The Cost of Not Having Money In America

The ongoing narrative about making life in America more manageable for the “middle class” is deceptive. More Americans live in the margin of poverty and the “working poor”. These Americans have a JOB (Just Over Broke) and manage to survive a daily and monthly roulette of paying for housing, food, transportation, utilities, and whatever pressing financial responsibilities that present themselves. The much discussed FOOD DESERT that exists in American communities is overshadowed by the INFORMATION DESERT that persists across poor urban and rural America. The information that informs many middle and upper class families ( and advisers working without salary in the current White House) is not available, or the individuals do not have the capacity to uncover and use valuable information( especially in the areas of medical, education, housing, employment) for their benefit. The lack of accessibility to high speed internet, struggling educational institutions, lack of advocacy and mentorship, and diminished personal resiliency work with numerous other factors to create persistent threats to the health and well being of millions of Americans. National security issues more daunting than ISIS, Al Qaeda, and North Korea.

The stress of being poor can not be overlooked. The human physiology is changed by the stress caused by being poor. Mental illness and disorders due to anxiety, sleep deprivation, poor diet and minimal exercise, lack of actual fun in personal and family life. A cavity that needs fixing, a pair of eyeglasses that broke, a car that needs a new battery or tire, a child that needs supplies for a project, a check that is “short” because you missed a day or two of work due to illness or your child’s illness, an increase in the cost of a monthly public transportation pass....the possibilities are endless and combined together can cause a person to become less resilient.

Mental anxiety can cause an individual to have physical and mental problems detrimental to their overall health. Many Americans are sick because they are sick and tired. Beyond pre-existing conditions, many Americans tread lifelessly in a sea of uncertainty and frustration.

The recent vote to replace the Affordable Care Act is another stress on the lives of millions of Americans. The bar has been raised in the financial challenge to pay for medical treatment and prescriptions.

But what about daily life? What if you are reasonably healthy and even unburdened with children. The poor and working poor are food for municipalities, corporations, and utilities. The fees poor and “working” people pay to live in the land of the free are pervasive and usurious. The fee and penalty based system grows wealth for the parasite. Recently, a friend demonstrated how she was the host for the parasitic system that drinks the life blood out of Americans who can not afford to spend one dollar more.

“Miss Friend” said she received a distress call from a friend who needed money. She had no resources for an emergency but said she would help. Most Americans do not have an “extra” $200-400 dollars on hand for an emergency. She thought to make a same day transfer from her bank to his so he would get it immediately. The fee for a same day transfer at Bank of America is $30.00. Then she considered using Western Union and found they charge the recipient 1-3 percent of the remittance depending on the amount. They also charge the sender a fee. Many undocumented and simply low-income Americans are bankless and must use a money transferring service or check cashing service to access their money. A system like sharecroppers who bought items on credit from the company store.

Meanwhile, Miss Friend checked her mail while considering her options. She had received a parking ticket for parking on the street without visible registration. The new registration sticker had not been mailed from DMV. She placed a DMV letter in the dashboard that stated her registration was reinstated and a sticker would be mailed shortly. Miss Friend initially refused to pay the $50.00 fine in order to have a hearing. She didn’t have $50.00 and didn’t think it was fair to pay $50.00 for a hearing. The morning letter explained she was being assessed a penalty that made the ticket $147.00.

In other news, she received a utility bill that explained she could pay the current overdue amount by phone or electronically for a “convenience fee” of $10.95. An immediate payment would keep the utility from being disconnected. Reconnection would require reconnection fees and a deposit in advance. Her car payment was overdue and she was offered a $10.95 convenience fee to pay that online. She was being charged penalties for being late on her monthly payment. Miss Friend smiled at a check from a catering client and decided to cash it immediately. She rushed to the bank and the teller explained there would be a $10.00 convenience because she did not have an account at the client’s bank. The $10.00 was a “courtesy fee”. Her own bank would have not made the entire check available the same day because the check was for an amount over her available balance.

Why not have automatic bill pay you wonder? Miss Friend does not have a consistent income and pays as she gets paid. She juggles several plates in the air like a Ringling Brothers clown or a Cirque de Soleil acrobat, performing economic triage day in and day out week after week. She does not funds coming out of her unreliable account automatically because if she doesn’t have sufficient funds she gets charged a fee ($35.00 insufficient fund fee at my bank).

Millions of Americans are targets of a systemic bloodsucking that takes money out of their pocket because they do not have money in the first place. The working poor are penalized for being poor, and they do not have the information or wherewithal to use the information to stop juggling their responsibilities. The Affordable Care Act, the cost of housing, the cost of education, the cost of food, the cost of setting up an installment plan, the cost of ― YOU FILL IN THE BLANK. Not having enough money in America is costly.