I read a book a few years ago that said something to the effect that greed and the belief that there’s not enough to go around keeps people poor. I don’t agree with that; there are so many factors that keep people in poverty. And yes, many of them are beyond their control. I live in a poor neighborhood. Prejudice, poor physical health, mental and emotional issues left untreated because the county Social Services can only meet basic needs, the ridiculous yearly vehicle tax that you have to pay for your car to be street legal, landlords who have to be sued to get them to perform basic maintenance, a truly awful police department with officers who will destroy a life by arresting someone for a petty misdemeanor and pass half-a-dozen known drug houses on their way to the jail, hostile neighbors who move in across the street from black families and call the cops over and over for nuisance calls and even VIDEOTAPE people arguing. How would you like to have an argument with a family member, make up, forget about it . . . until the police show up at your house with a video of your argument?
Last summer, a family of Nazis came up from the next block intent on BEATING UP A BLACK BOY IN THE FOURTH GRADE because he “said something” to one of their children. Luckily, his mother takes no shit and sent them back to their bunker with their tails between their legs. This kid is big for his age, yes, but the kid he argued with and the kid’s family know very well how old he is if he’s on the elementary school bus, FFS.
My neighbor’s oldest son thought he had a full football scholarship and planned to go to a local college. It turned out that his guidance counselor had not fully informed him about the tuition and the fact that the scholarship would not cover all of his tuition, even with him living at home. He decided to forego starting college that fall and instead worked a full-time job in an attempt to save the money for the rest of the tuition. He also looked at colleges in other states. Now he’s enrolled part-time in the local college. Not his dream, not what he worked so hard for all through high school, and now his mother is distrustful of the people scouting her younger son for football because of what happened to his brother.
There is a grocery store, two dollar stores, a fast-food restaurant, a barbecue joint, a Subway, and a convenience store in this town. Even the town’s only bank closed. The town’s only store with a pharmacy closed. The only jobs are a bus ride away in a larger town with no industry. The only jobs there are retail, food service, and office jobs that you may as well forget about because once someone gets one, they don’t leave until they die.
The county isn’t hiring.
The city isn’t hiring.
The library isn’t hiring, and the county commissioners, in their infinite wisdom, cut library hours and positions.
Maybe the police department or fire department or hospital is hiring. I’m not qualified for the first two and I’d have to go back to school for two years to get a job at the hospital, which has a terrible reputation for patient care and patient relations. People who have injuries more serious than a broken arm are airlifted to another hospital. People who have more than a simple fracture are airlifted to another hospital.
I know several people who work in nursing homes, but I’d have to go to school for at least two years for that.
I’d have to go back to school to be a beautician.
People need jobs NOW. They can’t wait for two years and then MAYBE find a job.
We don’t go to movies because we can’t afford it. We don’t go out to eat. Our cookouts aren’t that fun because the cops are always cruising by, looking for an excuse to shut them down.
Winter is terrible. We stay in our houses. The depression really sets in. We don’t have the motivation to even visit each other.
Summer is better. My neighbor and I are avid gardeners. We have that to occupy our time and to talk about. We exchange seeds and plants.
I work at home as a freelance writer. My neighbor has four children. She cares for her grandchildren almost every day. She also babysits. Her husband has a job as a cook in a restaurant that’s a step up from fast food.
We’re not lazy. Stupid people who live hours away in big cities with lots of opportunities tell us that we are. If you’re tempted to ask “Why don’t you move?” please don’t. My neighbor doesn’t want to take her sons out of school and put the in a new school district. My mother and I live in her childhood home. The property value has gone down drastically through no fault of our own. Why don’t you pay me the value of the property when we moved into the house in 2001?
We are damned depressed. All of the things I’ve described here grind away at you until you hurt all over and you’re exhausted but you can’t sleep and don’t even get me started on the way that doctors behave towards you when you don’t have insurance. I go to the doctor twice a year to get prescriptions for my inhalers so I don’t die.
I had a lot of work the last three months. I paid for a plumber, two new (used) tires for our car, the oil change, inspection, tag, vehicle tax, and various other household bills. I paid for my doctor visit out of pocket. I paid for my prescriptions out of pocket, and asthma inhalers ain’t cheap.
