The Poor

I recently was asked to supply an answer to a forum question as to whether I had sympathy for the poor.

In advance I suggest that I have never been in what people classify as poor. In the 70’s at college I had little money for food and for a while lived in a trailer at a reduced rent as I was friends with the trailer park owner. I remember a few meals where I had boxes of generic Kraft macaroni and cheese where I would have the macaroni for a meal and the cheese for another. Prior to that I lived in the dorm and would pickup hamburgers for people and they would let me keep the change. That change paid for the gas (29 cents per gallon at the time) and also for me to afford my own dinner. Still, many would consider that I had a very good and easy life.

Below you will see reference to Appalachia. I lived in Southeastern Kentucky and saw very poor living conditions. At the time I believe half the people in the state had substandard or no indoor plumbing. Many people were on party line telephones (if they had one). Most had jobs and few luxuries.

Over the years I took on many jobs to earn money, and these jobs included construction, electrician apprentice, laying wall-to-wall carpet, dishwasher, gas station attendant including vehicle maintence like oil changes and tire mounting, warehouse worker more than once, repairing film projectors, software writer, helping install a TV station, disk jockey (twice), computer system manager and so on. When I took on most of those jobs I told the interviewer that I didn’t have much background specifically for the job, however I would learn quickly and was fine if they wanted to try me out for a week or two at no pay to see if I fit in.

That should give you a bit of background about how I started and then finally ended up as a web designer and coffee farmer.

— Here is the post in the forum at City-Data —

I have sympathy for those who are poor by no cause of their own AND who are trying to solve that problem actively and honestly.

For example, there are some poor who have gotten into drugs or situations of their own making, lost everything and refuse to get any help. I don’t have sympathy for them. On the opposite side there are people who perhaps have been in a bad relationship and had to move out of their home and live on the streets. They may find a job and work all they can to try to get into a better situation.

Decades ago I lived in Maryland, just over the state line from Washington DC. There were those living in the District who said they had next to nothing and no job. They seems to use that as a crutch and excuse why they had to be on public subsistence. They said that they wanted to work but there was none. However a short and inexpensive Metro (subway) ride away, there were plenty of jobs available.

I have lived in places with poverty and seen it first hand. In Appalachia people were poor however most of the people had a job, although it was often not a good paying job. Although they had little, they made do. They kept their homes and yards clean and nice. Most of them in the early 1960’s had no idea they were poor until Lady Bird Johnson (the Presidents Wife) came and told them they were poor. Politicians made promises of a better way of life, but those promises often didn’t help. Even today those people have little advancement in my opinion. They still mine coal although there has been a push to shut down all mining like that. What alternatives will there be then?

I think a major problem in this country revolves around politics. The poor are considered a commodity, a tool to be bargained with. To help the poor, politicians throw money at them to help them. There are many programs such as food and monetary handouts and a smattering of jobs programs. The problem is that they still cannot afford any type of luxury, let alone staples of life. You see, politicians give away money and to do that must raise taxes. Those taxes cause businesses to charge more for their products and people to pay more for goods. Inflation abounds. I like to use the name of an old movie to make a point, the movie was called “Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower The River”. If we find ways to control the cost of Government, we reduce the taxes we must pay and items become cheaper. If we stop trying to control people with taxes, we also can reduce the costs. Examples of using taxes to control people are these. We instituted a tax on cigarettes and kept adding to that charge to force people off of cigarettes. A similar tax was in 2009 and 2010, the New York State governor’s budget included proposals to tax sugary drinks. The tax was proposed to lower obesity. So because some people were overweight and unhealthy, everyone had to pay.

Once taxes are put in place, they are often never repealed, because it is free money that the politicians can use for other purposes. You should read about the history of the Income Tax in America, who was taxed and for what purpose.

As I said, the poor and also the elderly on fixed incomes are used as pawns in political discussions.

One thing should be kept in mind. There will always be poor. ‘Poor’ is a a word used to describe people on the lower end of the income and savings spectrum. If you eliminate the poor, you have eliminated the rich. If you eliminate ‘left’ there also cannot be ‘right’, no ‘high, then no ‘low’. Based upon that idea, you come down to the question, are those on the low side of that condition TRYING to move away or just staying there and then you must ask ‘why’?