Here’s a story that cuts to the heart of the issue. I could spend weeks dissecting this piece, and its attendant comments, and I just might.
We have some things in common with the profiled couple. First of all, we’re a low-income family too; between my financial aid and Dear Wife’s graduate stipend, we’re pulling down somewhere between $19,ooo and $24,000 per year. That puts us just under the federal poverty line, as listed here. Remember that I’m not employed outside the home right now, so that’s the whole income stream, unless we dip into our student loans. Basically, DW’s paychecks cover our rent and utilities; the rest has to come out of my little stash, which would average out to $140 per week if I wanted to spend it (I don’t) . Our monthly food budget, which you may have guessed is food stamps, is just over $500 per month, just like the family in the news story. We are fortunately out of the babes-in-diapers phase, and we don’t have any daycare expenses, but there are band instruments to rent, gas to buy, shoes to replace, and so forth. Life in America can be very expensive.
And yet…I have to wonder how similar we really are to that Virginia family. What were their childhoods like? Did they have access to the same opportunities that we did? Were their choices constrained by circumstances we can’t imagine? It seems that they became parents well before DW and I did; but she and I have been poor our whole adult lives anyway. Do they live in an apartment complex with no space for a garden? Would they have time for one anyway?
We do not shop at the store profiled in the news piece, and have not for several years now. It has been a deliberate and sometimes difficult choice. We occasionally miss the one-stop convenience and efficiency of buying everything at one place, but we heard and read too many negative things about the company to feel comfortable supporting it. Did that couple have access to those news reports?
And yet…we’ve never gardened, or canned, or spun, or hunted. We don’t enjoy the luxury of close relatives nearby to help with the children, a large plot of land in the country, or one substantial income to allow the stay-at-home partner to explore the vicissitudes of domesticity. We have a funky, older vehicle; but it gets lousy gas mileage. We are arguably more privileged than many in America; yet there are many who have more advantages than we do. So…where are we?