Being Poor Additional Comments Post

Because the original Being Poor comment thread has gotten so long, making the page itself a very large download (and is threatening to get larger), I’ve decided to cap the comments there and shunt all the new comments here. If you have your own experiences to add to the Being Poor list, or want to add any other comments relating to it, this is now the place to do it. Thanks —

313 Comments on “Being Poor Additional Comments Post”

  1. Here’s more reason why people ought to wake up and smell the stench that would not go away.

    Being poor is having neighbors petitioning the city council when you move in as it will affect their property values.

    Being poor now means that whatever you own, built and saved for all your working life can now be taken by eminent domain as confirmed by the Supreme Court.

    So, watch out middle and upper-class workers who think that you are safe in this great society.

  2. Being poor means that any cash gifts end up paying the rent/other bills rather than the thing you said you wanted to get with the money. Which is just as well, because the stereo/camera/computer will end up at the pawnshop so that you can get gas to drive to work, and you may be able to get the stereo back. But probably not.

  3. Being Smart & Poor is realizing it is a WHOLE lot easier to start over again by evacuating BEFORE the whole city gets flooded.

    Being Smart & poor is getting the heck out of N.O. by any means necessary so that you don’t DIE waiting on the people who supposedly don’t care about you.

    Being poor & ignorant is shooting at the helicopters flying overhead because you want them to RESCUE YOU !?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

  4. Being poor means using cooking oil becuase you cannot afford hair grease, or have to use jello becuase you cannot afford Kool aid or using syrup becuase you cannot use sugar to sweeten certain beverages or foods that require sugar.

  5. Being poor means folded rags instead of sanitary napkins, and wondering whether you’ll need to buy another box of tampons or whether you can wait until next time.

  6. I want to respond to the person who thinks poor people have bad teeth because they lazy and don’t brush. You, sir, need to learn more about teeth and dentistry.
    I’m fortunately middle-class. I brush and floss daily but must go to the dentist four times a year to get my teeth cleaned because I have extra problems with buildup. Imagine if I was poor and couldn’t afford the out of pocket expense for the extra two cleanings a year that my dental insurance doesn’t pay for. I would have no bottom teeth right now. And I imagine a lot of poor folks with bad teeth are in that kind of situation. There are problems with teeth from grinding your teeth at night — a sign of stress. There are problems from not getting braces, having crooked teeth that make them more difficult to brush and floss.
    And even if it was lack of brushing, if a poor mom had to choose between toothpaste and a meal for her kids, which is she going to choose?
    It’s that kind of lack of empathy that sets my teeth on edge.

  7. I’ve been thinking about how much easier it was to grow up poor in the former USSR when absolutely everybody around was poor as well.

    You wash your laundry by hand – but everybody does that, and what’s a washing machine, anyway?

    Three families live three or four to a room in one flat? Well, yes, that’s how housing works.

    New clothes are only for children whose parents don’t have any friends with slightly larger children.

    Jeans are something people in America wear. Cars are also something in America, or if your family has queued up for it for many years. Nobody has ever had a bank account, or knows what to do with one. And it’s fine, because that’s how it works.

    I don’t know how I would have dealt with the same conditions growing up if I’d known how different it could have been.

    However, being a poor oveseas student in the UK means:

    – you either eat of phone your family;
    – you walk everywhere;
    – you resent your college neighbour who can spend 13 pounds on groceries every week, because you can only spend 10; rich bastard;
    – you don’t make any friends; you can’t go out drinking, or go on a skiing holiday to Salzburg;
    – running up a dept on a credit card is not an option: nobody will give you credit. Once the money is out, it’s out;
    – when you are so sick with fever that walls wobble around you, and you hallucinate your way to the doctor’s office on a 48p bus trip, you find out that a prescription of antibiotics costs 6.70, you get straight onto the bus back;
    – your thesis supervisor takes you out to lunch, but you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to pay for it yourself, so only have soup; you spend the rest of the lunch kicking yourself;
    – you think about money all the time; you can hardly keep yourself from talking about it all the time, and people start to think you’re really greedy.

    When you are an Englishman’s formerly poor girlfriend or wife with a ex-Soviet-republic upbringing:
    – on your first grocery shopping trip with your unpoor boyfriend you start hyperventilating when he’s randomly throwing stuff that’s not from “Safeway Savers” line into the trolley; you are scared of going shopping with him for a good few months
    – “So, darling, what does the tumble-dryer do?”
    – pizza is still a real treat;
    – you gain 20 pounds of weight in 3 months;
    because you wouldn’t dream of leaving food on a plate, even if you’re full;
    – your husband cries when he realises that, although you don’t quite understand why he’s so shocked: doesn’t he know how criminal it is to waste food?
    – you shout at your husband for throwing out your threadbare shirt: you Auntie had sent it to you from Israel when you were 12! And don’t even think of touching that sweater – Mama wore it when she was pregnant with you!
    – you still feel like a criminal buying clothes new; anyway, isn’t that what eBay is for? But you still really, really want them;
    – your mother in law would rather you didn’t say the words “back at home we used to”;
    – you are always afraid deep down that “it” will come back.

    Thanks for listening

  8. Being poor means doing everything you can every day, failing to make progress, and then despite knowing that you’re doing your best, knowing that you’re not lazy, and knowing that you don’t want to be a burden on others, you go to bed in tears, certain that you’re not doing your best, you’re lazy, and that you are a burden on others.

    Being poor means thinking “well, if it comes down to it I can always comit suicide” in cold, collected sanity because you know what it means to be homeless and pushing a shopping cart.

  9. Growing up my father’s work was seasonal so it was feast or famine. Summers were time of such luxuries, beach membership, $200 for school clothes every August and winters were times when we ate oatmeal for dinner multiple times a week. My mom acted all perky like Hey! Isn’t it cool? We’re having breakfast, for dinner!

    I remember huddling around the water boiling for coffee in the morning because we couldn’t turn the heat up. But I see now at least we had heat.

    We had many Christmas mornings with a dozen oranges and no presents. Dad saying maybe we’d have Christmas at Easter, but we wouldn’t.

    My dad worked construction and the walls in the upstairs of our house were bare insulation. I asked for walls for my 13th birthday.

    It seemed like the end of the world when my parents found out in January that the baby they were expecting in March was twins.

    While I never knew the embarassment of getting free or reduced lunch, I do remember the embarassment of having to climb out the window of the car because the doors were rusted shut. It was a 1976 Pinto they were still driving in 1990. Seemed like my dad could repair anything.

    In high school my twin and I had to answer the phone and say our parents were not there because it was always bill collectors.

    But my parents always pushed education for us and when it was time for college my alma mater said, if you send both twins here they will both get free rides, if only one comes there will not be a free ride. So off we went to Millikin Univ. That’s where I met my husband who grew up in a family where his folks begrudged teachers a pay raise because they were already rich.

    Now that my husband and I have a v nice life together I sometimes get embarassed of the plenty when my parents or his parents visit. I hope our son doesn’t have to want for anything, but I hope we can somehow make him appreciate what he has.

    I think I was v lucky to grow up in a medium sized town with decent schools and helpful relatives. It seem like the urban and rural poor have it much worse.

  10. “Wake-up Call”

    Being poor is leaving things to chance.
    Being poor is placing “blame” on others rather taking full responsibility for everything.
    Being poor is not knowing there’s a way out.
    Being poor is not knowing there are tools and ways of thinking to become and BE rich (not your fault; they don’t teach this stuff in school)
    Being poor is dwelling on the perceived “poorness” and lack in your life.
    Being rich is dwelling on the wealth you already have and the wealth that surrounds you.
    Being rich is KNOWING what you really want and WRITING your goals down. http://www.relfe.com/goal_setting.html
    Being rich is cultivating the feelings of being rich – and so shall you attract circumstances that help get you there.
    Being rich is cultivating gratitude.
    Being rich is seeing temporary setbacks as blessings. (“What valuable lesson am I learning from this situation?”)
    Being rich is loving yourself unconditionally.
    Being rich is understanding that our thoughts create our reality.
    Hence, being “poor to rich” is just a thought away – it’s a start.

    Disclosure: This is coming from a “poor to rich” computer programmer guy. I realize so many thing are easier said than done but at least absorb some of what I wrote.

    Some resources to get a head start:

    Excuse Me, Your Life Is Waiting
    Ask And It Is Given
    It Works
    Miracles
    Maximum Achievement
    Pronoia
    The Power of Appreciation

    All the best!

  11. Okay, there’s another. Being poor is having perfect strangers sit back in their comfortable lives and snidely tell you that it’s your fault you’re poor, because you’re not THINKING the right way (== the way they think).

    Being poor is wishing you were so lucky as to only wonder where your next meal is coming from. Being poor is wondering where your kids’ next meal is coming from — and having a perfect stranger sit back in his comfortable life and tell you you should “dwell on the wealth you already have”.

    Being poor is using a discarded computer that can barely handle Win95, or posting from the public library, and being told “You’re not poor — you have a computer.” Being poor is adjusting the rabbit ears to pick up a grainy picture on your thirty-year-old Motorola TV and being told “You’re not poor — you have a television.”

    Being poor is being unable to do things the economical way. “Don’t get those small packages, buy in bulk!” Great idea, if you can afford the big packages. “Shop at Costco” — yes, and pay dearly for the privilege. “Why are you using a rent-to-own refrigerator? By the time it’s paid for it will cost you five thousand dollars!” Because the rent payments are all I can afford to pay.

    Being poor is being afraid. All the time.

  12. Being poor is having a prospective landlady express shock and awe when you tell her you’re on welfare.

    Being poor is when your landlord tells you he’ll throw you out if he finds out you’re on welfare, and then finds out and keeps on renting to you anyway because where’s he going to find another tenant for his substandard building?

    Being poor means renting a tiny apartment from a kindly old lady who needs the money because she only gets Social Security.

    (from an article in the Whole Earth Review):
    Being poor means living in your car beside the river, reading an article in the paper about a famine in Africa and wishing you could do something about it.

  13. i’d also add that there is a wealth component that differentiates “poor” from being “broke.” the safety net of better-off family is what saves many people — indeed, it’s what some commenteres said saved you.

    some people — like those in new orleans, and across the south — don’t. even. have. that. they’re poor. their mama is poor. father? if he’s alive, healthy, and involved, he’s still poor. uncles and aunts are poor. brothers and sisters? they’re poor too. there is no grandma who can “stuff you full of food” because she doesn’t have anything either.

    that’s what this essay is about. that’s what POOR *truly* is. that’s why those people did not leave. they could not.

  14. I didn’t grow up poor. I grew up comfortably middle-class. But my parents, both of them, grew up poor. I understand them and some of the things they do now because of this post.

    They clear absolutely all the food off their plates;

    they reuse tea bags three or four times;

    they buy the absolute cheapest possible type of whatever they need or want (vacuum cleaner, teleivsion) even though they’ll only have to replace it in a year or two;

    they wear their clothes for years, sometimes decades;

    they take vacations in the same town they live in – they go to a hotel and eat dinner downtown;

    it took my mom 11 years to achieve a B.A., and my father never went to university;

    they’ve gifted me with an extreme reluctance to buy things on credit (which is a very VERY good thing, I know how to save and budget).

    They’re in the 60s, both of them, and haven’t been poor since their 20s, when they left home and started working. They still do these things even though they’re largely unnecessary.

  15. Being poor is breaking your arm, but being hysterically terrified that you might have broken your glasses as well, because your parents will /kill/ you and you can’t get another pair.

    Being poor is hoping that the pain in your jaw isn’t your wisdom teeth.

    Being poor is not having the $0.25 for a cup of water at McDonalds. And being outraged that they CHARGE for it.

    Being poor is not having a bed.

    Being poor is watching people walk by with ice cream cones and fish and chips and cotton candy and hot dogs, while your stomach is so empty and your blood sugar so low that you actually begin to entertain thoughts of mugging someone for their ice cream.

    Being poor is wearing tennis shoes held together with tape- and two pairs of socks, because it’s -40 F.

    Being poor is wearing bread bags rubber banded over your shoes instead of boots when it’s wet or snowing.

  16. John, thank you for this.

    Being poor is not having the money to help your best friend out of a jam.

    Having been poor is being able to empathize with every one of these, and counting your blessings for those you won’t have to face today.

  17. Being poor is growing up thinking, “They couldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.”

    Having been poor is telling some schmuck who pulls “success thinking” out of his ass to go read the biography of the *father* of such thinking — Napoleon Hill — to see how much it actually helped Hill himself!

  18. When you are not poor, the task of helping the poor seems overwhelming. For some, it is not a lack of desire that prevents helping, but a lack of knowing where to begin. I give money to charities, but there’s always the feeling in the back of my mind that the money is helping only the very most desperate, which is good, but when I am walking down the street or riding the bus, I see people that I know must be poor, but I just don’t know – which person needs a monthly fast pass for the bus? Which family could I save from despair with $50? Who could I help find a job?

    It seems like charities do provide help, but for the working poor – how do you find and help them? I am not wealthy, but I am comfortable enough to be able to contribute small bits here and there and would like to give directly to a family or person that needs it and when they need it – people who might be turned away by or not helped quickly enough by a charity. helping in small ways in a timely fashion could help prevent the spiraling into need for larger assistance. i could afford $100/mo. for a co-pay, bus pass, a utility bill or groceries. i just don’t know how to hook up with the people that need it and would accept it.

  19. would like to give directly to a family or person that needs it and when they need it – people who might be turned away by or not helped quickly enough by a charity.

    Hi Anonymous, This might be something you’re looking for:
    http://modestneeds.org/

  20. Tiffany’s point (from her comment at 01:17 PM, above) is well-taken. When I was unemployed for eight months in 2002, I did many of the cost-saving things listed in Scalzi’s article. But I was never really poor: I owned my car outright, and although finances were tight a month or two, I never thought I was actually in danger of missing the rent payment. And I had resources to fall back on: if necessary, I could have called relatives and said, “Can I move in with you until I can find work?”

    Having a back-up plan is what separates merely being uncomfortable from truly being poor.

    There’s another distinction, too: there are those who are poor because of circumstances (getting laid off, sudden medical bills), but who have the self-discipline to eventually work themselves out of poverty. It make take them years, but they’re probably going to make it at some point. Then there are those who will never escape poverty, because they don’t even know how. Many of them grew up in broken homes and never learned skills like budgeting, or the self-discipline not to waste money on expensive luxuries such as alcohol. This article recounts one woman’s experience in working with lots of poor people of the latter type.

    Scalzi’s article, and most of the comments I’ve seen, are focused on the what of being poor — what it feels like, what the consequences of poverty are. I think, though, that there’s lots of room for a discussion of the why of poverty. Because the people who are essentially self-reliant and capable, yet stuck in poverty due to circumstances beyond their control, usually need one type of assistance: a little extra cash, getting a break on bank fees, managers willing to arrange job schedules around the public-transportation schedule, that sort of thing. Most of the comments I’ve read seemed like they came from people in this boat. Yet, as Ms. Phelps’ article (the one I linked to) shows, people in the second category — who have self-destructive habits that will forever keep them trapped in poverty unless they change radically — need a lot more help, and of a different nature. Those in the first (self-reliant) category would rightly feel patronized by the kind of help category-two folks need, yet the latter won’t ever break out of poverty without someone else laying down the discipline that they’re incapable of creating for themselves.

    Why am I posting this? Because anyone who reads Scalzi’s article, or the comments, and doesn’t feel compassion for the poor has no heart. Most people, on reading this, would want to help somehow. Yet the very same kinds of help that would be of most benefit to the self-reliant poor (a little extra cash, or discounts on necessities of life) would simply harm the dependent poor. The problem is complex, and it’s important to use one’s brain as well as one’s heart if one wants to do good and not harm with one’s assistance.

  21. Anonymous:

    I can definitely see your point. A lot of times, for a poor person or family, it’s “for want of a nail” that their lives descend into chaos. Not having bus fare means missing a job interview, not having money for antibiotics means hospitalization down the line. It would be nice to have some means whereby a small need can be fulfilled before it spirals into a bigger need.

    However – there is really only so much private individuals or (gah) “a thousand points of light” can do. Call me a pinko Commie Socialist if you will but I believe this is where government must step in and lend a hand. I believe the most crying need right now, as a whole, is universal health and dental care for everyone. Forget a chicken in every pot, let’s have a full set of teeth in every mouth. When I remember being poor, when I look around at the poor people I know, when I read the accounts on this blog – what strikes me is how far a universal health-care safety net would go in alleviating poverty and misery. Most bankruptcies are caused by medical bills, or medical bills added to being sick and not being able to earn a salary.

    Universal health care, not tied into a particular job or welfare, would also enable more people with disabilities to go to work. Contrary to the self-righteous yammerings of some rightwing pundits, almost everyone wants to work. People on welfare want to work, disabled people want to work. Yet if taking a job means losing your Medicaid and not getting the meds you need to keep your mind intact or your heart pumping or what have you, then that’s a big reason to not take that job.

    Charity is a wonderful thing, and it’s definitely what Jesus told us to do – Jesus was big on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting those in prison. But a society like ours needs a government safety net. California has introduced a bill for single-payer health-care, and I really hope it passes.

  22. Being poor is feeling relieved when there are no other people at the roadside honor-system vegetable stand. This means you don’t have to feel embarrassed to leave the jar of peanut butter that you got from the county food bank as payment for a few ears of corn or a couple of ripe tomatoes, because nobody in your house eats peanut butter, anyway, and fresh vegetables are a luxury.

    This is from personal experience when I helped a farmer friend stock a roadside stand. About twice a month, someone would leave a big jar of Skippy peanut butter by the payment box with a note attached that said “3 tomatoes” or “6 corn.” Skippy is the brand that our county food bank gave out in food baskets.

  23. One of the most powerful things I have read in a long, long time. Thank you.

    I can relate. I grew with a single disabled mom – we lived from social security check to social secuity check.

    Katrina has forced me.. out. I never – ever – talked about my childhood before publically. Not because I was ashamed – but because I didn’t want special treatment, or pity. Today I am a blessed man to say the least.

    Anyway, I wrote a piece about my experience here: http://www.paradox1x.org/weblog/kmartino/archives/004282.shtml

    Here goes a few more items (some taken from personal experience):

    Being poor is pausing to answer when someone asks, “what do you parents do for a living?”

    Being poor is pausing to answer when someone asks, “where is your father?”

    Being poor is waiting on Christmas morning for the Salvation Army Santa Claus to visit.

    Being poor is believing that a happy, healthy family is a TV fantasy.

    Being poor is thinking “I’m going to die before I’m 30 anyway”.

    Being poor is finally getting a decent job, and it turns out it is in the burbs, which requires you to get a car, that you can’t pay for.

    Being poor is finally getting a credit card, and it’s at 21% interest.

    Being poor is finally getting a decent job, which requires dropping state insurance, which means your children will go uninsured.

    Being poor means working a job 40 hours for 10 weeks and 36 hours for 2 – so that the employer can dodge paying full time benefits.

    Being poor is having your nose broken, not having health insurance, and living with the cosmetic change the rest of your life.

  24. someone made a comment about juice boxes..I remember having some frozen juice concentrate for supper once, I still don’t drink that stuff to this day…blessed are the poor for they WILL inherit the earth…

  25. Being poor means, at age 12, spending the $120 you made raking blueberries for a month all on school clothes from the Sears catalog, and feeling good about it until you go to school and all the kids with Levi’s and Converse make fun because you’re wearing Toughskins and cheap nylon sneakers… and then realizing you’ll have to do the same again next year.

    Growing up poor means having a really hard time just being able to talk to your mom because you’re so angry at her for making a bunch of stupid choices which took her and you down the hole into poverty; which alienated you from the rest of your family because of distance and their resentment at mom for leaving your dad and “taking you away from them;” which removed any sort of effective father-figure from your life and brought in an alcoholic, physically and mentally abusive man, whose beatings on you she did nothing about; which screwed up your self-attitude and priorities to where you made poor choices about how to go about life, abandoning paths with great potential because you didn’t believe you could follow them; the fallout of all of this means your relationships with other people, most especially women, are pretty much dysfunctional even now and you’re having trouble fixing yourelf; but you know that even though she screwed up she did try to do her best in other ways to make life reasonable with decent food and decent Xmas presents and whatever help she could come up with; and you understand that she made her poor choices because she was badly abused as a child and is kinda broken; and you love her but you’re still so angry 30 years later that you really just can’t talk to her very well about anything, even though you’re doing well financially and finally in a career you want and everything’s pretty good (except your love life).

    I managed to climb out of the pit, money- and career-wise, sometimes I don’t know how… but I’ve got a long way to go. The emotional damage is the worst part and the longest lasting, which if you’ve paid attention over these threads has been a constant theme.

    The worst is when you know you’re doing really well, but you still find it impossible to be happy about it.

    Besides, who wants to be “rich” and “successful” when that means you’d be just like the arrogant pricks you always hated (for their disdain) and envied (for their good fortune) growing up?

    I’m really lucky I’m white, male, and have a knack with computers and art, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to dig out. *whew*

  26. Iammycatsmom, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    At one point in time, my husband had a job that paid $22 an hour, at a printing company. We had a nice, tidy little house and two cars. He used his to drive to work. I used mine to drive the kids to their soccer practice or library, to my volunteer hours at our local pet shelter and to buy groceries. We were’t super rich, but (we thought) we were just fine. Then my husband started getting these blinding headaches with seemingly no cause. His doctor sent him to a specialist who found a growth in his brain that had to be removed. He took a leave of absence (meaning no income, just the promise of a job when he’d recovered) from work and had the operation.

    While I hate complaining because to this day I still give thanks that I didn’t lose my husband to a tumor, I also still cannot believe how much damage this tumor did to us beyond the physical toll on his body and the emotional toll on our family. Thanks to the lack of universal health care, we had a crummy HMO that we paid for ourselves for a little over $220 a month that only paid 80% of the operation and flat out refused to pay for some of the x-rays and meds.

    We were literally swallowed by our medical bills. They were pouring in. My husband was still recovering so I got a job but it only paid less than half what he had been making.

    After a few months of struggling, we gave our cars up for “voluntary repossession.” If you’ve never heard of that one, it means I drove our cars to the dealer to avoid having the humiliation of having them towed from our driveway. On our credit, though, it’s still just “repossession.” I started riding the bus to work and the grocery store. We never took the kids anywhere because we couldn’t afford to.

    And things just got worse. We couldn’t pay all the bills so they went to collections agencies who are staffed by some of the most inhumane people on the planet, as far as I can tell. They often left me in tears with their threats of lawsuits and the like.

    We sold our house and used the $6500 we made off it to pay for a year’s rent in a small apartment, hoping having the burden of housing off us would enable us to start paying the collectors.

    My husband was finally ready to go back to work, only his job was gone. His whole company was gone thanks to a semi-hostile buy-out and the new owners were not obligated nor did they want to give him his job back.

    He took another much less paying job out of dire need and then added a second one. So did I. We worked 4 jobs between us for several years.

    Now we are back on our feet, though much, much more cautious and wary. Our new home we were only able to buy because a distant relative sold it to us “owner finance” and she’s letting us pay way less than most people in a house like this would pay. (Our credit is still totally shot thanks to how late we paid so many of our bills and our car repossessions.)

    We drive a 12-year-old mini van with 195K miles on it and no AC that we paid cash for, and it’s our only vehicle. I do not use credit for anything and would be turned down even if I wanted to. I pay an extraordinary amount for “good” health care coverage and wonder how good it would really be if another disaster struck.

    The really sad thing about all this is it’s not the worst story in my family regarding what our rotten health care system does to people in this country. My father died because of no insurance – the ER doctor refused to consult a cardiologist because he was uninsured. You hear so much about how the hospitals have to take you even if you don’t have insurance, but what they don’t tell you is they are only obligated to the point that the ER doctor sees you and makes a decision.

    You can call me a commie-socialist or whatever, too, but I think it’s a crime that a country with the resources we have doesn’t even provide basic medical care to millions of its citizens.

  27. Amazing, amazing post. It brought tears to my eyes remember my days with a lot less than I have now…
    I grew up in Ireland, and I miss its state unemployment system. If I’d been in the same situation under a US-style system, things could have been much, much worse.

  28. The theme of being poor has hit a very sensitive nerve that is why there is an outpouring of contribution to this blog. It is hard to be detached and objective when the experiences being written here actually happened to real people.

    To the guy who thinks that you can just wish away your troubles – I say, good luck and hope you can do the same to all the pain and suffering when you have cancer or other life-threatening conditions.

    It was a taboo in this society to discuss money before but not anymore. You can no longer make fun of minorities, women or disabled people because it is politically incorrect (not because it is morally reprehensible). Yet, sitcoms and other programs turn personal tragedies into a cryfest, comedy or feel-good stories.

    Remember, what we do for ourselves die with us. What we do for others remain forever.

  29. “To the guy who thinks that you can just wish away your troubles – I say, good luck and hope you can do the same to all the pain and suffering when you have cancer or other life-threatening conditions.”

    You are right, you just can’t “wish” things away. But it’s about changing your attitude at the way you look at things to realize there’s hope. From that place of hope, you can be inspired to take appropriate actions that get you closer to your goals, whatever they may be but you have to know what those goals are and write them down. This is much better than the alternative of feeling lousy and resigning and accepting everything as if you have ZERO control. Sure, you can’t control everything but you can control your thoughts.

    I know it’s all woo-woo and airy-fairy but you’ll find agreement in people who carry “rich” mindsets and attitudes. In all, the main ingredient is ‘inspired action’ coming from your clear goals. Very few know EXACTLY what they want, and it really starts from there. I’m speaking from my experience and experiences of “rich” people I’ve met in my life.

    I used to be poor and struggling. I’ve even stayed at a shelter. And I’m no special flower.

  30. Being poor is using the bathroom at school because you haven’t had money for toilet paper in weeks, and when you have to go at home using an old towel you wash out in the sink because there still isn’t money for any.

    Being poor means relishing the oil that comes to the top of government peanut butter.

    Being poor means you’ve looked forward to generic government “pork” in a can.

    Being poor means saying you’re 18 when you’re 14 so you can work two jobs and go to high school.

    Being poor means even though you’re valedictorian of your class thinking about quitting school so you can help make ends meet.

    Being poor means quitting extra curricular activities that may send you to college because you have to work instead.

    Being poor means being 12 and never telling your mother that her boyfriend is inappopriately touching you because you know he’s paying the rent.

    Being poor is stealing clothes from garage sales because you don’t have the 10 cents for the extra shirt.

    Being poor is washing out tin foil and plastic baggies because you can’t afford more.

    Being poor is wondering what it’s like to have a stove in your kitchen instead of a hot plate.

    It’s hard. It’s so hard to look back at this and realize this was my life. Someone took pity on me, and I was lucky. I now live comfortably middle class, and now find myself hoarding enormous amounts of food because I’m afraid of being hungry again.

  31. I’ve never been dirt poor, but I HAVE been a military wife. ANYONE married to an E knows that until you hit Senior Enlisted status, you pray that the food will hold out until payday, and that you can pay all the bills. It’s the trutht hat quite a few junior enlsited with kids end on food stamps–for a reason.

    The nasty truth is that while the military provides free healthcare and gives you a hosuing allowance–that HA NEVER covers anywhere near the actual cost of decent housing in the area. The stated goal is to pay 85% at msot. ANd that does NOT include utilities which ARE included in base housing (other than phone). This can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of housing in places like ME or FL.

    As a NAvy wife, I KNOW what it is to stretch a dollar, to get VERY good with pasta dishes. I also know it’s like to dread the phone ringing if you don’t have caller ID–because it could be someone calling about a late payment. When he deploys, it’s hoping you can scrape up the money for huge phone bills so you can talk to him once a week. It’s praying the car hold together and the tires don’t blow becasue you can’t afford it until next payday. It’s regarding a trip to McDOnald’s a s treat.

    This is how those of us who are working poor live. The worst part, fo rme, was hving TWO master’s degrees but being unabl;e to get a jhpb which wouild have made life much esier–becsue companies d on’t hire Navy wives for good jobs, and if youa re educated, you can’t get hired for minimum wage jopbs because “you’re over-qualified and will quit when soemthignbetter coems along.”

    My hsuband retired in April 2003. It took him 6months to get a job. The nursing hoem he wotrked at got sold, and he, along iwth everyone else, ws fired. We are living on hsi pension and his unemployemnt which puts us abvoe the poverty line, but below anything cpproachign a decent standard of living. We’re back to being close to poor. And it sucks.

    Personally I think every alst pol, social worker, bureaucrat and Republican pundit needs to live on minimum wage for a YEAR befoe allwoed to run for office, or get a job. Might be an eye-opening expeirnce fo rthem.

  32. “Being poor is having perfect strangers sit back in their comfortable lives and snidely tell you that it’s your fault you’re poor, because you’re not THINKING the right way (== the way they think).”

    “Oh yeah, being broke means having some schmuck tell you that it’s your attitude that’s keeping you that way, and then try to sell you a bunch of worthless, overpriced books, videos, tapes, CD’s, etc. about success!”

    This is the coolest thing and won’t cost you a cent: http://curezone.com/forums/m.asp?f=296&i=814

    Excerpt: “To some people this sounds like a bunch of magical nonsense. Well, it is already working for you now. What you think about now is what is coming into your life. You are depressed and thinking everything is lousy, and that is what you are getting! Why not try making a change on the inside, instead of yet another outside change which in the past has proved to be wasted effort, because you always end up in the same situation. If you try it, it will work. What you dwell on is what you see. Change your mind and change what you see.”

    The nice thing about all this is that you don’t have to do it alone. By aligning your thoughts in a positive direction, you’ll literally attract positive people and circumstances that’ll bewilder and surprise you. Again, this may seem far out but you need todo something different to get different results, otherwise you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

  33. I’m a lawyer but grew up in circumstances that although not dire were not exactly middle class either. I rarely think about my childhood or those less fortunate but a minute into reading this I had to close my office door so no one would see me sobbing. Thank you for giving me back my humanity and forcing me to reevaluate my life and start doing something worthwhile with it.

  34. Being poor is being chronically ill but not being able to go to the doctor desite finally having health insurance because there’s no way you could pay the deductible.

    That said, I totally disagree with the above posters who think that universal healthcare is the solution. I am moderately involved with several online communities of people with chronic illnesses, either the same as my own or similar things. There are a number of active posters who live in either the UK or Canada, and after hearing about their experiences, no way do I want to end up with something similar.

    Aside from the huge tax increases that would be necessary, aside from the huge delays that it takes to get anything done for “minor” things, with universal healthcare, you tend to get stuck with one doctor. If I had the money, I could go to any doctor I wanted here. If I had a doctor tell me I was full of crap and there was nothing wrong with me, I could tell him or her, “Screw you,” and go to someone that will do something for me. If I were elsewhere and got a disbelieving doctor, I’d probably be stuck.

  35. Being poor is not inviting your poor friends over because you don’t want them to know you have an outhouse.

    Being poor is having your neighbor with a phone walk up the road to let your parents know that your older brother got back safely to his home in another state.

    Being poor is seeing the financial aid figures from M.I.T. and having the grants be more than your family’s income.

    Being poor is your parents not being able to blackmail you by witholding tuition money because the expected family contribution is 300 bucks a year.

