I’ve touched on income inequality and the difficulties of being poor before, but it doesn’t appear that Maine’s governor is giving it much thought. Despite having experienced hard times himself, as a young man, he continues to dedicate himself to beating up on anyone in Maine unfortunate enough to find their resources so limited they need to ask the state for assistance (TANF funds or food stamps or other kinds of welfare.)
I return to this issue thanks to three articles I read recently in the newspaper. One article suggested that even a few Republicans are discovering that many Americans are indeed suffering these days. It repeated try-try-again Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s vow that his next campaign would focus on ending “the scourge of poverty.” The same piece mentioned that likely GOP Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has also experienced a strange enlightenment. Rather than beating up on the poor (as Maine’s governor is obsessed with doing), Bush reportedly said, “While the last eight years have been pretty good ones for top earners, they’ve been a lost decade for the rest of America.”
A second article needs little elaboration. The headline reads: “Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty”. It noted that 51% of public school kids, K-through-12, are eligible for free and reduced price lunches. Add that information to the fact that some schools now offer subsidized breakfast and send additional food home with kids for supper. Educators worry about how well a hungry child can learn. I’m guessing Maine’s governor does not. He’s all for charter schools run by profit-making companies.
The third article, the one that really ripped me up, shared excerpts from a Reddit thread. It was mostly poor people sharing the experience of being poor. One writer is quoted as posting: “…when you are poor, the ‘system’ is set up to keep you that way.” Other comments were more wrenching, like this one: “You can’t pay for health insurance, and instead buy medicine from pet stores.” A writer trying to keep shoes on his feet and food in his stomach on a very limited income decided to “buy the walmart shoes [which won’t last very long] and some groceries instead of just the $60 shoes and no groceries.” I don’t know about you, but I haven’t had to make that kind of decision lately.
The comment that really slammed me as it sank into my brain and then my heart was this one: “Growing up really poor means realizing in your twenties that Mommy was lying when she said she already ate.” There are a number of other comments. You can find them here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/01/14/this-powerful-reddit-thread-reveals-how-the-poor-get-by-in-america/, but I warn you, it’s difficult reading. Makes me wonder what I should be doing for my brothers and sisters who are so busy just trying to survive that they can’t indulge in my kind of leisurely reflection.