Poverty Pinches Paupers-To-Be

Scores of federal workers/contractors just got a financial shock. One possible positive — one thing that many people lack…

Hallowed halls of Congress, the scene of the brutal shutdown fight. Photo by Diane Nilan

Now that we’ve got the best Shutdown ever behind us (and before the next one becomes reality), let’s look at it from a different angle, from the bottom of the economic ladder, a reality for millions of Americans and a scary new experience for millions more who found their paychecks halted.

In addition to the struggles of federal employees and contractors whose vital source of income went kerplunk during this great Capitol pissing match, plenty of others were pinched.

It’s only money. Photo by Diane Nilan

Workers in service industries across the land — waitstaff, drivers, baristas, store clerks, etc. — those who can tell you how to stretch the almighty dollar, likely experienced cutbacks or layoffs because business was slower.

Coffee shops, taxi businesses and other companies that serve government employees could be cutting their staffing, and small firms that provide things like office supplies are losing business and not likely to recoup it, the budget expert said. (MarketWatch, 1/11/19)

Many of those workers teeter on the edge of homelessness.

Some are homeless, working hard to escape the clutches of life on the streets. Any interruption of their precarious income stream, er, dribble, will be disastrous. Professor Matthew Desmond, who has extensively chronicled the issue of homelessness and poverty, offers plenty of evidence of the vulnerability of millions of working poor:

The number of Americans living on only $2 or less per person per day has more than doubled since welfare reform. Roughly three million children — which exceeds the population of Chicago — now suffer under these conditions. Most of those children live with an adult who held a job sometime during the year.

Wilbur, as in Wilbur Ross, US Commerce Secretary, opined cluelessly:

So the 30 days of pay which some people will be out ― there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it.

Well, yeah, go get a loan, one of those quickie things that put you deep into the debt vortex that was designed by people like Wilbur and his pals.

Money stores, predators extraordinaire. Photo by Diane Nilan

Not surprising, the predatory payday lender industry saw an uptick in their business. Federal workers are everywhere, and many live in rural communities and small towns where payday loan and pawnshops thrive. In Missouri, where regulations to protect borrowers are few, dedicated employees like Karrie Wright and her colleagues were pounced upon like roadkill.

For a fourth week, Wright, a nurse at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, and her colleagues have been left to fend off an onslaught of creditors and bill collectors, creating a fresh harvest time for money-lenders.

The debt-collection industry, aka distressed debt collection, as I described in a previous post, is ruthless. How many of these new “customers” will find themselves on the collection end, especially if the Feb. 15 deadline for Shutdown II arrives? Let me assure you that once in their clutches, borrowers are one foot into the horrible world of homelessness.

Despite Wilbur’s assertion to the contrary, federal employees did experience hardships because of the shutdown (the greatest one ever!). Alicia told Glamour Magazine,

[The shutdown] is just sort of maddening and confusing. This is just getting out of hand…. The President is like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum: “I will do whatever I want, and I don’t care who I have to hurt to get what I want.” That just hit home how self-centered and narcissistic he is…. If there was any sort of empathy, the shutdown would have ended a long time ago.

Unlike billionaire Wilbur, who continues to benefit by his previous investment opportunities, Alicia isn’t that well off.

I am in not-great financial circumstances…. If I pay my rent on February 1 [without another paycheck], I’ll almost empty my account; I’d have maybe $200 left.

Do we see a silver lining? Photo by Diane Nilan.

My FB/real-life friend, a mom who knows more about poverty and homelessness than anyone should have to, offered her perspective, one worth sharing:

My profound hope throughout this shutdown, is that those not getting paid (although they’ll get back pay) have been humbled by the experiences of asking food banks, charities, & if fortunate, family members, for help. I also hope, that this experience has brought compassion towards those poor folks such as myself, that have to “live” this way, everyday, & every month, without the advantage of getting back-pay, somewhere down the pike. For those of us that believe ‘things happen for a reason’ in life, my prayer is that this shutdown has made more Americans grateful for what they have, more compassion towards others, & the realization that we can ALL manage to live, with a WHOLE LOT LESS than we’ve grown accustomed to.

We can only hope that she’s right.

Founder/pres. HEAR US Inc., gives voice & visibility to homeless families & youth, ran shelters, advocate, filmmaker, author, 15 yrs. on US backroads.

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