5 Cruel Ways Being Poor Is Expensive
Only an asshole, or somebody's uncle, or somebody's asshole uncle would think being poor is somehow easier than being rich. But hey, at least it's cheaper, right? Things like subsidized housing and food stamps presumably exist to keep the overall cost of poor people's lives down while everybody else is out there juggling multiple yacht payments and carefully considering which brand of high-end almond butter sparks the most joy. But as it turns out, being poor is actually expensive. Look at how ...
Household Goods Like Toilet Paper Cost More For Poor People
Stupid science has yet to discover a foolproof way to avoid getting shit all over your butthole when taking a dump. Until that breakthrough, you're gonna need toilet paper. It's one of the great class equalizers. And yet a study tracking poor people's purchases noticed that they pay about 5.9% more for toilet paper than rich people. And no, it's not because of next-gen 7-ply butt wipes; we're talking the exact same brands. In fact, the study found similar price increases for almost all household goods, including canned tomatoes and paper towels not (necessarily) meant for anuses. So what's the difference?
People with more cash on hand save money by heading to Costco and purchasing enough bulk toilet paper to polish the tushies of a small country. For example, a $24 30-pack saves way more money per roll than a $5 four-pack. But poor people don't always have $24 lying around, so they often go for the less cost-effective (but cheaper overall) small packs.
Even worse, buying in such low quantities forces them to repurchase such items more frequently, meaning they don't have the luxury of stocking up and waiting around for a blowout toilet paper sale that could save them even more money. Not to mention how many don't have the money to pony up for a Costco membership in the first place. They're more likely shopping at retailers that don't offer such bulky discounts. And this isn't because poor people aren't aware of the cost difference. The same study found that at the beginning of each month, when paychecks are freshly cashed, the poor are just as good as anybody else at hitting sales and buying in bulk. It's at the end of the month, when money is stretched, that things get more desperate. And expensive. And scratchy.
The IRS Audits Poor People More Frequently Than Rich People
The Internal Revenue Service's whole job is ensuring that people file their taxes correctly. It's an important job, too, because America has the most ridiculous tax code in the world. In Japan, people get a postcard in the mail informing them how much they owe, while in America, people have to somehow figure it all out themselves. This can lead to mistakes (or outright avoidance).
The IRS enforces this byzantine web of laws and loopholes by auditing people to check if their tax returns match what they actually owe. Thanks to movies, most of us probably picture an IRS audit as a small army of men in suits methodically combing through the records of the ultra-rich. But unfortunately, that's not accurate. The IRS actually audits poor people significantly more than the rich. For example, the most audited county is Humphreys, Mississippi, where more than a third of the population lives below the poverty line. It's audited 51% more than Loudon County, Virginia, which has the highest median income in the country.
On the surface, that doesn't make sense. Surely the IRS should focus their attention on the Jeff Bezoses of the world, given that their tax returns affect the national budget quite a bit more than, say, a struggling comedy writer's. But as it turns out, it's a hell of a lot easier to check for mistakes on a tax return for somebody who makes $20,000 a year than for somebody who makes seven figures. That sort of work can be done by a low-level employee and mostly via mail, whereas auditing the rich requires highly experienced senior auditors working countless hours.
The IRS claims they don't have the budget or time to go after the rich, so they primarily focus their efforts on checking for small discrepancies amongst the poor instead. The modern IRS mostly strives to hold single mothers accountable while allowing many rich people to straight up just not pay taxes. And why doesn't the IRS have more resources, you ask? Because Republicans have been cutting their funding for years. In fact, the IRS plans to eliminate another 2,200 jobs in 2020 to keep in line with budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration, which as we all know is run by a professional rich person. What a strange coincidence!
Poor People Have To Pay Extra To Access Money They've Already Earned
Banks are out to turn a profit, just like any other business. This often means that low-income communities don't have access to banks, or that the banks that are there conspire to suck every last penny from them. These shady practices sometimes cause poor people to forego banks altogether and turn to "fringe banking" establishments like payday lenders, check-cashing counters, and pawn shops.
What's the benefit of using one of those notoriously sketchy places instead of just stuffing wads of cash into a comically large piggy bank? Well, without a bank, there's literally no other way to cash a check from your employer. Banks usually do this for free -- gotta offset all those free pens and stale lollipops somehow -- but fringe banking establishments charge a fee to convert the money you already earned into something you can spend on Top Ramen.
But wait, there's more! If poor people need a loan or emergency money, they're often forced to rely on payday loans instead of typical bank loans. It's a small, short-term loan that's supposed to be connected to the borrower's pay (though not always). On some level that makes sense, except the APR on those is on average 400%! So now you owe way, way more than you borrowed, meaning you probably need another loan -- and so on and so forth, until you're stuck in a cycle of debt you could never reasonably escape.
The good news is that the Obama administration passed regulations requiring that lenders ensure borrowers could repay their loans. But wouldn't you know it, Trump is expected to roll those back, even though the regulations had already begun making a positive difference combating predatory practices. It's almost like there's a theme developing here!
"New Customer Fees" Are Thinly Disguised Penalties For Being Poor
The worst kinds of businesses -- utility companies, credit card companies, those damned banks -- screw customers out of additional money by charging upfront "new customer fees." We've kind of grown to accept them, despite the fact that ... wait, why should we be paying fees just for the privilege of paying you money? It's another reason the only company we should do business with is Taco Bell. But the worst part of "new customer fees" is that if you miss a single payment, you'll be forced to pay those fees again. And who is most likely to miss a payment? Here's a hint: Bill Gates' water has never been shut off.
Take Sierra Monroe, a convenience store manager and mother to a special needs child. She couldn't cover her entire power bill one month. She was just $70 short. Sierra intended to pay the difference after she received her next paycheck, but the utility company didn't want to wait, and her electricity was shut off without warning. Sierra called the company to pay the $70 (which she now had), but found out she now owned an additional $250 "new customer deposit," despite using the company for over a decade. Her electricity had been shut off for less than an hour.
Nutritional Inequality Goes Much Deeper Than Food Deserts
Households that bring in less than $25,000 a year eat significantly less healthily than those with $70,000 or more. That might not seem too surprising at first glance (avocados are more expensive than ramen, after all), but it turns out the reasons for "nutritional inequality" run much deeper than affordability. One simple explanation is that lower-income people are more likely to live in a "food desert" -- a neighborhood without stores that carry fresh or healthy food. That's obviously a factor, but as it turns out, even food deserts aren't enough to account for the wide disparity.
According to recent studies, even when a fancy Wegmans surfs into town on a wave of watercress, the health of lower-income people in the area doesn't really improve. It's not just a cost thing, either. One theory is that richer Americans have access to better education about how to eat well. But even then, poor people also have less time and resources to cook and eat healthier. Worst of all, there are some experts who suggest that lower-class people think of healthier foods as being somewhat elitist. After all, who hasn't felt patronized by the occasional salad?
For more, check out How These 'Entitled' Millennials Want Jobs That 'Pay':
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