I just saw a meme on Facebook asking people to “like” it of they get pissed off at seeing food stamp recipients smoking cigarettes, watching cable TV or talking on a cell phone. One of the people who shared it was the daughter of a friend, a woman I’ve known since she was born.
It broke my heart just a little to see it.
Earlier I saw a post asking if the insanity at 7 a.m. at Home Depot involved (epithet for Latinos) standing in line waiting for day labor.
I work with people every day who qualify for food stamps. They do not live in the lap of luxury.
Did you know that food stamps provide less than $5 a day? Could you eat on that?
As for the people in line for day labor, plenty of them are not Latino, and they can’t find work elsewhere. In addition, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for any government benefits. Look it up.
As for what people deserve, did you know that people with certain mental illnesses almost always smoke cigarettes? No one seems to know what the connection is, but it is there.
Cell phones are a necessity for people who can’t afford a land line. Most of the people I serve have cheap WalMart cell phones and they buy a couple hundred minutes a month. When their minutes run out, they go without a phone for the rest of the month. I have yet to see a homeless person with an iPhone.
Most people who live on disability get less than $800 a month. Try to live on that.
How’s this for a story? One woman replied to the Facebook meme saying she is home all day because of a disability, and she smokes cigarettes. The government has decided she is too disabled to try to rehabilitate, in her words. She watches cable TV because there is nothing else for her to do. Even if she could get out, she couldn’t afford to do anything.
For every poor person I’ve ever known there is a story. The people I serve are NOT lazy; they are not bums and they don’t want to be on government assistance.
But if you start out poor in this country, despite the “American dream” myth, you likely will remain poor.
Nowadays, if you start out middle class, you’re likely to sink into debt and even into poverty.
Let’s say you have a good job as an art teacher. With the funding cuts to schools these days, art is one of the first programs to go. If you get laid off, what other skills do you have? Will you be able to find another job at the pay you’re making now? Not likely. Will you be able to maintain your lifestyle on half the pay you were making — or even less?
Since you can’t go out to dinner or the movies, does that mean you don’t deserve ANY means of entertainment, even basic cable? Does it mean you don’t deserve a telephone?
Very few of us are more than six months away from financial disaster. When you see someone who is poor and talking on a cell phone, remember you could be in that same situation very easily.Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, Life o' Mike Inc., named in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about Life o' Mike or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit lifeomike.org.