When I was ten, after my father was killed in action; My mother, sister, and I were thrown into a difficult situation. There was welfare and food stamps at that time, but we couldn’t enroll. Suddenly no income, there was no time and no one to look out for us. We were very much on our own. I was very young but I remember what it looked like from the other side…
My mother did her best to shield my sister and I from struggle. I remember sleeping on an army surplus cot in a hallway until my Mom was able to find work and a better place to live. I remember dinner being a pound of burger, a can of beans, a can of tomatoes, spices and peppers to make chili. The next day we added macaroni noodles and squash to make goulash. Sometimes we extended the pot till Friday. Everything was stretched to the limit. I saw how hard my mother worked, she was fortunate to be talented and educated. We eventually found better places to live but it was tough getting there.
There is no glamor in simple survival after major misfortune. Just the desire to try, to somehow make ends meet, to have food, shelter, and maybe get ahead. We were able to get past that hardship, and others, but it took my mother’s steadfast determination, courage and hard work. I learned through my experience to appreciate and deeply respect the struggle that my mother went through, the struggles many people face daily.
If not for Military dependent benefits, Education grants, and the generosity of friends and family we would have had a far more difficult time. Today some of the support we received is no longer available to people struggling to get ahead or get back on their feet. The security of extended family and community is also becoming more rare.
Anyone could have, or has had, misfortune enough to find themselves broke and homeless. It is happening more and more in the “richest country in the world”. Young or old people are finding themselves out on their own with little or no support. Unfortunately the politics of social programs has made the stigma surrounding social assistance worse as the amount of aid has been cut. Today it seems that asking for help is worse then needing help! There should be no shame in asking for help if you need it. There is no dignity in misfortune, or having to ask others for help, there shouldn’t be further stigma or harm, emotional or financial, done by the people elected to represent us.
We need to find ways to house those who need a roof over head and assure that children have food and everyone has health care they need. This is not to preserve or create a “welfare state” but to lend some support, job training, and counseling to help people move into meaningful jobs capable of a supporting a person with dignity, allowing us all to become more successful.
I have heard it said that “When there are more jobs to fill than people to fill them, wages rise as business competes for people”. More jobs than people has not happened in the “real world” often enough for wages to rise at the same rate as the cost of things in the market – we have been in a job market which has been to the advantage of business for a very long time, and perhaps for a long time to come, where there are people who wish to work and not enough jobs driving wages down relative to the cost of living. An adjustment needs to be made and there are things which need government investment to get them done.
Wages have not risen for years and have never kept up with the cost of inflation. Many people now work two or more jobs to afford the cost of an apartment, food, and transportation. Health care, and dental care, vocational training or higher education are mostly out of reach. Raising wages will better quality of life for for every one and would create job openings as two, or more positions would not be needed to make ends meet.
The nation’s infrastructure must have an overhaul in order to rise out of the last century and in order to meet the challenges of the next century. It will require millions of people working all over the nation to bring our country into the next century in transportation, energy, communications, agriculture, and in all forms of commerce. In transportation alone the estimate is around one trillion dollars per year for at least three years and millions of workers to do the work.
Cutting taxes and bankrupting the Government means that the support that families, students, and senior citizens need will be cut first by the Republican majority in power now. We all will loose what little support we have or may need in the future. We cannot give away social support now or in the future for corporate profits in hope that we will see some pittance given back… Capitalism does not work that way!