Tuesday, October 28, 2008

70 And Back To Work

This story resonated very deeply with me.  Quite a few years ago I worked with a man that was forced to go back to work after the BRI X fiasco drained a large portion of his retirement savings.   Beulah Barton is fortunate to have the health to be able to work.  There are many who are in financial crises whose health will not allow them to re-enter the job market.

When the media speaks about the current economic down turn it often focuses on those that are losing their homes, or are having difficulty finding jobs.  It rarely takes the time to discuss those that were already living on the margins before the crises hit. 

Food banks are having difficulty collecting food, charitable donations are dropping and this is all occurring at time when people need the help the most.  I listen daily as the GOP screams about the evils of socialism in an attempt to blind people from the fact that in difficult times it is our communal efforts as a species that have allowed us to survive and progress to the degree that we have.

As I said in All About The Middle Class, in our bid to hold on to a standard of living that we feel entitled to, we continue to promote the invisibility of the working/under class.  Denying the degree of impoverishment is not going to solve this situation.  Poverty does not occur because people are lazy, or not desirous of working towards their own subsistence.  Poverty occurs because we have institutionalized a system that refuses to actualize the humanity of others. 

How many times have you heard the refrain, in a country as rich as this how is it possible that there are so many homeless, or so many that go without food?  It occurs because for all of the rights and freedoms it still has not been universally decided the food, clothing, health care, education and shelter are basic human rights. 

Life, Liberty and Justice; however life has requirements.  In the Downtown core of any major city the suits rush by the homeless as though they manifest some sort of disease.  The elderly are regularly shunted aside, and children though they are our future, go to bed hungry at night.  Vulnerability in the western world continues to grow as the gap between the rich and the poor increases each year.  This is an obscenity. 

A  3500 sq foot home, with two cars and a swimming pool are not necessities.  To have this luxury understood as a reward for hard work, ignores the degree of exploitation at play in the racist, patriarchal, capitalist system.  A lawyer works no harder than a waitress  in a diner, their labour is simply valued differently.  A SAHM who is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, is just as valuable as a CEO managing a fortune 500 company.  It is a disconnect in worth and value that perpetuates the idea  that some should live in splendour while others starve.

Stories like that of Beulah Barton are increasingly becoming the norm.  Mechanization promised a reduction in the labour of all and instead we are working more hours than we ever have.  At the rate that we are going retirement will only occur when we physically exhaust our ability to work or we have significantly exploited the labour of others during our working lives.  For some socialism may be an evil boogeyman; however I tend to believe our inability to lead more communal lives is far more destructive.


14 comments:

AR said...

Mechanization promised a reduction in the labour of all and instead we are working more hours than we ever have.

Putting aside for the moment that mechanization has never "promised" anything, that's just a lie. Before mechanization, 80+ hour workweeks were the norm for the majority, and for that trouble all they got was enough food to live another week. If all you want is the same standard of living found in pre-industrial economies, half as many hours at the lowest paying job available is more than enough.

I listen daily as the GOP screams about the evils of socialism in an attempt to blind people from the fact that in difficult times it is our communal efforts as a species that have allowed us to survive and progress to the degree that we have.

Oh, sure, they scream, but do they seriously plan to reduce the amount of government spending or regulation, which easily make us more than half socialist right now? No. At best, they want to stop making it worse, but most likely they'll still make it worse. Reagan, you know, increased taxes, regulation, and spending even as he was praised/vilified as a free market president. With free market politicians like that, who needs socialists...

At times, though, I wonder if it might be better to eliminate the last bits of free market enterprise, so that when things go wrong people will know to blame the government and eventually learn something. As it is now, the government gets off scott free whenever something goes wrong, no matter how much of a direct cause of the problem they were, because the "free market" gets the full blame so long as there is any sliver of free market left, as with the present crisis.

Food banks are having difficulty collecting food, charitable donations are dropping and this is all occurring at time when people need the help the most.

Why would anyone donate to a food bank when they're already funding food stamps, whether they want to or not? If the government wasn't trying to be the ultimate (compulsory) charity, people might be more willing to take responsibility for their own lack of generosity. Certainly, they'd have more money to be generous with.

T.Allen-Mercado said...

So true Renee, having previously been one of the bustling suits-I have to agree with you. I was younger and the 'state of the nation' wasn't something I was finely in tune with. Age, illness and a family of my own have changed my perspective. I'm really at a loss, I know we (in my home) do our share, I volunteer at soup kitchens, we donate regularly, live very simply-but the problems seem so much larger than any solution I can get my head around. My grandparents retired well...us-I'm not so sure, and not for lack of trying.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Here is my theory around what is happening in this country...

Excess used improperly is the demise of a nation. The idea of excess for the few (CEO) perpetuates poverty for the many (waitress). A scarcity consciousness is a product of privilege and excess. This "American Dream" was defined by the ruling elite to attain monetary wealth and material things. There was no emphasis on true community and gaining wealth emotionally or spiritually. This dream is excess, greed and an overall disconnect. Overall, this leaves so many people in the dust.

