Linda Tirado & Why It Costs Money To Save Money

I dreamed a dream of not being poorThere’s a pretty devastating snippet from Linda Tirado’s new book, Hand to Mouth, available to read on Slate today:

It’s amazing what things that are absolute crises for me are simple annoyances for people with money. Anything can make you lose your apartment, because any unexpected problem that pops up, like they do, can set off that Rube Goldberg device. …

Because our lives seem so unstable, poor people are often seen as being basically incompetent at managing their lives. That is, it’s assumed that we’re not unstable because we’re poor, we’re poor because we’re unstable. So let’s just talk about how impossible it is to keep your life from spiraling out of control when you have no financial cushion whatsoever. And let’s also talk about the ways in which money advice is geared only toward people who actually have money in the first place. …

It’s impossible to win, unless you are very lucky. For you to start to do better, something has to go right—and stay that way for long enough for you to get on your feet.

If the name Tirado rings a bell, it’s perhaps because you remember the shitstorm that followed Tirado’s first blog post for Gawker about being poor in America. She was a married mother of two in Utah with bad teeth when her essay went viral; she got a book deal, and then, with the inevitability of nightfall, came the backlash. She wasn’t really poor / poor enough / why did she make such bad decisions anyway 

the internet’s fever-swamp vitriol poured on Tirado—most of it right-wing, much of it encapsulated in the National Review’s claim that this alleged fabrication by a “private-school-educated Democratic activist” invalidates the entire liberal mindset on poverty and how to combat it.

(The piece is called “The Left Falls For a Revealing Poverty Hoax,” and in it, Harvard-trained randsplainer David French lazily misrepresents Tirado as a purveyor of lies to make his point about the stupidity of progressive compassion for the poor—”We don’t serve and strive to help the poor because they’re victims of circumstance but because such service echoes the love that Christ showed for us.”)

Here are the “poverty thoughts” that initially got Tirado noticed, in case you want to judge for yourself. Here’s a more robust defense of her. And here’s an interesting interview with her at the Guardian.

In your book you say the rich are afraid of the poor. Do you think fear played a part in the media’s treatment of you?
In America we have this myth that if you deserve it, you will have it. We’re afraid to look at our downtrodden because it undercuts that myth. There is a fear of the poor that is uniquely American. It’s especially hard to look at someone who could be one of their kids – someone like me who’s white and intelligent – and see them as poor. When the crash happened, there was a panic among the rich because suddenly wealth wasn’t only to do with how hard you’d worked. It could be taken away! They got really fearful. So much of Americans’ self-image is based on what we own and how we present ourselves.

Back to the excerpt from her book, though, which the Toronto Star calls “tough but necessary reading.” From what I call tell, they’re right. Read the whole excerpt; it’s worth it. And maybe we can discuss the book in the new year.

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