Regular visitors around here may have noticed that it’s been quiet for a while. Sometimes life gets in the way and we can’t post, I’m sure you all understand. Sometimes life hands you great material for posting and the first thought one of us has it, “that’ll make such a good post!” Then we might go days without such inspiration.
Then sometimes life kicks you in the teeth and there just isn’t anything to say. That’s what’s been happening lately.
Geoff’s in the hospital right now. He’s been in the hospital since early Wednesday morning of last week. He’ll be OK eventually. He might be out as early as this week. Me? I’m working with his doctors to coordinate his care, I’m visiting him, and I’m coordinating with family, friends, and everyone else while also working. A lot. Most of you who hang around here regularly probably also remember that neither of us works a job with benefits so FMLA, sick time, or personal time isn’t an option for either of us. Geoff in the hospital means that every day he’s there is a day we’re not earning money. That’s not a slam on him, that’s not designed to make him or anyone else feel guilty, it’s just reality.
Concomitant with all of this, Geoff’s hospitalization, my crazy work schedule, etc., was our Masshealth hearing. Masshealth/Commonwealth Care has been after us since June when we submitted our annual renewal paperwork because they insist that we make WAY too much money to qualify for Commonwealth Care. In this they are wrong. I won’t go into the details here as they are boring, but the long and the short of it is that we make about 300% of the Federal Poverty Level. If you look at that number you’ll find that it isn’t a lot of money. You’ll notice that it particularly isn’t a lot of money when, like us, you live in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas of the country.
We don’t choose to live in an expensive area, by virtue of the fact that I cannot and never will be able to drive, we are forced to live within safe walking distance of the MBTA. By virtue of the fact that we both have jobs that have late night and early morning hours, we need to have access to the T proper, not the Commuter Rail. This limits the areas in which we can live. After each being laid off twice in a three-year period we are quite literally working every job we can find to make ends meet. At the best of times we’re barely getting by, and yet the Commonwealth would tell us that the moment we surpass 300% of the Federal Poverty Level we’re making too much money and they want to take our health insurance away.
That hearing was on Thursday, less than 24 hours after Geoff went into the hospital. The Commonwealth was initially unwilling to reschedule it because “you are still able to attend.”
I have had a lot of friends, coworkers, and other folks tell me this week how strong and brave I am. That handling the stress of the hearing, which was eventually rescheduled for a date to be named later, the details of Geoff’s hospitalization, the constant work schedule, and the financial insanity is somehow something that makes me a figure to be admired.
I know that these people mean well but to that I say this: Horseshit.
Constantly working without benefits, having no sick time, no personal time, no access to FMLA, no vacation time? Dealing with that doesn’t make me brave, strong or anything else admirable. It is simply reality and, newsflash, it’s what we’ve been demanding of our poor for generations. Geoff and I don’t maintain the schedules we do because we like it anymore than the fast food or Wal-Mart workers earning minimum wage and working 3 jobs do it. We do it because we have to. We do it because we’re doing our level best to survive.
I’m not asking for pity or accolades. I am asking for help and change. This should not be America. This should not be our country. We should not be penalized for working our behinds off, we’re supposed to reward hard work, we’re not supposed to penalize people who surpass 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, create job after job with no benefits, advertise part-time jobs as 30 hours per week and full-time jobs as 60-70 hours per week, and expect that the working poor will simply surrender our lives to our corporate overlords. It is not right, it is not fair, and it has to change.
Geoff and I had a conversation not long ago about the American Revolution and about how some people are calling for a new revolution now, a revolution for the working class. I pointed out, as I was feeling rather bitter at that point, that only one Slave Rebellion/Revolution in history has ever worked. (Haiti, to my knowledge.) I also pointed out that the American Revolution had one thing going for it that the working poor of America do not: it was started, thought through, and ultimately led by wealthy educated white men who had the time and money on their hands to undertake something that they believed in and who could handle the repercussions if it went wrong.
I’d love to have leaders like that now, wealthy idealists with time and money to burn. We need those people to help make a sea change in this country, but I can’t believe that those people exist. They’re certainly not going to come from the workers, we’re too busy trying to survive. You can’t work on the good of the many when you’re working on the good of the few – on the good of your family, on the survival of the self.
We’ll get through this, we’ll survive, and we’ll eventually come out the other side. It won’t be because we’re brave, strong, or special in some way, it will be because we have no other choice.