Professor Keck's Reality 101

profkeck

profkeck
Location
Michigan, USA
Birthday
December 31
Bio
Mary Keck is a writer and blogger. Her articles have appeared on Open Salon, The Public Intellectual, and The Huffington Post. She is currently a columnist for The Times Herald where she writes about nature, outdoor recreation, and wildlife.

Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 13, 2011 4:39PM

Poor Choices (Updated)

Rate: 47 Flag

Today, I went to the grocery store planning to write a check that would not be covered by the funds in my bank account. I had little food, I didn’t have enough gas in my tank to get me to work the next day, and I knew I wouldn’t see a pay check for my labor done two weeks before for at least another forty-eight hours. When the pay for my labor arrives, my bank will take almost half of it for overdraft fees. Then, I’ll use what is left for basic essentials like food and gas, and in two more weeks, I’ll get paid again. My bills will wait until more money comes my way. In the meantime, I hope the companies who provide me with hot water, electricity, and a roof over my head can be patient like I’m expected to be.

I have no health insurance even though I have two jobs. My only vehicle (bought used) has a low roar that concerns me, but I can’t afford to get it checked. I have two post-secondary degrees for which I’ve been awarded lots of student loan debt and jobs that won’t cover it. I gave up my cell phone months ago because a landline is cheaper. I don’t have a television and don’t pay a cable bill. I go to the laundromat even though I’d prefer to clean my clothes in my home at my convenience, and I buy what I wear at thrift stores. 

Ron Paul and his audience at the recent debate would say I deserve this standard of living with all its stress and shame. They would consider me a scab even though I’m not on welfare. They believe I should be imprisoned for writing that bad check. If I were fatally injured, they would cheer for my death because I didn’t plan ahead by setting aside some of my monthly income for health insurance. Even though I work as hard as anyone else and I took the steps of getting educated for the purpose of being a productive citizen, they would think that I shouldn’t take pleasure in life by going to a theme park with my family or attending a rock concert in celebration of my wedding anniversary. Instead, I should use my monthly income to cover all my bills, purchase health insurance, buy gas and groceries, and if there’s anything left, I should save it. Finally, if I save all I can for years and years, when I’m seventy-six, too old for rock concerts and rollercoasters, then I can spend my well-earned savings on fun, frivolous things. Ideally, I would get more pleasure out of those experiences because they were gained through hard work, persistence, and sacrifice.

The system I’m in prefers that I am a drone, my mind captivated by reality TV, my body fattened by cheap, processed, high fructose corn syrup foods, and the majority of my time spent working for low wages, so the owners of my company can make more money. In the United States, my worth is measured in dollars. My imagination, my integrity, and my morals are not measured in dollars; therefore, they are worth nothing.

When I looked into the cashier’s eyes and asked if I could write my check for not only the measly groceries in my cart, but also for cash back to buy gas, I knew that she was a good person who wasn’t very different from me. If I were hungry, she would have wanted to feed me. If she knew me better and we were going the same way, she’d give me a ride. Yet, that’s not the sort of help that will get me out of my current situation.

The kind of help I need is compassion, another worthless commodity in the United States. I need my fellow citizens to agree that being impoverished takes away my freedom to choose a healthy lifestyle and even to be productive. I need them to admit that saving and working my whole life forces me to sacrifice my family, my friendships, and my happiness. Americans need to agree that I was left with no option but to write that bad check. The kind of help I need is a collective epiphany, a realization that it is immoral to measure a person’s worth based on the dollars in their pockets or the dollars in the pockets of their employers.

I am not asking for charity, though I need it. I am asking to be seen as a person just like you and just like all the people in the audience at the Republican debate. I am a coworker, a wife, a friend, another passenger on the bus, and just because you can buy Ralph Lauren and go to the opera doesn’t mean that you are entitled to enjoy the pleasures that can be found on this planet any more than me. It doesn’t mean that you deserve a better education, more quality time with the people you love, or health insurance. It just means you don’t have to purchase the cheaper, less healthy foods, you can have a cell phone connected to the Internet with movie-viewing capabilities, and you can drive wherever you need to go. It means you don’t ever have to write a bad check and feel ashamed because when it comes to a system that values people based on their wealth, you are worth more even if you aren’t compassionate, imaginative, or moral.

Updated 9/20: Hear this essay  read on KGO a radio station in San Fransisco. It was read between 4 and 5 am about 51:46 minutes into the show on Saturday, Sept. 17.

Updated 9/29: Find this article featured on publicintellectual. 

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Real life stuff. Very moving--it brought tears to this old guy's eyes. Please keep writing!
A very sad, touching and unfortunately real story.

Beautifully written.
"The highest forms of understanding we can achieve
are laughter and human compassion..."
Richard Feynman, in What Do You Care What Other People Think? (1988)


Most people want to understand that there are those
"out there" either actively causing us evil,
like those darn terrorists,
or
passively: by not pulling their load, doing their share,
etc...

anything outside those frames of reference are very
fuzzy indeed...Moral "evil" and "laxity" cover
everything for them, and if they are REALLY
enlightened they may pity you and give you help
on their terms.

Blah.
Sit back and watch Capitalism crash down all around us
and economics get local again. Fret not.
Thanks for the feedback, Lance, Steven, and James.
What would help break the cycle for you?
Having lived out of a backpack for six months, I have to say, this is where I was before I did. I feel for you deeply.

I remember going to a Welfare Office and going through three different employed minor functionaries. This took me over four hours of time.

An older man, opened his office door and motioned for me to come in. I thought, "Okay, here I go, I'm finally going to get some help."

His help, unfortunately was not what I expected. What I got from him was some blunt honesty. "You're wasting your time," he said. "I don't know what your situation is, but I've seen you talking to at least three people and you've been here most of the day." He closed the office door and wiped his glasses.

"Look, I'm not supposed to say this, but this is what it is: You're white, male, young and apparently in good health. You're not going to get any benefits or help here. If you had a kid, maybe. If you were black, hispanic or asian, maybe. If you were a woman, definitely."

For me, it was a very eye-opening moment. The people in the one place that is supposed to be helping people told me I wasn't going to get any help. The other three people simply spent time talking to me and having me fill out forms. At least this guy was being candid.

I left and never looked back for government assistance again, taking my backpack, camera bag and guitar with me.

Hang in there. People are, in all point of fact, actually quite wonderful and compassionate more often than not. My assistance always came from folks who could see what it's like. You will, too, if you open yourself to them.

-r-
Amen. I am living this same situation right now.
Most of the tea partiers are in the same boat as yourself. That's the absurdity of the whole situation.
Been there . . . still can't hardly write or talk about it, but been there . . . this is a cold, hard reality for many more people than care to admit it. Well-written account of real life, effectively tied to the current political climate.
Painful, truthful post. You have my compassion. And my appreciation for the post. R.
I'm not sure what I was expecting when I clicked on your blog, but I don't think it was this, and to say that it feels kind of like a punch in the gut is an understatement.

The word "empathy" gets knocked around quite a bit, so that we almost lose sight of what it is. But it's a very important word. Imagine yourself as this person. How would you want to be treated? Of course, there are those who just know that they'll never, ever be in your situation. Well, OK, that's fine. They're wrong to think that it could never happen to them, but let's put that aside. Even if you can't imagine yourself in this situation, even if you think it will never happen to you, can you at least spare some compassion, some understanding, for the person who is experiencing it?

I especially like your exploration of the concepts of "entitled" and "deserve". Glad to see this on the cover. Welcome to OS.
No one should have to be a have-not.
Lot of people in the same boat as you, a lot of them!

~shakes his head and wanders off, hitting rate as he goes~
Literally a reality check, and powerfully written. Will post this to my Facebook page.
The denouement of the magical myth of Amway America, expressed very eloquently. The capitalist engine in this iteration could only function by making those without wealth worthless and deluding so many others into believing that they too, could attain it. The message is clear: your value, your very worthiness to be loved, is determined by the things you own. The message is screamed out all around us, from the pages of the glossy magazines to the APP laden screens: buy and be worthy, be respected, show your superior acumen and elevate your status, if only to be a legend in your own mind and VISA's balance sheet.

The latest round of Porsche advertisements, with Mommy picking up her kiddies in a car designed to do 175 mph (and stroking the steering wheel as if she's about to find a solution to frigidity by doing so, while her little kids sit in the back seat) and some inane ass pretending to be "reviewing" what's essentially a race car he can drive to work in, reside on my DVR for those moments when I might mistake myself for a bulimic teenage girl who's psyche is poisoned by the same toxic onslaught and need inspiration.

And to think, I once told myself the highest expression of humanity which distinguished us from other creatures was the capacity to be deliberately kind. I was wrong, it's been demonstrated other mammals show empathy. And the most powerful among us? They show off their Porsche's.
Great writing, not one extra word. Powerful subject, handled honestly. Rated.
Very well said. While my heart goes out to you personally, putting a face to the concept of the working poor hopefully adds to peoples rage at the condition of the once middle class.
"The kind of help I need is a collective epiphany", is quite the phrase. I will remember that.
Thank you. We need more stories like this. I firmly believe that America is in decline because we no longer care for each other. We have seen time and time again the delight that some of our nation take in the misfortune of their own. The Ron Paul Revolution is not a revolution but a Regression back to a time of slave labor, mercenary industrialist and ghetto conditions.

Hang in my friend and continue to write. You have an important story to tell.
I know exactly how you feel. Life is especially hard for so many of us in the U.S. right now. I've been through many of those same situations myself.

I'm afraid you may be lumping Ron Paul in with the Tea Party audience reaction that took place (in response to the moderator's question) while RP was trying to answer. When asked if the 30 year old without health insurance should be allowed to die, Dr. Paul said, "No". He went on to explain that during his medical career (as an OB/GYN who delivered more than 4,000 babies) he never turned anyone away because they couldn't pay. He believes a doctor has a moral obligation to treat the patient whether they are getting paid or not.

