Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Posts tagged ‘Great Depression’

Having kids is so much fun: women are getting pregnant so they can collect welfare!

Letter I sent to radio host George Knapp of Coast to Coast AM:

Dear Mr. Knapp:

Last night a caller named Scott from Iowa called to complain that he believes that people (particularly immigrants) are working 40 hours per week then collecting a welfare check. He added that his neighbor is “partying” all the time and that whenever she gets close to getting a job she “turns around and gets pregnant.”

The ignorance behind that man’s statement really sickens me.  As someone who grew up with a lot of disadvantages and obstacles that I’ve fought (unsuccessfully) to overcome my entire life, I am saddened that so many Americans think like Scott.  Scott, do you know what it’s like to be poor and to have people judge you, look down on you, treat you like dirt?  Yet when you try to get a job you can’t find one or you just get low-paying, dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and you’re worse off than you were when you were on welfare because then, at least, you got your health care paid for?  Do you know what it’s like to work and work and work, and still not have enough money to pay your bills because your wages are just too small?  Scott, do you know what it’s like to not get hired or promoted because you’re female or black? Or because you’re over 30?  Or worse, over 40?  There’s a such thing as social injustice, unfairness, discrimination and inequality.  That is why, statistically, women and people of color make up most of the poor people in the world.  (No, Scott, it’s not because women and people of color are inferior to you.  There are very few people in this world who are inferior to you, Scott.)

Mr. Knapp, I truly appreciate your thoughtful response to Scott.  The amount of money people obtain from welfare (and other social programs) is indeed very small.  Also there are a lot of limitations and restrictions placed on people who collect public assistance.  These regulations prevent some people from bettering themselves & getting off welfare.  The regulations also prevent other people from getting proper assistance when they need it.  Ironically, the mean-spirited assumption that poor people are taking advantage of the system is what prevents services to the poor from being adequately funded, so that poor people don’t really get the assistance they need.  And THAT, my friend, is the true reason why people stay on welfare for years and years.  Want to get them off welfare?  Then provide people with real assistance that empowers them and elevates their spirits rather than this half-assed assistance that demeans and degrades them so that they no longer have a self-esteem or enough time and energy (after jumping through all the hoops they must jump through in order to get assistance) to obtain a decent job.

Everyone wants to feel that his/her unique talents and skills are valued by society.  It’s embarrassing to apply for assistance–makes you feel like a victim.  By contrast, it builds one’s self-esteem to feel that one can contribute & that one’s talents are appreciated. It’s humiliating when you find that no one wants you. You apply for jobs you’re perfectly qualified for but are told you’re just not right for their work environment.  And working at a job that doesn’t pay an adequate wage doesn’t help anything.  You just fall further and further behind on your bills. It’s impossible to catch up while working at jobs that don’t pay a living wage.  Yet because you’re working you don’t qualify for assistance and aren’t considered disadvantaged, so, again, you’re just stuck.  (And, of course, everyone attacks you for not paying your bills!)

I myself suffer from chronic back pain that is turning into a permanent disability as a result of years of working hard and not having the money to get my back pain treated properly.  If I end up on disability or being hospitalized that will cost this country a lot more money in the long run than it would have cost to have just provided me with the health care I needed in the first place.  Also forcing employers to provide decent work conditions and decent pay (so that we can improve the quality of our lives) helps prevent employees from developing chronic health problems.

Scott, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not easy to get assistance of any kind in the US (unless you’re a large corporation).  I personally don’t qualify for assistance even though I’m unemployed.  The jobs I’ve had have been part-time and with no benefits, so I can’t get unemployment.  I’m not an alcoholic, drug addict, mental patient, disabled, nor do I have a criminal record, so I don’t qualify for most types of assistance.  I inquired about a job-training program recently and was told I’d be disqualified if I mentioned my college degree, so I have to pretend I don’t have one in order to qualify.  (Presumably, I shouldn’t be unemployed with a college degree?)  I have a college degree and lots of skills but can’t find a decent job.  I can’t teach because I’m required to go back to college to get a license and can’t afford to do that.  The jobs I’ve been getting the past few years haven’t been paying the bills, and my debts are increasing.  As I mentioned, my family’s dysfunctional and poor, so I can’t get help from them.  So…homelessness, here I come!

