Welcome to dystopia.
Seven-year-old Liza Scott of Homewood, Alabama suffers seizers caused by cerebral malformations. According to The Associated Press, she requires imminent brain surgery. In order to afford the forthcoming financial burden, Scott has taken it upon herself to crowdfund her life-saving procedure: setting up a stand at Savage’s Bakery in her suburb, just South of Birmingham, where she sells lemonade and various goods for money. Typically, she ranks in hearty donations larger than the 25 cent asking price. “I’ve got a $20 bill, and a $50 bill and a $10 bill and a $5 bill and a $100 bill,” she told AP.
“It’s better than just begging,” Scott added. She said she tries not to consider her “brain thingy... I’m not worried, but I’m afraid.”
Though Scott’s family haven’t forced her entrepreneurial streak, it’s born out of a financial necessity. “There’s no expectation of her doing anything to help pay the bills. I’m a single mom, I take care of my kids on my own,” her mother, Elizabeth Scott, added. “Just one week in the hospital and the ambulance rides is more than my monthly salary, and that’s without the surgery and travel expenses. I can’t fund that by myself, and we have a business to support.” So far, Liza has received $300,000 in donations.
So often, a story like this will make the rounds on social media: a vulnerable American (bonus points if they are very old or very young, two groups easy to sympathize with) who is down on their luck, does something extraordinary to change their situation. Rarely mentioned is the reason they find themselves in hardship: the lack of any social safety net, the dissolution of the welfare state, and the cruel calculations of our healthcare system.
The bootstrapping is simply a symptom that the government has failed. A first grader should not feel the need to raise money to stay alive. A 94-year-old woman should not have to travel 300-miles just to vote. Americans shouldn’t have to cross borders, flying to other countries to receive affordable healthcare in a practice so frequent it has been given a name: medical tourism.
It is easy to read these stories of hard work and determination as feel-good, primarily because they tend to be framed that way. But they serve to highlight the ugly truth that Americans must jump through impossible hoops to survive. I see Liza Scott accepting donations and see a great American failure—not her’s, but the country she was born into.