In both of the last two debates, audience members have made me physically sick in their responses (cheering the # of executions in Texas and shouting "Let him die!" in response to the question referenced above), but Ron Paul wouldn't agree with the audience on either of those instances.
at this rate. the only job with guaranteed security, benefits & retirement will be the military - if you don't get maimed or killed that is.
I could write something like this, too. You are not alone.
This should be required reading fo politicians and voters. A terrible but accurate look at our nation.
@sct Unfortunately, I think the only thing that will break the cycle for me and so many other Americans is a revolution. Orwell wrote something like we have to put our faith in the proles.
I appreciate all of your kind words, folks. I'm feeling more positive today after reading your comments. Hoping to find a check in the mail when I get home . . .

So many people have said that they are in the same boat, which is so unfortunate. Even I could have it worse than I do; at least I've got a couple of jobs. But as Joseph Burk mentioned, it'd be nice to channel this into rage. We should be shaking up those cheerleaders for capitalism. The question is how do we get some attention in order to make that happen?
@Jason Elam. You've got a point. I did lump Ron Paul with the others, but even though *he* may be one doctor who wouldn't turn someone away, he advocates for a system that would allow other doctors to do so.
You have my sympathy and best wishes. Your story is important!
Ron Paul may not have turned away patients (someone should actually investigate his medical career), but, as you say, he advocates for a system where other doctors can do so, and he proposes unworkable 'solutions', like having churches take care of people's medical bills. Today news comes out about the death of an aide of his three years ago. This person couldn't get insurance because of a pre-existing condition and left $400,000 in medical bills. Paul and friends got together $50,000 towards that debt - very commendable, but only one-eighth of the total.
Well dear, welcome to the crowds. There are more in this crowd than most want to admit. I am right here standing with you. I have met many with college degrees. More that lost those hard fought for jobs through no fault of their own.
All I know to say is speak out and continue to write about this. Usually if one person has a problem there are many having the same one. Become a voice for the silent. And let your views be heard clearly. Don't play the blame game. We are all in this together.
Us. All of us.
what also/known/as said.rated
I am so sorry. This is America. It should be a little easier for you. For everyone. We're busting our asses and it's so damned hard and I hate it. I hate that this is where we have landed. Our journey had better not end here.

Because the thing is, for some people it's worse. Right here. In America. Worse. Crazy.
It's good to read posts like this as a reminder that concepts like poverty rates aren't mere abstractions. Good luck to you on something better coming your way.
Profklek,
I like that, my daughter belives there should be classes in h.s. to teach kids about credit albiet, in the Kardashian book out in book stores now, Courtney I believe speaks about such matters. Money is always topical, but it is the never fully understood, I leave it up to the gremlins that run around my house to help make my expenses meet. I gave trying to figure out where the next dollar willl come from. It keeps getting harder to make the dollar stretch to cover the little necessities such as a car repair, don't mention the dentist either. It's really not easy to consider being able to buy even a birthday present for a family member, versus grocerys. Good luck, I enjoyed your writing.
Powerful, honest post. Many of us here at OS have had, or are having, periods when we have trouble making ends meet. Sometimes it's hard to maintain your dignity during this time. Unfortunately, the current economy and the reluctance of companies to hire more workers, and their willingness to pile greater amounts of work on continually shrinking workforces, is making this a reality for more and more people.

Re the Tea Partiers applauding death for the uninsured: I wonder how many of them are elderly people covered by Medicare.
the title of your piece is perfect....poor choices.
This made me cry. Then it made me angry--for you, for me, for everyone else. And afterwards, I wanted to cry again.

One of the best written pieces I've read anywhere, traditional media included, in the last 5 or so years.

You should submit it to the New York Times.
This made me cry. Then it made me angry--for you, for me, for everyone else. And afterwards, I wanted to cry again.

One of the best written pieces I've read anywhere, traditional media included, in the last 5 or so years.

You should submit it to the New York Times.
no sympathy: you vote for people who treat you like this.

of course, you are not alone in your slavery to american myths. you, and most americans see people camped under bridges and lining up at food charities, and don't see them. "losers," you say, and wipe them from your mind, "not my problem, not my fault."

but in the last few years, a lot of 'middle class' americans discovered they too are losers. not stupid or lazy, not untrained or ill-educated, just unwanted.

no sympathy. that's the american way. loser!
Thank you for writing this. Ignorance depends on silence. By refusing to be cowed, you help bring dignity and empowerment to the working poor.
However, I don't believe capitalism is to blame for this state of affairs. Do you think people are doing better under socialism? I think regulated capitalism is a great way to generate and distribute wealth. However, I think the problem here is cronyism, which has so stuffed up the system that now it's breaking down, and it's becoming clearer and clearer who the winners and the losers are.
I really like your writing. Rated.
Great, great piece. Well witten.