Yet I am unable to talk to anyone about my dilemma because most people I meet think I shouldn’t have any trouble at all finding a job.  Like you, Scott, they just don’t believe me.  After all, I’m intelligent, highly skilled and educated, right?  However, I’m told I’m “overqualified” for the low-paying service and entry-level jobs I apply for and not experienced enough for jobs that require my education and skills.  (Most of this is due to age and gender discrimination, but there’s nothing I can do about that.)  Fact is, there are just too many people competing for the few jobs out there.  Employers are taking advantage of that and choosing to pay their employees tiny wages.

There is also tremendous discrimination.  Not just against women and people of color but against those of us not between the ages of 18-28 who are looking for work.  Many employers blatantly advertise they’re hiring “recent college grads.”

And laws are increasingly working against people.  For example, if you fall on hard times and can’t afford to pay your bills on time, bill collectors can charge hefty fees on the balance–making it impossible for you ever to pay those bills!  I was unemployed and owed the state $325 for overpayment of my unemployment benefits but couldn’t afford to pay it–as I was unemployed, remember?–so I didn’t have any money in the bank.  I mean, really, hello!  So the state charged over $1000 in fees on the balance and continues to charge interest on the amount I owe.  This has made it impossible for me to ever pay the balance. If I had trouble saving up $325, obviously, I can’t save up $1500.  It’s not that I don’t want to pay the bill.  I just can’t pay it.  When I apply for jobs and only get hired (after months of searching) for $8 per hour jobs, I can’t even afford to pay my rent much less get caught up on my bills.  My debts just keep increasing because the amount I’m bringing in is just too small.  Honestly, it’s not rocket science, Scott.  Do the frickin’ math!

I also owe money in student loans.  A law passed at the end of the 90s (SallieMae, a for-profit corporation, lobbied for it) penalizes students REGARDLESS OF THEIR INCOME for not paying off their loans.  Yet most financial aid students are required to take out loans as a part of their “financial aid” package.  It’s ridiculous because my BA doesn’t qualify me for anything, and I can’t go back to school to get an MA or a BA in something else because I don’t qualify for financial aid until I pay off my loans!  I owe almost 70k, so there’s no way I’ll pay off those loans–unless I get a job that pays 100k per year pretty soon.  So I’m stuck.

But it’s not just me.  There are thousands of us.  We’re intelligent, motivated, hardworking.  But we’re not being allowed to contribute to society.  Do you understand, Scott?  Our spirits, hearts and minds are being broken by this self-centered, selfish, mean-spirited greed that has taken over the country.

Meanwhile, it was announced on the news that the US is falling behind other countries because fewer Americans are now going to college.  Well, why not stop punishing those of us who do go to college by forcing us to take out mortgage-sized loans?  I personally, warn as many people as I can—not to go to college, unless your family’s rich and can afford to pay for it.

I was homeless just a few years ago.  It was a painful experience.  Anyone who says homeless people “choose” to be homeless is misinformed, to say the least.  Homeless people may turn down offers for “help,” but it’s not because they “choose” to be homeless.  It’s just that most offers of “help” have too many strings attached to them and do not address the needs of the homeless.  A woman who worked at a shelter for the mentally ill told me, “Some of them won’t stay in the shelter and refuse to take their medication.”  My response to that is, yes, they refuse to take their medication because the medication isn’t helping them.  But our society refuses to seek alternative treatments for the mentally ill, so we keep forcing medication on people even when it’s not helping then we wonder why some people are afraid to seek help.

I began making a documentary film about homelessness–while I was still homeless, believe it or not!  That is just an example of how proactive I am as a person.  It’s called “Rocky Mountain Homelessness.”  I’ve also written a book, “Diary of a Mad Bag Lady” about my experience and keep a blog at theMadBagLady.wordpress.com.  But rather than providing me with the catharsis I expected, making the film and writing about my experience has just made me angrier and more disillusioned.  I am appalled everyday by the Scotts I meet–the ignorance, the lack of empathy and compassion on the part of the average American.

