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Suburban poverty and the Day of Reckoning

urban-suburban poverty

Poverty isn’t just in inner cities, and is not just black or brown. There’s increasing poverty in decaying suburban areas too, which are often predominantly white. Suburban poor live there because they can’t afford to live where they work. (Yes, many people living in poverty do indeed have jobs.)

The problem is affordable housing. Municipalities and the local gentry generally don’t want it, especially not if the area is upscale or has pretensions of being so. No icky poor people for us, they say. They drive down property values and probably have fleas. Except for when they drive in from someplace else to do menial labor, of course.

Granola Shotgun explains how this continuing process, combined with automation, outsourcing, and AI will inevitably lead to social disorder.

Decades of exclusionary zoning, minimum lot sizes, minimum home sizes, prohibitively complex building codes, and the proliferation of HOAs and NIMBYs have made small affordable entry level homes and modest rentals illegal almost everywhere. Our de facto national housing policy of drive-till-you-qualify suburban development works well enough for people with an education and a professional salary. It fails the working class entirely and that’s by design. The poor are intentionally filtered out. If you can’t afford a nice house and at least one car you’re just not wanted unless you commute in for the day to cut the grass and mop the floors.

Unfortunately, there is more than a little truth in saying mandated higher hourly wages may mean fewer jobs.

Having a job or two does no good if the money you’re paid is insufficient to cover basic expenses. Raising the minimum wage to $15 or $20 an hour only encourages employers to automate and outsource even more aggressively.

A large number of not-so-great poorly aging suburbs are already in the process of becoming slums. The definition of a slum is a collection of properties that has less value than the cost of minimum maintenance. I see this all over the country from coast to coast.

Unfortunately, municipalities and the monied class either doesn’t see what is coming or doesn’t care.

We’re not going to resolve these complex structural problems voluntarily. Our current trajectory will bring an ever greater bifurcation of society into haves and have-nots, particularly as Artificial Intelligence rapidly innovates its way into white collar occupations. The middle class will be squeezed even harder and we need to be prepared for the social disorder that will result. The existing political establishment isn’t capable of addressing these issues.

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