Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bill Collectors From India?

You know things have gotten sad in America, when you get late on a small medical bill, no office calls or writes you, and right away, they have a collection agency call you.....


I suspect this is for blood tests for The Reckoner where even the "free clinic" for the destitute unloaded a $300 dollar lab charge for blood tests. The Reckoner at the time said, "Please no huge lab bills, we can't handle it!" Who determines these prices? The Squawker sent a few 10 and 20 dollar payments to no avail. One thing, we have no problem paying the debt off, if we could. This being a smaller medical bill, the original company probably will get 10 bucks from me this month. It may take time, but it's the best I can do and afford groceries. Never pay to collection agencies where the money could disappear in a vat of red tape. 

In this household unless we are dying or we are on the cusp of respiratory or cardiac failure or have skin falling off from a third degree burn or a leg about to rot off, we don't go to the ER. Why? The horrendous bills. Even if one is on Medicare, you still have to pay 20% off the top. So gout attacks, projectile vomiting for hours, we stay home, knowing the hassles that lay in the future, should we go in. The cash register in your local ER can go caching! for a thousand bucks as soon as you walk in the door. Each spouse has begged the other to go to the hospital while one shakes their head 'no, no no'.

So the heavily accented person calls, and wants to demand money....[I googled the number and it is a company that does medical collections]

When they call I love to have a conversation with them....

It goes something like this...[fortunately these ones know enough English to converse]

"Are you from India?"


"Do you realize that America is in a depression and that none of us have jobs anymore to pay these bills?"

[cough ummmm]

"They gave all our jobs to you guys, think about the absurdity that while we are left without even the option to get a low-paid bill collector's job, they hassle us over bills that remain unpaid"


"They are not telling the world the truth about how poor people are getting here" 

[a couple have sounded shocked at that one]

Then usually I sashay into socio-political economics. Hey why not?, they called me at 9:00 am on  a Saturday morning and have been harrassing us daily.

"You do realize your country isn't going to be able to depend on the failing American system forever, don't you?"

"You should plan accordingly."

"Please, don't call here anymore!"


In 2009, they said bill collection centers in India were booming. 

U.S. Debt Collectors Watch Jobs Go To India--The Squawker

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Not Allowed to Feed the Homeless?

Feeding The Homeless BANNED In Major Cities All Over America
What would you do if you came across someone on the street that had not had anything to eat for several days? Would you give that person some food? Well, the next time you get that impulse you might want to check if it is still legal to feed the homeless where you live. Sadly, feeding the homeless has been banned in major cities all over America. Other cities that have not banned it outright have put so many requirements on those that want to feed the homeless (acquiring expensive permits, taking food preparation courses, etc.) that feeding the homeless has become "out of reach" for most average people. Some cities are doing these things because they are concerned about the "health risks" of the food being distributed by ordinary "do-gooders". Other cities are passing these laws because they do not want homeless people congregating in city centers where they know that they will be fed. But at a time when poverty and government dependence are soaring to unprecedented levels, is it really a good idea to ban people from helping those that are hurting?

Some "rules" are made to be broken, and this one is on the list. Here is a time where obeying God in helping someone out, should take precedent over wicked rules of man. How heartless is our society growing?

So you buy a homeless person a meal at McDonalds or give someone poor food from your kitchen, or hand someone a sandwich and they want to fine you?

Also do not buy all the rules they make for "safety" reasons, using that as an excuse. Soon none of us will be allowed to cross the street for our own "safety". That is just an excuse to starve the homeless and send them underground. After all in the non-depression "Depression", they want to keep the homeless as hidden as possible.

The Squawker and the Reckoner have never been homeless but have been close so they have compassion for those who have ended up this way. It is far easier to end up homeless then anyone could dream. Rent is always paid first in our household, above everything else, but what about those when the income stream totally stops? The landlords may give you a break for a month or two but after that the streets await. The Squawker still remembers when one of her neighbors in a big city became homeless, she ran into her warming herself by a trashcan fire, and asked "What happened?". She had been laid off, and could not get another job and was denied unemployment.

The help of friends and others has kept both of us off the street and fed before. While the stereotype that everyone who is homeless ended up that way from substance abuse or other bad choices, the reality is more and more of them are people who simply lost jobs, and could not keep things going.

It's like they want to legislate heartless cruelty and no more compassion and kindness for fellow mankind. Why are the churches silent in the face of this too? Sadly most of the 501c3 churches, will "follow the rules", hopefully some will realize that feeding the hungry, is a spiritual duty that trumps draconian laws. Even in the many disasters that now impact this nation, many people come together in those to even feed one another. The social worker and out of touch types will say "Oh there are plenty of options for the homeless!". Do not let that deceive you either. There are reasons, some of the homeless avoid shelters.   The concerns range from lack of handicapped accommodations to husband, wives and children being separated. The author of the article of the link talks about how they were forced to even give up their walker, leaving them totally helpless. That stuff really does happen.

Many homeless shelters in big cities are in dangerous neighborhoods, they force you to wander outside all day, even if you are ill and old, they have draconian rules, meant to control more then to help. Many ask why don't the homeless use shelters and why do they choose to sleep in doorways or under bridges? Well there is a reason for that. Some shelters are even overtaken by crime, you lose your little bit of stuff, should you dare to actually sleep. I am not trying to dissuade people from the use of shelters to save their lives, but there is more to the story. Those with children fear losing custody due to their poverty and those with ill health fear being warehoused away into a nightmare nursing home. For many homeless, they learn quick survival lies in the area of pretending not to be homeless. Some of our homeless even still have jobs, just too low-paying to keep shelter. There are also those who go to the shelters and find out all the beds are full. Imagine that happening on a cold night where you have no where else to go?

The Squawker has known and befriended numbers of the "hidden homeless" in her old town, who found alternative housing in RV campers, and house sitting and odd jobs. She would worry and ask them about winter, will you be OK and offered what help she could, but she has seen homelessness from the personal level. It is scary they are using food safety rules to outlaw giving help to the homeless, so they leave the homeless to go dig in the trashcan instead? Of course now, they are locking up more dumpsters, surrounded them by locked gates, so the homeless do not even have that option. Having personally seen how bad off the food pantries are, those who lack all options are in far worse shape then ever before. No one should stop anyone from feeding someone in need who is hungry. They are so nuts, soon they will outlaw people even eating at other folk's homes and church potlucks. Will they drag us off to jail as one commenter wrote for handing a friend a sandwich? Something has really gone wrong with this country, really wrong.--The Squawker

Dialing For Dollars (Diving For Pearls):

Getting Up A Leg Up In This Wobbly EconomyAnyone out there remember classic old game shows like "Dialing For Dollars," which Janis Joplin referenced so vividly in "Mercedes Benz" ("Oh, Lord, won't you buy me a color TV?  'Dialing For Dollars' is trying to find me/I wait for delivery each day until three/So, oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV")?  The Reckoner has long believed that you can learn volumes about a nation's attitude toward its money, through its game shows and alternate money-making schemes...some classier than others, some shadier than others.  Like the saying says, "You pays your money, and takes your choice."

Watching his freelance income
getting cut (for further reference, see "The People's Haikus #2," below) has forced the Reckoner and the Squawker to flex their creative noggins in making up the gap. So far, one of the better outlets in our household has been...eBay.  The Reckoner and the Squawker have been dutifully combing their archives, mostly looking for books, CDs, comics and magazines to ship.

One zombified specimen (Repulsion's Horrified CD) exemplifies what we've been doing well -- in this case, a mint condition copy fetched $18.  Most of our items average from $7-20, with the vast majority going for $9-13. From our perspective, it's interesting to see what kind of quirkiness grabs the bucks...such as #1,544 of a 3,000-pressing St. Etienne Christmas CD, which had sat on the Reckoner's shelf for eons, until he grabbed it, checked its value online, and -- lo 'n' behold -- saw it go for $38!  Not bad for a sealed product that never got a listen!

Evidently, the government seems
to think that there's something to this little underground commerce thing-y...because, as of this year, the IRS began requiring PayPal (which eBay bought, remember?) to send out 1099 reporting forms for sellers who cross the "IOU, Uncle Sam" line ($600 and up). Given the stereotype of Republicans -- y'know, they'd crack kiddies' piggy banks with hammers, force-feed candy canes to diabetics, kick crutches from under cripples, yada-yada-yada -- need we point out the irony of this requirement passing muster under a Democratic administration?

