WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT BEING POOR?

In recent years many politicians, pundits and commenters on blogs, plus the occasional Letters To the Editor contributor will tee off on their favorite targets…the moochers, the seekers of government benfits, the burdens on both society and the taxpayers…better known as the poor.

The poor are all lumped in one category regardless of the circumstances that put them there. It could be a woman and her children fleeing physical and mental abuse. It could be a military veteran suffering from PTSD. It could be someone with a serious medical condition unable to work and with overwhelming medical bills. It could be someone, raised in poverty themselves, who lack education and work a series of low-paying jobs without having the wherewithal, financially or motivationally, to remove themselves from this cycle.

Or, as some generalize, it is someone who wants nothing more than to feed at the public trough, smoke , drink and use drugs all day, and churn out babies as often as possible.

This last generalization is made because…well because the politicians and pundits want to feel superior and it justifies them wanting the government to reduce spending and lower taxes so there’s more money in their pockets which may already be lined with millions of dollars.

Often they have no personal acquaintance with being poor though some will gleefully recall how their own family lost everything or they themselves went through a personal economic crisis. But they worked hard and survived and recovered so as to be able to live the American dream.

I have been poor, the details and circumstances of which are irrelevant here. But I can assure you they are not unique and many of our poor can tell the same story as I can.

And there are millions and millions of poor people with whom I have almost nothing in common.

Along the way a number of these poor have become homeless which subjects them to even more scorn, not to mention the disgust so frequently expressed when a “normal” person is unable to avoid interaction with a homeless one.

These poor and/or homeless should not be stereotyped.

Lee Stringer is a man who spent a good part of his childhood in dire poverty, became homeless as he was strung out on crack, and has now gained sobriety and writes, quite well I may add. He has had books published, one with Kurt Vonnegut as a co-author.

This article, in Salon.com, provides an overview of his experience in poverty, how he was misclassified as a student merely because of his poverty (assumed to be stupid because of it),  the “charity”, private and public available to help, and his subsequent rise from the depths to develop into a vocal, articulate advocate for the poor. http://www.salon.com/2013/04/18/my_life_of_poverty_partner/

One factor he emphasizes in this piece is the voicelessness of the poor.

I sold Street News as a means of putting a buck in my pocket when I was out there. It wasn’t panhandling. It was about helping myself. And doing it by means of an infinitely American and indisputably Eighties entrepreneurial concept: Buy the papers wholesale. Sell them at a profit. What’s more, I took particular pains to always hawk the product rather than my circumstances.

But STREET NEWS, alas, was inexorably branded by the media as the “homeless paper.” Over time, sentiments toward even this progressive social instrument gradually shifted from “Great Idea! People helping themselves,” to “Oh God. Here they come again.”

If Street News had been branded, say,  “The Journal of People Living Rough,” It would have been that much less likely that our mere presence would offer a blight on the picture of America in which we all want to believe.

When I started journaling for Street News things became different. It is infinitely more legitimate, more noble even, it seemed, to write about poor or homeless people, than to be among them.

Note that last sentence. Re-read it. Now read it again.

It suggests that we hear everything said about the poor except what the poor themselves say. We prefer to stereotype and generalize rather than accepting that,  just like there are individual and distinctive tales of success, there are individual and distinctive tales of poverty. People are poor not simply because they do not dream the “American Dream” but because there are far too often huge impediments that turn their dreams into nightmares instead.

Stringer also views this “American Dream” as having no equivalent elsewhere in the world.

I find this to be largely idiosyncratic to the United States; that we measure one another’s lot in life against the dynamic of the Great American Dream. In England, whose class system doesn’t really entertain the “anyone (read everyone) can make it,” mythology we embrace here, they don’t call it homelessness, they refer to it as “living rough.

It would behoove all of us to take a second look at the poor we denigrate and allow ourselves to become conversant with them. The knowledge we gain will lend us deeper insight into these people and the causes of poverty.

Yeah, you’ll probably encounter some lazy shiftless bastards on your journey. But I’m sure that, like me, you’ve met plenty of them in your world already who have ample money and receive no government benefits.

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Comments

  • Little_Minx  On April 19, 2013 at 1:58 AM

    As John Steinbeck famously observed, in America “the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

  • toadsly  On April 19, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    Being poor isn’t a choice, it’s a “condition.” And many smug smartasses are just a layoff or serious illness away from that “condition.” Just hope, all you heartless bastards, that what goes around doesn’t come around, as well it should!

    • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      What you do about being poor is a choice. Millions of poor people get up every day and make a decision to pull themselves up above their ‘condition’. Welfare allows many people too not have to make that decision, remain in their condition and then whine about how unfair life is. And thanks to policies that progressives like O promote, these people remain in their ‘condition’.

      • Tourist  On April 19, 2013 at 6:58 PM

        Bringing us in your own words to your high crimes and misdemeanors: extortion, fraud and theft. I know, I know. You’re just a lab rat. It’s the system – the incentives. You prove your point.

        ===

        As far as working is concerned. Thanks to your ‘right of center’ prez I may never have to work again.

        Say goodbye to the Fiscal Cliff, say hello to a recession . . . . My friend knows what this means for me. That’s right baby, 23 more weeks of unemployment benefits. Who knows, maybe more if this economy nosedives. Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        Bush extended benefits a max of 33 weeks . . . . Obama extended them to 99 weeks . . . . I am counting on recieving euc through the middle of next year . . . .

        . . . every time I receive the unempt checks and buy those filet mignon and lobster with my food stamps, I will visualise that every dollar comes from UMOC’s taxes.

        What can I say, I have a lot of free time on my hands. You know, thanks to Obama’s extended benfits I don’t have to get my lazy ass off the couch to find a job for several more months.

        . . . I have no incentive to get a job right now and thanks to Obama, I don’t have to.

        I will admit this – I was working for the state of WA – given my beliefs, let’s just say my working relationship with some bureaucrats out there that think govt is the answer may have been a little strained . . . . I agreed to leave if they wouldn’t block my benefits. Given I knew I was going to get 73 weeks of benefits . . . I left.

        . . . My mother is eligible for food stamps and she uses less than half of them. I do a lot of things for her so I use the rest . . . .

        I voluntarily left. Right. I wouldn’t have left if I only got 26 weeks, let alone no weeks of benefits.

        I do spend some of my own money on food.

        Are u going to report me to the authorities? My mother buys the food and has me over to eat often – will that save me from prison?

        Unemployment Insurance indicates u are to take a job that meets certain criteria – I believe those criteria don’t include waiting to find the best job possible. You are to take a suitable job as soon as possible. It is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to fund an unnecessary job search.

        . . . it would have cost them every dollar they had to try to get rid of me. Did they want to get rid of me so much, they agreed to not blocking the benefits – yes.

        As I said above, I could get a job tomorrow . . . .

        FROM SOMEONE ELSE
        LIR, be careful, the state requires you to be actively looking for work. You need to register at certain state websites. You must keep a logbook of all your activities in a job search and you must provide you logbook upon request from the state.

        FROM LIR
        no worries, I am ‘applying’ for jobs.

        • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 7:19 PM

          See what I mean?

        • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM

          Although I don’t believe I ever whined. I think I am actually enjoying my prolonged vacation.

          • Little_Minx  On April 20, 2013 at 4:53 PM

            No unemployed person is legally required to apply for unemployment benefits (even though it IS insurance). You’re free to skip it, if it offends your political views.

      • umoc193  On April 19, 2013 at 10:58 PM

        “What you do about being poor is a choice. Millions of poor people get up every day and make a decision to pull themselves up above their ‘condition’. Welfare allows many people too not have to make that decision, remain in their condition and then whine about how unfair life is. And thanks to policies that progressives like O promote, these people remain in their ‘condition’.”

        You have no idea what you are talking about. You don’t even know what welfare consists of these days and how limited it is and besides, there is a WORK requirement attached to it.

        See, the difference between you and me is that, while we both maintain strong, usually unwavering positions on a variety of topics, mine are based on knowing what the fuck I am talking about because I have studied the facts.

        • umoc193  On April 19, 2013 at 11:05 PM

          DD’s remarks re: Miranda and torture are not worthy of a response.

          • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 11:10 PM

            The U.S. Attorney says no Miranda warning-public safety exemption, I ask your position and you say it’s not worth a response. What’s up-am I a troll again?

          • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 11:23 PM

            I guess UMOC you didn’t hear the U.S.Attorney and are checking out the “facts”.

          • Devildog  On April 20, 2013 at 11:05 AM

            Enemy combatant, enhanced interrogation, death penalty. Sounds pretty good to this immoral, Constitution-hating, vengeance-loving, anti-Christian troglodyte.

          • anonymous  On April 20, 2013 at 11:55 AM

            The dude better talk or as my father used to say, they will find ways to make him talk

        • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 11:23 PM

          That you believe this is why progressivism is a failure. It has to be, at some point you run out of other people’s money.

  • toadsly  On April 19, 2013 at 6:57 PM

    I’m from Aliquippa where many kids are born bastards and are raised in abusive homes. The conditions they endure mold them into misfits dependent on drugs and sex and violence. A few climb out of the sewer, usually through sports, but many wind-up dead or in prison. Why don’t you go up to one of them, say in Plan 11, and lay your line of bullshit on them!

    • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 7:21 PM

      born bastards – this is the problem. Too many children being borne out of wedlock end up depending on welfare. Welfare perpetuates these cycles of dependency,

      • toadsly  On April 19, 2013 at 7:26 PM

        Don’t forget to add that on your Plan 11 crusade.

        • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 7:33 PM

          So you are saying the 70 years of welfare policies have helped Aliquippa? You’re not making a convincing argument.

          • toadsly  On April 19, 2013 at 7:49 PM

            Is that what I’m saying? I’m not trying to convince anyone about anything. I’m simply reporting current conditions in good, old Aliquippa. A great town till “Big Steel” left. And don’t waste any energy trying to convince me that the unions destroyed J&L!

            • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 7:57 PM

              Unions didn’t help but Big Steel mainly left because of international trade. There are a lot of high growth cities that don’t have a large manufacturing sector. The fact is that PA is not business friendly. What are the big industries in Pittsburgh today? Hospitals and universities – what do these have in common? They don’t pay taxes – although Luke wants that to change.

              • toadsly  On April 19, 2013 at 8:03 PM

                Congratulations!

                You win!

                I give up!

                Life’s too short!

                • Tourist  On April 19, 2013 at 8:20 PM

                  Toadsly, he has plenty of time.

                  • anonymous  On April 19, 2013 at 11:23 PM

                    Yes I do, thanks to you know who.

  • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 8:26 PM

    Since Toadsly gave up, I’m going to take the opportunity to change the subject.

    If #2 is taken alive and water boarded, is it likely that this method of interrogation will not likely recover valuable info because, after all the publicity surrounding this method over the years, he will realize it’s not really torture.

    • Tourist  On April 19, 2013 at 8:35 PM

      Devildog, I do not believe it’s likely not likely — yes.

      • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 8:53 PM

        Too much “likely”, eh! I thought you might respond to my rhetorical question without answering it directly. Others might/will.

        • Tourist  On April 19, 2013 at 9:27 PM

          “without answering it directly”

          Devildog, if others answer it directly, my hat’s off to them.

          A small rhetorical challenge: Please give me a sample answer — as a guide — to your question. I mangle the language enough myself; I don’t think I’m known for sniping at such things. I still don’t understand what the question is.

          Is it me?

          • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 9:48 PM

            Tourist, there was no real question. Just going back in time to the water boarding issue, my opinions that in the three times it was used invaluable info was obtained and that it wasn’t torture.

            I’m still trying to understand your 6:58 post. I’m slow, especially in understanding your posts.

            • Tourist  On April 19, 2013 at 9:51 PM

              Devildog, understand? Sorry. It’s Anonymous’s introduction of himself from the Rogers blog.

              • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 10:05 PM

                No problema! I hope I don’t have to go to Roger’s blog to understand posts here. How does one access his blog-just asking.

                • Tourist  On April 19, 2013 at 10:08 PM

                  As far as I know, you can’t anymore.

                  I’m heading out. Later!

  • Devildog  On April 19, 2013 at 10:23 PM

    UMOC, what do you think about not giving a Miranda warning to #2 under a public safety exemption?

    • Little_Minx  On April 20, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      What would happen if #2 unilaterally declares that he wants to invoke his Miranda rights (including an attorney)? Would the law allow the government to say no, you can’t have them?

  • Devildog  On April 20, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    My son-in- law, the 12 year old’s father, asked her what she thought about taxing people with money to give the money to the poor. He said he put it in its most favorable light to influence her to approve of that but her prompt reaction was-that’s not fair. I asked my 13 year old granddaughter (cousin of the 12 year old) what should be done to the bomber. She said that if he doesn’t talk in two weeks, kill him.

    Kids say the darnest things.

    P.S. the father of the 12 year old gave me a good reason for the death penalty in some cases-it encourages defendants to plead down to life without parole-and please don’t tell me innocent people will do that.

    • Little_Minx  On April 20, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      Children’s brains at that age are not yet fully mature, including their capacity for empathy. Combine that with a desire to please dear ol’ Dad, and it’s hardly surprising that those are the answers your SIL received.

  • Little_Minx  On April 20, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    No unemployed person is legally required to apply for unemployment benefits (even though it IS insurance). You’re free to skip it, if it offends your political views.

