The Quiet Desperation of the Poor

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  • #169675

    David the Gnome
    Member
    • Total Posts: 1,137
    @davidthegnome

    I’ve seen and heard plenty lately, about people abusing the welfare system, breaking the law.  Hell, I’ve heard it all throughout my life as I live in a pretty conservative area.  I rarely say anything, because, to be honest, I am afraid.  Afraid to be judged and condemned before anyone even bothers with getting to know me, or my circumstances.  I keep a great deal to myself, with all but family – and those of you who share JPR with me.  It has been a great outlet to discuss things I don’t get the opportunity to talk about in real life, because if I said what I really thought to others up here, I think it would end badly.

    How many tent villages, underground cities, homes with neither running water nor heat… will it take?  Some years back, a young Mother up here ran out of cash and either did not receive, or did not know enough to ask about what programs could help.  So she ran out of heating oil.  Being young – and probably not all that aware of the danger, she used her kitchen stove to provide.  She had three children.  One of them perished with her in the fire.  The next several weeks, there was a lot of gossip, much of it about how the mother was a drug addict – and other, less than pleasant things being said about her and her character.  Early twenties, pregnant in high school, yeah, you know how people talk.  It seemed that no one wanted to talk about the fact that that Maine winters frequently drop below 0 degrees for an extended length of time – that without the heat from that stove they would have frozen to death instead.  Nor did anyone, apparently, wish to discuss the terrible poverty she lived in, that her children shared with her.  Nor did anyone wish to discuss how little it would have taken to get them some god damned heating oil for the winter.

    So, a young child and a mother die – but people are more concerned with trash talking the mother then considering… why?  Had it been a wealthy woman who’s furnace blew up, the conversation would have been very different.  I doubt there would have been much talk about her drug habits, if she had any.  I doubt anyone would have talked about how two of her children had different Fathers, even if it was true.  I doubt people would have been so ready and willing to condemn the dead, were that the case.

    Now… I want you to think about this seriously for a minute.  Do you know how much a person who receives welfare actually gets?  Do you know how low their income has to be to get it?  Are you aware that many states have regulations that make it impossible for many people who desperately need it to get any help at all?  I am – largely by accident – but also due to many of the young people I have met in my neck of the woods.  People who tend to be more like me, quiet, because if they spoke up, they would have one hell of a story to tell – and it would blow your typical media story out of the water.

    Speaking for myself… it took over two years to be approved for disability – in my case supplemental security income.  I didn’t quite have the working quarters to qualify for the standard social security disability – which would have paid less than SSI.  During those years, I survived due to the generosity of others – and some help from the food stamp program – because I was in the process of appealing a disability ruling, I wasn’t required to get a job or try to prove I was looking for one.  Chronic back pain, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, bipolar, etc.  I could list a million symptoms, but they’re not relevant right now.

    What is relevant is this – the food stamps paid approximately 190 a month for food, because I had no other form of income.  This enabled me to buy my own food most of the time, depending on what you call food.  Lots of processed stuff, peanut butter, ramen, the cheaper the better.  You’d be surprised how much hormone-antibiotic-filled processed chicken nuggets you can buy with a little money.  My diet back then probably made my condition worse, as I’ve now got GERD and other digestive issues to deal with.  But I made it.

    Now… consider someone who does not have a place to live (I had my parents home), who does not have any income, who is not in the process of applying for disability.  For one, they could not get food stamps without proving they were looking for work.  Nor health insurance, nor, if they had a family, could they receive TANF without the same.  So, what do you do with zero income, no home, no resources with which to buy food?  If you are lucky, friends or family will help… not so lucky…. well, visit any number of tent cities throughout the US.  Or visit any typical city, talk to some of the homeless.  Some make it.  Some don’t.  Their lives are not what any of us would consider to be… anything other than a nightmare.  Many of them, once proud, have been taught that poverty is something to be ashamed of, that they are a drain on society, that they should not be seen or heard, because people don’t want “dirty bums” hanging out on their streets.  They come from all walks of life – and many are Veterans of foreign wars.  Who fought and bled for this Country’s military, where everyone says “Thank you for your service”.

    My present situation is that I live with my fiancé in a small town.  Disability (SSI paid for by the general budget – NOT the social security budget) pays about 779 a month.  It helps.  A lot.  Without it, I couldn’t live here, she doesn’t earn enough to support us both.  Though she does okay for up here, something like 13.25 an hour, full time, with benefits (of course, benefits come with strings attached – but that’s another story) – my small income makes the difference.  I’m paying about 450 a month towards rent and the car payment.  I buy my own medications, which, thanks to Mainecare, typically cost about 3 dollars each.  I got a lovely letter from the governor a month or two back, telling me that, because I now receive SSI, I no longer qualify for food stamps.  Well, first I got one that reduced them to 15 dollars – then another that cancelled them altogether.  Fortunately they can’t take my health insurance away, because I’m disabled, at least until my review in some 2.6 years now.

    At 779 a month…. let us assume I was left alone.  Even in low income housing I would be required to pay one third (or more, depending on the complex) of my income towards rent.  So, 260, give or take some.  No way I could afford a car.  Let’s say I ate a really unhealthy diet and spent about 200 bucks a month on food (I don’t recommend it, but for one person, it’s possible to survive that way).  Now, let’s put together heat and electricity – and water.  In a Maine winter, going to run me right around 140 a month or so, if I’m careful.  Brings us to 600.  There is no public transportation in my neck of the woods, so if I wanted to go more than a few miles, I’d have to hire a cab.  Assuming I bothered to travel at all, let’s call it 50.  149 a month left… that’s what is left if I want the luxuries of internet, a phone, cable.

    I could live that way… if I was very careful.  Most likely I’d end up broke before the end of the month – but I’d get there, barely.  So what happens if that income is cut?  Well, in the scenario given, I’d be finding myself a tent or, maybe, an old beater of a car to live in.  I might possibly survive, unless the car wont start some night and I freeze to death.

    Let me be very clear on one of these last points – the vast majority of people, even if they need this kind of assistance, cannot get it.  Either they or their parents have income, or assets, that are valued at or above 2,000 dollars.  The only things excluded from this (I believe they still are) are your home and vehicle.  So if you have a decent computer, television, or other things totaling that amount (even if they were gifts) – you’re out of luck.  If your parents put together a college fund that you haven’t used yet, or some other fund valued at 2k – you’re out of luck.

    This means, if you go without a job for any length of time and have no home, or are otherwise removed from it… you cannot get food stamps.  You may ultimately be able to get disability if you have considerable psychological or physical issues that a Judge decides prevents you from working.  You may not.  It will be a 2 year process in any event.  You may get health insurance via Medicaid – if you apply and appeal, a process that also takes months.  In the immediate, in the short term… there is nothing between you and rock bottom beyond family, friends… or the unlikely kindness of strangers.

    This is what it means to be poor in America.  We have a safety net that is shrinking.  We have a Presidential administration that is deliberately eliminating free school lunch for some 500,000 children – many of whom will now have no lunch.  We have billionaires paying no taxes.  We have corporations with billions in profit paying no corporate tax.  We have politicians who pay no income tax, who, on the tax payer dollar, receive more income than 90% of their citizenry – who are telling us to tighten our belts.  Who are telling us that the poor are lazy good for nothings, in so many words.  Who are demanding more cuts and fewer of what they call “entitlements”.

    So many are in despair, or damn close to it.  I’ve been there, seen every one of my ideas and dreams of the future vanish.

    So how do we deal with this situation?  How do we care for those living in despair, who are poor and cannot get help?  Remember the Tea Party chant of “let them die”?  Lots of people in both parties… quietly or loudly agree with that.  I say those people have no souls.

    Self righteous bigots judge what they do not know.  “It’s all those welfare people”, “Oh, they must sell drugs”, “What, you gave disability to them?  They can still walk, can’t they?”  Are there no poor houses?  No prisons?  We are not so civilized as some like to think.  The safety net misses millions.  Every single day.

    Given a choice, people would much rather work for a living than be poor.  But given the choice between what they can earn with a minimum wage – and what full benefits might pay… if they are persistent and fortunate…

    We have a really, really severe problem.  I am tired of the media and government saying there is no recession, no depression.  Of course there is – they just refuse to see it, let alone talk about it.  It is not just our people that are suffering and dying… it is our character, our dignity, it is our Country and all that it was intended to stand for.  If we do not make a stand, the quiet desperation of the poor will no longer be quiet.  Starving people – and people with starving families… are not going to beg quietly.  Nor will they die quietly.  There will be a reckoning – and what is left could resemble dystopia.

    We must somehow find the compassion and empathy within ourselves to say that… that poor single mom down the street, that drunk old vet, hell, any one of them… it could be me.  What if it was me?  What if it was my daughter?  My father?  My sister or son?

