Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
Today’s guest post is by Frogmagick, a long time friend.
In the past few days I have caught reports in the media about laws both proposed and passed and political statements regarding the poor. Some have addressed welfare recipients, others have talked about people on unemployment. Still others talk about how the poor don’t pay taxes.There has been a trend that has been growing where the poor are demonized, talked about with disrespectful language, and the word choice is absolutely dismissive and demeaning.
I’m sick of people denigrating the poor. Punishing the poor for simply being poor is disgusting. People who want to legislate to take away Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), medical assistance, and food, people who think unemployment is a cop out, people who think that using tax dollars to help those in need is socialism? Those people can go fuck themselves.
BEING POOR IS NOT A CRIME.
If you’ve never been poor then you have no right to talk about poverty like you truly understand it. You may understand it from a privileged perspective, but donating to a food bank or sponsoring a child is not the same as living in poverty day to day in America. If you have never had to make the choice between paying your rent and fixing your car so you can go to work, you don’t understand. If you’ve never had to decide between school supplies or school shoes, how can you comprehend? If you’ve never had to go hungry in order to make sure your kids ate, you can’t imagine. If you’ve never been one paycheck away from homelessness, you have no idea.
Sometimes it’s not a matter of saving up or investing wisely. Sometimes you work a crappy, low paying job and have bills that aren’t for extravagant things and it takes you apart. Rent, power and phone can keep you right on the edge of no money at all. You can’t own a home, you can’t maintain your car, you don’t get to go out. And you’re utterly screwed if you owe jail fines or child support. You can’t afford a doctor or a shrink and you can’t afford a beer and you can’t afford anything. Being poor isn’t a crime but it feels like you’re being punished all the time.
People who bitch about the poor being lazy and abusing the system need to know just exactly what they’re talking about. Just because a few people are industrious enough to navigate the morass that is the welfare system doesn’t mean all the poor do that. There might be a few merchants who might illegally accept food stamps for beer and cigarettes, but there are point of sale machines almost everywhere which make this practically impossible. People will sell their EBT cards (Electronic Benefits Transfer- a kind of debit card that DSHS loads every month with food and cash benefits) for cash because although you need to feed your family, sometimes you need to pay your power bill. And yes, sometimes you need to buy drugs or alcohol. Addiction is also demonized (which is a whole different rant. For example see Russell Brand’s thoughts).
What this is about is the use and abuse of benefits. Benefits. Consider for a moment what that word means. For those who are not poor benefits means perqs like a 401K, paid time off, vacation. For those on public assistance benefits means a meal or the means to pay their bills. Eating and paying bills are not a “benefit”.
People who want to criticize the poor need to be poor for even just 6 months and see if they could hack it. They could have just enough money to cover their bills and basic needs like toilet paper and soap and maybe have fifty or a hundred dollars extra. And a few kids- no single poor shit because they’re not trying to legislate against the single poor (which is a whole different rant). The people who want laws need to live like the people they’re trying to punish for something that is not a crime. The above sentiment bears repeating-
HAVING NO MONEY IS NOT A CRIME.
People who have no money aren’t OK with it. Not in a capitalist society. People who have no money are ashamed they have nothing. People who have no money debate for twenty minutes about whether or not they should call an ambulance when they’re having heart pains or their kids are running a fever. People who decide to call for help then face the choice of welfare or bankruptcy. Can you imagine going to the emergency room for your primary care, and only going when a health condition is so dire you have no other choice? Can you picture for just a moment the act of filling out charity paperwork along with your other intake papers. If you have money or health insurance this might seem like some sort of gift. Not having to pay your bill would be wonderful. I’m not talking about not “having” to pay your
bill. I’m talking about not being able to pay your bill. Please, imagine feeling as if you are begging for health care.
Being poor is defeating. And I think people are only now getting that with the economy the way it is and middle class people losing their homes and jobs, and people who have worked for years not being able to find work. If you can’t get work and you have no money and no home and you can’t give your kids the basics, much less the luxuries, then life fucking sucks. And don’t say ‘suck it up and get a job at McDonald’s’ because for 30,000 positions McDonald’s received more than a million applications last year. There is also a growing trend of employers stating outright that if you have been unemployed for a specified period of time or even if you do not have a current job then you need not apply. Right now employers have the luxury of being picky. If they can afford to wait, they will. Conversely, times are tough and they might not be able to hire more employees and the ones they do have wind up doing the job of three people for the wage of one. Why would you hire more people when you can get what you need from one person who is terrified of losing the work they have? No one wants to be unemployed. What if you had no job? No job, no money, and welfare doesn’t mean you can live in luxury. If you get TANF it’s only for 6 months of your lifetime and you have to prove that you are looking for work for 40 hours a week. You can read the federal information about TANF here. If you’ve got no job you’re lucky if you can afford the gas or the bus fare to get to where you need to turn in your paperwork. I think people who are trying to fuck over the poor need to understand what it’s like.
I am poor. I speak from experience. But I’m lucky. I am incredibly fucking lucky. I have friends and family who have kept me from going under more than once. Most people don’t have that. Most people are far more screwed than I and they don’t need an extra deep dicking from the government or even an outcry from people who really don’t understand that the government needs to do something. There are millions of people who would love to work. Millions of people just want to be able to support themselves. Millions of people need to be able to look at themselves in the mirror and not think “I have no money and am therefore worthless.” The poor are not worthless. The poor are poor. That’s all. Just poor. Being poor is not a crime.