And it’s not just New York. Actually, the people in this article are lucky; not all communities even have shelters for them to sleep in between shifts.
See, what advocates of “bootstrapping,” and those who think poor=lazy don’t understand is that the game has changed since we were kids. (And don’t even get me started on those who advocate doing away with the minimum wage.)
As the gap between worker and CEO compensation grows, working hard is increasingly often no longer enough to survive, let alone get ahead. Most of those now in power and spreading myths about the poor actually benefited from things like more highly-subsidized education—it’s no longer feasible for most people to work their way through college like it used to be, because once my generation got our nice taxpayer-subsidized degrees, we’ve worked hard to cut that option off for everyone else and make sure graduates now start out with crushing debt—and a lower income disparity between line-level workers and top executives.
They are even instituting drug testing for those on aid in many states, based on the myth that the poor are likely to be drug users, even though that drug testing has not saved one cent in aid, and has actually cost the state extra money. Read that as cost taxpayers extra money. The percentage of people on state aid testing positive for drugs is actually lower than that of the general populace. Let’s repeat that one point again: Drug testing has not saved one single cent, and has in fact cost more money.
The social programs that these people like to characterize as handouts were intended as a way for people to lift themselves up and make something of themselves, but they now punish anyone who actually tries to get out of the system by taking away all aid at the first sign of progress toward self-sufficiency—For instance, even if you manage to score a job and therefore have an income, if you try to save enough money to actually get into a decent home or purchase transportation, many states will completely cut off any and all aid.
I am about as far from a “taker” as you can get. I’m a disabled veteran who has worked hard and paid into the system since I was fifteen years old, and even now that I’m on disability, I’m doing what I can to get OFF of disability. Like most poor people, and like most disabled people, I want to make my own way and help those less fortunate than myself.
I repeat: I paid into these things since I was fifteen, the idea being that when or if I needed some of that back, it would be there for me. Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this.
How am I working to get off of disability? By writing. And no, that’s not a pipe dream. Several award-winning and critically-acclaimed authors have told me I should be making a living doing it—But especially for someone with my issues, that requires a certain amount of stability, and although I’m making progress, it’s slow.
One of the things that has held me back is that in addition to dealing with disabilities, I’ve also had to constantly live on the very edge of financial and medical disaster because so many politicians have sold the myth that the best thing to do with those in need is to keep them down instead of raising them up the way more civilized countries do—as in countries with robust social safety nets whose poor get out of the system and back on their feet much more quickly, because they’re actually provided with the resources to do so.
Speaking of resources, get this: When I was looking at imminent homelessness while waiting for my disability to come through, and asked for help to avoid homelessness, I was told there was nothing I could do except get put on a waiting list, but that to let them know when I was evicted, so that they could cut my aid because I would “no longer have the expense of rent.”
Yes, it may vary from state to state (I was in Kansas at the time), but that’s what we tell our poor and homeless in may cases. That they don’t need assistance because they don’t have to pay rent. In my case, I didn’t realize at the time that, as a veteran, I could go to the VA and ask for help, but not everyone has that resource, and I myself have only recently begun to claim some of the benefits I earned.
Oh, and that Social Security disability insurance I paid into for all those years? It took three years, two appeals, a judicial ruling, and an attorney to actually get my claim honored. Even then, instead of backdating it to when I applied, they were only willing to go back one year, not because of anything I had missed, but because that was when they finally got around to having one of their own doctors examine me to tell them what my own doctors had already confirmed. And even that backpay was reduced by 30% because of legal fees.
It will take me another several years just to recover from the financial ruin of that waiting period. And I am far from alone in this. Every single person in the US, unless they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, is at risk of the same thing. It takes one accident, one medical emergency combined with a financial crisis, to put you right where I was, and no matter how hard you work at it, it can take decades to recover, if you manage it at all.