MY we have taken a turn for the serious in these last entries. This has been incubating on the ol' hard drive for a few days. I guess it's time for it to leave the nest.
It turned out that Oregon didn’t get very many folks displaced by Katrina, but something I read in the paper has been lurking in the back of my mind and it finally worked its way out this week.
Some of the news articles that outlined the kind of help these folks would need included helping them open bank accounts. The more I think about it the more I believe this is an illustration of how the many in the rescue community have no idea what it’s like to be one of the working poor.
Many of the folks that didn’t get out of New Orleans couldn’t leave because they didn’t own cars. Ok, you’re low income, but you’ve got a job, maybe two jobs and you either work close to where you live, rely on public transportation, hitch rides with friends or all of the above. The neighborhood where you live probably isn’t one that banks would fall all over themselves to build branch offices in. Heck, they’d probably jib at loaning money to buy a house in the neighborhood in the first place. If it’s an old style suburb the idea of having a bank within walking distance wasn’t even on the drawing board. You can figure that it’s going to take twice as long to get anywhere if you have to take the bus. At least that’s how it works around here.
So, you’re working all the hours you can get, you’re trying to keep track of your kids, keep the house in some kind of order, rely on whatever stores are nearby for your shopping and so on. When are you going to find time to go to the bank? Even if you have a checking account, some of these areas don’t sound like places where you’d want to have your checks delivered by mail. And many of the stores that you can get to may not accept checks simply because they’ve been hit with too many bad checks.
There may be a generational influence here too. (there’s a phrase worth about $3.75) My grandparents came out the of the depression years. They didn’t really trust banks. Yes they had a bank account. But, when grandpa died we found a couple of thousand dollars in the house in fairly small bills. They weren’t putting all the eggs in one basket.
I don’t think the attitude is racial but it is rooted in class. Banks are part of the system and if you don’t really trust the system, there’s no incentive to trust it to take care of what little you’ve got. I read one family’s profile. The waters started to rise, they got the family members out of the apartment but it caught fire and they couldn’t get back in. Everything was lost including $2,000.00 in cash.
Heck, there’s no real incentive to put money in a straight savings account and that’s about all these people could afford on a good day. Most banks and credit unions I’m familiar with require a certain balance on your savings and checking accounts or you get hit with a service charge. I haven’t figured out why it takes more to maintian my accout if it has a balance of $999.99 instead of $1,000.01 but I get hit with a $5.00 service charge anyway.
You can’t get anything resembling decent interest unless you buy cd’s and you need at least a thousand to do that. If you do you can’t get to the money in a hurry and you take a hit on interest the minimal interest they do pay. So where’s the incentive for somebody who is working their ass off to trust a bank with their money. They sure aren’t going to believe them if the bank says they’ve got their best interest at heart. I know I sure as hell don’t.
8 hours ago