I thought I’d take the time to write about an incredibly disturbing path it looks like we’re going down. I’m not sure what the most disturbing part is, that it seems as if this really is the endgame of our current leadership or that there are likely many who would see this as a good thing…..
See individually a lot of the things in our country are messed up, but it’s when you look at the effects of all of them together that you see something that to me seems quite sinister. So first, I’ll go through the individual parts, which alone are bad enough, but then I’ll show you how they come together in an alarming way. I’m talking a dystopian future sci-fi movie bad.
It’s no secret just how fucked up private prisons are, or that one of the first decisions made by Sessions when he got his position was to rescind the orders from the Obama administration and bring back private prisons (click here for more info). Now granted that only accounts for 20-30k inmates held by private companies, but it’s still wrong. It turns criminals into cattle, and these private prisons earn by the head. This has been a heated area for many for a long time, but wait until it’s all tied together.
If there’s one thing that was pointed out to anyone who would take the time to pay attention during the Bernie campaign, it’s that economic disparity is a huge problem. A shrinking middle class, most of the wealth of the country going to the top few percent, etc. This means more people in poverty, more homeless, more people needing benefits to survive. When people are desperate they turn to crime, they turn to drugs, they turn to desperate means to survive. Things like the new tax plan that gives most of it’s benefits to the wealthiest people in the country, the taking away of access to healthcare for huge corporate payouts, these are examples of those in charge seeming bent on increasing the economic divide. Then you throw in that they are simultaneously wanting to reduce benefits to the poor, increase on programs like ‘work first’ (more on that further in), redirect education funds to religious schools, and not wanting to budge on raising minimum wage….. it’s not looking good. Redirecting funds to religious schools means a less educated (and therefor lower earning) population and when you make a population that is uneducated and low earning while also taking away the benefits that make them able to survive, what are they supposed to do?
Work First and Other Similar Programs
I’m not so sure about the similar programs in other states, but lets talk about Work First. Under the work first program, if you are receiving healthcare/food benefits you have to enroll in Work First. Work first is similar to welfare in that they give you, the poor person needing assistance, a small monthly check. Back when I was enrolled in the program it was about $240 a month. Part of the requirement however was that you have to put in at least 40 hours a week doing ‘experience building labor’. Very similar to ‘community service’ (like all the places you can be assigned to do community service you can also be assigned to do work first) it amounts to working a full time manual labor job in exchange for $240 a month. Now I’ve seen this put out into social media in little memes that explain it differently and say how great it is ‘people receiving welfare should have to work to earn it’ and it gets a bunch of thoughtless likes and shares. But lets explain it more realistically, it’s a way for the state to hire workers for $240 a month. That’s $60 a week for a full time job. When I was stuck in the program it was at a waste center, sorting recyclables, emptying dumpsters, hauling garbage bags and coming home at the end of the day feeling like shit smelling like garbage. Now $60 a week for 40 hours a week turns into basically being paid $1.50 an hour. Does this sound right to you? Using the poor as a cheap source of labor is abhorable, yet continues. In the mean time, it also keeps the person too busy and occupied to look for an actual job or go to school etc. so is a self perpetuating problem. It prevents people from being able to get out of these situations, but they can’t just leave the program because then they’ll lose what little they do have. Moving on…..