    Being poor is taking your bra off as soon as you get home from work so it’ll last longer, because it’s more expensive than your shirt.

    Being poor is taking the set of dishes from the box in front of the Salvation Army at night while no one is looking.

    Being poor is your feet hurting because you can’t afford shoes with arch support.

    Being poor is cleaning other people’s bathrooms all day, and letting your own go because you can’t stand to scrub another toilet.

    Being poor is cutting the green part off the bar of cheese and eating the middle.

    Being formerly poor is grinning like an idiot because you got a raise to 8 bucks an hour.

    Being formerly poor is feeling extravagant for buying a 4-dollar mocha once a week.

    Being formerly poor is not filling out the Earned Income Credit worksheet on your taxes because you know you no longer qualify.

    Being formerly poor is still taking your bra off as soon as you get home from work, because it still costs more than your shirt.

  36. Trying my best to Be Good, because Scalzi has his nimble eye on me…

    >>>This is the coolest thing and won’t cost you a cent: http://curezone.com/forums/m.asp?f=296&i=814

    *long exhausting sigh*

    The best I can say about this is to quote Krishnamurti who contemptuously dismissed someone with, “You only know what you have been told!”

    Everything in that link is nothing but Napoleon Hill in a different arrangement of words.

    Being poor is having to witness the idiocy and blithe ignorance of other people as they tell you they “know” how your problems can be solved. And knowing that what they’re saying is nothing that they personally *know*.

  37. Being poor means waiting in line every day at the school secretary’s office for your lunch token.

    Being poor means knowing every combination of lunches you can get for the 70p that token is worth.

    Being poor means the lunch ladies will refuse to give you three bowls of jelly because it’s not “healthy”, and you’re paying with a token, even when the next kid paying cash can get anything he wants.

    Being poor means your mother applying for scholarships at the private school for you without telling you because she knows it’s a route out of being poor.

    Being poor means being the only kid in class to raise their hand when the teacher rhetorically asks how many people there live in council housing.

    Being poor means you have calculated how much you earn with every hour, minute, second you work.

    Being poor means not asking for more money per hour because you might not get called back for more work.

    Being poor means knowing that your employer is taking your national insurance contributions from your wages and not giving them to the government, but not making a fuss about it.

    Being poor means dropping a pound coin into the cup of the homeless kids living in a doorway, on the way home from work, when you only got 20 pounds for the day’s work, because they need it more than you.

    Being poor is taking an advance from the cashbox every day for lunch because you don’t have enough money just lying around.

    Being poor means knowing exactly how many hours, minutes, seconds it will take to buy any kind of luxury.

    Being poor is knowing exactly what percentage of the take for the day at your job is represented by your wages.

    Being poor means you never make a mistake with the change you give, you check every note for counterfeits, and you have to argue with scam-artists who claim they gave you a twenty when they gave you a ten, because any discrepancy or forged notes comes right out of your wages.

    Being poor means you’ve never seen disposable paper towels in your house, you heat the kitchen by turning on the stove burners, having a broken window in your bedroom for years on end, knowing that Lego is the best toy because it can be rebuilt an infinite number of times.

    Being poor means the prostitutes work the corner of your street.

    Being poor means when you’re burgled, there’s no insurance to cover anything.

    Being poor is having a black and white TV in 1985.

    Being poor means the police kicking down your junkie/dealer neighbour’s door is not an event worth more than a passing comment.

    Being poor means knowing real criminals. Sometimes, they come over for dinner.

    Being poor means knowing people when you were children who are dead by the time you’re 21.

    Being poor means you know what bubble & squeak tastes like. (It’s pretty good.)

    Someone else already mentioned luck. Being poor is knowing how lucky you are to be poor in a rich country and not poor in a poor country.

    Being poor means knowing that the headlines in the right-wing newspapers are talking about you & your family & your friends as a “problem” or a “threat”.

  38. We were kind of poor for about two years, after we were first married. Jim was a Catholic School teacher and I was a college student and/or worked part time. Having no spare money (but, luckily, having insurance) meant I took a bus to the hospital to have surgery. I was planning to take a bus home, but a relative handed me five bucks so I could take a cab.

    Jim’s family was genuinely poor and on welfare. Jim still remembers what that’s like. He’s always been pretty sensitive about the need for a government safety net. One of his brothers (the wealthiest one, natch) is something of a “born again Republican,” who bitterly resents any of his money going to taxes. Never mind that other people’s tax money kept his family together when their father deserted them.

    Laurie Mann
    Government by Gumby
    http://www.dpsinfo.com/blog/2005/09/government-by-gumby.html

  39. Being poorer is being too well-behaved to be considered poor, and therefore being held in contempt by those who are supposed to help.

    >>>Being poor is having a black and white TV in 1985.

    Being poor is having a black and white TV for most of your life — and when you finally get a color TV (not new), being suprised that the majority of people on TV do not have brown eyes like you do. And also noticing that in *every* newscast where the “general public” is spoken to or shown, they make sure to show a blue-eyed, blonde woman.

  40. Being poor is your mother turning on the gas range every day when she gets home from work to make sure the gas hasn’t been turned off.

    Being poor is having your father beg the electric company to turn the lights back on, because it’s your birthday.

    Being poor is doing your homework by candlelight, or at the library until it closes.

    Being poor is knowing that the IRS and bank letters that come every day aren’t normal.

    Being poor is telling bill collectors on the phone that there’s no one by that name here.

    Being poor is having your car catch on fire while you’re driving it because it’s so old and broken-down.

    Being poor is telling the bank for the fifth time that you’ve never bounced a check before so they’ll take off the $32 charge.

    Being poor is being afraid to lose a pound because you won’t be able to afford new clothes.

    I could go on, but I might start crying. Thank you, thank you for this, and everyone for their comments. I feel less alone right now.

  41. Being Poor is buying a gallon of milk and mixking half of it with water to make it last longer.

    Being poor is wearing your brothers hand me down underwear,even though you are a girl.

    Being poor is sleeping over at a friends house often, just so you can eat.

  42. Being Poor…for me
    Being poor is growing up in a house with 15 aunts and uncles with only 3 bedrooms.

    Being poor is meeting your dad for the first time when your already a man.

    Being poor is being raised by your mother who you see only one day a week, her day off – then she’s too tired…

    Being poor is watching your mother work hard to send you to a private school when she found out your in 6th grade with a 3rd grade reading score.

    Being poor is finally getting a good job and you earn more money than your mother even after 25 years on her job.

    Today, I’m not poor, but I still remember what a butter and sugar bread sandwich for dinner taste like…. Yes, I cried for the people of NO.

  43. Being poor is affording to send your kid to a ghetto Catholic grade school by buying her one uniform skirt that she will wear every school day for two years straight, and thick cotton tights that she’ll wear for just as long, although she’s still growing, and eventually the crotch of the tights will only pull up to mid-thigh. She’ll play on the monkey bars at recess. The other kids will see her underwear and laugh.

    Being poor is one tub full of bathwater for three kids.

    Being poor is the nuns showing up at your doorstep on Christmas morning with gifts: a little cardboard box of LifeSavers that you can still taste twenty years later.

    Being poor is the cops getting sick of getting called to your house by the neighbors. Again.

    Being poor is showing up to a brand new high school on your first day as a freshman (because your family moved again). You don’t know anyone there, but a girl in your class knows the shirt you’re wearing, because her mom donated it to Goodwill a while back.

    Being poor is shooting your old, sick dog instead of allowing the vet to end its life in a peaceful, non-violent way.

    Being poor is one member of the family always sleeping on the couch.

    Being poor is the entire family sleeping on the floor in a pile when the heating oil runs out.

    Being poor is finding bags of groceries on your porch with no note attached.

    Being poor is ending up the first person in your family to go to college, and showing up at the dorm on the first day with no towels and no sheets because you don’t own any, and you don’t know anyone with the experience to tell you that, no, a dorm isn’t really like a hotel, you need to bring your own.

    Being poor is not having the money to continue college past the first quarter.

    Being poor is seventeen years old and moving in with a boyfriend; he’s nice if not that smart and you won’t cost your family any more money that way.

    Being poor is selling your plasma to buy white rice in bulk. Sometimes potatoes. Velveeta when feeling extravagant.

    Being poor–but lucking into a job where most people aren’t–is working late so that you can swipe a couple of quarters from the change cup your co-workers keep next to the Coke machine.

    Being poor is two stolen quarters being real money to you.

    Being poor is unable to scrape together first/last/security deposit to move out of the shitty apartment where some thuggy kid stabbed another thuggy kid next door last night. You live there, a young woman alone, and hope for the best.

    Being poor is smoking butts from other people’s cigarettes.

    Being poor is stealing diner-style sugar packets anytime you’re in a position to put your hands on some, so you can take them back home to have sugar with your coffee.

    John: Thank you. Really, thank you.

  44. Being poor is begging for food for your five children, hoping for help, dreaming of a better life and living on a prayer.

  45. Hey Tony, I absolutely second the recommendation for Modest Needs as an excellent charity devoted to keeping people from “falling through the cracks.”

    They ALSO have a free “Fiscal Fitness” program…not sure how good it is if you just plain don’t have money at all, but it is good if you’re taking in just enough to keep your head above water, so to speak.

  46. Great post John. I’ve been on patrol and just got in to see everything that is going on.

    My own contibution is: being poor was seeing that the military was my only option for an education.

  47. On Being Poor.

    Being Poor. Lots of buzz around it, hundreds of comments too. One line that struck me was: Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours. I don’t feel I’ve ever been poor at all, but I used to not invite my …

  48. To the Anonymous who talked about medical care:
    I’ve lived in the US, and I’ve lived in the UK, and I much prefer the medical system in the UK. Infinitely. I had two babies on the NHS, with a C-section for the first of them, and spent a total of 7 nights in hospital between the two. I had to have a blood transfusion because I was badly anaemic after the second baby.

    Total direct cost to me, from the antenatal care I received all the way through the home visits for the fortnight after each birth: nada. Total cost to the single mothers in the public housing down the road, for the same quality of care: nothing again. Result: healthier babies.

    And you can wangle through the NHS, if you get a doctor that doesn’t believe you. I never liked the consultant assigned to me for my first baby, so I asked to see another one. Going to a group GP practice, like I do, means I can see one of seven doctors – or I can see my “particular” doctor if I wish. Their practice also specifically asks if I want to see a “lady” doctor in case it’s an issue I would prefer not to discuss with a man.

    It’s not perfect by any means – more severe illnesses are sometimes untreated for too long. Months’ wait for a hip replacement. Waiting for the cancer checks until it’s metastisised, in some underfunded areas. Drugs that may not be funded. But everyone gets medical care, free at the point of use.

    > If I had the money, I could go to any doctor I wanted here.

    And if you didn’t, you couldn’t go to any doctor at all. And that’s what bites.

  49. Yeesh…reading this post and these comments have practically given me an anxiety attack. I didn’t grow up desperately poor (we always had enough to eat) but I was always the kid with the unfashionable Wal-Mart clothes and no lunch money. We also fell in that space between desperately poor and too well to do for any sort of assistance.

    However, nothing can prepare you for what happens when you’re homeless, as I was for two brief stints in my late teens. It takes years to get out of that moment-to-moment mindset.

    If you’ve never slept in a public bathroom in the dead of winter, or agreed to do some rich kid’s term paper so he’d let you into the common room of his dorm to sleep, or flirted with the guy at the deli so he’d give you a sandwich, or had someone shout ‘get a job!’ at you while you were on the way to work, or slept in the storeroom of the convienence store in which you work while your friend on the graveyard shift watched out for the manager, or gotten fired from said job when the manager found you sleeping in the storeroom, or carried all of your possesions in a huge backpack on your back, or caught your reflection in a plate glass window and thought ‘gee, I’m a bum now I guess,’ you’ve never lived.

    I think the moment I really hit rock bottom was at one point while sparing for change, (something it takes just a few days without eating to get over, trust me) I realized that people wouldn’t give me money with a sign that said “hungry,” but with a sign that said “need booze” people would laugh and with a hearty ‘well, at least she’s honest!’ plunk down some cash.

    Coming back from homelessness is nearly impossible, and when you do so you can’t believe your luck. Awhile back I got asked for change from a young punky girl in a store doorway and was taken aback because I still thought of myself as the asker, not the askee.

    So, this is longer than I meant to post but there you go.

  50. Being poor is looking forward to garbage day so you can get out early to hopefully find something you can use or fix-up and sell.

    Being poor is thinking that if things get REALLY bad you can always commit a crime (and get caught of course) so you can go to jail for the food and housing.

    Being poor is realizing “Hey, there is always suicide”.

  51. Not to take the subject on hand in a different direction, it is worth looking back and talking to people who lived through the Depression and WWII. We are not in a recession or depression (yet) but the incidence of poverty is on the rise and it has been masked by mumbo jumbo of statistics. The older people I know or have met do not remember those times very fondly because it brings back painful memories of young siblings dying, getting by with the bare minimum to survive and in some cases living with disabilities that last a lifetime. The generation that lived through WWII have to live on rationing, homegrown food and be creative in living their daily lives.
    There was a call for shared hardship that people heeded because there was a legitimate reason for the sacrifice. No one begruged their neighbors because everyone is willing to do their patriotic duty.
    Compare that to the present situation where there is a phony war on terror, a self-proclaimed war president and a flood of lies and disinformation. Disparity in income and wealth distribution have been widening than in any other time in history. The burden has been shifted to the working people, retirees and children. No wonder we are getting so confused, divided and becoming bitter with one another.
    Being poor is not a crime but slowly becoming so when the safety net is being dismantled in the name of self-reliance and conservative ideology. Poverty is not a simple academic exercise that can be studied, dissected or analyzed without taking into consideration the social and cultural context in which it is happening.

    P.S. Regarding my comments earlier about “wishing away your trouble…” – I am not advocating or even suggesting that you resign and accept your fate. I have been dealing with a chronic illness for the last five years and fighting it every inch of the way. I have not lost hope nor given in to the notion of resignation and quiet acceptance. I’m dealing with a physical, organic struggle here that require more than changing the state of mind. If you read Lance Armstrong’s bio “It Is Not About the Bike” you will understand the monumental struggle, will and determination needed to deal with a health problem. Everything else becomes trivial.

  52. Being poor is knowing that you couldn’t buy hot food with foodstamps.

    Being poor is knowing that you can buy a six-pack of generic soda for 0.99$ in food stamps. Then selling it back to classmates to make a 0.50$ cash profit.

    Being poor is liking the taste of WIC cheese, raisins, and peanut-butter.

    Being poor is hating the taste of dry-powder milk, but knowing you can’t do anything about it but drink the powdered milk or eat cereal with water.

    Being poor is being afraid to use your new xmas t-shirt out to play because your neighbors will think you’re rich.

    Being poor is never having ridden in a car until you’re 10.

    Being poor is walking a mile to the bus stop with your pregnant, single-mother two twin brothers, and a little sister, and a brother in a wheel chair.

  53. Being poor is having shoe soles so thin that if you step on a coin you can tell if it’s heads or tails.

  54. To Anonymous who posted on not wanting a national healthcare system, because of what he heard from people in the UK and Canada:

    I’ve been poor in the US and in the UK. As with Abi, I’ll say the UK is way, way better. I would have died in the US, if it had not been for a former teacher who found a doctor who would give me free antibiotics out of the samples the drug companies left at his office — because even though the ER is obliged to see everyone, they are not obliged to give you a full course of treatment. And if they write you a prescription that you can’t afford to pay for, tough.

    Here in the UK, you get to see a doctor without calling around for charity, and if you can’t pay for them, you get the antibiotics free too. You don’t have to lie curled up on the floor shivering and sweating and slowly starving to death because you’re too sick to get up and the only thing you can do is hope somebody else cares enough to help you out for free.

    And you know what? I’m not poor any more. I have a decent job and a decent wage, and I pay for everything, including the taxes which pay for other folks going to doctors — and I STILL pay fewer taxes than I would be paying in the US. The nonsense about sky-high taxes over here is nonsense.

    Being poor in the US is about being told that you must “want” to be poor, because you could fix it with a better attitude — and knowing that you don’t get to hear the protests against that from the ones who died.

    Being poor in the UK is having a better chance of not dying.

  55. Being poor is having to come up with excuses why you don’t want to eat out.

    Being poor is trying to justify your excuses to make yourself feel better.

    Being poor is avoid trying new things because you are ashamed of coming up with excuses.

    Being poor is knowing you have to make excuses and you can’t stop being ashamed of them.

    Being poor is protecting your children from knowing you’re poor.

    Being poor is having to deal with adult situations when you’re a child. When you become an adult, realizing how you were taken advantage of.

    Being formerly poor, I still think the same way because that’s the way I grew up.

  56. Being poor is realizing, when you finally give up, that the most painless methods of killing yourself are also the most expensive.

  57. I just want to say thank you for your post. I have a few friends I’d like to send it to, including one who told me once that $40 was objectively not a lot of money. More people need to understand exactly what it means to be poor in America.

  58. The trouble with advising poor people that their situation can be changed with an attitude change and goal-setting is that the advice, however well-intentioned, lets everyone else off the hook for benefitting from a system that works by keeping poor people poor.

    Why bother doing anything about a minimum wage that almost no one can survive on when you believe that the difference between poor and wealthy is getting your mind right? Why fix a health care system that preys on the people who can least afford it if you think that anyone can fix their lives with a little reorganization? While it’s perhaps true that many people could benefit from positive attitudes and focus, they don’t guarantee anything in a culture that thrives on keeping wages down and unemployment up just so those on the lowest rungs can be pressured into gratitude for the little they have.

    Do you really think adding more guilt to the lives of people who already worry about being a burden on society – as so many here have expressed – does anything but increase the misery of folks who have enough to worry about without wondering whether they’re being properly grateful for anything beyond the barest survival needs? Do you really think the thousands and thousands of people working multiple jobs just to cover their expenses and provide for their families aren’t setting goals for themselves? Do you think that “Wake up call!” can be anything but horribly patronizing to the people who have watched years slip by without ever coming closer to those goals, no matter how positive their outlooks or how diligently they’ve worked?

    And don’t you think it’s preferable, instead of urging everyone to “better” themselves by trying to become computer programmers and office workers (work that not everyone is of the right temperament to do), to instead provide the people who cook our food and build our houses and take away our garbage and clean our floors and stock our groceries – the jobs we’ll probably always need – with wages that at least approach the benefit we collectively derive from their labor?

    –Not that any of it matters one way or another to the people of NOLA. Whatver goals they were working towards, whatever benefits their positive attitudes have reaped, they’re mostly at the bottom of a lake of toxic shit right now, whether they wrote it all down or not. I’m not prepared to tell them that a little more positive outlook would’ve made all that better, so too bad. Are you?

  59. Had to skate past most of the posts, so forgive me if this subject has been thoroughly washed before:

    You can be poor and have a car. And being able to start that car when it’s been parked on the street and the overnight low was -5°F can be the only thing that will keep the heat on that month.

    You can be poor and have a VCR or DVD player. DVD’s are about 30 bucks at Wal-Mart now. Renting, borrowing or taping movies gives you and the kids a “movie night” for less than the cost of one movie ticket. And you’ll put up with the kids watching “Lion King” three times a day for a month because at least there are no commercials for things you can’t afford.

  60. Not being poor means you’re getting big dividends from you Wal-Mart stock because of the way they’re “keeping prices low,” then complaining about the cost of your state’s Medicaid, which has to take care of the children of Wal-Mart employees who don’t get enough hours to qualify for benefits.

  61. To Anonymous who posted on not wanting a national healthcare system, because of what he heard from people in the UK and Canada:

    Strange as it may seem, creating a universal, socialised healthcare system in America would not neccessarily involve “huge tax increases”. To quote some statistics, in 2002, the American government spent $9,421 of tax money per adult on healthcare. In the same year, Britain, France, Sweden, Germany and Canada (all having excellent universal healthcare) spent between $8,400 and $9,100 per adult. Quite simply, the money already spent on healthcare could easily cover the neccessiies. And, then, if you could afford to go private, and see “any doctur you want”, you still could, but it would be an option, not a requirement.

    Admittedly, the British system isn’t perfect, it’s a lot better, and a lot cheaper, than the American system, which seems to be based on the idea that the people most at risk of illness and injury are the least deserving of treatment.

    Having lived 30 years of my life in Britain, and having recently moved to America to get married, (in both countries, my income has slightly exceeded my expenitures, even with a few luxuries, so I’m far from poor), I’m horrified at how much I’m paying in real terms for basic medical care. My wife has tried to explain the concept of “co-pay” to me, and it seems to boil down to “you pay taxes, your employer pays health insurance (which means they can’t pay you as much), you top up that health insurance, and a doctor *still* won’t see you unless you pay him directly.” I don’t think that makes a great deal of sense.

    In Britain, doctors are overworked and underpaid. They do their job because it needs to be done, and they want to help people; it’s seen as a noble calling, and elicits sympathy more than anything else, much like being an inner-city teacher. Wages are also lower at the private health insurance companies, because people won’t pay too much more, when they can always just use the NHS, if they need to.

    If the American healthcare system focused less on making a profit and more on curing the sick, then you might not have 10 million people who can’t afford health insurance but don’t qualify for MediCare. You might no longer have the world’s most expensive medical system, but only the 15th best access to medical procedures, and the 9th best access to drugs.

    I’ve rambled a bit. Oh, well.

  62. Being poor is being a stack of dominoes waiting to fall.

    Here’s how it goes in Jesse-land:

    Jesse has a job waiting tables. He knows damn well he needs the job. He does his best. Still, there’s a run of bad tips for a couple weeks. Just bad luck.

    He can’t cover the electric bill that month. Oh well. It’s spring, and the stove’s gas; won’t freeze, can still cook.

    The electricity gets turned off at exactly the wrong moment: while he’s sleeping. He didn’t know when he went to bed that his alarm clock wouldn’t work in the morning. He calls in to work and gets told not to bother coming in.

    Well, there goes the rent. Frantic job-hunting ensues, until the phone gets turned off as well. One week to come up with rent: $210. Not gonna happen. Jesse bites the bullet and goes to apply for emergency assistance.

    After a thorough grilling, including a lot of disbelief because he ‘sounds educated’ (Uh, yeah… I /was/ educated… you’d think that would help me get a job… it still confuses me that it doesn’t…) he’s told he qualifies for — drum roll please — $50 in food stamps and a $120 check!

    “Uhm… I told you I’m $210 short of rent. I live alone. I don’t need $50 of food, I need my rent paid or I’m out.” “Then I guess it’s time to move into cheaper housing, isn’t it?” “Oooo-kay. Got a list of places I can move into for $120?” “You’re wasting our time. Take this form to that window. And don’t forget, if you don’t show up for these daily ‘work readiness’ classes, which you have to take a bus downtown to attend during prime job-hunting hours, you’ll lose all benefits.”

    Now homeless, Jesse dutifully attends two work readiness classes. They are geared toward people who cannot write their own names. Even the borderline retarded people in the class are exasperated by its uselessness. Jesse had hoped there would be, maybe, a list of job openings posted or something like a job fair, but no, it’s just 4 hours he’ll never get back. Since the benefits aren’t getting him off the street anyway, he doesn’t bother going back.

    One day, while gnawing on pizza from the dumpster behind Rocky Roccoco’s, he spits out a filling. C’est la vie.

    Using the food stamps to buy a 25-cent orange at two different stores in order to get the change for bus fare, he goes job hunting. He’s pretty good at finding places to bathe, he sounds smart and charming, but the jobs just aren’t there.

    After a month of couch-mooching and occasional park-sleeping, good luck strikes, far more suddenly than the bad luck did: an old friend from high school is looking for a roommate, and is willing to wait on the rent. Jesse has a place to stay and someone to puppy-eyes food out of for the duration of the job-hunt! Insert happy dance.

    Another month of mooching off this good-hearted friend, and Jesse finds a job. Minimum wage, a commute almost as long as the working day, 35 hours a week, no benefits. But — job! Insert another happy dance.

    Far more ant than grasshopper after his nasty summer of bathing in the McDonald’s bathroom, Jesse does everything he has to and keeps this job for three years. Not once does he get a raise, nor even the full-time hours that would qualify him for benefits, and attempts to find a better job or a second part-time gig go kersplooie. But still! All the ramen he can eat, and his roomie only has to float him the occasional 20 on rent!

    And then he gets bronchitis. Every time he calls in sick, the manager tells him he better show up or he’s fired. So he walks to work in 20-below weather, coughs up a lung on the sandwich table, and gets sent home — another walk in the winter wonderland. Sicker the next day, of course, same thing happens again, repeat for two weeks. Antibiotics from the free clinic do nothing. Finally appeals to manager’s boss, boss gets spanked, Jesse gets time to rest up. Unpaid, of course.

    Upon returning to work, discovers that manager wins: Jesse his henceforth only needed for 4 hours a week. And since he’s no longer living with the generous roomie…

    C’est la vie. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Oh, I got out. Took me ten years — or fifteen, depending on how you define ‘poor’ — but I got out. To those who stress ‘positive thinking’, let me offer a contrary opinion: what got me out was NEGATIVE thinking. Thinking like so: “I am too mean to die.” “I don’t give a damn if it makes them mad, I’m going to keep asking them.” “You win THIS time, manager lady, but maybe my next manager will be too scared of me to pull this crap.” And our old favorites, “C’est la vie,” “So it goes,” and “Wotthehell, Archie, wotthehell.” I’m not saying it’ll work for anyone but me, but if the airy-fairy stuff doesn’t ring for you, try being a stubborn sonofabitch.

    Toujours gai,
    Jesse “Unbreakable” Hajicek

  63. Oops! Can you believe I forgot the punchline?

    Being poor is…

    A root canal 15 years after you spit out the filling. You would not believe the size of the hole in my molar, you could stick a pencil eraser in there, and I often did. Cheers to Dental Hygiene Man from the previous thread!

  64. Being poor is making that deal with your dad when you were 14, that no you wouldn’t call the cops on them, and he’d put you through college.

    Being poor is him bailing on the deal when you’re 19 and you were the first in the family to make it into college in the first place, despite it all.

    Being poor is managing to become emancipated and sleeping on your friends floor as a result because there’s noplace else to go.

    Being poor is getting your degree – and not ten years later being downsized.

    Being poor is realizing that the degree doesn’t mean anything anyway – except for those student loans you now can’t pay.

    Being poor is being tired of hearing “You’re overeducated, you’re overqualified, we can’t hire you.” – and having to take that 6.50 cashier job with Wal-Mart as a result.

    Being poor is being grateful for that 6.50 an hour job ’cause at least you won’t lose your place, your car, and maybe you can stop selling your stuff.

    Being poor is being unable to argue when hours disappear from your paycheck lest they fire you for it.

    Being poor is working 40 hours a week for 11 months and when you ask where the health insurance is for full time people, they cut your hours, and you can’t fight that either.

    Being poor is being unable to qualify for that student loan deferment because you’re 16 dollars over the poverty line from said job. (Nevermind the loans are nearly 200/month).

    Being poor is being unable to qualify for any government help because you’re not part of the groups on the list of people who qualify.

    Being poor is knowing you have the degree and people think there’s something wrong with you when you can’t find a job you can live on.

    When there’s nothing wrong with you.

    And you’ve sent out hundreds of resumes across the country.

    For a wide array of jobs you have experience doing.

    Being poor is being treated like you’re retarded by people less intelligent than you.

    And have to take it with a smile or else.

    Being poor is when well-meaning friends feel sorry for you.

    And being depressed over it.

    It’s when you start to honestly believe that not only can things get worse, they will.

    It’s just a matter of when.

  65. Some of the “poor” on this site should take a good look at where they are.

    -They are “rich” compared to 90% of the worlds population.

    -Hard work and persistence will get them out of where they are and up to where the media portrays they should be.

  66. Sitting here reading the original post and all of your comments, I am overwhelmed with sadness and guilt. I was raised upper middle class and fortunately never had to experience the things you talk about. I feel so guilty – I really hate myself right now.

  67. To Derek from the UK:

    Being poor in Manchester in the UK means:

    Doing just about OK till your husband gets sick and loses his job – both his lungs collapse. Then your mother gets very sick. To deal with a cash crisis, you buy a VCR on HP from the electricity showroom and agree to pay for it via your electricity meter. You take the VCR down the pub and you sell it for cash for a fraction of what it will cost you. You can’t manage the electricity payments through the meter, you’ve got seven kids, it’s winter. You buy another VCR from the electricity showroom – same terms. They don’t ask questions. You take it down the pub…. Seven VCRs later, your husband’s still sick, he’s never going back to work, your mother’s dead and you can’t put enough in the electricity meter each week to get any electricity at all. The electricity board starts to look into your case and then decides to pursue you for theft – HP purchases aren’t yours until you’ve made the last payment. So you aren’t entitled to sell them because they don’t belong to you. You give up paying your rent to pay them. Finally, the housing department looks into your case and sends you to see a debt counsellor. The debt counsellor (me) writes to all your creditors to organise debt payments for you – 5p a month to some, 15p a month to others. Everybody wants payment, nobody will write off a debt to the amazement of the debt counsellor given that it costs them far more to process the payments. Then your daughter’s child dies from sudden infant death syndrome. Social Security pays for the funeral but you’ve still got other costs. Your can’t make your monthly debt payments. Eventually, you go back to see the debt counsellor. Who sorts things out with the creditors – one finally decides to write off the debt. The debt counsellor quits her job but has thought about you every now and then ever since, even 15 years later, wondering how you’re doing. Wondering what the hell the electricity showroom thought it was doing. Wondering about all the other cases she saw.

    People are still poor in the UK, Derek. Miserably so. In the UK, it’s true you can get by without a car, but bus and tube fares are pretty well beyond a lot of people’s means. You’ve still got awful choices: a return bus fare to a job interview or a meal for your family?

  68. I don’t think it’s anyone’s intent for anyone to feel bad about having it good. I know I’m glad someone does. I get excited for my friends that manage to escape poverty, and for the ones that have it good and manage to keep it. I pray that they don’t get downsized or watch their jobs get sent overseas like I did and lose it all again.

    Don’t feel bad. Count the blessings, save money like a bugger…and don’t feel guilty. =(

  69. Wow, you brought NOLA into the conversation? That’s very thoughtful. People go through whatever obstacles come up, whether it’s a company layoff or the holocaust. I go through them, we all do. They’re unfortunate tragedies but it’s the attitude that’ll pull you through.

    “whatever benefits their positive attitudes have reaped, they’re mostly at the bottom of a lake of toxic shit right now, whether they wrote it all down or not. I’m not prepared to tell them that a little more positive outlook would’ve made all that better, so too bad. Are you?”

    We’re not talking about attitudes and goals preventing the unforeseen and/or influencing mother nature and making “what is” better.

    There’s a guy named Victor Frankl who survived the holocaust. He wrote a book about it. What he found was that it was his attitude that helped him get through and cope with the horrifying ordeal. He was even able to find BEAUTY in a bowl of soup water with a raw fish head.

    It’s what you make of what you’re given. I know it’s so much easier said than done but that’s doing something different. Of course, one needs to be practical and realistic and take care of things but don’t neglect the mind.

    “The trouble with advising poor people that their situation can be changed with an attitude change and goal-setting is that the advice, however well-intentioned, lets everyone else off the hook for benefitting from a system that works by keeping poor people poor.”

