January 29th, 2018

Hermione not amused


In the comments to this infuriating Quora answer, I made the following comments:

“How’s this for inequality: a poor family of four that makes only $24,300 (poverty threshold) a year in the United States is impressively rich relative to Venezuelans, making over FOUR HUNDRED TIMES (400) more a year than the typical Venezuelan minimum-wage family.”

Is that adjusted for inflation, though? Because I doubt it. I make about 10K a year, which is below the poverty line here in the US, and if it weren’t for low-income housing, I would likely be homeless and living on the street right now. As it stands, the $200 a month in rent I pay is 1/4th of my monthly income. After bills and rent, I have only $150 for food, and that buys very little anymore. Inflation in the US is high enough that a single-person household could easily spend $100 on groceries for one week, so $150 a month for food isn’t nearly enough to survive on. I get an additional $70 in food stamps, but that’s not really any help. If it weren’t for the food bank giving me a meager amount of free food once a month, I wouldn’t be able to make it through each month.

My roommate is doing even worse. She pays just as much in rent as I do, and has less income than I do. She has to beg for money like a homeless person just to eat at all, and she routinely has health complications from having to starve for the last two weeks of the month. And that’s with me sharing with her as much as I can! (Which isn’t much, because she has food allergies that I don’t.)

Let’s take your figure of 24K a year for a family of four, shall we? As we see from the above, 10K a year isn’t enough for a single person to survive on in the US without government assistance, and even with that measly help it’s still really bloody difficult.

So let’s see, 10K for one person is not adequate to survive on, what makes you think just a little more than twice that is going to be sufficient for four people?

I don’t know what the maximum food stamps a family of four can get is, but $70 is the maximum a single person can get from food stamps thanks to years of cuts from both Republicans AND Democrats. So let’s do like above and make it slightly more than twice as much. Specifically, 24K is 2.4 times more than 10K, so 70 x 2.4 = $168.

Let’s be generous and say that their food budget is also 2.4 times mine (not counting food stamps), so that’s $360 a month. So including food stamps, that’s $528 a month for a family of four. Being generous again with only 4 weeks to a month, that’s only $132 per week for four people. I’ve already said that a single person could spent $100 a week on groceries and that would be barely adequate if even that. If $100 a week doesn’t feed a single person adequately even WITH help from the food bank, how can anyone expect $132 a week to be adequate for four people, two of them presumably being growing kids who eat more than adults do?

Honestly, do some bloody math next time before you go talking about things you don’t understand.

“A homeless person living off charity in the US dresses, eats and even sleeps much better (and safer) than the average poor (working-class) Venezuelan family, which is more than 80% of the population, who can easily go on only rice or plantain (a type of banana) for a whole week.”

Have you ever BEEN homeless in the US? If not, then SHUT UP, because you don’t bloody well know SQUAT about it! Being homeless is inherently unsafe no matter where you bloody well live!!!

“Being poor in the US normally means that you live in a shabby 1 or 2-bedroom house in a lower-class neighborhood, have an older car (from the 90s),”

I had to laugh at this, it was so bloody ignorant. I haven’t owned a car for decades, I could no more afford a car than I could afford a solid gold toilet. I haven’t lived in a house for decades. The low-income apartment I live in now is so small that if you tore out all the dividing walls, you *might* be able to fit a small car inside the apartment, but it would be a tight squeeze. The bathroom is tiny and has no insulation or heating, the kitchen and the living room are two sides of the same room (and is also my roommate’s bedroom), and honestly, it should be a crime to put a single person in this apartment, let alone two.

But the real kicker here is that this tiny, shitty hole-in-the-wall slumlord apartment would cost me over $750 a month in rent if it wasn’t low-income and thus subsidized by the government.

And I’m one of the lucky ones! There’s a housing crisis in this city of Portland, Oregon. Average cheap rent here starts at $750 a month now, which would be 90% of my income. There’s a mile-long waitlist to get a low-income apartment with the company that runs this apartment complex, and they closed that waitlist three years or more ago. My roommate has been looking for somewhere else to live for at least 5 years with no luck. If I’d been any slower getting on the waitlist, I’d be homeless right now.

