John Edwards, blogging at TPM Cafe, has a terrific post on the cyclical costs of being poor:
David Shipler, who recently joined me on a panel at UNC, tells a striking story about a single mother he met while researching his book, The Working Poor. She had no savings and low earnings, so she had to live in a drafty wooden house. This exacerbated her son's asthma. That led to two ambulance rides to the hospital. Those trips led to ambulance charges she couldn't pay. Those charges damaged her credit report. And so then she was denied a loan to buy a mobile home. That meant she had to stay in that drafty house—the house that contributed to her son's asthma attacks. And she had to buy a car from a sleazy dealership that charged her 15 percent interest.
As one little boy David met told his mother, “Being poor is expensive.”
True enough. It goes beyond the disastrous, however, and deep into the mundane. The well-off have all sorts of expense savers: Amazon, Expedia, appliances that we replace by choice (and can thus shop for deals on) rather than by necessity, new cars that don't demand constant repairs, transportation options that allow us to reach far flung stores with lower prices, and so forth. So it really is an important point: on a per-dollar basis, being poor is much more expensive than being rich, making it ever-harder to climb out of debt and into a better, cheaper, income bracket. So props to Edwards for pointing it out, and read the rest of his piece. If that's really him doing the blogging, I'm much impressed.