Health care is a huge contributor to wealth disparity. Low income folks are more at risk for health problems, both physical and mental. This vulnerability can also severely decrease capacity to hold a job. Depression, anxiety, exasperation, and learned helplessness can grow unmanageable, all of which further affect employability.
There is no fallback in times of emergency. No wiggle room for illness. The middle class pays for a broken leg by dipping into savings, and it can be a blow. But if you're poor and the paycheck runs out, that's it. Treatable conditions are ignored, and more serious ones fester. Heaven forbid your child is born with a disability, or you have a parent with a chronic illness.
~$125 billion every year, but with benefit cuts hitting the lower class the hardest, employee health care is difficult to come by. Approximately one in five women go uninsured. In some states, a family of three must make less than $5000 per year to be considered eligible for public health insurance.
Those that qualified for medical assistance while they were unemployed lose that aid once they are hired for even part time employment (with or without benefits). This forces folks to choose between earning an income and maintaining their prescribed medication. Medical fees are charged at a higher rate to uninsured individuals than those negotiated by insurance companies. Without a family doctor, ER expenses rack up. And then the debt collectors start to prowl. (for more: Healthcare Reform)
Nicholas says. It takes an hour. 'If I could drive, it would take me 10 minutes.'"
Poverty costs 40 minutes to pay a basic utility bill because of money order lines. It costs four hours in the ER for strep throat instead of seeing a family doctor. And if you try to navigate the bureaucracy of social services systems, you're certain to invest some serious time there.
Lines for food, lines for paperwork, lines for health care, lines for shelters. No sense in rushing. You will always just end up waiting. If time is money, then without money, you're double broke.
So what's the solution for those living in poverty? Don't ever have a family? Don't ever get sick? Don't ever make a mistake? Never have any rest or enjoyment? Be sufficiently miserable in penance for your lot?
|Click to enlarge GDP map|
Many of us have worked hard to get where we we are. But rather than working hard to get ahead, some folks' hard work goes to simply surviving. Both groups toil, but we start from different places. The fruits of our labor are not all the same. It is exhausting work to be poor.
Bear in mind, this discussion has focused, on what it means to be poor in the United States, where even our poorest are the 1% to much of the world.
Consider the multitude of verses in the bible about our responsibility to the poor. Do we not believe the parts that say:
- "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." (Proverbs 29:7)
- "If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need." (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)
- "The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice." (Ezekiel 22:29)
Take time to play this interactive game to see what choices you would make given some stark realities. Read some of this excellent 'Being Poor Is...' list. Join others in taking the Food Stamp Challenge.
Begin to form friendships in which you are mutually dependant with someone of a lowering income level than you. Don't just serve at a soup kitchen, sit at the table as well. Don't just pray for the poor, ask them to pray for your salvation as well.
I'm pretty sure my privilege is obscuring some of the costs of being poor, so feel free to add more examples in the comments section.