And Another Thing…

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Irony, thy name is NPR

I have absolutely no regrets about going back to school get my MSW. It has been a mostly pleasant experience, i’ve enjoyed the work, learned a lot, and I have made some great friendships in the process. However, like any other educational experience, one must take the meat and leave the bones.

For instance I have learned a great deal about behavior, mental disorders, public policy, statistics, research, and families. This is the meat. On the other hand, I have also had to resist indoctrination (in some classes and among some peers) about how the rich white cabal that secretly runs this country does everything in their power to continuously oppress women, non-whites, and every other person besides the destructive and over-privileged rich white male. Being a white male, I have yet to experience the phenomenon that my professors keep talking about where the world is handed to me for no other reason than my being a white male. This, obviously, is the bones.

I don’t deny that times are hard. I don’t deny that the power-brokers of our nation are pathetically out of touch with the working class. I don’t deny that honest, hard-working people sometimes get hosed. All it takes is a catastrophic illness or being downsized by their employer to push a lot of families into desperate financial straights. I believe that poverty is largely cyclical, passed on from generation to generation like a curse. I don’t even deny the existence of residual, institutionalized discrimination, although I don’t believe it is as widespread or prevalent as some would have us believe. And I believe that any civil society must make provisions for those at the bottom in the hopes of helping them transcend their circumstances. This idea goes back at least as far as the Old Testament, when God commanded the Israelites to leave some of their crops unharvested so that the poor would have access to them.

However, I also believe that people must participate in their own survival. I believe that any honest work, even work that is below one’s capacities, is more honorable than not working. I believe that welfare, while sometimes necessary in the short-term, robs people of their dignity and self-respect in the long-term.

It is with these thoughts in mind that I present this story from NPR. Read the story below, giving special attention to the part at the end where it talks about buying groceries, then click underneath it for a picture of the folks profiled in the article. One hopes that NPR photographers will be more careful about how they take pictures of the subjects of articles in the future.

For Some Ohioans, Even Meat Is Out Of Reach

Her father worked at General Motors for 45 years before retiring. Her mother taught driver’s education. Nunez and her six siblings grew up middle class.

Things have changed considerably for this Ohio family.

Nunez’s van broke down last fall. Now, her 19-year-old daughter has no reliable transportation out of their subsidized housing complex in Fostoria, 40 miles south of Toledo, to look for a job.

Nunez and most of her siblings and their spouses are unemployed and rely on government assistance and food stamps. Some have part-time jobs, but working is made more difficult with no car or public transportation.

Low-income families in Ohio say they are particularly hard-hit by the changes in the economy, according to a new poll conducted by NPR, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health. Two-thirds of lower-income respondents, or 66 percent, say paying for gas is a serious problem because of recent changes in the economy. Nearly half of low-income Ohioans, or 47 percent, say that getting a well-paying job or a raise in pay is also major problem.

‘I Just Can’t Get A Job’

Nunez, 40, has never worked and has no high school degree. She says a car accident 17 years ago left her depressed and disabled, incapable of getting a job. Instead, she and her daughter, Angelica Hernandez, survive on a $637 Social Security check and $102 in food stamps.

Hernandez received her high school diploma and has had several jobs in recent years. But now, because fewer restaurants and stores are hiring, she says she finds it hard to find a job. Even if she could, she says it’s particularly hard to imagine how she’ll keep it. She says she needs someone to give her a lift just to get to an interview. And with gas prices so high, she’s not sure she could afford to pay someone to drive her to work every day.

People tell Nunez her daughter could get more money in public assistance if she had a child.

“A lot of people have told me, ‘Why don’t your daughter have a kid?'”

They both reject that as a plan.

“I’m trying to get a job,” Hernandez says. “I just can’t get a job.”

Hernandez says she’s trying to get training to be a nurse’s assistant, but without her own set of wheels or enough money to pay others for gas, it hasn’t been easy.

‘What’s Going To Happen To Us?’

Most of their extended family lives in the same townhouse complex. The only employer within walking distance is a ThyssenKrupp factory that makes diesel engine parts. That facility, which employs 400 people, is shutting down and moving to Illinois next year.

The only one with a car is Irma Hernandez, Nunez’s mother. Hernandez says that with a teenage son still at home, the cost of feeding him and sending him to school is rising, and she can no longer pay for the car.

She’s now two car payments behind.

“I’m about to lose my car,” she says on her way to pick up one of her daughters to take her to Toledo. “So then what’s going to happen to us?”

So Nunez and her daughter are mostly stuck at home.

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

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