Less than a week ago, someone stole my credit card number and details, I still don’t know how. Large charges immediately drained that account. It just so happened that we discovered it right away before we were overdrawn and that account began pulling money out of savings. We congratulated ourselves on our vigilance and quick action. Our credit union assured us that the card was canceled and we would be made whole.
That should have been the end of the story, but I became curious. Who did this? I could see everything they bought, but at first glance the abbreviations didn’t make any sense. I figured it was a pro fraudster and these abbreviations, such as “carters 85” were some kind of vehicle for laundering the money. After only an hour of sleuthing, however, I realized that this was not the work of the mythical Russian hacker. This was a family.
Indeed, I know quite a lot about this family: they are a young couple with young children—one of them a baby—living in Jacksonville, Florida. They have terrible credit and they are behind in their car payments. She probably worked in a salon pre-Covid, and is now trying to make ends meet by working out of her home—she bought $500 worth of product. He must really need the car for work because paying that car payment was the first thing they did. I could read my bank statement like a journal: They made the car payment and then nothing for four long days. I could almost hear them holding their breath as they waited for it to go through. As soon as it did, they racked up the other charges all within a day: new clothes for the kids, the product she needed for work, and then two cases of something from Target. I don’t know what it was, but the price point suggests baby formula.
These people are not out partying. These people are trying to survive. Although the car payment was approved by the internet based middleman, it had not yet cleared at my bank. This is good, right? Not for them. The car payment will not clear. They will lose the car and the job that depended on it. I laid awake that night thinking about the baby formula. On one hand I was worried that they ordered it via mail delivery and wouldn’t actually receive it. Even worse is the thought that, in order to avoid giving their home address, they paid for it online intending to pick it up at the store. Would they arrive at Target, the older kids clinging to the stroller, only to be arrested and the kids thrown into foster care? I know what you’re thinking and I thought it too: what if they’re Black? It will be that much worse for them in a state that hands out long prison terms like sticks of gum. I’m also guessing that in a low tax red state, the foster care system is neither gentle nor generously funded.
I’ll pay for the baby formula! We should pay for the baby formula, America. Even if you are only interested in the economics of the situation, it is much cheaper to pay for the baby formula than foster care for the baby—not to mention that the trauma to the children is real, lasting, and economically measurable. We should pay the car payment too—it’s cheaper than jail and more productive. What kind of nation are we that we allow a small handful of people to hoard hundreds of millions, billions, while hardworking people—people who actually work!—are driven to steal to survive?
What about the stimulus checks, you ask? First of all, I would like to point out how offensive it is to call them “stimulus.” The politicians are calling them “stimulus” to signal to the rich that the only worth these checks have is to stimulate the economy for the rich, to make them palatable to the rich. These checks should be called survival checks, help checks, we love and support you checks! This nation is a community of families, we should care for each other and help each other. This punitive, savagely Darwinian stance started with Reagan who became the Father of Homelessness when he abolished all help for the mentally ill and threw them out on the street, and then became the Father of Mass Incarceration with his racialized War on Drugs. This punitive attitude is a mental illness itself, and we need to cure ourselves of it.
The rich are pushing back against giving anyone a check at all, and certainly not as much as $1200. This family needed more than that to get themselves right—for now. The “stimulus” check this family will receive—if Congress actually passes it—won’t be enough, and it won’t be in time to save their car. The rich are howling about Elizabeth Warren’s obsequiously modest wealth tax of 6%. Back in the halcyon days of a robust, blue collar middle class of the late 1940s—the days Republicans pine for with their black and white rom coms and 96% employment—the Federal tax rate for the top bracket was 91%. You heard me, look it up yourself. These hoarding rich are not normal. Clearly, they are mentally ill. No one needs money like that. They need tough love and we should give it to them.
Yes, the problem is traceable to Citizens United, and yes, it’s about corruption. And yes, members of both parties are yoked to these chariots of wealth. We could talk all day about why, and how, and what to do about it.
Meanwhile, I’m really worried about this family.