I, as most of the world, watched in horror as Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. What was uncovered was something worse than the storm. It was the conditions that most of the victims of Katrina were in... the conditions before the storm.
Those mostly affected by Katrina's wrath were the poor. Those living in poverty, right here in the United States of America.
I was glued to the television reports on Katrina. I could not believe what I was seeing. I became mad at various people and then latter in that week rage set in. Outrage and anger combined in me. I don't ever remember being so outraged and angered in my entire life. The thing was, I didn't know what I was angrier about - that there were so many people living here in America - the richest country in the world, who were poor and forgotten or that our government failed these individuals on so many levels.
Outrage and anger can destroy you, or if you use them in your efforts to create change - they can end up helping people. I have chosen to take this outrage and anger and redirect it to create positive changes in regards to the poor and working poor in America. It is my hope that we can begin discussing this issue. And hopefully in doing so, create change.
This is an introduction to a series of postings that I'll be doing on the poor & working poor in America. Please feel free to add your comments or any helpful information to the postings.
Here is a good place to start this journey - with words from local Religious Leaders: A Question of faith: Where is religious outrage for the poor?
And then with pictures:
Portraits of Home - Families in Search of Shelter in Greater Minnesota
I wish that someone could define what poor is. I know that the media keeps popularizing numbers of 36 million Americans (or so) who live below the poverty line. Who are these people? I can't speak for these millions of people, but I can speak for one of them - my mother-in-law.
My 75 year-old mother-in-law lives with two of her 40-something year old daughters. The three live (solely) on her social security which does not even amount to $14,680 per year (the official 2003 poverty line for a family of three). So, she is poor by our own government's statistics.
How does a family of three live on something less than the $14,680?
Well, for starters her 3 bedroom apartment is highly subsidized. They pay about half of its market value. It's not in a nice neighborhood so they pay about $400 per month.
They don't pay for any medical as they are completely covered by Medicare/Medicaid.
They don't work, so they don't need a car.
They don't pay for heat as that is supplied by the state.
They do pay for electricity so they rarely use air-conditioning, and they keep as few lights on as possible. It is (for me) uncomfortably dim there.
They eat plenty of rice, cheap vegetables, and stew-meat. They buy a lot of soda, but still drink plenty of tap water.
They watch way too much television on a 32 inch CRT television (they are reliable and cheap), they have basic cable, and a DVD player.
Their furniture is covered in plastic so it will last forever.
They regularly buy me birthday and Christmas gifts, almost always purchased from Walmart or K-Mart.
They don't know enough people to worry about long-distance phone bills. They aren't hip enough to even consider a cell-phone, or a computer.
Their apartment is spotless, and I enjoy visiting them. They are always cheerful, and happy to see me.
On the other side of the poverty line is my own family of three; that being me, my wife, and my toddler son.
My wife and I will make about $165,000 this year. This month, we couldn't pay our monthly bills. How is this possible?
The $4,800.00 paycheck that I get every two weeks is actually about $2,800 after federal and state taxes, and my 401K deductions.
My wife and I each drive newer cars with monthly payments on both of them. They are both V6's, and as of late, cost about $75.00 per week to gas-up the two of them.
My wife and I are both college educated and still have $600.00/month school loans.
Our son is severely disabled, and although we are impressed and thankful for the services our society provides to him, we spend about $500/week on additional services for him to give him every chance possible.
I do all of the cooking and buy groceries per meal which is inefficient.
I buy an $8.00 lunch every day to get away from the office and take a brisk walk to calm my mind an exercise my heart.
We eat-out on the weekends.
My son's lung disease requires cool, filtered-air. In August, our electricity bill was $425.00 for the month.
We have a package deal for house phone, satellite t.v., cell phones, and DSL that costs $225.00 month.
I don't feel sorry, for my mother-in-law and her family of three. I don't feel sorry for me and my family-of-three.
Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. It makes this issue human. The poor are no longer just words and statistics when their voices are heard.
God Bless you and your family.
Please continue to share comments, stories and thoughts.
Thank you again.
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