    Yes, the system is unfair. But if they so choose, the poor have the personal power to alter their current condition and not be poor and thereby transcending the system.

    “Why bother doing anything about a minimum wage that almost no one can survive on when you believe that the difference between poor and wealthy is getting your mind right?”

    I totally get that thousands have multiple jobs to make ends meet – it’s not rich/poor, good/bad it’s just what needs to be done.

    But there are ways to get out of that “rat race” or whatever situation you don’t want to be in. And I’m not talking about get-rich-quick stuff. Most “poor” are trapped in an endless thought-loop which helps confine them to being poor… a cycle of thoughts of worry, depression, anger, fear. It’s not their fault; society and media have “programmed” these kinds of thoughts. But there’s the opposite spectrum of thoughts that will lead to options – they just need someone or something to “snap them out of it” … whether it’s an advice, a mentor, a friend, an event, self-awareness, whatever.

    “And don’t you think it’s preferable, instead of urging everyone to “better” themselves by trying to become computer programmers and office workers (work that not everyone is of the right temperament to do)”

    Where did that come from? Just because I work with a computer doesn’t mean I urge others to do computer/office work.

    All I’m offering is advice from my and many other’s experiences. Doing something differently is better than not doing anything differently at all. And it’s free to decide and act on.

  70. “Some of the “poor” on this site should take a good look at where they are.

    -They are “rich” compared to 90% of the worlds population.

    -Hard work and persistence will get them out of where they are and up to where the media portrays they should be.”

    Same damn rationalizing poverty in America. The original intent of John in this blog is to shine a light on why the poor could not leave New Orleans when their lives are in peril even if they want to. It is not about world poverty, who is better at picking through garbage dumps or who has a positive attitude to lift themselves out of poverty. It is about being poor in ABSOLUTE (not relative terms) in this country, right HERE (not somewhere else) and NOW (not yesterday or tomorrow or some other time frame).
    Ask yourself – do I have enough cash in my pocket right now to buy food when I’m feeling the pangs of hunger? Do I have enough money to buy gas or take a bus after hearing an emergency warning and being ordered to evacuate? Can I gather my family or loved ones to take them to a safe place?
    All the platitudes about positive thinking, saving and working hard is irrelevant in this extreme emergency situation. It boils down to the ability and having the means to react to a given situation.
    Sure, we are better off than 90% of the world’s poor. Better off than people during the Depression or during the Middle Ages. We can argue all we want until the cows come home but the real issue is – can you get out without any help from others when the hurricane, tornado or wildfire is fast approaching?

  71. Being Poor is being forced to give up your pride and move back home to your parents when you’re in your late 20s, because you’ve found yourself stuck in that jobless vicious circle of not being able to get a job due to lack of work experience, but not being able to get work experience due to a lack of job – and trying to go in at the bottom rung of the ladder meets with cries of “no, you’re overqualified, we don’t trust you!” – and yet somehow having to be able to pay off student loans without any money, loans you took out to pay for that degree-level qualification that was supposed to be guarenteed to get you that future well-paid job.

    Being rich is having parents who are willing to put a roof over your head instead of enjoying their post-independent children freedom.

  72. I love all the stuff about thinking your way out of poverty. I don’t want to attack the author of that, because it *is* useful, but you have to remember: people who aren’t poor — and even people who are only *kind of* poor — may be able to pull themselves up with proper hard work and a good attitude. People who are *very* poor — and often people who are only *kind of* poor — may have months or years of fastidiousness and hard work wiped out, reduced utterly to zero, by the kind of tiny catastrophe or misstep that someone a couple of steps up the economic ladder would shrug off without much concern.

    When I was a kid, we were only a little bit poor. We were well-off enough that my folks could afford to indulge their pride by refusing to sign us up for free school lunch. They sheltered us kids from the effects of our economic status so well that I was truly shocked at 10 years old when we were visited by Sub for Santa.

    My folks are quite comfortable now, and so are all us kids. But it didn’t *just* take thinking positive; it didn’t *just* take my dad working 80-hour weeks through my entire childhood; it didn’t *just* take my mom wringing every cent of use out of every potentially useful object or scrap of food; it didn’t *just* take the help of an extended family that was always willing to share alike with what little they had; it didn’t *just* take a supportive community.

    It took all of those things plus *luck*.

  73. Being poor is your ten-year-old being gleeful that she told the lady on the phone that “She isn’t here.” because she’s heard you say it so many times.
    (Which I fixed by not saying it any more, and just letting the phone ring.)

    Being poor is having your car repo’d because you couldn’t pay the car payment because your husband’s boss couldn’t be arsed to reimburse your husband for the car-payment-amount of gas.

    Being pooor is not having the tub fixed for three years.

    Ditto the toilet.

    Being poor is the gym teacher yelling at your kid for not wearing a $17.00 “gym uniform”, because it was between that gym uniform (not even shipped to the school at that point), and the single pair of uniform pants.

    Being poor is your husband eating once a day because you’re pregnant, so you can eat twice a day.

    Being poor is not being able to look at a box of Hamburger Helper without wanting to punch someone.

    Being poor is not being able to contemplate one more package of ramen, because that was one of your two meals a day when you were pregnant.

    Being poor is finding out you’re not “poor ENOUGH” for reduced-cost school lunches, but your kid’s school would like to help you out at Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Being mentally poor is your husband refusing the help.)

    Being poor is not being “poor ENOUGH” for your little girl to go to Head Start because you’re married to her daddy.

  74. Growing up poor and not quite knowing it was your Grandma, on gov’t assistance giving your mom as many of your benifits as she could afford, because your mom wasn’t quite poor enough to qualify, but didn’t have the money to feed everyone 7 days out of the week.
    Being poor was getting yelled at for loosing one lunch ticket, because mom couldn’t afford to buy you a lunch, and you had nothing at home to make a lunch, because you had lunch tickets.
    Being poor was being happy that it was your year to get some new school clothes, from the thrift store.
    Being not quite poor, but too close, is knowing how you have your money budgeted for the next month, as long as your husband doesn’t get sick and miss some work.
    Being not quite poor, but too close, is only having a single income, because you cannot afford daycare, and you DR doen’t want you to work while pregnant.
    Being not quite poor, but too close, is knowing how to make casseroles from any leftovers you have, because you refuse to buy Hamburger Helper, and that last pound of hamburger has to stretch to feed five people, two meals.
    Being not quite poor, but too close, is wanting to take your child to the dentist, but not being able to afford the copay.
    being not quite poor, but too close, is living in constant fear that something is going to go wrong, and you will be poor, with children, and the hole you are slowly digging yourself out of will only get deeper, and they will be able to post to a list like this, when they grow up, which you never want, and your parents never wanted for you.

  75. Most “poor” are trapped in an endless thought-loop which helps confine them to being poor… a cycle of thoughts of worry, depression, anger, fear. It’s not their fault; society and media have “programmed” these kinds of thoughts.

    Because being worried, depressed, angry and afraid are not rational responses to poverty and suffering, but must be ‘programmed’ by society and media?

  76. I’ll do several posts to give people a more defined target:)

    The link to Modest Needs was excellent. Thank you.

    Another suggestion is one my family has done for the past few Christmases: Rather than giving gifts to the adults in the family, everyone contribute cash into a kitty and select a needy family to gift with it. We take turns making the selections and they have been coworkers, relatives, sugestions from pastors, etc.. It is really an excellent vehicle for giving. Also, be sure to make the gift well before Christmas because it may mean the difference between their kids having one or not, or the electricity being on on Christmas day (both have been the case with our recipients). It has worked so well that we are expanding it to other holidays as well.

    And before anyone takes a shot, yes, I have been poor, though not to the extent of some of these posts and more so that some other of the posts.

    Joe

  77. Being poor is qualifying for a poverty level HUD home even though you work 60 – 70 hours a week.

    Being blessed is having that job get you the experience and the contacts to get you a six figure income.

    Being poor is being forced to choose betwwen lunch at work (sandwich from home) or not buying lunch meat for a couple of weeks to buy shoes for the kids.

    Being blessed is living in a rural area with a large lot to let you grow a garden in the summer for fresh veggies.

    My grandmother always taught me that you never list a trouble without listing a blessing. Especially in your own mind. Especially when you have to think hard to find the blessings. They’re always there, sometimes you just have to look a little harder to see them.

    Joe

  78. Being poor is getting “let go” from the hospital six months pregnant with a kidney infection, seven days early with an IV port in your arm, because the Medicaid ran out. Being poor is the doctor telling you that if you’d had private insurance you would have been able to stay those seven days. Being poor is having the cabbie who drove you home from the hospital wave your fee out of pity, even if she is just as broke as you are.

  79. I find it curious and disheartening that in the Land of the Free, The land of opportunity, that so much of what that country is deemed to represent is denied to the majority of its citizens. Being poor in most of these case means that you governments, your leaders,and your business communities have let you all down badly.
    Having a lack of the means to live and obtain the basics of life without having to loose your dignity is surely something we all should have without question. A point which is well made by most of these posts

  80. Being poor is covering for the crack dealer across the street and the prostitute, ex-convict downstairs because they occasionally give you cash.

  81. I’m ridden with guilt after reading the comments on this post. I resented my parents for putting me on the free lunch program one year when they were both involuntarily unemployed. They never chose between the phone and the electric, or let us kids feel the slightest pang of hunger. Yet I still hated feeling “poor”. Perspective is a powerful thing. Guilt is even stronger.

  82. Hey, I liked living near the freeway!

    Happy that his mom drew the line at Goodwill underwear (I think),
    Mone

  83. From my late husband’s childhood:
    Being poor is dropping out of college because your National Merit Scholarship combined with your workstudy and off-campus job still doesn’t cover your books.

    Being poor is your mother coming home and crying because you and your younger brothers were playing with the flour and scattered it all over the kitchen, and that was all there was to eat in the house for the next few days.

    Being poor is your mother marrying and staying married to a man who beat her every night, just to keep the kids fed and housed.

    Being poor is not having your vision or your lazy eye corrected because your mother can’t afford it, with the result that you don’t get glasses until you’re 16 and you never do learn to read out of the bad eye.

    From my recent years:
    Being poor and owning a house is knowing that you only own a house because your husband died.

    Being poor is having to borrow the money for your husband’s cremation from your mother.

    Being poor is unexpectedly becoming a widow at 42 and trying hard not to cry at work, because you can’t afford to take any time off for bereavement.

    Being poor is being unable to afford a lawyer, after getting turned down by all state and local resources, to get the back pay that your former employer has owed you for over a year.

    Being poor is realizing that you will probably never have children, despite wanting them desperately, because you can’t afford adoption, you can’t afford the necessary medical assistance, and you are too responsible to bring them up poor.

    Being poor is keeping the thermostat below 60 all winter. Being poor this year is contemplating keeping the thermostat below 50 all winter, because the price of energy is skyrocketing.

    Being poor means giving until it really does hurt to Hurricane Katrina relief. You give all the money you’d have for anything other than bare-bones necessities (no thrift-store clothes for you for the next year!), but there are people who need it more than you, and you have some inkling of what it may be like for them.

  84. Being poor is convincing yourself you don’t mind the cheap scratchy TP you steal from public bathrooms.
    Being poor is having a car with a driver’s side door that won’t open, and pretending it’s funny.
    Being poor is having a car that smokes so badly that people at every stop light tell me it’s on fire, but no money to fix it.
    Being poor is going 14 years without a physical because you only ever go to the clinic and only for emergencies or STD tests.
    Being poor is bringing snacks in your purse so you don’t have to buy food out.
    Being poor is having a plastic baggie in your purse so you can sneak buffet food into it.
    Being poor is using grocery store plastic bags and food tubs for food storage instead of tupperwares and Ziplocs.
    Being poor is having to ask “are we splitting the entire tab or can I just order an appetizer and save some money?”
    Being poor is first buying a bed at the age of 31. All the previous ones were free mattresses scrounged from other people when I arrived in a new state.
    Being poor is hand-me-down sheets and towels, which you use until they actually tear.
    Being poor is wearing dresses with the frayed part all around the neckline, and pretending no one notices, or that I do it because I just don’t care about new clothes, not because I have to keep wearing the ones I have until they decompose entirely.
    Being poor is being glad to get the old car when a relationship breaks up and we divvy up the property, because I’m never sure I can make car payments.
    Being poor is asking for tennis shoes for Christmas, because I couldn’t afford to buy clothes to work out in.
    Being poor is having to decide whether a “free” piece of furniture is worth it, because it might change the size of truck I have to rent to move in.
    Being poor is pretending I don’t mind the bug invasions in my house, because I can’t afford to live someplace that’s properly sealed, and the landlord doesn’t have money to call an exterminator either.
    Being poor is developing the social skills to make friends quickly, because you can’t afford to hire movers.
    Being poor is trying to convince yourself/your loved ones that you’re just “not into” Christmas, when really it breaks your heart you can’t afford to buy people gifts.
    Being poor is feeling guilty about every gift you receive.
    Being poor is an epic internal struggle to decide I deserved to spend $25 every other week on organic produce delivery.
    Being poor is continuing to eat at a restaurant that gave you an upset stomach and diarrhea, because it didn’t actually land you in the hospital and it’s still big portions of food for cheap.
    Being poor is never eating anywhere it would be safe to order seafood.
    Being poor is never getting attached to a brand (or even a product – grocery list has things like “meat”), because you’re going to buy whatever’s on sale that week and be grateful for it.
    Being poor is having foods you will never eat again after you’re not poor because you ate them during a really bad period, when they were all you had.
    Being poor is feeling fear in your belly when the loose change in the glove box you use to buy food w/ coupons at Arby’s with is almost gone.
    Being poor is convincing yourself it’s because you believe in alternative healing methods that you don’t go to the doctor when you have pneumonia.
    Being poor is wearing a bra with the underwire stabbing you in the armpit because you can’t afford to buy a new one.
    Being poor is not borrowing money or accepting gifts from people because you feel struggling and doing without is part of your punishment for the choices you made that landed you in poverty.
    (and shameful to admit) Being poor is having an inventory in your head of the resources your friends have: storage space, a guest room, lots of food in their fridge, money to borrow in a pinch, etc. Also keeping an inventory of how you’re doing with them, so you know if the relationship could stand your drawing on their resources.

  85. Being poor is wearing a bra with the underwire stabbing you in the armpit because you can’t afford to buy a new one.
    And ripping out both underwires so the bra is something close to comfortable.

  86. God, some wrenching posts have been added.

    To Dan Layman-Kennedy: bravo for being able to put into calm words what my anger won’t let me do.

    >>>I’m not saying it’ll work for anyone but me, but if the airy-fairy stuff doesn’t ring for you, try being a stubborn sonofabitch.

    — yes. Sometimes I feel like writing a book called The Positive Power of Spite!

    To LB who has middle-class guilt — no one is asking you to. But we would like you to, uh, think more about who you vote for. That might help.

    To the guy who brought up Frankl (I should have seen *that* one coming), there is a huge difference between being persecuted by outright enemies and the kind of economic misery that comes from the hands of one’s fellow citizens and *government*. The comparison is specious. If there is any point that should be made, it’s: Never Give Up. And I so far haven’t seen anyone here write that they would.

    >>>….may be able to pull themselves up with proper hard work.

    Did this person read the other posts? I saw *plenty* of “proper work” being mentioned, with poverty still the result. What world do you live in that, say, a fast-food or Wal-Mart part-time gig would get you and keep you an apartment? You can put in all the bloody “proper work” you wish, find your name on the stupid wall as Employee of the Frikkin Year, and still never get full-time with benefits. Profits are no longer the domain of mark-ups on products, it’s become how can we get the most employees at the cheapest price. I still wonder how a man like Henry Ford came along to decide that *his* workers should be paid what was back then considered a criminal sum of money by his fellow industrialists.

    I see the American Red Cross and FEMA are issuing debit cards to the NOLA evacuees so they will have some cash in hand. I could have cried. Somewhere, *someone* is *thinking*.

  87. How come this assumes that ‘the poor’ steal?

    And that their friends steal! (Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.)?

    and their kids steal! (Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.)?

    Most of these are wonderful but I was dismayed at a closer look!

  88. Laura:

    Those two particular incidents are based on personal experiences, actually. In the second case, as I explained earlier in the thread, I stole the meat because my mother was a day away from her paycheck and there wasn’t enough food in the house for me and her, and I didn’t want her to go hungry because she would have fed me and not eaten herself. I don’t think she ever knew that I did it.

    The point of putting that in was not to paint poor people as thieves, but rather to point out how being poor makes for difficult circumstances. Certainly as a child I knew it was wrong to steal. However, I also decided that it was wrong to have my mother go hungry for my sake. Faced with that choice, I did the thing that at the time I decided was more right. You are free to disagree with the decision, of course.

  89. Laura, skip meals for three days and then come back and whine about other people’s morals, okay? And what in Christ’s name is wonderful about this thread? It is horrible! It is horrible that this is the richest country in the world and we let our brothers and sisters live like this, we stunt our children.

    The good that is happening here is the honesty–people realizing that perhaps they do not need to be ashamed of their past.

  90. Being poor is when your home is impounded. Home being a vehicle.

    Being poor is having to live up to higher standards than everyone else. You are one bad decision away from disaster. Other people can do stupid things all they want to and no one cares. But you – oh no – you have to be perfect in every way or you don’t deserve the scraps you are begrudged on a daily basis. You better choose wisely which bill you’ll leave off paying this month. And you must choose wisely whether you can splurge on something other than ramen this week or whether you should be able to foretell the future and know that you won’t have any emergencies.

    Being poor means hearing gun shots every night out your window. And even more so if that window is on a car.

    being poor means having the contempt of society heaped upon you.

    Being poor means being called lazy for daring to be exhausted after working three jobs and still barely able to pay the rent and groceries.

    Being poor means that the ancient clunker you drive is begrudged you, even though you bought it when you were still employed and thought you had job security, and if you didn’t have it you’d lose 85% of your employment options.

    Being poor means that everyone has the right to judge you and give you dirty looks for not using food stamps for what they say they’d use food stamps for. Junk food fills the stomach and is cheaper than healthy food. And it’s fattening, too, so think twice before you think that someone who’s overweight isn’t really poor.

  91. The unhelpfulness of “positive mental attitude” and “goal setting advice” is that it is based on false assumptions.

    A nice example from
    http://www.fysh.org/~katie/computing/methodologies.txt
    illustrates the missing step:

    And at the core of RUP [a software design methodology] is a small area where you have to use OO design
    talents…. if you don’t have them, it’s like having a methodology for
    running the 100m.

    “Step 1: write about running really fast. Step 2: Go and draw a plan
    of the racetrack. Step 3: go and buy really tight lycra shorts. Step
    4: run really, really, really fast. Step 5: cross line first”

    It’s that step 4 that’s the tough one. But if you put lots of emphasis
    on 1,2,3 and 5 it’s possible no-one will notice and then you could
    probably make a lot of money selling the methodology to would be
    athletes who think there’s some “secret” to being a 100m runner over
    and above being born with the ability to run fast.

    Bottom line of why the PMAers and GSAers go postal when anyone mentions luck is that deep down, they know they are lucky, and if it weren’t for the grace of god, they’d be sleeping under a bridge. Horatio Alger stories? Read them, every last one of them centered around luck.

  92. Being poor is your friend’s brother is in hairdressing school and drags you to his class since your scalp is “too dry” and having the teacher call over the whole class to feel and look at your head as an example of malnutrition. Being poor is the shame of having her tell everyone that there is no excuse in this day and age to have protein deficiency.

    Being poor is being forbidden from walking on the carpet at the office you are delivering at, in your foot courrier job, because your shoes with plastic bags in them didn’t keep your socks dry when they ask you to remove your “boots”.

    Being poor is crying with hunger on your foot courrier job after the door is closed behind your delivery to the office christmas party where the person signing for the delivery juggled hors d’oeuvres and wine.

    Being poor is being really happy the neighbor who moved out didn’t take her used toaster when she moved out since she didn’t want to move cockroaches to her new place.

    Being poor is knowing just which models of public toilet paper holder you can steal paper off of.

    Being poor is putting bran into powdered soup to make it “a filling meal”.

    Thanks for this excellent thread. And someone on the previous page said “you have computers, how can you be poor?” Once poor is not always poor, not always. (actually I probably counted as the struggling middle class having lost the struggle for awhile and gained the upper hand now) Also, to judge the poor as “not poor enough” by comparing them with “worse poor” (third world countries, famine victims etc) when they live as described here is just disgusting. And most likely a sign of NOT being poor.

  93. I just noticed Joe’s “being blessed” additions. I’ll add some:

    Being blessed is having parents who could and did pay into a college savings plan when you were a small child, so you CAN go to college even though you get malnutrition doing it.

    Being blessed is being healthy enough to run in slush all day as a foot courrier so you actually have a job.

    Being blessed is having a natural born talent for drawing, and having had that encouraged, so one day someone hires you for real money and you can get out of poverty.

    Being blessed is having family and friends who come to your aid in whatever way they can .
    Being blessed is finally being able to give back to people who need it, even if they resent your aid. Because you can, and before you couldn’t, and remember being the resentful and needful one.

  94. To comment on the person above who mentioned “Goal Setting Advice” and “Positive Mental Attitude” crap,

    YES! This is so much fertilizer, and instead of promoting growth, it promotes despair.

    I also include the common attitude that you’re not allowed to fail. Ever. Or even consider that you maybe might not possibly for some odd reason pull off the impossible.

    I forget which of the motivational books it’s in, but I remember seeing some variation of Never Say Try, Just Do advice.

    As if thinking makes it so.

  95. Hi John and the other Laura that replied to my post.. John, I certainly fault NO ONE for doing what needs to be done, but reading thru your post it seemed that you were making a statement that this is what being poor means.. and that included statements that I took offense too. I’m sorry that you had to steal to help your Mom, but I was dismayed to see that you (perhaps I misunderstood) were painting all poor as stealing. There are those that are poor that would die before they would steal.

    Now.. the other Laura… you seem to misunderstand my post… I was not whining about ‘other peoples morals’.. I was defending them! Read my post again, I was dismayed that he would portray the poor as theives!

    As for my comment about this post being ‘wonderful’… any post that makes you stop… think… get outraged… be thrilled.. whatever… is in my mind “absolutely wonderful”… John’s post certainly stopped me in my tracks and from the long list of comments here, many many other people… so yeah.. freakin’ WONDERFUL post… a sad commentary.. you bet… but his willing to share and post this here… I’ll say it again…

    WONDERFUL!

  96. Laura:

    “I was dismayed to see that you (perhaps I misunderstood) were painting all poor as stealing. There are those that are poor that would die before they would steal.”

    Oh, absolutely. I don’t think one should read the list I provided (or the ones anyone else has provided) and think “ALL poor people do these things.” As I’ve mentioned a number of times, there are many ways to be poor in the US. These are just some. The list is by no means complete, nor its elements applicable to everyone.

  97. Poor is : not eating for two days at a time when your pregnant.

    Poor is : thinking you’re so very lucky that the food bank will accept your application cause it means you don’t have to starve when your pregnant.

    Poor is : not being able to go to your family for any help because they were so abusive it would kill you to have to be back with them and you would NEVER ever put your child even unborn in their hands. ( broken nose , 4 ribs, and a wrist by age 16 ).

    Poor is : crying in the dark and wondering what you did in life so awful that this kind of hunger and hell is what you bring your child into.

    Poor is : getting a waitress job carring 40 lb trays even though you are pregnant and being so incredibly grateful for that job.

    Poor is : working till the day you go into labor, and having to call in and say you can’t make it to work because your water just broke.

    Poor is : not being allowed by company policy to come back to work till a month after the baby is born and the Doctor has released you, so you go to a nightclub and lie that your in fine fettle cause if you don’t your child has no roof over their head.

    I’ve gotten on semi stable footing now. And I’ve learned some things about how rich I am…

    Rich is : You’re still wayyyyyyy below the poverty line but at ages 11, 14 and 17, your older kids think you are wonderful and will hug you right in front of their freinds.

    Rich is : Having wonderful kids and them being so incredibly brilliant that they KNOW why you will never ask your family for help having seen first hand what they are like, and not blaming you a bit for it.

    Rich is : Your children being so caring and giving they ask if they can sell the one thing they have that has any value at all to help you make the lawyer fees to fight their own father in a custody battle. ( Don’t let anyone fool you, what you grow up with is what you seek unconciously when you do grow up, so in my case it was more abuse ).

    Rich is : Having a 17 year old so bright she graduates ahead and decideds she can wait to take the grants (and goes and gets permission to do so) so she can come work with you and instead of spending the money on herself, spends it on helping out the family, buying school clothes for the younger ones and slipping it into the rent stash.

    Rich is : having a new husband who may be as poverty stricken as we are, but loves you and thinks you are the most beautiful wonderful woman on earth.

    Rich is : having the new husband love your children as much as is they were his own and taking time to break bad habits they have learned from their abusive father, and being understanding and loving when they fall short on some things…

    Rich is : Your teen-agers thinking it’s cool when you go out with them, cause you may be their mom but you’re a cool person to talk to, when the rich kids around you are talking about how crappy their parents are.

    You know what? Poverty level or not, I am a VERY rich person.

    regards,
    Magik

  98. Being poor is selling your unreplaceable, prized possessions because you need money for food.

    Being poor means stitching your own cuts as best you can.

  99. Being poor is maybe eating one meal a day, because you have to choose between gas money to go job hunting or food.

    Being poor is being practically life threatening sick, and not being able to go to the doctor, and you don’t go to the ER, because you can’t pay it.

    Being poor is crying when want to give a donation to a charity (Red Cross) for a disaster–Katrina– (like old clothes) and being told you can only give money and you only have 5 dollars you need to use for food.

    Being poor is not being albe to take pleasure in the one thing that will make you feel better because its broken and you can’t afford to fix it.(my piano)

  100. Being poor (and with psychological problems, in this case) means seeing one of your old teachers, whom you loved, and whom you’d love to tell how great his class was and stop and talk for a minute, but you let him pass by without saying hello because you don’t want him to be disappointed.

  101. For those of you who want to make greatest effect on those of us in the general public reading out there, I hope that my own observations add to this conversation. What strikes me about some of the comments that have been posted here is that they focused on *particulars* without giving the *context* that frames the painful experience.

    A whole lot of never-been-poor people can identify with the specifics without understanding that pain. It all depends upon the circumstances surrounding the specific experience. For example:

    You are prosperous when…

    You eat boiled beans night after night…because you’re convinced too many meat dinners will raise your weight and lower your lifespan

    You go to work several miles on bike or on foot…because you cherish your workouts

    You walk everywhere you go…because nearly anything you’d want is less than a mile from your Manhattan apartment

    You work 70 hours a week…because business is booming and every deal you do just adds to your bonus

    You join the Navy…because you think it’s shameful that the sons of the well-to-do are absent from the ranks, and you needed some adventure anyway

    You are poor when…

    You eat boiled beans night after night…because that’s all you can afford

    You go to work several miles on bike or on foot…because your car broke down and you don’t have the money to fix it

    You walk everywhere you go…because you can’t afford bus fare

    You work 70 hours a week…because you need both jobs to keep from being evicted

    You join the Navy…because that’s the only way you can get decent dental care and education

  102. Being poor is going into the free clinic and having them look at your ear infection that isn’t responding to their standard treatment, hearing about how you need to see a specialist, and being asked, “are you going to have medical insurance anytime soon?” Being on a waiting list for government funded medical insurance for years. Being sent home with a shrug and that infuriating optimism that comes from erroneous faith in their mathematics. “How long is the waiting list?
    “They said eleven months.”
    “How long have you been on it?”
    “Eight months.”
    Watch them think 11 months – 8 months = 3 months.
    Know that in reality 11 months – 8 months = 2 years to never.

    Watch them tell the young man ahead of you, who has a limb that looks badly infected under a cast that he should go back to wherever he got the cast put on, which isn’t an option for him.

  103. Being poor is understanding that Mom or Dad coming home early from work is always a terrible sign.

    Being poor is knowing that a pink slip means pancakes and plain noodles for dinner, for months.

    Being poor is not just understanding why your “home milk” doesn’t taste exactly like “restaurant (whole) milk”.

    Being poor is being five-years-old and wanting to cry on Christmas day, because your mom works fulltime and still sewed all your Christmas gifts just so you could have some, except for the ones from your dad, which are toys from Happy Meals. And everyone knows exactly where they came from, but you act surprised and ecstatic to the best of your ability, knowing your dad had to work hard to afford the Happy Meal in the first place.

    Being poor is being seven-years-old, and crying in the garage when you stumble upon a used two-wheeled bike for your birthday, and realize your father–who has been working overtime at the factory whenever possible and weekend shifts unloading steel rolls from freighters–has been painting and adding streamers to your bike “in his free time”.

    Being poor is having your grandparents visit with bags of groceries, claiming they only bought them because there was a huge sale and they can’t eat everything between the two of them.

    Being poor is “charging” your abortion with a credit-card endorsed debit card, knowing it’s overdrawing your checking account but will still go through.

    Being poor is going directly from the abortion clinic to work to tend bar for an extra 10-hour shift that just became available, since your coworker is sick.

    Being poor means physical pain and no general anesthesia, ever. Not for an abortion, not for four impacted wisdom teeth, and certainly not for the jaw that has to be broken to get the wisdom teeth out.

    Being poor is your mother working fulltime, and painting and cleaning houses during her weekends.

    Being poor is working three jobs while attending college fulltime (since attending fulltime was part of the financial aid requirement) and having professors ask why you “don’t” spend more time on campus participating in more “fun” activities, assuming it’s even an option.

    Being poor is hearing “urban pioneers” who have never lived in a real ghetto refer to it as “real”, and act as if there’s some inherently noble, redeeming value or folksy salt-of-the-earth quality in living in a place that no one would actually ever choose to live in.

    Being poor is shooting the rats in your backyard and alley, which are larger than many of the cats and dogs in your neighborhood, and hoping you don’t get caught.

    Being poor is your earliest memory, of your dad holding you in his arms and hating the woman at the unemployment office, her long pink press-on nails, and her expression that implies his worthlessness.

  104. Being poor is being teased at school because you smell of wood smoke.

    Being poor is being afraid to take off your shoes, because your socks are dirty and torn.

    Being poor is boiling your oats longer, to make sure the maggots are dead before you eat them.

    Being poor is eating around the cigarette ash on the pizza you found in the dumpster.

    Being poor is learning how to climb a drain pipe, because sleeping on a roof is safer than sleeping on the street.

  105. Poverty is about survival. It’s about the tyranny of the moment. Middle class is about work and achievement and material security. In middle class, things are possessions. Wealth spends its time on connections, political, financial and social connections, because they keep you safe and well. But in poverty, after you’ve been there two generations, your decision-making is going to be based on survival, entertainment – because entertainment takes away the pain – and relationships. Because the only possession you really have are people. And when people become a possession, then the rules change.

  106. *Being poor is being thrilled to get hand me downs from wealthier cousins.

    *Being poor is only having three different pairs of pants and hoping the other kids at school do not notice.

    *Being poor is riding a bike to school until your graduate.

    *Being poor is lunch tickets and food stamps.

    *Being poor is being a child and your mom hitchhikes with you to get to the welfare office where you sit for hours waiting, bored out of your mind and sweating because there is no air-conditioning.

