A visit to the other side

I have friends and acquaintances in all stripes, gay, straight..black, white, rich, poor and some in-between. You get the point. Yet the older I get as issues like health-care and finances come up, I am convinced that in America, everyone should spend a year or so living without access to health-care and basically being poor. Now I know you may be wondering why would I suggest such a thing? Well I find that when issues such as the current health insurance reform debate come up, for me its pretty easy to tell who has never had to do without…see while I may not be in the best financial state at present, I have been poor before and its not pretty.

I went to the dentist for the first time at age 17, and because I had never been you can imagine the state that my mouth was in…over the years once I became a working adult with a job that had insurance and later a partner with good health coverage, we spent thousands even with insurance to get my mouth in shape. See, my folks lived a good chunk of my childhood with inadequate insurance, there was no SCHIP program back then so unless you were super poor, or had a job with damn good coverage, you got no care. My folks were lovely people but they were dreamers, Black hippies to a large degree and we went without, I am convinced that my childhood is what has prompted me to be so involved with social justice issues.

Another thing that gets me…well meaning financially comfortable folks who say that folks can and should work hard. Well its true that hard work can move you up, but statistically speaking and I have covered this in my blog before, when you come from a family that has resources its a lot easier to move up..wealth begets wealth. Its a lot easier to take chances and be creative (a la Bill Gates ) when you come from a family that has more than two nickels to rub together.

Truth is the reasons for poverty and scarcity are complex, I was just in a meeting where someone said maybe throwing money at the poor is not the answer…I agree, in fact we need to throw more money at the poor. For all the jokes and snide comments made about women staying on the system and having more babies, I have yet to see anyone living a truly fabulous lifestyle while living on the government dole. Hell, in many states the welfare, I mean TANF benefits are less than what I spend on groceries every month. Could you imagine living on $400-500 a month? Even with section 8 housing, that still would make fora shitty life IMO.

The reasons that people don’t leave poverty as easily as they did 40-50 years ago when a man or woman could get a job that had health coverage and maybe a pension for old age is that somewhere along the line we as a society got things fucked up. Even the college educated set now is realizing there are no good jobs with security left..we are all screwed.

Its funny because in my circle of friends the folks who are most comfortable financially either have family money or resources or they are old enough that they have substantial work years and resources built up…the rest of us are fucked. Yet even in writing this I realize I exist in two spaces, after all I have a house for life courtesy of family. So while I struggle, its less of a struggle than if I were paying rent or a mortgage since while taxes and insurance are high its still less than rent even in a state like Maine.

No, if more of the folks involved in trying to fix things spent some time living on get by street, I think we as a nation would be better off. Its hard to really understand poverty when its a theoretical or abstract concept. Granted there are a few that are able to truly understand it and work towards helping others but for so many others its a street they have never driven on and one they may never visit, its hard to understand a place you have never been. Yet for those that have been there, even when we leave it, memories of that place never quite fade away.