Those of you following my
constant whining tweets will be aware that I was a bit stranded for the past few days. We had a bit of snowfall in the northeast, and it looked for a while like we all might have to wait for spring thaw to get to where we were going. (Things got really strange when these seven brothers and their brides showed up at my parents’ house…but I digress.)
Being stuck in Queens for longer than I expected was a bit inconvenient. Some things that I thought I was going to get done had to wait. And it got me thinking about privilege.
My life is not bad. I don’t make tons of money, but I get by. I have some money saved, and I have parents to go home to for Christmas. Even the things that I have to complain about are not such a big deal. I live in a nice enough place that my super had the job of shoveling our front walk, and this actually got done. Sure I had to help my parents shovel their car out when I was home, but that’s because my parents own a car and a house. More than a lot of people can say.
We all like to focus so much on how hard we work. When we have extras, we want people to know that we’ve earned them. Think about it–when was the last time someone running for public office came out to say, “I am where I am because of my last name. My parents’ money opened a lot of doors for me.” No. It’s all about pulling on one’s bootstraps, for some reason.
There’s a sense of competition. Who had it the roughest? We can rarely agree on this, but we can all unite in being judgmental of people on public assistance.
Those of us who work with people on public assistance (I’m including programs like cash assistance, Section 8, food stamps, Medicaid, etc.) know that it’s not an easy or pleasant way to get through life. It’s tough. Benefits, especially cash, are meager. No one is really getting money handed to them anymore. At least in New York, housing programs are unreliable. Many of my clients are facing eviction because their voucher programs stopped paying the rent. (Just saying, a letter or something would have been nice. Cutting them off with no notice? How about some manners?)
Food stamps and Medicaid are a bit more reliable and generous, but my goodness–could they be a little more complicated? I think that people are being asked to jump through actual hoops at their appointments now. Recipients are given random appointments, with little notice, where they have to wait in line, often for hours, usually with children.
But the sunny disposition of the workers really makes up for it.
Miss one appointment, and your benefits are sanctioned. Show up at your appointments…you still might get sanctioned. Better get documentation.
Keeping up with all this is like a full time job. Hmm. Makes going to school or, you know, getting a full time job, a little difficult.
And yet, we still like to see the people benefitting from these programs as less than. They’re lazy, poorly motivated, often unintelligent.
Hey, if you aren’t getting public assistance, you have every right to say it.
It’s not like you benefit from government assistance. I mean, it’s not like the rest of us are driving on paved roads or sending our kids to public schools. We don’t intend to collect unemployment or Social Security when the time comes.
Back to my point. The poor. They spend unwisely, that’s the real reason they’re in need.
They all have these fancy cars. Their kids have iPhones and the latest video games. They buy gourmet food, cigarettes and booze with those food stamps. They have tattoos, those are expensive!
I mean, if someone is going to rely on government assistance to provide for their children, they could at least have the decency to allow taxpaying citizens to vote on their every purchase. It’s the most sensible option.
It’s strange. Everyone sees these wasteful, greedy people every time they leave the house. I work exclusively with people receiving public assistance, and yet I don’t know anyone like this.
Sure, I don’t agree with exactly how everyone spends their money. But I also have a sense of humility and realize it’s none of my business.
Most of my clients have cell phones. A lot of them have a concerned parent or other family member who buys them a decent phone. They are usually cheap, Metro PCS phones that don’t work outside of the five boroughs. When they can’t afford minutes, they don’t have working phones. Those video games are used, from Game Stop, and surprisingly affordable.
As for cigarettes and booze–how wealthy does one have to be to be entitled to a vice? I have plenty of nights when I just need a drink, and, like I said, my life is pretty good. If I was a single mother, raising a couple of kids with almost no support and no money…I’d probably have to just go ahead and change my name to Bailey Irishcream.
If you’re a resolution person, maybe 2011 can be the year when we all agree to give people a break. Cut those who are already struggling a bit of slack. I’ll just be over here, preaching to the choir.