Lazy Poor People

My mother used to make $18,000 a year. I know this because I helped her do her taxes each year and when my sisters and I started applying to colleges, we had to put that number into our forms.

My mother used to make $18,000 a year and, God only knows how, she stretched that to pay rent, feed us and she still somehow had some to send back home so that my grandma and brother could eat too.

My mother used to make $18,000 a year while working about 50 hours a week and going to school at night and still making sure her three daughters made it home each day.

Jason Chaffetz recently suggested healthcare is accessible to all if only people spent their money wisely. He suggested poverty results from stupid choices.

Here’s the thing Jason, dear…social mobility is really hard in America, especially for the marginalized.

Harvard’s Nathaniel Hendren, a co-author on a study that looked at how likely people are to advance to higher income brackets in the US, told NPR that “In areas, say, like Charlotte, N.C., kids born in the bottom portion of the income distribution have about a 4 to 5 percent chance of reaching the top…but kids born in, say, Salt Lake City, have about an 11 percent chance of reaching the top if they’re born to a poor family.”

When asked why social mobility is so hard Erin Currier, the director of the Economic Mobility Project at the Pew Center on the States, said “we would expect that parents’ educational attainment and their socioeconomic status would matter for children’s educational attainment as well…But if it was just the transmission of advantage, we would see that as a similar gap across countries. And the fact that there are differences points to environmental factors mattering, so policies in institutions that people interact with throughout their lives. The bottom line is that the United States tends to look the worst on all of these measures.”

“What policies and institutions?”, you might ask Jason, hmmm…let’s see, off the top of my head:
1. Debt buying is a thing that is legal
2. Multilevel marketing targets specific populations and that’s okay
3. Housing loans have historically had higher rates for some people and that seems fair: “Discrimination in housing and the wealth disparities are inextricably linked: Housing has been the primary mechanism for wealth creation in American life. But access to fair housing — and fair avenues to homeownership — have remained one of the country’s most entrenched racial problems. During the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, blacks and Latinos effectively lost decades of wealth; by 2013, white household wealth was nearly 13 times that of black households and 10 times that of Latino households.” -Gene Demby, NPR
4. Credit card interest rates are higher if you’re Black or Hispanic, two populations with high percentages of lower earning individuals and you’re not doing anything about that.
5. The poor can’t afford to keep their money in the bank, which ends up being more expensive
6. Education, the great equalizer, hasn’t exactly panned out for most children living in poverty. These children are more likely to be absent and to drop out of school, because they need to help at home with income. Not to mention that all the public schools resemble prisons, that the teachers in these classrooms are not only unqualified, but they remind each child they won’t amount to anything each day by lowering their expectations, and that these schools are ill-equipped to deal with the population of student they receive. Yet, look who our secretary of education is and what she’s up to.
7. Living in poverty breeds bad health, which is a pre-existing condition. You would think we would want to prevent bad health from being a thing that happens in the first place.
8. We treat the homeless like lepers all the while they are more likely to need psychiatric help than the general population so that they can actually function in society and you know, not be homeless.
9. We incarcerate criminals guilty of theft, selling drugs and other nonviolent crimes, especially those of color, instead of offering rehabilitation and teaching them to use their skills so they too can function in society and you know, not need to steal to feed a hungry child.
10. Somehow a bag of chips is cheaper than a potato, the healthier version of the two–making the choice between the potato and the chips pretty easy for someone earning minimum wage trying to feed her kids who will end up fairly unhealthy because of this unfortunate choice that isn’t much of a choice and others like it. And then, they can’t afford health care so they accrue all of this debt in getting their health cared for.
11. Voting power is nonexistent for the poor and the already marginalized racial minority; they didn’t put you in your current position, Jason, had their vote counted more than others, they would have chosen someone else.

Laws and Policy have shaped the ability for poor folks to overcome poverty.

So no, your health care isn’t accessible to all if they just made better choices. One could even argue there aren’t many choices to make as a poor individual because they are all made for you.

My mother used to make $18,000 a year and she must have made some really stupid decisions, according to you, to still be undeserving of health care.

She deserves affordable health care because it is a human right.

If you’re not going to change the policies that keep people poor, at least attempt to not, you know, basically also kill them.

 

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