Poverty is lethal — and it’s not necessary

These things all take time, something that poor people have very little to spare.

I saw a meme the other day about how to nurture a child. It included things like reading together, praising, practicing relaxation exercises together, taking walks together — the operative word here, of course, is together.
It all boiled down to quality time, and it set something off in me.
I commented that people in poverty, people who have to work two and three jobs just to keep body and soul together, might not be able to do all these things, and some woman said, “These things don’t take money, LOL.”
I was furious.
LOL? Really? I asked her whether she had ever skipped a meal to make sure there was enough, for the kids, LOL. I mean, that one’s a regular LOL riot, isn’t it?
People with the privilege of a living wage have no idea what it’s like to live in poverty, of how the system keeps poor people down.
Let’s say your three $8-an-hour part-time jobs pay the rent and for food, but just barely. You’re already working 60-plus hours a week, so you can’t just get another job. Your crappy apartment is $1,200 a month and the landlord won’t take care of the leaky faucet or the hole in the kitchen floor. The heat quits regularly. But this is the best you can find for what you can pay.
Poor people can’t afford a flat tire. Poor people can’t afford to be sick.
So, let’s say the flat tire means the utility bill is late. When the power gets shut off, you don’t just have to pay the amount due, you have to pay a service charge, which might make your rent late this month.
When you get home to your kids, it’s already supper time. Have they done their homework? Well, you can ask that after supper, unless, of course, it’s already bed time. Should you read to your child or do the laundry? Last time your kid showed up to school in a dirty shirt, the school threatened to call in Child Protection Services for neglect. So you do the laundry.
If you can’t afford a car — and  millions of low-wage workers can’t — you need bus service, which just isn’t available in rural areas, and in bigger towns and cities, a bus ride across town can be an hour and a half.
And what about when you have to work evenings or weekends? There are no child care centers open for evening, overnight or weekend shifts.
Poverty is completely unnecessary. It is a political construct designed to create a permanent underclass to serve the very wealthy.
When my boys were little, the only way I could get help with day care was to quit my job and go on Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
I decided to work. I worked hard, but I just couldn’t get ahead. Every time I got caught up, something happened to set me back — and when you’re barely getting by, a flat tire can set you back six months. Forget about a new starter or alternator. I once spent a month parking my car on hills so I could do a rolling start because I couldn’t afford a new starter.
When my older son was 7 he became a latchkey kid because I had money for groceries or day care, but not for both. He would call me when he got home from school, and when I hung up, I would go into the bathroom and cry because I couldn’t take care of him the way I wanted to.
The school was constantly after me because my younger son was severely ADHD and they wanted him on drugs, even though his grades were stellar and he consistently tested in the 98th and 99th percentile in verbal abilities, reading and math. Finally, they reported me to Child Protection Services for neglect. I couldn’t afford an attorney to fight it, so we tried the Ritalin. He hated it. Said he didn’t feel like himself when he took it. But the teacher was happy because he wasn’t up out of his seat during class.
After 3 months, he begged me to take him off the drugs. I told him he would have to find a way to sit still because the risk of him being taken away from me was very real.
I couldn’t afford private school, which would have recognized his abilities, so we had to do this right in a public school setting where the most important thing wasn’t his brilliance, but the teacher’s need to have a quiet classroom.
Michael stayed in his seat every day for three months. When his teacher called to say he’d been disruptive that day, I confessed we’d thrown away the last three months’ supply of the drug and we would not put him back on it under any circumstances. I threatened to go public if they attempted to take him from me, and they let it go.
By this time, I had remarried and although I still couldn’t afford an attorney, I was not in poverty any longer.
But then Michael started experimenting with drugs, and by the time he was 15, he was dabbling in all kinds of stuff. Later, after he’d been clean and sober for several years, he told me the gateway drug had been Ritalin. It had altered his mind when he was on it, and made him wonder what other drugs might do. He insisted he wouldn’t have tried other drugs if he’d not been on Ritalin. I believed him.
At age 19, he took some time off school and was removed from our insurance plan. We didn’t realize that time off school would mean he’d never be able to buy insurance again, and in Savannah, Ga., no doctor would do a damn thing for him until it was too late to save his life. That time off school turned out to be a death sentence for him.
Poverty is lethal. It is deeply, deeply immoral. People who are affected by it suffer and die needlessly, while people of privilege call them lazy.
Poverty is a choice made by legislators and policymakers to allow some people to suffer. And it must end.

Consider your privilege

At Wednesday’s kickoff of the National Poor People’s Campaign, Bishop Dr. William Barber II called for a commitment from those present to work on various aspects of the Poor People’s Campaign. Hundreds came forward to offer, time, money, their very bodies, to the campaign.

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my privilege lately as I hear people vilify the poor and people of color.

“Poor people should obey the law,” says one white man who can afford to pay the $185 court cost that comes with the $15 speeding ticket. That same white man probably had no fear of being dragged from his car, beaten, shot or thrown in jail for “resisting arrest.” It never occurs to him that he could be jailed indefinitely for not having the money to pay court costs, or even be shot leaning over to get his registration and insurance card from the glove compartment. Then, as he’s bleeding out, the cop concocts a story that he smelled pot and feared for his life and gets away with your murder.

