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Double-binds [Jul. 11th, 2009|09:45 am]
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The first time I clearly recognized a double-bind, I was a skinny (too skinny, my family physician said) teenager.  Over the long haul, the cause was impacted, infected wisdom teeth that gave me a near-constant low-grade fever, aching joints, and also destroyed my appetite (most things tasted bad) but that wasn't discovered for another few years.  Right then, my doctor was urging me to eat more and suggested having a malted milk with an egg in it when I came home from school every day, recommended two peanut-butter sandwiches instead of one, and so on.   Then I went to the dentist, who did not detect the subterranean dental infection but instead told me not to eat peanut butter, sweets, or drink things like malted milk. 

I said he should talk to my doctor, because I was supposed to eat peanut butter and drink malted milk...at least I recognized the double-bind--no matter what I did, it was going to be wrong.   That made me think about the other double-binds in a girl's life back then (and probably now, as well.)   

We girls were supposed to dress and act "feminine" and want boys and men to think of us a pretty and dainty and so on...but if we attracted male attention that went beyond what was considered desirable, it was our fault for "showing ourselves off."   Girls who didn't show themselves off were scolded, lectured, coached in how to be attractive and warned about the consequences of not caring, not trying....but also scolded if we guessed wrong about the results of our attempts.  And where I grew up, with a mix of cultures who did not at all agree on what the right limits were for girls (which meant, what limits their boys were supposed to respect, boys having, all agreed, no self-control beyond that point)  it was impossible to satisfy everyone.  A dress that one group considered the right level of feminine would be, to another, too revealing or too dowdy.  You couldn't win.

Another double-bind, familiar to mothers of sick children, is the one about when to see the doctor.   Many illnesses--both serious and trivial--start the same way.   The runny nose, the sore throat, the little cough, the bit of fever, the child who just doesn't feel good.   It might be a cold.  It might be something else.   If you take the child in early, you're told to go home and wait it out....if the fever doesn't go away after x-many hours or days, then come back.   If you don't take the child in early, and it turns out to be serious, some medical person (and if you're unlucky, CPS) will demand to know why you didn't bring the child in sooner.  (Because the last three times, when I did, you told me to go home and see if it got worse or lasted too long...)    On the one hand, you can be the silly, over-anxious mother over-using medical resources that the nurse or doctor can feel superior to, and on the other hand you can be the stupid, neglectful mother who should have brought your child in two days ago (when he had the runny nose, the slight fever, the sore throat just like all the previous ones...)  You can't win.   It is next to impossible to pick the exact right moment to bring in a four-year-old with sniffles, sore throat, and a fever, unless you have a doctor in the house.  

I was reminded of this recently when looking at the hurricane season and flu season recommendations for preparedness and remembering the scorn heaped on some who, in emergencies, are found not to be as prepared as their critics think they should have been.   Take for instance the matter of medicines.   People are urged to have extra medicines on hand, in case they can't refill them when they usually would, or are being evacuated and won't be near the pharmacy that has their records.   You find this recommendation on all the sites that talk about emergency preparedness. 

But many people are not allowed (by law, by their doctor, by an insurance company)  to stockpile even two weeks' worth of medication.   This is not even talking about narcotics...this is true of many if not most prescription drugs--for heart conditions, hypertension, diabetes, for any chronic condition.   They must finish up the bottle of pills they have, before they're allowed to have another...they must be completely out before they can get more...which means that they cannot be prepared, medically, for any interruption in service even though such interruptions are predictable in emergency situations.   And now, with so many people in financial distress through job loss, bankruptcy, etc.,  they cannot afford to buy an emergency backup supply on their own, even if a pharmacist would sell it to them.  

So they are subject to disapproval and denial of services for even wanting to follow preparedness recommendations, and then sneered at for not having followed them when they cannot comply.  They can't win.
The people who give out the preparedness advice can feel smug and justified in dumping on those who don't do what they're told...the people who deny drug refills that would give the user a cushion between refills can feel smug about preventing drug abuse or waste or whatever reason they have...and neither one wants to look at the whole situation.   Two smug people are unlikely to get together and realize they have no justification for feeling smugly superior to those whose lives they make harder.  (Smug is a comfortable feeling.)

Several times now we've been involved in helping out families displaced by big hurricanes.   It makes clear how close to the bone coastal families (we've dealt with ones from Louisiana and Texas) often live, and how little they may escape with.   I've heard about the inability to refill prescriptions, the difficulty of getting them filled outside the home county (especially for those on Medicaid, whose benefits are set state by state.)   How impossible it is for so many people to comply with the advice, and how conflicting advice is commoner than you might think.  

We love to make rules for other people.    It appears to be a common human trait, from the restrictions on women's dress set by various religions, to the restrictions on hair style for both genders (also often set by religions), to the rules set at all levels from homeowners' associations to Congress, from schools to insurance companies.   Even the people who claim to be against laws and rules have rules of their own, which they happily impose on others if they get a chance.   And since many such groups make rules, the rules do not agree, and many people--including some of us--are caught in these double-binds where it is impossible to follow all the rules. 

At least we can learn to recognize the double-binds and reveal them to the rule-makers...and have some compassion on those who are caught in them.


[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-07-11 09:05 pm (UTC)
A couple of lovelies from the welfare and related agencies.

First is back in the 70s, but I'm told this part of the rules is essentially the same.

I was trying to work thru the explanation of how they calculate your "food stamp income". First part was pretty straightforward.

