Sunday, October 30, 2011

The 99%

I try to be funny on my blog. I don’t really enjoy controversy, but sometimes you read or see or hear something and you just can’t stop yourself. This Occupy Wallstreet thing is confusing to me. I don’t like being confused, so I read articles. Read opinion pieces. Then, I pulled up all of these photos from Facebook where people have written their stories online and are telling their version of events that cause them to be in the 99% of abused workers, out of work employees, students who can’t afford to be in school, etc. It’s really heartbreaking. I mean awful. Looking at photo after photo of people who can’t pay their bills and don’t have healthcare.

At first. Until I started really looking at some of those photos.

I first noticed that these people have some sort of computer or phone with a camera and Internet service to upload their stuff. A few were actually posting from IPhones (that I can’t begin to afford) or had expensive items in the background.

Professional grooming, make up, hair dye.
This woman isn't poor.
Most of the woman had on makeup and nail polish and rings, dyed hair and were professionally groomed. One woman had (and I counted to be sure) 12 bottles of premium brand alcohol on a shelf behind her in the photo. I couldn’t count them all because she was standing in front of them. She announced in her own hand writing on a sign that she held up in front of her body that she’s in school to become a teacher. (Lovely.) Another woman had a television the size of my kitchen table featured prominently in the background. (The newest television in my house is 18 years old. I’m not joking.) I bet she’s got cable and Netflix for that bad boy too. Huh.

More than a $1,000 in alcohol on the back shelf. Books. Art.
This woman isn't poor.
Here are some of the reasons these folks count themselves in the 99%:

1) “I am a single mother.”

And this is my problem because…

2) “I have student debt.”

How about this radical thought—don’t start school if you don’t know how you are going to pay for it. My four kids will probably not qualify for loans or student aid or grants. They will have to work while going to school. They will have to apply for scholarships. They have to get scholarships or they won’t be going to school. This is why we push the A/B Honor Roll and academics like we are on fire. They may even have to join the military to have their school paid for—the boys and the girls.

Or, brief pause for the huge gasp of air intake, they may not get to go to college and will need to find a trade. I’d guess that plumbers, hair dressers, mechanics, and electricians haven’t hurt nearly as much as college grads have during this economic downturn. College isn’t a right or something you even have to have. In fact, lots of folks are going to school who shouldn’t have started in the first place. Perhaps you were one of these people. How many of us are working in our field of study? Uh-huh. I thought so. 

Electronic pad in the background, drapes, decorative plates.
This woman isn't poor.

 3) “I don’t garden for fun; I garden so that I won’t go hungry again.”

No, duh. Do you think your grandparents gardened for FUN? Welcome to the way things used to be. You may have to go back to them. I’d get ready to, in fact.

4) “I am $10-20-30,000 in debt without a job.”

When did YOUR debt become my responsibility or anyone else’s for that matter? Don’t purchase things that you can’t afford. You don’t have to have a TV, phone, the Internet, 22 pairs of shoes, two cars, eat out Chinese food, or even own a home. You wanted those things and now are dismayed that the bill has come due. Who is supposed to pay for your stuff? The rich? At what point do we collectively agree that sometimes it’s just our own faults. Why you think that people who could afford their purchases should pay for yours too is completely beyond me.

5) “I can’t earn a livable wage.”

TV the size of my dinette. Nicer home than I live in.
Nice stuff. These people are not poor.

No, you just want everything you want without having to sacrifice for it. I hate to break this to you, but if you have a car, a TV, Internet, a computer, a phone, cable, any kind of music player, and food in your pantry you are not poor. You may be broke due to terrible life choices, but you are not poor. How did your parents do it? Hmmm…

I worked for the same company for 14 years. I moved to another company where I was laid off after six months. It wasn’t a big whoop. Why? We saved our money. We never spent all that came in. We paid our taxes. We pulled our children out of public school and now pay tuition on top of the money will still give to the government to a school system we do not attend.

I work at my job to pay for our health insurance and our kids’ tuition. I literally write them a check every month to work there. No complaints AT ALL! My children are getting an exceptional education, we have health insurance (to the tune of $1,200.00 a month out of pocket), and I get to see my babies more than most stay-at-home moms. This is called “sacrificing”. Some people should give it a go. We have four children and my mother lives with us—that’s seven people in our home and my husband’s income qualifies us for free lunch at the public school (that we don’t take advantage of because we private school--I've had enough of the dadgum government).

We tithe—that means that 10% of our gross income before taxes goes voluntarily to the church before it goes to our living expenses. That’s right, before we pay for a car or gas or food or lights we pay God the bare minimum that we owe Him for giving us life, which in turn goes to the poor in our community and world. And according to His promise in Philippians 4, we have always had our needs met.

Hey, 99%? How about trying this for fun?