Truly a kick in the stomach...although I doubt many people on that debating stage you mentioned would "get it."
Lovely writing style. But let me ask you; 'What's the point?' You've already spent yourself into oblivion, how is this my fault? You choose to cut back on the fills, and if true as claimed, find yourself holding two jobs and unable to decide to scale down where it counts.

Then you openly, while sheepishly; which I can hardly believe for the act, defraud another for your selfish wants. Were more like you, the grocery would be losing money that would cause another or a dozen or more to lose their jobs.

What's another empty building and thirty or fifty more like you, so long as you don't have to look them in the eye and apologize for being the problem, rather than affected as you claim?

I am especially touched by the way you minced enough words, surrounded by all the buttons, that when delicately pushed exude enough liberal, welfare, entitled, basic inhuman rights that I almost had to do a double-take. Almost. For in there, the lesson you have not learned is that you do not deserve the things you have bought nor the materials and exorbitant lifestyle that goes along with thoughtless procession.

Well, here's a 'Yay' for your style, perhaps you should pursue writing, it pays better - when it pays, and a 'Boo' for content as you clearly have missed the point. So keep voting Democrat. We'll all be in the same boat soon enough. All the others, including the half-wit Paul give you a chance, and that is all any of us deserve. What you do with it is clearly your own choice.
A lot of food for thought here. Something comfortable people have a hard time recognizing -- when you're just scraping by, one financial setback can have cascading effects. You can't afford groceries, so you write a check for more than you have in your account, and then you get hit with overdraft fees, and then you can't pay your electrc bill, and then you have to shell out $150 to get the electricity turned back on, and so you can't afford to get your car repaired, and so it breaks down (or, fate forbid, your brakes fail and you get into an accident) and then you can't get to work, and so you lose your job, etc...

A small suggestion: the next time you have an overdraft, you might try calling the bank and begging them to waive the overdraft fee. It's been known to happen. And maybe then you'll have enough to get through the month without having another overdraft, etc. Thanks for posting this. All the best.
"When the pay for my labor arrives, my bank will take almost half of it for overdraft fees."

Ouch.

At the risk of stating the obvious -- you can't do this to yourself.
Just a sad story. But I'm just not sure whether bouncing a check is the way to go.

First of all it's illegal. Second, 30 dollar overdraft fees will virtually guarantee you never to get out of the hole you're in; and finally a paper check is a promise to pay. Why break a promise? What good is your word?

I do believe we are our brother's keeper but to effectively lie in order to make ends meet seems not to be the solution to me. I'm really bothered by that.
Jim Buba obviously has trouble reading.

Either that, or he thinks a roof over your head and food on the table are frills you should do without in order to be a good American. He thinks you described an “exorbitant lifestyle.”

He must be a conservative…a very far-right conservative. Being able to think clearly, or at all, is not a requirement for that.
This is one of the best post I've read on OS in a very long time. Thank you for taking time to compose it and to share your story which is the same story as millions of others. And thanks for including the word PLANET. Wishing you positive thoughts and easier days ahead.
It's an absurd mischaracterization of conservatives to think that they don't have compassion for people who are struggling or haven't been poor themselves. You blame "capitalism" when it's much more likely socialist policies are to blame for your situation. Empty compassion, like forcing banks to make risky loans to people so they can buy homes they can't afford, is an example of something that eventually brings down every one. And I know of no one who advocates jail for someone who bounces a check. We're talking the person who wants a plasma tv and has no intention of paying for it. That's a form of theft. With overdraft fees you're unfortunately mostly stealing from yourself. If you have a credit card maybe they can link your account to it.
I cannot believe all the people who are commenting that writing a "bad check" for which there is overdraft fees is causing the grocer any harm. The reason she's most likely paying the fees IS THAT THE BANK IS COVERING THE CHECK (and she doesn't have a credit card linked to it - it's pretty obvious her financial state long ago made credit cards disappear from her options). The banks LOVE THOSE OVERDRAFT FEES: Wells Fargo was found guilty in Federal Court for DELIBERATELY reordering overdrafts so that ones for which there was money, came after those for which there was not (IE you have $ 10 and use your card for a $ 5 charge and then a $ 10 dollar one - only the second was an overdraft but Wells deliberately reorders them to make BOTH subject to their incredibly high fees). Wells is refusing to pay and Consumers Union is deep in the fight to put pressure on them to do so. The Banks are collecting incredible profits on those fees.

