Wednesday, February 19, 2014


As if things weren't bad enough for Arizona's poor and working class, what with the way the education system fails us, or how we live under constant threat of “financial devastation,” yesterday brought new bad news for people trying to get by on low incomes.

It should come as no surprise then that Arizona's poverty rate has spiked upwards to almost 20% post-recession when we see these recent figures from the Economic Policy Institute. While rich people and politicians threaten "economic apocalypse!" over proposed minimum wage hikes, hold the unemployed hostage, and cut food stamps, the poor have continued to suffer the brunt of the deepening and continuing economic crisis.

According to the EPI data, Arizona ranked ninth worst in the country in wage erosion, with paychecks for the bottom 20th percentile dropping in constant dollars significantly beyond the 68 cents national median.

According to the report:
The figure below shows that low-wage earners— wage-earners at the 20th percentile— have experienced wage erosion in nearly every state.  Between 2009 and 2013, low-wage earners’ wages declined in every state except three (West Virginia, Mississippi and North Dakota). Real (i.e. inflation-adjusted) wage erosion was greatest in Maryland (-$1.24), Massachusetts (-$1.18), and New Jersey (-$1.16) during this period.  The national average decline over this period was $0.68 or 6.4 percent. Further, wage erosion was not confined to this portion of the wage spectrum.  Wages at both the 10th percentile (“very low wages”), and the median wage saw erosion in forty-five states and the District of Columbia over this period.
With the recent Davos gathering of billionaires identifying income inequality as the most significant threat to stability, you wonder just how far Arizona ricos are willing to push things. The riots that have repeatedly broken out in Rio and other places over things like increased bus fares must certainly have been on the minds of the masters of the universe when they made that declaration from the safety of their luxury retreat. 

Meanwhile, the Tucson city council is debating raising ticket prices tonight, tightening the squeeze even further on the already strained budgets of the poor and working class. Arizona already ranks second in income inequality, and the disparities between rich and poor are growing.

Maybe Arizona isn't Rio, but politicians and rich people should be thinking carefully about just how far they can push Arizona's poor and working class. We have already borne a disproportionate share of the costs for a crisis we didn't cause, and we can't help but notice that the rich are doing better than ever.

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