That’s an over-simplification for simple-minded fools, credit-shackled middle class residents who think they are somehow superior to the poor because they can be in debt for houses and assets worth ten times their annual income or more.

This isn’t a sob story.  This is real life.  I own all of it and acknowledge that MY situation was better than a lot of other people struggling day to day and paycheck to paycheck.

In the 1990s, I worked a full time job that had shitty health insurance options. This was because it targeted employment to young, single people who cared more about money in pocket than their health. I know this because I was a manager and lost good, mature workers for that specific reason. They were mortified that they paid a large percentage of their wages on insurance and STILL had a high co-pay and limited options.

This is called “ACCESS” to health case. Technically, you have the ability to be covered but the company that controls those decisions has done such a cheap and poor job that major illnesses and injuries may as well not be covered.  It’s the kind of half-assed truth that Congress uses to claim that they’ve done something while the reality proves otherwise.  I can have “access” to a water fountain, but if I have to swipe a credit card to run the water for ten seconds,  how many people will go without?

Many years later, my stepson would have an accident that required the negotiation of FOUR insurance companies which battled over who would pay for what in a bill that ultimately crossed into seven figures.  Without insurance (or multiple coverage) the question asked of us wouldn’t be so simple as “health care or cell phone” but “how much is his life worth to you?  How much is his brain function? Ability to walk?”

Are those options available on the iPhone 8?

But back to my younger life:

I was content with my employment because I needed a paycheck more than great health insurance and because my son was covered by other plans. It was more important for me to make rent, day care, child support, utilities, student loan payments, car maintenance and insurance, and food which were real bills at the time. I didn’t choose between health care and an iPhone. I still had to juggle bills. I still had to make payment arrangements with utilities to avoid shut-offs. I STILL had to buy cheap, processed food instead of fresh. I couldn’t afford reliable transportation to get to work, much less a decent set of wheels.

Hell, at one point my co-pay was $50 and Amoxicillin set me back $25. Bronchitis also cost me three days work for a total of $350, give or take.

And if you think a work site accident and worker’s comp is just an ATM transaction to complete, you’re sadly mistaken.

When the only vehicle you can afford is ten years old, inspection time can be a financial nightmare.  A blown tire is bad enough.  But a simple fix to a problem “deep inside the engine” can cost more than the car’s value and put you on a bus schedule for an extended period.  That’s fine if you don’t need to get your kids to day care on one side of town before heading to work on the other.

While the rich and poor pay the same for a loaf of bread and a gallon of gas, the more expensive operating expenses of life cost more to the poor than the rich. Per square foot, it is more expensive to rent than own a home. It is more expensive to finance a car, maintain it, or manage a credit account.  Check out those small car dealers downtown.  Sometimes they don’t advertise the price of the car, they advertise that their 10 year-old Chevy is ONLY $2,500 DOWN on a $5,000 ride worth just south of $3,000.

I spent more on things because of bad credit. (A $600 couch retail is $1100 rent-to-own) I was denied access to better, cheaper housing because of my payment history. When I finally rebuild my credit to qualify for an unsecured card IN THIS CENTURY I paid loan shark interest rates just to prove myself worthy of having a credit life raft for future emergencies. For a long time I resented being punished for “harming” billion dollar corporations while trying to do the right thing for myself and my family — ALL WHILE BEING EMPLOYED FULL TIME.

Oh, the day I deposited a five-figure 401K payout (six years invested) I took to cover my unemployment was the only day I ever had a bank manager smile and welcome me to their institution. She was unaware that she already knew me as a very angry customer who – months earlier – practically begged her to restore $750 stolen from my checking account before rent and day care checks hit and not make me ask my family for loans to cover the week it would take them to restore the funds to my account.

A lot of people in this country are broke on the same day they’re paid, not because of their digital addictions, but because the system takes as much as it can based on what higher, two income families can afford. I fought my way out of it with the help of generous friends and family. But there were bad times in the past ten years that had nothing to do with making bad decisions between necessities and luxuries.

Take it from someone who stood on the outside of a young man’s battle with a catastrophic, yet all-too-common injury that cost more than a million dollars to treat. There is no “monthly payment arrangement” that works in such a situation. Where insurance doesn’t cover the weeks of surgery, ICU care, and rehabilitation, there is only debt. Where insurance stops, so too does the “cosmetic” and “elective” treatments designed to make a person whole again. Without insurance you’ll lose a metric shit-ton more than just a god damned cell phone. You can lose your life, the life of a loved one, and/or destroy your financial future.

Anyone who thinks the choice between a NEED and a WANT is why the poor are poor has a crippling lack of understanding about the realities of living in America where life is based on the acquisition of STUFF and feeding the all-powerful corporations that make it.