Thursday, April 07, 2005


I have things in my life that are chock full of contradictions. I'm sure we all do. One of mine is my religion - Catholic. I consider myself a Catholic yet find I disagree with various elements of Church doctrine. So am I really a Catholic if that's the case? This morning highlighted another contradiction: perks for low-income families vs. my personal views/values. Let me explain: We are a student family living on savings, loans and part-time income. Yet we have assets we accumlulated in our pre-student days (i.e. we own our home, own our cars, have investment property, retirement accounts, etc.) So if you look ONLY at our income, we are poor and could qualify for a host of programs/benefits. But if you look at the big picture, those perks don't apply to us. A lot depends on how you define "income". We could qualify for WIC (Women-Infant-Children) for groceries, but feel it would be wrong of us to do so because we don't need it and don't want to be taking resources from those who truly do. Yet (and here's where I totally contradict myself) we ARE taking advantage of a couple of programs offered by our local utility for low-income families.

We recently go all new thermastats installed thoughout our house. We have a crazy heating system called ceiling radiant heat and therefore each room is separately controlled by it's own thermastat - zonal heat. From the ceiling. Because heat rises and some jackass thougth it would be really fun to put the source of the heat in the ceiling. A large portion of the homes built in this town in the 60's and 70's have this ass-backwards heating system. Whatever. I digress. The utility company came in and installed new digital thermastats in every room in our house. For free. It would have run us almost $500 had we done this ourselves. And we qualify for free new windows as well. We've been on the waiting list for about 18 mos and finally it's happening. The guy was just out here this morning to measure for the windows. We'll have brand new, thermal, energy-efficient, custom windows within 3 months. Did I mention they're FREE to us?? It's going to add thousands of dollars in equity in our home, and since we're going to be selling it and moving at the end of summer/early fall, this is quite the windfall and will make our home even more attractive to potential buyers. But I can't help but wonder why I'm OK taking advantage of this low-income program and not another. It doesn't make sense to me. Is it because I attach some sort of judgement or stigma to families who receive food stamps? Is it because the weatherization program adds value and will benefit not only us but those who live here after us? I'm not sure what the difference is, but somehow there is a difference. It's contradictory, I admit.

Sidenote rant: There aren't many families in law school. But I know of one family in particular who DOES accept WIC and it makes me crazy. I view law school as totally optional and voluntary. To attend you already have a college degree - it's not like vocational school. You have the ability to earn a decent living prior to law school. So to choose to go to law school and then need food stamps to feed your kids pisses me off. Either don't go to school if you can't afford it, or don't have kids until you are finished and can afford to feed them without public assistance. I don't see WIC as a program designed for the people who have voluntarily choosen to put themselves and their families in near-poverty. Law school and student life is a choice, not a circumstance. On the same note, I know another family (not students) who have two young kids. She's a full-time SAHM, he works, they own their home. Their life is what it is - they're not in the midst of a transition or anything. They get WIC because he doesn't earn much money and they technically qualify. Ok, I'm fine with that. She used to work but decided to stay home when they had their 2nd child. But now they're actively trying to have another baby. This makes me crazy! If you already require public assistance to feed your family, be done having kids until you're able to fully support your family yourselves! Is it just me who gets driven crazy by people like this??! Or my neighbors, who lovingly adopted their youngest daughter from foster care, and will receive WIC for her for years to come. Even though they don't qualify otherwise, the state provides WIC for this girl - just the girl - despite the fact that she was legally adopted and is no longer part of the foster care system. And this family accepts the WIC!! Of course, this same family declared bankruptcy last fall even though he's a tax CPA (yeah, makes you confident of his financial planning ability, doesn't it?), but got to keep their big house, their cars, everything. He'd lost his job and they'd been saddled with a huge, accumulated debt of medical bills (100's each month in prescriptions), and past credit card debt from living large. But yet in the aftermath of the bankruptcy they now drive two new cars (worked a deal where they turned in 2 paid-for vehicles and one still with payments for 2 new cars that have the same amount of pymt for both they'd been paying for the one.) You filed BANKRUPTCY, people! Now you're taking on more debt?? They installed new Pergo-like floors, got new furniture, painted the whole interior of the house, got a new screen door and two new garage doors, etc. All in the aftermath of the bankruptcy. The only difference is that their kids no longer attend private school and go to the local public school instead. She doesn't work and he WOULDN'T LET HER, despite being in such dire financial straits that they were filing for bankruptcy. Where is the logic??! Now people like me end up paying for the actions of people like that - who walk away from their financial obligations without any sort of sting to the lifestyle that got them to that place originally. Who get WIC from the state but drive new cars and live in a huge house with a pool. I just don't get it. Talk about contradictions!!

Whew! Guess I woke up on the cranky side of the bed this morning, huh? Maybe another cup of coffee will calm me down and un-frazzle me. Perhaps I'm having a hard time with all these contradictions and personal opinions because, at the end of the day, we are just as guilty as these other people who make me so crazy are, and I find that unnerving.

Welcome, MP! :-)
I am visiting your blog on Kelly's reccommendation. To my surprise, you must not live too far away from where I live (translation: same state). I used to live in Eugene, and recently moved to Sandy, OR. I am also pursuing my M.Ed at PSU, so there's another thing we have in common. I will add you to my ever-expanding list of blog reads.
Wow, I so could have written that entry.

A lot of our friends/neighbors are in the situations you mentioned.

What REALLY pisses me off is when people INTENTIONALLY get pregnant, knowing that they'll qualify for Medicaid. Yet because we were responsible, and waited till we had insurance, we don't qualify, DESPITE over $10,000 in medical bills from my pregnancy and Brody's NICU stays.

ARGH! Don't even get me started.
Oh, and PS- I think it's great you got the thermostats and are getting new windows. You've paid for them with taxes! :)
I could go on and on all day about people who abuse the system, it makes me MAD CRAZY, especially when my family members do it. Here Kevin and I are, both college educated, working our asses off, and barely getting by in a small old house yadda yadda yadda!
You guys DO deserve the windows!
Loving your blog, keep the great entries coming!
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