Sunday, July 26, 2015
The high cost of being poor
I ran into a cousin of mine I hadn't seen recently. He never made all that much money, but always seemed to be getting by. Not lately, as it turns out. His older car needed a lot of repair work done. Then his furnace died and he could not replace it. To get through the winter he used portable electric heaters. His electric bills were over $900/month. Now he can't afford to fix the car again so is driving around on an unregistered motorcycle. If he gets caught that will set him back even more.
The plans to help poor people have hurtles of their own. My cousin discovered he qualifies for aid to get a new furnace. However, they won't buy him one because he has a lien on the house. Of course, the lien on the house is mostly due to him falling behind because of those big electric bills.
I know from personal experience it's often a pretty short and quick trip from doing fine to being on the hairy edge of disaster. Rich people suffer financial set backs, but they don't miss any meals because of it. They have resources they can draw on, family and friends who can cushion the fall. When all your friends and family are struggling like you are, there's not a lot of assistance they can give.
I live in an economically depressed area so opportunities for advancement are limited. So why don't people move to where the economy is doing better. For one thing it's not all that easy to get a job where nobody knows you and your qualifications don't stand out from the crowd. If you get a job, how will you move there? In the car that doesn't run anymore? Can you sell the house that you owe more money than it's worth? How will you get the money for an apartment?
Right now my cousin has a lot of free child care from his parents. He'd need a huge boost in income to replace that with paid child care. So people hold onto what little support they do get. They struggle along, hoping for a break.
This is a guy with a full time job who does some cash work on the side. His wife has medical problems that keep her from working. He doesn't have any drinking or drug problems. 50 years ago a guy like that would be doing pretty good. Now he can't get by at all.
I know of other people who look to be living the American Dream, but are are months behind on their house payments. There's another family who's falling behind because overtime pay dried up. His base income doesn't pay the bills.
It's seems there are a few big financial issues that are driving people to desperation. Car problems are a big one. Most people in America need a car to work -no car, no work. Medical issues are still a big one. Even if they have medical insurance, the co-pays alone can drive someone into bankruptcy. Housing is an issue not just the cost of a mortgage or rent, but things like repairs and utilities can break someone.
There are lot more people around me struggling than most people realise. People talk to me and tell me things. Maybe it's because sometimes I have some information that can make a difference. Often it's just because I can be a good listener who does not judge.
Hope things are better where you live. Here it's like an apple that looks good on the outside, but has rot deep to the core. In spite of that I woudn't want to live anywhere else. Funny how that works sometime.