This originally appeared on ProPublica.
This story was co-published with NPR.
any American family living paycheck to paycheck, Conrad Goetzinger and
Cassandra Rose hope that if they make the right choices, their
$13-an-hour jobs will keep the lights on, put food in the fridge and gas
in the car.
But every two weeks, the Omaha, Neb. couple is
reminded of a choice they didn’t make and can’t change: A chunk of both
of their paychecks disappears before they see it, seized to pay off old
The seizures are the latest tactic of debt collectors who
have tracked the couple for years, twice scooping every penny out of
Goetzinger’s bank account and even attempting to seize his personal
property. For Goetzinger, 29, they’re the bewildering consequences of a
laptop loan he didn’t pay off after high school; for Rose, 33, a painful
reminder of more than $20,000 in medical bills racked up while
uninsured. The garnishments, totaling about $760 each month, comprise
the single largest expense in the budget.
“I honestly dread
paydays,” said Goetzinger. “Because I know it’s gone by Saturday
afternoon, by the time we go grocery shopping.”
Across the country, millions of other workers face a similar struggle:
how to live when a large fraction of their paycheck is diverted for a
consumer debt, as ProPublica and NPR reported Monday. The highest rates
of garnishment are among workers who, like Rose and Goetzinger, earn
between $25,000 and $40,000, but the numbers are nearly as high for
those who earn even less, according to a new study by ADP, the nation’s largest payroll services provider.
who fall into this system find their futures determined by laws that
consumer advocates say are outdated, overly punitive and out of touch
with the financial reality faced by many Americans.
This is a fine illustration of how people are valued by the economy and society. It's not about how you can contribute to and improve on society, but about how much money you can pay over to various service and product suppliers. In a world where a living wage is not guaranteed, actions such as the one above only further exemplify the absolute lack of regard people have for each other. I was going to say that it's the system that is lacking in regard, but in truth the system was and continues to be created by people - to blame the system would only further separate the reality from the picture that is presented.
About the only good that could come from the continuously deteriorating state of the world is that people are going to start getting fed up pretty soon. Unfortunately because it is unfolding more in a way where people are bottling up all their feelings until they reach breaking point, it is quite likely that we will experience some kind of revolution which will probably be violent. Violence never solves anything, it only fosters more negative feelings between people and gives people more reasons to disassociate from each other.
The best way forward would be in a calm, rational manner in which every voice is heard and considered within the consideration of what would be the best possible outcome for everyone. The problem is that the average Jane and Joe do not always think rationally, nor do they think with foresight. Consider violent protests happening recently in places like the UK - you think that people are rational creatures until you find yourself in the middle of a mob - rationality flies out the window and emotion takes over.
Things have to change, that is for sure. The only uncertainty is how this change will come about - will it happen with violence or with common sense?