    *Being poor is not accepting the fact that your mother has had sex for money even though you know it’s true.

    *Being poor is not playing sports in school because you can’t afford the uniform.

    *Being poor is being surrounded by other poor people so that it is your whole existence and it seems like there is no way out.

    *Being poor is loaning your mother your birthday money and never getting it back.

    ***However, it’s not all bad

    *Being poor is appreciating everything you do have and everything your parents do for you.

    *Being poor is making forts out of boxes and toys out of random things you find in dumpsters.

    *Being poor is learning at an early age that you can only rely on yourself.

    Thanks for the post – and the trip down memory lane.

  107. Being poor is seeing ads for early detection (breast cancer, heart disease, etc.,) admonishing you about getting checked because if you catch it early you can treat the problem and survive…

    When you know that even if the tests are free, you couldn’t afford the treatment, so all the test would do is tell you that you have this deadly problem that’s going to get more and more insidious because you don’t have the money for healthcare.

  108. Being poor is not being able to find a good job even though you have good experience because you don’t have a permanent address or a number to be called back at.

    Being poor is apologizing to your kids when you realize that you can’t pay for a full six pack worth of soda pop that you promised them.

    Being poor is when you find out that one of your kids is very sick and has been lying to you about it because he doesn’t want you to have to take him to the doctor.

    Being poor means no sick days. Ever.

    Being poor means having to hitch hike with your kid to school when you can’t afford to feed him and fill the tank.

    Being poor means that your youngest son joins the military because he didn’t get a college scholarship.

    Being poor means that you only buy non-perishables.

    Being poor means that when your friends go to McDonalds for lunch, you sit there and tell them your not hungry when you’re actually starving.

  109. Being poor is learning to disguise your limp so that you will have a better chance of getting that minimum wage janitor job.

    Being poor is finding out that the minimum wage janitor job is only 35 hours a week, specifically so they won’t have to pay for any health benefits.

    Being poor is leaving home at 5:00 am and walking 20 miles to work on Saturdays to your 35-hours per week minimum wage job because the busses don’t run until 8:00 in the morning.

    Being poor is being grateful for the wonderful step up in the world that the 35-hour no-benefits minimum-wage job gave you.

  110. It’s been an excellent discussion so far. Now, I have never struggled like this, but please don’t delete this post on account of that. Let me add to the discussion.

    I’m proud of what the posters here have accomplished, but not as proud as you all should feel.

    If every poor person worked as hard as the posters (and families of the posters) here did, then many companies would work hard to fit them in to their open positions.

    If every poor person cared about their kids as much as the posters here, then any neighbor would welcome your kids, and encourage their kids to visit you.

    If every poor person faced late fees and bounced checks because of a bit of bad luck, then bank employees wouldn’t hesitate to spot them $20 to cover the temporary shortfall.

    Unfortunately, not everyone is so good. There is a second group.

    There are people who think putting a $2000 stereo system into a $1000 car is more important than putting in $2000 of repairs.

    There are people who get DishNetwork satellite TV installed for their government-subsidized housing.

    There are people who think the latest clothing fashions are a necessity for their children, and books are not.

    There are people who think hard work is beneath them.

    There are men who measure their worth by the women they conquer, and the women who can only try for a small sense of self-worth by associating with these men.

    I don’t think anyone can say how many of these bad people are among those we consider poor, but they do exist, and they really hurt those who are good.

    If a business owner wants to offer a decent job to a former welfare recipient or someone coming off a minimum wage job, but finds these people quit when things get too hard, then that hurts everyone, good and bad, who needs this kind of opportunity. But a person can only get burned so many times before their first impression outweighs their desire to offer second chances.

    There’s a third group of poor people who come to mind. They’re a lot like the good people in the first group, except they didn’t have the experience of growing up in our culture, or speaking our language, or gaining essential skills and knowledge. They work as best they can given the skills they do have, which isn’t going to be much past the most bottom of the bottom rung jobs. Still, they survive, and send money home to family in their native land. I’d like to know their stories: how do they do it?

  111. Being poor means your “Christmas tree” is a shape on the wall made from thumbtacks and 99 cent lights from the dollar store.

    Being poor is almost not getting the minimum-wage job, because the bus isn’t considered “reliable transportation”.

    Being poor means that after you get the job, you’re only working 16 hours a week anyway.

    Being poor means walking home at 1am because the manager decided the store wasn’t clean enough by 11pm when you were supposed to get off, so you and the other employees had to finish…after clocking out, of course. Can’t have the store over payroll for the week. Meanwhile, the buses stopped at 11:30, and your roomie has to be up at 4am for her job so she can’t pick you up with her car.

    Being poor means labor laws don’t mean jack if your manager doesn’t want them to.

  112. Yes, Greg, there are poor people out there who are dishonest, who work the system, who don’t make good choices. But here’s the thing–plenty of middle-class and rich people are out there working the system too.

    There are wealthy and middle-class people who call poorer people “lucky duckies” because they don’t pay taxes–while simultaneously bending every rule in the tax code and grabbing every shelter they think they can get away with.

    There are wealthy and middle-class people who will not only drop hundreds of bucks on the latest clothing fashions for their kids, they’ll cut any throat, grub any grade and put pressure on teachers, coaches, guidance counselors to make sure their kids come out on top–no matter whether they deserve it or not.

    There are wealthy and middle-class people who say that America is the land of self-reliance, and everyone should stand on their own two feet–and then scream bloody murder if some government entitlement of theirs, be it scholarship, subsidy, tax credit, or what have you, is threatened by an effort to balance budgets.

    There are wealthy and middle-class people who think that the hard, inconvenient work of citizenship, like jury duty and military service, is for people who make less money and don’t have as many employees under them, who aren’t as busy and don’t have their responsibilities–well, like all those *poor* people out there.

    There are wealthy and middle-class people who think the looting of TV sets and stereos is deplorable but insider trading or dishonest business practices are just fine, thank you.

    There are even a few wealthy and middle-class people who recoil at reports of rape and abuse in the Superdome but who think a trip to Bangkok for the “scenery” is OK.

    There are wealthy and middle class people who haven’t given blood since 9/11 because the Red Cross had the colossal nerve to be glutted with it then and couldn’t use it–so why bother?

    There are wealthy and middle-class people who will drop a check or two to help the Katrina effort, write it off their taxes, and then consider the whole thing off their radar in about a couple of weeks.

    I don’t think anyone can say how many of these people are among those we call wealthy or middle class. But I do know that it would be damned unfair for me to judge you, Greg, by what they do. I don’t think it is any more just to judge the poor by those among them who do bad things.

  113. To Greg and others who want to know how immigrants do it – Getting to America is considered one of the greatest blessings for an immigrant short of a miracle. Being uprooted in most cases and getting transplanted to an entirely new society and culture is a shock. Even plants suffer from shock when transplanted. Not learning or knowing the language makes it doubly difficult so they stay with their compatriots and restrict their social interaction with them. There is no lowly job low enough to be rejected whether it be picking crops and moving from state to state following the harvest, washing dishes, mowing lawns for rich people or cleaning houses. Anything will do as long as it brings some cash or food. Some stay together in campgrounds close to their work using discarded materials for shelter, washing clothes in creeks or runoffs and sharing a communal meal. Saving money is the ultimate goal and their reason for being. This is the typical life of those who work as illegals. Some who manage to get day jobs get paid better but there is no safety net at all. No insurance, no welfare checks or even an acknowledgement that they exist yet they are in our midst.
    They live and die anonymously, get rounded up and deported when it is politically or economically expedient to do so. Talk about being discarded like a piece of garbage and you will know how it is to be poor as an illegal in this country.
    Most animals in this country live a better life that these people.
    Yet they consider themselves lucky because they earn more than the relatives and friends that they left behind. At least there is something to scavenge in this country compared to nothing at all from where they came from.
    They save every penny they make and send money back to their family getting scalped by remittance fees or swindled in the process. Most of their family will soon have enough to pay their way to the border and risk their lives crossing into the “promised land”. They may or may not succeed but at least they died trying to get away from almost certain starvation and death in their own countries.
    They work hard and sometimes literally work themselves to death. When they get injured in a job, they would rather face pain and agony for fear of going to a hospital or a doctor carries the risk of being exposed as an illegal.
    Unlike most Americans who happen to be by accident of birth they persevere. Some who are lucky enough to put their children through school are derided as parasites in this society. They grow up and some end up joining the military becoming cannon fodder for wars they have no reason to fight for other than a shot at the American dream. Up until recently, some of them die in strange and foreign lands with just a token appreciation or acknowledgement. Worse is when the family they leave behind is refused admission to the organization of mothers whose children have given their lives for this country.
    I will not give specific cases or instances as it will just add insult to injury for those I happen to know or have encountered here in So. California.

  114. If every poor person faced late fees and bounced checks because of a bit of bad luck, then bank employees wouldn’t hesitate to spot them $20 to cover the temporary shortfall.

    Greg, what on earth are you talking about?

    Bank tellers do not have the power to waive your bounce fees. Neither do the people who process your checks on the graveyard shift.

  115. Being formerly poor means you resent hearing from your family members because they always need money.

    Being formerly poor means that when my coworkers buy Ipods, I pay for my brother’s tattoo removal so he can hopefully get a job.

    Being formerly poor means my new, straight, white teeth cost me $11,000 and I have braces for 3 years in my mid twenties.

    And for all the morons claiming that healthy teeth only require toothpaste and a brush: you’re morons. Before my father passed away, my molars were sealed — the dentist cleans them then pours in what is essentially caulk to seal the smallest cracks that are the most likely to trap food and cause cavities. I still have my molars; my younger brothers who didn’t have this treatment don’t. Draw your own conclusion. In the 80s, this sort of thing cost $400 or so.

  116. I’ve never been poor, but I have known some people who were. Having read these posts, I’m going to be extra careful which way I vote.

    The thing that makes me angriest about all this misery is that it is completely unnecessary – there are countries I’ve been to where povery has been eliminated. The only reason this kind of thing is still happening is ignorance or greed on the part of the people who should be voting it out of existence.

    Yes, a proper welfare system costs money, but I’m a higher-rate taxpayer, and pleased to be able to help.

  117. Fortunately I was able to join the Army at 17 and will retire next year…

    Not being poor anymore means:

    Being treated with dignity.

    Always worrying about when/if you’ll be poor again.

    Clean food, a full refrigerator and a working stove.

    All the bills are paid. On time.

    A warm, comfortable, safe place to live.

    Good shoes and clean serviceable clothes.

    A well maintained vehicle.

    Having options. Having opportunities.

    Being able to afford medical care when I’m sick.

    Having time and money (not just one).

    No longer having to cover my mouth every time I smile.

    New Eyeglasses once a year.

    Enough money to pay the bills for the next three months.

    Enough extra money to see a movie, buy a magazine and go out to eat-all on the same day.

  118. Being poor is hiding and keeping quiet the too many kids your mom is babysitting, when the welfare lady visits.

  119. Being poor is when you know your life is empty.

    Being poor is when you stay home all day, not wanting to go out.

    Being poor is when you eat Maggie the entire week.

    Being poor is when you reject all dates because you left $10 in your bank account.

    Being poor is when you have to wait the entire day for your parents to buy you dinner after work.

    But being rich is when you have God.

  120. the posts become long…being from the other side of the globe some of the things mentioned in it are wierd.Being poor?

    You don’t seem to realize that a poor person who is unhappy is in a better position than a rich person who is unhappy. Because the poor person has hope. He thinks money would help.

    — Jean Kerr

    When the rich wage war it is the poor who die. – Jean-Paul Sartre

  121. Re: Mike Cane:

    >>>>….may be able to pull themselves up with proper hard work.

    >>Did this person read the other posts? I saw *plenty* of “proper work” being mentioned, with poverty still the result.

    I said that proper hard work *may* do something for people who are *not poor* or *only kind of poor*, and I then contrasted that with people who are *really* poor, before delivering the overall thrust of my comment, which was that hard work and positive thoughts and so on are all *insufficient*, and that *luck* is a required element of escaping poverty.

    Sorry if I was unclear. Let me restate my point more succinctly: I know that all of my parents’ efforts would have come to nothing if we had not been very, very lucky to boot.

    Hard work and positive thinking and all of that can *utterly fail you*, which is why it’s so aggravating to see people who really believe that poor folks are lazy and have bad attitudes. I personally find it especially grating when it comes from people who escaped some level of hardship themselves, but are too self-congratulatory to perceive that they are simply *lucky*.

  122. This article should be renamed to “Being Poor In America.”

    Translate this article and read it to the truly poor around the world, and you’ll get a lot of puzzled looks. Their definition of poor does not include such luxuries as indoor plumbing, electricity, car ownership (ANY car), emergency rooms, TV ownership, schools to attend, or food stamps and welfare for that matter.

    Being poor in America doesn’t look bad from their vantagepoint. I’d venture to guess they’d see it as a description of those who are pretty well off.

  123. Being poor is being excited when you get a gift you don’t want, because it means you can regift it to someone else.

  124. Comments like G[l]ib’s just reconfirm my belief (stated previously) that poverty isn’t about the *what*, but the *why*.

    I shudder to reflect on the counsel he would likely provide to an abused child (perhaps something along the lines of “at least Mom and Dad aren’t breaking your bones”) or a rape victim (“at least he didn’t murder you”).

    Yes, Gib, you are right in that we do hold ourselves to much higher standards in the USA. Many of us do believe that *everybody* ought to have decent health care and educational opportunities (the latter because simple hard work is a necessary, but not sufficient, component of anything worth describing as one of life’s successes).

    High standards are what make better people and better societies better. If we Americans hold onto the dream of making that possible, all my feelings of patriotism are justified.

    But if we are just content to observe that our standards aren’t the world’s lowest, that our poor aren’t as badly off as those in, say, Sierra Leone, then this country really isn’t worth defending and those years I sweated away in the Navy were a waste.

  125. >>>If every poor person worked as hard as the posters (and families of the posters) here did, then many companies would work hard to fit them in to their open positions.

    — that’s the *hypothesis* you would be led to believe.

    >>>Being formerly poor means my new, straight, white teeth cost me $11,000 and I have braces for 3 years in my mid twenties.

    http://tftb.com/beautyfromafar/index.html

    I want Scalzi to know that I only post here under my *real name.* I was *not* nom de plume.

  126. Being poor is telling other poor people that you’ve heard moping your house with water & borax will get rid of the bugs.

    Being poor is treating your friend to dinner with the money you got donating plasma because she’s been eating potatoes and rice for who knows how long.

    Being poor is being scared that your mother will die from her terminal illness, leaving you alone and broke – having to live with your evil relatives.

    Being poor means donating your survey money to a worthy cause, even though it means giving up that bag of rice.

    Being poor means at your BFs house, the thermostat doesn’t work upstairs and you know they can’t afford to fix it.

    Being poor means that your BF’s family vauxhall’s driver-side mirror is duct taped together and you’re worried it’ll fall off.

    Being poor means living with your extremely emotionally abusive relative even though she makes you cry daily.

    Being poor means thinking of saving up for a van and living in it – taking showers only at the YMCA (membership was free because of your income) and working 3 jobs.

    Beimg poor means you may not take the better paying daycare job because you can get sick from the kids (who are also poor and sick) and you can’t afford to miss a day at your two other jobs or any days in class.

  127. Being poor means not having any backup plan or any cushion. It means that when the morons at the financial aid office screw up and mail your check two weeks late, it cost you $70 in late fees because checks bounced. It means when someone steals your backpack with the $120 math textbook in it, you have to drop the class because there are no copies in the library and you can’t afford to buy the book a second time.

    Being poor means even though I got financial aid, I still graduated with $25K in debt, because there is a world of difference between the school’s estimate of the costs of attendance and what it actually costs.

    Being poor means not being able to have a roommate through part of college because my mom had to live with me.

    Being poor means spending your first Thanksgiving after leaving for university alone in the hospital because you shattered some bones by slipping and falling on ice. It means having to take yourself to and from the hospital, clean the wounds, and try not to puke up the painkillers, all by yourself.

    Being poor means when you were first injured, you were discharged at 3AM with no drugs and a script for painkillers you couldn’t possibly hope to pay for — even if you could get to an all night drugstore, which you can’t.

    Being formerly poor means having no idea how to live. How to eat at a restaurant, tip bellhops, eat crab or lobster or escargot, or comport yourself in an interview. How to dress or shop for a suit. How to tie a tie or pick clothes that match or what colors and shoes and ties and belts go with which type of suits. It means being the only person in the room who doesn’t automatically know what a Pollock is, who Grant Wood is, or what Guernica means. It means standing in a room full of people who all do and trying not to let your ignorance show.

    Being formerly poor means that even though I make a good salary now, I still live in a city with an astronomical cost of living, have loans to pay, have my new smile to pay for, etc. My family see none of this — they just see someone who has, to them, unlimited money to give away — and get pissed when you don’t or can’t..

    Being formerly poor means telling mom that if she keeps smoking a pack a day, you’re not going to help her pay rent.

    Being formerly poor means you know you’re going to have to support your parent when she gets old, because no one else will.

    Being formerly poor means graduating and getting an apartment and having AC for the first time in your life at 23 years old — and getting a $250 electric bill because I had no idea how much it cost to use.

  128. >>>Being formerly poor means having no idea how to live. How to eat at a restaurant, tip bellhops, eat crab or lobster or escargot, or comport yourself in an interview. How to dress or shop for a suit. How to tie a tie or pick clothes that match or what colors and shoes and ties and belts go with which type of suits. It means being the only person in the room who doesn’t automatically know what a Pollock is, who Grant Wood is, or what Guernica means. It means standing in a room full of people who all do and trying not to let your ignorance show.

    I’m sorry for posting a link (not the same one) to this book again, but this really is a book that should be read:

    http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0471263761.html

    — your library is bound to have it. And if it doesn’t, request it!

    The term used in the book, “cultural capital,” is wonderful.

  129. Being poor is when you step down on your trailer floor and your foot breaks through it.

    Being poor is having to stay in an apartment where the landlord has raped you because you can’t afford to move.

    Being poor is trying to raise 4 kids on $6 an hour and being too proud to take food stamps.

    Being poor is mac and cheese and the cheapest hamburger possible.

    Being poor is being terrified about whether the car is going to break down because if the car breaks down you can’t get to work and if you can’t get to work you can’t afford the car.

    Being poor is shooting deer out of season so that you can eat.

  130. Being poor means wearing a coat in your home so you don’t have to turn on the heat.

    Being poor means grabbing a handful of ketchup packets after ordering a dollar menu item at McDonald’s so you have ketchup at home.

    Being poor means that when the jeans get too short, you make cut-offs so you have shorts.

    Being poor means saving your slivers of soap so you can squish them together to make a big bar.

    Being poor means holding onto your single socks and mittens for over a year in the hope that the match will reappear.

  131. Just to be absolutly clear: neither of my posts were particularly in response to any particular person’s post unless it specifically said. Apologies to the first Laura who thought that I was repsonding to her post.

  132. I want to thank John again for bringing out this issue about poverty in America today. You have pricked the conscience of so many people but it has also revealed a big difference in perception about the underlying cause(s) of poverty here. I hope that the debate will continue and move to more constructive and concrete actions by people who advocate “positive thinking” as a solution. First, the problem needs to be acknowledged as the following news article shows:

    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/article311066.ece

    The problem can no longer be swept under the rug, ignored or masked by rhetoric and statements to the effect that people are poor like it is their choice and therefore their fault.

    Who would have thought that such a mundane issue like dental hygiene will create a “firestorm” and get magnified to the extent it does in this thread? Centuries from now, it might be the only legacy of America when archeologist dig up remnants of our civilization and find that white gleaming teeth as the only marker we existed. (I’m just being sarcastic here, people.)

    It is a good thing that we live in a free country and have the means to express our thoughts about the problems we face and possible solutions. It reminds me of the old saying…

    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” To which I could add that “sometimes bullets and bombs make the point clearer.” This is what is happening in other parts of the world when the only recourse is violence.

  133. Being poor is having to tell your parents you need money a week in advance, just so they can go borrow it.

  134. I have never been poor in my life. It’s true that I will never really understand.

    But I’m trying.

    Please help me learn; I want to understand as well as I can. Keep posting. I’m listening.

  135. Another must-read for those who aren’t/haven’t been poor but are trying to understand:
    Nickel and Dimed – on (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, 2001. Real-life investigative journalism: her experiences as an entry-level service worker in the US, insights into the lives of her co-workers, and facts about poverty, the working poor and (not) getting by.

    Thanks John –

  136. I have done, and still do a lot of those things that “poor” people do; buy used cars, used clothes, police knocking at next apartment, working grave yard shift(?) etc., etc. but have NEVER considered myself poor. I just don’t get it.

    Maybe it’s the same as a party girl who is out dining and dancing at least three nights a week, not understanding why anyone would stay at the ‘puter, blogging on a Saturday night.

    BTW 1: i think working nites is what ambitious people do – then they spend wisely – and are not “poor”.

    BTW 2: trying to keep up with the Jones’s will give even a millionaire ‘poor-itis’.

  137. To the guy who brought up the Holocaust survivor with his good attitude:

    he was just lucky. If he’d ran into the wrong nazi on the worng day, he would be as death as the guy next to him with the negative attitude. Anything else is just survivor guilt transformed into rationalisation: “i deserved to live because I thought positively”.

    Anybody else who thinks that if you’re poor you just need to work hard and think positive: you nee to undergo the Sewer, Gas Electric test. In that book (by Matt Ruff) a guy who thought exactly the same is kidnapped, made mute and put on the street to earn his pay…

    Think you could escape from poverty?

    Prove it.

    Being poor is not having choices, having to think about everything everybody else can take for granted and always being one mistep away from losing everything you still have.

    Being poor in America or the west does not mean you’re better off than being poor in Africa; at a given point it does not matter how rich your society is, if you do not share in it. Being hungry in America is no different than being hungry in Africa.

    Being poor cannot be solved by positive thinking or just hard work, being poor is not the individual’s fault, it is the lack of a social safety net that will keep you and your children poor. Poverty needs to be solved on a society level, not on an individual level.

    Which means that at the very least, you need free healthcare for everybody, free education for everybody and free or cheap public transport for everybody.

  138. “Translate this article and read it to the truly poor around the world, and you’ll get a lot of puzzled looks. Their definition of poor does not include such luxuries as indoor plumbing, electricity, car ownership (ANY car), emergency rooms, TV ownership, schools to attend, or food stamps and welfare for that matter.”

    There’s always soembody worse off than you, but that does not make your own plight less worthy.

    And the fact is, poverty is relative, but that does not mean absolute poverty does not exist in the US, even if you still have more material possesions than people elsewhere.

    Part of that little list above, like a car, are absolute necessary to stay even on the level of poverty people have been talking about in this thread. Losing your car does not mean doing without, it means you’ll become homeless as your job is fifty miles away, there’s no bus and there’s no job closer….

    Part of it is the inherited capital of society as a whole: the reason you have a house with indoor plumbing is because houses for over a century have had them!

    Ditto electricity.

    And note that these things only exist for you until they break down. For instance, I had to call a plumber recently to fix my broken toilet, which cost me Euro 90 ($120 or so). Could you afford that on a sub-minimum wage job?

    Finally, the real indicators of poverty are not that dissimilar to those in other places: malnourishment, higher child infant mortality, lower life expectancy, more diseases, more crime, less educated.

  139. Being not poor is to misunderstand when someone tells you that you grew up with such wealth.

    Thanks to everyone.

  140. Being poor and proud makes life an adventure and challenge!

    Being poor and proud is going carfree and riding a bicycle everywhere, then realizing that doing so has made you healthier and more independent than the fat yuppies in their SUVs.

    Being poor and proud is learning how to maintain your bike so that the shop can’t charge $15/hr. for labor you can do for free.

    Being poor and proud is shopping at yard sales and Goodwill and feeling good about it because you can get the most bang for your buck.

    Being poor and proud is reading books rather than rotting your brain on cable TV.

    Being poor and proud is embracing the simple life and realizing it’s more fufilling.

    Being poor and proud is realizing that Jesus was right about the rich not getting into heaven.

    Being poor and proud is knowing that while the rich will stoop to any unethical and degrading act to fuel their addiction to money, you have principles.

    Being poor and proud is knowing your friends like you for who you are, not for what you own. Money can’t buy that sort of self-esteem.

    Being poor and proud means feeling contempt and pity for those that think it’s a dog eat dog world, and realizing that even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.

  141. Being economically poor may sometimes be a choice; most often it is not. Your listings and the additions touched me deeply. I believe “the poor” will always be in our midst; it is a pipe dream to think we can eliminate economic poverty. However, the challenge we face daily is how to respond personally and corporately in an appropriate manner to the unjust ways we treat the economically, socially, intellectually,personality-gifted, etc… poor.

  142. Being poor is going barefoot all the summer to make your shoes last two more months of school.

    Being poor is getting one cheap chocolate for birthday and making it last more than a month.

    Being poor is crying when the class bully broke your only green crayon.

    Being poor is not participating in free swimming lessons because you grew out of your swimming costume and Mom can’t afford a new one.

    Being poor is washing your clothes using cheapest washing powder and walking around all itchy, because it’s irritating to your skin.

    Being poor is pretending sickness and not going to your prom, because you don’t want to say loud you can’t afford a fancy dress.

  143. Being poor is lending your mother first and last when you are a college student. And not minding, because you are worried about her.

  144. Being poor is all of these things; and being poor is knowing that even if she reads this, and cares, a person who has never been poor may never be able to understand that feeling you get when you realize that you’ve become trapped by your poverty, and you don’t think you can ever get out.

  145. Being poor is collecting and eating the scraps off of your children’s plates.

    Being poor is dividing your closet into different types of clothing. There is clothing for bed, around the house, around the neighbourhood, work, and (if lucky), special occasion. The clothes start at the ‘top’ and work their way down. Work and special occasion clothes are hand-me-downs, charity shop purchases, or bargain basement items – including underwear.

    Being poor is only throwing out underwear when the elastic gives out – no matter what.

    Being poor is to stop responding to social requests that are not guaranteed to be completely free.

    Being poor forces you to recognize it’s prosperity despite the isolation. If you’re lucky. Katrina’s victims are not so lucky.

    Being poor is forced upon most single parents that wish to spend daytime hours with their children.

    Being poor is shamefully remaining anonymous in this post because you have no wish to publicly proclaim your poverty. It’s hard enough wearing hand-me-downs and goodwill clothing to work (in a professional environment).

  146. Mark’s Reality Rebuttal

    Being poor means knowing how much everything costs. Only poor people know the price of goods?

    Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away. Their are services for that aka Medicaid, private non profit organizations, make payments to dentists. The fact is most dentists are greedy and don’t give back to their community. I agree dental assistance in this country is horrendous.

    Being poor is knowing your son goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours. So it’s my fault his parents never pulled themselves out of poverty. Most people don’t judge people’s integrity and character by their material wealth.

    Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt. Of course, most parents hope their children have stunted growth. My mother used to make some of my clothes. Clothes can be had at churches, Salvation Army and other non profits, relatives, friends, garage sales, government assistance, thrift stores…

    Being poor is taking a lamp from a stranger’s trash. You can buy a lamp at a garage sale for 50 cents. One man’s (oops! I mean person) trash is another man’s treasure.

    Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall. Malls and their customers are intolerant? Ever hear of window shopping? Wow, how do you tell people are poor at the mall, do they wear a Scarlet P?

    Being poor is $5 short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap. Oh yeah, most people are in poverty because of a $5 gap.

    Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a child on your lap. Sure, I’m always placed first in line at the emergency room.

    Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14. So we should all blame and live in the past.

    Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away. Excuse me while I reach for the cough syrup. We have Medicaid, emergency rooms, free samples from the doctor, medicine that can be purchased from the local store.

    Being poor is people who’ve never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.” Poverty is a behaivoral problem. A person can educate themselves, start a business, improve their work ethic, work their way up to a better job or get a job. You’re right though, you choose to be poor. Politicians want people to remain in poverty and have a poor education so they can buy their votes. Spent trillions on New Society programs and still the same poverty rate.

    Have a nice day.

    From a former poor person,

    Mark

  147. Being poor means knowing how much everything costs. Only poor people know the price of goods?

    Have you never heard the saying “if you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it”?

    This suggests that there are people for whom cost is no concern.

    I am NOT one of those people — believe me, I am far from rich — but when I shop for everyday items (groceries, etc), I don’t carefully add up the price of each item I set in the cart to ensure that I will have enough $$ when I check out. I probably should — I’d spend less and be able to save more — but I have the luxury of not having to sweat it.

    I suspect the original statement was just one way of stating that poor people don’t have this luxury.

  148. Being poor is having lived 90 % of all the things you mentioned, and still continuing to do them even when you don’t need to anymore just because you never want to be there again and somehow can’t forget the habits and way of life you lived so long.

    I thank god every day for every dirty diaper at 17 years old I washed out for my baby girl in that bath tub, for every bus I took to work running to jump on and for the bus driver who waited for the girl with the baby. It built character I will never forget and some habits unfortunately I will never lose. I thank god for the mill that laid me off and for the federal unemployment grant that gave me my first shot at education.But most of all I thank God for the opportunity I was granted to to educate myself and make a better life for myself and my family. I pray all others can do the same.

  149. I taught in an inner city school south of New Orleans for most of my teaching career. I didn’t live it, but I saw it:

    Being poor is walking a mile and a half in the hot sun with a baby on your hip so you can make a conference with your child’s teacher so maybe, just maybe, your grandchildren won’t live in the projects.

    Being poor is making that trip in your nice dress, the one with only one small tear in it, and hoping no one notices the safety pin holding your strap to your shoe.

    Being poor is being heartbreakingly grateful when someone realizes your precious child in the hand-me-down clothes and ragged sneakers has a brilliant mind.

  150. Mark,
    being poor is constantly hearing the same lines you just gave, over and over and over again, and feeling incredible guilt, sadness, self loathing, and shame because you do everything you can to get out, you work every minute you possibly can, you save every cent imaginable, and you still are poor. People still judge your integrity based on your material wealth, even if you, Mark, do not. You dread having the toothache because even if you could somehow come up with the money for a dentist, you could not afford the time off from your job to go, nor could afford getting to the dentist in the first place. People know you are poor at the mall, because the poor stand out like a sore thumb. We lack something they have, maybe an intangible, but they know. You are right, Mark, $5 on an utility bill is not going to keep us below the poverty line-but at least $5, plus the accrued late fees, on every utility bill, rent/mortgage payment, is going to add up, and if we cannot make our utilities, I am certain we are not having enough nutrituos food, because healthy=pricey. I’m glad to know, Mark, that you have money for medicine from the store, that you were able to qualify for medicaid, and that your doctor hands out free samples. I do not qualify, I do not have the money to buy medicine, and when I am lucky enough to get in to the clinic-I do not get free samples.
    Apparently it is all my fault, I am not as virtuous as you, and I am to be blamed for the state I grew up in. I am to be punished because, though I am still living in poverty, am doing better than my parents, and am trying. I am to be punished because you got LUCKY and now feel you are above every one else. Thank you.

