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 How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People

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NoCoPilot

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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:42 am

Jenni wrote:
It seems to me like a lot of people equate your character and worthiness and responsibility as a human being with whether or not they pay their bills on time.
In the specific Detroit example given, the po' folks were paying their cell bills (which I know from experience can be $100+/mo.) and their cable bills (again, $100+/mo.) but not their water bills ($65/mo.).  That's not character, that's prioritizing wants over needs.
Jenni wrote:
One of the things I learned getting a few dollars is how much is denied the poor. How many savings and how many opportunities they don't get simply because they don't have established credit or money to invest in something.  
"Predatory lending" yes, it's endemic.  Especially heinous were the "home equity loans" sold in the 1990s where folks were encouraged to take cash out of their homes and sign up for balloon payments and variable rates that ended up giving away the house to the bank in a couple years.

Of course TRULY poor people, without homes, are simply saddled with higher interest rates because of the supposed higher risk lending to po' folks.  Yokels that fall for that shit have nobody to blame but themselves. "Payday loans" and all that shit -- if you're stupid AND poor.
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:57 am

NoCoPilot wrote:
In the specific Detroit example given, the po' folks were paying their cell bills (which I know from experience can be $100+/mo.) and their cable bills (again, $100+/mo.) but not their water bills.

If I recall correctly from the article, it did not say that the people not paying their water bills are paying their cable and phone bills. It specified percentages of the entire Detroit population who were paying their cable and phone bills. That's not the same thing.

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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:08 pm

50% pay their water bill
66% pay their cellphone bill
72% pay their cable bill

I suppose that means 28% aren't paying ANYTHING -- even though they're signed up for these services.

Hard to judge how much overlap there is here -- if you're REALLY poor you might not sign up for cable or cell.  You still need water though.

So... you're right. There could be a whole lotta po' folk who can't afford $65/mo who also haven't signed up for cable or cell.
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:03 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:
 Yokels that fall for that shit have nobody to blame but themselves.  "Payday loans" and all that shit -- if you're stupid AND poor.
<facepalm/>
OMG, come on, surely you know better than that!
Payday loans aren't fooling anyone they are just taking advantage of the market that is there. We know they are highway robbery but what does one do? It's not like the bank is gonna help. It's not like bossman's gonna give you an advance to pay that bill or buy that gas or get those groceries.

I really need to know- do you seriously think that people who do stuff like payday loans are stupid? Do you seriously not understand that we know we are getting ripped off, but We. Lack. Choices.

NoCo wrote:
That's not character, that's prioritizing wants over needs.
No, no, no. It's not. If I had to right now make choices on my bills the water department is way more lenient than any other utility. If I had to let something ride it would be that. Cable and cells are often not wants at all. For one, you can't even cut cable off mid month. They still want their money and they offer a refund later when it all gets done with. Cells and internet often are the only lifelines for people job hunting and trying to get benefits. It's not like you can split it all up after you lose the job, they still have you in a contract and when you can't pay and break it they want more money you don't have. Yes, you damn right the smart choice is hold off on the water bill. Water departments typically are loath to cut people off and again, it's something easy to cut back on. It is not a choice based on wants or needs but access and ease of survival. If the Russian warlord isn't as scary as the Jamaican warlord then perhaps you pay the Jamaican first. That's how life looks to a poor person.

When one is poor there are no wants. None. There is the choice between needs that won't kill you to lose and needs that will put you so far back you can't get back out of the dark. Those are the choices. None of them are good. It also pisses me off the judgement that comes with that sort of statement- as though poor people have an obligation to never have any extras and never do anything fun, never drink, never buy a birthday cake with our food stamps. I guess we're supposed to be properly humbled and take a vow of never smiling or looking up at the "regular folk". You mean I'm supposed to forgo the cell phone that is my lifeline and a requirement of my job so that you can be properly assured that I can't afford my water bill? Please, does that seriously make sense to anyone? You don't see how charging the poor for a resource (that really should not belong to any one person) and getting pissed because they may choose tools they need for job or school over paying for that public resource is actually pretty pointless?

It's like you're taking over 007's job.
Ok, no, you're still not that bad.
But damn.

How do I make you understand that your view of what goes through the mind of a poor person is somewhat skewed to popular mythology rather than fact? Is there anything I can do for you to help you understand what I am trying to explain? Can I send you a copy of the Betrayal of Work? Or Nickle and Dimed? I'm happy to, I have copies that I only paid a dollar or two for. Should I find some sociology studies proving how we poors aren't irresponsible and lazy and stupid? Because with something so nebulous as "how people act" it's hard to provide solid evidence. But it is there when people look.

In the 60's Detroit had the highest per capita income in the country. Today, around a third of Detroit is either vacant or derelict and almost half of the city is functionally illiterate. Less than half of them work, there are superfund cites all over the city with no services. No lights, no cops, no ambulances, no nothing. Even if the accusations against the poor people are accurate (and omg they are so not!) that is not what brought down Detroit. And the reason this is important is because they will not be the last. If all we can do is sit around and blame the poors for wanting cell phones and xfinity then we're gonna be fucked. This is a test case in so many ways. It's a test case for large cities filing bankruptcies and changing pension terms and it's a test case for can they get away with it. This is redistribution of land, resources and labor solely for the convenience and profit of the wealthy capitalists. And as long as they can get the voices of conscience to buy what you and so many others have bought it will go over- at least until enough people have been screwed and then it will get dangerous. Then a lot of cities will have Detroit's huge crime rate. We know what's wrong with Detroit. We know who did it and why. And we know every poor person sacrificing their last dime to pay water bills isn't going to save them or anyone else from the results of this shit.
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:10 pm

NoCoPilot wrote:

"Predatory lending" yes, it's endemic.  Especially heinous were the "home equity loans" sold in the 1990s where folks were encouraged to take cash out of their homes and sign up for balloon payments and variable rates that ended up giving away the house to the bank in a couple years.

Of course TRULY poor people, without homes, are simply saddled with higher interest rates because of the supposed higher risk lending to po' folks.  Yokels that fall for that shit have nobody to blame but themselves.  "Payday loans" and all that shit -- if you're stupid AND poor.

I didn't process this earlier but if you are defining the "TRULY poor" as people who didn't own homes (have the predatory lending situation) then I have to point out that you are actually grouping a lot of working class people in with the "TRULY poor". It may help if you understood that a ton of people who don't make enough to own their own home also make wayyyy too much to get any sort of government services or help on bills. Then you have another layer of people who are actually poor enough to get services but they can't because they just cannot adhere to some other requirement, such as a permanent address or the bill being in their name. But my main point is that if you think that group is that poor you may not understand that the government does not see it that way. That group isn't even on their radar in a way and certainly neither is the group that actually were able to afford homes.
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:17 pm

Coincidentally, I happened upon this. It's not directly related, but was tangentially a very cool piece that verbalizes some of what I was trying to. http://tressiemc.com/2013/10/29/the-logic-of-stupid-poor-people/

"How do you put a price on the double-take of a clerk at the welfare office who decides you might not be like those other trifling women in the waiting room and provides an extra bit of information about completing a form that you would not have known to ask about? What is the retail value of a school principal who defers a bit more to your child because your mother’s presentation of self signals that she might unleash the bureaucratic savvy of middle class parents to advocate for her child?"
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 6:47 pm

Coincidentally, but not directly related:

Every day I go past an Arby's Restaurant on my way home. I have eaten there -- they have a developmentally-disabled man bussing tables. There is a "help wanted" sign in the window.

This restaurant is on a major corner, the busy intersection between two busy streets. Because of this, every day there is a man standing on the corner, holding a cardboard sign that says "HOMLESS HUNGRY GODBLESS"

Now I don't know for certain -- maybe there's a reason Arby's wouldn't hire him -- but it does make me wonder.
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:15 pm

Jenni wrote:
Cells and internet often are the only lifelines for people job hunting and trying to get benefits.
Public library. Unemployment service office.
Jenni wrote:
You don't see how charging the poor for a resource (that really should not belong to any one person) and getting pissed because they may choose tools they need for job or school over paying for that public resource is actually pretty pointless? We know what's wrong with Detroit. We know who did it and why. And we know every poor person sacrificing their last dime to pay water bills isn't going to save them or anyone else from the results of this shit.
So choosing to not pay the water bill -- as 50% of Detroit's residents have decided -- is okay? What's Detroit supposed to do -- just float you? Declare water is a "human right" and write off the $90 million debt owed by customers? What's your answer to the long-term problem here, Jenni?

Listen, I get that it sucks to be poor. Every president from Reagan to Obama has pulled out the carpet from underneath the desperate. The "social safety net" just isn't there anymore. How America treats her needy is a scandal. I see stories every day about people -- good, law-abiding people with college degrees -- who get laid off, have a medical expense or an extended jobless period, who lose everything -- house repossessed, car repossessed, no family, no friends. They end up on street corners holding cardboard signs, and sleeping under freeway overpasses. That sucks.

And I know that minimum wage jobs are 10x harder than normal jobs, because employers take shameless advantage of desperate workers. Long hours, frantic pace, no bennies, no vacation. Because the workers are interchangable.

I know the climb out of endemic poverty is hard and slow.

But I also know it's possible. It's doable. Even someone with a record, or a history of addiction can find resources, can turn their life around.

"Playing the victim" is self-defeating.
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PostSubject: Re: How Residents Cope When Detroit Shuts Off Water for 100,000 People   Wed Jul 23, 2014 8:10 pm

In 2004 I got fired from a job I'd held 14 years and gotten glowing annual reviews every year. Two years earlier I'd taken up a senior director on her offer to submit comments on her plan to reorganize the dealer network. As the National Service Manager I had some stake in her plan. Over a couple weeks I drafted a very carefully-worded response, laying out exactly what the dangers were, what the costs would be, and what the likely outcome would be. My conclusion was that her plan was a Very Bad Idea (not in so many words, but yeah).

At the end of that month I was abruptly transferred to a new boss, who had nothing to do with my department.

A week after that I was transferred again to a completely different chain of command.

I ended up having seven bosses in 6 months (I later surmised, looking for one with the balls to fire me). The last one -- who was a dead wringer for Lumbergh from "Office Space" in dress, looks and manner -- told me, up front, when I was transferred to him that he knew I was a "troublemaker" and he was going to try to reform me. He revoked all my privileges, he put me in an office right next to his, he started standing over me as I did my work. He excluded me from meetings regarding my department, he took credit for my work to his superiors, gave me tasks off his desk having nothing to do with my job.

I tried my best to maintain my same quality of work, but I started documenting EVERYTHING. I pulled some rabbits out of my hat, saving the company's bacon on several sticky situations. I made sure my boss (and his boss, and the boss above him) knew about each of these -- I sent documentation on each of these directly to them (because I found out my boss was not). At the end of the fiscal year I got a written review from my new boss -- who quite frankly knew NOTHING about my end of the business -- which was devastating. He said I was incompetent, he said nobody could work with me, he said my work was shoddy, he said he had to provide constant supervision to me (Ha! HE HAD NO IDEA WHAT I DID.) I wrote a 7-page response, refuting every charge with hard evidence and full documentation (that shocked him) and sent copies to his boss, his bosses boss, and HR.

He said he'd withdraw his comments if I removed all of mine from the review. I said okay -- and copied his offer to his boss and his bosses boss and HR.

When I got the review back the next week, he'd taken out all my refutations -- but left his own accusations intact.

I went to our HR department. I went to his boss. I went to other people above him with whom I had had great working relationships with for years. I filed a confidential complaint with the Ethics Department complaining I was being railroaded by a vindictive director.

It made no difference. After six more months of this shit I was summarily marched out of the building, not even allowed to clean my desk or say goodbye to co-workers.

Bitter? Me?

A former co-worker told me a couple weeks later that everyone was shocked at my firing, that the work I'd been doing was going undone, that major questions were being asked on why management reports weren't being done anymore, why nothing was getting done, why suddenly everyone noticed a huge gap in the company. "The wheels came off the bus" is how he put it.

I was 50. I figured I might never work again. I was devastated but frankly after 18 months of living hell I was glad it was finally over.

I spent 4 years looking for work. I sent out over 2,000 resumes. I tried my main field, I tried every field I had some knowledge of, I bullshitted my way into jobs interviews I had NO expertise in. I got as far as 4 consecutive interviews in a couple of places before they called my former boss for a reference. That was a deal killer every time.

Until I interviewed for my present job (6 years next week...) Luckily, after my interviewer called my old boss, he called me back in and accepted my story of what really happened. He said he got the feeling the guy was "a real dickhead" -- and he may have taken my suggestion of calling some other co-workers rather than just my boss.

So I know the fear of not being able to find a job. I'm making less than half what I made at the old job (ten years ago...), and working twice as hard, but I'm happy to have it. The place is mostly free of the toxic bullshit that poisoned my last job (the company -- a $12B concern -- ended up being liquidated a year after I was canned. PROBABLY not related).

I plan to retire in 2 years. I won't be rich or independently wealthy, but I've learned that life is short and what's important isn't your job.
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