We’re told the US government can’t afford to provide us with universal health care or free college tuition for low-income people yet billionaires get their tax breaks extended and corporations get tax cuts for outsourcing jobs to third world countries.  Yet Scott (and many others) thinks that welfare “cheats” are the problem.  The division between the rich and the poor in this country is rapidly increasing to a shocking degree, and we are moving toward becoming a third world country–but let’s just blame the poor for how bad things are… It’s really disgusting.

I’ve been struggling for several years now, and the only way I’ve been able to constructively deal with my pain has been to turn it into art (writing and filmmaking).  However, no one seems to be listening.  Americans are incredibly hostile toward the poor–even now while so many people are losing their jobs and homes.  Many people don’t realize that people like me who don’t get the assistance we need will just deteriorate.  We can’t pick ourselves up by our bootstraps because we don’t have the bootstraps to pick ourselves up with.  Do you understand, Scott?  Or am I speaking the language of rocket science.

My back condition has gotten a lot worse over the years and it worries me.  My mental health has also been affected by the things I’ve had to endure due to poverty.  And it’s amazing how many friends you lose when you lose your financial stability.  Americans really place a high value on money and material things, and many people just don’t want to know you at all if you don’t have any.  I’m finding I’m “unemployable” despite all my skills.  I can’t acquire new skills, as I have no money to go back to school, so I’m just stuck, trapped.  But there are thousands of people out there just like me.  And that should scare the heck out of most Americans.

Because, contrary to what current, corporate, media propaganda will claim, poverty is not caused by a character flaw–quite the opposite.  Poverty can create character flaws—or worse.  Poverty can lead to a ton of social problems, including crime, domestic violence, child abuse, drug & alcohol addiction, mental illness, etc.  That is why most intelligent, educated leaders of democratic societies attempt to eliminate poverty.  We’re going to see serious social problems increase because we refuse to address the needs of our poor.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t given up on reading this lengthy e-mail by now, the thousands of us who owe money for our student loans can’t collect social security when we retire.  That’s part of what Sallie Mae lobbied for in the 90s.  So I have no safety net–no social security, no unemployment, no welfare, nothing.  Thanks, America!  A few years from now, we’re going to see thousands of elderly people with no safety nets–no social security benefits!  What are we going to do about that?  Exterminate people when they grow too old to work?

Most other wealthy, industrialized nations provide better safety nets for their people than the US.  We have the greatest division between the rich and poor of any other wealthy, industrialized nation in the world. (Some statistics say Mexico and Russia are worse than us in that regard, so if you consider them wealthy, industrialized nations, then perhaps we rank third.)  Nearly 25% of African Americans live in poverty in the US–and that’s according to the US government’s statistics that are notoriously inaccurate. The US govt hasn’t properly updated its facts on poverty for about 40 years (one reason the minimum wage is so low.)  So the real percentage is probably closer to 50%.

Here’s another thing I’d like to say to Scott: women do not “get pregnant” on their own.  And here’s another news flash, Scott: giving birth to and raising a child is a lot of work–some would say it is more than a full-time job.  So suggesting your neighbor gets pregnant so that she doesn’t have to work doesn’t make sense—unless, of course, you devalue women’s work.  But that wouldn’t be true of you, would it, Scott?

Again, I apologize for the long e-mail, and I realize you may not read it as a result.  But all of this (and so much more) needs to be said.  No one is saying it!  The corporate media has Americans brainwashed into believing poverty is a choice and that it is somehow “fun.”

In fact, poverty leads to a lot of social problems and the reluctance of Americans to take care of their poor is the primary reason why this country is falling apart. Sadly, I’m falling along with it.  Unlike most of those suffering, however, I will not go quietly.
http://www.theMadBagLady.wordpress.com

Scott:  “I don’t want to stomp on a lot of people’s toes when I mention this, and it goes back on the nation’s deficit.  It’s, well, it’s the abuse of the welfare system.  We got immigrants that’s comin’ in (sic).  We give ‘em welfare, give ‘em housing—the whole nine yards.  They go in, they pull down a forty an hour…uh…a forty hour day checks (sic)…or a week checks (sic)…  And, uh, we’re still given ‘em the welfare money. I’ve got a neighbor here that, uh, she’s a career woman on welfare.  Soon as she, uh, gets close to havin’ to possibly go out and get a job she turns around and gets pregnant.  And I know this ain’t right, and I know it’s on a lot of people’s minds, but when you go to turn ‘em in for like, in her scenario, she’s always partying and getting’ drunk and so forth, seems like nothing’s getting’ done.   But I know it’s been ran (sic) across several people’s minds and, uh, I’m just wonderin’ if I was the only one that, uh, felt that way, that I think our government should go back and pull these records and start cleaning house…”

