You, Me and the Money

“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there,” Romney told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien.  I’d like to tell Soledad a few things myself.  I’m poor and I don’t see any safety net.

Here’s the reality of poverty.  I’m on Social Security Disability (SSD).  All the time I read in the newspaper about how much people hate me because they have to pay for my upkeep.  Sometimes there’s this little phrase about how they would approve “those who are really disabled” as if most of us on SSD aren’t.

Let me tell you something:  the federal screen for people getting on disability is so fine that it’s not letting many people through it.  What people who complain about us disabled folks don’t understand is that it’s people like them who are doing the screening—people who do not want to let other people onto to SSD.  If somebody is getting SSD, you can bloody well be sure they’ve crawled through so many hoops and been subjected to so many medical challenges that they are really disabled.  This is no free ride; you have to fight for survival.

I live in a HUD-subsidized apartment building that has 176 apartments.  The majority of them are occupied by middle-aged people who are unable to work due to disability.  Management estimates that about fifty of us use wheelchairs.  Many of the rest are using walkers, canes, braces or are simply the fragile elderly.

About 96% of the tenants of this building are poor.  Okay?  I live in an eight-story apartment building where only two of the tenants are above the poverty line.  The percentage of alcoholics exceeds the national average.  You’d get drunk, too, if you had to live like this.

For the past three years, my monthly income has been $782.  Now, don’t think about me for a minute—think about yourself.  After withholding, how much is your paycheck cut for?  How long do you have to work to take home $782?  The average family physician has an annual income of $175,000.  Based on the people I see in my building every day, the doctor isn’t earning his income.  Neither am I; my income is a gift from the taxpayers, not anything I earned, but it is the law.

According to Wikipedia, which is reporting on the 2000 census, “Overall the average American, age 25 or older, made roughly $32,000 per year, does not have a college degree, has been, is, or will be married as well as divorced at least once during his or her lifetime, lives in his or her own home in a suburban setting, and holds a white-collar office job.”

So the doctor’s monthly income is $14,000, the Average Joe’s is $3000 and mine is $782—and it has been for three years.  The reason for this is that sometime in the 1970’s Congress passed a law tying Social Security payouts to the middle class’s income.  If the computer programmer, the store clerk and the auto mechanic don’t make any more money, then the elderly and disabled on Social Security don’t get any more money.  Painful though this is for the elderly and disabled, it makes sense—except for one thing:  the 1%.  You see where this Occupy Everything movement is coming from?  It is so true that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

I was a secretary for most of the twenty years that I worked so the $782 I get from SSD is the baseline amount.  It’s what most of us get.  If you had a career in which you earned more money, then your Social Security payments will be higher.  My ex-friend has a master’s degree and worked as a counselor so her Social Security income is considerably higher than mine— nevertheless, she is cheating on reporting her assets and is trying to get Food Stamps and other benefits from the government because Social Security won’t maintain her previous standard of living.  Ain’t that a bitch? 

The next time you try to claim that those poor blacks in the ghetto lie and cheat to get unwarranted benefits, you just think about my ex-friend.  People who are used to being poor don’t cheat; people who think they have a right to be rich do.  When the ex-friend moved into subsidized housing, she installed wall-to-wall carpeting because she “needed” it.

The cost of living increase is generally figured at about 3% a year.  In round numbers, that means that the cost of living has gone up about 10% in the last three years.  Poor people—people like me—haven’t gotten a cost of living increase so we are effectively ten percent poorer than we were three years ago. In other words, my SSD payment in December 2011 only had the buying power of about $700.

And you know what I think about Mitt Romney?  I think he’s an arrogant son of a bitch who is so far out of touch with reality that he’s dangerous.   The census report for 2010 put the number of poor people in America at 46 million.  Yes, I said 46 million.  That’s more than twice the population of the entire state of Florida.  And that’s 46 million people who won’t be voting for Romney.

This blog has been about the government income of poor people.  The next blog will be about poor people’s out-go for housing, transportation, fuel and food, i.e., the government’s shell game.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in activism, advocacy, disability, disability rights, Fraud, Government Services, Poverty, Values and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to You, Me and the Money

  1. Cathi Carol says:

    “Mitt, the safety net is not a hammock” Joan Walsh @Salon

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