I am very tired of hearing about the baby boomers losing their jobs, homes, ect. What about the 20, 30 somethings who live in their parents house who either work poverty level wage jobs or can't find a job. I know dozens of people who are doing this. I am one of them. I have no debt other than student loan debt which can tell you about another one of our societies values. Why have student loan debt? Is this how much we truly value education? I live simply, value the land and do not consume in excess. Yet, someone like me is punished more by this system because I choose to live simply or value something else other than material or monetary gain. I can't wait until there is a news stories about student loan debt. Young people who are very educated living in the basements of their parents homes or the back bedroom like me. I have a 15 year old car, old clothes from the thrift store and I can fit everything I own in this car. This is not excess compared to the baby boomers who have their huge house, 3 cars, boat and cottage in the north. I am not white and privileged. I have made poverty level wages since I have been working, I am Ojibway Native American, and I ask nothing but to live a simply life.

I am not sure Americans would know how to change if they had to live the way I am already living and have chosen to live all my life. Minus the economic part because I have not chosen this.

Anonymous said...

AR - I have commented before on your Friedman-esque, Hayek-spewing, von Mesis-regurgitating claptrap, but you really want to make my head explode with this one. As somebody from a family which had to avail itself of food stamps during one very rough time, and as someone who has given to food banks and other charities, your offensive comments betray to me a cold, social darwinian, soulless selfishness, exactly the kind of people Renee writes about here. Thank you for providing all of us with "Exhibit A".

I am sure you wish people like me would grovel and lick your shoes in appreciation for our meager food stamps, but instead you get a big "fuck you" (I pay taxes, too), along with the fervent hope that someday you find yourself in a situation where you need society's help through a life crisis. How fortunate for you to be so self-righteous vis-a-vis the rest of us riff-raf, and feel no need to take any responsibility or even feel fucking sorry for so many people who are drowning in your free-market paradise (aka socialism for the rich, and a big "eat shit" for the rest of us).

AR said...

My point about food stamps was not that they do or don't work, but the fact that Renee favors forceful funding of charity while at the same time bemoaning the lack of voluntary charity. Which is it? Are you going to ask me for donations or punch me in the face and take my wallet? You can't reasonably expect people to voluntary give anything to a cause after they've been robbed for it, no matter how insufficient was the amount taken.

But more importantly, I think you're reading more into my comments than you should because you seem to equate "society" with "the government," which is, to put it bluntly, a very fascist sentiment. Why do you think I have no regard to the virtue of charity just because I don't believe in performing "charity" via Congress? The question of what people should do, and what they should be forced to do, are completely different issues. As such, I have here focused almost exclusively on the political issues, which are the issues of the latter category.

How fortunate for you to be so self-righteous vis-a-vis the rest of us riff-raf, and feel no need to take any responsibility or even feel fucking sorry for so many people who are drowning in your free-market paradise (aka socialism for the rich, and a big "eat shit" for the rest of us).

We do not have a free market.

AR said...

To speak more specifically on the topic of this post, retired people returning to work, it's difficult to know how much of this can be attributed directly to the recent crisis. Eventually, everyone living on a fixed income or savings would be faced with this problem eventually due to inflation. The money supply continues to increase by any measure, and this dilutes the value of savings and fixed-value contracts.

Of course, in a roundabout way the crisis itself is also due in large part to inflation, which makes even companies who are destroying wealth appear profitable, encourages debt and discourages savings. The real savings rate in America has been negative for quite a while now, which means we have been consuming capital. Capital consumption can of course give a temporary boost in standard of living, but the resulting recession and correction is as inevitable as it is painful. Of course, we'll be lucky if we actually get to the correction part of things, with how enthusiastically the government is working to continue the discouragement of savings and the cheapness of credit.

But even without all that, the continual increase in the money supply ensures that, crisis or not, only the wealthiest of retirees will ever be able to live on their savings for as long as they'd hopped, as inflation is a tax which hits those people the hardest.

Anonymous said...

Fascist? Look in the mirror, with your utopian free market beliefs, social darwinism, antipathy towards government EXCEPT as a pliant tool and facilitator for your free market. Marriage of government and "free market" corporatism = fascism (duh!). You need to get yourself to a meeting for recovering Ayn Rand acolytes.

You just want your privilege, and eat it, too.

Sorry, folks. AR hit a big personal nerve here, and I can't bear his/her dog whistles any longer (Poor, uh, people "rob" AR, get it?).

AR said...

I have expressed neither utopian nor social darwinistic beliefs. Again, you take my opposition to coercive redistribution as opposition to charity period.

...antipathy towards government EXCEPT as a pliant tool and facilitator for your free market.

The government should only "facilitate" the free market insofar as it does not attempt to impose socialism. I would oppose anything more active than that. If a very large number of people voluntarily enter into a massive contract to share resources and make decisions collectively, making a large part of the US de facto socialist, the government shouldn't intervene, though I'd want to part of it.