  151. being poor is tears falling on your niece’s face after the cough subsides and she falls asleep because you can still hear how happy she is that mommy said if only she doesn’t get sick for one whole year, she’ll be able to get that thing she really wanted.

    being poor is helping her write a letter to santa in the middle of summer begging him to keep her healthy, just for one year.

    being poor is learning to cook in a microwave because the gas was cut off.

    being poor is wondering why you keep getting up in the morning expecting things to get any better

    being poor is sitting here, reading every single comment and fighting tears because you know that thse around you, in the library, wouldn’t understand why you’re crying.

  152. Wow! I cried, then irritated my husband because I wanted to read instead of talk to him, then had to stop reading to love on my man, but I am still up because this is so important. I just found myself, as I was reading, growing increasingly more thankful of where God has brought me in life. I had just balanced my debts so that I could have them paid off in the next 3 years (all but one debt, which would take me 3 years after that to pay off at the same rate) then I received a civil summons for the one debt as well. I was thrown into despair, thinking about what would be taken from me, but I realized that I do have a good help system. It is much easier to owe family than to owe strangers (so I say with as much humour and pride as I have, which is plenty of the one and none of the other). I grew up not knowing how to do anything but spend money and although I can do calculus with the medium of them, I can get an addition problem wrong in the snap of a finger. Now that I’m married, however, I work a little harder to be correct and I look at the luxury I have around me (a house that is warmed or cooled at the touch of a button, furniture in our living room – we didn’t have that until halfway into our marriage – in home internet access, lights, running water, washer and dryer, a nice bed) and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am truly, truly lucky and blessed. But I have been checked on some of my own bad feelings and this has opened my eyes to being empathetic towards others. Please keep your comments coming because I believe they have saved my heart.

    Some “Being Poors” from childhood…

    Being poor is instinctively waking up right before it rained (every single time) because you had to get the plastic up in time to stop the rain from soaking all of your clothes, or so you could take them all out of the closet and lay them at the foot of your bed because you couldn’t fix the hole in the roof right over your clothes. Remembering being poor is still waking up right before it rains (everytime)

    Being poor is never doing any after school activities because they all required a fee or equipment to buy.

    Being poor is staying with a man who turned abusive because you had to, not because you wanted to.

    Being poor was agreeing with doing without as a kid because you didn’t want to stay there either. Even if it meant you were never popular.

  153. for all of you people who think that being poor is not a choice… you are so wrong… the shelters are there for a reason and people should not be embarassed to go there if they truely need help with their lives… and that goes for soupkitchens too

  154. Being poor is being given a bag of Christmas gifts with your age group written on it, and your mother not being able to look you in the face for all the shame.

    Being poor is being excited about two bottles of fancy travel shampoo in your Christmas stocking.

    Being poor is living off Hallowe’en candy because it’s something to fill your stomach when you’ve skipped a meal to save money.

    Being poor is stealing from someone’s garden so you can have the luxury of a fresh tomato or crisp leaf of lettuce.

    Being poor is trying to take a big step; a big risk knowing that in the end you could get out of poverty – and needing the momentary kindness of one rich family member who will only ever see you as a burdon, a slacker who never did anything to help themselves.

    Being poor is people expecting you to wake up one morning and realize you could have been rich all along, and get your act together.

    Being poor is laying in bed fantisizing about making $10/hour and all the things you could buy with it.

  155. I stumbled upon the “What it means to be Poor” post by accident…and I’ve read quite a bit of what others have added in themselves. I have very mixed feelings…because it’s a bit scary to see how accurately you are describing how I, and many others have grown up…but it’s also a bit of relief. You get it. Poverty is so much more than a homeless man on the street. It exists in every village, every town, every city in this world, and the majority of it is unseen. In many ways, I thank my upbringing for my work ethic, and for my determination. I think we all fear poverty, with a terror that is close to unconscious. It’s easier to fight that fear with the rational explanation that poverty caused by personal faults and bad choices, rather than realise we all walk the razor-thin line between ‘doing okay’ and ‘can’t quite make it’. At least those of us who have experienced poverty know we could survive it again.

  156. Being poor is using newspaper as creative insulation.

    Being poor is eating in a kitchen that smells like week old socks because the rotten walls smell, and the window opens on the garbage area.

    Being poor is not knowing when the next time you’ll eat is, and whether you’ll still be hungry by the time it gets here.

    Being poor is sleeping all day because you don’t have enough to eat.

    Thank you.

  157. quote:
    Being poor means that any cash gifts end up paying the rent/other bills rather than the thing you said you wanted to get with the money. Which is just as well, because the stereo/camera/computer will end up at the pawnshop so that you can get gas to drive to work, and you may be able to get the stereo back. But probably not.
    end quote

    And it also means lying to family about what you did with that money so they think you bought yourself something nice instead of paying bills or you bought the kid a toy instead of the new shoes they needed but you couldn’t afford. So you call grandma and say “thanks for the money I bought little one a toy at the store” and then you hang up and cry because you really wanted to but couldn’t. Shoes was more important or medicine or eating. Lying because you don’t want them to know how bad it has become and how broke you really are because they can’t help you so why make them worry?

    The original post and many of the comments hit very close to home for me. I grew up poor and although I’ve escaped horrible poverty we are still not above the poverty line. But my children are better off than I was and that’s the only thing I can ask for.

  158. i’ve never been poor though i’ve certainly done lots of things people have mentioned here … the rest of my family has been pretty well-off all my life and have the resources to protect me against whatever otherwise-potentially-disasterous mishaps i’ve been through … though, for example, if i suffer a catastrophic illness could very well ruin my mother … all by way of saying i won’t add to the “being poor is …” list. i sure do appreciate it, though. it’s like some frank capra picture around here seeing how many people actually want to understand and (do something about) poverty in usa (and abroad; keep those posts coming too).

  159. Everyone else has said so many things I’ve experienced in my life.
    But here’s two more, from when I was a child living with my mother.

    Being poor is having to choose between food on the table or trash pickup every month. So the trash bags get thrown into the garage, where the pile just gets higher and higher and the stench gets worse and worse for a couple of months or more until a truck can be borrowed to take it all to the city dump, which usually takes more than 5 trips.
    Being poor is going through this embarrassment for several years.
    Being poor is having disgruntled neighbors complain about your lawn that is never mowed, because you’re working two jobs and raising two small children on your own, and have no working lawnmower.
    Being poor is being embarrassed but grateful that the complaining neighbors get so fed up and mow your neglected lawn for you out of pity and frustration.

    Being poor is feeling relief that the house was foreclosed on so you could move to an apartment where the lawns and trash were taken care of for you at no extra charge.

  160. I want to thank you for your webpage on being poor! It is nice not to feel so alone.

    Being poor is your mom picking out lice nits one by one, because she can’t afford to buy the shampoo.

    Being poor is being taken away from your parents by the State and put in foster care because they can’t afford proper heat.

  161. It’s taken me days to have time to read through all of these comments and I wanted to add something in response to the person who said, essentially, ‘if you keep your clean neat and tidy’ that, somehow, you were suddenly low class.

    What people seem to fail to realize is that cleaning supplies cost money. Garbage bags cost money, bleach costs money, mops, vacuum cleaners, disenfectant, paper towels, cleaning rags, gas to take the garbage off or pay the service that picks it up, lawn mowers, weed whips, dishwashing liquid.

    These things are not free, and I’m sorry but while it’s never been a situation I’ve had to truely stare in the face I would be hard pressed to fault someone who chose to pay to put food in their stomach than the supplies it takes to even do a minimally decent job cleaning their home.

    That isn’t taking into account exterminators, bug bombs, steam cleaners, or even things like scrubbing bubbles and a scouring pads.

    Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s fairly inconsequential to anyone with much of an income, but just like everything else it has a price.

  162. Being poor is being happy to receive a ‘get something free from Goodwill Thrift Store’ coupon and buying a lamp; the only lamp in your home.

  163. Thank you very much for the posts, John.

    And my compliments on your gentle-touch in moderating the comments. You do a superb job of being a host while keeping things on track.

    I’ve been poor, but not in the US, and not in the ways being described here. We’ve been writing about poverty lately over on BOP News, too, and I’ve been directing people over here. :) (Complete with quote, link, and attribution, naturally.)

    The first-person testimony of poverty is clearly news to a lot of people. Thank you for getting this out into the conversation. Very much.

  164. Being rich is reading Jim Scalzi.

    Being rich is experiencing all the human beings who commented here and who really, really care.

    In the midst of our nation’s most breathtaking poverty of spirit, in the midst of our daily slide into a meaner, rougher America, in the midst of all of our individual personal challenges that could easily make each of us as myopic and self-absorbed as the wealthy powerbrowers who ruin all, being truly rich is being with all of you.

    Thank you, Jim, for giving us all the opportunity to feel a little less like islands and a little more like people.

  165. This raises a question for me, as to something I’ve always done. I’ve never been poor, and I always donate food and supplies to food pantries and canned food drives and the like. And it’s been my habit to always buy “the good stuff” to send. Like if they’re asking for cereal, I tend to buy a respected name brand (plus since they come in boxes, they hold up better when donated). I try to go with vitamin fortified Frosted Flakes or something along those lines. Canned goods? Kids like Spaghetti-O’s, right? Things along those lines.

    Is this the right thing to be doing? Or should I be donating the more healthful stuff? Cans of vegetables and soups and less sugared cereals. I guess I always looked at it from the point of the kid and thought about how much I loved eating Spaghetti-Ohs and canned ravioli when I was a kid. And how corn flakes were boring, but oooh, if you put frosting on them, they’re a treat!

  166. I just read this and I have just a few more to add to the list.

    1. Being poor being outraged if the thermastat is set above 60.

    2. Being poor is powdered milk from the food bank that your mom stores in a gallon jug hoping you won’t know the difference.

    3. Being poor is knowing the difference and never saying anything.

    4. Being poor is wishing your brother would understand and take the four dollar shoes, too, instead of insisting on the 9.99 ones.

    5. Being poor is listening to your mother sob on the phone to your grandmother in the middle of the night over losing her factory job.

    6. Being poor is being turned away from government agencies because they say, at 250 dollars a month, your spending too much on rent for three people to get any help.

    7. Being poor is pretending I don’t have an ear ache because you know your mom would take to the doctor and you know she can’t afford it.

    8. Being poor is bringing dollar store shampoo to the public pool in the summer because the showers there have hot water.

    9. Being poor is plastic bags between your socks and rainboots since your rainboots have long since stopped holding back the rain.

    10. Being poor is understanding by age five why my mom gets so upset when I ask for gum in the checkout line.

    I’m tired for the whole world today.

    ~Emily

  167. Poor is when the guy arrives to turn off the water because it’s been 2 weeks since your power was turned off for nonpayment and you haven’t yet paid the outstanding bill.

    And then you have to use your husband’s cash wages from his crappy Labor Ready job to pay the power bill, even though it was supposed to be your rent money (because if you’re having to choose between no power and no house, well, a house with no power wins every time — but you just can’t make it with no power *and* no water).

    And then you spend the next couple days kicking yourself because if you’d known they were gonna shut off the water, you could have filled the tub and all the buckets in the house, and had a few more days to come up with some more money.

  168. Megan,
    Your question on what to donate to the food shelfs was really good. I would suggest donating a combination of really healthy things, and things you know kids would like, but please, make sure it is good, and as “fresh” as canned goods can be. Also, if you are going to donate anything that is part of something else (tuna helper, pie filling, etc) please donate the other ingredients that are non-parishable as well. The poor need healthy, as well as “luxury”, but mostly we need complete. Some grocery stores will have pre-bagged food, in various set dollar amount increments. these are a great Idea, as you pick them up when you are shopping, drop them before you leave the store, and the food shelf they are going to has beenin communication with the store involved, so the bag will have what the shelf needs in it.

  169. Being poor is living with an abusing mother and stepfather who beat on you.

    Being poor is living with an abusive mother and stepfather who don’t work.

    Being poor is living with an abusive mother and stepfather who don’t work and make you work to support them.

    Being poor is living with an abusive mother and stepfather who don’t work and expect you to work and support them, pay all the bills in the house, give them money to persue their demons and still have the nerve to tell you that you’re no one.

    Being poor is isolating yourself from everyone and not making new friends because the abusive mother and stepfather don’t want you to have any friends or distractions that could keep you away from working in order to get money to support them.

    Being poor is having to creep around the house quietly and to yourself in fear that you’ll upset the parents and they might beat on you. And it’s pretty hard to creep around the house when it’s a small house as it is already.

    Being poor is having to creep around the house quietly and to yourself in fear that you’ll upset the parents and they’ll when they’re upset they’ll threaten to call the cops on you and kick you out which they can since you’re 21 and the parents know you have no where to go which keeps you in fear and in your place.

    Being poor is never having enough money to keep the abusive mother and stepfather happy enough.

    Being poor is giving up college which would have been paid by government financial aid because the parents never would have allowed you to go in the first place because that would cut into your working and earning money to support them.

    Being poor is having to work a job that doesn’t have benefits, good pay and you expect to never leave. Plus it’s near the house so the parents can watch over you.

    Being poor is not being able to get a better job because all the better jobs are in the better part of town which is a half hour drive away.

    Being poor is not being able to ride the bus to get to the better job in the better part of town in order to make more money because you know the parents would beat you senseless for even thinking of getting on a bus. Plus the beating you would get when you’d get home.

    Being poor is never learning how to drive because the parents never let you learn or let anyone teach you. Thus being able to go to the better part of town to get a better job to make more money to support the parents..and a chance at getting to get away.

    Being poor is not having any family or relatives who have the room to take you in ‘cause they’re not well of themselves and can barely up-keep their household.

    Being poor is never having enough money to save up for a car which can take to you the better part of town to get you a better job…which wouldn’t really help much since you still don’t know how to drive.

    Being poor is ignoring all the people you meet at and through work because you know they all live in the better part of town and would look down on you for where you live.

    Being poor is having to plaster that smile on your face 24/7 because all your coworkers know how your parents treat you and pity you but you’ve got too much pride to show it affects you.

    Being poor is fearing that the parents will marry you off to one of their older male friends who will keep you in the house barefoot and pregnant.

    Being poor is fearing that the parents will marry you off to one of their older male friends and decide to peel your eye out for the first person who you can weld yourself onto to get away from this life.

    Being poor is finally getting the nerve to go out with that guy who lives in the better part of town and sit there while he ridicules you for living where you live while telling you that the neighborhood in which he lives in is the “only” way how and where people should live.

    Being poor is fearing that you’ll be 30 and still living this same life.

    Being poor is knowing that you’re 21 and it’s always been like this and doesn’t seem like it will ever change.

  170. Being poor is fealing guilty for even thinking of buying a $5 magazine.

    Being poor is working temporary weekend shiftwork at a factory that’s 25 miles away, for $7.25 an hour, and being thankful just to have a job.

    Being poor is staying the weekend at your parents while you work, to save $8 in gas a day, instead of at home with your wife.

    Being poor is stopping at your parents after work, to bring home supper for you and your wife, when you do go home.

    Being poor is being honestly excited about getting a full-time non-temp job in month that pays $6.75 an hour and is only 5 miles away.

    Being poor is buying a rusty 16 year old truck from your grandma for $400, and being grateful for it.

    Being poor is asking your parents for a roll of toilet paper, since you’re tired of using napkins you take from your works break room.

    Being poor is living next to Wal-Mart, and shopping at Save-a-Lot or Family Dollar instead.

    Being poor is using a computer you bought 3½ years ago “during the good years” as a PFC in the US Army.

    Being poor is missing the money you made as a PFC in the US Army.

    Being poor is juggling bills to keep them all at most 2 months behind so nothing gets turned off.

    Being poor is your friends and family insisting on giving you gas money to visit them.

    Being poor is your friends and family also giving you food, soda pop, and money whenever you visit them.

    Being poor is your brother who filed bankruptcy a few years ago saying “I know we all go through hard times, but I don’t think any of us have gone through it as long as Tony is.”, and then him insisting on giving you a $20 without anyone noticing.

    Being poor is borrowing $80 the day is rent due for your ‘government subsidized apartment’ because you get payed tomorrow and can’t afford the $60 late fee.

    Being poor is you and your wife giving plasma twice a week because you can’t afford not to.

    Being poor is asking for socks, clothing, cleaning supplies, and food for Christmas, and meaning it.

    Being poor is getting clothing, a Mach III razor (with 8 pack of blades), towels, and beef jerky for Christmas, and almost crying because your happy.

    Being poor is your family making extra on Thanksgiving so they can pack it up and send it home with your and your wife.

    Being poor is your 16 year old brother asking if you need gas money, and insisting they he pays.

    Being poor is still wearing a pair of shoes a co-worker gave you over a year ago.

    Being poor is getting sent home when you get to work because your far too sick to work, and having your foreman tell you you should see a doctor, and you wishing you could afford to.

  171. Being poor is telling your employer that you have to leave to find a new job to make more money – and then being told that you were going to be fired anyway, that you’re not employable for anybody else and besides, should someone else employ you, you’d only need more money anyway in the future.

  172. Being poor (or maybe this has more to do with the mental illness, but then again, that may be related back to the struggle with poverty) is watching the stress of your situation take a toll on your physical health, to feel yourself at a dangerous breaking point, and so to try to find reasons and ways to smile, to relax a little, to laugh when you can. But then, when you do, you watch those around you deciding that these “obvious signs of pleasure” equate to being a slob, not working at things hard enough, that you’re in your situation because you’ve chosen it, that you obviously don’t need or deserve any help or releif. It’s as though for the suffering to be real, it has to be relentless; you have to be suffering all the time.

  173. Being Poor means sitting on your rooftop while your house is submerged, seeing helicopters rescuing those around you and knowing that you “cannot afford” to be rescued by one. A lady said that in NO two weeks ago, and that made me cry.

  174. One thing you forgot to mention, is Being poor and getting sick means you lose your job. Being poor means you spend 2 weeks begging for money to pay your rent and get laughed at. Being poor is being evicted because your new job pays $9 an hour over the 2.13 you were making, and the check doesn’t come in until tomorrow. Being poor is asking for help, but can’t get it because you’re not a Katrina victim.

    Come live in my life guys.

  175. Being poor is getting migranes from your glasses, but not having the money to go get new ones, because you’d have to get new frames too (because no one around has lenses in stock) and you can’t take a week not driving.

  176. Being poor is living in the neighborhood with the crappy schools because it is where rent is affordable.
    (Can’t get community to pass a referendum, either).

    Being poor is not going to college because you needed to work once you graduated to help out mom and dad.
    (Community college? How do you propose a poor person gets there if public transportation isn’t available or doesn’t work with the work/class schedule).

    Being poor is getting married young to a guy with no prospects, either, because it gets you out of your parents’ house.

    Being poor is knowing you make 50 cents too much an hour to qualify for medical aide, but your job doesn’t offer benefits.

    Being poor is skipping buying the pill because you don’t have the cash, but making too much to qualify, again, for medical aide.

    Being poor in America is completely different from being poor in a third-world country. The middle class sees “poor” people with a TV and a Playstation and Nikes and wonders how they can be poor. But when money does come in, in the poverty class they can never see themselves as getting out of it or getting ahead. So why put that extra money into savings if you are never going to get ahead. You use it to buy something to entertain yourselfs, to forget about how crappy your life is. Middle-class people will never understand that mindset.

    None of the above have affected me, but I see it every day in the town I live in.

    Myself, we went through poor and rich times, depending on the time of year. My mom didn’t work (because dad said she couldn’t) until I was in high school. Dad sucked (and still does) at managing money. Probably because he came from such grinding poverty/alcholic/gambling addicted family himself.

    We grew up in North Dakota, in a town with no second-hand shop, no Goodwill, a crappy school system that didn’t do any career counseling, an even crappier guideance counselor, no free clinics.

    We ended up on food stamps after my little brother was born, and mom got WIC then, too. But that ended after he turned 5. I learned to love whole milk (ugh, the fat) and King Crunch cereal.

    Poor is watery potato soup, not realizing mom made it because potatoes are cheap, but loving it anyway.

    Poor is wearing the same red pants to school three days a week and not caring that you were being made fun of because you got the pants.

    Poor is your older sister giving you her clothes to wear for the first week of your sophomore year so no one knew you didn’t have the money to go back to school shopping.

    Poor is using your babysitting money on shampoo and your school clothes at age 13.

    Poor is watching your dad buy himself a new fish house or whatever toy he wants while knowing you still haven’t gone back-to-school shopping and that the mortgage, taxes and utilities are all behind.

    Being poor is driving a 15-year-old car you bought with $800 gleaned by not filing income taxes for two years (just so you’d get a lot of $$ back at once). Then trying to figure out which bill gets paid when the $800 car breaks down, again.

  177. John, thanks for an amazing post, and thanks to everyone else for their comments. Here are a
    few of my own.

    Being poor is (these are from the many stories my mother and father told me about their lives):

    Having to get dentures when you are 23, as my mother did, because all her teeth were rotten from no dental care as a child and it was cheaper to get a cheap pair of dentures than to get them fixed

    Never having had a pair of clothes or shoes that weren’t hand-me-downs from your older brothers and sisters until you were 21 and living on your own

    Having no medical care, even when you had whooping cough and almost died

    Getting one orange, one pair of socks, and if you were lucky a couple of pieces of candy for Christmas

    Never having a doll

    Never having a birthday party

    Having the Tennessee Valley Authority (younger people look it up if you’re interested) take your family’s farm and having to move the whole family to Detroit with no money, no jobs, no home

    Walking to school and not putting your shoes on until you got to the school door so they would last longer, because even when you outgrew them you had to pass them on to your younger siblings

    Having a paper route when you were 8 years old, taking the money and buying sausage and eating it all yourself before your mother got home and made you share, because you were so hungry

    Buying a goldfish for your mother for her birthday and having her scold you for wasting 5 cents

  178. Incredible….unbelievable…the heart and soul and intelligence of so many people who truly understand what it means to be poor.

    Now, when will all this intelligence be turned into fruitful action and translated into results at the polls. Read: IT REALLY DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHO CONTROLS THE GOVERNMENT.

    No one in America should be poor. There is no reason for it other than the greed of the wealthy people who control (now) all three branches of government with an iron fist.

  179. Being poor means picking up pennies in the supermarket parking lot to give to your mom to buy food.

    Being poor means giving your birthday money to your dad for groceries, because he spent his money on drugs.

    Being poor means never asking for anything, because you don’t want to see that look in your mom’s eye.

    Being poor means watching your mother as she goes to sit on her father’s lap to beg, “as his princess” for help buying a car.

    Thank you for this. Thank you for the acknowledgement. Thank you for the connection. Thank you for reminding me of myself!

  180. I think the point’s been made – but poverty is about not having resources; first material, but also spiritual/psychological. It’s possible to climb out if you have ‘internal resources’; but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a class of poor who don’t.

    The question is, how much is this country willing to do for those who literally can’t do for themselves? Do we want to look more like a developed nation, or a developing one?

  181. Interesting and heart-wrenching.
    My 2 cents worth:

    Being poor is being 5 and having to feed your little brother out of a dumpster because the people who are supposed to be taking care of you spend the food $$ on drugs/booze. It’s also being 5 and having a can of chicken noodle soup as a “special treat” for your birthday, provided by the local police as they take you into protective custody for neglect.

    My kids went through this, then I adopted them, and cry whenever I think about this, among the million other “once upon a long ago” stories they tell me. I’m blessed to be their mom, they are special kids that can really appreciate things.

  182. Being poor is wondering why walmart keeps saying they keep lowering prices and nothing there is free yet!

  183. being poor?…is staying married to a man for years because he’s army and u need the medical assistance u can’t pay if u weren’t still married.

    being poor is watching u’r teeth and hair fall out because u can’t afford to go to specialists who can help u with the medications u pay for that has side effects that soften u’r teeth and kills u’r hair.

    being poor is even finding used clothes at GoodWill too expensive so u wait till summer to hitch a ride with a friend to do the yard sale hunts.

    being poor is when u can’t even afford to put u’r son’s christmas and birthday presents on lay away because u don’t know when u’ll b able to make another payment on them.

  184. Being poor is selling your blood plasma for a gallon of milk for your kids and five gallons of gas to get them to school and back.

    Being poor is swallowing your pride and applying for welfare because your husband left you and your four kids. Then crying all the way home because in order to get welfare, you would have to abandon the kids too and get a full time job. (If I could work full time I wouldn’t need help!)

    Being poor is waiting for the older kids to start school, then getting a job at a daycare that allows you to take your toddler with you. Even though you are morally opposed to daycare.

    Being poor is knowing that the job will cost you your food stamps, and after the gas money and food you really haven’t made anything.

    Being poor is running the heater all the time but still being cold because you didn’t have enough duct tape to seal all the windows.

    Being poor is bringing home a second hand couch so you won’t have to sleep on the floor anymore, then realizing you just infested your house with mice.

    Being poor is just now deleting that the couch was from the dump.

    Being poor is being afraid of winter.

    Being poor is learning how to cook great pizza from scratch because there’s no way you can afford Pizza Hut.

    Being poor is being thankful for every little thing I do have.

  185. Being poor is an old person trying to decide whether to buy something to eat or buy your medicine.

  186. I got out of the poverty trap but being in it for 5 years was really educational.

    Being poor is having no phone and no transport to get help when your partner is beating up you and/or the children.

    Being poor is being grateful for other people’s unwanted clothes/furniture/medicine.

    Being poor is listening to the drips coming through the roof when it rains.

    Being poor is hiding in a doorway when you see an old classmate in the street.

    Being poor is having to choose between buying carrots and onions for the stew because vegetable prices have gone up and you can afford only one of them.

    Being poor is adding oatmeal to the mincemeat to make the stew look like more

    Being poor is not having a job because you have no transport to get to work.

    Being poor means the toddler can’t have footwear even though it’s November.

  187. Being poor isn’t always about the lack of money. It’s also about those you love and those who love you back. It’s unconditional love given freely without regard to what you have, mistakes you’ve made, physical appearance,etc.
    Being poor is about happiness. The happier you are with yourself, the richer you are. This happiness has nothing to do with what money has brought you. It has everything to do with the feelings in your heart and soul.
    Being poor is how you treat your fellow man. If you are willing to share, to help, to be there when everyone else has abandoned you and to not point fingers or try to place blame on others.
    Too much emphasis is placed on the almighty dollar to determine wealth and power. Life should be about teamwork, communication and caring about all people.
    I live on a fixed income and, monetarily, am sometimes unable to pay all of my bills. I don’t consider myself poor as I am rich in so many other ways. These caring and loving ways seem to make the money issues take care of themselves. Would I like to have more money? Sure I would…but not at the expense of the feelings in my heart and soul. These feelings can’t be bought and sold, they are free. They can be found deep within yourself. If you look, you will find them. Love and tend our earth and those that live here and you will be rewarded with the same.

  188. Being poor means I have to pick whether I go on welfare, so I can stay home and take care of my disabled child or I get a minimum wage job to pay someone (most of my check) to watch her.

  189. I am not poor, but I used to be. I was lucky enough to be blessed with the ability to suck up to my bosses, and get myself the promotions I needed to make decent money. At the age of 26, I have lived just at the poverty line for almost two years, and I thank God for it. But I grew up poor – more poor than most of my current friends can even imagine.

    Being poor is being eighteen and sleeping a total of 10 hours a week, because that’s all the time you have after working three jobs and trying to keep the house from getting any dirtier – you already have roaches, and the building next to yours has rats. Rats will eat what little food you have in your cupboard. You can NOT get rats.

    Being poor is having you appendix burst because you didn’t go to the hospital as soon as the pain started. Even though you were in excruciating pain, you waited to see if it would pass.

    Being poor is watching your coworker throw away half of a cheeseburger, and pulling it out of the trash after they walk away. And then making that half of a cheeseburger last two days.

    Being poor is knowing how many days late you can pay your bills before someone starts charging late fees.

    Being poor is watching your mother cry, because she worked three shifts that day, and hasn’t eaten in two days, and there’s still not enough money to get the water turned back on because they just added another late fee to the total.

    Being poor is sleeping over friends’ houses every weekend, because the only meal you eat most days is the free lunch at school, and you know that you won’t be eating until Monday if you stay at home.

    Being poor is being seven and hating summer vacation, because you will go hungry then, too.

    Being poor is realizing that your friend’s parents don’t let you stay at their house every summer because it’s too much trouble to drive the twenty minutes to bring you home – it’s because they’ve seen how thin you’re getting, and they want to make sure that you eat a few meals a day, even if it’s just for a few weeks here and there.

    Being poor is having two pairs of pants, one bra, two shirts, and one pair of underwear to your name, and trying to laugh it off when people compare you to a cartoon character who wears the same thing every day.

    Being poor is praying for that job at the fast food restaurant, because they might allow you a free sandwich on your break.

    Being poor is eating at the same place that gives you stomach aches every day, because the food is cheap and one serving will make up several meals.

    Being poor is wondering what grass tastes like. And then actually trying it.

    Being poor is almost hoping that your area gets affected by a natural disaster, because if you survive, FEMA or the Red Cross might give you some new clothes, or some food, or shelter, and that’s more than you have now.

    Being poor is running outside when it rains, because it’s free water and you’re thirsty.

    Being poor is wearing your mother’s hand-me-downs, and then watching her cry when she realizes that you’re getting taller than her.

    Being poor is duct-taping the underwire of your bra together, and then having to redo it every time you wash the bra (which is often, because you only have one).

    Being poor is having people get frustrated with you for ‘doing this to yourself’, and telling you to take some time off and relax, not understanding that taking one day off means not eating for the next week or more.

    Being poor means never having worn makeup, nail polish, or perfume. You don’t own hairspray or lotion, or even shampoo either. You just thank God that you manage to scrimp and save enough to afford tampons, soap (which you will use for your hair, too), and deodorant.

    Being poor is being a 14-year-old girl and shaving your head, because it takes too much soap to wash your hair.

    Sorry that this post is so long…I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

  190. Being poor is keeping old stuff if you possibly can, because the new(er) stuff might break and if it does, you know you can’t possibly afford to replace it and something old is better than nothing.

    Being poor means going back to work at night and getting your co-worker to come outside so you can put three bags of groceries in her car because her husband just left and she’s in shock from having gone to having enough to having empty cupboards and you’re trying to buy her some time to get it together to apply for help.

    Being poor means watching the neighbors’ kids for free whenever they ask because God knows they’ve bailed you out of a bind enough times.

    Being poor is being only a divorce away from disaster.

    Being poor means that when times get a little better, there’s always a place for someone at your table because you know up-close and personal what it’s like to be hungry.

    Being poor means a shock when your youngest child graduates high school because it has just occurred to you that amongst all the kids of the same age as yours in the neighborhood, yours are the only ones to have done so.

    Being poor means you’re quick to lend a hand if you can because you have learned firsthand that all we really have is each other.

  191. Being poor is being looked “through” instead of looked at.

    Being poor is being dismissed before you’ve spoken a single word.

    Being poor is wearing your clothes from
    the towns “freebox” on the county highway.

    Being poor is thirsting for knowledge
    and going hungry.

    Being poor is taking a bath in a giant
    cast iron “cauldron” because there is no running water, let alone hot running water.

    Being poor is having to take your kids birthday money to buy food.

    Being poor is knowing 50 different ways to make beans and tortillas for dinner.

    Being poor is hard.

  192. Being poor means you can’t jog along the public highway, even though you’re only trying to stay fit because even though you’re poor you’re health concious, but the police stalk you as being a prostitute.

