‘Just who is robbing who?’

Heidi M. Bauer

In response to Ted Hamilton’s Nov. 13 column, it never fails to amaze me when I see another “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” argument used to oversimplify the complex issue of poverty. These examples always seem to point at the stereotypical lazy welfare mom with multiple children that does not represent the reality of the majority of people receiving public assistance. Recently I interned for the governor’s Women’s Initiative and traveled around Ohio to meet with local women and girls.

It is a common myth that people receiving assistance are lazy, while in reality many are actually working. I would like Mr. Hamilton to tell me how a woman with three children making minimum wage with no health insurance can realistically survive in American society without some type of assistance.

Current federal minimum wage is $5.85. At 40 hours a week they would gross $1404 monthly. After 15 percent taxes are removed, they would net $1194. Many middle-class mortgage payments are higher than this, but let’s take out $600 for rent. Now we’re down to $594. The children are all under 10, so child care is needed at an average rate of $150 per week for one child. Before we even make it to utilities, car payments, insurance, groceries, etc., we’re out of money. This woman is more than likely not receiving child support either because the hundreds of thousands of men who refuse to take responsibility for their children.

When Mr. Hamilton tells women to “keep it in their pants,” I think he forgets the other sex and their participation in reproduction. You can forget setting any money aside for savings because it just isn’t there.

For the one woman Mr. Hamilton describes, I’ve met dozens more who work every day for low wages in thankless jobs. They pay taxes also but still do not make enough to live and need some help to just survive. There are also the moms who go to work solely to pay for child care. What is the point in working to pay someone else to take care of your children? There are also many poor people who are not even receiving assistance; there are many working-class women who fall into the gray area of making just enough to not qualify for assistance, but not enough to actually live on.

Mr. Hamilton’s article is ironic in today’s society where the disparity between the rich and the poor is increasing at an alarming rate. If we want people to be able to support themselves, we must have to have a society that pays them a living wage. Until then, there will be millions of people who fall into the cycle of poverty. The cost of living cannot continue to rise while wages are stagnant. It is not as simple as “choosing” to be poor. I’d like to see Mr. Hamilton tell a woman who worked 40 hours a week scrubbing someone else’s floors that she is lazy and non-productive because she can’t break the cycle of poverty.

Mr. Hamilton thinks that the poor receiving assistance are stealing from the productive citizens of this country while failing to see how the wealthy are paying them the lowest amount of money possible for some of the hardest jobs that no one else would want to do. Just who is robbing who?

Heidi M. Bauer Senior English major