Friday, January 15, 2010

Am I the only one...

...pissed that we (the US) supposedly can't afford to spend ANY money making sure our poor and sick can see doctors when desperately needed, yet we can pull millions upon millions out of the budget to send to Haiti? Don't get me wrong, the Haitians didn't deserve this quake and everything that's happening now, and I'm glad that people are voluntarily giving (as we are), and I'd be on the first plane there if I could be to help in what ways I could in person, even if it was just to hug someone who was crying (the car was packed for me and mom - she's a nurse - to drive to help during Katrina until the government issued a statement for people not to do that), but I've got a big problem with politicians claiming we can afford money where when there was supposedly none to spare just days ago, and that even our poorest citizens are having to pay for it.

It seems very cruel to tell someone who is hungry, sick, and cold, "We won't help you see a doctor so you can get better so you can work full-time and even get a better job, and we won't help you get food so you can eat once a day, but we're going to make you give money to help others get medical care and have food, even though you can't afford to eat something every day yourself." Taking the food money from one starving person to give to someone else is just plain mean.

I know it's hard for some to believe that there can be such poverty in America, but there is. People on TV and online, the people who make up the vast majority of those that we (meaning me and anyone who has an ability - the internet and a computer - encounter, really are privileged. There are millions upon millions of people in this country who are basically invisible, many because they are too poor to have a way to get online, and so their voices aren't heard on the internet, others because they are too ashamed to admit to being so poor. Yet the working among them have to pay taxes just like everyone else with jobs, and so have to pay for others to have what they can't.

Not every poor person qualifies for any aid either. If you're not disabled and are over 18 and under senior age, you're not going to qualify for Medi-Cal/Medicaid. You're not going to qualify or housing unless you've got a child, and even then the list is so long that it only opens for a week or two per year, literally, and having your name finally top the list can take years. There are working families and working adults without kids who live in tents and eat whatever they can get from a church or food kitchen, when there's food to be had, and the extent of their medical care is being stabilized in an ER and sent on their way with a prescription thy can't afford to have filled and no access to follow-up care. Yet these people pay for others to have aid.

I know what it's like to be homeless and hungry and to have nothing to eat for days on end, and to be so cold I'm worried I'm going to lose some toes. Just remembering the latter half of 2005 makes me feel sick and panic that it's going to happen again tomorrow. I hid how bad it really was from my friends out of shame and not wanting pity. Christmas is actually a reminder because it's still so vivid in my mind remembering saving up so I could get something to eat that day, only to find that the Jack in the Box that was supposed to be open was instead closed, so I had to still be hungry that day. It hurt knowing that there was no help available to me, yet knowing the taxes I'd paid went to others, and knowing I was invisible as far as the government was concerned. This is why I panic when money gets tight now, and why the first months after moving here were so hard for me (we were so tight on money that we couldn't afford food without Cody's parents help, and were trying to decide which utilities to cut to avoid asking for more help, stupid fucking Palo Alto Apple screwing us over...I'll never forgive his old managers for what they did and what their actions, or inactions, as the case was, put us through, though I am extremely grateful to his current managers for going to bat for him to try righting the wrongs and salary loss caused by the Palo Alto fuckers, which is why we're financially all right now). The memories of this.

There are many people right now in that position, and many more who have jobs and pay taxes, yet are still homeless, hungry, and won't get help. They still have to pay to help others. And we're telling those people that we don't have the money to help them. We don't have the money for health care so the sick among them can get well and strong again so that they can better their own lives, which would actually enable them to work more and have better-paying jobs which would result in more taxes being paid by these people. Win-win! But no, there's no money to help them while there is somehow money, being paid in part by these people, to help others.

I'm in favor of aid going to Haiti and other countries who need it, but I'm in favor of that aid coming from people who can afford to give it. As disasters have shown time and again, Americans who have something to give dig deep to give it. When people don't have to give, they give more than would have been taken via taxes if it weren't required. Taking from those who are already doing without basics to give to others is just wrong and hurtful to them. And it's even worse to claim that there is absolutely no money to help them, yet to turn around and have there magically be money, from their pockets, to help others.

If there is money to help Haiti and other countries when disaster strikes, then there fucking damned well is money for things like universal health care. Ironically I'm seeing a lot of people who are against universal health care ("it's not a right," "it'll raise taxes," etc) who are 100% in support of our government sending money to other countries (because it somehow is now a right and who care about the taxes and in fact, here's some more money voluntarily given!). I don't get this.

Money should first go to help those who pay it have their basic needs met, and what's left over s what should go to help others. Money that is voluntarily given should go to help whoever the money was given to help (remember Katrina, and people gave so much money to the Red Cross to help Katrina victims, and then the RC turned around and said it was going to be spent how on on whom they decided it should be spent on, regardless of who it was given to help?).

I'm very sad for the Haitians who are suffering right now, but I'm sadder for the Americans who are suffering in the same way, who are cold and starving and sick, but are told that, as a bit of salt on their own wounds, that they have to pay to help the Haitians when they need the money they have to pay. It's that little extra kick to people who are down to tell them they don't matter when it comes to getting help, but they have to pay.

Cody and I do what we can. We donate money to the Red Cross (despite Katrina) and other causes and organizations, and Haiti gets our help to, but we are in a position where a few bucks isn't going to make us have to go without dinner tonight. There are people who have to go without, and I'm livid on their behalf that there's supposedly no money to help them.

Also all those countries that claim that the US never does anything can shut the fuck right up. As always, the majority of the up front cost will be borne by America, and the long-term costs will be entirely on us. Our up-front "contribution" is $100mil to China's paltry $1mil (they've got countless trillions in reserves and somehow can't afford to treat the workers there with any decency). We're the ones spearheading the relief efforts. We always are. The worst reason I've read today that we should be the ones to supply most of the aid to Haiti is that we're the closest country. No we aren't, but that's beside the point.

I don't care if this post makes me sound heartless. Naturally someone will read this and will overlook that I'm in full favor of aid to Haiti from those who can afford to give it and choose to do so. I just strongly believe that, if we can afford money for Haiti like it's pocket change, then we can afford money for universal health care. And I strongly believe that those who have to do without basics should absolutely not be forced to buy those basics for anyone else. Just the thought of someone telling me I had to give that $6 on Christmas 2005 to feed someone else when I literally hadn't had a single bite to eat, and nothing more than water to drink, in a few days, makes me want to cry and smash a chair through the window. I just can't believe we do that in this country. We tell starving people just that. And we're doing it again under the guise of "charity."

1 comment:

  1. This is why I give money to Pine Street Inn, a homeless shelter that also helps people get back on their feet and find jobs and such. That's especially important in places like Boston where being outside overnight in the winter can be quite dangerous.

    I agree that things like the Haiti situation are better handled primarily through private charity than government aid.

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