  193. Being poor to this seventh decade woman is having
    federal, state and city bureaucrats rip me off
    and see them smerk cause I can’t do a damn thing about it.

    To see poverty one only needs to look at the toothless women and men who cannot access dental care of any description. Thanks for giving me the chance to say this.

  194. Being Poor is having others tell you that “Money Doesn’t Mean Everything” or How the Lord is blessing them” after they get back from Disneyland or buying that new home, when you are just struggling to get by, and wishing you had more of the that money that doesn’t mean so much to that other person.

    I guess money really isn’t everything when you have it, and you are getting your medical needs cared for, because you have health insurance. When you aren’t going to be making a choice between the car repair and paying your rent, or the utilities. When the telephone rings and you have to check the caller ID, and thanking God for caller ID, because you won’t have to talk to collection agencies, whom someone else rightly said are inhumane.

    I watch television spots on my 13 year old tv, about local medical centers and how they provide top of the line medical care, and someone is always featured that received treatment that saved their lives or some such thing, and I feel resentful, because I realize that medicine and life saving treatments are only for those who can afford expensive insurance premiums, in a country with the greatest health care and treatment opportunities!

    When you are poor, money is all you think about, because of the lack of it. So for those that the Lord has so richly blessed, with money, with successful relationships, great kids who never have given a moment of trouble, great health, or great health insurance, where does that leave me?. Oh I know, with trials and tribulations, because apparently I need to learn lessons, you have already mastered.

    I do not live in LA, I do not live in an inner city neighborhood. I live in a western state, in the suburbs. There are plenty of folks just like me and my hubby, who are the working poor, even in suburbia, so being poor isn’t a respector of persons. Poverty is a demoralizer, and many times before someone can get themselves out of that condition, they have to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

  195. wow! I could almost be stunned by some of the comments here by people who think they’re poor but that’s only because they are not rich beyond their wildest middle class dreams.

    I live in Appalachia. I have a master’s degree and live here in Appalachia because I came back to my roots. I make $8 an hour, have NO benefits (health insurance, paid holidays, paid vacations hahahaaa! they don’t happen).

    We have natural disasters here all the time. We never depend on local, state, federal government, FEMA or anyone else. They never show up, we don’t wait for them.

    You smug folks, I grew up with all those “being poor” listings. What I learned after going away for a higher education and living in the big cities and suburbs is: hte best place to live the rest of my life, raise my children, and have a real community was right here where it’s “poor”.

    That looting, shooting stuff y’all saw on TV in New Orleans? You wouldn’t see that here. First, it would not have happened past the first time and, second, big time TV don’t care about the small towns and backwoods.

    Just look at small town Mississippi….

  196. Being poor is….
    Excitement about a family trip to the dump.
    Being glad that you have a phone book when the toilet paper runs out.
    Having to take two trips anywhere because the car will only hold 5 of the 10 family members.
    Knowing how to use bi-carb of soda to clean ovens, teeth & bathroom as well as to cure indigestion.
    Knowing which generic brand is made in the same factory as luxury one.
    Having to take the same school subject as older siblings ‘because we have the book’.
    Resenting the publishers who issued a new edition so you couldn’t use your sibling’s book.

    I know that these seem very trivial compared to wishing you’d miscarry or prostituting yourself to feed the kids but they are what have formed me and my outlook on the world.

  197. In the U S A, we have for the most part a higher standard of living. We are surrounded by those who have middle or upper class lifestyles.

    We see people getting medical treatment they need. Our children go to school with kids who have nice clothes and shoes. We see nice cars, nice homes, ect.

    It is said that those who are poor here, are wealthy compared to the way some people live in other countries, however that is the kicker, the poorest of the poor here don’t live in those countries, they live here, where they are supposed to have achieved more and done more with their lives, because of the opportunity of living here.

    Our country does afford opportunity to prosper, and achieve goals that you set for yourself, but the problem is, folks who are disheartened by poverty, lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.

    I believe God has given each one of us talents. We need to discover what they are, and how to develope them, because I think this could be a very big way to find our way to the success we want in our lives.

    That is what I try to do everyday. I keep thinking of ways I can improve my situation, and work towards that goal.

  198. Being Poor Means:

    Being glad I have “poor folk” skills.

    I can sew without a pattern.
    I can knit and crochet.

    Instead of feeling bad for not having the newest fashion, I could sew something original and set the trend. Let those who thought it was cool to pay me to sew them an outfit. Now days if you can put in a zipper you’ll never be broke.

    I can and do cook from scratch.
    I am not too proud to make a turkey soup from a skeleton begged off of a hauf brau. Just the thought makes my mouth water.

    If I need to scare up some money I’ll find a catering gig and bring home the left overs along with the money.

    I know how to throw a pot luck “Rent Party” and everyone has a good time and we have left overs and money.

    I bought leggos and modeling clay for my sons so they can “make anything” they wanted.

    I also taught my children that what TV commercials want us to do is break the 10th Commandment and that doing anything for money breaks the 1st. No we’re not born again Christians, we’re Muslims. Same rules apply.

    I knew that nothing I could buy my children will be remembered as much as spending time with me drawing, playing with clay and taking long walks talking about stuff. This they told me was true after growing up.

    My two youngest sons, who are 30 and 25 told me what were the most valuable things I taught them. The 30 year old said, “That no matter what happens you can always hustle. That hard times only means one has to start thinking and get creative.” My 25 year old said, “That being smart isn’t what you can pull out of your head but what you know how to look up.”

    I felt my job raising them was done at that point. They’ll figure it out no matter what life throws at them.

    I broke myself of the habit of wanting to be involved with the secular manifestations of “The Holidays”. We have celebrations when we can and if we can afford it. Everyday we wake up is a cause for celebration with living on an earthquake fault line.

    I believe in reduce, reuse and recycle.

    Being an old hippy I used to do astrology charts. Someone once asked me “If you’re so good, why aren’t you rich?” I told him with my chart I should have been dead at an early age. Instead I’m an old fart, who is happy, and married to a man half my age who does make a good wage. I got my education in spite of my hard life and without a family that is supportive. I have grown children who still like to hang with me and laugh at my jokes. I’m teaching my grand children how to cook from scratch and look things up. Beat that with all your wealth, already.

    Having been poor means getting to old age means you’ve been successful. You lived to tell the tale. I feel sorry for the middle class who got wiped out in the hurricanes, they are the “new poor” and might not have “Poor Folk” skills.

  199. Oh gosh, my url got fritzed. My error. By the way I’ve been teaching art for free online for 6 years, because I also believe that art education shouldn’t only be for the wealthy.

  200. Being Poor is welfare telling you your kids are family CAP babies because you received assistance for two months when you were 18.

    Being Poor is welfare thinking you can survive on $400 a month.

    Being Poor is watching your baby get buried in a plastic casket because that is what Masshealth will pay for.

    Being poor is having the funeral home knock off the $400 extra dollars that Masshealth won’t cover.

    Being Poor means taking a year to pay for her headstone.

    Being Poor is more than an economic status.

    Being Poor is constant discouragement.

    Being Poor is knowing that one of these days, that brick wall is going to crack your head right open.

    Being Poor is spending your study time after your kids are asleep reading this blog.

    Being Poor is not caring that you’re poor.

    Being Poor is wanting to die because you are poor.

    Being Poor is knowing how worse things could be.

    Being Poor is never understanding what it’s like to not be poor.

    Being Poor is hoping this site will get big enough to make a difference.

  201. Being poor is having one good shirt to wear to school that makes you feel like the other kids, only to have the other kids make fun of you for always wearing the same shirt.

  202. O CHILDREN OF DUST!
    Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.

    (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words)

    I have lived a blessed life, with few if any real problems, and for this I am immensely greatful and very happy. I have many to thank for telling me of the culture of poverty, about which I personally know nothing. Without this, I would certainly find myself “heedless”, and on a very unfortunate, unkind and judgemental path. With it, I am not only inspired to make very different choices in how I spend my resources, but also, I find myself living each moment in a state of gratitude. Thanks.

  203. Being poor is being told in a southern high school to “not even think about going to college”. So many people think only the wealthy are intelligent and deserving. Just think what a successful country we would be if we had a way to send all children to college who wanted to attend. (Anyway, I never listened to my teachers and I went on to college and grad. school.)

  204. Being poor is going to church for the 11:00a.m. services and singing “Just A Closer Walk To Thee”,
    walking home on a dusty road, to change your clothes and eating one peice of fried chicken( the Leg, ’cause your daddy always eats the Breast) and spending the rest of the day in the Front Yard, “caause you can’t visit anoye one else house onf Sunday!!

  205. How many people in this thread think they’re qualified to say what it means to be poor. It’s a real heart-wrencher.

    I am NOT qualified to say what it means to be poor. My income is under $8,000 a year and has been at that level (considered “very low income” officially, by US government standards) for the last 25 years. I am rich.

    Many people in much of the world would regard me as very rich indeed. They are the ones who could tell us computer-users a thing or two about being poor. They’re undoubtedly too far gone in trying to find their next bit of food somewhere to say a word, though.

    I’m embarrassed by how many people in this thread ASSUME a car, even if it’s a “junker” or a “heap.” A car is taken for granted by Mr. Scalzi himself (though not by his sister, apparently).

    A CAR???? Poor people take the bus or the subway when/if they can scrape up the fare, or find a transfer on the sidewalk and use it.

  206. Being poor is apparently not voting or taking part in the democratic process, even though it costs nothing to do so and could actually have an impact on “being poor” in America.

    Since only about half of registered voters actually vote, one could assume that half of the people posting here don’t vote, even though each election cycle brings out candidates with ideas and policies that might actually help poor people. But these people seem to get beat by the people who are more concerned with banning gay marriage and abortion.

    This site and the postings are profoundly moving, but the bigger tragedy is that we as American’s could actually change the policies and direction of our government and help poor people, if only more of these poor people got involved in their government and most of all VOTED! Do you really think W would be in office if we had an 80% or higher voter turnout last year?

    I propose this challenge to everyone posting on and reading this site: in 2006 and 2008 make it a point to find out where candidates in your area at every level of government stand on the issue of poverty in America and then my god, PLEASE VOTE!

  207. I certainly agree that getting everyone to vote should be a priority, although I don’t know that the poor will necessarily vote as you might expect them to. The area in which I live has a large percentage of poor folks, but the turnout here was actually very good, and the county in which I live went 70% for Bush in the last election.

  208. John you have given a voice to the shadow people.

    May it have a profound and lasting effect.

    Thank you.

  209. Being poor is avoiding church because they pass the plate. Feeling like crap when they talk about cheerful giving and you know your money isn’t even going to make it three days past your payday. I wish there was a church that didn’t do collection. Of course if I had more faith — something would happen — but it doesn’t.

    Being poor is hardest for me when rich relatives demand to know what I spent their last christmas present on and WHY AM I STILL “HAVING TROUBLE” WITH THE BILLS??? Oh yes, I spent that money on caviar and wine – NOT, I finally got out from under a couple of final utility notices.

    Being poor means that when rich relatives send clothes to the kids, returning it and buying more of what they really need for less at a resale store. Don’t let them see the kids new stuff though! Lie when asked how the kids liked the outfits.

    Being poor means wanting to ask with every fiber of my being for help from others in the family, but not being able to because I can’t take the “What did you do with the last money I gave you” speech.

    Being poor means you might be a teacher in the US with six kids. And yes, you do know what birth control means.

    Being poor means that you are scared to death what is going to happen to the heating prices because what you don’t spend in heating you make up for in Dr. bills and your antibiotics for the kids aren’t covered.

    Amoxicillin costs $49 bucks and doesn’t work. Zithromax works and costs $79.00.

    Living in poverty is when you get in a rut so deep that you can’t see a way out, you start thinking some really dark thoughts. Then you remember you have six kids and can’t afford to think those kind of thoughts.

  210. What an amazing entry… very glad that I came across this.

    Being poor means scraping together every month enough to pay your phone bill, but the only people who call anymore are bill collectors because your friends are all sick of hearing that you can’t afford to hang out with them this week.

  211. being poor is being sent to prison for 10 years for stealing 100 dollares but if you are white and embezzle 1 millon dollares you only get a slap on the hands because you did a lot of charity work.

  212. Being poor is seeing your father go without food for a couple days so that his family can eat.

  213. Being poor means not having a computer so that you can email your comments.
    Being very poor means not having access to a Public Library computer because you don’t have a library card because you don’t have a valid address.
    Being in poverty means that you don’t know how to learn how to use a computer, have acess to any computer, and are consequently disenfranchised from the world of decent paying jobs.

  214. Most (if not all) definitions of “being poor” given here are valid for US only. You do realize that in many countries in the World what you call “being poor” in the US is actually “being well-off”, don’t you?

    In the context of the recent hurricanes – all the victims are still very lucky to be living in the US, where someone will care for them and will help them rebuild their lives.

    There are places in the World where losing your home is losing _everything_, _forever_.

    Now – THAT is “being poor”.

  215. Being Poor is when the hand-me-downs include the underwear and socks your sister wore 3 years ago.

    Being Poor is thinking that there is no medicine for asthma, only to learn that you did not have access to it because your parents could not afford it.

    Being Poor is when you look forward to Christmas because you know you will get a new toothbrush in one of the “small packages” under the tree.

    Being Poor is when you have saved enough from your part-time job to buy a new pair of $10 shoes.

    Being Poor is when you are contented to have a raw egg on rice for dinner–when your classmates are having roast chicken.

    Being Poor is when you tell your friends that you are on a diet or that you are not hungry because you cannot afford to eat at a fast-food joint.

  216. How awful that so many are so intimately acquainted with dispair and want.

    Being poor for a time is going to the corner store with the last of the scrounged-from-the-couch money to buy diapers for your baby sister, and because you’re young and silly and it’s not quite enough money anyway, buying candy instead.

    Being poor but lucky is to have never known true hunger or homelessness.

    Having been poor and young and silly is to cry, all these years later, at the memory of your mother’s stricken face when you came home with no money and no diapers.

    Having been poor but lucky is to know the wrenching “liberal” hurt of never having done enough for your fellow men and women.

    Having been poor but lucky is to know true rage at our nation’s, and it’s citizens’, lack of response to the atrocity of poverty.

    Having been poor but lucky, and known those who were poor but not, is to question the existence of the Almighty.

  217. Stefan Piperov writes:

    “Most (if not all) definitions of “being poor” given here are valid for US only.”

    Yes, this has been addressed numerous times already in the course of the comment thread.

  218. Those people who need help out of dsyfunctional relationships should post contact info to a generated email account: yahoo, hotmail, or the like. I’m sure there’s people out there who’d spot you some cash to move. For example: Hopeless in TX – you’re holding down a job, and you could contribute to other relatives to pay for your keep. If that won’t fly, there are people who’d spot you cash for a bus ticket out, and you’d probably make it if you can find a roomie even at an entry level wage. If you’re not oppossed to the military, you could get out that way.

    Make sure you reach out for help when you can, because people can help you if they know what you need. And some of us are happy to give, as long as we know we won’t be despised for trying to help…

  219. Being poor is eating the tiny sour apples off the tree in the backyard, not giving them time to ripen or else they could be gone.

    Being poor is getting excited to get the bag of used clothes from neighbor girls.

    Being poor is getting shoes from St. Vincent’s de Paul and having to make those shoes last the whole school year (which means they are at least a size too big and cannot be worn after school).

    Being poor is having bathed at the neighbor’s when the water has been turned off. It was going to be the water or power.

    Being poor is knowing how to make good punch from Margarita mix because that’s all that’s in the refrigerator.

    Being poor is being guilted by my mother to “borrow” milk from next door for the baby “or else the baby will die.” “And see if you can get some bread too.”

    Being poor means knowing about those food stamp books, and how you know even when you’re older that those tellers remember that you’re poor.

    Being poor means getting cash jobs as a child because labor laws to “protect” me would prevent me from working enough hours while under 15.

    Being poor is remembering the neighbor lady watching me while my mother was having a baby refusing to give me a glass of milk because ‘M O N E Y’ doesn’t grow on trees, and laughing because as a child I thought she spelled milk.

    Being poor growing up means spoiling my children now. Giving them the security I never had, as well as too many toys. And having to learn what purge means with regards to clothes and toys because we never had to do such a thing growing up.

  220. I forgot to say…

    Being poor as a child makes one a work-a-holic as an adult. My brother the doctor likes to say, “When you’re raised on mayonaise sandwiches, you promise yourself you’ll have meat and cheese when you grow up.”

  221. This piece is riddled with various premises that presumably the reader is supposed to accept without examination or challenge. Much of it is centered around one’s inability to provide well for their children. I see so are any number of follow-up comments. The existence of these children seemingly unconnected to any responsibility on the part of those who created them to exercise any control over the process. It’s not clear to me that if some woman has 9 children that she can’t transport out of town, why it’s my responsibility?

    There’s an implication that when someone who’s already living in marginal circumstances becomes impregnated it’s somehow both the fault and responsibility of “society” outlined in some amorphous, collective, vaguely defined fashion.

    There’s an attempt to wriggle out of responsibility by smuggling in a line about “decisions made at 14”, as if every baby born into poverty were born to someone barely in their teens.

    Further, this assertion that masses of affluent Americans have no earthly idea that poor people exist and that poverty sucks, is nonsense. What city of any size doesn’t have a slum area? Has anyone reading this who owns a car never had occasion to drive through the “bad” part of town, never had a job that took them into these areas or involved working with the poor in some capacity? Someone would have to have lived in a broom closet to not see the images of riots in ghettos over various alleged injustices or even in celebration of a basketball tournament. One couldn’t possibly have missed hearing about gangs, drive-by shootings, drugs, killings over a certain brand of sneaker.

    It also ignores the fact that many of those who are affluent were not always affluent, and is somewhat insulting to those who have elevated themselves. Among liberals, the word “poor” seems to be inextricably linked to the phrase “hard working” while there’s an implication those who aren’t “poor” got it handed to them, as if no well to do person ever busted ass to acquire their status.

    People can have abortions. They can give children up for adoption. Tough choices perhaps, but is it preferable to condemn a child to the impoverished existence outlined in the essay? I reject the idea that “keeping the baby” is always noble. If one doesn’t have the werewithal or an adequate support system in place, it’s stupid. In fact it’s a form of abuse.

    Of course, we dare not propose the evil, mean-spirited, cold-hearted idea that they can also not get pregnant in the first place unless and until they’re prepared to provide for whatever life might throw at them. Every “underprivileged” child exists only because of some “underprivileged” people who created them. Though the author can barely find the words to adequately express his rage over how “neglected” these people were, I’m guessing that he and others like him would regard various measures to prevent people from siring or keeping children they can’t adequately care for as fundamentally evil.

    The author seems to want to ignore a fact of existence, some people are better off than others. Life in the slums of New Orleans would probably look pretty good to people from some parts of the world.

    By the way, regarding “800$ cars”. I taught myself how to work on cars and have gotten years of excellent service out of such vehicles. Instead of paying a mechanic $300 to change a water pump, one can do it themselves for $40 and some elbow grease. There are folks in parts of this country who regard it as a natural, normal part of life to turn their own wrenches and would scoff at the idea of paying someone to do what they learned to do when they were 16.

  222. I remember a lot of these things when i was younger and never realized it, or maybe i just forgot about it…

    being poor walking home in the rain in the same sweats you wear at least three a week and the same shoes you wear everyday, and having your mom cry when she sees you soaked in rain. but telling your mom you’re ok

    being poor is getting a fever and not telling your parents because they’re busy at work and you’re scared to make them take a day off to watch you

    being poor is when you act out and get suspended to stay home and get better rather than admit to being sick

    I was the kid that was always at a friend’s house

    Being Poor is having to pick which dog to give away

    Being poor is realizing you’re better off when your dog runs away

    Wondering how you get by everyday whenever you look in your wallet or see a bill in the mail, but never hearing the truth from your parents

    Being Poor is wanting to go to college but knowing that your parents would work themselves to death trying to prevent you from living life the way they do, but never being able to pay those fee’s off and still retire

    Being Poor is getting a job and paying loan payments for your dad

    I’m not poor because i know it can be worse

  223. ^^add^^

    Being Poor is when people ask what your parents do, you lie or say you don’t know, because mom working at walmart and unemployed dad embarasses you (both still have the same occupation..

  224. Great Scott! How angry you seem to be.

    This thread is about being poor in America. Where the gaps between the those who have financial stability and those who don’t grows wider everyday. Where there is the lie that there is equal opportunity when there isn’t even equal access to education or medical care.

    As for the car issue: I stopped driving a privately owned vehicle in 1972. Can’t own what you can’t afford. By the time I could afford a vehicle I realized public transit is better for the planet.

    With the cuts in funding for public health clinics, increasing lack of access to birth control for teens, the attack on the rights for women to get abortions you talk about preventing pregnancies or getting an abortion. Like a man knows what women have to go through.

    America has one of the highest Teen Pregnancy rates in the developed world. Is that your responsibility? I don’t know, are you anybody’s “Baby Daddy”?

    Most women are on welfare because some man is not paying child support. She’s usually on for a couple of years until she can find some job through the work for welfare rules that have been going on for decades. Don’t believe me, look up the Talmage Act.

    The life style of men who don’t pay child support after divorce goes up. The life style for the mother and children go down. Wages for women are still not equal to men for the same work done. But you wouldn’t know that because you’re a man.

    When you’re broke, hungry and with children who need childcare for you to even look for work it is difficult to just “bum some cash” to get to another location. Moving involves “first, last and deposit” in most towns. There’s getting the phone and utilities turned on. Then you still need childcare to even look for work.

    Instead of being angry at those who are sharing their experience of being poor, anger being a mask for fear, pain and shame, why not share the things you did to raise yourself up?

    Here I’ll show you how to do it.

    It was through a combination of welfare and financial aid that I got my education. Blowing kisses at Uncle Sam for that. The young poor folks now don’t have the opportunities I had because of the budget cuts in funding education.

    Instead of studying art, which is my forte, I studied English Literature and TEFL because I was told by an academic advisor that the “only skill” I possessed over better educated immigrants was that I was a “native speaker”.

    “Why you study the engrish?! You speaki the engrish!!” My Japanese mother objected. “You a fedelally subsidized bum! You should be a cocktail waitress, like me!”

    A sub-standard dialect is not English that will get me an office job, Mom. Being a cocktail waitress isn’t viable if I want to see my children after school and be with them at night. She took it personal instead of serious.

    I got my computer skills from reading for the blind. One of my blind clients was a systems analyst and I asked to be paid with a used computer and for him to teach me everything he could. He did, then he died of the brain tumor.

    Before I entered the corporate work force I studied the new environment ahead of time by reading “Executive Manners Handbook”, “Cheap Chic” and “Dressing for Success”, while in the bookstore so I didn’t have to buy them. Then I sewed myself a wardrobe from scratch that would make me fit in. The fabric purchased with money I made by working at a bakery in the morning and a produce store in the afternoon. The only clue of my financial poverty were the Payless shoes. Shoes will give you away in a heartbeat, ask any cobbler.

    I realized I was entering into territory that the only major prejudice I would face is one of “class”. I was already innured to prejudice due to race and gender. I knew that people are lulled into trusting you if you could “talk white”, “write white”, and you dressed right. I’m half White and half Asian so I could “pass”. I felt like a under cover operative in hostile territory, because I was. I was a “poor gal” from the “wrong side of the tracks” with an education that was geared to getting out of the cycle of poverty.

    It was always a “bust” when I could chat comfortably with the Phillipino security guard or the delivery guy who was Black. “You understand their lingo so well. How do you do that?” Mental note: keep it on the lo-pro (the low profile) next time.

    After being on the roller coaster thrill ride of the Dot.Com boom/bust cycle in San Francisco I’ve decided not to re-enter the corporate world. As we say in the hood, “Them Suits be crazy.” “BE” being durative, ex-Portugese syntax from the slave trade. Again blowing kisses to Uncle Sam for my TEFL education.

    I’m not ashamed of having been poor. I’m not proud of some of the things I had to do to make “the big bucks”.

    Why be angry when people recount their experiences of being poor? It’s difficult enough to share these experiences without having the same old “anti poor” prejudice thrown in our face again. As I told my sons, if we have nothing at least we can have our dignity.

  225. Being poor is having to borrow $5 from an aquaintance so you can have a drink to try to relax for five minutes and decide how you’re going to take care of your father who is dying of Pulmonary Fibrosis.

    It means inviting friends over to your decent house, hoping they will decide to order pizza and pay the bill, so you can eat tonight.

    It means praying everyday that no matter how much you hate your job, they are the only reason you can afford to voice your opinion with internet access.

  226. Mark’s Reality Rebuttal

    Being poor means knowing how much everything costs. Only poor people know the price of goods?

    Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away. Their are services for that aka Medicaid, private non profit organizations, make payments to dentists. The fact is most dentists are greedy and don’t give back to their community. I agree dental assistance in this country is horrendous.

    Being poor is knowing your son goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours. So it’s my fault his parents never pulled themselves out of poverty. Most people don’t judge people’s integrity and character by their material wealth.

    Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt. Of course, most parents hope their children have stunted growth. My mother used to make some of my clothes. Clothes can be had at churches, Salvation Army and other non profits, relatives, friends, garage sales, government assistance, thrift stores…

    Being poor is taking a lamp from a stranger’s trash. You can buy a lamp at a garage sale for 50 cents. One man’s (oops! I mean person) trash is another man’s treasure.

    Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall. Malls and their customers are intolerant? Ever hear of window shopping? Wow, how do you tell people are poor at the mall, do they wear a Scarlet P?

    Being poor is $5 short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap. Oh yeah, most people are in poverty because of a $5 gap.

    Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a child on your lap. Sure, I’m always placed first in line at the emergency room.

    Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14. So we should all blame and live in the past.

    Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away. Excuse me while I reach for the cough syrup. We have Medicaid, emergency rooms, free samples from the doctor, medicine that can be purchased from the local store.

    Being poor is people who’ve never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.” Poverty is a behaivoral problem. A person can educate themselves, start a business, improve their work ethic, work their way up to a better job or get a job. You’re right though, you choose to be poor. Politicians want people to remain in poverty and have a poor education so they can buy their votes. Spent trillions on New Society programs and still the same poverty rate.

    Have a nice day.

    From a former poor person,

    Mark

    Posted by: Mark H at September 12, 2005 10:27 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Mark.

    MARK,
    YOU COULDN’T HAVE SAID IT BETTER ! MAYBE IF SOME OF THESE PEOPLE QUIT BLAMING EVERYONE ELSE FOR THEIR PROBLEMS, THEY WOULD HAVE TIME TO FIGURE A WAY OUT ! THERE ARE SOLUTIONS AND HELP OUT THERE, BUT SOME PEOPLE ARE TOO BUSY WHINING TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. OH, BY THE WAY, BEFORE ALL OF YOU START COMPLAINING ABOUT WHAT I HAVE SAID, I HAVE BEEN THERE…..JUST CHOSE NOT TO BE ANYMORE !!

  227. Being poor is your mom crying when you ask for milk.

    Being poor is not knowing your parents because they worked 2-3 jobs all the time.

  228. Nora Jean Gatine said:
    “Great Scott! How angry you seem to be. ”
    Sure, I get pissed when liberal whiners try to defend the irresponsible actions of others and blame it on someone else, because of a misguided sense of “compassion”.
    “This thread is about being poor in America. Where the gaps between the those who have financial stability and those who don’t grows wider everyday. Where there is the lie that there is equal opportunity when there isn’t even equal access to education or medical care.”
    Well you’ve certainly demonstrated a familiarity with the liberal mantra. Yep, it’s certainly true that the world isn’t set up to accomodate everyone who creates babies they’re not prepared to care for.
    Noone guarantees you success or wealth or that everyone is going to own a Rolls and live in Malibu. Noone guarantees you that you aren’t going to get terminal cancer either. However, there are certain things that one can do and *not* do to enhance their chances of having a life that doesn’t suck.
    Regarding “equal access to education”, ever worked in the public schools? In the vast majority of cases, the reason a student doesn’t get decent grades is because of a tag-team effort of the students themselves and their parents. While there are poor teachers, there are also a lot of excellent teachers who leave because they’re tired of it. Whose fault is it that inner city schools are such shit holes? You can’t teach those who are unwilling to be taught. You don’t need brand new textbooks and computers to learn.
    “With the cuts in funding for public health clinics, increasing lack of access to birth control for teens, the attack on the rights for women to get abortions you talk about preventing pregnancies or getting an abortion. Like a man knows what women have to go through.”
    Believe it or not, I have an understanding of the process of reproduction. Your whining is simply more evasion of personal responsibility. Birth control and abortions are available (both of which I’m all for) and whose fault is it that a girl can’t keep an aspirin between her knees in the first place? Abstinence works every time. “You just got carried away” isn’t my damn fault. Perhaps some tiny percentage of pregnancies occur against the girl’s will, but they certainly don’t represent the vast majority of cases.
    “America has one of the highest Teen Pregnancy rates in the developed world. Is that your responsibility?”
    It doesn’t surprise me that you have to ask. By the way, think this might have anything to do with this gap between the haves and have nots that you mention?
    “I don’t know, are you anybody’s “Baby Daddy”?”
    Nope.
    “Most women are on welfare because some man is not paying child support.”
    And revisiting the issue of personal responsibility, why do girls/women hook up with bums and why is it my fault when they do? I somehow doubt that it’s a complete news flash that the guy spends a percentage of his cash on dope a/or alcohol, has a shitty job a/or a criminal background, shows tendencies toward angry, violent behavior, has a lowlife’s limited command of English, isn’t making any effort to improve himelf, still behaves like a punkass kid in general. Maybe her friends and family *told* her he’s no damn good. But she wouldn’t listen.
    Whose fault is it that she didn’t consider the possibility that this guy might not be around forever for whatever reason and isn’t prepared to deal with it on her own if need be? Even if he’s a prince of a guy, what if he comes down with a serious illness, or gets hit by a bus or murdered by one of your “poor oppressed people” in a convenience store holdup?
    “When you’re broke, hungry and with children who need childcare for you to even look for work it is difficult to just “bum some cash” to get to another location. Moving involves “first, last and deposit” in most towns. There’s getting the phone and utilities turned on. Then you still need childcare to even look for work.”
    Yup, things suck when you don’t exercise self-restraint and common sense and don’t adequately prepare yourself for life in the real world. Here’s a thought, perhaps someone in that situation should have their parental obligation removed? If how things work mean that you’re dooming your offspring to a shitty life by screwing up, perhaps they should be given to a family who can take care of them and your reproductive capacity negated a/or perhaps that of the father? No? I guess that suggestion is going to make you quake with anger eh? It’s not clear to me what other cure there is regarding the masses of poor, “underprivileged” children other than cutting off the supply of them. The poor are the ones injecting children into miserable circumstances, but of course I’m sure to be labeled as vile for even suggesting that some sort of control be imposed.
    Funny how a license is required to do everything in this country from flying an airplane to fishing, but people are allowed to create a human life with no regard as to whether they’re fit or prepared to do so.
    “I’m not ashamed of having been poor. I’m not proud of some of the things I had to do to make “the big bucks”.”
    Such as?

