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Too Poor For Bankruptcy

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By David Glenn Cox

We, as a country, seem to have little problem saving the wealthy from the clutches of poverty. We’ll bail out banks and insurance companies, mortgage funds. The formerly big three automakers will meet with the new administration this week to arrange a further multi-billion-dollar bailout.

How can we say no? Hundreds of thousands of jobs are dependent on these industries. So I guess we must help them, but our society is so far out of economic whack. Most all of our problems seem to evolve from a falling standard of living in America’s working class, and yet when we call for help for America’s working poor we are told that it can’t be helped. Here in Atlanta a local food pantry advertises that 40% of all its recipients are employed.

Just yesterday I read this: “Liberals are traitors, losers, punks, criminals, baby-killers, homos, and the scum of our country. They are godless, plus they costa lotta money and ya gotta burp em frequently.” How is it that we have come to hate our own people so? Is it then to be assumed that the heads of the banks and insurance companies are liberals? The state of Georgia gave Hyundai motors a $100 million, ten-year tax credit to build its parts distribution site here in Georgia. That's a $25,000 per year per employee subsidy; is that liberal or conservative?

We let the minimum wage flounder for almost a decade and despite the results still argue about its impact. We worry instead about welfare queens living the life of Riley while we schlep off to work each day. Here in Georgia the maximum welfare payment is $574 per month. The program formally known as food stamps is only available to families without children for three months and only if they make less than 130% of the poverty level. Why do we call it the poverty level if you must make less than that to qualify?

If you made $15,000 during the first six months of the year and then became unemployed, you are not eligible, period. If you are self-employed or a contract worker or day laborer, you are not even eligible for unemployment. If you have recently left the military or graduated from college or technical school, you are not even considered unemployed. Like the poverty-level figure, the unemployment number becomes a fuzzy, whatever-you-want-it-to-be figure. After 16 weeks you become a discouraged worker anyway, no longer unemployed at all. A non-worker, a non-person, ineligible for any assistance of any kind whatsoever.

We worry so about the hive and forget about the bees, but for the hive to ever prosper we must have healthy workers. We funneled $750 billion in to rescue the banks and now the CEO’s are contemplating whether they should give themselves bonuses! Are you kidding me? Our economy is disintegrating before our eyes, almost a quarter of a million jobs lost in the last thirty days when the economy should be adding workers for Christmas. We have a cataclysm even more serious then failing banks, failing bank customers.

The new administration, to its credit, is holding its first economic meeting three days after the election. The Clinton administration held its first meeting in December; the Bush administration in January. The seriousness of this situation cannot be overstated as the economy grinds to a halt. The unemployment curve looks more like a rock climber’s delight but should be remembered only as a misery index of underpaid workers who, while employed, had been falling behind and now find themselves locked out with no help from anyone save private charities in an 1932 redux.

God, it’s great to be a free American! No socialist fetters on me! No national healthcare to crimp my check; I’ll pay the highest health insurance rates in the world, and when unemployed, excuse me, when I'm a discouraged worker I’ll do without. To work twenty-six years without missing a paycheck and when you seek help to be told, “you don’t qualify! You have to be 130% below the poverty rate for assistance!”

Besides, your wife still has a job and you still own your home. After you’ve lost all those things, come on back. Maybe then you’ll qualify! Why do we hate our own people so? We pour out billions of dollars in aid to third world countries, to disaster areas, even to feed stray dogs and cats. But when it’s our own people, our neighbors, our countrymen, veterans, women and children, this mean, vindictive streak comes out in us. When hurricane Ike hit Houston one women blogged on the hurricane website, “How do we know those people are entitled to the free ice and food? How do we know that they are even from Texas?”

She was too oblivious to understand that people would not drive in from out of state to stand in line for hours for RME’s and two bags of free ice. Were this her opinion alone it could be easily ignored, but it was a significant minority opinion. Many of those who were better prepared or escaped unscathed were denouncing aid to those who did not fare as well as themselves. One man interviewed on TV stayed behind with his invalid mother. He was asked if they had stocked up on supplies. He answered, “Yes, I did, but we lost them when the water began to rise into the house.”

Are we one nation? Or are we just interest groups? Can we rescue Wall Street and ignore Main Street? Those suffering number in the millions already and the snows are beginning to fall. In 1932 America had no social safety net of any kind and because of that millions suffered needlessly. Today we have a social safety net in name only, underfunded and bureaucratic, offering hope to few and help to even fewer. Just what sort of nation are we with billion-dollar warplanes and hungry children? That when times get tough that’s all we have to offer, tough!

To file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy will cost you $1,500, plus court costs, plus the credit counseling - just an extra $100.00 added by the credit card industry in the 2005 bankruptcy legislation. Without the cash you are meat on the street; God Bless America! The new President promises change and I wish him well and I hope for the best. But I won’t hold my breath because no one hates Americans more than other Americans.