    • Little_Minx  On April 20, 2013 at 4:55 PM

      Durned WordPress software posted my comment in the wrong place the first time 😦 See repost above, in response to anonymous’ comment of April 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM.

    • anonymous  On April 20, 2013 at 5:12 PM

      You’re right Minx but I ain’t stupid. If O is is going to give me ‘free’ things, I ain’t turning them down.

      • Devildog  On April 20, 2013 at 5:34 PM

        You may not be stupid but do you think the post was stupid?

      • Little_Minx  On April 20, 2013 at 5:42 PM

        “If O is is going to give me ‘free’ things, I ain’t turning them down.” In other words, “Stop me before I suck on the government teat again.” So much for the conservative principles of self-reliance and self-control.

        • anonymous  On April 20, 2013 at 5:49 PM

          Don’t you get it? The welfare policies provide incentives to not be self-reliant. Take away the welfare, as Clinton did with his welfare reform, and people will have a choice – become self-reliant or live under a bridge. Suddenly that $9/hr McDonalds job becomes much more attractive

          But it’s deeper than that. Once you get a job and prove that you are a reliable employee, other employers that pay more than $9/hr will be willing to hire you. After all, you now have an advantage over someone that doesn’t have that experience. It is through this process, that people move out of poverty. People have been doing this in this country for 200 years.

          Welfare provides incentive to not do this. Which I am demonstrating

          • umoc193  On April 20, 2013 at 6:41 PM

            “Take away the welfare, as Clinton did with his welfare reform, and people will have a choice – become self-reliant or live under a bridge”

            Another example of your fucking blathering idiocy. You give credit to Clinton for changing the rules to your liking and they remain the fucking same yet you criticize Obama. No fucking logic at all.

            You are a fucking fuckhead idiot.

            • anonymous  On April 20, 2013 at 7:16 PM

              Dear UMOC,

              Not true – the work requirement was relaxed and you know it.

              Sincerely,

              anonymous

  • Richard Wood  On April 28, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Good article, UMOC.

    I suppose that what distressed me as much as anything, was the situation described therein:

    “I was assessed as being a CD/ED–”Economically Disadvantaged,” and therefore “Culturally Deprived,”–and summarily consigned to the slow classes and systematically steered toward developing myself into a capable factory worker. This despite that I scored above both the national average and the school’s own higher than national average on the aptitude tests (a fact that my Dean surreptitiously let me in on the day before I graduated).”

    There’s an overarching assumption in our culture that wealth is an indicator of intelligence.This has always been a bugaboo of mine.

    Certainly, we (most of us) associate wealth with “success”, but is it beyond the comprehension of those same people to believe that for some folks material things are a distraction from and substitute for what some of us find most important in life, that the pursuit of wealth beyond what is needed for most comforts is actually ignoble?

    I know that I’ve lived my life without regard to enhancing my portfolio, or climbing any social or corporate ladders, and I’m pretty sure that I’m not stupid.

    (To quote Christopher Langdon, possessor of the highest recorded living (U.S., male, lol) I.Q.: “The competition for money makes its large-scale acquisition prohibitively time-consuming, motivationally draining and morally compromising for people whose hearts are in other (abstract, idealistic, altruistic or socially conscientious) places.”)

    I guess I really don’t care if most folks believe that “rich = smart” and “poor = dull”, but it really troubles me when that thinking becomes used to set public or institutional policy,as described by the author.

    • umoc193  On April 28, 2013 at 5:49 PM

      Scarlet

      Good points about success. I am wary of anyone who talks only of accumulating money or material things. The most boring person at a party is often someone who tells you not only that he has a new living room lamp but that the lamp is so special that it cost far in excess of what one can buy at the dollar store and it neither looks better nor provides better light.

      On the other hand I have some millionairre friends who have all the money in the world , and obviously own nice things, but don’t draw attention to it.

      Then there are the folks who measure their own worth by material goods and far outspend their incomes to achieve those dubious standards.

      • Richard Russell Wood  On April 28, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        And I am wary of anyone who doesn’t “push themselves away from the table” when they’ve had enough.

        Pretend it’s a zero-sum game, and save a pork chop for the folks who have none.

        I guess that I question the values (in their heart of hearts) of anyone who would even allow themselves to be wealthy.

  • Richard Wood  On April 28, 2013 at 10:39 AM

    Forgot to mention. Christopher Langdon, who I quoted in my post, has worked a series of low-level jobs, most notably, a bar-bouncer.

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