Tag Archives: poverty

A Pandemic is Another Terrible Time to be Poor

Pearl River     There’s no good time to be poor in America.  Not surprisingly, a pandemic bringing rampant disease and deaths in droves is a spectacularly bad time to be poor.  Some are even noticing the poor now, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that a whole lot is being done about it.

For example, it turns out that lower-waged and other blue and pink-collar workers have to work, regardless of the peril to themselves and the community.  Home health care workers, construction workers, tradespeople, grocery stockers, delivery workers, and hundreds of others are essential, grateful for the paychecks in these times, but unprotected and at risk.  The Times using cellphone data found that lower income workers delayed by three days on average being able to follow stay-at-home orders around the country.  In what has to be the understatement of the day, the reporter wrote, “The impact of the virus is thought to also be higher in lower income neighborhoods.”  Roger that, Captain Government Oblivious!

The reports on unemployed data are stark, but give only a peek at the disaster.  Almost 10 million have applied in March, and that doesn’t count the millions that are still trying as state unemployment websites crash repeatedly.  It will get worse: “Forecasting firm Oxford Economics projects that by May, the U.S. will have lost 27.9 million jobs and have a 16% unemployment rate, erasing all the jobs gained since 2010 during the record-setting 113-month stretch of employment gains through February. That job loss would be more than double the 8.7 million positions cut from payrolls during the 2007-2009 recession and its aftermath. And those jobs were lost over 25 months.”

People are going to go hungry unless there is fast action.  Washington Post columnist, Catherine Rampell, surveyed a number of food banks to report, “In surveys of food banks conducted from March 19 to 23 by Feeding America, the nation’s largest organization for domestic hunger relief, 92 percent reported increases in demand for food assistance. The size of the increase varies by location, with some reporting doubling or even septupling their usual distributions.”

The homeless, always with us, in the pandemic are seen as street-side hotspots like nursing homes that could flare up and take down whole communities, prompting action.  Finally.  The stimulus bill is the biggest federal and state expenditure for the homeless in history.  Cities are trying to rapidly move them off the streets into some kind of stay-at-home situation.  Nonetheless experts estimate that close to 5% or more than 3500 nationally will die.

But, wait, the stimulus bill will do the trick.  Well, hmmm.  Turns out for very low-income people who haven’t had to file tax returns, they will have a problem.  Automatic payments are guaranteed only to those whose information is already in the computers at the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration. Everyone else must follow instructions posted by the I.R.S., which says many low-income people and others who aren’t usually required to file tax returns will need to do so if they want their payments.  Goodness knows, we can’t give the poor a break.

This is now when we’re still chasing our tail to catch up with our heads.  Who doesn’t believe for lower income and working families that it isn’t going to get way worse before we have a hint at anything getting better?


Class and Culture Clashes

New Orleans      Ok, let’s be clear, everything about the pandemic sucks, alright?  For the most part we don’t hate our homes, but we definitely don’t like being told we have to stay at home.  Attach the word, “order,” to it and it brings out the deep vein of anarchism that is normally masked as individualism in America.

Saying all that, one thing I personally just love is the huge fault-line around class and culture that has been exposed so vividly during this crisis.  This is part of why Trump, born to the tower, had to be slapped around by the polls and public health experts, so he would finally get the fact that the little people at the bottom really don’t want to die for the sake of the stock market and the big donors’ businesses.

How can you not enjoy the contradictions that are revealed in all the stories about the rich and their wannabes finding resistance from their stay-at-home neighbors as they decamp from the big cities to their summer and second-home haunts?  Some of these small town, rich enclaves are finding that the doggone mayors, elected by the permanent residents, are trying to tell them go back where you belong and don’t bring the virus around here.  Even if it’s a little bit of biting the hand that feeds them, there’s a lesson being taught here about privilege.

I loved a piece by Amanda Hess in the New York Times that just kicked the celebrity culture crush in the butt and called one after another out for their cluelessness about the working class and the public at large.  The headline was, “You’re a Celebrity, Who Cares?” Amen!

I’ll admit that a longstanding personal grievance I have with the Times has always been the daily Arts section.  In the tunnel vision from New York, we’re supposed to care more for random people and personalities in the arts, theater, films, and so forth than people in any other field of endeavor, often with our lives and futures in their hands.  I’m not saying none of that is important or of value, but I find the lack of balance and its special treatment so elitist and classist that it just galls me.  To finally hear one of their own who speaks through the Critics Notebook column call them out is not just refreshing, but exhilarating.  Of course, she’s also somewhat “one of them” who appreciates the molding in Robert DeNiro’s house, the Craftsman beams elsewhere and the equine wallpaper next to Zo Kravitz’s fireplace, which, frankly, most of us wouldn’t have noticed, but, nonetheless, we all get the point.

She says we are watching the “swift dismantling of the cult of celebrity,” so we say, hip-hip-hooray!  She adds that, “The #guillotine2020 hashtag is jumping.  As grocery aisles turn bare, some have suggested that perhaps they ought to eat the rich.”  Whoa, you, go sister!  She busts on Pharrell Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, Gal Godot, J-Lo and Alex Rodriguez, and, then devastates Madonna.  This Jenny from the hood shtick is dead and gone.

And, let’s hear it for Louisiana home girl, Brittney Spears.  Yes, you heard me, hit it again, Brittney Spears.  I’ll let comrade Hess take it home,

Give me Brittney Spears, who has emerged from the crisis as the rare celebrity to tap into the need for radical social change.  Spears recently posted a bright yellow manifesto on Instagram from the internet artist Mimi Zhu.  “We will feed each other, re-distribute wealth, strike,” it reads.  “Communion moves beyond walls.”  Spears added three red roses to the caption, an ambiguous symbol reflecting either her support for the Democratic Socialists of America or perhaps simply her affinity for floral emoji.  Spears is an unexpected figure to lead us through quarantine, but a fitting one:  She has been under a conservatorship for 12 years, her movements and finances controlled by her father and overseen by the courts.  When she posts about finding community in social captivity, she knows what’s she’s talking about.”

Right on!