A Surreal Descent Into Poverty and Desperation
One time in the 2006 Christmas season I was just hanging around the threads at Daily Kos, the topic turned to food and cooking and it was instantly apparent that one member was hungry, believe me I know, so I wired her $20 for a turkey.
She was elderly and living alone with her cat, who knows where, and in her sparkly thanks to me I could tell this was a happy bonus in her life, she didn’t feel like it was due, she wasn’t desperate, it was just a tiny moment of joy she could celebrate with her cat, who would be so happy with the fresh meat.
Remarkable, she was alone, elderly and seriously poor, yet somehow her spirits and tenacity got her a computer and internet connection. A spirit and brain like was not always poor and alone, no way, yet life had got her to that spot and she didn’t mind. Would any of us handle an end to life with such acceptance? She’s gone now, I hope her ending was as full as the dignity she lived.
One time, lost and wandering after getting a useless public administration degree, I worked briefly in the office for a pool cleaner who was kind enough to give me something to do. He’d been laid off in the early 90’s wave of layoffs (layoffs with profits used to be a new, horrible thing) and was desperately trying to make a go of anything. He was understandably bitter, angry and depressed, he’s gone now, 25 years early and angrily betrayed with his last thoughts.
One time I built a website for a blogger who was frantically trying to put a life together after becoming unemployable from age. College educated, a fine musician and writer with a spotless work record, but persistent high unemployment simply made the labor market impossible for her to re-enter at any job. Somehow she got a windfall that two swine swindled out of her in this new start and everything fell apart. She’s gone now, 30 years early, alone and mentally smashed, she drank herself to death on her sofa.
I remember these souls and stories and see a middle class America withering and suffering from a repeated 40 year assault on unions, education, wages and employment, the latest recession of 2004 just another catastrophe for millions of little people. They aren’t asking for yachts and mansions, just a little dignity in person and mind, they’ll work their fingers to the bone to get it, but our labor market is smashed, the American dream is gone with hardly any scraps of dignity to be found anywhere for so many millions of us.
Yet incredibly, amazingly, with a brazenness most excellent writer and soul David Dayen describes as surreal, the social safety net and spending is being cut right in the middle of our latest employment catastrophe, they’re cutting food stamps as we speak and want to cut Social Security! Democrats own the White House and Senate, but we didn’t learn any economics in 70 years of alleged intellectual development, it’s 2013 and we’ve frantically breathed life into the zombie of Herbert Hoover, he rules Washington DC again!
How on earth did we ever allow ourselves to get into such a twisted, ass-backwards political mental state? This isn’t perception of policy or ideology, Americans are hungry, starving and homeless, so one cuts food stamps and social spending? Proposes cuts to Social Security?
An absurdly conservative corporate DC media bubble, overwhelming special interest money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, whatever, somehow our politicians got so cut off from reality in some surreal fantasy of what are people are going through they’re doing precisely the wrong thing in policy and morality, oh my god. Hello? We shouldn’t be cutting Social Security, we should be significantly increasing it.
In a shocking development it turns out 401k’s are a joke from a macro policy perspective, a huge wave of elderly poverty is soon to engulf the country and all of us. Not only is the idea of cutting Social Security surreal in its blindness to current reality, it’s laughably absurd in the face of what the United States will soon need for its people.
The next President must fix the labor market and must address climate change, yet hugely increased Social Security benefits must immediately be implemented too. Somehow we must find a liberal candidate and President in 2016 to put the little people always first or the country as we know it will simply vanish, a hollow shell of a once proud county horribly degraded in human poverty, hunger, desperation and furtive human agony.