Pay cash for everything. If you can’t pay for it, don’t get it. (if you bought concert tickets, went to a show, saw a movie, watched cable, had coffee out, bought a Big Mac, used disposable diapers, etc., you are not poor. You wanted what you wanted and got it.)

Learn to cook from scratch. It’s a zillion times cheaper than eating out or buying convenience foods. (If you bought fast food or ate outside of your home, you are not poor.)

Save until you can afford what you want/need. Use everything you purchase until it can’t be repaired anymore. (If you bought anything on credit, you are not poor.)

Don’t get a credit card. Ever. For any reason. The debtor is SLAVE to the lender. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” That was written over 2,000 years ago. Hello? 99%? Even Jesus Christ knew this. What took you so long? (Oh, yeah, we don’t read that Book anymore…)

You don’t need brand new shoes—the thrift store sells them. You don’t need brand new toys for Christmas—the thrift store sells them. I shop both of those places for everything—our clothing, our household items, etc. If we can’t find it there, we head to the sales racks at discount stores. I don’t pay full price for anything.

We have abandoned God as a nation, yet think that we should still be blessed, and then expect Him to meet our needs. Um, not how it works. Here’s a basic lesson in God Economics:

2 Corinthians 8:2-5 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us.

NOT THE RICH, THE POOR GAVE!!! Hello???? Anyone? Anyone?

Here’s the truth: If you took every dime that the 1% earns, it wouldn’t be enough.

I have never taken money from my parents. My parents don’t pay our bills. We live modestly. We eat at home most of the time. We tell our children that we can’t afford things like the fair and the ice cream truck and that they can’t have most of their wants. We have insurance on everything—life, cars, house, health--because we grasp that if The Husband dies, I cannot support four kids by myself, and if I die, he can’t afford to replace what I do either. We’d eat beans (and have eaten beans) before not having insurance.

We shop at the thrift store. We do not have a credit card. We still have the same television (that was given to us second hand) and dinette set we started our marriage with 17 years ago. We use the same book bags for years—until the handles fall off. We give away everything that doesn’t fit to other families, and we are clothed by people who do the same for us. I can make a pound of ground beef feed all seven of us (plus drop-ins) two nights in a row. We only spend $200.00 per child for Christmas total, and I save for that all year long. We also buy Christmas for three other families. My husband has refused a raise for the past four years in order to keep more of the money in our church. We have no debt.

Dave Ramsey is the most powerful thing that ever happened in our lives after accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior. I think that the bulk of business-minded people grasped that the rich would get richer and the poor would get poorer. It’s the principle of exponential math—if you invest and don’t touch your money, it grows exponentially over time. Hence, the rich get much, much richer simply by saving and investing. The goal should be “how do I get into that club?” not “how do I take money from other people’s savings accounts?”

I’m sorry if your house was foreclosed on. YOU borrowed money from a bank that you PROMISED to pay back to them. They took all of the risk. You didn’t pay. It’s not heartless. You took advantage and didn’t pay back money you borrowed. This makes you the liar in the deal. (The borrower is SLAVE to the lender.) I realize that most people fully intend to pay the money back, but if you can’t, you have to accept that you have failed to keep your word, not the bank.

We’ve been in church work a long time. The bulk of people who come to the church for help don’t come one time. They come for years in a row, without a single change in their personal circumstances. Occasionally, you get someone who needs emergency help—like a boost to get over Christmas or a little help with school supplies or something like that, but the vast majority is comprised of people who never work, always need help, and never change. I look at the photos from this “movement” and I see a spoiled people who bought things they couldn’t afford with money they didn’t have and participated in sin that led them to the place they find themselves and want me to pay for the party without any personal consequence.

The real wake-up call might have been mine. I do not trust my government to manage the money that I give them now. Why would I want them in charge of taking more money from corporations and giving it to people in need (where I don’t think it will go anyway)? I think that’s sort of the job of the church. Also, if you decide the government is the answer to all of your needs, keep in mind that someone is paying for that party…in blood or money. Socialist countries almost always require military service from the working class, unless you can pay your way out of it. That’s something to mull over.

Looking at those photos did the opposite of making me sympathetic; it made me angry. Do you know why? Because we have abandoned God, and that is the real reason for this present crisis. That's the flat out truth of the matter. If we were tithing, God promised to meet our every NEED. If we were living Biblically as a people, there would be no debt or mortgage crisis. If we were following the Word and taking care of our own poor and needy, there would be nothing to discuss. And I am in the 99%.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Charlotte I love your blog. I am a little late reading this one (internet has been cut out of our budget so we can continue to live debt free in our home). I agree with everything you said...thrift stores are "my mall". I do have to ask do you make 1 lb. of ground beef last two nights. I need help stretching our grocery dollar.