English: Differences in national income equali...

Image via Wikipedia

I think we Americans have a distorted idea about what it means to be poor, low-income, or homeless. We have this idea cemented in our minds that the REAL poor people are those living on the streets with only the clothes on their backs, sleeping in cardboard boxes at night, begging on the corner for money. We sneer at the people who already have a place to live, have a job, and say they can’t be poor, because they have all that. Sure, they have a roof over their heads and a job but for how long? How about not making enugh moeny to afford rent? The typical reply is that the person then shouldn’t try to live beyond their means. What if that’s ALL they have, that daring to apply for government services is so criminal in some eyes that they don’t? Rather than try and get assistance, the person picks up a bunch of part-time jobs to make the money, but is killing themselves emotionally and physically as a result. What if all that work pushes them past the breaking point and they are thoroughly burnt out from all that pressure? Are they now a ‘lazy’ person? How long could any of you hold down three or four part-time jobs, working from sunup to sundown every single day, no breaks, just to prove to everyone you are a good, hard-working person? What happens if you get sick, or hurt from pushing yourself so hard at your jobs and are unable to work? Gods forbid you get unemployment, because that means you’re just a lazy slob feeding off everyone else. None of this makes any kind of sense to me.

I do not believe every poor person is lazy and incompetent. I think it’s a lie perpetrated by some to further their own agendas. I know a lot of people who are low-income who are the hardest working people I have ever met. And a lot of them are minorities, which is the group du jour to bash as economically parasitical.

Not everyone can handle retail jobs. They’re thankless, overly stressful environments for the most part. Retail employers do not care about those they hire, just that they have bodies to sell merchandise. The turnover rate is very high, because the stress is so high in those areas. I have worked retail in the past and it was one of the worst experiences of my life. Not everyone is cut out for that line of work, but sadly, it’s the most available opening for people. There are NO benefits from retail jobs, no real career. You can’t survive on one of those jobs because the pay is menial. Okay, I can see a rebuttal here–just work lots of hours to make more money. So working from dawn to dusk, with a few hours to sleep and maybe eat is real living. I’m sorry, but I won’t accept that argument. It’s NOT healthy, for one. You NEED to have a social life as well. One’s emotional health is just as important as the physical. I nearly put myself in the hospital on at least two occasions because of work. One job I was working full-time, hardly ever getting a break, going from morning till late at night at the job. I stopped caring about my body, my anxiety was eating me up inside, and I stopped eating, going through a whole day on perhaps one meal. I was so worried about making enough money, and I couldn’t even afford to live on my own. I was severely depressed, not getting treatment for it, and I even collapsed at the job from sheer exhaustion. I lost an alarming amount of weight because I just stopped caring about everything. People do this. People work themselves to death because they’re so afraid they won’t have enough money to afford anything anymore. They’re afraid to take a break to care for themselves because they don’t want to be seen as lazy. If this is the American Way, it’s a sick one. The other retail job that nearly broke me was because of an emotionally and verbally abusive supervisor. She harassed and degraded me to the point I had debilitating panic attacks. My attempts to file complaints were countered with er trying to get me fired. I was forced by the company into a leave of absence, and when I returned, she continued her abuse.  People don’t need that kind of garbage on the job, nor should they have to be forced to put up with it, like the company expected me to. I filed complaints, spoke to HR, all to no effect. That’s unacceptable for ANY work environment. No one should have to live with that on a daily basis for any reason, much less work. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this happen to them. It happens every day in this country.

Low income does not equate low intelligence, or low quality. Low income people are not mindless automatons but human beings who ought to be treated as such by their employers. We are not slaves, nor should we be overworked to the point of collapse. Some of us have these miserable jobs because there’s nothing else left. Some of us have these menial jobs because we lost our original ones due to downsizing or that the employer thought it was cheaper to send work overseas. Not because we’re lazy and don’t want to work. I’m going to leave it here for now, but I have much more to say on this issue.