How many people in the US live like this?
Let's find out. It'll be FFFFFFFFFFFUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!
For starters, let's figure out what Cierra's making. According to the article, she averages 40 hours a week at $9.50 an hour. Worth noting, that's $2 over the federal minimum wage. Go Cierra! Let's assume she never takes a vacation. She's making a hair under $20k a year.
Let's look up poverty rates. Easy to get carried away on that page; turns out there's more kids living in poverty in the United States than there are people living at all in Israel. Hold the phone though because Cierra, as a single person with no dependents, isn't poor at $20k a year. She's fuckin' blown through the poverty line, which for her is $12k a year. McDonald's could cut her ass to $6 an hour and the government still wouldn't consider her poor. Roll that around in your mouth for a minute while we look up a graph.
Turns out Cierra makes more than 20 percent of the American workforce. With 157 million American workers, Cierra is doing better than 31 million of them. That's misleading, though, 'cuz kids don't work, the elderly don't work, the homeless don't work. There's 327 million Americans; 48% of them work (yet our "unemployment rate" is 3% - a discussion for another time). So we'll have to get mathy on it again. Looks like Cierra is sitting at sixteenth percentile of Americans - so she's beating 52 million Americans.
Fifty two million. There ya go. Wolfram Alpha, always pithy when you need it, says that's somewhere between the population of France and the population of California. A quick perusal of Wikipedia tells me that there are more people at Cierra's income level or below in the United States than there are people in Myanmar.
Aren't you glad you asked?
Every time I read something like this I just don't understand how the US is not breaking into pieces and people are not out with pitchforks, eating politicians alive, instead of their 5$ pizzas.
"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."
- not actually Steinbeck
Nobody's poor in the United States. Not really. People are "disadvantaged" or "getting back on their feet" or "struggling" but nobody is ever poor, not really. Poor people are those wretches in Southeast Asia we see in old newsreels; poor people are the kids Sally Struthers made us feel bad about.
For seventy cents a day, you can feed a child like Jamal nourishing meals. Shit - it probably costs Cierra ten bucks a day to get fed even at McDonald's. Fuckin' oatmeal is $2. Ergo, Cierra isn't poor.
One of the side effects of living in a global superpower is that things are tough all over and you can always find someone doing worse than you. Meanwhile everyone's got stories of Calcutta beggars and the kids in Juarez who hold their hands out for candy while here? here we're all working on our "side hustles", not trying to make ends meet.
I got picked up by a Lyft driver once. It was a long ride. 45 minutes or so. She was earnest - she had a container full of mints because the Lyft driver Facebook groups told her to. She'd given up her other job (selling cosmetics to her friends) to drive Lyft full time because it was paying the bills great. She was an achiever. She had three kids and they were all great. And she got them up at 5am and dropped them at daycare and drove and was part of a carpool arrangement that got the kids to school and she drove and she was part of another arrangement that got the kids to daycare after school and she picked them up at 7 and they were all great and she made them dinner and put them to bed and the oldest one who was nine had her cell phone number and she went out and drove until 1am and things were great. Her husband cheated on her, you see, and also got laid off by Boeing, which meant that not only did she not get any alimony none of them got any health insurance and then it took eight months for him to find another job and he had to move to California and he got a new job but his health insurance didn't kick in for another month so two weeks into his new job he kicked it from ketoacidosis because he'd been rationing his insulin so he only ever got one paycheck which his mother took and she was left as his next of kin according to the lease he signed so she had to pay for the apartment that had had a dead rotting guy in it for the ten days it took for anyone to figure out he was dead and things were FINE.
College-educated white woman in her late '20s. Did everything right. Sure as fuck wasn't poor. After all, look at all the options she had... and she was making it work.
The interesting thing about the "Okay, Boomer" movement is it's the first real indication that there's a groundswell of people who are beginning to recognize that the deck is stacked against them and it's not their fault. It'll be interesting to see where it goes. Because you're right. The country is breaking into pieces, people are out with torches and politicians are being eaten alive. The problem is, when you're so goddamn busy earning $9.50 an hour that you don't have time to vote, you're going to listen for the simplest explanation of the problem and the simplest explanation is now has been and shall always be that guy.