Archive for the ‘Classism’ Tag

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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Uber-Privileged Feminists Say “F*ck You!” to Low Income Women   4 comments

And to lesbians and to immigrant women and really to anyone who isn’t wealthy, straight, white, and preferably male and Christian. Because that’s what you’re doing when you’re supporting the presidential aspirations of anti-feminist wingnut Michele “Kill the Poor” Bachmann. And yes, The New Agenda, a nonpartisan women’s activist group, is actually urging women to vote for Bachmann, or Palin, should she throw her hat in the ring.

For those not familiar with this organization’s history, The New Agenda was founded by former Wall Street executive Amy Siskind in the aftermath of the 2008 election. Siskind, a longtime Democrat, supported Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Primary and, like many of us, was appalled by the sexist treatment of first Clinton, then Palin. And so The New Agenda was created to combat sexism and elect more women to political office. Laudable objectives to be sure, except for one thing: The politics of the women they champion appear to be irrelevant; simply being equipped with a vagina is all it takes to win the support of The New Agenda.

As a result, Siskind’s organization routinely supports conservative candidates whose policies do enormous harm to huge segments of the female population. Such as South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who championed the nation’s toughest photo ID law in an effort to disenfranchise low income voters (who tend to vote Democratic). Cheering on Bachmann, however, is a little surprising, even for The New Agenda.

For one, Bachmann is an outspoken anti-feminist who believes wives must obey their husbands. But no worries! Siskind explains that while Bachmann may not be a feminist, she’s definitely “pro-woman”! In fact, feminism is kinda passé; the new “pro-woman” movement is where it’s at!
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Walking or Waiting While Poor   6 comments

So we’re sitting at the bus stop, waiting for the bus and minding our own business. Cop car rolls up and cop gets out. Walks over to us and the two other guys waiting at the bus stop and asks all of us for ID. Demands to know where we’re going and whether there are any warrants out for our arrest. Turns out none of us are wanted for anything, so after calling in our information, he gets back into his car and drives off. Business as usual.

We live in an area with virtually nonexistent public transportation–buses run just a few times a day–so only the poorest of the poor are without a vehicle of some sort around here. If you see someone walking by the side of the road (no sidewalks here either) or waiting for the bus, you pretty much know at least one of the following must be true:

  1. They are too old to drive.
  2. They have a disability that precludes driving a vehicle.
  3. They had their license suspended or revoked.
  4. They are very poor.

Since we do not appear to be #1 or #2, we must be #3 or #4, and you know what that means: likely CRIMINALS!
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Poverty in America and the Emerging Slave Class   11 comments

My partner and I are poor. Really poor. We live in a small rental and we can’t afford many of the things most people take for granted: a car, TV, high speed Internet, health care, furniture. I was about to say we can’t afford anything that isn’t an absolute necessity, but then I thought of all the things we can’t afford although they are necessities, such as the aforementioned health care or even a winter coat. We’re part of a growing number of Americans who work hard, pay taxes–and barely scrape by. And there is almost no chance that our situation will improve.

From the government’s perspective, we’re doing fine. We don’t contribute to the unemployment statistics or the welfare rolls, so where’s the problem? It doesn’t matter to the powers that be that our lives are a daily grind of all work and no play. It doesn’t matter that we sleep on the floor and sometimes freeze in the winter because we can’t afford to run the heater. It doesn’t matter that we’re forced to ignore symptoms of ill health and suffer in agony because seeing a doctor or dentist isn’t financially feasible. It doesn’t matter that we own nothing, have no savings, and struggle to survive, although we’re working full time and paying taxes.

Speaking of taxes, last month we were forced to borrow money to pay our tax bill, and we’ll be paying back that loan for the rest of the year. Not because we owed such a huge amount, but because any amount is a hardship when you often don’t make enough to cover your bills and eat. What? You thought the working poor get a nice fat refund come tax time? Some do, but we’re self-employed. Self-employment taxes ate up our entire refund and left us owing Uncle Sam more money than we had. Hence the loan.

As companies increasingly hire independent contractors rather than take on new employees, more people will find themselves in our position. Although we’re technically freelancers, close to 90% of our income comes from four companies that hire us year round. We’re grateful for the work, but would we prefer steady employment with benefits? You bet!
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Please Stop Calling Poor People Weak   5 comments

I was going to say what I’m about to say in a comment at Corrente, but my login there isn’t working. Rather than spend another thirty minutes trying to figure out why their site says I’m logged in when I look at the homepage but logged out when I click on the post in question to comment, I thought I’d write a quick post on the matter on my own blog. Besides, Lambert is hardly the only lefty guilty of this offense.

The offense I’m referring to is calling poor people “weak” (as in, “the GOP wants to slash welfare programs because they don’t care about the weak,” or “both legacy parties want to kill the weak so 20% DISemployment suits them just fine”) or some variation thereof. Liberal KGO radio host Bernie Ward would always emphasize the importance of donating money to help “the least of us.” By that he meant the very poor, particularly the homeless, and especially individuals with mental health and/or substance abuse problems. I know he meant well and yes, I also know the phrase is from the bible. And yet it always rubbed me the wrong way to hear this extremely privileged man with his six-figure income refer to poor people in this manner. If the poor and homeless are “the least of us,” what does that make the wealthy?

Calling poor people “weak” is particularly problematic. I’d like to see some of those rich trust fund kids survive even 10% of the crap life has thrown my way. “The Poor” lack a lot of things: Opportunity. Justice. Health care. Affordable housing. One thing most of us don’t lack is strength. Or resilience. Or resourcefulness. We more or less have to have those qualities or we don’t survive. So to hear people call us “weak” because the odds are stacked against us, while those handed every advantage get to flatter themselves that they’re “strong” is pretty much the ultimate insult.

Street Harassment: The Privileged Victim   3 comments

Nancy Leong’s Harassment in the Intersection: Gender, Race, and Class in the Street at Feminist Law Professors echoes many of the sentiments expressed in the Feministe discussion on legislating against street harassment, specifically the idea that the women victimized by street harassment are usually more privileged than the men harassing them.

The assumption is that the typical victim of street harassment is a middle or upper class white woman and the typical harasser is a poor, possibly homeless or mentally ill, man of color. “Think of those who spend the most time in the street,” writes Leong, as she asks us to picture the typical perpetrators of street harassment. What neither she nor the Feministe thread mention is that this applies to the victims of harassment as well. Poor women, who are disproportionately racial minorities, are considerably more likely to experience frequent street harassment because they spend more time in the street and on public transportation. They are less likely to own a car, and cabs are out of the question when you’re poor. That means lots of walking and taking buses and subways, all of which expose women to harassment.

That has certainly been my experience. When I first moved to NYC, I was very poor. So poor, in fact, that I walked almost everywhere. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the street. The harassment was relentless. Walking even one block without commentary of some sort seemed to be too much to ask. I was harassed by men of all races, ages, and classes. Boys who looked like they were in junior high and men old enough to be my great grandfather. Wall Street types and construction workers. The only thing they all had in common was that they were male; therefore they felt very much entitled to let me know what they thought of me and what they would like to do to me.
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