Work provides no escape from poverty

Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless


"And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

"And that no man might buy or sell save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six (i.e., "666"). (Rev. 13:16-18)

There are perhaps no other verses in the Bible more well-known than these (i.e., Revelation 13:16-18) - not only to believers, but to unbelievers as well; the number "666" permeates our literature and art (both secular and religious); it is the theme of countless horror stories and fables; it is the gist out from which innumerable sermons and religious speculations have been fashioned; it is the subject of untold amounts of gang graffiti in our ghettos and inner cities, on the sides of trains and subway cars. The deranged are bewitched by it; religious fanatics claim to see it hidden in the insignia and logos of some of the major institutions of our culture; and even the so-called "learned" are left with a feeling of unease by its persistent presence in the darker recesses of our civilization. But there are many more issues "at play" in these verses than those associated with the "666" enigma - issues which are much broader in scope, and we ignore these other issues at our own peril.

The fact is, so beguiled are most Christians by the "666" conundrum that they easily miss the larger meaning behind these verses; and that is this: that they are soon to face a great test, and this test revolves around the issue of money (and their love of it) more than it does anything else, including even the matter of "false doctrine."

It isn't that doctrine isn't important - it is! But more often than most Christians care to admit, doctrine doesn't play a particularly large part in their lives, and insofar as it exists at all as a factor in them, it exists more as a JUSTIFICATION for the way they are already living their lives than it does as a genuine GUIDE to their living.

In other words, rather than acting as a lamp in the darkness to guide them in the way they should go, doctrine exists to most Christians merely as a phony explanation for the path they have already chosen based on "other" criteria having very little to do with a search for Truth. When doctrine is reduced to a justification for the way people live rather than as an authentic guide to their living, then it is capable of being molded and shaped in any way people choose. And what is that "other" criteria: usually love of the "here and now" which the "love of money" and the "things" that money can buy engenders in people. Isn't this what I Tim. 6:9-10 says? -

"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have ERRED from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (I Tim. 6:9-10)

Clearly it is!! - clearly what these verses indicate is that the love of money causes people to "err from the faith." In other words, it's love of money that prepares the ground out from which false doctrine springs. You've never heard that before? - well, it's unlikely you ever will in the churches of America and Western Europe.

Nonetheless, one would do well to take note of the fact that most people don't simply fall into false doctrine by "accident" or because they have somehow or other "misread" the Scriptures. The Scriptures are not all that complicated!! They become "complicated" only when people approach them with a pre-disposition of mind, and in order to exculpate (vindicate) that pre-disposition of mind, they twist (pervert) the Scriptures into a shape that fits it, in the end making the Scriptures say things they clearly do not say. This is especially true when the "love of money" is involved. When one attempts to buttress or sustain one's lust for wealth by recourse to the Scriptures [the same Scriptures which say, "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16:13)], then one has no other choice but to twist and purposefully misrepresent the Scripture - to force, as it were, round pegs into square holes.

This is the kind of perversion that the purveyors of the "Green $ Gospel" and the "Name it and Claim it" crowd are involved in! No fair reading of the Scriptures can possibly sustain what these men teach; but money has so blinded them to the truth, that they have come to a point in their lives where they are no longer capable of recognizing the truth, so that -

"... hearing, they no longer hear, and seeing, they no longer see." (Mark 4:12)

Nonetheless, there is going to be a reckoning - and you are going to play a part in that reckoning, whether you want to or not!! Soon - very soon now - we all are going to be tested with regard to the question of money; and in the process, we will be revealed for what we really are: whether of the kingdom of the "here and now" that money undergirds, or the kingdom of heaven which has nothing to do with money! - and that test is already being prepared. The conditions necessary to the test are being arranged and set in order - right now even as you read this material, especially insofar as those of us who live in the United States are concerned, and to a lesser degree in Western Europe and throughout the West in general. And what exactly do I mean by this? - I mean precisely this: many of us are about to be stripped of our wealth on a personal basis, and then what will we do? Will we "sell ourselves" (i.e., our souls) to get it back, or well we be able to say with the prophet Habakkuk:

"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:

"Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. (Hab. 3:17-18)

One should carefully bear in mind the words of our Saviour regarding this matter:

"And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

"Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34-37)

God help those of us who refuse to take this matter seriously!!

- Antipas


This fact sheet examines the relationship between work and homelessness, including the contribution of unemployment, underemployment, and low wages to homelessness.

In recent years, media reports of a growing economy and low unemployment mask a number of important reasons why homelessness is worsening. These include stagnant or falling incomes, and less secure jobs that offer fewer benefits. Now, as the United States experiences the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the homeless population has increased significantly. The worsening economy and rising unemployment numbers emphasize a number of reasons why homelessness continues to exist and grow in exponential numbers in the United States. [Please see our article, “A Real-Life Picture of the Kind of Economic Collapse That Will Eventually Affect Everyone.”]

Wages and Income

In the past year or so, wage growth has collapsed. Workers also face a cut in hours and nominal weekly earnings have declined. As the recent growth in wages has declined, it illustrates that the recession affects everyone including those able to keep their jobs while adding pressure to the consumption growth which experts estimate will further delay economic recovery.

