Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Speeding Toward Disaster   Leave a comment

I was planning to write a few blog posts this week but I’m too weak, too tired, and too sad to focus on anything complex. Maybe in a few days.

I’m also scared. I keep thinking of my partner, our dogs, and myself in a car speeding toward a cliff. Unless something changes, we’re going to go over that cliff. And I don’t know what I can do to slow down the damn car, let alone put it in reverse.

Things were bad before I got sick and now they appear utterly hopeless. My partner continues to look for work but the job situation around here is pretty bleak. Either he isn’t qualified, or the job is only part-time and/or the pay is so low it would barely cover our rent, leaving nothing for our bills and food. On top of that, most of these jobs aren’t local. They’ll require spending two hours a day commuting, and he would be working over an hour a day just to cover the transportation costs. That’s a lot of commuting for a job that’s only part-time. But he keeps applying, hoping that something will work out.

My partner has a college degree but he can’t find a job that pays a living wage. Unfortunately that’s not unusual these days. I wasn’t surprised to learn that in 2010, over 43% of low-wage workers had attended or graduated college. Oh, and that other myth conservatives never tire of flogging, the one where most minimum wage workers are unskilled teenagers just trying to make a few “extra” bucks and gain much-needed work experience? Not surprisingly, that’s more BS. In 2010, just 12% of low-wage workers were under age 20 (down from 26% in 1979). And I’m sure a substantial number of those teenagers aren’t middle class kids living at home or attending college on their parents’ dime but young people working real hard to support themselves (like I was at that age).
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Sick and Desperate in the USA   1 comment

One of the things you worry about when you have neither money nor health insurance is what will happen to you in the event you become seriously ill. How are you going to pay for treatment? If you have an acute condition such as appendicitis, you can go to the ER and they have to take care of you. But what if it’s something like cancer or kidney disease? Something that requires prolonged, expensive treatment? All the hospital needs to do is stabilize you. Then you’re on your own.

Accessing medical care isn’t the only concern, though. How are you going to survive while you’re too sick to work? This is especially terrifying for the ever-increasing number of people keeping their heads above the water with freelance and contract work. If we can’t work, we don’t eat.

If you’re among the working poor who don’t qualify for Medicaid and you become seriously ill, you’re pretty much screwed. There is not much you can do. Which is why you tend to push these thoughts out of your head as fast as you can. Not much point in worrying about something you can’t change. Especially when just making enough money to scrape by consumes all your time and energy.

So, when I started experiencing some disturbing symptoms a couple of years ago, I did what most people without access to health care do: Hope it’s nothing serious. After all, it wasn’t like I was sick all the time. The symptoms came and went. And anyway, I had more immediate concerns. Like trying to keep a roof over our heads.
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Homelessness Averted   1 comment

A huge, giant, colossal THANK YOU to everyone who donated in the past week! You guys are truly lifesavers! Many thanks also to everyone who helped get the word out on Twitter and Facebook and especially to the awesome bloggers who asked their readers to lend us a helping hand.

As a result of your help, we will be able to pay our rent and utilities in February! I have also been able to buy more of my meds, which is a good thing because I’ve been battling severe depression (probably not entirely the result of my messed up brain chemistry). And, very importantly, we’ll be able to take care of our beloved Balou.

We’re treating him with nutrition, herbs, and other supplements rather than “conventional” cancer therapy. Even if we could afford surgery and chemo, which we can’t, I’d have difficulty subjecting him to painful, debilitating treatments at his age. We can’t be sure exactly how old our wonderful boy is given that he was a fully-grown adult when we adopted him, but he has to be at least 13 and could be 14 or 15. In other words, he’s already quite old for a dog of his size and breed. Our goal is to keep him happy and comfortable as long as we can. He was fading badly in December but has regained some of his strength thanks to the treatment your donations help make possible.

We now have almost a month to get back on our feet financially, and I’ll be spending every waking moment not occupied with the canine pack trying to do just that. Which unfortunately means this blog will likely be neglected a while longer. I will, however, keep you all posted on our situation. We’re currently still without work, but hopefully that will change soon!

Help! Facing Homelessness with 4 Dogs!   23 comments

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. And if I saw any other way out, there’s no way I’d be sitting here and writing this. Asking for help has always been very difficult for me, and if it was just about me, I probably wouldn’t be doing this. However, I have my dogs to think about. They depend on me and I’m trying real hard not to let them down. So here goes…

After barely making ends meet for a number of years, my partner and I are now in a position where we are facing homelessness. We usually manage to eke out a living selling our skills as freelancers, but during the last few months, work has completely evaporated. We spend all our time searching for jobs, but nothing has panned out.