Lazy, Poor People choosing not to work

This is a response I wrote to David Sirota’s blog, posted on the site InTheseTimes.com

Yep, they’re a lot like homeless people “choosing” to be homeless…

The Lazy-Jobless Myth is a blame-the-victim mindset that enables us to think we’re better than other people and also releases us from any responsibility we might have to help someone else.  After all, it’s the victim’s own fault, he/she made that “choice,” so it would actually be better if I didn’t intervene…

It’s a lot like the woman who is pretty and open with her sexuality who is blamed for being raped–the implication is that women don’t have the right to be sexually assertive, that if a woman is sexual or sexy, a man has a right to attack her. Yet no one blames a man who is suicidal for being murdered, i.e., “He asked for it. He said he wanted to die, so of course someone killed him.”  The notion is ridiculous because we’ve decided that murder is wrong, but also because we have empathy for the victim–as long as the victim is a man or a person with money.

Similarly, blaming the unemployed results from two ideas.  One is that we are better because we have more money than you.  (Just like saying, we are better because we go to the bathroom differently.)  We congratulate ourselves for having worked so hard and earned our success and make ourselves feel even better by comparing ourselves with others who we’ve decide are obviously inferior.  We have empathy for the billionaire who complains he/she (not so many female billionaires, but I’ll be politically correct anyhow) has to pay taxes.  We’re sorry for the corporation that fails, or is required to pay a fine.  We’re worried that wealthy heirs will have to pay taxes on their inheritance.  Perhaps that second villa in Italy won’t have a new tennis court built behind it after all.  And we’re concerned about this, about the monies wealthy people will lose if they pay higher taxes, but we stress and we strain at the thought of a single mom living in a poor, inner city neighborhood perhaps getting an extra $50 in welfare benefits.  The billions of dollars per year we lose by not taxing the rich and by allowing corporations to outsource labor to third world countries doesn’t concern us because just as we think a man can be open about his sexuality we think the rich hoard all the money.  Essentially, we think the rich are superior, and, therefore, should have more freedom.

But also, as with the woman who’s not allowed to be sexual (while men are allowed sexuality), the concept suggests that poor people should not be allowed to choose what type of work they do. Maybe some who are unemployed are reluctant to take on certain jobs because the salary is too low, because they are in need of benefits not provided by the job or because they know they won’t fit into that work environment or that they simply aren’t suited to that type of work.  I’ve certainly turned down jobs because I knew I’d fail, that the work wasn’t right for me and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure or to work at a job that would result in damage to my self-esteem.

Rush Limbaugh, who earns nearly 60 million per year, will never have to work at a fast food restaurant with a micromanaging supervisor standing over his shoulder criticizing his every move and with customers sneering at him and making rude remarks, nor will he find himself coming home after a long day of being told he was stupid, can’t do anything right by customers, managers or coworkers only to view a tiny paycheck that won’t pay the rent.

The fact remains that most of us do not want to work under demoralizing, dangerous or self-damaging conditions, but we’ve allowed big business to be deregulated so that security precautions are not always followed and so that employers can overwork and underpay their employees.  Large corporations are even taking life insurance policies out on their employees (They call it “peasant insurance.”  Yes, that’s right, I said “peasant.”)  So many companies actually benefit from their employees’ deaths.  If that’s not an incentive to work your employees to death and not provide them with health care benefits, then what is?

Most of us do not want to work under poor conditions (just as most men do not want to be prevented from expressing their own sexuality) but we will condemn others to do so when we’ve defined those others as inferior to us.

Ah, but this blog is, once again, all for naught.  Is there anybody out there?  Does anyone care?

I think the answer lies in what we’re seeing happen to this country.

Homeless Heroes…

Thought I’d give some credit to today’s inspiration.  On a Scroogle search today I came across Djelloul Marbrook’s article, “The Homeless as Prophets and Heroines.”  As a self-professed, mad, bag lady, I was,needless to say, intrigued.

