Everyone Has the Right To Live

By Mars Gifford, Staff Writer

One of my biggest fears is paying for college. With tuition easily above $10,000, housing prices the way they are, and increasingly restricted access to affordable healthcare, there is every reason to be scared. My fears, however, are just fears, at least for the time being, but for many Americans, their reality is one filled with anxiety and stress over how to pay their rent, feed their children, and pay off debts, including student loans and medical bills. An estimated 43.1 million Americans lived in poverty in 2016 with about half that, 18.5 million, in deep poverty, which means the household income is less than 50% of the poverty threshold. These statistics come from the US Census, which excludes the homeless, those who are incarcerated, and some military personnel. One can only imagine the increase in these figures if everyone was included. Additionally, it is important to note that the same poverty line is applied consistently throughout the United States with no differentiation for the differing costs of living between states, counties, and cities.

Some estimates place nearly half of all Americans below the poverty line or as low income. The fact that a large section of the population is unable to make ends meet is absolutely unacceptable in a developed country such as ours. We rely primarily on private industry to create jobs and, for the most part, determine wages. Although there are some protections against greed, they are often minimal and ineffective. For example, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but in Arkansas, where housing is the cheapest in the nation, one would have to make about $13.84 an hour in order to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Additionally, some states like Mississippi and Alabama do not have a minimum wage in place. Others have a minimum wage that is below the federal minimum and far below livable, like Georgia and Wyoming at $5.15 an hour. As long as the economy works for those in charge of the private industry, there is no guarantee that workers will have protection and be paid fairly. Furthermore, placing the responsibility of economic recovery on private corporations leads to no guarantees that those in charge will prioritize the recovery of their personal interests above anything else, including the interests, safety, and financial security of their employees.

Some may argue that private organizations and charities function solely to provide for the needs of those who do not receive enough aid from the government or are not eligible, but if there is enough government aid for those in need, private organizations and charities become unnecessary and completely obsolete. Those who are primarily funding private organizations and charities, as well as those who donate a couple dollars every now and again, would instead pay taxes, similar to their donations. It is extremely important that all taxes are proportionate to income. The benefits of a system like this are numerous; not only will aid be available to everyone, but it also will be provided in a more organized and efficient manner due to the effort’s centralization.

Another argument against universal access to basic supplies is that there will be little incentive to work hard, yet that simply will not be the case. There are few people who do not have a passion or will not find one. Once basic needs are provided for, people will have the opportunity to pursue their true passions. However, some passions are valued more highly than others, leading to the idea of laziness. For example, artistic passions like photography and music are looked down upon because they are not viewed as valuable in our capitalist society. Art is seen as a talent, but not necessary for the advancement of society. This view of art has the opportunity to change and artistic contributions can be viewed similarly to any medical, scientific, or otherwise traditionally valuable contribution when livelihood no longer depends on access to basic supplies. People will not only be less stressed about managing the cost of living, but they will have the opportunity to find what makes them happy.

Restrictions on welfare programs simply are not fair. A disproportionate number of those in great need are LGBT, disabled, mentally ill or otherwise at a disadvantage. Individuals in these situations are, for the most part, viewed as unappealing or unattractive to society and are left without the resources they need to succeed, such as comprehensive mental health services. Instead of punishing people for their situations, we need to enable them to succeed without demonizing them. We need to stop punishing people for situations which are out of their control. Imposing restrictions on access to welfare (i.e. random drug testing) further reinforces the privilege of those with money. Rich people have drug addictions, but they aren’t barred from grocery stores or homes because of it. Restrictions on welfare are classist and are preventing American society from advancing as it should.