Sunday, September 24, 2023
Speak Your MindPassing the buck: When inflation overloads the bottom rungs

Passing the buck: When inflation overloads the bottom rungs

Rising costs are putting pressure on many people, especially the most vulnerable in society. People have different tolerances for financial strain. Some have a high threshold for frustration while others have little tolerance and coping capacity. In general, people endure hardship as best they can. But once a situation becomes untenable, overloading individuals beyond what they can reasonably bear, outbursts and spill-overs are inevitable. The reason is simple: people can only cope with so much.

I often think of civil servants in public institutions when considering soaring inflation and rising living costs. I say I’m fortunate that my husband and I earn incomes and own our home without paying rent. But I think of families where only one spouse works, if there is a spouse, and how they manage.

Not all people live a married life. Single parents raising children alone and families where only one spouse earns come to mind regarding rising costs that seem endless. First it was the war, then fuel subsidy removal, and now property taxes and demolitions.

Property taxes concern me. I recently learned how much owners pay, including those renting homes to make a living. Some, like retirees and those unable to get decent jobs due to qualifications or health, rely solely on rental income. This affects the most vulnerable who, through no fault of their own, cannot earn enough or work at all.

Property taxes burden not just those earning income from renting properties, who pay income tax on rental income. Landlords must also pay property tax, which they’ll likely pass on to renters through higher rents. Who suffers most? The many renters with little hope of homeownership, who rely on rented housing to have a roof over their heads. My concern is that rising rents could create a housing crisis for those already struggling the most. How much higher can renters reasonably afford to pay for adequate housing?

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Landlords with extra properties to rent are fortunate – they can pass on the burden of property taxes to their renters. Homeowners with only one home are also fortunate – they avoid rent payments and enjoy homeowner security.

Nevertheless, property taxes ultimately fall hardest on the truly propertyless. Isn’t it ironic that those with the least bear the greatest burden?

With the northern war, unrest, rising fuel costs, inflation, new property taxes and who knows what’s next, aren’t we heading for a social crisis? The vulnerable suffer the consequences while those with assets pass the costs down. A just solution is urgently needed – one that does not continually overload those who can afford it the least and are in the greatest need.

Fairness demands that we prioritize supporting the marginalized in our society, not leave them footing the bill for issues they did not create. It will require sacrifice, empathy and solidarity from those who are more fortunate. If we fail to act with compassion and wisdom, the hardships now borne by the vulnerable will only spread further into a full-blown social crisis that affects us all.

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