Here’s a link:

http://newsblaze.com/story/20100612112133delm.nb/topstory.html

Madness is often defined as “abnormal” or unusual behavior.  That means, anyone who is different might be considered mad.  As many of us know, homosexuality was once listed in the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as a mental illness.  Today, that is no longer the case.

And so, with the swiftness of a pen across paper, or perhaps a finger tapping upon a computer keyboard, thousands of people were suddenly “cured” of their madness.  Someone decided they weren’t crazy after all, and so they were cured.  Just like that.  Madness, thou art a fickle disorder…

With this thought in mind, I came across another web site:  www(dot)PaulaJCaplan(dot)net.  Caplan wrote a book entitled, “They Say You’re Crazy: How the World’s Most Powerful Psychiatrists Decide Who’s Normal.”  She writes about how a tiny minority of our population decide what constitutes sanity or insanity.  Why are we allowing a small number of “experts” decide what is “normal”?

Mental illness does exist, and I’m not trying to suggest that those who really do suffer from it shouldn’t get help.  I’m simply stating that in our society we are moving toward accusing those who are different or who just don’t fit in of being mentally ill.  We are moving toward enforced conformity.  Part of the reason for this is our fast-paced society.  We just don’t want to take the time anymore to understand someone else or to learn how to interact better with people who are different from ourselves. We’d rather force them to conform than allow them to continue to challenge us and our status quo with their eccentric and unusual behavior and lifestyle.

Some homeless people are mad-crazy.  Others are just mad-angry or mad-nonconformist.  Some people live in poverty because their talents and skills are just not appreciated in a financial way by our society.  This is often true of artists.  It is heartbreaking, but I’ve seen some very talented musicians who were homeless.  They strum their guitars and sing their songs on the street still believing that someday, someone will discover their great talent…  And it just doesn’t happen.

Sorry, but it doesn’t happen that way anymore, not for most of us.  Perhaps it never really did work that way.

You could be the next Rembrandt or the next da Vinci, and no one will ever know.  Our society just doesn’t reward creativity.  We need artists.  We watch television, go to see movies, read books, gaze at pretty paintings, but we rarely consider the lives of the artists who wrote, painted or filmed that project.  We take artists for granted.  We take what they create but don’t feel the need to reciprocate.

Okay, I’m going off on another tangent here.

Suffice it to say, artists are only one type of homeless hero/oine.  Artists create whether or not we are paid for it.  We write, paint, sing, strum, even though no one is listening, watching or paying us for it.  Our society understands this and continues to just not pay us for it.

There are other homeless heroes–the “battered woman” who flees abuse and ends up in a shelter with her children, the runaway teen, also fleeing abuse and sleeping on the street, the Chris Gardners who refuse to work at minimum wage jobs and accept a life of poverty who’d rather be “free” living on the street than be controlled by the system.  They think their “ship” will one day come in.  It never does.  Their spirit breaks.  And they give up.  (And once they do give up, they become the “crazy” homeless people we often see on the street.)

And then there’s the artist who keeps creating–today’s Jean-Michel Basquiats who are never discovered.  Their art and the joy it could give us will never be known.

Because we’ve created a classist (as opposed to a classless) society.  One must have an agent, a manager, connections, a cool outfit, a cell phone, and the “right look.”  One must be “18- to-look-younger” and have a product that “sells.” Da Vinci and Rembrandt wouldn’t “make it” today.  Neither would Jimi Hendrix, Charlie Chaplin, or Charles Dickens.

We’re missing out on a lot by relegating the poorest among us to permanent destitution, by refusing to help those in need.  What we fail to see (as a society) are the richest that lie hidden within each and every human being, no matter how lost and forlorn one might appear on the surface–the hidden talents, wisdom, and intellect–contributions that each and every one of us is capable of making to society, once we are allowed to thrive, to pursue our own happiness and rise up to our fullest potential.

Life, Liberty, and…

Oh yeah, some people once thought we (Americans) should all have the right to pursue our own happiness.  But do we?