As for a better way to deal with the situation, if you have a job, one of those usury "payday loans" might be a better idea. It's an incredible amount of interest, but not as much as overdraft fees on several checks, in most cases. To those who suggested getting the bank to overlook an overdraft, they might do that once a year if you haven't had any others.
P.S. The amount that Wells Fargo is being ordered to repay the people they DELIBERATELY (that's what the court found) screwed? $ 250,000,000. Yes, that's two hundred and fifty million dollars. Still think that those overdraft fees which mostly fall on those least able to afford them, aren't a huge part of the banks profit line? They only risk one episode of you not paying them back, if so they'll close your account and list you so you'll not be able to open another.
Soo... Rick Perry or the other plastic establishment scum taco would be better for you, somehow? Odd that there's an anti-Ron Paul sentiment here. I'm broke, too, single parent... working without a net, no health insurance, no life insurance... but I know that Ron Paul is the best hope for the USA. And whenever I read another anti-Ron Paul column or story or what have you, I realize that "they" are terrified of what Ron Paul represents.

bad checks: not wise. Got a gas card? I remember living off of the crappy food they sold at the gas station micro-market for several weeks when I was truly destitute. Which I charged. And eventually paid off.

Poverty: bad. Bad choices: bad. Ron Paul: good.
Welcome to the boat many of us are in, however writing a bad check would be out of the question for me. I'd (& have) go to a food bank before I'd do that, $35.00 overdraft fee can buy a lot of food if you spend wisely. And, at the least you have a partner to share the burden with, and employment, a lot of us don't-we go it alone and make the best of our situations. Good luck to you~
Mr. Buba has to extend some pretty dubious assumptions to maintain his insensitivity, and thus proves Professor Keck's point.

The big Buba assumes the prof has "selfish wants" (like fuel to get to work), has "spent herself into oblivion," and "is unable to scale down" from an "exorbitant" lifestyle, evidence of which is seen nowhere in the professor's fine blog. Of course, only a heartless scrooge would begin with those assumptions, but hey, whatever it takes to maintain the fiction we call a free-market.

Hey Mr. Boob, what if she has done all she's supposed to do? What if, after she has done as she was taught (you know, American-dream bootstraps b.s.), it was the masters of the universe who decided to move the goal posts on her? I know you must side with money over humanity, but it just might be the case that your assumptions about her are incorrect and you might have to choose to care about something other than yourself.

Your inhumane position is expressed very clearly and perfectly underscores Professor Keck's point; to wit: she does "not deserve" to have food or access to her two jobs (which you callously assume she's made up--what an a$$ you are).

It is you, you big buba, who has clearly “missed the point." She nowhere indicates that she votes Democrat, "lives exorbitantly," nor does she advocate writing bad checks. She's pointing out the Sophie-like choices facing poor people.

Here's a choice for you and your inhumane cronies: choose to deal with the reality created by corporate choices, and that includes the defrauding of millions of their pursuit of happiness, etc. which is fomenting another Great Depression, or see in Professor Keck another sentient being who has worth and does deserve gasoline, toilet paper, and milk before and regardless of the size of her bank account.

You have that choice. However, the rest of us do not have the choice to channel the funds wasted on another drone or aircraft carrier into feeding another village. Meanwhile, America decays from within because boobs like you care more about an ideal and corporate profits than human beings.

So what are you supposed to do about it? Well, after you learn to read more closely, you might start by actually listening to the other humans around you, and then choose to have that collective epiphany the professor mentioned. Which choice will you make? I'm assuming it'll be a poor choice.
Wanna hear something ironic?

If everyone listened to Ron Paul on the economy years ago you probably wouldn’t be unemployed right now.

OS is funny: A bunch of old hippies supporting the establishment—how’s that working?
This was so honest and well written; it's rare to see a candid view of the educated, working poor. The new poor, who wouldn't have been poor thirty years ago...
Wherever did you get the idea that your misfortunes represent a claim on the well being of others?
Wherever did you get the idea that your misfortunes represent a claim on the well being of others?
This is going on my Facebo0k page and my other blog. I have a lump in my throat the size of an egg, or so it feels. I have been through some tough things, too, but I have never been able to express the reality of today anywhere near as eloquently as you have here. My first inclination is to want to help, but I don't even kn0w how to do that. We are in a hell of a mess, profkeck. We cannot allow the Republicans to further denigrate Americans.

Lezlie
I lived like this for a long time. I'm not certain that it won't be like that again. Good luck getting out. In the meantime, look for sources of free food to get out of that cycle of paying bank fees. When every dime is precious, you can't afford this. Ask for charity before you let your bank take advantage of your situation this way.
There is nothing more repulsive than people with a blue collar, pulled myself up by my bootstraps, I've got mine now so fuck all the rest of you mentality. Buba is apparently a Bubba. A few others missed the point this young lady is trying to make. But (there's always a but, right?) my advice to her is exactly what I tell my children, both of them well educated, both always hard up against it financially. You'll live a much better life when you finally get sick of always being the victim. Circumstance and situation are important factors, so its inappropriate to be critical of that without knowing the full details. I taught my daughter how to live without banks, without credit cards, and without having to always give up half your money because of overdrafts. Maybe a course they should require in graduate school should be how to manage your money, especially when you've chosen an occupation where money will never be abundant.

