I’ve seen so much in the past year as a caseworker in rural New York to confirm my belief: the government and the banks seek to cement the poor into perpetual poverty. The sacrifice of 20% or so of the population is necessary so as to preserve the fear that motivates most of the rest to do whatever possible to avoid dire poverty. My state spends funds bundled as block grants to combat poverty on the gas I use to go visit poor New Yorkers; it spends the money to maintain the car; it spends money on the paper and procedures to give them a food voucher when their Food Stamps don’t stretch the month. Between the phone calls I have to make to coordinate the emergency voucher, and the conversations I must hold to prove the obvious to my supervisors–that the family is really poor–my state spends at least as much as the face value of the grocery voucher, and in the process further pushes the poor person to despair.
My state pays me $35k a year and the cost of my benefits to move around the state mouthing encouragement to parents to keep it together while they can’t make their rent, feed their children well, or even get them a toy. Last week, I spoke to a ten year old boy who said this when, after finding out that he turned 10 on November 3, 2011, I asked him what he did for his birthday. He answered, “I didn’t have a birthday this year because my parents didn’t have any money.”
Yesterday afternoon I saw a great play on Broadway, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Live theater is a life event that every child should have the chance to experience. The boys and girls I meet everyday will never have a prayer of having that experience. Their parents make minimum wage, if that. They eat the cheapest food their Food Stamps can buy (the Food Stamp allotment per person per day is $4.50 and Congress approved more cuts to it in Fall 2010). Our banks/governors want us to think that these millions of children don’t exist so they collude to keep them out of the papers. The fortunate earners who take their children to see beautiful plays and to eat healthily never have to see them. I am writing this so that all the many good people among the fortunate know that these children are real. There are 9,000 extremely poor adults and their children in my upstate county alone. I see them evicted weekly, I see them turn on each other when the stress off being poor overwhelms them. The children will show a visiting caseworker the aftermath of their mother and father fighting as easily as another child will show a visitor a new toy.