Take monthly income after taxes, subtract medical expenses. That's your "adjusted income". Call it X.

Next was the odd part. You do some weird calculations (I had to sit down with a sheet of paper and treat them as an algebra problem, then simplify.

What the simplified form came down to was a shocker:

subtract the *allowable* rent and utilities (there were maximums for them) from 1.3 time your "adjusted income".

That was your foodstamp income. And to get full benefits, it had to be 0 or less.

Note that for it to be zero, your rent and allowable utilities hd o be 30% above your adjusted income!!! In other words, you had to be losing money, and not slowly!

The other one is more recent (mid 90s). Seems that on welfare (at least in this state) you are not allowed to have more than $50 is "resources". So technically, between the time you get the check and you pay your bills, you are in violation!

On top of that, if you are earning money and it's not a fixed X per week/month, you have to turn in copies of your pay stubs before you can get your check.

The catch is, they have to include the last day of the previous month. Which means it'll be several days to a couple of weeks before you can do it. Add in a few days for them to check and issue a check with the *gross* income deducted from the "normal" benefits.

Since folks trying to work their way out of welfare are apt to start out with part time jobs or irregular hours, this hits them several ways.

First, that delay means they'll be late on all their bills the month they start working. Second, they lose money because their benefits get reduced by their *gross* income, but all they get is the "after taxes" part. And I think there's another "gotcha", but it isn't coming to mind.

I seem to recall that several studies have shown that all they "make sure they don't cheat" measures cost more than the cheating they are intended to stop. (and don't get me started on the fact that much of this crap is just an excuse to rub people's faxes in just how "bad" they are to *need* help)
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[User Picture]From: jenrose1
2009-07-11 09:24 pm (UTC)
Oh god. Welfare. I was on it for 3 years from 1993-1996. Talk about gotchas.
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-07-11 09:49 pm (UTC)
And *attitude*.

The classic "you must be moral scum to need help" bit.
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[User Picture]From: ldsman
2009-07-13 09:49 am (UTC)
Or the social workers that tell people, "We could help you more if you were to get pregnant by a minority. We know you are a single mother with three kids and a father who doesn't pay child support, but you are white and we can't help you. But a mixed child would automatically double your food stamps." Pissed my mother off to no end. All she wanted was for them to stop taking the child support money out of the food stamps.
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-07-13 01:53 pm (UTC)
The suggesting a pregnancy ought to be grounds fotr getting the social worker *fired* . Talk about playing to stereotypes!

All she wanted was for them to stop taking the child support money out of the food stamps.

Alas, it's not that they were taking the child support out of the stamps. It's that the support counts as income anfd income reduces the stamps. Period.
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[User Picture]From: ldsman
2009-07-13 02:19 pm (UTC)
It was annoying. Food stamps buy food. The child support could have bought clothes or sent us to summer camp. Instead, it went to compensate the drop in food stamps every time he bothered to send something.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-07-13 11:11 pm (UTC)
Argh. The excessive concern to be certain the poor do not exceed a pittance--cannot save, cannot ever have a treat unless it's given by someone else, cannot have choices if that can be prevented...that's meanness.
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[User Picture]From: ldsman
2009-07-14 11:22 am (UTC)
At one point, we didn't qualify for Habitat for Humanity, too poor. My mother fought to get us better opportunities. She worked crappy jobs, second jobs. All of the rental properties we lived in were better when we moved out. Bug free, new and better paint jobs, improved yards, etc.
I can see why you would not want to make it pleasant to be poor. If the handouts exceed what you can get at a beginning job, why work? The current system is too easy for dishonest people to game and too hard for honest people to get temporary help.
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[User Picture]From: tracey_claybon
2009-08-12 03:10 am (UTC)
Of course - they really treat you badly when you are the minority... watching that happen over and over again is why I have avoided both welfare and food stamps like the plague whenever possible - when i qualified for them. I remember people looking at people of color like manure on their shoes for using foodstamps; my mom had to have it for a few months when I was little when she was a starving college student because she was a single and struggling mother, but she got off quickly.
Most minority mothers caught in the cycle NEVER get out of it, and it's humiliating to be treated that way and to watch it happen to others.

It's equally wrong what happened to your mother - the system was just as unfair to her.
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[User Picture]From: strigine
2009-07-11 09:48 pm (UTC)
God, yes. I was on SSDI for a few years. As is typical with most clients, it took roughly two years from when I applied to when I was approved, so I got a lump-sum payment going back to my initial application.

My father was thrilled, said great, you can save some of it, maybe put it towards a car or something.

Then we found out that if I had $xxx in assets in six months, I'd be uneligible again. We were stunned, he was indignant, and said, "They've basically set it up so that there's no way to get off it!" I knew from some college reading that the welfare systems really are set up to keep people down, but I think it was his first exposure to it.
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[User Picture]From: kengr
2009-07-11 09:53 pm (UTC)
I'm about halfway thru SSI waiting period (another year to go). Because I'm surviving by selling off the old gaming and computer stuff from my storage locker, I have too much in assetts to qualify for SSDI.

Even though the value is highly variable (ire depends on what folks on ebay are willing to pay the week I list something) and I *can't* realize the value in anything but small chunks, because it costs money to sell it!

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-07-13 11:14 pm (UTC)
It's stupid. There's a program now people can apply for that's part of a plan to get them off disability entirely--they can accumulate a little more than the allowed amount, to save up for tuition, that sort of thing, but it has to be approved ahead of time and the time-span's very limited.
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