Posted by: Tina M | 28 March , 2010

Too much and too little: our mental and monetary economy

I have been busy juggling too many commitments lately.  I work full time for a job that drains me physically and emotionally since we’ve been recovering from a financial crisis for the last 2 years and there’s no real end in sight. I recently began volunteering for a syringe exchange program and am currently participating in a 8 day long training that takes place over 4 weekends. I am serving on a planning committee for another organization. Planning my very queer wedding. And trying to stay healthy, happy, and sane in my relationships with others and myself.

This is a big job, and as I found myself explaining to someone for the 6th or 7th time this weekend of why I was running late, or why I’m so flabbergasted, I began to wonder why I was setting myself up for failure by overscheduling myself to the point of exhaustion and create situations where I would not have enough time or energy to do any of these pieces to the best of my ability. And the question came up, does it even matter? Should I even try? Is it better to show up late and be less than 100% or to stay away and take care of myself? The difficult reality is that often times spending time with others (while it can be stressful to the anti-social side of myself) is also a self-care technique. It’s important that I engage with members of my community and my family and stay connected with the rest of the world. In the end, there’s just too much to do and not enough time to do it. Too much and too little.  A scarcity of resource and an abundance of need.

This is also reflected in levels of participation and burnout happening across the board in the not-for-profit sector. The increased cuts to public funding have created smaller and smaller ponds that we’re all fishing from to stay alive. Because of this, those of us that are lucky enough to keep our jobs are taking on the work of 2 or 3 positions. This is leading to an emotional bankruptcy where we keep taking and taking from our reserves that eventually we completely dry up. What’s scary as that in times like these we need to just get through them, but what are we getting through when it just looks like it’s getting worse and worse?

One of the topics that we discussed in my Needle Exchange training is how foundations work and how we’re ultimately getting fucked by rich people. A figure was quoted that “In 1979, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans had just under half the after tax income of the poorest 40% of Americans. In 2000, the richest 1 percent of Americans had more money to spend after taxes than the bottom 40%”

I find myself constantly forgetting how intense the wage gap is within the United States. I can’t imagine having millions or billions of dollars, and their reality seems so distant from my own that I didn’t necessarily understand how tax breaks and classist tax laws really affected everyone else in the world and even myself.

That’s when I found about Foundations. If you have over $2 million dollars when you die, tax laws require 50% of that money be paid to the government in taxes. The other option you have is to establish a Foundation. So for instance if I die and create a FatFeminist Foundation, I get to keep my money in the bank, make interest off of it, and have to give 5% of the profits to charities or not-for-profits. Not only has the $1,000,000 been reduced to $50,000, but that money can also be used to pay for the foundation trustees (often family or friends of the deceased) and other expenses to run the foundation. (loose paraphrasing from “The Revolution will not be Funded: Democratizing American Philanthropy” )

A tax law enacted to help equalize the distribution of wealth and fund social services has been manipulated to redirect funds to maintain the wealth of the hugely wealthy and avoid making it’s way to public access or control.

When I began to see the connection between no funding-  –  -> Increased job stress, workload, burnout – – -> Lack of time to take care of myself and my community. . . well frankly, I’m pissed.

Too much and too little. It’s a tension we’ve had because capitalism pits one against another and gives more rights to the “corporate entity” that is free from humanity, than many of it’s citizens. How are we all still buying into the idea that if we only work hard enough, it will all pay off?

I’m definitely struggling with trying to dismantle the system that I know to be problematic and unhealthy while working within that system to survive. I guess, sometimes it’s just about survival.

I will continue to spend my time and my money on things that I believe in, and hopefully I won’t go broke.


Responses

  1. A very thoughtful piece. A point to keep in mind: The staggering maldistribution of income and wealth we have today in the United States nurtures both the shell games foundations play and the social problems that the noblest foundations say they’re addressing.

    For an incredibly insightful look at how inequality is literally killing us, take a look at this new report released last week, “The impact of income inequalities on sustainable development in London.”

    Don’t be put off by the title. This is a must-read for folks everywhere. The link: http://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/node/331


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