Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomeUncategorizedThe Long Way Home

The Long Way Home

An article about the income gaps in our state by Madison McVan in The Minnesota Reformer caught my eye. The Reformer is an independent, non-profit news organization in Minneapolis that publishes online.

Income and wealth disparity has increased for the last few decades, but has worsened re­cently. For those in the lower levels, it limits social and economic mobility. It often affects a person’s life expectancy and access to essen­tial services.

According to Madison’s reporting, Minneso­ta is in the top five states with the highest aver­age income, yet half the population earns less than $62,500 annually. These figures came from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneap­olis.

The US Census Bureau puts the median household income in Cook County at $65,045. Almost 10 percent of the population in Cook County lives below the poverty level, which is about $30,000 for a family of four.

In the Arrowhead region, the income gap threatens tourism and health care.

In the case of tourism, the wealth gap indi­cates the possibility of a shrinking market of people able to afford a multi-day visit to the North Shore and the Boundary Waters. I hope the major resorts and tourism promoters have considered this.

As for health care, as costs continue to rise and incomes aren’t increasing fast enough, more people cannot afford to go to the doctor.

When I was a business owner last centu­ry, we did a SWOT Analysis at least once a year. It examines the organization’s Strengths and Weaknesses and future Opportunities and Threats. We reviewed it at least quarter­ly, much to our managers’ dismay. The threat of rising inequality wasn’t front of mind back then (I’m old), but it would sure be a threat I’d have in mind if I were running a business or government agency today.

For craps and laughs, I decided to have a look at how much disposable income there might be for that median-income household in Cook County, which comes out to $5,420 per month.

After paying payroll and income taxes, housing and transportation take a significant chunk–at least 30% to 40%.

Health insurance, deductibles/co-pays, gro­ceries, snacks, a daily coffee, and occasional adult beverages hit pretty hard. The median household is left with a few hundred each week to pay for student loans, clothing, day­care, toys, internet service, school supplies, and veterinary bills. An unforeseen roof re­pair or water heater replacement is brutal.

Little disposal income remains for recre­ation and leisure.

Life is pretty good when you don’t need to worry about whether to pay the doctor’s bill or buy groceries. Life is pretty good when you can take vacations without worrying too much about the costs. But the stress can be­come overwhelming when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck.

In the capitalist economy that is ours, one must make at least a middle-class income large enough to build capital for retirement. As the income gap widens, leaving fewer able to gain or create capital, it is more of a prob­lem for all of us.

The threat from income and wealth dispar­ity is the chronic financial stress the average person faces with little hope of getting ahead and how that stress plays out for our politics, community, and security.

Steve Fernlund
Steve Fernlund
Typically these “about me” pages include a list of academic achievements (I have none) and positions held (I have had many, but who really cares about those?) So, in the words of the late Admiral James Stockwell, “Who am I? Why am I here?” I’m well into my seventh decade on this blue planet we call home. I’m a pretty successful husband, father, and grandfather, at least in my humble opinion. My progeny may disagree. We have four children and five grandchildren. I spent most of my professional life in the freight business. At the tender age of 40, early retirement beckoned and we moved to Grand Marais. A year after we got here, we bought and operated the Cook County News Herald, a weekly newspaper in Grand Marais. A sharp learning curve for a dumb freight broker to become a newspaper editor and publisher. By 1999 the News Herald was an acquisition target for a rapidly consolidating media market. We sold our businesses and “retired” again, buying a winter retreat in Nevada. In the fall of 2016, we returned to Grand Marais and bought a house from old friends of ours on the ridge overlooking Lake Superior. They were able to move closer to family and their Mexico winter home. And we came home to what we say is our last house. I’m a strong believer in the value of local newspapers--both online and those you can wrap a fish in. I write a weekly column and a couple of feature stories for the Northshore Journal. I’m most interested in writing about the everyday lives of local people and reporting on issues of importance to them.
- Advertisment -

Most Popular


Q1 2024 SITREP