That's how bipartisanship works: when they really, really, really want your money, both parties forget their differences pretty quickly. Still, if you can get past the BS quotient (eBay listing fees, for example), and have quirky things that seem in demand (black metal, anyone?), going down this road can help you squeeze out some side income to help with those never-ending bills.--The Reckoner

How Things Have Changed since the 1980's

Life sure has become different since the 1970s and 1980s, I am not even sure some have noticed some of the most important differences.. Some are too young to even realize not being here yet. When did life become all about money? Today people have become slaves to the employers. Well one could say the avid materialism of the 70s and especially the 1980s, is when things changed. The "Me" Decade and the "Greed is good" decade, is kind of when people got entranced by toys, not realizing they were being set up for a mighty fall.

Where one lives to work rather then working to live? You know that is what many in Europe say about Americans now, "they have forgotten how to have fun, they live to work, rather then work to live." Sometimes The Squawker free of the encumbrance of employment having traded that for the burdens of a body gone wrong, looks at some of the exhausted wants to scream, "There is more to life then money and work!" On one's deathbed, no one says "I wish I worked harder" they lament relationships and face their Maker. If anything The Squawker wishes she could have spent her still healthy early 20s on more travel, more adventure rather then 70 hour work weeks that led to little reward. Some people's health does not survive the expected overwork of today.

But she does not blame the people who find themselves on the spinning ever faster hamster wheels, it seems now the carrots on the sticks which used to lead to some reward and building a life up now have led into a maze with a big padlock on it. Most people are just trying to survive. Only a few even get the time to look up and around and ask "What happened?" More need to. Seriously and ask "How did we get where we got?"

The Squawker had elderly friends in her old town, these were rural people in their 70s and 80s, who said, society lost its mind about 30 years ago, it became all about materialism. Women started having to work, leaving less time for leisure, family and being able to take care of family members and social interaction. One 78 year old friend said right to me, "Life is far harder today, back then we knew how to relax, we had people around including family members to help us, I would not want to be a member of the younger generation, all they do is work".

The Squawker is old enough to remember the 1970s and 1980s when people still knew some of what was important.. Remember the days of leisure and fun, and families getting together for conversation, where everyone would meet at Grandma's house and just TALK? Remember the 1980s when Japan was deemed to be so hardworking that Japanese business men were dropping dead of heart attacks? Did you know Americans surpassed the Japanese LONG AGO, well the people who still have jobs? Does that surprise you?

The other day, The Squawker said to one of her siblings who she hasn't seen in two years but maintains regular phone contact with, "you know it was a scam, for all of us to move apart, where family was put behind "jobs". The "jobs" and moving may have payed off for certain segments of the Baby Boomers who got jobs with decent benefits and could work their way up, but for the members of the Generation X, most of the moving meant having to dismantle roots and lives just to survive and not end up sleeping on a relative's couch between lay-offs. Now that employers don't keep people around for the 30 year old watch, retirement or pensions, too many of the middle aged are looking around and realizing every relative lives hundreds of miles away and for what? Some are still paddling just to keep their heads above water, but now unlike yesteryear without close family and relatives nearby to help them out. Over the years, people turn in to strangers. Life and social capital decline. Some who start getting older, ask will happen to me in a city all alone should I get sick or my spouse does? Perhaps people should question the moving and what is sought in the modern lifestyles.

During the 1970s and 1980s, all one has to do is look at some magazines from the library to know collectibles were hot, and and various forms of leisure activities were very in. People really did spend 50 dollars to collect plates and thousands on doll houses. One thing I noticed picking up a pile from the free library magazine exchange and laying in bed and reading some, was how LAVISH everything looked. It actually shocked me. Even the meals they advertised and the high priced collectibles, that were being sold. Today no one could afford any of this stuff. Even the higher classes would be more worried about the tax bill.  One hot hobby of the 1980's that is now deader then a doornail is minatures. Of course why buy miniature versions of things if you can't afford new for the REAL house or apt you live in? Minature lamps.....for dollhouses....

Today we have fancy gadgets, that people look at and are distracted by so many people haven't seen how everything around them has kind of gotten well blah.... It's like the fancy screens have kept people busy staring into them instead of realizing that the landscape with it's empty store fronts and potholes in the roads is looking kind of beat up.

