As the Republicans continue their unrelenting assault on the last remnants of America’s social safety net, and as Democrats continue to criticize them (but without actually doing anything to stop them), America continues on its downward spiral.
The price of food is rapidly increasing. The price of gas keeps going up. Despite Obamacare, medical costs and prices continue to escalate. The poor are getting poorer and the middle class is nothing more but a shallow, hollow shell of its former pride and glory. The rich keep getting richer. And with each passing year, they pay less and less taxes, too. The burden of maintaining what remains of our tattered social contract increasingly falls on the broken backs of our already neutered middle classes.
Federal and state governments have stepped back from their historic role as guarantor of the social contract. They have resigned their position as protectors of the realm. They have opened up the city gates, allowing rabid, ravenous corporate wolf packs to swarm amongst us. To make matters worse, they have passed unjust laws preventing us from protecting ourselves from these vicious animals.
Countless new laws prevent citizens from access to jury trials, traditional homestead and bankruptcy protections. Additional laws, passed in the name of “homeland security” infringe on our very civil rights. As the corporate wolves dine on the corpses and living bodies of America’s middle and working classes, our elected leaders drink and dine and make merry, satiated on the newfound wealth, only enjoyed by America's tiny aristocracy.
They have sold-out their country for 30 pieces of silver. An additional nail is being hammered into our body politic as of late, the final blow that ensures the death of our nation and its ultimate crucifixion upon a cross of gold. This is the nail of extortionate, predatory rent.
The Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies released a report last month that analyzed the American apartment/renters market from 1999 to 2010. The study found that the costs of renting an apartment were rising at a highly inverse rate relative to peoples’ incomes.
What does this mean?
First, the real value of wages in America is decreasing. Sure, you might be making more than your father. But the value of the actual dollars you are making is nothing, compared to the dollars your father was earning. $30,000 today is not worth as much as $15,000 in 1950. Inflation is eating into peoples’ wages and their wages aren’t increasing in a manner sufficient to keep-pace with gradual, creeping inflation.
Second, the cost of rent is increasing at rates that exceed the ability of people to manage, given the stagnant and/or decreasing value of their real wages.
“Following the 2001 downturn real renter incomes failed to rebound and now remain below their 1980 level” the report said. “At the same time, real contract rents have climbed by more than 15% since 1980.” Rents rose dramatically from the mid 1990s, the report stated.
According to Christine Ricciardi of www.housingwire.com, “One in four renters—representing about 10.1 million households—spends more than half his annual income on rent and utilities. Another 26.2% of renters spend between 30% and 50% of yearly income on the same amentities. This data aptly depict what the report later notes about the socioeconomic breakdown of renters.”
“While severe housing costs are still anchored among those in the bottom fifth of the household income distribution, over the last decade, the number of renters even in the next two higher quintiles facing such burdens increased by 1 million households,” she wrote.
Ms. Ricciardi stated that “about 56% of lower to middle-income families currently use one-third to one-half of their income for rent and utilities, compared to 38% of these families at the beginning of the decade. Some 23% of middle-income families now spend that much annually for these expenses, up from 10% a decade ago.”
She added that a “lack of affordable housing is also driving unfavorable renting conditions.” Apparantly, this doesn’t have to do with increasing occupancy rates of said low-income housing. Most likely, it has to do with the fact that developers are increasingly able to persuade local governments to demolish vacant or low-rent housing. According to the Harvard study, “of the 6.2 million vacant or for-rent units with monthly costs less than $400, almost 12% were demolished between 1999 and 2009.” The report stated that “more than 28% of the 1999 low-cost stock was lost by 2009.”
Ms. Ricciardi stated that “as the economic downturn wore on, the number of low-income renters grew to 18 million in 2009 from 16.3 million in 2003, increasing competition for affordable rental housing. People who would normally be considered high-income renters were now searching for more affordable housing because of macroeconomic factors such as job loss…However, this coincided with decreases in housing supply, widening what authors of the report call ‘the supply gap’—more demand for less supply.”
In effect, this will make all of us working class hamsters fight tooth-and-nail for all the precious apartmental table scraps left over.
According to the study, “this trend will continue.”
To what degree are these rising costs in energy, gas, food and rent indicative of a total breakdown in the so-called "social contract" between government and the governed? Is this failure indicative of the natural failings of government, as conservatives and libertarians claim?
Or is it, rather, due to the fact that corporations are excercising "undue influence" on our government? A form of perfidious influence that is causing government to breach its sacred duties under the Social Contract? As such, are the inherent weaknesses of government truly to blame, or are the unscrupulous influences of corporate America the true source of our government's failure to act decisively in the face of such widespread and increasing misery?
The chief question of our day is this: If government is breaching the social contract by ignoring its duties and obligations to the governed, how can we, the governed, rectify the situation?
To me, the answer is clear. We must remove corporate influence from the halls of power. Both here, and throughout the world.