The Working Poor and the Hoops They Jump Through

Working PoorSo when we moved to Cincinnati, we got the cheapest apartment we could find. It was the lowest apartment in the building, and we got hit by a summer storm. So what didn’t get destroyed by water got destroyed by mold. And I was, I think, seven and a half months pregnant, eight months pregnant at the time. So I was calling every charity I could, thinking, I just need a chair. For or whatever reason in my head, if I could just get a chair, then everything else would be fine. But I needed a place to sit. I got in touch with one charity who said, “Yeah, you can come and pick up a chair but you’re gonna need you to go to a resume-writing class.” And I said, “For what?” And they said, “Well, because we need you to be looking for work and trying to better your situation; we don’t just give charity to just anybody. We need to make sure that you’re, you know, invested — you got some skin in the game.” And I said, “Okay, when is the resume-writing class?” And she gave me two different times. And I said, “Well, I have to be at work at both of those times.” And they said, “Well, if you want the charity you have to show up to the class.” And I was like, “If I come to the class I’ll get fired.” And this woman was telling me how I really needed to learn to write my resume so that I could find gainful employment, so that I could get the stupid chair that was probably worth five bucks.

That is what personal responsibility means to somebody on welfare. It means here are these stupid hoops that we’re gonna make you jump through and then we’re going to give you a solution that absolutely won’t work for you. It’s that kind of just over and over beating your head against these ridiculous regulations and these double-binds that don’t make any sense. And the whole thing is set up specifically to humiliate you as much as possible because what we need poor people to do in America more than anything else in the world is know their place.

—Linda Tirado
Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Poverty in America Edition

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

6 thoughts on “The Working Poor and the Hoops They Jump Through

  1. yeppers. Daily. Remotely. Insensibly.
    I love hearing that my wife and I need to take time off our efforts to keep food on the table, to come to a workshop and watch a welfare-to-work video about getting and keeping a job.
    This we last did about three years ago. We have since ‘timed out’ which is government speak for, “we ‘helped’ you as long as we can (four years in california)”…now you only qualify for the most minimal medical coverage and a couple hundred in food assistance.
    In that last attended event, I met a fellow business owner who had just recently sold her cleaning business. She got $2000 in selling her supplies, methodology and long client list, so that she could pay off the loan on her only vehicle and be unemployed… her ends would no longer meet.
    In the video there were a couple success stories of former/current recipients. One, let’s call her Jen, I knew to be in jail at the time of the viewing. She had failed to cover the needs of herself and her kids adequately at her County placed job with Goodwill Industries and had begun taking in local homeless, for a few dollars (and eventually commodities) here and there to make ends meet. Then CPS got involved. Then she was subject to probation searches “any reasonable hour of the day and night (as determined by the officers)” and things went further down the shit tube.
    Now Jen is homeless, her kids divided and assigned to who knows where and all in the name of keeping the Welfare-to-Work program within time and budget goals.
    Forced labor programs do not save money, they merely defer and increase costs (and loss) in other departments and aspects of our society. All so someone can feel better about how tax dollars are spent.

    • No. And it isn’t about saving money. As she says in the quote, it’s about putting you in your place. Actually, the whole thing I linked to is worth listening to. I think it is 22 minutes. It is mostly about the myth of the lazy poor. And most people seem to believe it. That’s why Ann Romney didn’t need the “dignity of work” but poor mothers do. It’s disgusting.

    • Goddamnit, this makes me so mad. I thank you for sharing it, it’s important to know this stuff is going on, but it makes me so mad I can’t even muster the saliva to spit.

      I’ve dealt with somewhat similar shit applying for unemployment insurance here in Minnesota. It’s so demeaning and debasing it breaks your soul. It makes you less enthusiastic about applying for new jobs, not more, because it tells you what a piece of shit you are. It’s horrible.

      My mom once told me what it was like the first time she applied for food stamps. She had to use Mom Voice to make me calm down over the phone, I was so lividly pissed. Her husband lost his mind and could not work. She’d never worked before and had no resume. And applying for food stamps involved massive shaming. YOU ARE FEEDING YOUR FUCKING CHILDREN. That warrants shame?

      This stuff is not done right. The fact that it hurts people is an abomination. No. No. No.

    • And to the notion that laws exist because without cruelty, we poor would rise up and murder everyone in their sleep so we could take their stuff. If our jails are torture chambers, if our cops and prison guards are psychopaths, well, that’s unfortunate — but it’s the price you pay for Freedom. (“Freedom” being here defined as the right to work for a rotten company, the right to buy products with worthless warranties no manufacturer will honor, and a fancy schmancy Weber gas grill James is just itching in his heart to steal.)

      Because that’s what we poors want. Not a decent living. Not a reduction in stress so we can enjoy time with our friends and family. No, we wanna steal other people’s shit.

      The corollary to this belief, that no inhumanity is too extreme if it Keeps Your Stuff Safe, is no laws need apply to the rich. Trump can run openly as a dictator, the GOP can decide we don’t need a Supreme Court anymore, they’re not a threat. Not like the poors. Of course the savage irony here is that I have no interest whatsoever in stealing anybody’s stuff, while Trump and the corporate owners of the GOP see each human being as a resource to be plundered for every last dime.

      How do 49% of our fellow citizens not grasp this? I guess the answer is, propaganda works. That’s why they use it.

    • Yeah. I idea of charity was that it was not contingent. I know what these people are thinking. They’ve swallowed a lot of nonsense sociology.

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