I know when I was stopped for speeding a couple of years ago, I was well aware of all of that. Later, as I wrote out the check for $195 — without ever seeing any official of the court, so I have no idea why I was charged $180 — I realized there was a time in my life I would not have been able to come up with the money.

That inability would lead to a bench warrant being issued, which could have landed me in jail at this time and in this place.

Oh, and your constitutionally guaranteed access to an attorney here in North Carolina comes with the proviso that if you are found guilty, you will have to pay the lawyer.

Now, add in the fact that many people who are not guilty consent to a plea rather than a trial because they don’t want to risk jail and you have innocent people being penalized by crippling debt just to avoid jail — and if they can’t pay up, they go to jail.

In other words, if you work at a low-paying job, you are more likely to land in our broken “justice” system, and you’re very likely to be caught up in the system for a long time, to wind up going to jail and then losing that low-paying job.

I don’t want to hear the cry of the privileged that these people should just look for better jobs — there are no better jobs for people who aren’t college-educated. And don;t pontificate that perhaps they should have made better choices when they were 16, like you did. You likely had choices; a lot of kids in poverty don’t. The good manufacturing jobs are gone, replaced by jobs that pay $10 an hour or less. Minimum wage is less than half of what it takes to live. Mom and Dad can both work full-time and still not be able to make ends meet.

That’s not laziness, that’s deliberate abuse on the part of a nation whose laws permit this abuse.

Here in North Carolina, we have honed the abuse of poor people to a fine art. We are the only state ever to take away an earned-income tax credit. We are the only state ever to cut the duration and the amount of unemployment insurance compensation. We have refused to take the federal money (that WE paid in federal taxes) to expand access to health care to a half million human beings.

We have so vilified poor people that when I talk about my son’s death from lack of access to health care, Republicans’ first reaction is to ask, “Was he working?”

That’s right, “Was he working?”

I spoke to a woman today whose 7-year-old son has autism. She wants to get him a therapy dog because he responds so well to animals. But the cost is $25,000 (it costs about $20,000 to train one of these dogs). She lives on disability because she has frequent seizures and other serious health problems. The organization told her there is no grant money to help low-income people get these dogs, but they put up a page for her son at their own web site. She is not permitted to put up her own Go Fund Me page.

What this tells me is that unless you’re wealthy, you can’t have one of these dogs. She is poor so her son is very, very unlikely to ever get this help.

She is not lazy. She worked until her health would no longer permit it, and she would work again if she could, although she likely would not find a high-wage job where she lives.

This is a person who deserves the help her son needs. She doesn’t love her child any less than people with money love their children. Her little boy deserves the help he needs.

Last night, I attended the kickoff of the National Poor People’s Campaign at a Antioch Baptist Church in Charlotte.

I stood with people whom others think are undeserving of anything — even life itself. I held their hands, sang with them, cheered with them, hugged them and cried with them. Now I will work with them to make sure they are afforded the dignity they deserve.

This is a fight for the soul of our culture.

Will we choose money over our soul?

Will we choose hatred over the love every major religion commands of us?

I’m standing on the side of love.

If you want to know more about the National Poor People’s Campaign, visit https://poorpeoplescampaign.org/.

 

 

Mark Meadows is afraid of ghosts

I was told I had to surrender this photo of my late son to be allowed into Mark Meadows’ town hall. I’m thinking he’s afraid of ghosts. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

 

I went to the Mark Meadows town hall the other night, but I wasn’t permitted in.

They wanted to confiscate the photo of my son that I always take to these things. I had it with me at his town hall two years ago. I had it with me at the Patrick McHenry and Robert Pittenger town halls as well. I carried it with me in Raleigh and Washington. I had it with me when I met with Heath Shuler and when I was blocked from speaking to now-Sen. Thom Tillis, who had me arrested rather than speak to me.

I have plenty of copies of the photo, but I will not surrender any of them to people who want to deny the truth about my son’s death.

Mark Meadows leads the Congressional “Freedom” Caucus, which rejected the first House version of Trumpcare because it didn’t take enough away from people.

Meadows is wealthy beyond my imagination. He can afford to buy his insurance and pay the co-pays. Hell, he can afford to get whatever care he needs without insurance.

But instead of understanding his privilege, he tries to deny that care to people who aren’t wealthy and then paint them as lazy bums.

Mark Meadows calls himself “pro-life” and “Christian,” but his behavior doesn’t line up with either one. To be pro-life, one must support life even after it exits the birth canal. To be Christian, one must offer aid without asking whether the recipient deserves it. Christ taught us that by example and then in Matthew 25, Christ tells us what will happen if we refuse to care for those least able to care for themselves, what he called, “the least of these.”

Mark Meadows has proven to be a tough political opponent, partly because of the huge sums of money he commands, and partly because the people of this district tend to believe his lies about why we can’t have universal access to health care or a living wage as minimum wage.

This is when our party has to come together. We have to remove him from office, along with others who share his selfish, destructive and immoral policies.

We have a candidate, Phillip Price, who seems to hold some pretty great ideas. He’s new to politics as are many candidates this year, including a contender against Patrick McHenry named Kenneth Queen. I’ll devote an entire post to him tomorrow.

 

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