    Either we learn to love each other more, or this Country will burn.  That is what the quiet desperation of the poor means.  Note the word “desperation”, the point beyond this is when all hope is lost, when people believe they no longer have anything to lose.  No one is more fierce or more capable than such a person, no one is more hungry or more angry.  We should never underestimate what lies just beneath the surface of “civilized society”.  It can be solved.  The resources exist.  They must be redirected.  Or we will soon learn what tens of millions of hungry people beyond desperation are capable of.

    Take heed, Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden – all of you politicians and political hopefuls.  The ball is in your court for now… it will not remain there.

  • #169678

    Ohio Barbarian
    Moderator
    • Total Posts: 6,328
    @ohiobarbarian

    Because of where I work, yes, I do know how ridiculously low income limits are to get services, and how cruelly limited those services usually are. I hear ignorant coworkers every day say that those people should just get a job, even though there are no jobs they can get that pay a living wage, a fact to which those coworkers categorically deny with no evidence to support their claims. I could go on, but you so eloquently explained it that I have no need to do so here. I’ll just say two things:

    Because of all you describe and much more, like war and climate change:

    And, @deadpool this really belongs on the Daily Radical.

    We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

  • #169685

    David the Gnome
    Member
    • Total Posts: 1,137
    @davidthegnome

    @ohiobarbarian

    I think having a President like Bernie could help.  Maybe it could help a lot.  However, assuming we can get through the ridiculous primaries and then the general… winning both, he will be hard pressed on several fronts.  Corporate democrats will not want to endorse a lot of his policies.  Most republicans will be strongly opposed to anything he supports – referring to politicians in general.  He will have to get legislation through Congress and the Senate, which is difficult in the best of times.  In times like this… if they are divided among party lines are they are now, we will most likely be dealing with a lot of obstruction.  Given who Bernie is, if he asked, I believe he could get millions to march, to go to Washington DC.  But doing it over and over again, well… that’s another matter.

    Honestly, one hell of an uphill battle, first to win the election, then to effectively create and pass through good legislation.  There is also the very real possibility of any good he could do being undone in 4-8 years by a republican administration.  Voting for Bernie will help, but…

    It won’t be enough.  I think those things we most need are within each of us, if we only take the time to look for them.  When I was a boy, I was angry about so many things, I was angry at so many people.  I was angry at the world.  As I grew older, I learned to breathe more deeply, to think more carefully, to examine the different points of view.  To at least attempt to put myself in another’s shoes – and see the world through their eyes.  I do not always do this, some times I behave very stupidly.  I won’t make any promises as to my sanity, either.  However… if a GED educated punk like me do this, I think most of us can.  Find that quiet within that lets us think and feel more deeply, to find that the truth is never as simple as black and white.

    I think of Martin Luther King, the Kennedy Brothers, FDR, Gandhi, Mandela – and many, many others.  People who’s compassion and decency changed the world for the better.  People who gave hope to so many.  If such people could be found (and perhaps, within each of us, there is the possibility of finding such people) and could work together… the world would be a very different place.  So many people think introspection is a waste of time.  It is only a waste of time when you do nothing with it.

    Everything we really need to change the world already exists within each of us.

    • #169693

      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 6,328
      @ohiobarbarian

      @davidthegnome

      One battle at a time, brother, one battle at a time. Even Alexander the Great couldn’t do more than that.

      We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

  • #169694

    Charles
    Donor
    • Total Posts: 1,070
    @charles

    Another excellent and thoughtful post. Please keep up the great work.

    The stark contrast of the levels of wealth & income inequality in America must be dealt with as well as the waning compassion, greed, and spiteful nature of some Americans who just don’t get it.

    Bernie 2020….

    Bernie: "Not Me. Us"

  • #169754

    jackarse19
    Member
    • Total Posts: 8
    @jackarse19

    Your picture grows more detestable by the day Dorian Gray.  Just don’t look seems to be the preferred solution

  • #169771

    Earthartist
    Donor
    • Total Posts: 227
    @earthartist

    David the gnome. Wow what a wonderful writer you are! I always enjoy your words, they are very powerful. I hope you send this to some news papers.