Unfortunately, we have a system here in the U.S. that is making it hard for people to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”  Chris Gardner (‘Pursuit of Happyness’) turned down minimum wage jobs so that he could pursue his dream of having a better life.  He then chose to work for free (as an intern) in order to “pay his dues” so that he could become a stockbroker.  That is why he became homeless.

If he’d given up on his dream and just taken a minimum wage job he wouldn’t have become homeless, but he, most likely, would have remained poor for the rest of his life.
We hear the Chris Gardner stories, but we don’t hear the stories of the thousands of people who, like Gardner, turned down the minimum wage jobs only to find themselves painfully unemployed and, in some cases, homeless. Yes, lots of other people have done what Gardner did but they didn’t get accepted into the internship program, didn’t get their big chance, so they ended up just staying poor.  So, of course, nobody makes a movie about them…

(Well, actually, I did.  It’s called ‘Rocky Mountain Homelessness,’ and it’s airing at independent theaters and cable access stations across the country. Right now, it’s airing at the Screening Room in Amherst, NY and on SCC-TV in White Bear Lake, MN.)
Current statistics show that economic mobility is not as common in the U.S. as many Americans assume.  Most Americans stay in the same economic class into which they were born.  Few people are able to work their way up the ladder.   We’re taught to blame the victim, blame the homeless for being in their situation, so that we are distracted away from the real cause–our faulty system.  As long as we continue to blame the victim, we’ll never look at the real cause–ourselves and the changes we refuse to make in our own system!
Look, I love Michael Moore dearly.  In fact, I believe he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to inform Americans (in a way our corporate media hasn’t) of the flaws in our system.  But I disagree with him on this point:  that capitalism is our biggest problem.  It’s not capitalism, socialism or communism we need to worry about.  It’s us–we, the people.  We have egos, and we act in our own self-interest.  We have trouble seeing the big picture.  We try to work for the common good, but it takes effort for us to put others above ourselves.  And when we’re given power, we are, therefore, prone to corruption.  Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

But we all know this, don’t we?  Yet we naively allow ourselves to be manipulated by propaganda that claims we are somehow “hurting” big businesses by making them obey the same laws the rest of us must obey.

Capitalism is a fine system–if it is regulated properly.  That means “checks and balances” over power.  Regulation over big business and big money provides accountability that prevents a take-over and ensures that resources are more fairly distributed.  It’s disturbing that so many Americans fail to understand this concept.  Accountability over power is necessary because power corrupts.  This is Political Science 101, folks.  Don’t ever let anyone get too much power over your society or they will take over.  We humans have egos.  We see the world through our own narrow lens.  It is naive, to say the least, to suggest we should just allow big business to do whatever it wants.  There is no “free marketplace.”  Big business unfettered will take over and stomp out the competition.  That’s just what a successful business does.  One doesn’t open up a business with the notion that “I will discourage customers from shopping in my store because I don’t want to hurt my competitors.” Ironically, capitalism fails for the same reason as does communism.  If not properly regulated, capitalism works against itself, becoming self-destructive, creating a system in which capitalism no longer is possible.

That is why socialism and capitalism co-exist together so well.  They work together and provide accountability over each other.  We have libraries and privately-owned book stores.  We have public and private schools.  We have public parks and private resorts.  Yes, socialism (government controlled industry) and capitalism (privately owned industry) exist together.  Each provides an alternative to and therefore a “check” over the other.

Sadly, the “free marketplace” is being destroyed by the very people who defend it so ardently.  If I want to stand on the street selling my hand-made widgets then I am doing no harm (provided the widgets aren’t dangerous to the public good.)  But if I become big and powerful, ala Walmart and Target, then I can stomp out the competition–if there is no regulation forbidding it.  That means that other people who want to participate in capitalism by selling their own hand-made widgets cannot because I have monopolized the market (if there are no laws against monopolies.)  Of course, when I decide I can increase my profits even more by outsourcing labor to third world countries, I do even more damage by eliminating jobs in my own country,  thus increasing the number of unemployed and the number of people who no longer can afford to participate in capitalism (if there are no tariffs charged on companies that outsource.)

And so, capitalism ends up destroying itself, in a sense.  There needs to be oversight.  One way of providing that oversight is to impose a tax on companies who outsource labor.  (Our government has been doing the opposite–giving tax breaks to encourage big businesses to outsource labor!)

