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PORTSIDE  December 2010, Week 5

PORTSIDE December 2010, Week 5

Subject:

Report Reveals Deeply Divided New York City

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Wed, 29 Dec 2010 13:07:58 -0500

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text/plain (154 lines)

Report Reveals Deeply Divided New York City

by Billy Wharton
submitted to Portside by the author

http://www.examiner.com/bronx-county-independent-in-new-ork/report-reveals-deeply-divided-new-york-city

Dec. 28, 2010 - For low and moderate-income New Yorkers
 2010 felt every bit as terrible as 2009.  Though economists 
pontificated about the end of the economic crisis, those 
surveyed in the Community Service Society’s end of the year 
poll continue to suffer from crisis economics.  The study entitled 
"The Unheard Third 2010,” asked 1,400 New York City residents
 about their current economic situation as well as their thoughts 
about the future.  It revealed a city deeply divided between rich 
and poor.

The more than 1,400 respondents were divided into four groups
 – 508 poor residents, 392 near poor, 312 moderate-income and
 202 high-income.  The results were weighted for age, race and 
gender and the interviews were conducted in Spanish, Chinese 
and English.  The margin of error is +/- 3.3%.

A Tale of Two Cities

In 2010, nearly 50% of poor residents faced at least three 
hardships simultaneously.  32% reported that they had cut back
 on buying back-to school supplies and clothes while 26% 
reported having their hours, wages or tips cut.  Another 23% 
faced food insecurity because there wasn’t enough money to
 buy food.

The primary problem for residents just above poverty line, 
some 32%, was rising healthcare costs.  Job insecurity and 
delinquent mortgage payments were the second most 
mentioned complaint at 27%, while only 15% faced food 
insecurity.  Nearly a quarter of both poor and near poor 
respondents reported being unable to fill a medical 
prescription because of a lack of money or insurance.

The complaints of moderate and higher income New Yorkers
 was focused squarely on soaring healthcare costs.  36% of 
moderate income and 51% of higher income respondents 
reported increases in healthcare related expenses.  Moderate 
income respondents felt a bit more pressure on the worksite 
with 21% reporting that they had hours, wages or tips cut back.  
Nearly all other economic indicators declined for higher income 
residents.

Not surprisingly, negative events such as job losses and 
reductions in hours, wages and tips fell inordinately on lower 
income New Yorkers.  23% reported losing a job and 27% losses 
in income.  Both of these figures increased slightly from 2009 
and confirmed the upward trend from the onset of the economic 
recession in 2008 when the levels stood at 18% for job losses 
and 16% loss of income.  Low-income working mothers were 
particularly hard hit as 21% reported losing a job, 42% a loss in 
income and 50% experienced both.

Healthcare a Problem for All

One problem that seemed to cut across income levels was 
healthcare costs and a lack of coverage.  More than 20% of low
 and moderate-income respondents reported some space of 
time where they were out of health care coverage.  This figure 
has remained relatively steady since 2006, but has increased 
sharply from 2004.  What makes the healthcare crisis even more 
remarkable is that 17% of both low and high-income respondents 
reported having no health insurance coverage at the time of the 
survey. 

The economic crisis has also eaten up whatever savings low and 
moderate income New Yorkers might have had.  61% of low 
income and 35% of moderate-income respondents reported 
having less than $1,000 in savings.  High-income earners were 
in far better condition with 58% holding $5,000 or more in 
reserve.  Savings was also segmented based on race with 74% 
of Blacks and 68% of Latinos holding less than $1,000 in reserve
 while 49% of Whites found themselves in a similar predicament.

Whose Future?

Worries about the future were also informed by class divisions.  
While all income levels expressed concern about rising healthcare 
costs, low and moderate-income respondents were focused 
squarely on fears about losing their jobs.  High income New 
Yorkers were able to think more long-term, expressing as a 
primary concern retirement security.  The employment fears of 
low and moderate income New Yorkers have risen steadily, nearly 
doubling since 2007.  Not surprisingly then, 60% of low income 
New Yorkers feared that someone in their household might lose 
their job in the next year.

Employment fears also fueled a sense of a loss of control over a 
person’s economic future.  40% of low income and 30% of moderate 
income New Yorkers said they had little or no control over their 
economic future.  Conversely, 48% of high-income respondents 
reported that they felt they had a lot or a great deal of control over 
their economic futures.  The figures speak volumes about which 
class feels that they are in the driver’s seat in our City.

Class Polarization

The CSS report comes on the back of an exhaustive study of New 
York State and City tax records by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI).  
This macro-economic study identified a 25% increase in the share 
of income monopolized by the richest 1% in the state from 1980 
until 2007.  This increase in income for the elite represented the 
most extreme class polarization in the area since 1928.  The FPI 
suggest that this trend will grow once the Obama Tax Bill goes into 
effect.  The two studies need to considered together - one, the FPI 
study, documenting the class war from above and the other, the 
CSS report, offering a window into the precarious situation faced by 
those who have been victimized by the upward redistribution.


This is the not so hidden secret about New York.  We live in a City 
and State with deep class divisions.  The Economic Crisis of 2008 
has only accelerated these divisions.  Geographer David Harvey 
claims that the economic crisis is the tool for capitalism to 
“rationalize the irrational.”  The CSS report is strewn with 
irrationalities – full of the human deprivation, social oppression 
and fear of the future that the capitalist system breeds.  Any 
popular break from such social trends will therefore necessarily 
entail a call for a society that runs on a rational basis, one that 
begins by satisfying human needs and ends by enhancing the 
human development of all.  We are quite a long way from that in 
New York City.  Time to get started.

***

Billy Wharton is a writer, activist and the editor of the Socialist 
WebZine.  His articles have appeared in the Washington Post, 
the NYC Indypendent, Spectrezine and the Monthly Review Zine. 
He can be reached at [log in to unmask]  

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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