Most college professor (I was one for 35 years) want the good jobs, like a nice position at Stanford, and without considering just how much it's going to cost to live in Palo Alto, California. Yeah, there's great teaching positions in New York and Miami, or L.A. or Chicago. But can you live there, even if you make twice what you would make at a lesser known school? My kids want the city, want all that a metropolitan areas offers . . . and I want none of it. I own a 3,000 sq. ft. home in a small town that's 3/4 paid for with payments of less that $700 a month. My son pays twice that much to live in a dump in the city. He's always broke. America is a big place, I tell 'em. Go the hell where it costs less to live, where you can have a life . . . and don't tell me those places don't exist. I know better because I spent 30 years teaching at a small university in a small town . . . and I had a decent life because of it. Want more? Be prepared to pay for it . . . and to suffer for it. I'm not saying this young woman's problems are because she lives in the wrong place . . . just that it's something to consider. I'm old enough to believe that if I'm sitting in an uncomfortable chair, I'm going looking for one that fits my ass rather than try to make my ass fit the chair. When you're poor and struggling, it's hard to see that you have options. I understand that, and I sympathize . . . but I know from experience that there are ways to overcome the bad check writing blues.
I am trying to count how many of our critical readers missed the point that she EARNED the money TWO WEEKS AGO, and is hoping her bank will be patient like she is given now choice but to do. Now , her employer has had the benefit of her labor for two weeks, but has not payed her a dime in interest even though I am quite sure that funds available for payroll are not setting in an interest free account. Is that not irony? While her employer takes advantage of her with the timeliness of your earned wages, the bank he probably owns stock in will collect exorbitant fees from her because he doesn't have to follow the same rules of timeliness imposed on the worker.

I am not a flaming liberal, but I really appreciated that irony.
This is your reality, and I'm so sorry. I've played the same game, and I don't have any answers. But speaking our truth is a good step. Brava!
Gordon says "Wherever did you get the idea that your misfortunes represent a claim on the well being of others?"

Though she never said anything about making Gordon do anything he didn't want to do, her fundamental position seems intuitive; it's one that has to get beaten out of you.

Gordon, when did you lose your concern for the well being for others? When did you start to believe that you weren't obligated to make the world a better place? How do you rationalize the solipsistic view that thinks you are somehow independent of your society?
Well-written Profkeck. I find myself in similar straits while battling my ex for child support. I continually ask myself where I went wrong? I went to college, earned a degree and have held at least one job if not three since the age of 14. I'm the only female department head where I work and I earn $.75 on the dollar of what my male counterparts earn. I even took an $.18/ hour paycut so I could qualify for reduced school lunches for my three kids because it saved me $1,100 on lunch fees. I guess it makes me a "scab" but until the courts can get me a little relief or I convince my boss to give me a 25% raise, things like payday loans, overdraft fees and late charges make it hard to get your head above water. I received word today my mortgage is in forbearance, which is like a three-month probationary period to see whether I can make reduced payments on time. Sometimes you find leniency and assistance in unexpected places.
Well-written Profkeck. I find myself in similar straits while battling my ex for child support. I continually ask myself where I went wrong? I went to college, earned a degree and have held at least one job if not three since the age of 14. I'm the only female department head where I work and I earn $.75 on the dollar of what my male counterparts earn. I even took an $.18/ hour paycut so I could qualify for reduced school lunches for my three kids because it saved me $1,100 on lunch fees. I guess it makes me a "scab" but until the courts can get me a little relief or I convince my boss to give me a 25% raise, things like payday loans, overdraft fees and late charges make it hard to get your head above water. I received word today my mortgage is in forbearance, which is like a three-month probationary period to see whether I can make reduced payments on time. Sometimes you find leniency and assistance in unexpected places.
Another small suggestion: instead of going to a rock concert or an amusement park, try going for long walks. It's good exercise and doesn't cost a penny. If you can't afford entertainment without bouncing a check, that means you can't afford it. Period.
I'm writing this before I read the other comments, so if someone has beat me to my points, I apologize.

Let me first say that I can empathize. Far too many of us are forced to live this way, or have had to live this way, at some point. A whole subculture of people that know exactly what "robbing Peter to pay Paul" means on a daily basis; to pay part of your electric bill one month, part of your rent/mortgage the next and praying that you won't be evicted/foreclosed or shut off. And yes, writing checks when you know there is no money in the bank and you desperately need gas to get to work, though you know the bank is going to charge you a FORTUNE for the privilege of doing so. We're the people who can calculate the total cost of the basket at the grocery store to within a few pennies, because going over is not an option. We're the people who know the exact time a deposited paycheck is credited. We're the people who know when it's a bill collector calling. I can empathize.

I do take issue with your characterization of Ron Paul. The audience at the Tea Party debate would likely deserve your accusations; Ron Paul does not. His flaw that evening was matched by every other candidate and the moderators: he did not shame those who chanted, "Let him die! Let him die!". He did say that he did not believe that an uninsured person in a coma should be allowed to die, and the clips will bear that out, as will his stated positions bear out the fact that he does not deserve these accusations.

I was surprised that you have a landline that is cheaper than a cell phone, since pay-as-you-go cell phones cost about $15 and run around $10/month. I've never had a landline that cheap. If you qualify [income-wise], you can get a large discount on basic landline service. There is also a program that gives the low-income a free cellphone, along with 300 minutes per month; I believe it's in conjunction with Net 10 or Trac Phone; you should be able to find out by Googling.

Your situation is something I fear for my own kids and the kids who will attend college soon. I don't know your particulars, but I think we need to institute a program in high school that lets kids know how many jobs there are in their chosen field, and how much they can expect to earn, especially with these new private student loans being so easy to get [at a high rate of interest, of course]. We need to stop telling kids they can be whatever they want, and impress upon them the realities: you can try to be whatever you want, but you will probably end up poor because of it. They need to understand the realities of huge student loan debt, and the real, hidden costs of living. We need to do this now, before we end up with generations of kids in your situation.

To certain commenters: I am sad to see that OSers are not immune to the horrible trend of commenting "facts" that are not facts, and making comments that are uninformed or misinformed. I beg of you, please do not contribute to the excess of willful ignorance. You clearly have access to a computer and the internet; check a candidate's positions before you comment on them. That way, people who DO take the time to ensure they know what they are talking about will take you more seriously, and you will not be guilty of spreading misinformation out of willful ignorance/laziness.
Despite my issues with certain parts of your post, it was definitely worth rating and "Like"-ing, as I wholeheartedly agree with your main point.

I write about the nation's issues and potential solutions. You may be particularly interested in these: Taxing the Poor: How to Squeeze Blood From a Stone and Real Jobs, Real Stimulus, Real Growth, Real Cheap .
@ jambo: While I see your point there, this also means that if she is fired or laid off, she will receive a paycheck two weeks afterwards, which would likely be sorely needed at that point.

What I find more irritating is the practice of certain banks to refuse to credit your direct deposit that came in LAST NIGHT before they debit the checks that came in THAT MORNING. They also make a practice of paying large checks from what you have in the account before the credit, then bouncing all the smaller ones so they can collect 5 $35 overdraft fees rather than one. Of course, that means you end up with 5 $35 fees from the various businesses as well. And you would have had NO checks bounced and NO fees to pay had the bank put as much effort into crediting deposits as they do debits. Absolutely ridiculous. [And possibly illegal.] And I would love to know why, when you make a deposit one day, they get to hold onto your money until "3 PM the next business day" before crediting it to your account. I'm guessing the fractions of pennies they earn during that time period add up to enough money to make it worthwhile to screw their customers...
Sick - you make good points. BUT about Paul - yeah he said no, the uninsured shouldn't be left to die, but his suggestion for how that could be taken care of was unrealistic, i.e., churches and private charity. Also see current news story about how an uninsured aide of his (uninsured because a pre-existing condition made insurance prohibitively expensive or unavailable) died, leaving $400,000 in medical bills. Paul and friends contributed $50,000 towards this debt - good for him. But obviously this approach leaves a big gap - in this case, $350,000.

I don't think Paul gets a pass on this. And, as you say, neither he nor any of the other debaters nor the audience nor the moderators made any effort to shame those members of the audience that cried Die Die.
Such a raw and touching account of how so many are forced to live in these times of indifference and mean-spiritedness. Nicely none! Wishing you well.
"Wherever did you get the idea that your misfortunes represent a claim on the well being of others?"

Spoken like a true believer. Heil Rand! By the way, Gordon, how does it feel to have your head completely up the ass of a rotting corpse?

(profkeck, sorry to get so nasty on your blog, but I've had it with that kind of crap. If it's too much, you can delete my comment.)
perhaps you can find the way to turn your words into income. The world still needs good writers.
Myriad: Charity and churches isn't that unrealistic. It's not the approach I would personally support, but healthcare is already screwed six ways to Sunday and people think what they have is GOOD! Until they get sick and go bankrupt, that is.

With regard to the aide that died: not to be callous, but he DIED. It was not a case of raising enough money for this man to receive care. The hospital gave him care, and quite a bit of it, and he died anyway. The hospital then passed the bill along to the man's mother--who is under no legal obligation whatsoever to assume the responsibility for her adult son's care--and Ron Paul helped raise $50K towards that bill that no one was legally responsible for. Add to that that hospital bills are always overinflated for insurance purposes, so the amount this man's care actually cost the hospital would have been much less. And, had the man lived, he likely would have turned out to be eligible for Medicaid, at least for a time AND retroactively, as medical bills factor in. The timing of this non-story is clearly an effort to smear the reputation of Dr. Paul.

Plus, if you need emergency care in this country, you will not be turned away, regardless of inability to pay. If you NEED care, they MUST treat you. And, if you happen to slip into a coma, they cannot just discharge you, nor can they pull the plug for lack of payment. So this entire concept introduced at the TP debate is completely pointless.

