The irony is that the programs meant to help us some times hold us back, and brings so much pain. Naturally an independent woman, my mom doesn't like to take anything for granted. Yet, reality hits home pretty hard: we need this unemployment money, and we need this government health-insurance, and I need my Pell/Cal Grants. As an immigrant family, it is a blessing that we have Medi-cal, because we can get routine checkups (preventing a fire is better than putting it out later). Reality is, most people on welfare are truly in need of such programs.
Reality is, in a dog-eats-dog world (conservative America), my near 60-yr old parents, who speak broken Engilsh, cannot compete with a slightly younger 40 year old person. But you say, in this dog-eats-dog world, sometimes we have a little sympathy, and it translate to things like Medi-cal, to protect the lowest of low, us. Isnt that enough? In these rainy days, when universities raise fees, they will give some umbrellas to "protect" the poorest of all, isnt that enough?
No, because it is short-sighted. The system is failing.
Whenever we make slightly more than the amount of income we have right now, my mom would worry. She worries that having more than 1000 dollars in savings would translate to us losing Medi-cal, losing Section 8 housing. To make it clear, we make roughly 15,000 dollars a year. The so-called protection for the poor, is a really thin shirt. The incentive to gradually move up the ladder? Also very weak.
Want to work an extra hour, or get a raise? ...What if we lose Medi-cal?
Our current conservative system with some liberal sweets just doesn't reward hard-work, especially not manual hard work. It is no wonder then, that the immigrant, Southeast Asian and Vietnamese community try to break into the medical field, engineering, science. It is because of the incentive of the "income jump" that may put us far enough ahead of the poverty line, so that we may be able to sustain ourselves. Otherwise, the extra effort put into making money may actually set us back on standard of living. Ironic.
People love to think they're in the middle class, and that there's only a small number of people who need society's helping hand. But this is UNTRUE, as the measurement of the poverty line is out of date. Sympathetic for the unfortunate, coupled with conservative mindset, we are destroying democracy. Because we can be a compassionate society, we would like to help those who are disadvantaged, at no fault of their own. But because we believe that only a small amount of people ACTUALLY need help, because we allow free-market mambo jumbo control our beliefs, we allow corporate tax loopholes, thinking that the middle class should and can take the burden. This burden contributes to the lack of incentive for working immigrant family to move slightly and slowly up the ladder. The system discourages political involvement in Asian/Vietnamese communities.
There is little need for unionization, because you'll lose your benefits, as soon as you get that raise. There's no short-term benefit in organizing, because it doesnt reward enough. Because of the lack of organizing, we lose even further to free-market crazies, and put our community further into its hole.
Once we are the lucky ones, once my sister is a pharmacist, and once I find a decent job, our annual family income will be well above $100,000 line. At this point, we may be foolish enough to think that supporting a Republican free-marketeer is a good idea. It isn't. Our children may not understand poverty, and may not care for the poor, and my family may even forget about the past, to embrace the faux good life. But it isn't smart.
Without giving incentives for the poorest to work hard, without giving everyone a fair chance at education, without access for the lower-middle class, we will breed a broken public system, and our neediest class will be bloated.
Then comes the choice, should we help the poor at our own expenses, or should we just abandon them? Without a strong strong middle class, a strong working class we won't be able to afford it. Without earlier organizing, our Asian community may not be smart enough to work collectively. Individualistic thinking will drive us to abandon the poor, or give them pity charity money.
The result? A still apolitical/ conservative Asian community, a bloated "untouchable" class, and the failure of democracy that resembles the 1920s. Charity, safety net protections will be gone. state government bankrupted.
Today, we must understand that charity, safety net "shirts" arent good enough. We need better ladders.
A privatized university system that takes in token poor students isn't good enough. Democracy deserves better. Its citizens deserves better ladders for success.
This is why I think twice before giving up on politics. Vision tells me, that in order for us to not see a world we hate, we need to organize today.