However rich some portion of America has become, there is another slice that cannot afford to buy food. If 1% of people in the United States control an extraordinary amount of the wealth, another portion, much bigger, can hardly afford to eat. Whether people believe the poor are poor because they lack ambition or because they cannot afford to be ambitious, poverty continues to erode the ability of many people to provide themselves the basics.
According to a new Gallup poll:
More Americans are struggling to afford food — nearly as many as did during the recent recession. The 20.0% who reported in August that they have, at times, lacked enough money to buy the food that they or their families needed during the past year, is up from 17.7% in June, and is the highest percentage recorded since October 2011. The percentage who struggle to afford food now is close to the peak of 20.4% measured in November 2008, as the global economic crisis unfolded.
The recession may have ended, according to economists, but that is the opinion of experts, and not those who do not care what economists say.
This data will fuel the argument about the living wages paid by many retail companies and fast-food firms. Proponents of a higher minimum wage have calculated that $15 an hour is the lowest level at which people can provide themselves the basics. That may be true, but this argument is up against companies like McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) that do not have to change their pay structures. The “living wage” advocates lack enough leverage, and that is unlikely to change.
The 20% lacking food is fairly close to the 16% of the population that lives in poverty. Those same people tend to be undereducated, have poor health care and, ironically, tend to be more obese. Some amount of research shows that many of these people have weight problems because all they can afford is low-priced fast food. Chalk up a second win for McDonald’s.
Gallup concludes that:
Stagnant wages are one possible reason why Americans’ ability to afford food and other basic needs has not improved since the recession.
But, for the 20%, those stagnant wages were never enough, not before the recession, during or after the recovery.
Methodology: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Aug. 1 to 31, 2013, with a random sample of 15,729 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.