We have also looked for work outside our field, but since we’re stuck in the boonies without a car, our employment opportunities are severely limited. Nonetheless, in an effort to leave no stone unturned, my partner did put in applications for two local just-above-minimum-wage jobs. Given that he has no experience in these lines of work and competition for any kind of job is beyond fierce around here, this is a long shot. Moreover, even if they do hire him, he wouldn’t get paid enough money fast enough to avoid eviction.
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Posted January 18, 2012 by Sasha in Poverty, Story of My Life

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Sex, Class, and Occupy Wall Street   19 comments

I’ve been following the Occupy movement with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s the first thing in a very long time that’s given me any hope for this country. It’s high time that we start focusing on economic injustice and the damage done by the greed of the mega rich and the corruption of those who do their bidding. The system is badly broken, as evidenced by the fact that politicians of both major parties are talking austerity and cuts to safety net programs at a time of record unemployment, growing poverty, and economic inequality comparable to the developing world. Clearly there’s a desperate need for a movement that raises awareness of the class war the wealthy have been waging on the rest of us.

Which brings me to my first issue with Occupy Wall Street. Who exactly are “the rest of us”? From a branding perspective, the 99% versus the 1% is very appealing. But is it accurate? Clearly not. If your household income is half a million a year, I’d say the system has been working very well for you. You may even be part of the problem if you outsource jobs or pay workers less than a living wage. But you’re still part of the 99%.

At the same time, “the 99%” has become synonymous with the downtrodden, debt-ridden, and dispossessed. I remember a Tumblr entry written from the perspective of a small child who’d witnessed her mom cry because she was unable to buy her kid a birthday present. It ended with the words, “My mom doesn’t know that I know we’re part of the 99%.” Huh? The mom doesn’t realize her kid knows she makes less than $590,000 a year? No wonder people are confused. I’ve seen numerous blog posts and comments by individuals with low six-figure incomes stating that they “stand with the 99%.” No, actually, if you have a low six-figure income, you are the 99%. In fact, if your household income totals $190,000, it could triple and you would still be part of the 99%.

So. Not very useful, is it? The bottom 90%, on the other hand, have an average household income of $31,244, which is probably more like what people have in mind when discussing the economic difficulties experienced by “the 99%.”
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Poor Woman Gets Three Year Prison Sentence for Lying to Feed Children   Leave a comment

File this one under the “war on poor women” AND the “war on (certain people who use certain) drugs.”

Anita McLemore has been trying to beat her drug addiction for over fifteen years. It’s been a struggle, not made any easier by the four felony convictions she has amassed during that time. After all, finding a job that pays a living wage and escaping poverty is an enormous challenge even if you’re not a convicted felon.

Hungry and desperate, the Mississippi mother of two turned to the food stamp program for help. There was just one problem. The application included a question about prior felony drug convictions and a statement indicating that convicted drug felons are not eligible for food assistance and deserve to starve to death (okay, it didn’t really say that last part but it might as well have). So McLemore did what just about any mom with hungry kids and no other options would do in this situation. She lied.

For this lie, she has now been sentenced to three years in federal prison (via TGW), followed by three years of supervised release and a $250 fine. Desperate to stay out of prison and remain with her children, McLemore had managed to pay back every penny of the government benefits she received. It made no difference. In fact, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate went out of his way to impose a sentence much harsher than the 2-8 months of incarceration followed by probation called for by federal guidelines.

The reason? Judge Wingate was disgusted by McLemore’s multiple drug convictions and outraged that the state courts had mostly allowed her to remain out of prison to take care of her children and seek treatment instead of locking her up like the hardened criminal she clearly is.
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Dear Dick   Leave a comment

As if you needed any more evidence that congressional Democrats are completely out of touch with the needs of the people they are supposed to represent, Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who is close to Obama and frequently thought to be signaling the President’s positions on issues, announced yesterday that massive deficit reduction is “the challenge of our generation,” urging fellow Democrats as well as Republicans to “seize [the] moment” by supporting a truly “historic” package that would, without question, include deep cuts to social safety net programs. Because what we really need in this country is even more desperate people who are unable to make ends meet.

If Dick Durbin thinks debt reduction is the preeminent challenge we’re facing, all I can figure is that he must be living in some alternate universe. Which I guess he is. Durbin and the rest of the millionaires’ club in the Senate are so far removed from the lives of the people they were elected to represent that they might as well be from another dimension. The deficit that so concerns Durbin and the DC establishment barely even registers as a concern for the people in my community. Indeed, the only reason it registers at all is the ruling class’ relentless propaganda campaign.

Let me tell you, Dick, what people in my California community are concerned about. Our county’s official unemployment rate is 14.7%, but the real unemployment rate in our neck of the woods is at least 10-12 percentage points higher. Sometimes a whole week goes by without a single “help wanted” ad appearing in the local paper (not counting “make thousands stuffing envelopes from home” schemes and the like). Jobs are so scarce and people are so desperate for work that a supermarket putting up a Help Wanted sign for three no-benefits, minimum wage positions received hundreds of applications in a matter of hours.

While at least one in four are unemployed, many more are underemployed or stuck in low wage jobs that don’t pay enough to cover the basics. The lack of discretionary income in the area has devastated small businesses. The barbershop that used to cut my partner’s hair, the Mexican restaurant we occasionally stopped by for takeout before our car broke down and we couldn’t afford to get it fixed, the two Internet cafés we visited a couple of times per month to escape the unbearable slowness of our dialup connection–they’ve all closed their doors. So have countless other businesses during the last few years. You can’t run a business without customers, and most people in our area have no money to spend.
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