Atrios hits on something interesting about all the conservative carping on the choices of poor people, talking specifically here about the contention that you should shop around for your electricity:
Electricity isn't like gas or a bottle of milk. You use it most of the time without having any sense of the per unit cost (both per kilowatt hours and how many kilowatt hours your teevee users), you just know roughly what your bill "should" be based on past experience. This is just one more pain in the ass for people who have enough pains in the asses to deal with.
This makes me crazy, because the majority of what conservatives advise everybody to do to save money is only possible if you have a comparative shit-ton of money to begin with. Sure, we can all clip coupons and shop on certain days of the week, but the big stuff? You have to have money to save money.
Think of all the ideas put forth during the health care "debate" about how everybody should try to get the best "deal" on their care. That presumes that people (who are sick, by the way) have time to call doctor after doctor and hassle office manager after office manager for prices on stuff, and I don't know about you, but my doctor's office generally acts like money doesn't exist, so trying to get them to show me the price tag is an all-day endeavor. You have to have that day, or two, or six, to visit various places. Transportation to get there. Options in the first place, like hey rich Manhattanites who condescend to Middle America, not everybody lives in an area with six hospitals and eleventy-billion doctors.
During my last tangle with the medical profession, Mr. A was able to take a few days off and spend time hassling the doctors about what to do when I got a migraine while already on massive amounts of other drugs. He was able to spend time bringing me popsicles (which is about the only thing I want when I'm sick) and driving me to follow-up appointments and yelling at people when they didn't call us back, and calling the insurance company every two hours to make sure, double-triple-quadruple sure, that they'd cover everything the way they said they would before we got stuck with a $29,000 bill.
That takes a job with insurance and vacation time, doing all that, and even with our middle-class leisure time, it was an enormous pain in the balls that made me wish there was somebody we could pay to just handle it so we could sit on the couch watching Keanu Reeves movies because, again, SICK. Not in a shopping mood.
That's just health care. We also have access to the Internet to shop around for stuff, to get clothes and shoes cheaply (Lands End, seriously, has great sales and the shit lasts forever, so just FYI). Several grocery stores, a luxury of living in an urban area. A car to get to and fro, and even if one of us is occasionally dependent on public transportation due to our single-car status, we HAVE public transportation. Streets I can ride my bike on with some, if not total, confidence, and also: A bike. We don't have any kids; what if you throw child care into that equation?
This isn't me showing off, this is me saying, this is me saying your life only looks inconvenient until you consider just how many conveniences there really are that not everybody has. Shopping around isn't something everybody can do for electricity or doctors. Let alone milk. We spend a shitload of time lifing poor people about their choices, never stopping to question our presumption that they have choices to begin with. It takes money to have choices. It takes money to have options. If you don't have it to begin with, there's no amount of comparing rates for something vital that will get you where you need to be.