Thursday, August 30, 2007

Weather and Invisible Poverty

Yesterday we had the first spare day of the year. The temperature reached 92, or 94 or 96 depending on which weather forecaster was correct. In the heat of the afternoon my house felt like it was fighting a loosing battle against a heat monster threatening to beat it down. Five minute intervals crept by as though they were hours and every time I checked the clock it seemed the day would never end. At the same time California ISO was posting flex alerts because the demand for power was so great.

Since I did not feel comfortable turning my computer on--and probably would have stuck to the keyboard if I'd tried to type--I turned on the television instead. Commemorations of Hurricane Katrina abounded. News reports that we are now spending approximately two billion dollars a day on the war in Iraq were interspersed with reports on the huge tasks still to be accomplished to bring the Gulf states hit by Hurricane Katrina back into the fold of the national economy.

At the time the levees broke in New Orleans after the hurricane two years ago, I was struck by the images of the elderly and disabled stuck in the Astrodome and waiting for help that could not come quickly enough because of the water. One image in particular still stands out. A person in a wheelchair had died and someone had draped a blanket over the body and the chair. That person would have been me in a similar disaster. Two years later there are homes that have not been rebuilt, insurance claims that have not been honored and peoples lives that are still broken. Much healing is needed.

What concerns me the most though, is the burden that is carried by the invisible poor in this country. No one marches on our behalf. No one protests when government benefits are cut and services not provided. The invisible remain invisible and the poor remain poor.

Many of these problems could be solved with small changes. Increases in food stamps. Subsidies for computers, training in how to use them and networking to find work online could lift the homebound, or nearly homebound, invisible poor, if not into the middle class, at least into a more endurable level of poverty. Community service volunteer programs could help a great deal.

An increase in the amount that social security disability recipients are "allowed" to earn would make substantive differences in the lives and independence of so many disabled people. There would probably be a concomitant decline in health care expenses, too for people who have something to do in the day, get up to do it and people who can take care of their own selves do not have to wait for someone to come and do something for them. In many instances, poverty is far more disabling than the physical disabilities that people cope with every day.

In the year before the national election year, I would so very much like to see the needs of the invisible poor addressed as well as the needs of those who are seen in all of the media pieces. Lets make life more livable for all of the people in this great, but flawed, nation of ours.

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