Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Word About “Entitlements”

In the aftermath of last night’s election, I’ve been reading a lot of comments from people who didn’t vote the same way I did.  Not in a gloating sense or in taking joy in their misery (and believe you me, some of them put the misery I felt in Bush’s re-election to absolute shame!), but just to see what they are afraid will happen in Obama’s second term.  Here is just a sample of one of the comments I read today: “the entitled are still sitting at home while I work to support their laziness.”  I chose this one because it’s pretty anonymous, but there were some that made my hair curl.

Because, I’ve got to be honest, I’m sitting at home, taking a handout right now.  For anyone who may be reading this who doesn’t know, the condensed version of my tragedy is that my 38 year old husband collapsed and died at dinner just about 4 months ago.  I was a stay-at-home mom to our daughter and a graduate student.  I had and have no intention of returning to my previous career, so I had allowed my certifications to lapse and I cannot return to my former employer without passing tests, and a whole lot of rigmarole.  I’ve been out of the workforce for nearly 4 years now.  So the types of jobs I could currently probably get fairly easily would not pay my bills.  I am already facing foreclosure on our house and am attempting to force the banks into helping me with loan modifications so that I can maintain our home.  It’s the only place my daughter has ever known, and to rob her of that security after her father died literally before her very eyes is heartless and cruel. 

To date, I have not received my husband’s official death certificates.  This means I cannot receive any settlement from his former employer (the federal government), although there is limited money to be obtained from them when the death certificates are issued. 

This means that I was forced to apply for my husband’s Social Security.  It was the most humiliating day of my life the day I went through my Social Security interview.  My husband was a very proud man, and one of the things he was proudest of was that despite being disabled, he went to work every single day and earned his pay.  He did not collect Social Security, although he was certainly entitled to it.  When I had my interview with SSI, I felt like a total and complete failure.  But I literally had nowhere else to turn to attempt to support myself and my daughter.

Social Security is not adequate to meet our mortgage payments and utilities and other expenses.  I attempt each month to put Leah’s share of the money into a separate spot for her.  Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not.  This month she needs a winter coat, among other things, and it’s not easy to save up and continue to fully commit that money to savings.  But I do look forward to someday handing her as much of that money as I possibly can and telling her that her father wanted her to have it.

I am not out buying Cheetos and cocaine and sitting on my couch watching soap operas.  We have stopped eating out even half as much as we did.  I spend 6 hours every 2 weeks combing circulars and comparing prices so that I can get good food cheap.

I am not sleeping around and trying to get pregnant so I can have lots of welfare babies. 

Every month when that money is deposited into my bank account, I weep.  Because all it is is a symbol of what I’ve lost and my inability at present to care for myself.  And if I become employed, they will take the money back.  So whatever I make has to be able to compete with what Social Security is giving me, and frankly, I very much doubt that being a checker at WalMart is going to come close.

But the fact is, yes, I am entitled to that money.  For years, literally years, Mike and I have both paid into that system, and if you’re employed, then check our W2 or your pay stub and you will see where Social Security is deducted from your pay.  Every year, you get a statement from Social Security that indicates what your award will be if are disabled or if you retire, and what your survivors will receive if you should suddenly die.  You are entitled to that money.  Let me repeat that:  You. Are. Entitled. To. That. Money.

And make no mistake, every time you make a blanket statement that says “those people just sit around and collect their check while I’m out working”, you lump everyone like me and my daughter into that category of good-for-nothing, lazy bastards that allow you to make yourself feel good when you have no idea what “those people” are going through.  And unless you have personally interviewed every single recipient of Social Security, which in 2009 was somewhere in the neighborhood of 55 million people, I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself.  Are there people who take advantage of the system?  Probably.  But the vast, vast majority of us are honest people who need some help.

I wish to God I didn’t have to rely on Social Security right now.  I look forward to completing my education and returning to the workforce.  But I am thankful that I have it to rely on and that while everything else is on hold, we are able to have food, electricity, gas, and warm clothes.  And I’m sure that my fellow recipients feel the same.

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