If the clerks, cashiers, and order-pickers in the stores where you bought your presents looked stressed, it's not just because working retail during Christmas week sucks. A study released today by the non-profit Fiscal Policy Institute shows that retail is the industry sector that employs the biggest chunk of the 1.3 million low-wage workers in New York City -- that is, workers earning less than $13 per hour. Nearly half of these 176,000 low-wage retail workers earn less than $10 an hour, and the majority lack health insurance. While people tend to stereotype retail workers as teenagers looking for extra cash or Williamsburg hipsters diddling around till their art careers take off, most New York retail workers are over 35 and work full-time. Ninety thousand children in New York City have parents that work in retail, and in many cases that parent is their sole provider.

Low-wage workers have been particularly hard hit. More than four decades ago in 1967, a year-round worker earning the minimum wage was paid enough to raise a family of three above the poverty line. From 1981-1990, however, the minimum wage was frozen at $3.35 an hour, while the cost of living increased 48% over the same period. Congress raised the minimum wage to $5.15 per hour in 1996. In 2007, President Bush signed into law a plan that increased the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years.  This increase has not kept up with the ground lost to inflation in the last 20 years; thus, the real value of the minimum wage today is 26% less than in 1979 (The Economic Policy Institute, 2005), worth only $4.42 in real dollars (AFL-CIO, 2005).

 In today’s current market, a full-time minimum wage worker working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks per year would earn $13,624. This puts him nearly 25% below the $18,310 (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2009) poverty level for a family of three. This worker falls below the poverty line even after factoring in the earned income tax credit, which was created to bring low-wage workers up to the poverty line (The Economic Policy Institute, 2007). Even after the wage increase to $7.25, a family of three remains about $3,000 below the poverty line, and a family of four will be more than $6,000 below it [U.S. Health and Human Services]. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of minimum-wage workers are not teenagers: approximately 79% of minimum age workers are 20 or older (The Economic Policy Institute, 2008).

In addition to the erosion in the value of the minimum wage, there are other factors that contribute to the decline in wage decline. As more countries compete against each other, the result has added to a downward pressure on wages. Also, the weakening in union power and labor policies have had an affect on the wage decline (International Labor Organization, 2008).

Declining wages, in turn, have put housing out of reach for many workers: a household would need more than one full time minimum wage worker to afford a two-bedroom rental apartment at fair market rent. In fact, in the median state a minimum-wage worker would have to work 87 hours each week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing. In addition, 40% of households with "worst case housing needs" -- households paying over half their incomes for rent, living in severely substandard housing, or both -- have at least one working person.

The connection between impoverished workers and homelessness can be seen in homeless shelters, many of which house significant numbers of full-time wage earners. A survey of 23 U.S. cities found that all had reported an increase in the number of employed homeless people.

In today’s economy, one of the hardest burdens for workers is the continued dramatic decline in wage growth. For the first year of the recession, wage growth remained relatively strong. Since that time, however, wage growth has slowed abruptly; in May 2009, wages grew at a 1.3% annualized rate, one-third the earlier pace (Economic Policy Institute, 2009). If this percentage continues to drop [and it has], it will become harder for a blue-collar worker to support his or her family. Additionally, rising costs of gasoline and food are taking large portions of these workers’ pay checks (Economic Policy Institute, 2008). [Please see our article, "A Permanent 30 % Unemployment Rate."]

Job Security and Underemployment

Not only have wages stagnated or declined over the last two decades, but also job stability and job security have deteriorated. One measure of job stability, involuntary job loss, has increased in recent years. The economy has lost nearly eight million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. The unemployment rate increased to 9.5%, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics added over three-quarters of a million workers to the unemployed list (Economic Policy Institute, 2009). Additionally, people are falling victims to long term unemployment at greater rates.

Displaced workers face difficulty finding new employment; when they do find work, their new jobs pay, on average, about 13% less than the jobs they lost. And more than one-fourth of those who had health insurance on their old jobs don't have it at their new ones (Mishel, Bernstein, and Schmitt, 1999). Additionally, reports indicate that from 2001-2003, about 30% of people who had involuntarily lost jobs were not employed when they were surveyed again (Farber, 2005). As professional and managerial jobs have become increasingly vulnerable to downsizing, higher socioeconomic groups are experiencing increased job instability, and the risk of job loss is becoming more equally distributed by socioeconomic status (Farber 2005).

Another trend impacting job security is non-standard work... In 1997, almost 30% of workers were employed in non-standard work arrangements (i.e. independent contracting, working for a temporary help agency, day labor, or regular part-time employment) (Mishel, Bernstein, and Schmitt, 1999). Temporary employment has increased by 11% since 1972 (Kalleberg, Reskin, & Hudson, 2000). These non-standard work arrangements typically offer lower wages, fewer benefits, and less job security. Even temporary jobs are being affected by the worsening economy.

A useful measure of the decline in job security is underemployment. Unlike the unemployment rate, measures of underemployment reflect not only individuals who are unemployed, but also involuntary part-timers and those who want to work but have been discouraged by their lack of success. As of March 2009, the underemployment rate is 15.8%, substantially higher than the 9.4% unemployment rate which translates into 24.4 million people who are underemployed or one out of every six American workers is either unemployed or underemployed. (Economic Policy Institute, 2009). The number of involuntarily part-time workers has nearly doubled since the start of the recession, from 4.6 million to 9.0 million. One reason for the higher level of underemployment is the increasing number of involuntary part-time workers -- workers who want to work full time but have only been able to obtain part time work.

Thus, for many Americans, work provides no escape from poverty. The benefits of economic growth have not been equally distributed; instead, they have been concentrated at the top of income and wealth distributions. A rising tide does not lift all boats, and in the United States today, many boats are struggling to stay afloat.