She had a cart full of groceries and she was judging our family based on the jar of pickles and food stamps. I did not understand what I had done wrong. As I grew older I dreamed of finding my voice in that line.
Students who considered themselves socialists were not so
much interested in the poor as they were desirous of leading
the poor, of being their guides and saviors. It was just this
paternalism toward the poor that the vision of solidarity I had
learned in religious settings was meant to challenge. From a
spiritual perspective, the poor were there to guide and lead the
rest of us by example if not by outright action and testimony.
As a student I read Marx, Gramsci, and a host of other male
thinkers on the subject of class. These works provided
theoretical paradigms but rarely offered tools for confronting
the complexity of class in daily life. […]
[W]hen I told friends and colleagues that I was resigning from my academic job to focus on writing, I was warned that I was making a dangerous mistake, that I could not possibly live on an income that was between twenty and thirty thousand dollars a year. When I pointed to the reality that families of four and more live on such an income, the response would be “that’s different”; the difference being, of course, one of class. The poor are expected to live with less and are socialized to accept less (badly made clothing, products, food, etc.), whereas the well-off are socialized to believe it is both a right and a necessity for us to have more, to have exactly what we want when we want it.
It turns out, like anything spoon fed to us by the media and politicians, there are plenty of myths associated with people on welfare.
1. The Bootstrap Myth
2. The Poor Are Unemployed
3. Poor (i.e. lazy, uneducated etc.) Equals Black
4. The Poor Refuse to Work
5. Education Necessarily Remedies Poverty
The one that I hadn’t anticipated was #5:
Another plutocratic myth suggests that a lack of education is the root of poverty, and that education is the answer to poor people’s plight. This is also an assertion many liberals like President Obama regularly make. Joining them are conservatives like Newt Gingrich who, in the lead-up to the South Carolina primaries, defended his earlier remarks about the poor and food stamps, stating: “I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”
These ways of thinking legitimize the plight of the poor, effectively blaming victims of exploitation: blaming low-income workers’ conditions on their failure to possess a real job, which means a job that requires a degree.
Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.
Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.
Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.
Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.
Being poor is off-brand toys.
Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.
Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.
Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.
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.
Being poor is Goodwill underwear.
Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.
Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.
Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.
Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.
Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.
Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.
Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.
Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.
Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.
Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.
Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.
Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes.
Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited for dinner.
Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.
Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.
Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.
Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.
Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.
Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.
Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.
Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.
Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.
Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.
Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.
Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.
Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.
Being poor is knowing you really shouldn’t spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.
Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.
Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won’t listen to you beg them against doing so.
Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away.
Being poor is making sure you don’t spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.
Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.
Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.
Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.
Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.
Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.
Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.
Being poor is seeing how few options you have.
Being poor is running in place.
Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.
By John Scalzi
I am a corporate chief executive.
I am a business owner.
I am a private-equity fund manager.
I am the misunderstood superhero of American capitalism, single-handedly creating wealth and prosperity despite all the obstacles put in my way by employees, government and the media.
I am a job creator and I am entitled.
I am entitled to complain about the economy even when my stock price, my portfolio and my profits are at record levels.
I am entitled to a healthy and well-educated workforce, a modern and efficient transportation system and protection for my person and property, just as I am entitled to demonize the government workers who provide them.
I am entitled to complain bitterly about taxes that are always too high, even when they are at record lows.
I am entitled to a judicial system that efficiently enforces contracts and legal obligations on customers, suppliers and employees but does not afford them the same right in return.
I am entitled to complain about the poor quality of service provided by government agencies even as I leave my own customers on hold for 35 minutes while repeatedly telling them how important their call is.
I am entitled to a compensation package that is above average for my company’s size and industry, reflecting the company’s aspirations if not its performance.
I am entitled to have the company pay for breakfasts and lunches, a luxury car and private jet travel, my country club dues and home security systems, box seats to all major sporting events, a pension equal to my current salary and a full package of insurance — life, health, dental, disability and long-term care — through retirement.
- Steven Pearlstein, “I Am a Job Creator: A Manifesto for the Entitled”
A little known fact about me: I grew up in poverty. Not the abject kind, but the kind that meant my mom’s income was below the poverty line my entire life (except for maybe one year). The kind where I know what it means to go to a foodshelf; to not have any groceries.
The kind where I know what it means to have people give you dirty looks when you use food stamps or an EBT card to pay for groceries. The kind where kids make fun of your clothes because they are from garage sales. The kind where your parent knows where all of the community meals are and you get fed by people who are doing community service. The kind where you hear the adults in your life talk about “those lazy welfare people” and you know they are talking about you.
I also grew up deeply entrenched in my faith community. My spirituality was the lens through which I made sense of everything else.
And I was told that to be a Christian was to be a Republican.
I was taught, in essence, to hate myself.
- Sara Wilhelm Garbers, “On Keeping Up with the Jones: Wearing Birkenstocks and Other Reflections”
Sara works at Luther Sem and is one of my favorite people I’ve met in the past year. She has such an incredible heart for Jesus and for justice.
The thing about not having much money is you have to take much more responsibility for your life. You can’t pay people to watch your kids or clean your house or fix your meals. You can’t necessarily afford a car or a washing machine or a home in a good school district. That’s what money buys you: goods and services that make your life easier.
That’s what money has bought Romney, too. He’s a guy who sold his dad’s stock to pay for college, who built an elevator to ensure easier access to his multiple cars and who was able to support his wife’s decision to be a stay-at-home mom. That’s great! That’s the dream.
The problem is that he doesn’t seem to realize how difficult it is to focus on college when you’re also working full time, how much planning it takes to reliably commute to work without a car, or the agonizing choices faced by families in which both parents work and a child falls ill. The working poor haven’t abdicated responsibility for their lives. They’re drowning in it.
In their book “Poor Economics,” the poverty researchers Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo try to explain why the poor around the world so often make decisions that befuddle the rich.
Their answer, in part, is this: The poor use up an enormous amount of their mental energy just getting by. They’re not dumber or lazier or more interested in being dependent on the government. They’re just cognitively exhausted.
|—||What Mitt Romney Doesn’t Get About Responsibility - Bloomberg From my boy, Ezra Klein. (via swirlspice)|