    People don’t get poverty in this country! I think some of it comes from the pioneer glorification, they forget many many died. The Great Depression is another one where people hear heroic tales. I would suggest to most of these pull up the boot straps folks to take a real look at how these people suffered. Then take some time and work in some of the programs that are out their for the homeless.  It is much easier and far less scary to put them in a negative lite because some how that makes you feel safer from having the shit hit the fan in your life.  Making them worthless means it cant happen to you.  I work at a warming center, and it is so heart breaking to see people that you know are brilliant, but the next night they are in some completely different place. Or the person who was doing ok on the edge but ok, lose everything cause of illness, and no insurance. People in  Paradise who had no insurance now homeless. The thing is it takes so little to end up there.  Then It takes so much to get the things that are there to help you survive! How many of the very many mentally ill people are capable of getting those subsidies?

    Americans I think are so frightened of landing on the streets that they avoid or demean the people who have landed their.

    We had an exchange student from germany who was shocked by how many people lived on the streets in the US. In germany people get housing ,food medical, and a stipend to live on.   we just through our taxes to the Military industrial complex, to insure many people around the world end up homeless once we destroy their country.

    Earthartist

  • #169777

    jwirr
    Member
    • Total Posts: 672
    @jwirr

    Thank you David. I have become hardened to the hate. Been around for years and only getting worse. Wonder if the churches are missing us at all. Doubt it. Social workers pretty much accepted me because I was taking care of a disabled child 24/7 who would have cost them much more. But that did not mean that the so-called goodies did not think I should dump her and get a job. We are living in a horrible world.

    jwirr

  • #170112

    Deadpool
    Administrator
    • Total Posts: 2,145
    @deadpool

    On the Daily Radical!

  • #170356

    Cold Mountain Trail
    Member
    • Total Posts: 4,084
    @coldmountaintrail

    I hear ya, so true.  People who are relatively safe have no idea, because they can insulate themselves from ‘those people’.  But they’re everywhere, & suffering.  Needlessly.  And the system often makes their suffering worse because of all the hoops placed in their way from the fear that someone, somewhere, might get a scrap they didn’t ‘deserve’.

    Meanwhile, the ownership class is ripping off the nation right and left.  But we’re encouraged to blame their victims.

  • #170444

    Koko
    Member
    • Total Posts: 42
    @koko

    Important Read…As Usual.  Thanks David! 

  • #170645

    rampart
    Member
    • Total Posts: 387
    @rampart

    the limits on income and savings are ridiculously low, the processing times are incredibly high, and the level of service are meager. it is surprising, really, that our cities are not in flames.

  • #170982

    David the Gnome
    Member
    • Total Posts: 1,137
    @davidthegnome

    We get it – so why is it that so many do not?  I dont want to see what happens when it goes beyond quiet desperation.  Anger, rage, hatred… however justified, lead to more of the same.  If it comes down to it – and the rich and the poor hate each other enough…

    I get the reasons.  Some times its damn hard for me not to hate every rich person.  Every time someone goes on about “those people” theres a part of me that is full of rage.  I collar it, I leash it, because otherwise I’d go mad on these assholes.

    Not all bad people either.  I mean… people I know to be intelligent and compassionate spout this ignorant shit.  I dont want anyone to get hurt, but sooner or later… it will happen.  I spent years in therapy learning to manage my emotions, and anger… but even I struggle.

    I know some of you feel the same.  What do we do when no one listens? Or understands?  Or, worse, when the majority doesnt give a damn?

    I’m not starving, freezing, or dying yet.  Not homeless yet.  Not beyond desperation yet.  But I and millions of others could easily get there – and if things dont change, we will.  Too much injustice, too much inequality for far too long.  Plenty of people a lot angrier than I am.

    I dont think society wants to see what happens if this particular monster comes off its leash.  By monster… I mean that anger, that most of us try to bury.  Cant bury it forever.

    • #171054

      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 6,328
      @ohiobarbarian

      @davidthegnome That is the classical conservative argument for helping the poor, dating all the way back to Edmund Burke and Reflections on the Revolution in France. That doesn’t make it a bad argument, on the contrary, it’s a damned good one.

      We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

  • #171058

    Earthartist
    Donor
    • Total Posts: 227
    @earthartist

    The  homeless here in Eugene are actually organizing and they have set up camps in very in your face places.

    Group of us has gone after the Land Board A governor run Board, about kicking homeless out of parks with no alternatives for them

    we have made a point of being in the face of the city, to the point I believe the city manager called it quits!

    we all need to have the backs of our fellow brothers and sisters, we all Have to step up, let them know we are watching them.

     

    Earthartist

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