Poor, uh, people "rob" AR, get it?

Well, they don't presently rob me, not directly anyway, since I don't pay federal taxes, since I have no income and a $-90,000 net worth. This will change at the start of my next job in December, which pays $19,200/year, which will still put me in the net tax-consuming class rather than the net tax-paying class.

Sometimes people favor policies for reasons other than their own immediate gain.

AR said...

In retrospect, this series of comments is a bit more extreme than usual. I suppose I'm in a libertarian mindset for some reason at the moment.

Mainly, I want to point out that once you nationalize charity, most people will start to regard helping the poor as "the government's job" and cease to think of poverty as something they personally should do something about. The result, I think, is a net decrease in the amount being given to the poor, and an even more severe decrease in the aid the poor actually get, since private charity firms are far more obligated to efficiently meet their sponsor's charitable ends than government bureaucracies.

And really, not being taxed for government aid programs does not prevent people from just giving that money to the poor anyway, and probably with less overhead in the middle. If such relief has enough sincere support to get it passed through Congress, it should also have enough support to be privately financed, since the government is just redistributing wealth that already exists.

Daisy said...

I just love you, Renee. I work my ass off, and I am tired of hearing how someone has a big house because they "work hard"--I mean what? They don't work harder than any of the rest of us who can't afford houses. I am tired of listening to that shit... in other words, to reverse the little just-so story: If you DON'T own a house, you haven't worked as hard as they have. And they will gladly assure you of this (lots of them are my customers) as they dash off to play golf.

Why would anyone donate to a food bank when they're already funding food stamps, whether they want to or not?

WOW, is this a serious question? (((crosses self, very spooked by such lack of charity)))
As Ebenezer Scrooge famously asked: Are there no poorhouses?

You probably let the doors of retail establishments slam on old people, given the chance, right? I mean, why hold the door open if there are mechanized-doors, the cost of which is figured into your retail prices?

You can't reasonably expect people to voluntary give anything to a cause after they've been robbed for it, no matter how insufficient was the amount taken.

Do you have children who attend public schools? Do you believe childless people should have to pay for them? (Some of them resent the hell out of that and feel they should be exempt, you know.)

I didn't drive for about 10 years... should I demand my money back for the DMV and roads that I paid for and didn't use? Or were they USED to bring my goods and services to me anyway, as the kids educated by the public schools were the people who drew my blood, worked on my plumbing, drilled on my teeth and waited on me at restaurants and I was happy when they could take my order and perform in a literate, educated fashion?

Do you think people should be permitted to "opt out" of certain things they don't believe in? Because as a vegetarian, nothing makes me more furious than all of the MEAT INSPECTORS and FDA MEAT-RELATED BULLSHIT I pay for with my hard-earned tax dollars. FUCK THAT, they shouldn't eat ANIMAL FLESH and if they do, they take the risk of maggots and bacteria, and too damn bad. (Now, how does THAT sound?)

I am a peacenik, and like some Quakers, I feel I should not have to pay any costs of the military.

See where I am going with this? We can ALL get PICKY about the MONEY;, you ain't the only one funding something you "don't believe in" and feel robbed.

Get over it, the rest of us have had to suck it up. Your turn.

AR said...

WOW, is this a serious question?

No. It was a rhetorical speculation about the thought processes of people who presently don't give to charity. If you want a serious answer, I suppose I'd say, "They'd do so because the government is so ineffective at helping the poor that they still need private charity."

For everything you mention, a good case can be made against government involvement. Public schooling in particular, since here is is funded mostly at the local level by property taxes collected from the community, meaning that such money is simply being taken from the very people who benefit and given right back to them with a free helping of bureaucratic waste and monopoly.

More generally, yes, people shouldn't be forced to fund those things against their will.

I am a peacenik, and like some Quakers, I feel I should not have to pay any costs of the military.

Then your anti-government sentiment is actually more radical than mine, since privatization of the military would mean the complete abolition of the state. But again, a respectable case can be made for that position.

Why you would take all this as an argument against my position, I have no idea, since it comes down to "We're all being robbed here, so stop complaining about it when it happens to you." No thought whatsoever is given to the idea of reducing everyone's funding of things they don't support.

Daisy said...

AR, I guess you thought Ebenezer Scrooge was a real prophet then, huh?

AR said...

Daisy, I guess you don't believe in the the ACLU Foundation, huh? Since, you know, we don't fund them with government money, that means they couldn't possibly exist...

thewhatifgirl said...

AR, food banks are needed because the poverty level is bullshit. There are families that desperately need help but can't get it from the government because they supposedly make enough; for instance, I knew a single woman who could only find work at a movie theater. She made a little over minimum wage an hour, and could only get two shifts a week. Yet when she applied for food stamps, they told her she could only get $20/month worth. How is someone supposed to live like that?

Also, this: "If a very large number of people voluntarily enter into a massive contract to share resources and make decisions collectively" pretty much describes this fancy thing we have called a "government".