Today the subject of poverty came to mind. One of the reasons why I didn't go up North to photograph the fall colors was financial. While I *could* have driven up and done the photos I wanted, it just seemed more sensible to maintain a more balanced budget and to increase the buffer between myself and abject poverty.
In my real life, I work with underprivileged children. It really is amazing how many parents are in such desperate poverty that they have to rely upon charity to get clothes for themselves and for their children. Oddly enough, most of those parents are working all the hours God sends and yet still can't make ends meet.
A good many are trapped into South Carolina's poverty economy where heroin is cheaper than a Big Mac. They're by and large not poor because of bad spending or debts but poor because of the jobs they can get. It's a vicious cycle of poverty where people live in rundown shacks and work for poverty wages from places like McDonalds, Waffle House, Wendys etc, subsisting on Food Stamps.
When I say trapped, I do mean trapped. They have one part time job which calls them in at irregular times. If they can't come due to work at another job more than a very few times, the employer lets them go. Basically it's a part time job but they have to be full time available for it. The money they earn pays their transport costs and rent but nothing extra. Were they to find a job elsewhere then they would lack the funds to go to that place.
South Carolina is definitely not the land of the free. With part-time hourly working being the norm, few can afford to do anything. This is why the program for which I work is so well staffed and so very busy.
But back to the bills. As mentioned yesterday, my internet bill is as low as it's possible to get while still retaining internet coverage. While I am not trapped into a cycle of poverty, it's close enough to merit extra care to remain well away from it. Thus, just to shock people, here are my monthly bills...
Electricity $27.37 (last bill)
That's a grand total of $617 and does not include food nor travel expenses.
Let's look at a typical SC resident. Let's call him Mr Blue. Mr Blue works for Walmart on 20 hours a week. All Walmart hourly employees work a maximum of 20 hours for minimum wage ($7.75). Were they to work more hours then their employer would have to give them health and retirement benefits which would cost money. So Mr Blue earns $155 a week or $620 a month. Mr Blue has to claim food stamps (probably $150 a month) and quite possibly some other benefits as well in order to subsidize his employer.
This is the cycle of poverty. Naturally Mr Blue finds a partner and they have a child which is where my program comes in - to help the children. So, in South Carolina we have a low-wage economy where employers are subsidized by Food Stamps and other federally funded programs (such as mine) and where the workers are pretty much slaves. Certainly they get paid but not enough to live on. It's rather akin to slave owners throwing a half eaten apple core on the ground near a slave for the slave to pick up out of the mud and eat.
Now you see why I haven't been out to take photos lately and why my bills are so low? I'm building my financial buffer.