Suppose you had to carry your food in a bag. Now, to get from Point A to Point B you would need to have X amount of food but your bag would only hold X + .0005. With no room for error and no way to get a bigger bag, if there was any loss of food at all you wouldn’t be able to get from A to B. There would be days that you simply could not make the journey. And if making that journey meant getting a bigger bag or more food you’d be trapped in an endless cycle of just not making the trip.
Suppose you were standing there with your bag and realized you had less than X in the bag so there was no use in trying to make the journey so you simple ate what was there knowing there wouldn’t be enough anyway. With no means to save any of the food why not just enjoy what you had? Or maybe you could trade it off for something that would be different than eating less food than you need anyway. With no means to do anything than live from day to day, from what’s in the bag to what’s in the bag, believe it or not, that is exactly what you would do.
Poor people do not live from day to day being poor because they are stupid. They live this way because they are poor.
Twenty-three years ago I was working part time at Sears. I made one hundred forty dollars a week. I rode a bike to work because I couldn’t fix my car. I needed six hundred dollars to fix my car and I needed to get it towed to the shop. Because my bills were pretty much eating up my paycheck I couldn’t afford to get my car fixed. I had to have surgery and because I was already stretched to the limit, I had to pay the doctor a certain amount every month, also. In the meanwhile, the tires on my car began to rot away but I couldn’t put the car on blocks because the landlord would tow it. My roommate bailed on me which doubled my rent. My girlfriend was helping support me and my two cats and for fun we would take a few bucks every week and buy cheap wine and get really drunk. I didn’t have cable, or air conditioning, or heat, or a television, or the internet (which wasn’t really available to the public) and I didn’t get to go to movies or eat out very often at all. I carried my clothes in a duffle bag to the laundry mat once a week to wash them and my best pair of work boots were held together with duct tape.
So the question you might ask is why not save that five bucks a week and not drink?
Because when you’re up to your neck in debt and it’s piling up even more every time you turn around you feel helpless against it. Five bucks a week meant to get my car fixed would be one hundred and twenty weeks. I played the lottery because the odds of the money helping me out seemed as remote as winning the lottery. I knew people who were more broke than I and they smoked. It was an appetite suppressant. It was much cheaper to smoke than eat.
It’s easy to kick back and plan for the future when you think there will be a future. Despair is a very powerful thing. When you wake up and realize that your girlfriend would be much better off shopping around you have to know that she’s realized that too. You know her friends are telling her that. You certainly know her parents are telling her that there was a man out there with a real job just waiting to be lucky enough to meet her. And you know each and every day that you get more broke, she’s in a position to meet someone else. When your employer knows that they don’t have to pay you anymore than they do because you wouldn’t give your job up if they paid you less then you go to work under a cloud. You work all day knowing you’ll owe more at the end of the day than you did when you clocked in. You go home to less than you left home with. And in the far range future, which is about a week and a half, you realize that each and every day will be exactly the same if not worse.
The sheer weight of helplessness is enough to cause more lack of judgment than being drunk. You hear music you want to buy, you see movie trailers and you want to see a movie, you get tired of planning basic meals for months on end, your clothes begin to all look the same, you find a dollar on the sidewalk and it the happiest moment of the year for you, and there is no end in sight. It suffocates you. It makes you feel sick all the time. It makes you wonder if one day you might die this way.
I did find a decent job and I did finally was able to get a truck that ran well, even if it was a stripped down version of a truck. After years of saving I was able to buy a house. I finally was able to afford to save money and to have things like a computer, a television, and food on a daily basis. And heat. I really liked having heat. Having heat in a house is an awesome thing. Oh, and being able to pay my bills on time was really nice.
Getting that break to get a good job isn’t something that a person can force to happen. I had to move to get that good job and not everyone can. I had to live with my father for five months and not everyone has that option. I spent a very long time on the very bottom before I moved up, slowly, very slowly, but I did stick with it.
I don’t have a lot of use for these people standing around with signs because nearly every one of them I have ever spoken with is looking for alcohol or worse. But I have less use for the people who paint all poor people as lazy and drunk. Single moms trying to get better jobs while still being a mom is one of the single most toughest things you will ever see a human being attempt. I’ve never met a single mom who planned it that way. No one in their right mind would.
When the country you live in can afford to spend a billion dollars an hour on a useless war but cannot afford to feed and educate poor people something is wrong. When the general population sees a useless war as more of a priority than feeding the poor something is terminally wrong. When your average person sees being poor as a choice it shows an amount of disconnect from reality that scares me.