Even in the 1980s, fashions were far more colorful....

What do we have today?

Dull and dreary clothing, that seems to have been caught in a 15 year fashion free zone.  Can anyone even define a style of the 2000s, because I sure can't. There is nothing to define it as "different". I have said before that JEANS seem to have become the UNIFORM of the dull dystopian nation. Even grandmothers out there seem to have forgotten dresses exist that aren't denim. Why has fashion gotten so absolutely dreary unless you are willing to buy your clothes from non-mainstream sources?

One thing I remember as a young teen was how people almost lived and shopped in the mall. Does anyone shop at the mall anymore? I wasted valuable time buying stickers and posters at Spencers.  Back then no one seemed worried about buying high priced goods from boutique stores, some of which specialized in very odd goods. Do you remember the stores that specialized only in popcorn, stickers, jelly beans or in kitchen wares? Do any of those still exist?

Malls are dying all over. Did you know there are  websites even detailing and picturing dead malls? Some could argue Internet commerce has killed them, but most of the people I know buying anything online are buying used items from ebay, or the occasional book from amazon or something ultra cheap from Craiglist.

So yes we can say life has changed since the 80s. Remember how they told us in every teen movie "to party"? None of us were prepared for what would be coming. We should have been spending our time learning organic farming and some skill sets beyond playing Pac-Mac but at least we were allowed to have a bit of fun before the bottom started falling out.--The Squawker

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Feel Poor on 100,000 Year?

Check out this article. This lady is talking about feeling the pinch in a 6 figure household.....

Feeling Poor on $100,000 a year?

Well as the lifestyles go up, the expenses go up. There people who live in some of those modern suburban homes, with 4 bedrooms that pay $700 dollars a month in property taxes alone which is equal to rent for others.  If the Squawker ever had made "real money",she would have kept the same lifestyle remaining within an apartment rather then the adapting the expenses of the suburban modern American lifestyle, but then had more money to go places and do things for others. Buying a new car for the son to deliver pizza seems absurd.. I found the part about how expensive community college is, to be pretty high up there. The sad thing is unless the sons have technical or other talents or happen to major in a field in demand, the jobs may not be waiting out there. I can believe the $1,000 dollars for food, for 4 people especially if one is living in a more urban area and buying healthy or organic food. Food bills for many have shot up.  Life is not the same for anyone, even those in the upper classes, know the times of leisure spending have eroded. Of course if someone at 100,000 a year feels the pinch, how about the majority who make far less then that? Question the modern American suburban lifestyle and how expensive it is, perhaps some changes are in order---The Squawker.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Punk Rock Poetry Corner: The People's Haikus #2: (For Freelancers & Journalists)

Newspapers folding
At dizzying speeds: have empire,
must now work for food.

I spent 20 years
reheating meals, losing sleep:
I lost my job anyway.

Fend for yourself now
Amid the wreckage: no prospects, benefits.

Dear Freelancer: your

pay is due for an increase (when
Hell freezes over).

What is the essence
of a correspondent?
Rhymes with..."despondent."

Shareholders swarm
like locusts, leaving nothing
but dreams in pieces.

As newsrooms topple
Like dominoes nationwide,
one thought has struck me:

Here is our downfall,
In 25 words or less...we
missed so many hints.
  • The Reckoner

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Putting Things in Perspective

One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, "How was the trip?" "It was great, Dad." "Did you see how poor people live?" the father asked. "Oh yeah," said the son. "So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?" asked the father. The son answered: "I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them."

The boy's father was speechless. Then his son added, "Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are."

Isn't perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don't have. Appreciate every single thing you have, especially your friends! Pass this on to friends and acquaintances and help them refresh their perspective and appreciation. "Life is too short and friends are too few."

I've thought about this parable, seen different places on line. One thing I think of when thinking of these economic disasters knocking on our doors, is there needs to be more return to what is important. Where our riches lie in more places then just "success". Tell us what you think. While we may talk about the realities of poverty here, one has to look outside the box they have put us all in.

-- The Squawker

The Emotional Realities of Poverty

Ever wake up feeling like a worm, like life is a disappointment and a constant gauntlet? Chances are you have bad money problems.

This is the worst aspect of poverty and then toss in the ever grinding stress and the silence.

