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Being Poor – If You Want

The linked article is an interesting read. It’s also a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand it seems to decry government as the problem, and on the other it seems to suggest a more socialistic government would solve it. I don’t know if that’s because I’m reading too much between the lines or because the author of the piece doesn’t equate socialism with tyrant the way I do. I make that connection because it’s true and those who do not make it do not because they do not know what socialism is.

The point of the article as I see it is to discuss the poor. In that it does a fine job. And perhaps that alone is why the tone is so uneven, because the plight of the poor in America is also so uneven. We can’t talk about the poor without trying to figure out why they are poor because – how can you help someone out of a situations without knowing how they got into it.

That’s the problem with the poor you see, or at least with trying to “fix” poverty – there is no one reason why someone is poor beyond – they lack an amount of money that causes us to consider them not poor.

Coal Miner

Some people aren’t poor even though others say they are.

I have spent a great deal of time in Appalachian mountains way back in what the locals call a “holler”. It’s a tremendous place that I really believe most people would enjoy spending time in. The scenery is beautiful, the people are open and kind and generous to a fault. But even so, few people other than those born there would choose to live there. Appalachia is often pointed out as the example of poverty in America. Yet in all my time there I never met a poor person. That’s because they didn’t think of themselves as poor. They may have less than those people in “the city” but that isn’t how they gauge poverty. They have a place to live, good friends, church, and good food that they often grow or hunt themselves. If they have a bad month they know a neighbor will help out for a little work around the house that somehow needs done but they never seemed to get to. “I’m not poor. I don’t know why they keep saying I’m poor. I have everything I need.” That was a common refrain when you talked to people. The only time they felt poor was when the government talked about closing the coal mine down. The government would rather give them sympathy they didn’t need and a handout they didn’t want rather than a place to earn an honest wage.

Some people are poor because they are sick.

Some people don’t have the strength or vigor to work enough to not be poor. To be rich requires massive amounts of personal effort. That, more than anything else, is why most people aren’t rich. Similarly there are those who don’t have the energy to be even middle class.

Some people are poor because they are crazy.

People with mental illness have trouble getting jobs and holding them. They may want to work, but simply cannot or they aren’t hired because their mental illness is such that they present poorly in a job interview. In some cases their mental illness may mean they don’t want to work at all.

Some people are poor because they lack skills.

Some people are poor because they have no marketable skills. They can’t do much at all and can only take jobs where the employer teaches them how to do the task. They are willing to work but are limited.

Some people are poor because they lack desire.

Yes, it’s true, some people don’t want to get out of poverty. Though it has become taboo to say that a person won’t work, or that they are lazy, the fact remains that some segment of the poor are poor because they aren’t willing to work. They do the least amount of work possible. How they got there is a matter of individual exploration.

Some people are poor because they see money as the root of all evil.

A few of the poor are poor because they see the pursuit of money as an evil or at best a distraction from the things that are really important. A few have even taken vows of poverty and thus remain poor as a result.

Some people are poor because they give their money to others.

Some people are poor because they can’t hold onto their money. In some cases they are generous and give it to family, church, or the needy. In others it’s because they gamble it away, spend it on fancy cars, designer clothing, or other things that are outside of the realm of need thus indulging their wants. They might have a nice car, an Xbox, and the newest phone, but they have trouble making rent or putting gas in that car.

That is what I mean when I say the plight of the poor in America is uneven.

Welfare seems to be a one size fits all solution for a complex problem that does not have a single cause. If all we say about being poor is that being poor is the lack of money then tossing money at the poor would fix it. We’ve done that for quite a number of decades and it hasn’t worked. It can’t work because that’s not what’s wrong. Things like a universal basic income won’t fix it either. Maybe being poor isn’t something that needs fixed.

The poor are trapped within a social panopticon that permits and feeds on their constant observation.

Source: Privatizing Poverty | Kim Phillips-Fein

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