We have to explore the why behind the anger that led to the rioting in Baltimore to prevent it from happening again.
I look at so many things through a prism of personal finance. Money does make the world go around, and the lack of it can make your world very difficult, confining and hopeless. Given what’s happening in Baltimore and other underserved neighborhoods, many are asking: Where is the money going?
Writing for the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates says it’s going to a place it shouldn’t.
Coates’s article cites a Baltimore Sun investigation that reported: “Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations” by Baltimore police. “Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson. . . . And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all.”
Here’s the point of pointing out the results of the investigation: “The $5.7 million in taxpayer funds paid out since January 2011 would cover the price of a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds. And that doesn’t count the $5.8 million spent by the city on legal fees to defend these claims brought against police,” the Sun’s report said.
What if more had been done to address the poverty in the neighborhoods at the center of the crisis in Baltimore?
“It was only a matter of time before Baltimore exploded,” wrote The Washington Post’s Michael A. Fletcher, a longtime Baltimore resident. The city, Fletcher wrote, “has been a combustible mix of poverty, crime and hopelessness, uncomfortably juxtaposed against rich history, friendly people, venerable institutions and pockets of old-money affluence.”
The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is large. Consider this, Fletcher writes: “More than half of the neighborhood’s households earned less than $25,000 a year.”
Or there’s this from Post columnist Lonnae O’Neal: “Raise your hand if you knew that half the residents of Freddie Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood on the city’s west side were unemployed or that one-third of the homes were vacant.”
O’Neal continues: “Some of the most privileged among us train our high-powered gazes inward only. Raise your hand if you know what happened to the Wall Street types who broke into the American economy, exploited every financial loophole, melted down mortgages, made off with people’s retirement funds, leaving taxpayers to bail them out in 2008. Question: Do those billions constitute opportunistic looting?”
“We as a country have to do some soul-searching,” stop feigning interest and do the hard work needed to lift up these poor communities, President Obama said during a news conference this week, Greg Robb, senior economics reporter for MarketWatch reported.
And before you poise your pen or fingers over a keyboard to vent about how much we already spend on helping the poor, consider this: What’s happening in Baltimore is a problem we all share. We can pay now or pay later.
I’m so sorry I won’t be available today to take your questions, but I’m back next week. If you missed last week’s chat, catch up by reading the transcript. We had a great discussion about college selection. My guest was Frank Bruni, a New York Times op-ed columnist and the author of April’s Color of Money Book Club selection, “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania.”
Here’s the link for that chat.
I love it when readers give me feedback, as many of you did on a movement to get a woman’s image on the $20 bill.
Jim DeLozier of Silver Spring, Md., wrote: “Great idea whose time has come. I would suggest printing a series of different 20s, something like was done with states on the quarter. Print a series of 20s using several different women in succession. Many are deserving of this honor, so why limit it to one?”
Love that idea.
“I couldn’t care less whose face is on the twenty-dollar bill as long as I have a few in my pocket,” wrote Kathryn M. Weber of Annapolis, Md. “There are much more valuable purposes for the time and effort spent on this non-issue.”
But Melissa Ferguson of Silver Spring, Md., believes in the cause. She wrote: “When I saw the opportunity on Facebook to vote for a woman on the twenty-dollar bill, I thought, ‘It’s about time!’ Most industrialized countries of the world have a woman on at least one form of paper currency. Why shouldn’t we? We need increased awareness of the achievements and lasting contributions women have made to our society. Updating the twenty-dollar bill to include a woman’s image is an excellent complementary effort in the fight for livable wages and increased representation of women in government, including the office of the president. Representation on money is a tangible, daily reminder of women’s value in our collective consciousness.”
Last week, I talked about a pet owner who was concerned about the cost of care for his cat. For the Color of Money Question of the Week, I asked: Would you take out a credit card specifically to pay for veterinarian care for your cat? Would you go into debt for your dog?
One study found that vets who offer pet owners a chance to charge the cost of their pet’s care see a 17.2 percent jump in revenue each year, Peter Fenton recently wrote for PostEverything.
Here’s what some of you had to say about credit cards pitched to pet owners.
“I do not see the difference with paying for vet bills with a credit card and paying for other bills with a credit card,” wrote Jeanne Benick of Bloomington, Minn. “I would be more concerned with a vet clinic overselling services that your pet doesn’t need and/or prolonging the life of a pet just to make a profit — for example, dialysis for your 12-year-old golden retriever with chronic liver disease who probably has a month to live. I believe in quality of life.”
Carol Rasoul of Plain City, Ohio, wrote: I, too, have faced thousands in vet bills. Luckily we could pay. I now urge everyone to buy a reasonable health insurance policy on your pet. My policy has more than paid for itself. Be sure to shop around, as there are many different options available today.”
“I love my dog to pieces, but if my vet tried to prey on my feelings in such a way, I’d change vets,” wrote Tom Williams of Seattle.
Candis Stern of Las Cruces, N.M.: “I would use one of my current cards. I pay off the card in full every month. If I didn’t have one, I would try to work out payments with the vet. And if my vet pitched a high-interest card to me, I would definitely change vets. I think any vet who would do this is a person who puts money before his patients/clients. Having said that, I don’t think most vets would do this.”
“I’m at a loss to explain the willingness of people to put themselves into debt to save a pet,” wrote Earl Roethke of Minneapolis. “I think people make a mistake when they anthropomorphize pets. They are not furry little people, but animals that think like animals.”
Readers may write to Michelle Singletary at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read previous Color of Money columns, go to wapo.st/michelle-singletary.