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The terror of the high cost of living in America

Over the last few years I have been researching hundreds of alternatives to traditional housing because the largest chunk of the cost of living that’s unmanageable is housing. What I’ve discovered is difficult to stomach.

PROBLEMS

1. More then 150 million people in the USA live in fear. Yes, I said fear. Fear of poverty and all the societal problems associated with poverty. Fear of becoming homeless; fear of not being able to pay bills. Fear of not being able to provide food for their children. Fear of being forced to live in substandard housing or in dangerous neighborhoods. Fear of getting ticketed because the registration is expired. Fear. Real terror. People respond by cutting corners, taking on too much work, neglecting their kids, suffering through health problems, malnutrition, taking advantage of others, crime, violence, and most often, seeking alternatives to the oppressive system.

ter·ror

ˈterər noun
1. extreme fear.
“people fled in terror” synonyms: extreme fear, dread, horror, fear and trembling, fright, alarm, panic

The percentages of people living below the “poverty line” is staggering. It’s unfortunate that the “poverty line” calculations leave out the cost of housing. Yup, the poverty line calculations don’t include housing costs, or perhaps the bureaucracy is so deep into the propaganda business that it’s lost touch with reality. According to the US Govt there are 49 million people living below the poverty line. Another 100 million cannot afford the cost of living and are living paycheck to paycheck in a rollercoaster lifestyle of debt and crisis, managed ineffectively by beg, borrow and steal.

2. The war on poverty brought us more of it. The cost of living, especially the cost of housing, has risen far faster then wages and income every year since the 70’s. This has resulted in people working 2, 3 or even 4 jobs, 7 days a week just to survive. And they live in fear of what’s happening to their kids, their sanity and their physical health. Poverty has been scientifically proven to cause mental illness. The United States and it’s oppressive economy contributes to this. In fact, most Americans resort to stress relief wherever they can find it; drugs, alcohol, bad decisions, violence, unhealthy lifestyles, family abandonment, escape from society, suicide, and many other serious side effects of poverty and income disparity. Yes, society is to blame for not preventing this with bold policies and forward thinking in government.

3. The institutionalized and oppressive housing market demands regular profits causing an inability of the public to afford traditional housing. Fewer people invest in their future today then ever before. Meanwhile all efforts of people to try to live in alternative housing situations and/or offgrid living are being systematically outlawed to funnel people back into the traditional housing market. This has led to people being arrested for growing food in their yards, collecting rainwater, or living in their cars. The predatory partnership between the government and elements of the oppressive economy has forced extremism in many forms because with poverty comes limited options. When I say extremism I mean non-traditional alternatives such as tiny houses, living in vehicles, stealth camping, homelessness, multi-families living in one or two bedroom apartments, tent cities, communities in abandoned buildings, etc. All of these things are illegal in parts of the US. Is this a free country? I think not. It’s not even affordable anymore. Free? What the fuck is that?

4. Debt has become the crutch for the economy in America because without it most purchases would not occur. 50% of all Americans spend 110% of their income every month on bills, shelter and food. This has led to a huge “savings bubble” where funds for emergencies and retirement are simply not available. Only those who qualify for credit can use it for emergencies or needed purchases like school supplies or books, clothing, auto repairs, registration, taxes, health insurance, etc. Even school tuition loans are a billion dollar profit center for banks and institutions creating a 20 to 30 year financial burden for college kids to look forward to. If you don’t think this is sick, what’s your problem? We should be taxing the shit out of financial institutions that issue credit and those funds should be used to bail out Americans suffering from debt starting with student tuition.

5. Rental leases are unethical. That’s right, I said it. They are the immoral outcropping of a society that accepts greed and condones the wealthy taking advantage of those without significant financial resources. A rental lease forces tenants to remain in a specific rental for the duration of the contractual term despite that lower rental situations might come up during that term and therefore the tenant cannot take advantage of the more affordable rents as a direct result of leases. Same goes with deposits. Deposits for rentals cripple a tenant to a specific rental because the tenant cannot afford to move unless they can come up with a full months rent at the new place AND the deposit for the new place which is likely the same as a months rent. And the tenant has to do all this in addition to finding a new place to move to in the final 30 days of the lease. The landlord has complete control over the deposit for the current rental and may or may not give the deposit or a portion thereof back to the tenant in enough time to make those fund available for the new rental. In almost all cases the tenant has the hardship of losing the deposit and they’re forced to accept whatever available rentals are there, even more expensive rentals because of leases and deposits.

