Monday, September 22, 2014

You Need Money to Get a Job

If there's one type of privilege that's obvious, it's class privilege. I sometimes avoid talking too much about class privilege because I've seen a lot of liberals use the concept of class privilege to try and deny that white privilege exists, saying that people of color only face oppression because they're more likely to be poor or be perceived as poor (entirely missing the fact that part of white privilege is how much easier it is for us to get quality education and jobs, plus like all of world history, etc.)

However, it is important to talk about because there are a LOT of people beyond just the rich Republicans who don't understand how hard it is to be poor. Boehner once again pontificated on how lazy the unemployed are, but his attitude is shared by a lot of people I know who are middle class or raised in a middle class family, even if they identify as liberal/Democrat. It's a prevailing attitude that if only poor people would just work harder or work to find certain resources or just TRY, etc., they would be able to find a good job and lift themselves out.

No.

Let me explain this with a story of my own class privilege. I was raised in a middle class family. My parents always had enough money and I wanted for nothing. Going off to college and then into the working world, I was supported by the knowledge that I had a family safety net. If I ever really need it, my parents can bail me out.

You know what else I have? A college education with just a little bit of student loan debt. A reliable car. Money in a savings account.

And you know what? Finding a job after my two months of blogging after quitting my last job - all things that were made possibly by money - was easy for me. But I never could have gotten my current job without money.

As a food courier, I needed to purchase a new phone for $80 (plus taxes and fees) because my old one wasn't compatible with the required company app. In order to be able to work longer than 6 hours at a time, I needed to buy a car charger for the phone as well. Two weeks into the job, my brakes started making noises. I'm at an auto shop right now to get them repaired for over $200. Of course, if I didn't have a decent car in the first place, I never would have been able to take the job.

I can't stress how much location and having a car matters, at least in the US. My options would be incredibly limited without a car. Even with a car, it's stressful because it is getting old and I worry that it will begin to have problems beyond needing new brake pads. Car repairs can be incredibly expensive. Without a car, I'd have to rely on the incredibly shitty local bus service, which is only going to become shittier because of budget cuts and the local population's refusal to make up for them by taking a little increase in vehicle registration expenses. Plus, the bus is expensive. I live close to the county border, so taking a job in south Snohomish would mean that I would have to pay $7 per day just to get to work, which is more than I would pay for gas.

This is just my personal experience in realizing how hard and expensive being poor in the US is. You can read plenty of other articles listing the various expenses that poor people experience that middle class people would never have to think about.

The inability to find better work isn't about laziness. It's about money. Money that poor people often don't have. They can't afford a car. Or a phone when an increasing amount of jobs are requiring smart phones. They can't afford to take the time off necessary to look for new jobs, participate in job placement programs, go to interviews, etc. They can't afford nice clothes for interviews. They can't afford nutritious food that might give them the energy to look for better work. They can't afford to buy their own health insurance when their shitty job at Fred Meyer actually provides them with some.

Even if they're unemployed, are they supposed to somehow afford an education these days? Average tuition is so expensive now that a friend of mine couldn't get enough money from student loans to go to school full time. She had to do part time, which meant she took longer to graduate while the interest charges built up. Plus, a college education is no longer a guarantee of a decent job. Or even a crappy job. I know multiple people my age with BA's who have tried to get jobs as dishwashers to supplement their income because full time jobs are so uncommon now, and never even gotten a response. Sooooo WTF.

Anyone who thinks that the poor, underemployed or unemployed in the US are simply "lazy" has no idea what the hell is actually going on, at all, the end.

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