Thursday, January 21, 2010

If Aid Works, Why Are There Still Poor People?

poor, stupid, asshat, goldberg
I saw this article by Jonah Goldberg on Sadly, No! a day or two ago, but I couldn't really deal with it until now.

It made me that mad.

I'm not entirely certain why, but a large portion of our society seems to regard being poor as the easiest of all possible options. We need to stop giving poor people stuff like food stamps and housing assistance, because then they just stay poor. We're encouraging poverty by allowing people to live at subsistence levels instead of starving or freezing to death.

Apparently, these people have never been that poor, because if they had been, they would know that being poor is exhausting. No one in their right mind would choose* being poor over being notpoor.

You know what I think the best part of being wealthy would be? (Keep in mind, I consider making 50k a year to be well off.) When bills come in, you just pay them. "Oh, look, the electric bill is $85. I'll just pay that . . . there we go, let's watch Lost."

If you're poor, the electric bill requires a great deal more thought. In fact, I should get a PhD in Theoretical Mathematics for the thought I put into bill paying. What must be considered when paying bills if one is poor:

1. Each company's tolerance for late/nonpayment. The phone company will shut off service after five days of lateness, the water company is significantly more lenient.

2. When is the bill actually due and when do I get paid? If you're poor, you don't pay bills when you get them, you pay bills on a carefully planned schedule that involves paydays, due dates and leniency.

3. Who charges the most for late payments? Some companies don't charge anything, some companies will really spank you. It's wise not to mess with the latter.

4. What else do I need to pay for when? Medication refill coming up? That could push paying the electric bill back a week. If the car breaks down, nobody's getting paid.

I have to keep track of every penny I make, every penny I owe and try to plan for everything that might come up, every minute of every day. I can't imagine the delicious freedom of simply paying bills.
Then there's the grocery store. I have $x to buy groceries with each week. That's it. If I miscalculate and don't get enough food to last the week, I don't eat until I get paid again. I can't just run out and get food because I happen to need food. That must be nice, but I don't know how that feels.
It must also be nice, ultimate nirvana nice, to look at your shoes, your suit, your coat and say, "Hmmm. This is old/stained/ripped, I should get a new one. I'll do that tomorrow." I also don't know what that feels like.
Keep in mind, I'm American poor. I'm not Haitian poor. I'm "It's so cold in here I wish I could turn the heat up above 63" poor, not "Wow, it sucks to watch my children starve to death" poor. Nobody chooses that. Trust me.

*Yes, there are people who are poor and who make bad choices. This is not the same as deliberately choosing to be poor.


  1. It is amazing how easily swayed some people are by anecdotal evidence when it comes to the poor. Everyone knows (usually heard of) someone who abuses the system somehow, but they don't meet the millions who keep it secret (often out of shame) and would not usually interact with someone middle class unless ringing them up.

  2. I’ve heard of Jonah Goldberg, briefly, only ’cuz he wrote a decidedly silly book that Vox Day likes to cream all over whenever he gets the chance (“Liberal Fascism”. Quite telling).

    As for me … I really wish I had my money available online and not in cash lying in one of my drawers.

    Y’know, so little “Donate” buttons could be used.

    Just sayin’.

  3. Your bill-paying shuffle is way close to home over here...

    And likewise, I consider $50k/yr to be freakin' good.

  4. Great post.

    I grew up on welfare (on and off) I've known American poverty, although I have never missed a meal or lived on the street.

    I chuckled at the bill shuffle. Been there. Every once in awhile still happens here.

    Comparatively, we live on more more than we ever have, yet I am painfully aware we are one job loss away from being destitute.

    I have met the people who are poor because they are lazy and refuse to doing anything for themselves. They are the exception to the rule.

    For years I pastored in the foothills of the Appalachia mountains. Working poor people. I struggled along with them. They taught me much.

    The Rent-a-Center van pulls up to my neighbors house today. I get mad. Thieves making a killing off the poor. Foolish poor people. Yet I remember a time where I wanted just a bit of what others had...if I could only make the payment. So, I still frown at my neighbors but I also understand.

    I often hear talk off cutting entitlements, cutting medicaid, food stamps, etc. Balancing the budget on the back of the "least of these" I am for balancing the budget but let's start at the top and work our way down.



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