Safety net…oh you mean the safety string?

Mitt Romney’s foot in mouth moment has inspired me to take a few minutes to post, since today being a half day of school for the wee lass and a full day of work for me means this is a long day. Yet when the guy who looks like he is going to be the GOP nominee starts uttering ridiculous shit, well I have to say something.

In case ya missed it, yesterday Mitt Romney basically stated that his focus is on the middle class, not the very rich (for obvious reasons) and not the very poor because the very poor have a safety net. Really? They do? Mittens you are talking an area where I know the deal, see I guess you’d say I have been in the helping poor people business now for 15 years and let me tell you the safety net is not a net. It’s a few strings at this point.

Can we start off with the fact that half of Americans are technically poor or low income, in other words they are making less than $50,000 a year. Now depending on where you live and how you live, 50G’s will keep you fed and housed but as far as building wealth or any of that shit, it’s not happening.  Thing is a lot of those people in that classification are living off way less than 50G’s a year, hell some may barely have any money at all. Someone asked me the other day, don’t all families with kids get tax refunds, I said no…and it’s true, the earned income credit phases out in the upper $40,000’s but thanks to what I am calling the poorification of the US., it means an whole lotta folks do get these credits and subsequent refunds. They aren’t getting tax refunds because they have kids; they are getting them because they are poor or low income. When so many people with kids are getting tax refunds that it’s perceived that they are obtaining them due to the kids but it’s really because they are broke, that says a lot!

In America we don’t talk money, it’s not polite but the reality is more of us are sliding into economic despair and hardship and frankly a lot of formerly middle class folks are learning we have no nets in this country. The only real net program we have is food stamps or SNAP benefits as they are called these days. Yet guys like Newt Gingrich sneer and call President Obama the “food stamp” president as if Obama is standing on street corners passing out food stamp cards. If more people are on food stamps than ever before it’s because people cannot afford the ever increasing cost of food.

The safety net is barely there, in states like mine the governor wants to cut people off the Medicaid program because we can’t afford it. Never mind most of these people are on it because they for starters they meet the income qualifications which last I knew in Maine could be near $40,000 a year. Sure that sounds luxurious but if you have a family of 3-4 on 40G’s a year and your employer doesn’t offer you coverage, how else do you get it?

When people like Mitt Romney and well-meaning but clueless people say there are safety nets they are talking out of their ass. Government assistance to the poor is limited and drying up, again using my current state as an example; heating assistance to low income folks was slashed and in a state that heats with heating oil that is bad news. Average Maine family will go through at least 800 gallons of heating oil in a winter and with prices starting at damn near $3.50 a gallon and up and the  average allotment of assistance coming in at $300 tops that means someone will be cold. Hell, someone could die.

Programs for housing have waiting lists across the country, when I last lived in Chicago; the waiting list to get on Section 8 was closed, even in Maine it can now take upwards of 3 years to get into subsidized housing. Three years is a long time to scramble for affordable housing. Let’s talk food, even with food stamp assistance; it takes creativity and ingenuity to make your benefits last all month. Despite the tales of carts laden with junk food, steaks and lobsters, the reality is not everyone who receives food stamps gets hundreds of dollars for some it may only be $100 a month; it’s based off individual economic circumstances. For many, local food banks, pantries and soup kitchens are the bridge to eating all month. However they too are hurting. I just took a call a few days ago from a local food pantry asking for help with a food drive, they are now seeing over 100 families a day when they are open, the demand is greater than the supply. I am seeing more hungry kids at my center and there is nothing worse than asking for help to keep kids fed and being met with a lackluster response. Local agencies and churches can barely keep up with demand.

So we have the government who in recent years has reduced its programing to the poor, we have local agencies that simply do not have the means to help everyone and we simply have more people in need of help. Now where is that safety net?

To Mitt and anyone else who thinks like him, I say you need to get off high street and come on down to commoner lane and spend some time talking to people who are struggling. You may learn a thing or two.