Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poverty is Expensive

Today we just had our water turned off at the Anawim house. Donations have been down and we've been praying for the Lord to supply, and we've never had anything switched off before. Enough excuses-- we just didn't have enough money. We're poor, and we run it close, and we've been late often enough. So, it happens. We prepared ourselves for the loss of water, so we're good for a while, with enough water to do what we need to.

It is interesting, though, how our society punishes the poor. And it makes sense. In our case, a utility looks at our lack of payment and they say, "These people have defaulted! And now we have to go and turn their water off!" Obviously, we're bad people. If it were a human being, I could maybe talk to them and say, "Look, we're going to pay, we're good for it. I'm a pastor and donations have been down, but it won't stay that way." But a utility isn't a person that you can talk to. It's an entity, a corporation. This means that they have policies. And policies mean that there is no give, no compassion, no give and take. And some of the policies make sense. Turning off the water because you don't have money to pay for it makes sense.

But in every utility and most corporations, if you are unable to pay, then there is an additional penalty. Of course, the penalty is financial. In our case, it's sixty dollars. And the amount plus the penalty must be paid before the water is turned back on. This is a "disconnect fee". It could also be called "punishment for being poor."

Even so, with the water companies, they have to send someone out, and so it makes sense that they expect the poor person to pay for that. Not compassionate, but it is reasonable. But for other companies to do the same thing-- a phone company, for example, where all they have to do is type in something in the computer-- their charge is simply a penalty for not having enough money. And the only penalty that makes sense to them is a financial one.

Poverty is always expensive when the poor lives in capitalism. The reason is because the society is focused on making money, therefore those who don't make money are bad and deserve to be punished. People who don't make money, for example, can only afford the food that makes their body run poorly-- high carbs, high fat. They also get the health problems that go with it. But, because poor people are ethically bad, then they also don't get adequate health coverage, if any at all. So people who either can't make money or don't make money are caught in a cycle of debt they can't pay.

Suppose a poor person wanted to get out of the debt. Great, many people are there to help them. But, because they are poor, they don't get the decent interest rates. Only rich people get those, because they have proven themselves worthy. So a poor person finds themselves in a difficult time to get out of the debt that is a minimum requirement of poverty.

To be poor means you can't take advantage of the savings of the larger quantities.
To be poor means you live with money anxieties and the depression that goes with it.
To be poor means that all the books on helping you be financially stable aren't written for you, because the publishers wisely know that poor people can't buy their books.

I'm not whining. But I wouldn't mind if some of the corporations that provides services for the poor and the government and the churches might, on occasion, think about the implications of poverty, and what it means to be excluded and disrespected simply because money isn't available.

Us poor are, for the most part, a proud people. We pray for help, but we rarely ask for it. It would be good if someone would recognize that we are trying to make ends meet and not punish us for having a bad month. Or a bad life.

No comments: