Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Bottom-Feeders Are Us
I've always lived the life of a bottom-feeder. Oh, maybe, not the very bottom-est. I never had to sleep under a bridge or visit a soup kitchen. In fact, I've never been on any kind of assistance but that was because I was lucky about having parents who were both able and willing to help.
I guess what I mean about being a bottom-feeder, is that life for us is always insecure. We can go along okay for a while but it only takes a small catastrophe to plunge us into disaster. An unexpected lay-off is almost life or death, or at least eviction or repossession. It takes us three or four months to bounce back financially after the auto insurance premium is paid. Our heart sinks when we need to buy a new tire (bottom-feeders usually buy their tires one at a time)
We're are at the low end of the trickle-down scale of economics. After the fat cats get their fat chunk and the medium cats get their medium chunk, we are down here here waiting for the crumbs that sometimes drift our way (or not).
If you've never lived our lives, you have no idea how much the deck is stacked against us by society and the powers that be.
At one time or another, as a single Mom, I experienced most of the humiliations of being a bottom feeder. I've bought cars from "buy here-pay here" places, knowing I was probably purchasing a piece of previously wrecked junk that would be lucky to last much beyond the 30 day warranty. And knowing, I'd probably still have to pay because the car dealers have lawyers write up those contracts so the sellers have every advantage. I've known people who had their wages garnished or had their taxes attached paying on cars that blew up long ago, but what choice do they have? You have to have a vehicle to work. (The owners of cheap apartment complexes are notorious for this as well). And you know, if they take you to court, they can pile on a whole bunch of interest and penalties for "defaulting".
I've written bad checks in my younger years. Yep, I knew it was going to cost me a stiff overdraft fee but I had to balance that with letting the electricity get shut off and the even stiffer re-connect fee they'd charge. Overdraft fees have continued to go up and up (and so have re-connect fees). I think it is about $35 to bounce a check today. I have over-draft protection now that I don't need it. You still have to pay through the nose if you overdraw. The only difference is that they don't send out those letters that made you feel ashamed and worthless (even though you knew you'd probably be doing it again because.....life).
Because, yeah, I know what it's like to have this or that utility turned off. Once my gas was disconnected when my son was a baby. My Dad happened to come in to see John and I dressed in snowsuits. He was furious and immediately went and paid my bill and said to never let it happen again. I knew I could go to him or Mom but I just hated to look like such a loser.
Of course, there are late fees for every kind of bill - utilities and house payments and car loans and credit cards. The more you struggle to pay, the more they charge you...and if you're habitually late (even if you pay every month), they'll probably raise your interest rate and you'll pay through the nose even more. Because, you know, you have to be punished for being a dead beat and you'll never get ahead of the system.
Did you know that if you let your car insurance expire, even for a short while, then go in to have it re-instated, you'll have to carry expensive high risk insurance until you prove you're a solid citizen again?
Did you know that if you owe the I.R.S. $10,000 or more, they'll make a deal with you but if you owe under $10,000, you have to pay back every penny? Why is that, do you suppose? I knew a man once who owned a restaurant and got behind on his taxes. He hired a tax attorney and settled for 10 cents on the dollar. He paid $8,000 on an $80,000 debt. When I got in trouble with the Department of Revenue, I owed $7,000. They put a lien on my house and my in-law's house (because we'd given them an acre in a life estate). I sold the house to get out from under that debt.
A few months later, they returned $700. They said I'd paid too much. I called them to ask if they were sure and they said yes. Several weeks later, they informed me that unfortunately, I did owe that $700 after all - plus penalties and interest. They told me I could appeal the ruling. I lost. I was furious and told them if they wanted that money to steal it like the thieves they were. Within 48 hours, they'd sent a wage garnishment to my job.
It is easy to get discouraged when you're a bottom-feeder because it seems as if the people who make the rules have a boot on your neck and the more you struggle to crawl out of the hole you're in, the harder they press.
So, honestly, I can see the appeal Donald Trump had for some of the kind of people I'm talking about. He called them forgotten. He told them he was on their side and he was going to help.
I think they were conned by a charlatan. I think he enjoys pressing his boot on people's necks even as he pretends to care. Not one thing he's done so far will help the bottom-feeders, in fact, their lives will be worse.
But I do understand why they want to hope.