I grew up poor. Not homeless poor, or in the third world making Nike shoes at a sweatshop poor. But poor none the less. My father worked, usually as a janitor. He often worked a second job to make ends meet.
My mother worked occasionally. But they didn't have money for a babysitter or daycare. The extra money she earned would hardly pay for the babysitter which made it pointless and gave her less time to spend with us, which mattered a lot to her.
My parents never did drugs, my mother didn't drink at all, and my father drank so infrequently that it really had no effect on our lives. My father was a staunch Republican and would never dream of accepting any sort of assistance, whether we needed it or not.
It was extremely important to my mother that my brother and I ate properly. She scoured the grocery stores for meat and vegetables that were on sale so she could cook us a proper meal. She clipped coupons and was very careful with portions to try to make it last.
Sometimes it did not last. I remember one winter that was extremely cold. North Dakota was a deep freeze. The gas bills were way higher than normal and my parents fell behind on their bills. The cut off notice eventually came and my parents had to make one of the most unenviable decisions they could be asked to make...."Do we eat, or do we heat the house."
They begged the gas company to let them make a small payment that month and to not cut them off. I remember my mother pleading with the man on the phone that she had two small children to feed. That was not their problem as far as they were concerned.
After about a week we ran out of food. Part way through the second week, I asked my mother "Why don't we have enough food?" My mother responded "Because we don't have enough money." This made no sense to me. I said "But we don't need money, we need food." She tried to explain to me that the only way to get food was with money. I then said "Can't we go to the person who makes money and ask him for more so we can get food?"
It was a fair enough question and shows just how little our economy makes sense. Even a toddler can see that.
It was when I was a young teenager that I read Douglas Adams books. To this day I think one of the first lines in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy best sums up the ridiculousness of our current system:
"This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy."
So what do we do about it? People complain constantly about our current system and about individual problems. But we seldom see real solutions. We may get broad generalizations of what needs to happen. Or fixes for small aspects. But in some ways, one small problem can be insurmountable to fix with a system so entrenched in the status quo.
So are there real solutions?