expenses and expense accounts

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Eric Ravenscraft explains in no small detail why being poor is too expensive:

When you're broke, you can't do all the little things that will improve your budget over the long run. It actually costs more to be poor.

When you're poor, you can't buy your food in bulk, buy high quality stuff that will last, or own your own tech instead of renting. It costs money up front to save money over the long run. Worse yet, being poor often comes with hidden, intangible costs that make digging yourself out of poverty even harder.

Let's look at food, shall we? "According to research from the Harvard School of Public Health," he writes, "healthy meals cost an average of $1.50 more per day (or ~$45 per month) than unhealthy meals:"

When $1.50 a day can account for nearly 5% of your yearly salary, it's no surprise you choose the $1 soda over the $4 orange juice. Who the hell cares about "long-term health consequences" when you can barely pay rent? You know what has some serious "long-term health consequences"? Getting evicted. I'll pay rent today and worry about heart disease later.

When it came to transportation costs (like new brake pads), he reminisces that "Waiting was often my only option:"

Unlike buying healthy food, there were times I literally didn't have the money. Not "I have this money, but I shouldn't spend it." More like, the car repair is $145 and I have $12 in my account. And I still have to drive my car to work. There's no third option.

Dressing well, he continues, "is an awkward catch-22:"

No matter how many people advised against borrowing money when you're broke, I simply couldn't afford the clothing I needed to look presentable to an employer before getting the job I was applying for.

"Avoiding fees," in all sorts of ways, "is a life or death survival trait for low income households:"

This gets its own category because when you're poor, fees are everywhere. Fees for having a bank. Fees for not having a bank. Fees for paying late. Fees for paying with a certain type of card. Fees for not being able to pay a fee. A person can drown in the various fees that disproportionately hurt poor families. [...]

Banks may charge a ton of fees for using basic services like checking. A simple traffic ticket can spiral out of control, sometimes even leading to being arrested, plus more fees. Utilities may charge fees if you pay by debit card. If you can't get approval at a bank, payment schemes like pay cards can have charge you fees just to use your money. All these fees add up to huge pains that hurt a lot worse when you don't have money. Failing to pay those fees only leads to more fees, which means that, like most areas in life, it costs more to be poor.

"Sure," he admits, "you can make choices that lighten the load on yourself, but the margin of error is much thinner:"

Meanwhile, the amount of extra work you have to do just to break even is much higher. You could spend tens of hours each week trying to optimize every dime in your budget, just to have one mistake ruin you for a month.

Adam Johnson points out that this sort of precarity leaves the service class at the mercy of...well, just about everyone (but especially the upper crust). Johnson takes aim at Richard Cohen's piece in defense of tipping, which Johnson observes, "quickly devolves into a 50-shades of Grey-type description of how much he enjoys the asymmetrical power dynamics of tipping for their own sake:" Cohen, writes Johnson, "seems to be ignoring the creepy power dynamics at work and the compulsory performance his waitstaff is required to put on:"

How turning a dining experience into a Randian exercise in accountability and class power makes eating more enjoyable - to say nothing of more just - is never revealed. Richard Cohen doesn't want to get rid of tipping because it has any societal value, he doesn't want to get rid of it because, and I don't say this flippantly, the power game seems to slightly get him off. The whole description is him relishing his position as arbiter of how someone worth a fraction of his wealth is performing their grueling, thankless tasks. [...]

It's a strange impulse and one limited to the entirely detached, sociopathic, and/or wealthy. Waiters serve food for one reason: our capitalist overlords haven't invented a robot that can do it cheaper. Cohen is holding on to a classist, dated romantic vision of waiting tables that's far more about the waitstaff acting happy than being happy. A steady paycheck, health insurance, not having to grovel to every creepy geezer who walks in -- this is what waiters want.

Cohen declares, "I love tipping," but his reasoning is the very epitome of expense-account entitlement:

I am a healthy tipper (once a waiter, always a tipper) because this is my way of recognizing a good job. A healthy tip is like a pat on the back. [...] I like to reward, but occasionally I like to punish. Make my meal an ordeal, make me anxious about whether you got the order straight, and no 20 percent tip will come your way.

20% is healthy? In whose world?! Try 30%, you clueless elitist.

update (10/21 @ 8:52am):
Jezebel provides an even snarkier smackdown:

"Occasionally I like to punish." "OCCASIONALLY I LIKE TO PUNISH." Holy popesicles. I can't even really describe what happened to my body when I read that sentence other than that it looked something like this, except with more flailing:


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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 20, 2015 12:38 PM.

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