You’re not allowed to have anything when you’re poor. Someone right now is thinking, “how does she afford the Internet and a computer and her camera and her iPod?” Well, let me explain it to you. I switched Internet/phone/cable providers to lower the bill. Then when the promotion ended and the bill went up, I called the company and negotiated another promotion. I also dropped some unnecessary services. I don’t need their fastest Internet. I cut every dollar that I could. They worked with me because I managed to pay that bill on time every month. I’m a good customer.
I bought my laptop in 2014 when I had a temp job. I bought the iPod at the same time. I’m a writer. I had a 2008 Sony Vaio. I have to have a computer to work, and I earned that money, and no one has the right to question me regarding my computer and my iPod. Notice I did not say iPhone. That’s out of my reach.
My camera is seven years old. It’s a Canon. I highly recommend Canons. I bought it when I was married to a man who made over $100,000 a year. He also abused me, and when I left him, female relatives told me I should have just put up with the abuse and cheating for the financial security.
When my main client sends me a month’s worth of orders, I buy something for myself. Clothes. Shoes. Used books. I replace worn-out bedding. I have one purse. I always have one purse. I carry it until it’s worn out. I go to an independent salon and get dry haircuts. I have the back of my hair and my bangs trimmed. Looking decent makes me feel better. I don’t get services I want, like hair color. Just the minimum to keep my hair in some sort of style.
And I’m white, and I know that my story doesn’t even begin to address the problems that my black neighbor has to deal with. I’m glad I don’t have children. I can’t imagine being a black woman with four sons. I’ve seen with my own eyes the way that the police treat her and her family. They treat me as a nuisance. They are absolutely hostile towards her and treat her and her children as threats. The white man across the street who videotapes everyone and the white man from South African can tell any lie about her, even lies that I can debunk, and the police believe them.
I do believe that there is more than enough to go around. I do believe that the money for healthcare and a living wage is there. I do believe that, if employers like Walmart would stop getting by with a skeleton staff, there would be many more jobs. I believe that we can afford a higher minimum wage. I believe that we can keep the library open. I believe that we can pay teachers more. I do believe that the state Utilities Commission could step in and make sure we’re paying only what we owe. I do believe that the money is there for food stamps and Medicaid expansion. I do believe that they money is there for free community college. I believe that a healthy, well-educated populace would dramatically improve the economy and reduce the need for social safety nets. I believe that we can have people working and getting affordable healthcare and no longer in need of food stamps, no longer walking into the ER for something that could be dealt with by a primary care physician.
I know who is preventing all of those things from happening: the revoltingly greedy 1%, and the poor whites they have deceived in order to maintain their own lifestyle.
There’s a meanness, a viciousness, a “you won’t get anything from me” mentality among poor whites. And there’s a suspicion of education that takes the form of mocking “elites.” And it doesn’t help when “elites” mock people in “flyover country.”
Nothing is going to change unless people stop disparaging charity. Charity is more than a donation to an organization. It’s knowing you have the means to help people who are hurting AND DOING SO.
And taxes, my god, I am so tired of hearing “I DON’T WANT MY TAX MONEY USED FOR…” Well, suck it up, Buttercup. I don’t want my taxes used to pay the salaries of politicians whose values conflict with mine. I don’t want my taxes used to pay the salaries of police officers who KILL PEOPLE, who ignore drug houses, don’t arrest people who commit assault, but harass someone who had an argument with a family member and forgot about it until the cops showed up with the recording made by the neighbor across the street.
I don’t want to hear about anyone’s taxes.
There IS enough to go around. It’s being hoarded by the 1% and it’s not even getting to the people who vote for the politicians they groom and back.
There is enough to go around. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that there isn’t. There is enough money for Duke Energy to clean up their coal ash ponds and offer affected families acceptable compensation. There is enough money for Flint to have clean water. There is enough money to reroute the Dakota Access Pipeline. There is enough money to retrain police officers. There is enough money to raise the minimum wage. There is enough money for healthcare for everyone.
The money is there. It is our tax money: federal, state, and sales taxes. It is the money we spend at Walmart. It is the obscene amounts of interest we pay when we take out a mortgage. It is being hoarded by the 1% but IT IS OUR MONEY.
Now think about that the next time someone tells you “we just don’t have enough money for….” and know that person is a liar.