The thread about the death penalty led to a comment by Lissa on the healthcare offered to prisoners, which is supposed to be equal to that received “on the streets.” Instead of hijacking further, I thought I’d continue my thoughts here.
Some background: I make around $800/month at a full time job, not a living wage by most people’s standards, and I have to scrimp a lot to live on it. I have no health insurance. Because of a variety of mental and physical problems (I would probably qualify to be on state disability if I found the right doctors and lawyers and could afford the process, and wanted to do that), I will probably never make much above minimum wage, or have a job I will find fulfilling. I am certainly happier when I am not working at an office, which some people might think is lazy but I do have my own projects to work on (I’m a fiction writer) so it’s not like I am fulfilled by sitting around and watching TV all day. My job (data entry) is incredibly boring and nerve wracking and tough on my physical health (RSI issues conflated with arthritis in my wrists), and I would certainly be better off without it. So tell me, considering that I have no healthcare and a lower standard of living (both income-wise and time-wise… I could use the time I am working at the office to work on my writing and other projects) than people on SSI or even some people in jail, why should I continue working?
I don’t think we should deny prisoners healthcare or a decent standard of living, and I don’t think we should deny SSI/Medicare to truly disabled people. I just want to know what my incentive is for working a crap job when I will probably never rise above crap wages or be treated to anything but crap benefits. Opponents of national healthcare say that giving it to everyone creates less incentive to work, but I would think just the opposite–right now, I have no incentive to work aside from a perverse sense of “honor” and the fact that my family would kill me if I went to jail or went on SSI. My standard of living would be higher on SSI, surely, and it might even be better at a cushy minimum security prison, where I could at least see a doctor, something I haven’t been able to do in three years. My mental and physical health would certainly improve. Right now, I feel like a sucker for working when people who are way better off than me health-wise don’t have to and live a better life than I do. I feel I am being taken advantage of by the system, that they are forcing me to strain myself to my absolute limit just to make a worse wage than I would be if I didn’t strain myself at all.
We give healthcare and a decent standard of living to our poorest and most downtrodden, because they couldn’t get it otherwise. But what about the next poorest and next downtrodden? Why should I be denied healthcare and high wages (higher than those received by non-workers) because I work and obey the law? Where is my incentive to work?