And if we are admitting that charity is not enough, and churches are not enough, then I'd say that's a clear argument FOR funding governmental assistance programs and entitlements, and raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for them.
Wanted to mention that the aide died back in 2008, and that people often don't want to discuss their financial troubles--or issues concerning healthcare or health insurance--when they have a job that involves convincing people to part with their money and entrust it to you. "Uninsured, low-income campaign manager" just doesn't have a winning ring to it, fair or not.
I like your honest, open style. It's such a shitty situation to be in and it's so hard to get out of. I'm sorry to say that we're eliminating the middle class here in Canada, too.
You lost me with this paragraph: "The system I’m in prefers that I am a drone, my mind captivated by reality TV, my body fattened by cheap, processed, high fructose corn syrup foods, and the majority of my time spent working for low wages, so the owners of my company can make more money." That is NOT a "system," and people participate in it by choice. I'm currently unemployed, for over two years now. I live hand-to-mouth. But I choose what I eat, NOT the government nor the "system." How about looking at some of the choices YOU are making, and see where perhaps your time could be more profitably spent?
Thank you for your honesty profkeck. That couldn't have been easy. It's nice to have a forum where you can post your thoughts in this way. I wish for you abundance in whatever form you choose. I look forward to reading your future posts.
@SOS - The problem with that whole thing about ERs having to take care of you is that people are usually in bad shape by the time they get to an ER. (Or do the ERs act as primary care providers for the uninsured, as in colds, sprains, whatever? Terrible use of resources, if so. And terrible use of resources when it's for people in the final stages because of lack of care before hand due to lack of insurance.)

And I really do see a haphazard 'system' of church/charity aid for people to indeed be unrealistic. For one thing, a church with more than a couple of people with $400,000 medical bills would soon hit the wall.

I don't see this as a non-story coming out to smear Paul. It seems entirely relevant, demonstrating that the goodwill of friends and associates is not at all sufficient to cover medical bills. It doesn't smear Paul but shows that his ideas don't work, and that he knows it from personal experience.

It's not clear from the accounts whether this aide of Paul's would have been better off if he'd got care before he got to the ER stage. It does say he didn't have insurance because of a pre-existing condition, which would indicate he got lesser medical attention beforehand than he otherwise would have. Cause of death was pneumonia, an unusual thing for people of his age who have normal access to medical attention.

Anyway, we don't seem to disagree on the basic matter, that "healthcare is already screwed six ways to Sunday...And if we are admitting that charity is not enough, and churches are not enough, then I'd say that's a clear argument FOR funding governmental assistance programs and entitlements, and raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for them." I find it hard to understand why U.S. legislators and a lot of the population are so against doing what works in other countries to supply health care to everyone and at a lower per capita cost - as for instance where I live, in Canada.

HOWEVER, I disagree that the "this entire concept introduced at the TP debate [about the hypothetical guy in a coma] is completely pointless." True, under current conditions the hospital had to take him in and keep him, etc. But what happened was the question was asked whether this guy should be treated or left to die - i.e., should the arrangement be changed so that the uninsured don't have to be treated. And it gave everyone the opportunity to hear how a number of people in the audience were in favor of letting the guy die. The rest of the audience and the other candidates didn't even remark on this. And Paul said no, of course he shouldn't die, hospitals should take care of him......and churches and charity could cover the costs.

And so we come full-circle...
@SOS & Myriad -- There seems to be a disconnect when it comes to Paul's solution that churches and charities are the answer for the guy with a coma. Churches and charities are funded by donations. If we are willing to give money to an organization (I think it is safe to assume that many in the audience at the debate would call themselves Christians) to pay for healthcare, why are we not willing to pay taxes to fund the same causes?

Thanks for the lively debate!
@Bert Let me clarify: I'm referring to the fact that for the price of a gallon of milk you can purchase an entire meal at McDonald's. Healthier foods are more expensive than potato chips and frozen pizzas. A system concerned with profit is more likely to mass produce foods sprayed with chemicals or foods that are processed or foods that are full of addictive sugars and fat.

For the consumer, the expense of gas limits where you can shop for cheap/healthy food, thus it limits your choices.

I haven't eaten at McDonald's in years, and I have a garden, which has been a help, but these are not real solutions for many Americans. The wealthy can afford to buy healthier foods, which keeps them out of the doctor's office. Of course, they've got health insurance anyway.

What choices do you believe they have?
I'm an attorney. I represent criminal defendants. I'm seeing more and more 40+ year old first time offenders.

The offenses? Writing bad checks at the grocery store-holding up grocery stores-shoplifting for food and basic necessities-domestic violence involving financial disputes-drinking offenses- etc.

This is the real, everyday result of the employment crisis. It's ugly and getting worse!
One of the poster said, "I firmly believe that America is in decline because we no longer care for each other." I agree with you but more government is not caring about each other, helping each other individually, voluntarily. A government welfare check is not going to help you in the long run.
Just found this post and mannnn can I identify with your dilemma. Check out my first post and you can see what I mean: http://open.salon.com/blog/jmac1949/2012/02/06/fked_-_the_screwed_generation