“eat more fat, junk and processed foods (or what in the US they call “nutritionally inadequate and unsafe foods”),”

What I really want to say to you right now would be against Quora’s TOS, so I shall just say this: even that stuff is expensive. See my other comment with the math about my food budget and how inadequate that is.

“kids go to public school and the majority don’t make it to college,”

Because it’s PUBLIC school! Everyone who can’t afford private school goes to public school. Which, if you’re backwards in words like the UK is, means that the government pays for the school. And it does a very poor job of it, too. Schools in the US are prisons at best; at worst they’re in buildings that ought to have been condemned decades ago.

“you dress at thrift stores”

I am very tempted to tell you where you can shove it, right now. At my current budget, I can afford maybe a single shirt or dress or skirt, but only one item of clothing, every month. And only if I want to go hungry for the final week of the month.

“and you eat out (fast food) only on a special occasion.”

Not difficult when many fast food places sell hot food for $1. It may be mostly processed garbage, but it’s cheap.

“Meanwhile being poor in Venezuela means you eat only once a day and it’s rice with scraps from the butcher shop (just skin and fat), and you forgot what meat, milk, bread and eggs taste like.”

See my previous comment in which I told you that my roommate regularly goes the last week or two without eating at all. And she regularly eats only once a day, it’s rare to see her eat more than once a day. Even I occasionally eat only once a day. And yes, we eat a lot of rice, too. As for scraps from the butcher shop? Butcher shops aren’t really a thing in the US. In all of Portland, I know of exactly ONE butcher shop, and it’s a high-end hoity toity place that sells stuff like alligator and emu meat. The only place to get meat in the US is in the grocery store, which most do have a butcher section called a deli section, but that stuff is expensive, too. If I want meat, I have to buy processed stuff that is like 90% water and tastes like it, too.

“Then there are those complete families that eat straight from the garbage of restaurants and residential areas (such as where I live). It means that you dress with the same two jeans and four T-shirts all year and you wash them with used hotel soaps (which they sell on the street) when you shower because you can’t afford detergent.”

If you think that doesn’t happen in the US, too, then boy buddy have I got news for you: IT DOES. The housing crisis in this city, indeed most of the country, is horrible, there’s homeless people everywhere. When I first moved into this neighborhood like 5 or so years ago, there was one, maybe two homeless people living in the area. Now there’s at least two or three DOZEN of them. And this is out toward the edge of the city, mind you; the downtown area has had scores of homeless people in it since before I moved to the city in 2007. The city is building apartment buildings as fast as it can, and I don’t think it’s ever going to be enough. People are going to have to give up and look elsewhere. Not that they’re going to have much better luck anywhere else. Capitalism is an unnatural disaster.

“It means that your kids don’t go to school because they need to help out the family in….you know what, forget it.”

If it weren’t for the fact that it’s illegal in the US to not send your kids to some kind of schooling, that would be true here, too. Heck, it’s still true anyway, I’m sure. I don’t think it would be easy at all for a homeless family to register their kids to a school, since you have to have a mailing address and a phone number to even know which district and which school your kids have to go to.

Then, too, there’s loads of kids who drop out of school at the earliest legal opportunity to help support their family. My dad was one of them. If he hadn’t had the good luck to marry a teacher and live in an area of the country that, at the time, had a low cost of living, he would have remained dirt poor and I would have been raised dirt poor. As it was, I was raised struggling lower middle class and ended up dirt poor because of my disability.

In short, you sound just like the Republicans who spout off about how people in the US aren’t really poor because of reasons like “poor families have refrigerators” without realizing that A. That’s only true of SOME poor families. and B. They don’t own those fridges and ovens, if they have a home: those appliances are owned by the landlord. C. Those are the lucky ones that get those things, and are hardly representative of poverty as a whole in the US.

This was cross-posted from https://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1379690.html
You can comment either here or there.

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