  229. Being poor is having a Hurricane hit you and you can do nothing about all the crooks who rip you off and gouge you. It’s being hit again….and again….and again.

  230. -Being Poor, being there done that.
    -Being Poor in the USA in the 21st century is your choice.
    -Being Poor is not getting your free first years of education & high school diploma.
    -Being Poor is not learning how to speak english fluently so you can funtion in society.
    -Being Poor is not having a part-time job or two while going to college or trade school.
    -Being Poor is not enlisting in any branch of the Armed Forces if you decided not to get a higher education.
    -Being Poor is living 200 years into the past & not looking into the future.
    -Being Poor is having a sign in your forehead that says, “Iam a victim”.
    -Being Poor is not taking responsibility for your on actions.
    -Being Poor is blaming all your problems on the goverment,the same one keeping you alive in one way or another with other peoples money.
    -Being Poor is not working your rear end off in any job until you find a better one.
    -Being Poor is refusing to work in any entry level job while waiting for the $15 to $20 dollar an hour one for which you have no expirience.
    -Being Poor is when you listen to con artists like Jackson & sharpton that wear $2,000.00 suits, and which they decided not to get dirty in going to New Orleans to help rescue citizens of their on race.
    -Being Poor is when you keep to yourself & not willing to be open minded to learn, to share & to befriend people of other races.
    -Being Poor is having too many children out of marriage.
    -Being Poor is buying way too expencive baggie jeans & tennis shoes that makes you & your chidren look like clowns. It doesn’t matter which race you are.
    -Being Poor is not taking advantage of large amount of options you have that will get you out of poverty.
    -Being Poor is not buying the $800.00 car to go to work or school because is not cool enough.
    -Being Poor is listening to Michael Moore & other hollywood celebrities for political inside.
    -Being Poor is not using your two able legs to move your 300 pound self out of town when told a natural disaster is coming your way. How can you be so poor & big at the same time? Sick & disable people not included.
    -Being Poor is smoking,drinking or gamble whatever money you make, away.
    -Being Poor is arguing for financial reparations from actions & mistakes of people that passed away 200 years ago & expect tax payers in the present that had nothing to do with it to pay for them. (?)
    -Being Poor is when you consider the enemy within your heroes & believe liberalisim is not a mental disorder.
    The cure for poverty is as a minimum getting your high school diploma, not getting pregnant at fourteen, do not marry to young, get a higher education or enlist in the Armed Forces and when you really need help do not be afraid to ask. Remember being poor is a choice.

  231. Ramon writes:

    “Remember being poor is a choice.”

    And while you’re at it, let’s also remember also that people who choose not to be poor are extremely vulnerable to life circumstances that keep them poor even when they are doing all the right things to escape poverty — the person who grew up poor (through no fault of their own) who saves to go to college, for example, can have that money stripped away bcause of a medical problem, or a car accident, or some other event over which one has little control.

    What this, means, of course, that being poor isn’t always a choice — one can be poor despite one’s best efforts not to be so.

    But I guess as long as we all decide that the only reason people are poor is because they choose to be so, we don’t actually have to feel any responsibility to them or for them, now, do we.

    Certainly, those who are poor are often poor because of personal choices. And many people remain poor because they won’t help themselves. And people who want not to be poor need to put forth effort to get out of that state. But let’s not pretend that every one who is poor has “chosen” to be so, and let’s not pretend that simply deciding one doesn’t want to be poor means that suddenly every door is open and all one has to do is traipse through. The road out of poverty is usually long and difficult, and one is poor — and vulnerable to remaining poor — down much of that long road.

    There’s much more to being poor than simply “choosing” to be so.

  232. Being rich is the ability to treat your poor boyfriend to dinner.

    Being not rich enough is telling him that if he doesn’t get on disability, you won’t let him get tossed out into the street … then wondering how on earth you could support both of you on your paycheck indefinitely.

    Being rich is thanking whatever deity might exist when his disability does come through.

    Being not rich enough is wishing you could buy him unlimited access to doctors, a nice house, everything he needed so he wouldn’t have to worry about anything except getting healthy, but knowing the best you can do is treating him to dinner.

  233. Scott wrote:

    Sure, I get pissed when liberal whiners try to defend the irresponsible actions of others and blame it on someone else, because of a misguided sense of “compassion”.
    +++++++

    So it seems you’ve bought the Calvinistic point of view that those who are poor deserve to be.

    What I had asked you to do is to share with us here what you did in your life to raise yourself up.

    Instead you insist on being rude, name calling, and casting aspersions. You are intent on assuming things about people you don’t know. The things you write tell the world more about you than defend your point of view.

    Compassion is never misguided; Angry acting out in public always is.

    Compassion isn’t the perview of the liberals. Tell that to the Southern Baptists, who are Republican, who are housing and feeding the evacuees.

    I don’t believe this is a place for a debate and I definitely don’t think debating with you is viable. Two people have to have a “common ground” from which to debate an issue. We have no common ground.

    You’re an angry man.
    I’m a happy woman.

    I shared with the folks here what I did to improve my life.
    You did not.

    You want to spite the poor, blaming them for all the wrongs that have befallen them.

    I feel that there is not equal opportunity for all Americans. I feel disasters like the two hurricanes make middle class folks the “new poor”. I feel that the new bankruptcy law going into effect October 17th, will add insult to injury to those who won’t ever be able to find their paperwork to file.

    You feel that all women who are divorced and have to care for the children without help from the fathers are at fault for loving some lowlife looser.

    I feel that the crisis with relationships between men and women in America are just a little more complicated than that.

    See, we have no common ground. So there is no way to debate anything. You want to pick a fight and I just can’t help but feel pity for you.

    You anger stems from something that has nothing to do with this thread at all. Who hurt you Scott? What turn in your life left you so mean spirited?

    Your effort in brow beating me exposes your problems more than they point out mine. To quote another liberal mantra “You have issues you need to address.”

    As for what have I done, in the past, for “big bucks” that I’m not particularly proud of…

    Not standing up to men like you, because it would cost me my job. To tell the bullies who like to kick folks when they are down that they are the ones who are poor, poor in spirit, poor in humanity.

    Rather than be goaded into a flame war with you, I do feel sorry for you. For a heart filled with such anger can’t be good for your health.

    Again I say..

    “This thread is about being poor in America. Where the gaps between the those who have financial stability and those who don’t grows wider everyday. Where there is the lie that there is equal opportunity when there isn’t even equal access to education or medical care.”

    I consider this exchange with you closed. As closed as your mind set with regards to the poor.

  234. Being poor when you were younger is your body breaking down when your 35 and KNOWING its because you pushed it to the breaking point so many times in your youth just to put food on the table.

    Being poor when you were younger is having to beg to borrow a sport coat so that when you attend your own childs funeral(which you can’t pay for) you won’t look so poor.

    Being poor when you were younger is grocery shopping in your parents pantry when they aren’t around.

    Being poor when you were younger is having paid your dues for when you do get money, yet always feeling guilty for it none the less.

    Being poor when you were younger is having people ask “where does all your money go?” when it should be obvious since you only made 5$ an hour!

    Being poor is going to a friends tupper ware party because they begged you to but pretending that you forgot your money at home when it comes time to actually buy something.

    Being poor is having bad or no credit.

    Being poor is knowing that you can flush a toilet with a bucket of water.

    Being poor is worse when everywhere you look you see people with much more.

    Being poor is having people who know you can’t afford a lawyer screw you over everytime you turn around!

    Being poor is knowing that the problem with politicians is that they haven’t got a clue what its like to be poor!

    Being poor is knowing humiliation and shame and knowing that your a better person for having experienced those feelings but NEVER wanting your children to feel them!

    Being poor is knowing that most of the people who are causing all the trouble in this country are the ones with too much money and too much time on their hands!

    Being poor is learning to never rock the boat.

    Being poor is never being able to stand up for yourself.

    Getting ahead after being poor is not a state of mind but sheer luck , hard work, determination and for most just one person giving them that most appreciated leg up.

  235. I’m proud of all of you guys skipping the haters (like Mark and Scott), and finding the courage to come forward and tell your stories. Mine aren’t near as good.

    Now I’m gonna do some quick rebuttals, so skip the rest of this :)

    =========
    >People can have abortions.

    Only if they’ve got money.

    >birth control

    $1 a pop. If you can make the man wear it. If you’re coherent enough to do so. Cheap drugs (beer, you loser) are often the only way to dull the pain of everything. Those (drugs & sex) may be the only bright or nice things you get *ever*.

    >Birth control and abortions are available (both of which I’m all for)

    Great, are you voting that way? I’m willing to bet 1/10th of my monthly income versus 1/10th of yours that your party (let’s see your voter registration card) candidates do not support abortion. Because I’ll win on 90+% of Republicans and 40+% of Democrats… Saying you support it is useless if you’re not putting your vote where it matters. Do you have any clinics which aren’t 100mi away that provide such a service? If not, you’re not really supporting it – you’re just mouthing some words.

    >I’m guessing that he and others like him would regard various measures to prevent people from siring or keeping children they can’t adequately care for as fundamentally evil.

    You’d guess wrong. A friend of mine wanted to get her tubes tied after her first child, and they turned her down, even though she had the money. They still wouldn’t do it after her third, and she was rapidly going down the poverty slope.

    >for $40 and some elbow grease.

    Great, if you had the money for the $40 part…

    >There are folks in parts of this country who regard it as a natural, normal part of life to turn their own wrenches and would scoff at the idea of paying someone to do what they learned to do when they were 16.

    Good for them, wish I had that education.

    >Regarding “equal access to education”, ever worked in the public schools?

    Have you? Granted some lack of education is because of things like you cite (and I can add more), but other things are definitely not. Under-code, shoddy facilities, a lack of textbooks (books, libraries, and librarians period), a lack of funding – so any teacher who is worth a damn moves out to a district in the suburbs within a year -, poor teacher education (they can’t hack regular university math, so they get their own math programs), etc (I could go on) does not an equal access to education make.

    >Malls and their customers are intolerant?

    Yes they are. Go try it sometime, when you don’t have decent clothes, a decent hair-cut, and have been malnourished for a couple months so you don’t have a good luster to your hair/skin. Try it with bad teeth.

    >Ever hear of window shopping?

    Ever hear of security or the cops escorting you off of the property because you look like you’re casing the joint? Ever been roughed up? Ever been taunted, or humiliated? Asked by the clerks to leave?

    >Wow, how do you tell people are poor at the mall, do they wear a Scarlet P?

    It is easy to recognize the poor. If your mall even lets them in… And if the poor have decided to go, and risk the harrassment from the cops, security, and various people. Because anything that happens to you is your fault. And there will be no legal protections for you. The cops will tell you that you were asking for it. If someone hits you and you fight back, they won’t charge the offenders, and you’ll be spending the night in jail. You’re welcome to scrounge up the money to take the assualters to court on civil violations (which they know you’ll never be able to do) – but good luck when the cops never charged them. The cops’ liability for violating your civil rights will end within a year, if they’re even liable at all. And good luck finding an attorney to take that case.

    >Oh yeah, most people are in poverty because of a $5 gap.

    Many people are in poverty because the $5 gap comes with $40 in bank fees and $50 in utility company bounced check fees, and that puts you in over 1/4th of next month’s salary… And how’re you going to prove that you were doing your math correctly, and that someone else dropped an unrelated fee in your account, which put you under. You might get the bank fee waived if this were the case, but you’re still going to be eating that $50 utility fee – because they’re going to say: it’s not our fault you were short. And the bank sure as hell isn’t going to cover it…

    ——

    >Clothes can be had at churches, Salvation Army and other non profits, relatives, friends, garage sales, government assistance, thrift stores…

    Only if you have a church (recall reading about the person asking a church for help, and them turning her away?). S.A., Goodwill, and yard sales all charge money (as do most church sales). Friends & relatives, if you’re really poor, don’t have any more than you do. If you’ve got a rich support network, they *MAY* help you, or they may sneer at you (like you’re doing). If you’ve not been reading, you can see this in the threads…

    >You can buy a lamp at a garage sale for 50 cents.

    If you have 2 quarters to rub together you can.

    Much of the self-help guys like you have been suggesting all requires a certain level of already present cash or income. Granted its pretty small to someone who has a good job, in fact it seems ridiculous (“$.50!, Why that’s not even my raise last week”), however a lot of people don’t have that. And a lot of them aren’t willing to beg on the street (and get beat, have shit thrown at them, and sneered at by people like you) to get it.

    If you were really interested in doing something, then provide some entry level jobs that match income to furnished (a pot to cook with, some blankets or a mattress, some cleaning supplies) housing in the area (close enough to walk – or accepting of a bus schedule – which can make you late to work, and has limited hours), plus food + tolietries + cleaning supplies, utilities, clothes, and $10 extra a week to save or invest. Until you can point one of those out to every comer, shut-up. If you’ve got something like that, then start posting it.

  236. Being poor is praying that nothing breaks, especially the car that barely runs, because there isn’t any money to fix anything and there isn’t going to be.

    Being poor is dropping out of school so you can work more hours.

    Being poor is not being able to miss work when you’re sick and then getting sicker because you never took time off to get well.

    Being poor is seeing no light at the end of the tunnel, but knowing the train is coming sooner or later and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

    Being poor is eating popcorn for supper because there isn’t anything else.

    Being poor is skipping lunch even though you’re hungry.

    Being poor is knowing which cereals are filling and which leave you feeling hungry too soon.

    Being poor is cutting coupons, not running the heat even though you’re freezing, not running the air even though you’re sweating, getting a hardback book for Christmas and thinking it’s the best present ever, never buying books in hardback because they cost more, buying clothes because they’ll last and not because they look right for you, always getting the cheap gas even though your engine is knocking, standing on your feet all day dealing with obnoxious customers who yell at you for the prices you yourself can’t afford to pay, not owning a gun even though a killer lives next door because you can’t afford to buy one, paycheck to paycheck, day by day, no more dreams, and no hope.

  237. U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich argues that “even as America’s economic tide
    continues to rise, it no longer lifts all boats.” The nation, he says, has been divided into three groups: the underclass, overclass and the “anxious class, most of whom hold jobs but are justifiably uneasy about their own standing and fearful for their children’s’ future.” James Tyson argues greed is blinding business leaders and stockholders to the danger of trading
    profits for people’s jobs. He writes that “the mass layoffs are stirring unrest by pushing millions of Americans out of the middle class and widening the gap between rich and poor…”


    http://carbon.cudenver.edu/~ldeleon/pad5220/resources/papers/dream.html

  238. Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a child on your lap. Sure, I’m always placed first in line at the emergency room.

    Just curious, Mark, do you use the emergency room as a primary care physician?

    I’ve never been poor myself. And I get really, really annoyed when my fellow graduate students complain about their “poverty.”

  239. Being poor is being sold in a “grey market” adoption by your biological (most likely a prostitute) mother, as a toddler, from a foreign country, and then never knowing what your birthdate is… not even the year.

  240. Nora Jean Gatine wrote
    “Sure, I get pissed when liberal whiners try to defend the irresponsible actions of others and blame it on someone else, because of a misguided sense of “compassion”.”

    “So it seems you’ve bought the Calvinistic point of view that those who are poor deserve to be.”

    It seems you’re ignoring what’s said and following your own agenda. At no point did I ever say that there is never any instance where some people are in bad circumstances not of their own making. What I was commenting on was the large percentage of cases where people create their own problems. I focused specifically on those who can’t provide adequately for their offspring since that seemed to be what a large portion of the “being poor is…” comments centered around. You’re just pissed because the shoe fits.

    “What I had asked you to do is to share with us here what you did in your life to raise yourself up.
    Instead you insist on being rude, name calling, and casting aspersions. ”

    What I did is not allow you (in typical liberal fashion) to try and avoid the point in consideration. The only reason you seem to consider it “casting aspersions” is because apparently I hit close to home.

    “You are intent on assuming things about people you don’t know.”

    Ignoring the various assumptions you’ve made about me that aren’t worth taking the time to correct, when people say they can’t care for their children, this tells me that in the vast majority of cases they had children before they were prepared to do so, considering *all* possible contingencies – economic rough times, illness etc. You’re trying to deny the facts.

    “Compassion is never misguided”

    Sure it is. There are many who are undeserving of compassion. But, I said a “misguided sense of compassion.” Your idea of “compassion” is to never expect someone to face that which they did to create their own problem.

    “I don’t believe this is a place for a debate”

    And yet here you are.

    “We have no common ground.”

    Right, I call a spade a spade.

    “You want to spite the poor, blaming them for all the wrongs that have befallen them.”

    I want people to stop engaging in whatever behavior that’s within their control that creates the problem. You apparently refuse to acknowledge that this is ever the case.

    “I feel that there is not equal opportunity for all Americans.”

    Nor is there any inherent guarantee that there is. Yet, many seem to find a way anyway. Many immigrants don’t have the same opportunity as the son of an oil millionaire. Yet, many prosper anyway. While I believe you have your head squarely up your behind philosophically, your one redeeming feature is that you made the effort to improve your situation (which it sounds like you weren’t blameless in creating just as I’ve outlined previously) and availed yourself of various opportunities. You sought out these opportunities. Many don’t.

    “You feel that all women who are divorced and have to care for the children without help from the fathers are at fault for loving some lowlife looser.”

    And if in fact the guy *is* a lowlife loser, who *else* would you fault? Whose fault is it that she didn’t make sure she could live independently *before having kids* if something happens to him or if things don’t work out?

    By the way, I’ve had the experience of (stupidly) attempting to help someone (female) who was in a bad situation, not unlike some that have been outlined. It became crystal clear exactly why they were in the circumstances they were in. Never again.

    “I consider this exchange with you closed.”

    No doubt. You don’t have any ammo.

  241. Anonymous said:
    “I’m proud of all of you guys skipping the haters (like Mark and Scott).”
    Ah yes, addressing the core of an issue and holding people to task for their mistakes makes one a “hater”, as taken from the liberal lexicon.
    “>People can have abortions.
    Only if they’ve got money.”
    And actually having the child & raising it is free?
    >birth control
    “$1 a pop. If you can make the man wear it. If you’re coherent enough to do so. Cheap drugs (beer, you loser) are often the only way to dull the pain of everything. Those (drugs & sex) may be the only bright or nice things you get *ever*.”
    Un-bloody-believable. This isn’t just avoidance of responsibility, it’s the utter and complete abdication and denouncement of it. You’re going to spread your legs whether or not anyone’s using birth control. You’re going to get high regardless of the consequences. Yet, through some unfathomable feat of mental gymnastics you’re seriously claiming that none of this is your fault.
    And I suppose if the baby you shouldn’t have had to begin with is born deformed because of your actions, it’s not on you either.
    This so thoroughly embodies the very thing I’ve been describing, I have to wonder if you’re simply a troll.
    >I’m guessing that he and others like him would regard various measures to prevent people from siring or keeping children they can’t adequately care for as fundamentally evil.
    “You’d guess wrong. A friend of mine wanted to get her tubes tied after her first child, and they turned her down, even though she had the money. ”
    Who is “they”?
    >for $40 and some elbow grease.
    “Great, if you had the money for the $40 part…”
    You came up with the $800 for the car, yes? Given your reasoning, if your $800 car breaks down once, it’ll never be driven again.
    >Regarding “equal access to education”, ever worked in the public schools?
    “Have you?”
    Yup, still do. Have you?
    “Granted some lack of education is because of things like you cite (and I can add more), but other things are definitely not. Under-code, shoddy facilities, a lack of textbooks (books, libraries, and librarians period), a lack of funding – so any teacher who is worth a damn moves out to a district in the suburbs within a year -, poor teacher education (they can’t hack regular university math, so they get their own math programs), etc (I could go on) does not an equal access to education make.”
    The vast majority of problems are because of the students themselves. Both their own lack of motivation and disruption of the class environment. Teachers have to spend way too much time being policeman.
    And I’ll reiterate, if things were as they should be, i.e. if everyone acted responsibly, none of these “underprivileged” kids would exist in the first place.
    “Much of the self-help guys like you have been suggesting all requires a certain level of already present cash or income. Granted its pretty small to someone who has a good job, in fact it seems ridiculous”
    And if someone is in that marginal of a circumstance, what the *hell* are they doing having kids? Oh that’s right, they have no control over it, it’s not their responsibility, you said so.

  242. Apparently, we should abort the poor. Or, possibly, sterilize them.

    Also, what to do with children who were born into reasonable income but whose parents then later became poor through, say, divorce or some other circumstance? Possibly, they should be shot. That’s what they get for not thinking ahead about having parents who wouldn’t have an inconvenient downturn.

  243. John Scalzi said:
    “Apparently, we should abort the poor. Or, possibly, sterilize them.”
    Abortion is certainly a viable option and can be the most responsible one. Adoption, while another option, isn’t a cure-all. I think adoption agencies will tell you it’s much less likely if a woman gives birth to a damaged baby because she’s on drugs, isn’t getting prenatal care, etc.
    I’m all for, at minimum, payment for voluntary sterilization. I would imagine anyone who goes for such a deal is certainly not someone who should be bearing children. Nothing to stop them from adopting at a later time if they get their act together, thereby addressing yet another problem.
    I further believe that forced sterilization should be seriously looked at in certain circumstances if such measures aren’t already in place.
    Or do you believe deep in your soul that the chronic alocholic crack addict should be allowed to continue squeezing out neurologically damaged babies?
    Apparently you’re of the opinion that it’s better for a baby to be born into circumstances where they’re far more likely to be malnourished, abused, become a criminal than expect responsibility and good judgement of those that make them? Was not the whole point of your essay to outline how miserable being born into such circumstances is?
    Yet you want to utterly ignore the cause/effect of why children are in these circumstances to begin with.
    “Also, what to do with children who were born into reasonable income but whose parents then later became poor through, say, divorce or some other circumstance? Possibly, they should be shot. That’s what they get for not thinking ahead about having parents who wouldn’t have an inconvenient downturn.”
    Ignoring your hyperbole, define a “reasonable income”. It’s more than one’s income, it’s whether they’re prepared to deal with contingencies. Life happens. One of you might get sick, you might lose your job, things might not work out with your marriage. Are you prepared to provide for your child anyway? Adequate insurance? Savings? Or even a viable extended family? Some way of being confident that the children will be cared for? If not, you shouldn’t have kids.
    These kind of considerations go both ways, not just with the mother. The father needs to (or should) consider these issues as well.
    If parents prove themselves to be unfit, the child shouldn’t be shot, the child should be placed in the care of those who are fit.
    However, this doesn’t address the fundamental problem. You and those who’ve chimed in with praise for you seem utterly unwilling to examine these situations close up. You just want to paint them all as victims of “society” and blame “society” for somehow failing them.
    While you seem to like to focus on small percentage scenarios that may occur, I submit that the vast majority of cases involve exactly what I’ve outlined – people who procreated children without being adequately prepared. They put their children into these situations.
    How do you feel about the poster who tried to shrug off responsibility for not having sex unless contraception was being used, or taking drugs without regard for consequences?
    At what point, if any, do any of you who take such umbrage to what I say start to question a woman’s judgement and assign to her any culpability? After her 3rd child on welfare? Her 9th?

  244. WOW….
    being poor.. being poor means washing up in a turky pan because the well went dry..
    Being poor mean waking up and haveing to brush the snow off because the wind blew off the plactic covering the window..being poor is going to school in a rich town and being the only ONLY person who cant take a real bath..cant play sports because you have to pay for that kinda luxury ya maby i could have been a track star .
    Being poor means not knowing what its like to take a bath until your 15 and then being embarressed because your bath lasted along time at your freind’s house
    Being poor is when you had went to a “freind’s house and him and his mother takes you home only the next day you get made fun of because the house you live in was falling aprt
    being poor means going to a next door naghbors hose and racking leaves then asking for a sandwicth for payment
    lol being poor means taking a shower on a warm summer day washing hair as it rains the water coming off the roof sorry i just that memory made me smile for some reason .
    being poor is when you have your freinds parent drop you off at the big house down the street.
    being poor is living in a small one bedroom house with six people ..in the contry at least i was kept away from influence of drug’s and crime thank god i grew up very poor but i was feed pretty well yes there were time when that piece of bread and some suger was a real treat …..

    please for all those who think being poor is a choice take my credit take my life give me yours and see how long you last a week and you’ll know because if have not been poor you cant know the suffering endored by it …

    tell me where i can get an extra fifty bux to get a ged tell me why welfare wont pay for a corse at the local vo-tech so i can make 10 dollars an hour when there is no one to rely on tell me where do the resources come from ..its not magic its life .. ok heres on tell me why when i wanted to earn my education the school would not let me back in normal class they sent me off to a alternative school because i was haveing problems with depression .. so there for i had to make a choice stay and get an 6th grade education or quit
    well i quit and i only have an 8th grade education but does that mean i am less of a person for any ones info i have never commeted any crime to bennifit my self never been arrested ever. Tell me the pain when i look into my daughters eyes and think i just hope that one day i can provid the best for her. A good school that dosent teach upon income earings yes even in school you are treated differntly if your are poor .. and a small house that is sutible for familey size not way too big like some rich have why in gods name would someone need a 17 bedroom house why ya know what gets me on a tv show it show celeberty houses and always i seem to see when they open the fridge nothing maybe some bottled water — why waste resources on something you can not use why build a 10 million dollor home when you could build 20 for poor people and at least make the statment that you will help why I quit asking why along time ago then i found this thread well i must end this even though i could write a book but who would read so being rich is looking into your daughters eyes and relizing that everything you ever need was a hug and kiss away..

  245. Anonymous writes:

    “You and those who’ve chimed in with praise for you seem utterly unwilling to examine these situations close up. You just want to paint them all as victims of ‘society’ and blame ‘society’ for somehow failing them.”

    I can’t and don’t speak for others in the thread. However, what I wrote suggests neither cause nor blame for how people became poor; it merely looks at what it’s like to be poor. What I’ve found is that how people respond to the piece says quite a lot about them; the majority of people seem to get what I was doing, but there’s a vocal minority who either can’t or won’t get it; unsurprisingly in my opinion, these people correlate strongly with those who want to lecture on the “personal responsibility” of the poor.

    There are of course many ways to become poor; some people are born into poverty, some people achive poverty, and some people have poverty thrust upon them. Usually (I suspect) it’s a combination of factors. Suggesting that someone being poor is entirely about their lack of personal responsibility is as ignorant as suggesting someone being poor is entirely the fault of “society.” Speaking from personal experience, one indeed must make the conscious decision not to remain poor and affirmatively work toward the goal of a better life. Speaking also from personal experience, one does not often escape poverty without the help of others, both as individuals and as one’s larger society. Without both, the possibility of leaving poverty becomes dramatically smaller.

    What I generally find implied from people who suggest poverty is wholly a personal flaw of character is the following thought: “Since you are entirely reponsible for your poverty, I have no responsibility to help fight poverty in the United States.” This is akin to someone comfortably standing on the deck of a ship looking over to see another person splashing in the ocean, asking for help, and deciding not to throw them the life preserver that’s hanging on the railing on the grounds that clearly that person decided to go for a swim and therefore it’s their responsibility to make it back to the ship before they drown.

    Well, possibly that person went for a swim; possibly they fell overboard because they had too much to drink; possibly a sudden swell knocked them overboard; possibly they were shoved into the water. The thing is, a more rational person will wait to examine the root causes of that person being in the ocean until after they’ve thrown the life preserver and helped to haul that person back unto the ship.

  246. there is two differnt types of poor and two differnt types of rich .. Bieng rich isnt whats in your bank account its not the car you drive its not what your house look’s like ,,aleast i dont think so you could take what little i have away and that does not mean that i am poor.. i am not here to cry to the rich and blame them i just want to educate those who are some how angry at the poor but as i am writing i can see a differnt world placed infront of me it would be differnt if someone was addicted to drugs but hey not all poor people are alot are but not all i to look down on people that wont help them selfs get off drugs spend the money that they have on drugs but even rich people are stupid like that .. too but to all the really rich out there remember the poor are who made you rich we are the ones who did your dirty work just look a wal mart ya thoses ceo’s are sitting pretty but lets see them acutaly do the work say if all the people decided to go on strike and they could not get any one to work well there would be no more wal-mart same goes for any company if you employe
    the poor well who is making the money for you YOU i dont think so it the laborer’s but one thing i need to say is that “it takes money to make money” so really the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and for who ever said that the poor should be lined up and shot well come on to pennsylvaina and bring your gun ha ha well bring the person who you have to hire because the rich cant do anything for them selfs i am talking about the rich rich who need someone to cut there lawns who need someone to do there laundery and clean there house some say the poor are lazy ha ..
    i would like to see a civil war between the rich and poor because to be honest the poor are the ones who protect your freedoms so line us up shoot us and then lets see any thing get done in this contry the poor people are the oil and greese that KEEP THIS CONTRY GOING

  247. Wow. You know you can really recognize the people here who haven’t been poor, haven’t been on public assistance and don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, and couldn’t find it with both hands and a doctor in rubber gloves bending them over an exam table.

    What about the woman on welfare who pops out her third or ninth child on welfare?

    News flash: Welfare does not cover or provide benefits for any child who is born to parents who are recieving welfare.

    Welfare has been reformed.

    TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

    There are job training classes, there is a 24 month LIFETIME limit on the amount of assistance.

    You will not receive benefits for any child who is not vaccinated or who is born while you are recieving TANF.

    Now that looks good and it *is*. It can be a great help to learn how to have an interview make a resume and get a job. The jobs skills training are *awesome*. SO is the provision of state funded child care, or income based childcare.

    Now that we’ve determined that there can be no babies born to people on welfare and being paid for Mr. Jack-Ass, we can get on to the heart of the matter.

    You can have a baby and *get* public assistance and WIC and foodstamps. See, the government? It’ll pay for the formula. It’ll pay for the diapers. It’ll pay for the cost of having that baby.

    What it won’t pay for is the birth control or abortion. That money? You’ve got to come up with all by your lonesome. Sure it’ll pay for the condoms but OMG women have sex.

    …Yeah, and so do men and they’re just as responsible for not using it.

    MOST People who have kids aren’t poor when they have the kids to begin with. They’re POORer because they have the kids and golly gosh, let’s damn them to hell because they got attatched to the damn things. What were they THINKING?!

    Then there’s the car issue. Yep, I know how to fix my own car. Course to do that I’d have to own a set of tools. Not just that 40.00 part and a wrench, but a whole SLEW of things if I’m going to fix my own.

    But I can pay 300.00 and get it fixed this time or pay 500 to buy the set of basic tools that’ll keep it fixed. sure buying hte tools is the more responsible choice but you know dammit don’t have the money to do both RIGHT NOW and that car? Need it to get to work.

    Public transportation? Bite my ass. My husband makes god money and he drives TWO AND A HALF HOURS each way to get to his job. Move? Move where? It’s rural. Take a bus? HA. Van breaks? We’re fucked. We don’t have the cushion yet from having *been* poor. First priority, but it’s not there yet.

    BEING POOR COSTS MONEY.

    The most over looked thing there is. Late fees, having to make the cheapest temporary measure to keep afloat at *all* but knowing you’re going to make that decision four times becuase you’ve got the 20.00 for the cheap fix but not the 50.00 for the real one and you’re NEVER going to get your hands on the 50.00 because you NEED that 20.00 WHATEVEr to keep plugging so you can make the next tweny to fix it again.