We are at a crossroads with housing and the cost of living. It’s finally at peak affordability in America. The housing market bubble screwed Americans in 2008-09 to the tune of 9 trillion, some say much more. Now the bubble is back again. Landlords and the real estate industry has seen gigantic profits for the last 40 years and it has decimated the middle-class and debilitated the lower-class by epic proportions. You can dispute or debate the facts but that’s not going to change anything because the state of the union is clear and undisputed. America is fucked.

SOLUTIONS

Solutions are many, but not so palatable by right wing republicans and moderate, right-leaning democrats, and especially libertarians who are lost in their own failure to comprehend reality.

A. First, we must enact major rental control laws that provide simple ways tenants can break leases whenever their financial situation changes, the tenant has opportunities elsewhere, or they find lower priced rentals. Landlords can always get insurance or save up for expected loss of tenants due to lower rents (or they can lower the rent). Oh, and if they don’t like it, too bad. If you’re a landlord that “needs” high rent to afford the mortage, that’s your problem. You made a poor decision.

Rent controls need to prevent rents from going higher then 33% of the tenants income or more than 40% of the median income for a given area. Currently many renters pay 50% or more for rent. And deposits should be given to the tenant immediately and the only deductions should be for damages proven in a civil court. Otherwise the tenant should get the deposit back upon giving a notice to vacate the rental.

B. Debt should be a maximum interest rate of what banks will give for a saving account. That means that if a bank will pay 5% for depositing money, then the maximum interest on credit cards, auto loans and mortgages should be no more then 5%. I’ve seen people paying 29% on a $10,000 credit card for decades and they still are unable to pay that balance off due to the interest. Credit card debt is immoral. It’s the disgusting business of fucking other Americans without consent. And then there’s student debt. What the fuck is wrong with Americans who think burdening kids with debt for decades is acceptable? Educating our children is an investment in the country. Everybody benefits from an educated public except the corporations who maintain the status quo. It’s time they paid for all education. Period.

C. The government must be made to either (1) leave people alone who are seeking out alternatives and let them live unmolested freely in society, or (2) provide 100% of the needs of those who fall through the cracks in the economy including housing, income, food, energy, transportation, etc. The best solution here is called a “universal basic income” or UBI. Google it. People wanting to live in tiny houses or live in cars or in tents on BLM land or public land should not be bothered or harassed by police and laws should be made to prevent the police or the government from preventing people from living on their own in alternative housing situation and lifestyles. Because the UBI is unlikely in our capitalistic greed-based society, the affluent public needs to shut the fuck up about people living in the streets or in their cars. The affluent (or naive) public and the government needs to back off and permit tiny houses and other forms of offgrid living because the government hasn’t done poor people any favors that help them survive in this oppressive country; in fact, they’ve made America into a third world country, so the people should be able to live as such with the freedom to build shanty towns and makeshift shelters in parks and on the sides of hills where poor people can survive. The economic slavery model isn’t working for 80% of the public. So the solution here is for the government to provide a basic income that covers the cost of living minus luxury items to every man, woman and child in the USA or they need to eliminate any laws preventing people from finding alternatives on their own.

D. Minimum wage should be tied to the cost of living unless there is a UBI in place to offset the disparaging wages in America. Unless and until a basic income is implemented, minimum wage should match at least 50% of the cost of living. Currently in some states the cost of living is around $60,000 per year, so minimum wage should be around 50% of that at a very minimum ($30,000/year). The arguments against this don’t wash. What I mean is, that if you are against either the Basic Income or tying the minimum wage to the cost of living, then your opinion no longer matters. That’s right, you have failed the citizenship test. You don’t get it. You’re not worth the time it takes to school you on the realities in America. Am I being too harsh? Get fucking used to it!

E. Lastly, let’s resolve fear. To eliminate the fear that is pervasive in poverty the only tangible answer is a universal basic income coupled with realistic rent controls and the freedom of the people to freely seek out alternatives to the oppressive economy in America. Otherwise, fear will “motivate” people instead of passion, compensation, recognition, loyalty, honor, morality and ethics. Additionally, we need better education in high school that teaches our kids to avoid debt and teaches them about how corrupt and fucked up oppressive policies help corporations and big businesses screw them out of their life savings and give them no future by ruining the environment.

Given the recently purchased presidential nomination process by Wall Street interests, much of these solutions are unlikely unless the American people rise up and demand real change under threat of a revolution. That’s unlikely as well because the system has so pervasively institutionalized the addiction to greed that few Americans can disconnect from the very system that oppresses them.

Notes: Not all government officials, landlords or policies are bad, but the solution to our situation in America cannot be more of the same incremental changes or half-measures. We need bold action. This means we can’t afford more greed-based practices or policies.

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