The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

1 November 2003

Lowered expectations

According to P. J. O'Rourke, it's a tenet of liberal faith that there are, in fact, people too poor to pick up their lawn.

Now I grew up reading P. J. in National Lampoon, so I have a tendency to assume that there's some undefined but discernible hyperbole in anything he says, but a comment from Bruce, affixed to this item, makes me wonder:

The temptation, one that appeals to our base desires is to believe that just because people are taking advantage of tax supported systems means that we, the taxpayers have some right to tell them how to live.

And right after I read that, up pops (courtesy of Kimberly Swygert) this:

Roughly 40,000 poor people have been dropped from the Oregon Health Plan this year because of their failure to make monthly premium payments, some as low as $6 a month.

The departure of more than one-third of the 88,000 poor people from the state-subsidized Oregon Health Plan Standard program has far exceeded the expectations of many state officials.

Advocates for the poor say the premiums are too expensive for some people and the government may have overestimated the ability of people to mail a check.

"It's an enormous barrier," said Ellen Pinney, director of the Oregon Health Action Committee. "Let alone the $6, there is the whole issue of writing a check or getting a money order, putting it in an envelope with a stamp and putting it in the mail to this place in Portland that must receive it by the due date."

An enormous barrier?

People who take so little responsibility for themselves that they can't follow directions this simple deserve to have someone telling them how to live.

And to clean up their damn yard while they're at it.

Posted at 12:01 AM to Political Science Fiction


When I read that I wondered if Ms. Pinney wasn't indulging in a little sarcasm.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 9:11 AM on 1 November 2003

It's possible, I suppose, but Advocates for the Downtrodden™, by and large, tend to be a singularly humorless bunch.

Posted by: CGHill at 9:24 AM on 1 November 2003

And you're not wrong about P.J.'s tendency towards hyperbole - that's what makes his writing so funny. He does tend to oversimplify and exaggerate slightly for comic effect, although his political and travel writings always carry a grain of truth.

Of course, sometimes when it seems he must be exaggerating, he's not (a la Dave Barry's "I am not making this up").

Posted by: Kimberly at 9:41 AM on 1 November 2003

well, as a person that has spent a small amount of time going door to door talking to people in low income situations I can vouch for the seriousness of the comment by Ellen Pinney. It may sound absurd to people with a least some modest means that mailing a check for $6 may be difficult. But most people I talked to couldn't get a checking account. (ok, now take a moment to consider what your life would be like without that) The nearest grocery store was several miles away and in some neighborhoods getting a money order may be a choice between spending a hour or two on a bus versus paying some extortionist fee to some corner shop "loan/pawn" business.

Being low income means taking nothing for granted... checking accounts, grocery stores, reliable transport (ever waited for a bus that never showed up?) and multiplying everyday tasks by 2 or 3 times the time it normally takes.

However, I do beleiev that some people were just negligent, that happens too.

Posted by: bruce at 12:14 PM on 1 November 2003

I've bought many a money order in my time; it's not really convenient, but it's not a major hassle, inasmuch as any convenience store big enough to sell day-old donuts usually sells money orders too. Stamps are probably more of a nuisance.

On the other hand, I've had this same checking account for twenty-eight years, through three marital statuses, two periods of unemployment, one (mercifully brief) period of technical homelessness (which made getting statements less than elegant), and all manner of things in between.

Posted by: CGHill at 12:39 PM on 1 November 2003

Its tough once you get on the wrong side of things. Sounds like you've had some bad cicumstances but have managed to get through them. I feel for people that have had others drag them down with them, bad spouses, addicted children, etc...

There is an institutional state of poverty where you are trapped (nearly) beyond your own abilities to escape. Many times you have to turn to friends or relatives to keep you going. Otherwise you turn to state help where politicians (and self righteous taxpayers) feel justified in making you jump through hoops at every turn.

Just imagine every day of your life at the DMV?

I ask, what good is a helping hand if its wrapped around your neck?

Posted by: bruce at 4:14 PM on 1 November 2003

While I have no problem with a helping hand on occasion (I have needed one a couple of times and -did not qualify- for whatever reasons), it's the ones that seem to think that it is their "natural right" to a -perpetual- handout. The assistance is NOT intended as a living wage and is -only- for temporary help. It is not and it has never been, IMO, the existance of the system for *assistance* that's the problem, it's the abuse of the system for *subsistance*.

I have a major problem with being required to fork over a significant portion of my paycheck to someone that has no intention of -ever- making an attempt to earn one of his/her own.

Posted by: Steve at 12:47 AM on 5 November 2003