Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's the Disrespect for People that Kills Me

Ok, so we know economically times are hard. They are improving for some, but they are hard for many. It was primarily due to these difficult economic times that we moved our family 1100 miles south. There was a time when things for my family were good, not great, but good. We have never been the people who were interested in big vacations (we mostly camped, much cheaper), we weren't fashion or possession hounds. I will admit to a weakness for techie stuff, but I've never been a first adopter, and I always searched for screachingly great deals. We didn't enroll our kids in overly expensive activities. We did all that, in part, to live in a modest home in a great school district.  We did everything right when we moved there, had about six months' savings in the bank, put as much down on our house as we could afford, we didn't risk. Two extended job losses--one of 10 months, one of almost two years--wiped safety out. In between the two job losses, my husband had essentially a 50% pay cut from before his first job loss. That meant we were NEVER out of the hole. Things still weren't horrific yet. We all wear clothing from thrift shops, the campouts were fewer, we didn't go out to eat unless there was a groupon involved. We started a business to try to make ends meet, and I took on a second job. We didn't qualify by the state of Illinois as "poor" but we didn't have much compared to our neighbors, who weren't rich themselves. Living in that town was hard.

I say all this because of two things. One is this ridiculous clip/article that says if you have a computer and/or air conditioning, you "can't be poor" in the eyes of some politicians. Essentially, he, and those like him who might not say in public but in private agree, is saying that only the basest of existences can be considered "poor" for the government's purposes, and anything above that is a-okay! So if a single mom has a kid and someone gives her a second hand computer her kid does homework on, she can't be poor. If, like my family, we had some good times and were able to purchase computers that are now four years old, we can't be poor. Because we lived in a house where we turned on the a/c when it was reaching 100 degrees, nope, we can't be poor. He's a moron. I could probably feed my kids on what he spends on dry cleaning in a month.

The other reason I say all this is a general sense of disbelief I have after having moved to Louisiana. I registered my kids for school, and the school has been AWESOME, telling us to send them with whatever supplies we had, they'd make up the difference, and they didn't charge us for the "spirit wear" shirts kids can wear on Fridays instead of their polos and khakis (which we still had to buy). I think they're used to people who stay with family members, as there's a significant migrant worker population here with sugar cane harvesting. In any event, when we were back in Illinois, and the unemployment benefits stopped last December, my pitiful salary, made even more pitiful after the deductions for parking pass, health insurance, pension, union dues, simply wasn't enough for four people, two of whom kept insisting on eating and growing. I looked into public aid and found I made too much per year by about 6K, not even small enough to get help with lunch costs through the school, as that threshold was in the low 30s. When we got to Louisiana, I'm filling out all the paperwork, and the threshold for reduced lunch is OVER $44,000! The cost of living is less here, gas is less, granted milk is more, but I know people who are raising kids on a far less than $44K. I've actually been walking around muttering 44,000! at random times during the day. I have issues letting things go.

It amazes me that areas can be SO different and have such a different attitude. When living in that SW burb of Chicago, where many people had great incomes, but there were just as many who didn't, and I inquired about assistance through the schools, all but one person acted annoyed and put out to give me any information. Here, they just said "don't worry about it" and gave me stacks of information. We may be going through a lot of adjustments here, some that have made me bang my head on a desk recently, but there is definitely more of a feel that we're all in this together that I'm really liking.

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