Increased Drug Laws
This has been an ongoing problem but is one that is definitely getting worse. The ever increasing drug laws are making it incredibly hard for law abiding citizens to get medication they need simply because others can abuse them. I often find it interesting that the same ‘side’ that is against gun control because ‘my rights shouldn’t be infringed just because some other people might do something wrong’ has no problem with infringing on the rights of people who need medication just because some might abuse those medications. I have degenerative disk disease and when they rescheduled one of my medications to the same level as vicodin and changed the laws regarding my other medications, I ended up going nearly 6 months without my meds. One of them is so dangerous to come off of ‘cold turkey’ that it causes seizures and what are referred to as ‘brain zaps’ (it’s also a mild SSRI) that last for months (or longer). I went from being in a stable condition with the same dr on the same meds for nearly a decade to being completely cut off and bounced around to ‘pain clinics’. Now I’ve finally got a pain clinic that isn’t against prescribing narcotics (odd that pain clinics would be against prescribing the very thing people need to visit them for) but still I’m only getting about half what I was getting before. It has seriously impacted my life causing me to be less functional, less productive. Lets be honest, if I didn’t have a family to worry about I would have gone the much easier route of just getting drugs illegally. I know and have known many others who have gone that route, it’s cheaper to just go out and buy some heroin and give yourself low doses. But no, I can’t do that so I just jump through the hoops and get constant drug tests and pill counts and invasive ‘treatment’ just so I can get at least some relief. Couple the increasing drug laws with the hatred Sessions has for the legalization of marijuana and we’re in some trouble. It’s been hinted that Sessions wouldn’t be against doing federal raids in states where it’s legal since it’s still against federal law. Has our country learned nothing? Did prohibition not teach us anything? Can we not see the success other countries have had with drug decriminalization? Or is our only concern making sure that court costs are paid, people are jailed, pharmaceutical companies and drug treatment companies and pain clinics get huge profits, etc.? These laws aren’t in our best interest, these laws are designed for one thing, profit.
Imprisoning the Poor
Here’s an interesting article. It simply points out something poor people have known for a very long time. I once went to jail for 14 days for driving without a license. Problem was, I lost my license for not being able to pay the court cost for a simple traffic ticket. It was 3am and we had finally gotten out of the hospital (my wife had a kidney infection) and I was looking for a pharmacy that was 24 hours. The cop who had been following us for 15 minutes pulled us, claimed at some point I had failed to stop at a stop sign, and I got a ticket. I couldn’t pay so they suspended my license indefinitely. Kinda hard to go job hunting in a rural area with no public transportation and no ability to drive. So I went a good while without a license. I got a ticket in the county I lived in for driving without a license (I had a job interview) and wasn’t able to pay that fine so had a bench warrant. My back decided to go out and I ended up having to go to the hospital myself, but had no one else who could give me a ride. So as I’m leaving the hospital I get pulled. Since the hospital was on the other side of the county line and the cop literally said ‘I get off in 30 minutes, I don’t feel like waiting at the county line’ I went to jail. If he had just given me the ticket, sent me across the line, I’d have been able to sign myself out of jail in my own county with a new court date, but lets not inconvenience this cop. So since I didn’t have the money to pay bail, I sat in jail for 2 weeks. Now eventually since around that same time my father won a settlement and had money to help I finally got out of jail, paid off the fees I owed, but I still went another year without a license. This is the difference between being poor and not being poor. Poor people go to jail for the same things that non-poor people see as just a slap on the wrist. People not experiencing it don’t notice it, but it is a crime to be poor in this country.
Lets tie it all together.
This is where it gets unbelievable and terrifying. It seems that the current government does have a ‘solution’ for poverty in the US. That solution is turning the poor into cattle and cheap manual labor. People who can afford expensive health insurance, their doctors aren’t sending them to pain clinics. Those are just for poor people. People who can afford to pay simple traffic tickets are fine, those only result in the jailing of poor people. People who can afford homes don’t realize how being homeless is like a cat and mouse game with the police. So as the crime rates go up, more things become criminal, penalties become harsher and private prisons are filling up what happens? They basically take the poor, put them in private prisons and have them doing manual labor the state can profit from. Educational opportunities are limited to people who can afford them, which slowly dwindles. The private prisons make more money, the pharmaceutical companies make more money, private education companies make more money, more money is allocated to law enforcement programs, the state makes more money from court costs and labor, so if you’re not one of the poor affected by it all you’re seeing nothing but people making money. It really is getting close to that point in this country, so if you’re poor it might be time to consider applying to other countries as a refugee. Not even joking.