Who can you talk to?  [well except for God] You do not want to bring down your friends, and even worry about bringing them into compassion fatigue, after all a few years of asking for help is different when the stretch has become years duration and you see no end in sight but now worry about losing everything. What if you are triggered to the nightmare poverty of years before? You wonder what is wrong with you as a person, why have you been so punished?  Why has your adult life been a constant series of unmet demands. That is the reality of poverty. Dead dreams, destroyed marriages and the rest. Others seem to be able to function and manage, where it is not so complicated. Why can't you? Why can't he?

The Squawker has always wonder why there are no support groups for the poor?  Maybe that is what churches used to be, but now as one sits in the pew hearing the pastor talk about his missions trips [vacation] to another Caribbean nation, even there and the megachurch with its Dave Ramsey seminars where one must have expendable income to even make it work, the majority are out of touch with your existence or else set in silence like you.  If you are poor and have others surrounding you who have shared the same fate, trust me it's easier, rather then a long line of upper class ever-employed professionals who see your poverty as a result of your long list of shortcomings.

Even in small towns now, the poor skulk around the edges trying to hide their real status. Still others hang on the tip of their fingernails in suburban or more affluent communities, seeking to hide their real status as much as possible.  It's all about looking good and living in hiding. Even speaking about poverty issues in America or admitting "I am poor" crosses endless taboo lines. Shouldn't we question that taboo?

Being poor means living in silence, embarrassment and shame. Unpaid bills, worries, a feeling of stress, impacts one's very health and well-being. Cruel families look down on poor members as  "losers", as the people try to keep a smile on their face in front of others showing bravery and confidence while inside and privately the tears flow. Some fortunately have families who help, but then comes the guilt. Even if one turns to God, and realizes the emptiness that lies in materialism and the love for the dollar, the way the system works now, the former relationships, social connections and everything that kept one humming earlier despite poverty, are gone. I think it's time to bring those things back.

Some people tell you make more money, others say try this. Some succeed how? After years of closed doors what do you do? Well don't give up and realize the numbers facing this are huge. The other day the Squawker had the blessing in the form of a lady saying this straight to her face, "A lot of people are suffering right now!", and right then they were able to talk about it.

The feelings of shame, guilt, fear, anger, among the endless demands you can't meet and endless feelings of the lost of control are dangerous to one's physical and spiritual well-being. What are some ways, one can circumvent these things? The Squawker prays about them and is reminded that treasures are built in heaven. The Reckoner states that you can't control what other people do, good, bad or indifferent.

The Squawker, is in what she calls "the deer in the headlights" mode. And that is exactly what it is like. When you see groceries grow short in the fridge, and the money isn't covering the basics anymore, you feel the fear. Sometimes the fear gets you to start unloading possessions, throw up a few more things on eBay to have groceries next week.  Sometimes the fear has you wanting to hide in your bed under the covers. At times you pray and are comforted. But a lot of the time as far as this world goes you feel like you are being told to empty the entire ocean with just a bucket.

If you are facing this too, don't be afraid to talk about it. That is what we need is more people who break the taboo of silence regarding money problems. Why not talk about what it is like? Why not ask questions? Why not at least no longer feel so alone? Way too many people feel like they are "the only one" and the system that be forces that.

---The Squawker

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Prices Shoot Up, Wages Drop

$5 gas, 50-cent Postage Stamps

And it doesn't feel like this is the finish line. People get used to anything -- take a look at the price of a cocktail in a big-city restaurant, or a ticket to a major-league baseball game. Outlandish turns into commonplace.
Yet some things -- gas, stamps -- don't qualify as optional, discretionary purchases; people need them when they need them, which is where the frustration comes in. The one-two punch of $5 gas and 50-cent stamps has such powerful symbolism precisely because those two products matter so much to so many people.
And if the day should ever come when Americans look back on the five-buck gallon and the half-buck postage stamp with the same wistful longing that older Americans today feel for the 31-cent gallon and the 3-cent stamp...
Well, that doesn't seem possible.
But, then, neither did this.

Strange article, acting as if this is normal, no it's not, as wages used to go up along with the prices but no longer do. And there is the difference.

When grandpa bought that 10 cent loaf of bread, his wages matched and so forth and so on up the scale.

But what happens when the wages and salaries stay stagnant or are non-existent? --The Squawker