    Being poor is not a matter of being lazy.

    It is not necessarily a matter of making bad decisions that make you poor.

    It is being *forced to make bad decisions because you can’t afford to make the right ones*

    Grow up, get your head out of your ass and stop being a self-centered prick. Of course some people are idiots and poor as a result. The reality is though most of hte decisions you’re using to defend that point of view isn’t someone who’s thrown their money away on real luxuries, but instead people making decisions that are necessary to immediate survival.

    That’s something you and your ilk don’t and never will get. Because you’re the epitome of self centered. Grow up and take a walk in the real world.

  248. My sons from Romania found this boring after the first few entries. I used to think I’d grown up poor.

    Being poor is not being able to start school until age eight because you have to work 12 hours a day as a shepherd so your father can buy liquor.

    Being poor is having to fight other children in the orphanage for food.

    Take a breath, people.

  249. Poor is your father knowing how to turn the water back on when it’s been shut off.

    Poor is your father being able to turn the water back on when they’ve taken the meter out.

    Poor is knowing exactly how far you can go with the gas light on.

    Poor is not being able to afford the kids’ menu items, even when you get half off because you work there.

    Poor is returning anything with a tag and receipt, because you need the money for gas.

  250. There comes a time when I have had to look upon my situational poverty and look beyond it. Maybe we don’t have much, but I have a good marriage, I have great kids who go to a great public school. I am able to stay at home with them because I conserve our money by baking my own bread, canning, gardening and being frugal in every respect. No newspapers, no subscriptions, recycle everything, cook from scratch and bundle up in the winter.

    Sunsets are free.
    Gazing at the newly fallen snow is free.
    Watching the leaves fall is free.
    Pushing my babies on the swings is free.
    Reading a book from the public library is free.

    Maybe not everyone has the ability to have all that they want, but I am so much better off to be living in the US, even at or under the poverty line, than to be starving in a third world country. I don’t have everything that I want, but maybe that is for the best.

    I have a theory about money, I call it the “debt expansion” theory. For every increase in income that we get, our debts will “magically” increase to use up the increase AND an additional 10-20% beyond it. We have to fight that.

    Sometimes my situation to me seems dire, but then I remember that many times I am the one who has gotten myself into the straits that I am in. I have to be constantly on the guard against impulse spending, which for me is a real problem.

    I am not trying to trivialize the real problems of those who are desperately poor, but I am trying to lift myself somewhat by counting the blessings that I have:

    reasonably good health
    good kids
    life in rural america is nice
    good schools
    good family

    I pray for those who don’t have blessings to count. And I pray for those who do have them, that they might see them and be thankful for what they do have. Life is hard enough without dwelling on the most negative aspects of it.

    I will not die with all my bills paid.
    I will not leave my children money.
    I will not die with my inbox empty.

    But, I am living today, so I am not going to dwell on those negative things. I just can’t.

  251. These are heartbreaking to read, and some of them bring back bad memories from my own life and those of people I’ve known. Reading the one about having only one good shirt, and getting laughed at for only having that brought tears to my eyes, because that happened to me.

    Being poor is a man who works but has no insurance, who ignores the awful pain in his chest for a whole day, then dies at the hospital after he finally asks his wife to drive him there. Now she not only faces the pain of losing him, but has an enormous hospital bill to pay.

    Being poor is cringing when someone at work (because everyone around you is not as bad off as you) wants to do something expensive and silly like Christmas gift exchanges. Or go out and have lunch together at some restaurant.

    Being poor is also being annoyed (silently) that your gifts to nieces and nephews at Christmas are barely looked at or acknowledged. You really CAN’T afford to give them, but could never say as much. You love the kids, but would prefer not to spend money if they can’t even be bothered to thank you.

    Being poor, as someone said earlier, is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  252. Being poor is getting head lice at school (or from your children) and being unable to afford the $10-20 per bottle cost of special shampoo, so you cover everyone’s head in 75-cent bottles of Vaseline to kill the bugs, and then wear a hat for two weeks because the grease doesn’t wash out.

  253. John Scalzi said:
    “I can’t and don’t speak for others in the thread.”
    No, but there’s clearly a philosophical like-mindedness.
    “However, what I wrote suggests neither cause nor blame for how people became poor; it merely looks at what it’s like to be poor.”
    Given the “Being Poor” essay itself and various other things you’ve written related to it including comments you’ve added here, I don’t think that’s “merely” what you were saying.
    Case in point:
    “one does not often escape poverty without the help of others, both as individuals and as one’s larger society.”
    There’s a strong implication that it’s “society’s” fault if they’re poor, which is exactly what I said you were implying in the first place. Your words belie your philosophy.
    By “society” in the context in which you’re using it, obviously you don’t mean other poor people. You mean the affuent, the non-poor, “The Man”. Some monolithic conspiracy by all those rich folks to force poor people to keep having more babies.
    “in my opinion, these people correlate strongly with those who want to lecture on the “personal responsibility” of the poor.”
    More accurately, personal responsibility to avoid becoming poor or at least not inflict poverty on children.
    “There are of course many ways to become poor; some people are born into poverty”
    Which many seem to regard as a blameless, causeless act.
    “some people have poverty thrust upon them.”
    I.e. were “born into poverty”?
    “What I generally find implied from people who suggest poverty is wholly a personal flaw of character is the following thought: “Since you are entirely reponsible for your poverty, I have no responsibility to help fight poverty in the United States.” ”
    It doesn’t mean they don’t feel nothing should be done, but to the liberal mind “fighting poverty” should mean a host of welfare measures that have done nothing but make the problem worse.
    The nation’s housing projects are a monument to this concept of “fighting poverty”.
    “This is akin to someone comfortably standing on the deck of a ship looking over to see another person splashing in the ocean, asking for help, and deciding not to throw them the life preserver that’s hanging on the railing on the grounds that clearly that person decided to go for a swim and therefore it’s their responsibility to make it back to the ship before they drown.”
    Yes, seeing a career criminal sire children with numerous lowlife drug addict women or some welfare queen on her 4th baby is exactly like seeing an anonymous stranger struggling in the water.

  254. Becky said:

    “What about the woman on welfare who pops out her third or ninth child on welfare?
    News flash: Welfare does not cover or provide benefits for any child who is born to parents who are recieving welfare.”
    News flash: Then gee golly it’s probably a good idea to not have kids in the first place if they’re in a welfare-level income bracket.
    “What it won’t pay for is the birth control or abortion. That money? You’ve got to come up with all by your lonesome. Sure it’ll pay for the condoms but OMG women have sex.”
    OMG they should exercise self control and not pop out babies someone else has to subsidize. You’d probably piss your pants at the idea of mandated birth control or sterilization but you don’t have any problem with state mandated extortion of someone else’s money to pay for your offspring because you didn’t feel like keeping your knees together.

  255. well to quote ::: You’d probably piss your pants at the idea of mandated birth control or sterilization but you don’t have any problem with state mandated extortion of someone else’s money to pay for your offspring because you didn’t feel like keeping your knees together.::: sorry to say but those are two seperate issues..
    i would like to ask are you set for life? meaning that nothing could happin to leave you no choice but to turn to welfare for help is your life a book that has no mistakes or twist’s no. Not every one that uses welfare to help stay’s on it for life i think that to many people abuse it but to say or compare “taxes” to someone’s god given right to bare children yes drugies shouldent have kid’s but hey the rich who dont use welfare use drug’s get addicted and abuse there body .. but tell me
    why that would be ok and not the crack head on the corner that should have been in jail with the rich crack head O thats right the law don’t applie to the rich or maybe it does .. well that police officer that pull’s you over and protect’s you let me ask you they might be on welfare to say let sterilize the poor then tell me who would protect you the rich kid’s ya right take a look at the income bracket for enlisting children most rich people would say that milatary is not for there kind of people .. it has been said it was in my local news paper so tell me rich people what kinda people are you should we deport all the rich who feel that way .. i will never agree to the rich’s many many freedoms but to say o lets just sterilze the poor GET REAL! look at your self..

  256. Being poor means for manny people that they can’t see their families wich lving far away from teir own country!!

  257. Being poor is when you have to marry an ugly man from another country,who maybe beats you, only to survive….

  258. Being poor is when you have to marry an ugly man from another country,who maybe beats you, only to survive….

  259. How much does the Iraq-war cost? Who has the right to waste money for war instead of using it to save lives of people of the south of America? Who decides what is more important?To save lives or to make war? How can a gouvernment forsake such a big part of his population?
    Poverty is a big problem in America,but the gouvernment plays it down and don’t care about it.
    For gouvernment only power is important and interesting and there won’t be an end in future.

  260. it is very frightening that so many people are poor!!
    To the catastrophe Katrina: it shows that many people are in poverty after s.th. like the hurricane! the number of poor people is rising constantly! that´s very sad…

  261. Being poor is realising what kind of an untroubled life some people have that don´t even know they have…

  262. Being poor is having no money for going to parteys.

    Being poor is wearing beaten up clothes.

  263. Being poor is selling drugs, getting shot in a gang war and dying in a street in the ghetto without help of anyone.

  264. Hello,
    The text exactly reflects reality. In many situations of life you can see poverty. That is disgraceful. We should fight against it and eliminate all poverty.
    In my opinion politicians should support the war against poverty and prejudices.

  265. Many people don’t think about poverty…one of these is Bush. He is only interested in power and his own advantage. One example for this was Katrina an his promis of help which never gets real.

  266. Being poor is selling drugs, getting shot in a gang war and dying in a street in the ghetto without help of anyone…………
    What thats not being poor thats being stupid you choose to sell drug’s join a gang.. you dont choose to be poor there are honest ways of living
    thats being poor in spirt you choose a life of crime its not given to you because you are poor you choose to deal drugs run from problems i have been very poor and i never once commited a crime to say that it is just obsured like i said you choose a life of crime you cant choose to be poor .. if your poor you have to take small positive steps toward a better life it is not easy it never will be and day by day it will get harder but what makes it more diffacult is adding a life of crime .. turning to crime is the easy way out..

  267. I really wanted to add something else to this discussion… but there’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said.

    I managed to escape poverty, to some extent, by moving away and living with my father. My mother and brother haven’t been able to escape. I do what I can to help but I’m not rich myself. (I’m not poor, though. I have a car that runs well. I know where my next meal is coming from. I have a roof over my head.)

    It’s not their fault either. My brother is diabetic and is too sick to work. His wife has terminal cancer. Mom works 40 hours a week plus whatever overtime she can get (not much) and my brother works whenever he can, until he gets sick again and his boss fires him for missing too many days (while he’s in the hospital). They don’t have a running car; my brother is good with mechanical work but he can’t afford parts. There’s no such thing as public transportation there, either… Mom has to rely on friends and coworkers to get her to work each day.

    I’ve just been thankful that I’ve always had student aid programs to get me through college, and parents who are willing to sacrifice what little they have to support me. I’m about a year away from my baccalaureate degree, and I intend to help my mother as she’s helped me all these years.

    I would love to be able to buy my mother a car, just so she can support herself without worrying about how she’s going to get to work. Of course, if I could, I would make it so that she never had to work again, but I doubt I’ll be that rich. Just being able to absorb some of the bullshit that life throws at us every day will be an improvement.

  268. Actually, I fully support not having kids if you are low income, the same way I support not getting a pet if you can’t afford it’s care.

    That does not mean, however, that life doesn’t happen. Children are born to middle class parents (*or above*) who get cancer, have a death in the family, get laid off, have a fire, have an accident, have an injur, even have stock market losses.

    Things do happen. The implication that being poor is always the fault of the person who is poor is laughable. It’s similar to saying that someone who gets cancer is always to blame.

    I was on TANF. For 2 months. During that two months I met other people using the system. On average they were mothers who were divorced or widowed. Legal proceedings tie up accessible income. One other case was similar to our own, where a major company had shut down a plant owned by a fortune 500 company (Coding products).

    There is no welfare of the type you are ranting about. To get it you must be actively seeking work, accept work that is offered, and you are limited to the amount of time you can be on it. You must also attend job readiness and skills classes. You may not have children while you are recieving benefits.

    You act as though your money is going to support people who are doing nothing and will be doing nothign but producing children- I have news for you. I know what childfree is and not only support it but encourage it. This isn’t about breeders or anything else.

    Thsi is about your glaring ignorance and your determination to show that ignorance to the world at large. Your lack of information is making you look like a fool.

    Your points, at hteir heart, may have held some degree of validity, but your lack of education in what you insist on debating makes you appear nothing more than an internet troll, intent on showing his ass.

  269. Scott writes:

    “Case in point:

    ‘one does not often escape poverty without the help of others, both as individuals and as one’s larger society.’

    There’s a strong implication that it’s ‘society’s’ fault if they’re poor, which is exactly what I said you were implying in the first place. ”

    I actually have no idea how you derive the second of these from the first. Suggesting that it helps if the larger society is engaged in helping defeat poverty does not at all imply that society is implicit in an individual’s poverty. As I’ve said many times before, there are many paths to poverty.

    Likewise, the suggestion that I’m using society as a codeword for “middle and upper classes” is a suggestion that is based on your own biases rather than mine.

    You may wish to apply certain motivations to what I’ve written, Scott, but as I’ve noted earlier, what it suggests is rather more about you than it does about me, as do your continual rhetorical maneuvers to portray the poor as criminals, and deserving of their poverty.

    It’s fairly clear you have no idea what you would assume to lecture anyone about, as regards poverty. Since I would not wish poverty upon so that you could experience the folly of your arguments personally, I’ll simply invite you to take your ignorance and contempt somewhere else. Shoo.

  270. SIMPLY AMAZING! THE RESPONSE TO THIS SITE IS PHENOMENAL! I HAVE BEEN “POOR” OFF & ON THRU THE YEARS, HOWEVER, BEING A SENIOR AND LIVING THE SCHOOL OF “HARD KNOCKS”, IT NEVER CEASES TO AMAZE ME EVERY TIME I SEE A COMMERCIAL FOR THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES AND THEIR IMPOVERISHED WHEN “THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY” HAS NEGLECTED THEIR OWN! CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME, I HAVE BAD TEETH, NO INSURANCE, AND MAKE “TOO MUCH” TO GET HELP OF ANY FORM. TELL ME HOW $300.00 A WEEK WORKING MY ASS OFF, WARRENTS TOO MUCH EARNED?

  271. Being poor is making up an illness to explain away why you can’t go on school trips, can’t go out drinking, can’t go out late, why your grades are bad, why you eat what you do, why you’re always on the verge of tears, why you’re always so pale, why your hair is like that…

    Being poor is knowing that your disabled father needs more expensive velcro shoes than lace up ones because he can’t put them on himself and you have to be early to school.

    Being poor is missing the first half hour of your geography exam because your sister – the only one with a car – woudln’t drive you to the school.

    Being poor is knowing as a 14 year old to buy mince not sausages because it’s more nutritous.

    Being poor is having your friends be amazed that you’re “trusted” to do the grocery shopping – while laughing that their mother would never “let” them grocery shop.

    Being poor is never, ever having a friend over.

    Being poor is having rain run down the walls, again.

    Being poor is paying for central heating to be put into the house because you’re the only one on a full time job, your father’s disabled, your mother’s sick, you dont qualify for free fuel – all on a min wage job.

    Being poor means you type until 6am to have your work done.

    Being poor means you cry when someone gives you a present.

    Being poor means you cry more over the fact that you have to move back into poverty, rather than your boyfriend leaving you. We really did have such a beautiful house.

    Being poor means the pressure of being the only one with a chance to suceed crushes you.

    Being poor means you can never, ever spend money on yourself without panicing that you didnt horde it or be so selfish.

    Being poor means that even though you work, you KNOW one day it’ll all end and you’ll be back to nothing once again.

    Being poor means you save up to be steralised – or at least consider it, because you view having a family in the future means to be “trapped”, that children are too expensive a contemplation and you could never, ever trust someone to share a household with.

    Being poor is the weight that never leaves, even when there’s money in your bank account.

    Being poor means that, even though you can afford healthcare, you dont buy it because you can horde the monthly payment because you never know…

    Being poor means never, ever, ever take good health or an unconditional pet’s love for granted.

    Being poor means that if you ever turn into “a suit”, you feel like a traitor and a fraud.

    Being poor in this house means no central heating, no double glazing, leaking walls, leaking roof, mould and condensation – and your father saying “just leave it rot” and you can’t do anything about it because the house isn’t in your name yet.

    Being poor is fearing others dying because you have no idea how that whole thing works with the funeral and burial.

    Being poor is fearing the day you can’t fend for yourself.

    Being poor is that sense of raw, gut-churning panic. Constantly.

    Being poor makes you very, very jelous of ignorant, “whimsical” idiots.

    Being poor makes you realise nobody literally cares – and not in a teen angty way – from a very young age.

    Being poor is hating the question: “But why can’t you [insert money splurge here] with us? We’re all going/doing it.”

    Being poor is realising that you have nobody – nobody – but yourself to claw your way out using whatever talents necessary. And some days you’re just too tired to try.

    Being poor is relating to what everybody has said previously and relating to it.

  272. Last week I was pleasantly surprised by the price reduction of skimmed milk at the closest reasonably priced grocery store I frequent: 75 cents is now 70 for a litre of milk. But I every time I buy it, I remind myself that half an hour’s bike ride would get me to the cheap-ass worker-exploiting grocery store that has skimmed milk for 55 cents.

    I indeed know the exact price for everything. The original blog entry and this comment thread are uncanny. Here’s hoping not for an equal share for everyone, but for even a little less disparity in incomes, worldwide.

  273. Being poor is ducking down the the floor of the car when you pass familiar people because you don’t want them to know what kind of car your parents drive.

  274. “Harald” said:

    “…In many situations of life you can see poverty. That is disgraceful. We should fight against it and eliminate all poverty…”

    And how would you suggest this be done?

  275. Becky said:

    “Things do happen. The implication that being poor is always the fault of the person who is poor is laughable.”

    I didn’t say it was always the case, in fact I specifically stated otherwise. However, it is extremely often true that people living in marginal circumstances have children and that people variously behave irresponsibly/unintelligently. We’re constantly hearing about “underprivileged children”, virtually always in reference to those born into inner-city ghetto areas.

    Further, is the media not full of calculatedly “emotional” stories about drug addicted/damaged babies, fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. etc.? You think all those people giving birth to these kids have any business doing so or should be allowed to? Or do you lump them in the “vicitms of fate” category?

    If you’re betting your entire basket of eggs on the likelihood that a particular plant or business will stay open forever, or don’t anticipate the possibility that you might get sick, does that sound like it could present some problems?

    Ever notice someone buying cigarettes and beer while using food stamps for their other groceries with a couple of grubby kids in tow? That’s brilliant. Pissing away money on something that’s almost guaranteed to cause serious health problems. Or how about the lowlife trailer queen obviously several months pregnant sucking away on cigarettes?

    I’m confident that if irresponsible behavior and failure to make the mental effort to make intelligent decisions and anticipate potential problems were eliminated, you’d see at least a drastic reduction in poverty.

  276. John said, among other things:

    “Likewise, the suggestion that I’m using society as a codeword for “middle and upper classes” is a suggestion that is based on your own biases rather than mine. ”

    Really? Then pray tell, who *are* you referring to when you suggest that the poor need help from “society”? Other poor people who have nothing and are on the dole themselves?

    “as I’ve noted earlier, what it suggests is rather more about you than it does about me”

    Yes, calling for responsible behavior in those cases where it isn’t being exercised says a lot about me.

    “as do your continual rhetorical maneuvers to portray the poor as criminals, and deserving of their poverty. ”

    I said that there are many who are in marginal circumstances who behave irresponsibly, a point you and others have done your best to dodge. They often *do* create or worsen their situation by way of action or inaction that was totally within their power to control and they chose not to.

    You said elsewhere that your motivation for writing this piece was in part rooted in your inexpressible rage at how the poor in NOLA were neglected. I don’t even dispute the point regarding the alarming ineptitude of response to the disaster.

    However, this issue of “the poor” often seems to get little up-close examination by those of what’s commonly labeled a “liberal” persuasion. Their very existence seems to be viewed as some immutable fact of nature with no thought as to why there seems to be a neverending supply of “underprivileged children”, nor to any alternative means of stemming the problem besides the continuation of giveaway and housing programs that have done nothing to fix the problem.

    Oddly, idiot “conservatives” are the ones who are always trying to take away abortion rights, one of the most surefire way of preventing the creation of more babies in situations where they shouldn’t be born. If it were up to religious zealots, even birth control wouldn’t be legal.

  277. Scott writes:

    “I said that there are many who are in marginal circumstances who behave irresponsibly, a point you and others have done your best to dodge.”

    Once again, I can’t and don’t speak for others, despite your apparent belief we all act as a hive mind or something. However, I don’t see where I’ve dodged the idea that some who are poor act irresponsibly. As I’ve written several times in the course of the thread, people are poor for many reasons. It should be implicit that personal irresponsibility would be a subset of that, and I dare say most people grasp that, so it’s curious that you can’t — or more likely, won’t.

    What you seem not to be able to grasp is that some people who are poor have not been personally irresponsible, and your ability to conceive of a world in which poverty is not directly attributable to personal failings of character is something I find interesting.

    “Really? Then pray tell, who are you referring to when you suggest that the poor need help from ‘society?’ Other poor people who have nothing and are on the dole themselves?”

    You’re showing your ignorance again, I’m afraid. Poor people can and do help each other in significant ways all the time. One of the biggest ways they do this, as an example, is informal child care, in which people agree to watch the kids of their friends and neighbors while the parent works. There are indeed ways the poor can help themselves and can help others, working as part of a larger society. Partitioning off the poor as not being part of society isn’t particularly useful, and I wonder why you seem so eager to do that, other than for the simple purpose of dehumanizing them to make them easier to mock and ignore.

    The largest bugaboo you seem to have about the poor is the idea that they breed, about which you seem to have a very intense reaction to. Leaving aside your issues with the poor manifesting the urge to reproduce, I certainly agree that allowing wider access to both birth control and birth control information would be useful and something that possibly the government should work on, since one of the surest ways to stay poor in the US is to be a single young mother.

    However, as you’ll find it’s not the “liberals” who are opposed to intelligent sex education and family planning, this is one place where your jihad against the liberal point of view won’t do you much good, as thankfully you seem to be aware of. If the liberal sin is to not blame people for their poverty and then throw money away trying to “solve” the issue, the conservative sin is to blame the poor for not making it over the roadblocks they have placed in their way, and then add a few more roadblocks, because clearly the poor have it too easy. Perhaps a middle way might be good.

  278. John said, among other things:

    “despite your apparent belief we all act as a hive mind or something.”

    Again as I said previously, you don’t speak for them out of a monolithic, collective consciousness, but you work from a similar philosophical viewpoint which leads you to the same destination. You certainly don’t decline the kudos of those who praise you as being dead-on correct.

    “I don’t see where I’ve dodged the idea that some who are poor act irresponsibly. As I’ve written several times in the course of the thread, people are poor for many reasons.”

    You give some brief lip service to considering alternate possibilities other than personal irresponsibility, but it’s clear that you feel it’s the minority circumstance.

    “The largest bugaboo you seem to have about the poor is the idea that they breed, about which you seem to have a very intense reaction to.”

    Once again, where do you figure all those “underprivileged children”, *born* into perpetual poverty, not as the result of some life catastrophy, come from? Is it because of a carefully considered decision after intelligent life preparation and hard work? People who fit that description don’t tend to live in ghettos.

    No doubt, you’re going to say with indignation “oh, oh, you can’t categorize a group of people in such a manner”. Sorry pal, the demographics say yes I can.

    “Breeding” – with the perjorative connotation of animals screwing strictly as a result of base urges with little or no thought as to consequence – as much as it rankles your sensibilities,(though I don’t believe I actually used that term previously), sounds quite accurate to me. I’ll point out again how many of the “being poor” comments revolve around inability to care adequately for one’s children.

    I will say again, for at least the third time in this forum that I don’t discount other circumstances besides personal irresponsibility, but I believe that it is the case in the majority of cases, and it is those utterly preventable cases that the focus of my comments has been on. You keep trying to spin my comments otherwise.

    “You’re showing your ignorance again, I’m afraid. Poor people can and do help each other in significant ways all the time. One of the biggest ways they do this, as an example, is informal child care, in which people agree to watch the kids of their friends and neighbors while the parent works.”

    Gonna have to call you on that one. I specifically mentioned a reliable extended family as a potential avenue of assistance when one is considering whether they’ll have the werewithal to care for a child. One can just as easily substitute “friends” for family.

    Of course by reliable, I mean that you know that noone whos’s going to be around the child, relative or not has any sinister intentions, is abusive or that they’re not going to be watched by someone who’s a pathetic slacker – i.e. they’re not going to fall asleep drunk on the couch while the child wanders out in traffic etc.

    Or for that matter, they’re not going to be a negative role model -drinking, doping, indiscriminate promiscuity, criminal activity. Given the situations of many of the poor, how many can say that they have a decent, safe place to leave their kids among their social circle? Again, if we’re to take at face value your and other’s input about “being poor”, not too many.

    Whoever watches them, paid or not, relative or not, should be someone who will watch them with an eagle-eye as if they were their own. I wouldn’t leave a houseplant with many of the childcare facilities around here that manage to pass muster.

    Quality surrogate child-care is hard to come by, and expensive, something someone considering motherhood should be cognizant of.

    But this kind of thing probably isn’t high on the list of considerations with someone like the poster who whined that stoned, unprotected sex was somehow justifiable because it’s “one of the few nice things they’ll get, ever”.

    In conclusion, I’ll repeat something I said previously – I’m confident that if irresponsible behavior and failure to make the mental effort to make intelligent decisions and anticipate potential problems were eliminated, you’d see at least a drastic reduction in poverty.

    I’ll add to this that I don’t discount that the elimination of these contributing factors might justifiably include voluntary as well as involuntary measures that aren’t currently in place. This kind of thing isn’t without precedent – do they not have in some states mandated chemical castration for certain sex offenders?

  279. I said, in error:

    “You give some brief lip service to considering alternate possibilities other than personal irresponsibility, but it’s clear that you feel it’s the minority circumstance. ”

    What I meant to say was:

    You give brief lip service to considering personal irresponsibility as a cause, but it’s clear that you feel it’s the minority circumstance.

  280. Scott writes:

    “You give brief lip service to considering personal irresponsibility as a cause, but it’s clear that you feel it’s the minority circumstance.”

    Well, I think it’s usually not either/or, really. Life is complicated. I think on average the poor make as many irresponsible choices as anybody. One problem is that the poor have far less maneuvering room to correct from the consequences of doing something stupid.

    Let me put it another way, which is that when I was a teenager, I was both poor enough to be trailer park trash and I was going to school at a rich and snooty private boarding school (I was the annual scholarship case). In both realms I saw fellow teenagers doing spectacularly stupid things, as teengers do, mostly regarding sex and drugs.

    The nature of the behavior was pretty much the same, but the rich teens had both more options situationally to cover themselves while they were doing something stupid, and more options to get out of the trouble their stupid actions had created. Same actions, but different results due to circumstance.

    Now, we can argue that teenagers shouldn’t be having sex or taking drugs in the first place, and of course you’ll get no argument from me in either case (I personally did neither in high school, and still haven’t done drugs). My point is that the same incidents of personal irresponsibility will often yield vastly different results based one’s economics.

    I suppose you could argue that the poor should know (or be told) that they don’t have the same opportunities to act like morons that the rest of us do, but I’d be interested to see how that’s done; also I’d want to see how one would lecture the poor on irresponsible choices without also going after the businesses that make their money off the fact that the poor have fewer options, and are often ignorant of the better options they might have. Predatory lenders who charge 25 to 33% APR on loans, as an example, target the poor, and go out of their way to give the impression that these loans are smart financial vehicles.

    And as noted before, even if someone who is poor could theoretically live a perfectly moral and responsible life, they are still far more subject to circumstance than someone who is better off. My car breaks down, I have a second car. Someone poor has their car break down, they’re probably screwed. If I get sick, I go to the doctor without worrying how much it’s going to cost in time and money. Someone poor worries about if they can afford the office visit — and how to get the time off to go. And so on. These sorts of things are independent of personal responsibility — but they affect the poor to a far greater degree, and make it far more difficult for the poor to correct their condition.

  281. John wrote:

    Scott writes:

    “You give brief lip service to considering personal irresponsibility as a cause, but it’s clear that you feel it’s the minority circumstance.”

    “Let me put it another way, which is that when I was a teenager, I was both poor enough to be trailer park trash and I was going to school at a rich and snooty private boarding school (I was the annual scholarship case). In both realms I saw fellow teenagers doing spectacularly stupid things, as teengers do, mostly regarding sex and drugs.”

    “The nature of the behavior was pretty much the same, but the rich teens had both more options situationally to cover themselves…”

    Yeah, I suppose some people’s daddys can, to some extent get them off the hook for a drug arrest, or if you’re a Kennedy enable you to avoid consequences for pretty much anything you do.

    But I have to wonder how much of a factor this really is. What percentage of the population do the kind of “rich” that you refer to represent? Poor people get abortions too. Then again, how many “poor” kids over the years who screwed up got a pass or their punishment were severely curtailed because they happened to be a star on a college (or pro) football program?

    However, the fact that there are social inequities still doesn’t change to basic point, that personal irresponsibility is largely to blame for poverty.

    I’m not just talking about “honest” mistakes of teenage stupidity. For a very long time, multi-generational poor/welfare recipients have been an issue. There are legions of those who just plain don’t give a damn. The criminal knucklehead who’s in and out of prison, or even someone who’s a knucklehead without a record, siring children without any particular intention of ever doing anything about looking after them. The women of such meager intellect and/or whose heads are so screwed up that they have anything to do with these men in the first place.

    I don’t know if it made the news anywhere else but not too long ago, there was a story in this area about a woman who was arrested I believe on drug charges, and after she’d been in jail for a week or so, her ex-boyfriend happened to get wind of it and inquired as to who had the approx 2-year-old child they had together. The woman had told noone about having a child. The man went to the apartment and found the child half starved, dehydrated, and had been sucking on condiment packets it found. This woman was just going to let the child starve to death.

    How many times are scenarios like this repeated by people who had no business having children to begin with and by all rights should have their reproductive organs ripped out, if not summarily executed outright?

    This isn’t to suggest that all “non-poor” people are model parents and are never monsters or even just incredibly incompetent, but the fact is the children of the “non-poor” are far more likely to to have a better life.

    How many of these burnout drug addict women do you think ever really end up with a life that’s productive and happy? I suppose it happens but the odds are any children born to them are going to have a miserable existence.

    Yeah, it sucks to be poor, but it sucks worse that children keep being introduced into the equation. I see this as a primary issue that won’t be fixed until measures are looked at that address this that might be considered by many to be distasteful, along with a number of other measures designed to be far less likely to give second and third chances to those who screw up in society.

  282. Scott:

    “However, the fact that there are social inequities still doesn’t change to basic point, that personal irresponsibility is largely to blame for poverty.”

    Scott, you’re a broken record and you’re wrong. It’s pointless to have this conversation with you any further.

    Also, We’ve managed to inch over the 300 comments mark on this thread as well, and I think we’ve gone as far as we’re going to go with it. I’m going to go ahead and close it up. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and shared.