeaching Trump rather than bread-and-butter issues. But they are being drowned out by numerous candidates who believe that demonizing the president, generating fear and hysteria about him, is the way to win a majority in 2018. They may still get it. But the better the economy is, the sillier the Democratic case that Trump is ruining the country looks.
They can't blame Trump for hollowing out the middle class. That's a process that began in the 1980s and has accelerated under both Republican and Democratic presidents. But Democrats used to be able to talk about issues of personal financial security, and they won plenty of elections doing so.
That they have forgotten this may be their undoing in November.