Friday, October 24, 2008

Lack of Mental Health Care has EVERYTHING to do w/ Poverty: US rank: 28/31 counties' expenditure on social issues

"According to OECD statistics for 2003, the United States ranks 28th out of 31 countries in the percentage of GDP devoted to social spending such as healthcare, education and pensions."


How is poverty measured? In two ways: (1) Poverty Level and (2) Living Income Standard


"Mollie Orshansky, an employee of the Social Security Administration, developed the poverty level based on the “economy food plan,” the cheapest of four family food plans devised by the Department of Agriculture. A survey from 1950’s found a family spent about a third of its after-tax income on food. So, Orshansky multiplied the economy food plan by three to estimate a budget under which a family could not live. Orshansky did not intend this to measure an adequate income, but rather to serve as a baseline under which a family could not economically sustain itself. While FPL does increase with size of family, there are no adjustments made for variations in cost in different geographic areas of the country.

By 1969 the federal government adopted this poverty measure as its official definition of poverty—since there was no other available gauge. Unfortunately, the poverty level is now used to measure the number of poor based on their pre-tax income, not as it was intended, and other costs have been added to the average family budget, such as childcare, that were not considered in the 1960’s and housing costs have risen at a faster pace than food prices. For these reasons and others, the poverty level is severely outdated and inaccurate. Those up to 200-300% of federal poverty level are often still unable to meet basic household expenses...."

(cut and paste):



And then there is the more practical, modern Living Income Standard (LIS: which does not matter because nothing is calculated off of this but it SHOULD be):

"A bare-bones budget indicating how much families in North Carolina must have to meet their basic needs, the Living Income Standard (LIS) covers seven basic items: housing and utilities; food; health care; transportation; miscellaneous expenses like clothing and cleaning products; and taxes. It does not include: money to be put away for savings; consumer loans like car or lending company or mortgage loans; meals out, entertainment, birthday presents, videos, etc. Therefore, the Living Income Standard is still a very conservative, low indicator of actual cost for a frugal standard of living.

The Living Income Standard is a more realistic gauge than the federal poverty level of the earnings needed by a family to avoid actual, functional poverty. It is an income level below which a family would need public benefits or private financial assistance to pay bills for essentials. That is, the LIS is now what the federal poverty level was intended to be, but never truly was—an approximation of the lowest income it takes to make a family economically “self-sufficient.”


The explains why we have such odd descriptions like '200% of poverty level' for determination of such things as sliding scales for state funded mental health services.


NC DHHS is supposed to be keeping statistics on matters but you can't get any information on that important matter and so let's make some approximations here.

So, we have health insurance slipping away from working class families; we have 'thinner' insurance; and in the US, we have over 75 million people working at or below the minimum wage of %5.85/ hour which is $6000 below the yearly poverty level.

So, we have accelerating poverty and an accelerating need for state funded mental health services or more people to move into Medicaid.

How many people are we talking about?


The approximate population of the USA is: 301,139,947 (July 2007 est.)

How many people work in the USA?

They are reported below. The figures show the percentage of people in the 25-54 (termed the 'prime working age population') age group with jobs.

1995 2000 2005

All Men Women All Men Women All Men Women

U.S 79.7 87.6 72.2 81.5 89.0 74.2 (this is 2005): 79.3 86.9 72.0

So, in 2005, approximately 80% of adults between the ages of 25-54 were working. This is also supposed to include the self-employed as per census figures.

What is population of NC? approximately 8.5 million people live in NC.

Approximately 36% of those 8.5 million people are: under 18; over 65. Those are not the working people. So, you have approximately 3 million working people.


(In NC): "27 percent of workers earn less than $9.28 per hour, the amount needed to lift a family of four above the federal poverty line.[2]"

So, you have approximately 800,000 people who are the 'working poor.' When mental health providers see state funded clients one of the things (they used to do) was calculate their sliding scale and most 'working poor' people who were state funded clients were within 200% of the Poverty Level. This does not include their children.


In terms of mental health in NC, these people living below the poverty level would be the 'state funded clients' and those are the clients who are blocked from efficient treatment vis a vis the LME's creating Barriers to mental health care.

We are, indeed, in BIG trouble.



"....One of the measures related to poverty is the unemployment rate which is much lower in many OECD countries than in the United States where it is 6.1% , although it is important to bear in mind that the unemployment statistic itself is very flawed, for example treating the working poor as if they earn a sufficient income to support their families. According to the OECD, in August 2008, the U.S. has an unemployment rate of 5.68% compared to Austria at 3.30%, Denmark at 2.9%, the Netherlands at 2.60%, Korea at 3.2%, Japan at 4.15%, Australia 4.08%, Luxembourg at 4.2%, and the Czech Republic at 4.30%.

Hidden behind these statistics on unemployment are the 75,873,000 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2007) people who are working at or below the minimum wage. Since the recent increase to $5.85 per hour, the minimum wage had been stuck at $5.15 an hour since 1997 which adds up to $10,712 a year or $6,000 below the poverty line. In fact, the minimum wage lags far behind cost of living increases given that the current minimum is $3.50 lower in purchasing power since 1960.

One of the critical explanations for the depth of poverty in the United States is the ideological opposition to transfer payments for individuals who are struggling. This opposition is a consequence of the religious commitment to Neoliberalism which encourages each individual to maximize his wealth to benefit society as a whole. It must be noted that there is no similar anathema to transfers to defense industries or to corporations in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, deregulation, guaranteed loans, and bailouts. Adam Smith’s invisible hand seems to slap those in need and reward those who are wealthy while applying the dogma adhered to rigidly by the disciples of Milton Freidman.

According to OECD statistics for 2003, the United States ranks 28th out of 31 countries in the percentage of GDP devoted to social spending such as healthcare, education and pensions. Only Ireland, Korea and Mexico spent a lower percentage of GDP on social spending. On the other hand, Sweden spent 31.3%, France 28.7%, Germany 27.3% and Belgium 26.5%. Low social spending explains the high poverty rate in the U.S. as well as the very high infant mortality rate. Out of 18 European countries, Japan and Canada, the U.S. had the highest number of deaths per 1000 live births (OECD, 2007). The U.S. had 6.9, Finland 3, France 3.8, Germany 3.9, Norway 3.1, Portugal 3.5 and Sweden 2.4.

Despite the statistics exposing the severity of poverty in the United States and an understanding of the unconscionable mental, physical and emotional consequences of poverty, not to mention the long-term costs to society, past presidents and the two candidates for the next presidency seem to assign a very low priority to this tragic problem.

Obama’s solutions to reduce poverty include raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011. First of all, $9.50 will mean that a minimum wage worker will still be below the poverty line as well as falling further behind the cost of living for three more years. It seems that when the financial and banking sector are in a state of crisis, it only takes weeks to agree to a $700 billion package but when the problem is poverty there doesn’t seem to be enough money to fund the necessary programs and the poor will just have to wait until 2011 to scrounge around for the few crumbs that Obama can scrape together.

Obama promises to reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit but families that pay almost nothing in taxes because their income is too low will barely benefit. His promise to give families up to 50% credit for their child care expenses is too vague to offer any hope. Many European countries and several provinces in Canada pay close to 100% of day care expenses for those who need it.

The real problem is that the government has no real intention to redistribute wealth in any meaningful way. Redistribution of wealth is well beyond the boundaries of legitimate economic policy in American political culture. It’s radical, extreme and subversive. It’s probably a threat to the security of the United States...."

State of Darkness: US Complicity in Genocide since 1945


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