News Briefs

Stuck at the bottom

Texas has the greatest income division between the rich and poor according to a study released last month by non-partisan groups the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute.

Over the past 20 years, annual average wages of Texas’ wealthiest families increased 65 percent — from $122,727 to $203,174.


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Meanwhile, annual wages of the poorest families increased just 10 percent — from $13,278 to $14,724.

The study attributed the income gap to longer periods of unemployment, a shift from high-wage manufacturing work to low-wage service jobs, the weakening of unions, and uneducated workers.

Only one in four of the Texas workers has earned a bachelor’s degree and half of Texas workers haven’t taken any college courses, the study said.

There has also been a decrease of income mobility — the ability of workers to move from one income bracket to the next. Families that start in the bottom and middle classes are likely to remain in their respective classes.

Many things can be done to narrow the income gap. According to Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow of CBPP, states should investigate ways of narrowing the gap such as, “tax cuts, broadening the base sales tax, low income tax relief, and an increase of minnimum wages,” which haven’t been increased since 1997 and have not kept up with inflation. - Samantha Ojeda

Mean streets

San Antonio is among the meanest cities in the nation in its treatment of the homeless, according to a recent report, “A Dream Denied,” published by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

Texas had four of the top 20 meanest cities: San Antonio ranked 13th, with Dallas and Houston at sixth and seventh, respectively. Austin came in at No. 15.

The top three meanest cities are Sarasota, Florida; Lawrence, Kansas; and Little Rock, Arkansas.

More than 200 cities were reviewed based on anti-homeless laws, the penalties for breaking those laws, pending anti-homeless legislation, and a general attitude towards the homeless. Laws considered to be anti-homeless include laws that prohibit loitering, panhandling, and sleeping or sitting in public places.

City ordinances against sleeping in public, urinating in public, and camping (even in a car) without a license contributed to San Antonio’s ranking. The violations are class C misdemeanors that can carry fines of up to $500 fines.

In “A Dream Denied,” District 1 Councilman Roger Perez was quoted as saying that “these laws would be applied to everyone equally because they target behaviors rather than people.”

However, District 5 Councilwoman Patti Radle, co-chair of the City’s Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness, said she would like the City to create a campground of sorts, for people who don’t fit into shelters. “I would like to see a place that’s sanitary, secure, with water and restrooms there.”

Radle said that the while Council passed the anti-homeless ordinances before it approved a 10-year plan to end hunger and homelessness, which she sponsored. She added that the City helped thousands of people left homeless by last year’s hurricanes. “In the light of what we did for Katrina, how could we appear mean?” - Ashley Lindstrom


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