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Thursday, January 7, 2016

5 Socioeconomic Trends Poor People Can Expect in 2016

Welcome back again, dear readers!

Social media-I don't know what I would do without it. Pic found here

It's Day 4 of the 21 day blogging challenge. Admittedly, this particular prompt was a bit of a tough one for me since poverty makes it hard to keep up and participate in many modern trends. However, I've given my best shot at predicting what will be hot stuff for those of us on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder this coming year.

1. The expansion of restaurant chains accepting EBT
My introduction last year to Papa Murphy's Pizza got me thinking about how if this restaurant chain could take advantage of the huge federally-subsidized food stamp market to sell their pizza, how many other restaurants will follow their lead? Since wages don't show any sign of increasing to anywhere near a livable level in the near future ($15/hr is a good start, but it's still not close enough to the $20-$25/hr that the cost of living currently runs), I expect the number of food stamp recipients to steadily increase. Grocery stores do a pretty good job of offering cold foods that can be purchased with food stamps, but given the convenience which restaurant chains offer in terms of already prepared meals, I expect to see more chains offering food items for EBT purchase in the coming year.
2. Increased illegal immigration out of America
Here's one most people don't see coming-the tables have turned! Americans are risking their lives and fleeing from the poverty, violence and oppression at home, swamping places like Mexico and Canada. This scenario will depend on who wins the Presidential elections this year, so I don't expect to see masses of people teeming at the border fences or paying smugglers until late in the year if at all. Since the "shining city on a hill" that Ronald Reagan so eloquently postulated about has gone dark, succumbed to its own madness, it may well take a mass exodus of people before our government decides to do anything about improving the standard of living. Then again, maybe not. They'll crack down on whoever is left, just because they can.
3. Bartering
With wages at an all time low, the black market rises up to meet the needs of people. Since money buys so little, people will barter for their goods and services. I personally have witnessed a barter economy developing here in my very own trailer park. Neighbors will exchange goods and services, much like it was done in the Middle Ages or in parts of Mexico. For those instances where money is required, people try and negotiate to the lowest possible dollar. Just like in the Middle Ages, a barter economy signifies the collapse of a money-based economic system since trading goods and services isn't an effective way to grow an economy and it shows that people don't trust money anymore. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since bartering for your goods and services is a good way to build up a sense of community.
4. A shift in the sharing economy
Sharing services like Uber, AirBNB, etc will collapse because federal regulators have cracked down on their exploitation of "independent contractors". Rising up as a response to the economic recession, these sharing services can be likened to the MLM/pyramid scams profiled on sites like Pink Truth because top management reaps all the profits and benefits of a corporation while shunning things like FICA and offloading all responsibility back onto the employees. This collapse, however, is also not necessarily a bad thing. By classifying its drivers/homes/what have you as employees/hotels/etc and regulating them as such, it creates a more stable workforce and a safer environment for customers. People can still use their cars/homes/etc, but now the companies are on the hook for more than just their names and apps.
5. Online free schools
Education, the salvation or bete-noir of many a politician's platform, will undergo a change as well. The proliferation of the internet and portable devices would give families an alternative to sending their kids to a failing school or an expensive private school. Online schools already exist, but what I am foreshadowing is the rise of free online schools. No tuition, no risking sending your children into a dangerous or poorly performing environment, and you and your children can work together to create a curriculum so that they're actually taking classes with subjects they're interested in. It's like YouTube, but for school! Given the horrible student loan debt burden many millenials like myself are burdened with, these online free schools would be an accredited and affordable means of pursuing an education. As for how these online schools would support themselves, it would be through purchasing ad space and using affiliate links, much like how many online businesses support themselves right now. It will take some doing to figure out the kinks and come up with a working model, but it's not impossible.
What trends, good or bad, do you forsee happening this coming year?

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