Whenever I hear the “free marketplace” propaganda I am reminded of how hard it is for ordinary middle class or poor people to start their own businesses in this country.  Regulations have been put into place that make it nearly impossible for anyone who isn’t wealthy, or at least upper middle class, to start their own business.  For example, it is against the law in most cities to stand on a public sidewalk to sell your hand-made jewelry (or anything else.)  You’ll need to get together thousands of dollars and take the risk of renting out (or buying) a storefront.  If you want to sell your hand-made chocolate, you need to rent a separate kitchen and use “professional” grade equipment in order to manufacture and sell that product legally.  Yes, some of those laws make sense in terms of public safety, but some just exist to prevent ordinary people from participating in the capitalist process.

My point is, one is not “free” to market his/her product.  The process is regulated, supposedly, for public safety.  But in reality, adequate regulations don’t seem to be in place over large corporations.

We hear stories of large corporations dumping toxins in our air, food and water and they seem to get away with it.  And when anyone points out the need for laws regulating those activities they get accused of being “communist” or “socialist.”  Yet we all live with regulation–why should corporate America be any different?

Do you see my point?  There is no “free marketplace,” at least not for the rest of us.  The only “free marketplace” is the one that exists for corporate America. Because they have the money to lobby and put pressure on politicians to pass laws that favor them.  Most of us don’t have thousands of dollars to donate to political campaigns, but corporate America does.  They have literally bought our government.

Please, people, face reality.  There is no free marketplace.

There is no free marketplace.  There is no free marketplace.  There is no free marketplace.  There is no freemarketplace.  There is no free marketplace.

Unless, of course, you are Walmart.

I’m mad….

ß

as heck (a more lady-like four-letter-word),

and I can’t take it anymore!

I’ve had to store everything I own (that was near and dear to me) in a bag yet maintain my lady-like presence.

I’ve had the experience of applying for food stamps and being told they “weren’t sure” if I qualified when my income was only $5,000 per year.  And I had to give them a list of my monthly expenses. (Are you kidding me?  $5,000 per year isn’t enough to live on in ANY city, no matter what your expenses are–unless you’re a dependent child, I suppose…)

I’ve had to apply for jobs with a smile on my face, clean, well-manicured, well-dressed, seemingly happy and well-adjusted, responding to the interrogation (that is today’s job interview) as pleasantly and self-assuredly as I could while not knowing whether or not I’d have a bed to sleep on that night.

I’ve had to fill out twenty (yes, twenty!) pages of paperwork, including proof of my U.S. citizenship, questions as to whether I’d ever received government assistance, math, spelling, IQ, and personality tests, criminal background and drug check agreements and questions pertaining to my political beliefs–just to apply for a low-paying entry level job.  One such test asked me several times (and in several different ways) whether or not I used heroin, got into fist fights or got upset at work.  I answered “no” to all and thought I’d pass the test with flying colors.  Nope.  I failed.  Apparently, that company prefers to hire employees who use heroin, get into fist fights regularly and get upset while at work?  I was unable to question my “failure” on the test, however.  It was against their rules, the test results were final, and their corporate office was located in another state.

An employee of a homeless shelter accused me of “acting like you think you’re better than the other women here” because I bathed, kept my clothes clean, stayed away from drugs and alcohol and tried to keep an optimistic attitude (and actually smile) in spite of my circumstances.  (But then again, I did complain about the stale, moldy food we were served at the shelter, and the staff’s hiding donations that were supposed to go to us.  Guess that made me an ungrateful “tenant” too.)

I learned quickly not to smile.  I began to look and feel sad.  “You seem to be adjusting to this place,” I was then told.

Oh yeah, I adjusted alright.  And the mental and physical health problems I developed as a direct result from being homeless–and from the previous years I’d spent struggling financially until that fateful day finally arrived–will be with me for a lifetime.

Too bad I don’t have health insurance.

So why do you suppose some poor people are afraid to apply for assistance…?

Do ya’ think there might be something wrong with the way our system interacts with the poor?

Ya think?

The years go by and the debts grow bigger,

even though I’m doing more and more

with less and less…

Am I mad?  Hell, yeah!

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