Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, “entitlements”. Every day I read the morning news anxiously scanning to see if the Social Security checks will be sent this week. We are told that they will, but they may be a little delayed. Hmm, what happens when our tax payments are a little delayed? Penalties, interest, nasty letters and phone calls.We face consequences when our payment to the government are not submitted in a timely manner, regardless of the fact that our piddly little tax bill is but a drop in the vast ocean of that mythical, enigmatic and bottomless sea known as The Economy.
The rest of us live in definable, fixed economic reality. Any delay in income is stressful and inconvenient, but for individuals and families living on Social Security or W-2 (welfare) the impact is devastating. First of all most of us have very little, if any, money left over after we pay rent and bills. What little we do have is cleverly budgeted to the penny buying household items. Most of us have acquired inventive economic survival skills. For example, body wash can be used as shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent and floor wash. Free newspapers can soak up spills, line pet cages and wash windows. If we pop into a coffee shop we grab handfuls of napkins to use as paper towels, coffee filters, kleenex and, yes, toilet paper.We know that at the end of the University semester it’s time to go curbside shopping and pick up some new furniture. We wait for our neighbors kid to have a growth spurt so our younger child can have a new wardrobe. You get the point, we go with the flow and we “make do” as my grandmothers generation used to say.
Most of us don’t complain much, it’s just a way of life when you are poor. In fact most of us have a pretty well developed sense of humor about our adaptive lifestyles. Some of you may chuckle in recognition at some of my “money saving tips” and you probably have several of your own to add to the list. If these tips evoke humor and/or nostalgia chances are you haven’t learned abut poverty from the media but instead you have lived in it or know someone who has. The media is not going to go out of it’s way to humanize the lives of those of us who will be affected by our government playing chicken with our money.
Our money. That’s right. Not China’s money. Not the “taxpayers’ (we are all taxpayers by the way) but our money. We have all contributed to Social Security. Even individuals who have never worked had a relative who has paid into Social security in good faith that if a family member became disabled, widowed or needed to retire that money will be there to help out. And guess what? It is. Social Security is not broke. In fact it is doing quite well thank you, except for the fact that it is being held ransom by politicians who will use any scheme at their disposal to further their own agenda. Social programs have become the scapegoat of these weak minded unimaginative fools who have no qualms about throwing the poor under the bus in order to distract from the real causes of the economic problems our country is facing. I’m not going to go on about those problems, we all know the wealthy receive enormous tax breaks and are provided enough loopholes to avoid paying taxes all together. We all know about the bailouts and hopefully we all have some awareness of the cost of waging war all over the globe.
What strikes me is that the biggest scapegoat in this entire fiasco is virtually invisible. We may be presented with a human interest story here and there illuminating the struggles of working class America; stories that feature people who have lost jobs, had their homes foreclosed, had to have a rummage sale to make rent. The news anchors shake their heads sadly and and with waxy insincerity mourn that we are all facing hard times; which only serves to assure the rest of us that ‘we’re all in this together and as the great nation we are we will survive and come out shining and prosperous and perhaps a little stronger for our endurance’ after we have pulled ourselves up by our good old American bootstraps (boots that were most likely made in China).
What the media doesn’t want to show you is the human experience behind all these evil “entitlements”, those of us who live by the ‘making do’ philosophy. We are people who have been poor before this whole mess started and who will most likely continue to be poor when this “economic crisis” is over. And yet we are the ones who are expected to make tough sacrifices and tighten our belts. Pretty easy to say when you don’t ever see the reality of every day life in poverty. Murderers are able to kill their victims because they de-humanize them. In the movie Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill referred to his victim as “it”. I don’t think the poor even get that much respect, in fact we are often left out of the picture almost entirely.The rhetoric drones on about “entitlement spending” and “social programs”, which are in fact income. Income for real people, people who are struggling to get by already. People who have children and grandchildren and husbands and wives. People who have interests and hobbies and histories and stories to tell. People who are loved and who give love. We are not a bunch of faceless nameless zombies shuffling along demanding free money. Whatever our history, we are real people with real bills to pay, families to support and lives to get on with and we need and deserve recognition.
Image courtesy of sillypandabears
© 2010-2011 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard