Marvin Zindler was a Houston news broadcaster in the 1980s and ’90s who viewers loved to hate, or maybe more accurately, “hated to love.”
He was a consumer champion of Houston’s poor. He was famous for concluding his commentary with a grating, ear-splitting moniker: “It’s hell to be poor!” (You can find him on YouTube videos.)
Back then, my young Baptist self was affronted with his on-air “profanity,” but I’ve come to learn that the poor of this nation live an existence too profane to express in words. This is especially true when the poor run afoul of the criminal justice system.
For instance, years ago I was a chaplain on the pediatric ward where a patient’s mother asked me if I could drive her to a vehicle impound yard.
She was in school, working and had two kids. She let her boyfriend drive her car to the hospital without a license, so police impounded the car. Her impound fees were $300 a day. Bad to worse, it was closing time on Friday. The couple lost their car because it wasn’t worth the cost of removing it from the impound.
Impound can be a license to steal from the poor. In fact, according to a Sacramento Bee story in 2014, that’s literally what police did in King City, Calif., when they “... impounded cars of migrant workers in a kickback scheme to sell the cars.”
The incident helped me see how easily problems snowball for the poor.
Imagine if you were a single working mom, or a minimum-wage worker or on disability, like my brother. You were arrested on a misdemeanor. You couldn’t afford bail, so you remained in jail. This meant you lost your job at the coffee shop and couldn’t make rent. Quickly, you were out on the street with no way to feed your young child. All before guilt was ascertained.
When a poor person is arrested or becomes ill, their problems grow exponentially.