The most interesting part to me is a statement on page two that I have never heard on the evening news. It says:
“The income and poverty estimates shown in this report are based solely on money income before taxes and do not include the value of noncash benefits, such as nutrition assistance, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, and employer-provided fringe benefits.”
Tell me something, do you think you might qualify as “poor” if the money you spent on food, rent/mortgage, health care, health insurance, and your utilities were not counted as part of your income? I make a solid middle class living, and I would be poor if all that were suptracted out. Here in this one sentence lies the real problem. The "poor" are really "poor with new and improved additives" So why would the Federal government define the "poor", without counting all that they give them (and take from someone else)? See if you can figure it out. First, lets describe why some people are poor and some are not.
I grew up hovering between poor and lower middle class. My folks qualified (but never accepted) food stamps and other government aid early in my life. Both of my folks grew up knowing poverty; both with large families and homes with out electricity and indoor plumbing. My paternal grandfather died when my dad was two. My grandparents on my mother’s side were immigrants who spoke no English, and worked in the beet fields to support 14 children. So I feel I have standing to talk about this from something other than an academic standpoint.
The “poor” are poor for one or more of four very general reasons, and one very specific government caused one.
The first reason that Americans live in poverty is Chronic Bad Decisions. This ecompasses things like, drug use, alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, failure to complete high school, failure to get along with others, breaking the law, cigarette smoking, failure to manage money, and out right wasting of money. This list is not inclusive.
I can already hear the howls.
“That’s nonsense. Plenty of people do these things and live a good life”
“ A bit judgmental aren’t you? This is a free country and people are free to live their own lives even if they make bad choices.”
My response; You’re right. People are free to make their own choices and many people that do the things I listed, live their lives above the poverty line. Just because you are an alcoholic who smokes like a train, does not mean you will be poor. But, I didn’t say that it would. I said chronic bad decisions are the first reason in making one poor. If a person spends his limited money for beer, cigarettes, and tattoos, while not being able to get along with his boss, has no high school diploma and spends his spare time breaking into cars, this will not lead to a life or riches. It’s a combination of bad decisions, and other factors, that keeps people in this category down.
The second reason is a Poor Work Ethic. There are a lot of people who make chronic bad decision, but are still not poor. They have one of three things going for them; a rich family, a winning lottery ticket or a good work ethic. Having a good work ethic will over come a lot of bad decisions. The Gods of Success will forgive a lot of things if you show up each day, bust your butt, and get the job done. But, combine a poor work ethic with just a few bad life choices and you end up as a statistic in a report.
The final general reason, and the one that society should do little to nothing about, is being Born into Poverty. I know that sounds a little harsh, but poverty is not a death sentence nor is it necessarily for life. People who fly right and work hard have a high probability of escaping poverty. Plus they walk away from it with their dignity and self respect intact. Those two things can’t be purchased by any government check. We do not do anyone a favor by sheltering them from life. Nor is it fair to take money from someone and give it to someone else, because a third party says he deserves or needs it.
Finally the one specific and government caused reason for Americans in poverty; the government encourages it. You heard me. The Government encourages poverty with every one of the 77 federal welfare programs that have been created. They strip the incentive to work and to pull one’s self out of poverty. The bad behavior and lack of responsibility that is holding them down, is rewarded by these programs, instead of discouraged.
Unemployment checks can be issued for as long as 99 weeks. Food stamps go on for as long as a family qualifies. Housing assistance is the same. Where is the incentive to make your situation better? Is it easy? No, it’s not. But, it’s just wrong to expect life to be easy for you by adding burdens (in the form of high taxes) to someone else.
There at least used to be a stigma attached to taking money from your neighbor, but we have done everything we can to remove those. We have daycare in high schools. Food stamps are called Nutrition Assistance Programs and are administered with a credit card. Most of these welfare programs can be applied for on-line. The government advertises for them on the radio and television. What could be less stigmatizing than that?
While no one of these 77 welfare programs likely is the decision maker between looking for work, doing something to find better work, or not; as a group they are like poison to the soul. Even the most conservative and self sufficient would have a hard time giving up food stamps, Section 8 housing, and LEEP (for help with the electric bill) to work two minimum wage jobs to make a living, after being on it for a few years.
The most tragic part is not the dollar cost. It is what it does to the children in those households. I can reacall one of those Occupy Wall Street protesters being interviewed. He was asked if he had a job. His response was ‘No, It’s a free country and no one can make me work if I don’t want to.’ Doesn’t that sum it up nicely? This person has got it into his head that working for a living is optional, and that money comes from the government. This is equivalent to the New Yorkers who think that meat comes from Safeway. Someone has to work and pay taxes to provide the money for this protester to buy his “Corporate Greed” sign and Starbucks latte.
These welfare programs, championed by well-meaning liberals, are not reducing the amount of “the poor”. They are increasing it. Those same naïve champions claim righteousness is on their side. While at the same time, those cynical champions (maybe they’re the same guy) know they are creating a perpetual class of voters who will vote Democrat, to make sure the checks show up each month.
Could that be the reason why the government does not tell us that “the poor” are really “the poor plus some of your money”? I vote “Yes” and I’m also voting “No” in Novemeber,