Getting By in America

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The latest from Gallup:

The federal poverty threshold for a family of four is just under $24,000; however, Americans believe such a family unit living in their community needs more than double that — $58,000, on average — just to “get by.

Hmmm. By coincidence, that’s almost exactly the median income of an American family. It makes you suspect that most people think their own income, by definition, is just barely enough to get by. Turns out that’s almost the case:

Adults in households earning less than $30,000 think it takes an average of $43,600 to get by. However, the estimate rises to $55,100 among those earning between $30,000 and $74,999, and to $69,400 among those making $75,000 or more.

Poor people think they need a bit more than their own income; middle class folks think their own income is just barely sufficient; and upper middle folks are willing to concede that they could get by on slightly less than they make. Still, to a pretty close approximation, whatever income we make turns out to be the income we consider barely sufficient.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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