On The Realities of Being Poor

I’ve been reading lately:

  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 19 March 2014 – “Do Federal Social Programs Work?”, by David B. Mulhausen, PhD
  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 15 September 2015 – “Poverty and the Social Welfare State in the United States and Other Nations,” by Robert Rector
  • Center for American Progress – “The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits,” by Joy Moses, December 2011.
  • UC Davis Poverty Research Center -“How To Reduce Poverty in the United States”

Poverty, as we all know, is a deep seated problem with no easy answers. The four articles noted above contradict each other on several issues, so it is not surprising that solving the problem is so difficult.

The March 2014 Backgrounder, for example states, “The American Public should have nothing to fear from the elimination of ineffective programs. Now is the time for deep budget cuts in federal social programs.” Some of the programs it suggests terminating include Head Start, which after detailed evaluation found that the program failed to improve the lives of the children, any more than the children who did not attend.  I’d have to agree, the Head Start program may have outlived its usefulness now that nearly all children attend a pre-school for at least a year before starting kindergarten. So, how much is actually spent on Head Start? According to one source: $7 billion.

Other programs the March 2014 article suggests are ineffective are:

  • Food Stamps (SNAP), which “failed to affect earnings and employment outcomes.” Sorry, what? This makes no sense. Were food stamps meant to increase the recipients earnings or employment? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It is a program to ensure better health through nutrition. So I deny that this is a failed or ineffective program based on the faulty testing criteria.
  • Moving to Opportunity (Section 8 housing) was also found to have failed “to produce statistically meaningful results” for the recipients.  This article does not explain the criteria used, but you can go here for more info. I suggest that part of the failure of this program is due to lack of participation of landlords. Applications for the program have actually been suspended for the past 10+ years (at least in Los Angeles), due to the long waiting list and short list of landlords, as well as the limited range; housing is not even offered in most of the surrounding cities. There must be some incentive provided to landlords to participate in the program, and currently there does not appear to be any.
  • The Job Corps program studies show that participants worked fewer hours and received less pay than the control group. I posit this is due to the dearth of opportunities in areas served; i.e., learn all the skills you want, if there is only a job at McDonalds, you will not make more money.  The program isn’t failing, we are. Yes, the program is ineffective, because it doesn’t solve the problem of job availability. Again, we need to provide incentive for businesses to locate in poor communities. Not an easy fix, so I guess it’s easier to just say it doesn’t work and trash it, than say it doesn’t work because it is flawed but could be improved.

The September 2015 Backgrounder discusses the living standards of those people considered poor. The US census (from which most financial data is taken) does not provide an indicator of those who may be using federal aid.  I should think that might skew the numbers, no? One of the criteria for determining poverty (other than income) include whether or not they have air conditioning. Most modern buildings have central heating and cooling.  While I might use my power for heating, I’m less likely to use the A/C because of the cost. So, just because A/C is available to me doesn’t mean I use it. And who says A/C is a luxury? Sure in 1945 it was, but today?

Nearly 75% of those defined as poor have at least one car. Again, who decided that a car was still considered a luxury item. The survey asks “do you have a vehicle.” It does not ask for the age or condition of it.  Two-thirds of the poor have a computer with internet access. Again, not really a luxury item either, now that so much of our lives need that access, especially when it comes to education. They have cable/satellite playing on a wide screen modern TV.  TV is again, not a luxury item. What the survey does not ask is “did you buy the TV or gaming system?” It might be a gift from a friend or relative. All I’m saying is that statistics don’t tell much of the story. Data can be skewed. Information omitted.bad wires

In the end, I know not all our systems work, and some should be dismantled, but others could be streamlined and improved. With each change we make to a system, it is only a patch. Now imagine that as an electrical system? Patch upon patch, always adding a new wire. I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption that this is why our government has become too large, too cumbersome, and too expensive.

And we never really fix the problem because of partisanship. Neither side will let the other side get exactly what they want. When did Party become more important than the People? (Much more on that later.)

Tired of the Hate-filled Rhetoric

I have grown weary of the current rhetoric: me good, them bad.  I’m disgusted with the media as a whole, and after reading this article in Politico, I’m doubly upset.  I think most of us know that the media does not necessarily represent the Average American.  To the contrary, media outlets cater to a particular audience, and that audience thinks like the media.  So, for example, the New Yorker, obviously, has an East Coast philosophy that does not translate well to the West Coast sensibilities.  The Times are each biased by location, and those locations are all large cities (Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Miami, etc.). The rest of the country, apparently, does not really matter.

Some may think that that is just fine. “I live on the West/East Coast, so I’m content,” seems to be the feeling.  The media bubble mentioned in the above article makes complete sense when taken in context with the demise of actual paper news, loss of newspapers. It’s a money game (always follow the money).  Paper publishing costs a lot; paper, ink, printing, journalists, distribution.  The advent of the internet certainly changed all that. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost, and with that, coverage of more localized news has nearly vanished.

What does that mean? It means the media is biased to their location and staff, not the people they purport to represent.  We end up with the nonsense of rhetoric, and by virtue of 24 hour news channels, we get sucked up into believing it.  And what is rhetoric? By definition it is: “language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.”   Lack of meaningful content.

We need to start thinking for ourselves, and not let the media play to our fears and biases. Bias/prejudice mean a strong inclination of the mind or a preconceived opinion about something or someone. A bias may be in favor of or against an idea or person or people. Prejudice implies preformed judgment even more unreasonable than bias, and usually implies an unfavorable opinion: prejudice against people of another religion or race. 

Everyone has bias in some form or degree.  It’s only human to base one’s beliefs and morals on one’s own personal experience. However, this leads to prejudice against ideas outside of our personal experience, reality and world. Prejudice that is not easy to shake. Only way to remedy this is to open one’s mind to the infinite possible points of view. The media helped us do that once upon a time. Now it is up to each individual to learn how to open their minds to ideas they might normally be opposed to.  Wouldn’t you like it if the Republicans and Democrats cared more for the country than party?  Personally, I see no reason to have political parties.  I’m a registered Independent for the last 25 years or so, but I still have preconceived ideas and a deep dislike to changing my mind. I also have a deep desire (now) to open my mind more, and possibly even change it.

This is where Free Thinking and/or Critical Thinking comes in.  It helps to take the emotion out of the equation, which where we all go wrong. It’s our emotions that get in the way of critical thinking. Think like a scientist; take a theory and set about to disprove it.

I don’t think using critical thinking will make me change my mind about the fact that Trump doesn’t belong in the White House, but it may help me understand how he came into power, and why the media did not accurately report on what All Americans wanted, just what the Average American wanted.  Not the same thing at all. The average American makes $65,000. I make half that with my and my husband’s income combined. Nothing average here.

So. No more rhetoric for me or from me (I may slip now and then, but I am trying).  Ted Nugent promised that he would no longer engage in such talk. If he can, certainly I can. It hasn’t been a month yet, and since his announcement came only after a Republican senator was shot and nearly killed, I’m having trouble buying it. I checked his FB page and website and don’t see anything hurtful or hateful. But neither do I see his denunciation of hateful rhetoric.  I’d never gone to those sites before so it may be he never posted the rhetoric there. For now I’ll give him benefit of the doubt. I want you to believe the same of me.

I know advice is worth it’s price, but my advice? Stop talking only with the people who already agree with you. Stop using only media sources that favor your preconceived ideas. Expand your media horizons and you may find out some very surprising things. What I’m trying to say is, try to keep an open mind and think for yourself–don’t let the media do it for you.

The Resistance

I have been working with resistance groups for only a few months.  I have learned so much in that short time, met some wonderful, amazing people, and found a sense of purpose.

The drag of this is it looks like the Resistance may not be needed before long, what with Trump being investigated for Obstruction of Justice.  Impeachment papers are being filed, and the White House executives are lawyering up.  I can see this going pretty deep into Trump’s staff: Pence, Bannon, Kuschner, Ivanka, and all the rest of the degenerates and unqualified bozos.  And I celebrate to see this happening.

Even if this all goes down, the Resistance will need to work to repair the damage done in these short six months of Trump’s tyranny.  To that end, it is going to take a lot of work to get people to vote.  Time for the Independents to grow in number and create a strong third party.  We need to ensure that it will be impossible in the future that no single party gains control of the House, Senate and Presidency at one time.  We need to eliminate Gerrymandering, and that will not be easy with a Republican Congress.  We need to eliminate Lobbyists. They’re just glorified beggars, aren’t they?  Disgusting humans.

To make that happen, however, we need to inform people of the importance of voting and when voting, how to do so.  We need to teach our children and immigrants the importance of voting for all elected positions.  Including the School Board.  If more people actually became aware of what their school boards are doing, perhaps we can save education from the greasy talons of Betsy DeVos.

We are the people, remember?  We are the people who create this country and hold onto the values on which it was founded.  That means taking back control of our government at all levels. That means education.  It means hard work.  It needs your time and effort. This is a hard thing to do, for people have families, work (sometimes at two or more jobs).  People have cars that break down.  They get ill, lose jobs, lose insurance, and in the end, lose hope.  It would be good for people to have hope again.

I hope this blog will help educate people on how the government works, where your tax money goes, and the danger of Gerrymandering.  Here is an excellent explanation of Gerrymandering and why it is dangerous.  I didn’t know how bad this was until recently. Gerrymandering lines should be erased–permanently–if we don’t want a single party system.

 

The Growing Poor in America

Our GNP has been growing.  Inflation has been rising since the 70s and cost of living has increased.  Yet wages have stagnated.

wages

Most wage increases over the last 20 years have been less than helpful in keeping up a Middle Class.  You can see by the above chart, the lowest incomes have actually decreased in the last 15 years!  Inflation has continued.  No wonder we no longer have a Middle Class.  I’d say Middle Class has dropped into the following categories: Poverty-Stricken, Poor, Middle Poor, and Barely Squeaking By.

Wages
In 1970, minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Today, it’s $7.25 an hour. That’s a 353% increase over that period of time, which seems like a fair amount… until you actually start looking at how prices have increased.

What about average wages? I couldn’t find a document that laid out full details on average wages per year, but this document from the Census Bureau, laying out some average wage information, shows that average household income has roughly kept pace with consumer prices.

Consumer Prices
In January 1970, the Consumer Price Index was 37.8. In January 2011, it was 220.223. That’s a 482% increase over the period we’re looking at.

In other words, for every dollar increase in the minimum wage since 1970, the price of an average item has gone up $1.36. Even adjusting for inflation, a dollar today buys less than it once did for low income earners.

So, for a person freshly out of school, the initial income outlook is worsethan a fresh graduate in 1970, but after some career advancement, their salaries end up being comparable given inflation.

Education
In 1970, a year of tuition at a public university cost $1,207. In the most recent year of data available, 2007, a year of tuition at a public university cost $11,034. That represents an annual average increase of 6.2%, which, if you applied it to the 2007 price, gives you an estimated 2010 cost of a year of education as being $13,216. That’s a 994% increase in the cost of a four year degree.

So, let’s say you’re earning minimum wage and trying to make it through college.

In 1970, you could work 755 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution – about 14 hours per week.

In 2010, you would have to work 1,823 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough money to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution – about 35 hours per week.

Source: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/a-dose-of-financial-reality/

 

Most people I know are in the Just Barely Squeaking ranks.  They own houses with large mortgages, have car payments, and credit card debt in excess of $10,000, lots of that is student loan debt.  Adult household members work at jobs they probably hate, and don’t pay near enough.  Jobs they have taken mainly for the insurance benefits, which have decreased steadily over the past 15 years.  Ever since the Reagan Era “Trickle Down” theory.

We pay more for homes, cars, and groceries than ever before, and are (for the most part) no better off than their Middle Class upbringing.  Why?

Technology.  It’s expensive.  Lot’s of techies make lots of money, but it doesn’t trickle down very far.  Maybe it trickles to their housekeeper, gardener, grocer.  (All of whom make 1/4 of what the Techie does.)  Technology, that god I heard about ever since I can remember.  That thing that would give workers more leisure time.  That thing that has replaced people with computers and robots.  Remember the old Secretarial Pools?  Large documents would be typed up by a bevy of women with each one typing a section over and over.  It took more people to do the typing because at that time Xeroxing was new, time consuming, messy, and expensive.  Now one person can type entire documents. Granted this didn’t happen over night, but computers have eliminated millions of jobs.

Health Care.  It’s expensive.  Insurance costs for such care is beyond believable when you see hospitals charge $1,000 for Tylenol.  Doctors charge over $300 per 15 minute visit. Luckily most of us can still see a doc for under $50 co-pays, but not all of us.  God forbid you have a serious health problem like cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Progressive MS or ALS.

Housing.  It’s expensive.  Greedy people have driven up the cost of homes to unprecedented heights.  New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles; all the major cities are virtually unaffordable for the Barely Squeaking.  In my city the cheapest homes you can buy are $500,000 fixers, for which you need another $200,000 to make repairs or alterations.

Gentrification of Poor Areas.  Rich Man buys apartment building occupied by 20 families each making less than $30,000 per year.  Rich Man evicts all 20 families.  He spends millions to rehab and improve his investment.  Who can blame him? So he puts in expensive carpet, wood floors, guts the bathrooms and kitchens and adds stainless steel appliances, granite counters, fancy pedestal sinks, and low-flush toilets and showers. The evicted families were paying less than $1500 per month for their 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment.  The newly finished building now houses only 10 units, minimum 2 bed/2 bath over 1500 square feet of living space (as opposed to the original 700 sf 2 bed/1 baths).  There is now underground parking, and a concierge.  The units are now to be sold as condos, starting at $750,000.

Improving the poor areas, right?  No.  It’s just relocating the poor by force.  Those 20 families now struggle to find a new apartment that they can afford. Usually they find something farther from their jobs.  Making it more difficult for them to keep those jobs. Likely a job will be lost simply because they can’t make it to the second job on time riding the bus.  Bus service is slow, cabs or Uber are expensive, cars even more so.

Many people with such low income work two part time jobs.  Neither of which will provide health insurance coverage if the worker puts in less than 30 hours.  So mom and dad work two minimum wage jobs without health insurance.  Their only health care provided by ERs across the nation, thousands of which have been systematically closed down by the Board of Directors of hospitals, because the ER is not cost-efficient.  Why? Because 90% of those in an ER have no insurance and no means to pay for their visit. ERs are required to treat a person, regardless of their ability to pay.  It’s no wonder they aren’t cost effective.

That says a lot when discussing a National Healthcare Insurance.  ERs would no longer be crowded with people with ear infections and colds, and could return to the intended use for accident victims.  Thereby decreasing costs simply by eliminating those without means from incurring debt they cannot pay.  It’s not Socialism, at least not in the bad sense of the word, it’s common sense with some compassion tossed in.

Do rich people really think I want to be borderline poor?  What is this lingering hate toward the poor (and the homeless)?  It’s been with us thousands of years, ever since “income” became a necessary part of life.  The poor in this country will continue to fall further behind and end up on Welfare (another GOP-hated social assistance).  The number of homeless will continue to increase.

Don’t those in power and/or with money care at all about us down here on the bottom row of the pyramid?  We built the fucking pyramid, we should not have to be buried by it.

Bipartisanship

As a society we are taught there are three (or four) things that should never be discussed: Sex, Religion, Politics (and money).  I only agree that talking about money is unwise.  But the rest are what we should discuss!  If we were able to teach our children tolerance, compassion, understanding and empathy, it would be quite a different world.  Instead we teach them not to talk to those who are different, or whose opinions are different from our own.  This breeds contempt, misunderstanding, frustrated anger, and festering hate.  Just the things the GOP seems to want people to feel.

Can there ever be such a thing as bipartisanship?  Truly?  What if we could change that? Would you try?  I would and will. Do you believe that nothing should be off limits to public discourse.  A little honesty, buttered with some empathy might go down better than angry rhetoric.  At least that’s my mind.

I don’t want to listen to the other side either, truth be told.  But neither do I want to see my world continue to be blown apart by hatred, anger, misunderstanding, rumor, and lies.  I see no reason that can’t change. If we want it to.  I am now on a search for a means to have real, open dialog with those with views opposing mine.

I wrote a few weeks ago about a lost opportunity to talk to the “other side” of an issue. Not many people want to listen to someone else’s side of an argument.  We merely wait on our side of the conversation for something from the other to tear into and deny. Name calling is easier than holding our tongue.  Spouting the same tired rhetoric is more appealing than using our own minds and hearts to listen.  Hating easier than understanding.  Empathy can’t be taught, apparently.  Nor maybe compassion.  But we can learn to understand one another.  Maybe become more tolerant of our differences. But to do this we need to have real, honest communication with each other.

We know that our rhetoric has become empty phrases devoid of personal meaning.  So let’s quit spouting the same old lines and come up with a new strategy.  I’m thinking radical here, but honesty is definitely something to shoot for.  I know that goes against the grain when talking politics, but honesty in political discourse–wouldn’t that be something?

Restraint will also need to be learned. Drop your preconceived ideas and ideology at the door.  We need to enter into these discussions with an open mind.  A very tough thing to do.  I’ll admit I have a serious bias against the religious.  I didn’t realize how closed minded I was, until fairly recently.  I’m endeavoring to change that personality flaw. Perhaps you don’t fully realize that you are unreasonably closed minded about something or someone?

Brainstormed recently w/a friend about how to accomplish this, we thought the first thing we need to try to do is teach people how to think for themselves.  A thing is no longer taught in US schools, along with civic responsibility (but that’s another blog).  Too many people do not understand the meaning of the phrase “critical thinking.”

So we need some sort of public education format, Meetup groups and the like, to provide a place for people who want to understand, an opportunity to do so.  Who would teach these classes?  Good question.

Forget the GOP.  Ignore the labels of Republican and Democrat.  Understand that liberal and conservative are opposites, not hate groups.  I’d like to see us stop labeling ourselves. African American, Hispanic, male, female, liberal, christian, conservative.  I get that it is instinctual to label and order our worlds in order to understand them.  However, this no longer seems necessary.  Can’t we all just be “people”?

Want to help build bridges to the other side?  Interested in understanding critical thinking?  Want to debate the issues in an educated way?  I want to learn how to do that. I am quite guilty of not wanting to understand opposing views, but I also know that it is unhealthy to do so.  For all of us.   Join us?

 

OMG

Been working on finding somewhere to house my son.  We can no longer live with him and his addictions.  I feel like a traitor making phone calls to find him somewhere else to live.  What kind of monster have I become?  Our hearts are breaking today and I am unable to stop crying.  Today he is telling me he hasn’t been drinking, or it hasn’t been much.  Totally different story from just a few days ago where he admitted to drinking/using.  He clings to his mental illness like a shield against anything he can’t deal with.  And right now he can’t deal with anything.

I found most shelters are full, most cannot adequately support someone with problems like mental illness and addiction.  I think I called 20 places, but didn’t really find out anything I didn’t know before.  I did find a few places that sounded like they might be able to help, but I can’t really get any info.  Son would have to call and/or apply in person.  Something I don’t think he’s willing to do.  Not to mention I’d have to give him my phone. Do I give him my phone?  Or would he just call and beg to come home?

I called to see about getting him on Section 8 housing.  Nope.  The program is not taking new applicants.  According to their website, it hasn’t since 2012!  So financial assistance for housing is out.  Permanently, apparently.  I was quoted with the cost for detox: $5000. I can’t get him in sober housing until he’s clean.  I can’t get him to detox

Why is there no public rehab? Why don’t we help the helpless? Just as with all societies we are biased against the mentally ill and addicts.  Just like LGBTQ are finally being accepted, but we had to work for that.  We had to change the rules when we become aware enough to know that such behavior is inhumane.  It took 200 years for the whites in this country to realize the value of making men equal.  It took thousands before we grew as a nation to recognize how wrong the Straight world was wrong.  We can change. We can give people dignity despite their circumstances.  We can treat all people, well, like people.

What is wrong with this country?   I know what’s wrong with it now: we’re lead by an imbecile, but he’s only making things worse.  Not defending him, but he has not been involved in any of these governmental programs. Until now.

I just saw Elizabeth Warren talking about the Trump budget.  She only mentioned one item: cutting $11 Billion from education.  Art programs-gone.  Music-gone.  They’ve even taken away funding for Phys Ed.  No teacher training, no new teachers, no more books no more computers.  So we will continue to have a completely ignorant population.  I pay taxes to ensure proper education!  It’s tax fraud for them not to use that money appropriately!

Can you imagine what cuts will be made to public programs like Welfare, Social Security, etc.  All programs my tax money pays for!  Or is supposed to.

Impeach the fucker all ready.  We will deal with Pence later.

 

 

 

Drug Abuse & Brain Damage

Right now I hope my son is using something, because if he isn’t, he has permanent brain damage that may require hospitalization or institutionalization. I’m scared.  He has spells of normal behavior then suddenly he turns into this psycho who cannot articulate what he means to say–he uses the wrong words.  Nouns elude him.  He also gets obsessive and damn near impossible to communicate with.

He got lost coming home from his ex’s the other night.  She lives just one town over, about a 25 minute drive on surface streets.  She has lived at this location for five years.  The other night he ended up on the freeway going north into South Los Angeles.  A fairly unsafe place for a confused long-haired white guy.  It took 10 minutes of talking with him to get him headed in the right direction.  Stay on This Road, I told him, and it will bring him home.  5 minutes later he calls back.  He’s lost again.  Husband figures out where Son is and tells him to wait, that he will come lead him home.  Another 15 minutes and he calls, they’ll be home in just a minute, Son was right behind him, and they were 2 blocks away.  Unbelievably Son called about 10 minutes later.  Now he is headed south on a different freeway some 35 miles from home!

When he get’s home, it’s not much better.  He’s in and out of the house.  Front yard, back yard.  He comes into our room looking for various items, usually something that we would not have in our room, like the car.  He won’t go to his room, he won’t lie down.  He returns to our room repeatedly, goes into the bathroom 4-5 times in an hour.  He took two showers.  One less than an hour after the first.

It’s like having an extremely mobile 3 year old.  So afraid thinking about him driving on the freeway, probably speeding, considering how far he got from home in just a few minutes.  How am I supposed to deal with that?  What is that?  What is happening?  He gets single-minded and resolved to a particular action and seems unable to stop.  He listens, but he doesn’t hear.  He speaks, but he makes little sense most of the time.

Here is a sample of some things he said today:

“If I want to pick a fruit, just let me pick a fruit.”

“I’ve got to go to Armstrong’s (a gardening store) to get a thing, a, a, a, rope for my my my, the, that, my couch.”  He  meant he needed to go to Best Buy for a new charging cord for his iPad.

“It won’t work and no one will help me.”  This about his iPad, which isn’t the problem so much as he can’t sign in to any of his accounts, his passwords no longer work.  This happens each time he has one of these episodes.  I cannot do this any longer.  Husband can no longer handle this.

“You guys do so much for me, too much.  But I need help and you’re not helping.  All you do is yell at me.  And I’m not allowed to be to be upset or get mad.”  At times his anger feels like a physical presence and I am acutely sensitive to it.

One doc diagnosed him with schizoaffective disorder.  A scary mix of schizophrenic and bi-polar symptoms.  He fits some of those guidelines.  I also came across something called semantic dementia.  A truly horrifying illness with a limited lifespan.  He fits some of that criteria as well.  The only information I really find on these illnesses is a description of symptoms and prognosis, or I end up on some rehab site that tells me nothing except ‘drugs bad’.

I have an appointment to see my therapist with Son tomorrow afternoon.  I need someone I trust to give me an opinion as to what is going on.  I think he needs to be hospitalized, properly diagnosed and treated before returning home.  Except that won’t happen because there are too many mentally ill or addicted individuals in the area.  There are not enough facilities for all the mentally ill.  Not enough beds, nurses, doctors. The help is not free, does not take most insurance.  What are poor addicts supposed to do then?  What options do we provide them?  None.  What help do we provide to the families of those with serious mental health issues?  None.

None.  And with the new Trump NonCare it will only get worse for people like us: Sad losers (to use Trump’s words) who never caught a break in life.  How can people not understand the allure of suicide?