First off, this is a lax piece. It is not as stridently written as it could be, and it is opinion. It does not cover all opinions, facts or facets of the issue. I simply do not have the time or desire to write for people who have already taken sides and decided they are right no matter what. I haven’t the time to research for people. I will paste sources in as time allows. Until then, I try my best to phrase things in such a way that a few minutes will yield accurate results for anyone who wishes to refute or validate what I say. And for fucks sakes people, read more than one source, and vet them all. If you don’t read through links and scream ‘nuh uh’ you are giving me permission to republish everything you say, whole or partial, and embarrass you.
Learned helplessness is something that one has to understand in order to begin this conversation. It is an absolute pre-requisite. There are other factors that one needs to become familiar with, and factually familiar regardless of their beliefs or feelings on the matter. It’s that simple. It’s not purely a matter of people being lazy and causing their own poverty any more than it is exclusively an issue of the imposition of societal inequities. The reason I am just linking to a google search on learned helplessness rather than covering it is the breadth of the topic. Frankly, if one chooses not read any of those articles, the rest of this piece is falling on ignorant ears.
Let’s start with a functional definition of poverty. There will be no debate beyond this for the purpose of this article. Dictionary.com, per usual is my first hit on a definition which stands as these
1: the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.
2: deficiency of necessary or desirable ingredients, qualities, etc.: poverty of the soil.
3: scantiness; insufficiency
For our discussion we need to expand upon this a little and provide clarity. “Not having enough, money or other resources” doesn’t quite do the notion justice. One could easily argue that one is not poor if they have the bare most essentials for life. This, is not a justifiable definition though as what one considers the bare essentials to maintain existence will vary depending on everything from one’s class, nominal income and region of birth. Politics also play a role here, where modern republicans arguing that a person living in a camp being fed a singular potato each day is hardly poor. Modern Democrats will of course argue the opposite, that any amount of effort put forth by a person they define as a minority is the result of an unfair society controlled by evil, dirty, privileged cis-scum white males; any poverty on their part being faux.
We shall define poverty as :
A scarcity of resources or control that precludes the improvement of one’s overall position in life, preventing actualization of freedom and restricts the capacity to alter one’s circumstances.
In short, it is a shortcoming that prevents people from being able to do better in their lives. When people live in poverty, extreme or otherwise, there is often no amount of hard work or effort that will allow them to do things like obtain an education, make investments or find a better job. This is a reality, and one that has been proven multiple times through repeated study. It is also a phenomenon that cuts across lines of race, sex and heritage.
There is also the notion, though this is by no means a matter of fact, that our(any really) society adheres to a minimum overall quality of life that we feel is acceptable to allow another human to experience. That is to say, simply maintaining existence is typically not enough. The image I’ve used at the top of this article is a prime example. Anyone who thinks this is an acceptable way for a child or other human being to live is factually one who fits the diagnostic criteria for a sociopath (not that ‘sociopath’ is not in the DSM, and would most appropriately being called antisocial personality disorder in that context).
The apparent truth is also that most folks, even modern republicans will at least want to create a positive change for others when directly confronted with suffering (in this regard they differ on whole from the liberal crowd, who invariably seem to revel in the suffering of their out group). Few people will argue that nothing should be done in the above case.
The debate is typically one of what causes it: societal factors or simple laziness. Usually one side argues that no part of it is the individuals fault, while the other side argues that it is exclusively the individuals fault. Both stances should throw up red flags for any critical thinker based on the polarity and simplicity of the arguments alone. Further unbiased investigation, should one choose to engage, will yield a far more problematic picture.
Our actual question then becomes one that asks what we can and should do. What efforts help, and what efforts hurt? What are the actual causes? What causes can we mitigate and what is realistically beyond our control?
Moreover, we have to determine what it is exactly that a solution might look like.
Our goal would be defined as providing the tools, attitudes, and capacity to garner resources for impoverished individuals to provide themselves with a meaningful amount of self empowerment to promote change.
The solution however, is far murkier. Too much help can create learned helplessness: people stop trying, become dependent and lazy. They give up altogether. This is also factually proven to be the case. Too little and people are born into, or through circumstances, placed into a condition of inescapable powerlessness. I reiterate that this is a non argument, it is a poignant and real fact. Intelligence, habit and hard work cannot overcome many forms of preexisting resource deficits in many cases.
This does not imply that all deficits are catastrophic, or that certain habits do not make things better or worse. That is a foolish notion, mostly argued by the left in the same way that the right ignorantly argues that anyone who really wants to get rich need only work harder. Both arguments(no arguments to be accurate) are based in ignorance.
Behaviors and habits that contribute to powerlessness (jesus h fucking bicycle I’m a nerd, I’ve read most of these links) must not be fostered, and those already existing maladaptive habits must be extinguished. This can range from drug habits, to poor spending habits and attitudes of helplessness. For instance, a crack addict who believes that working a regular job is for idiots needs to have the crack habit and the belief that a job and education are for chumps corrected before any amount of help would benefit them.
Realistically the majority of poor people do not have either of these issues. Though, for many receiving assistance there is the tendency to simply give up, believing that there are no opportunities that would improve life. This is often true, but the reality is that when given those opportunities a person in that mind set is very unlikely to recognize it.
There is also the reality that anyone who hasn’t worked in two years (whether due to lack of work or health problems or pride) will become lazy. This also must be overcome.
Now that we’ve looked at some(not all) of the things that must be removed, let’s look at some things that would need to be added.
Many republican heads will explode at this point, and I’m ok with that. Why? Because the data says conclusively that not a single one of them would be inclined to continue working if the job they had available would not provide them with more than just food and shelter. It also tells us that after about 18 months, an increasing percentage of them (anyone, even you good hardworking redneck Christians who think that poverty is an issue limited to brown people and liberals) stop even looking for work.
On the other side of that, those who have been living off of government programs for a similar period of time seem to also stop seeking work. Though, in all reality, most actually have jobs.
It’s because in both cases, incentive is absent. The fix will be covered soon, but the basic point is that for anyone to get out of bed and go to work it has to benefit them, beyond simply staying alive. It must provide them with a real and foreseeable opportunity to have more. More freedom, more money, more pride and more control.
Now, we can discuss potential solutions.
Those on assistance absolutely need, and should be required to work for it. Anyone receiving food stamps, or cash assistance, or rental assistance should be made to work. This isn’t a simple fix though. Recall the incentive bit? The amount of work put in needs to be proportional to the opportunity it provides. There are also cases where folks already work, and receive benefits because they don’t earn enough to survive, much less improve their situation. What then?
My best solution looks like this. If a person has no job (above, few are unemployed) they will be required to work 12 hours per week(or they can do so voluntarily for additional pay, plus one hour for each week on assistance, up to a limit of 24 hours per week. In return they will receive enough to live. That is, a small space in which to live, food and water enough to live, clothes. Additional hours can be provided up to 4 hours per week. That additional 4 hours, by choice, can help to provide incentive or opportunity for growth. This can last up to 36 months for a healthy person. After 6 months that person becomes eligible for 1-2 years of no cost education, provided they make decent grades and continue their 12/24 hours of work per week. This isn’t unreasonable, and it removes any excuses for failure. It’s also not an easy thing. A person would essentially be paying for school via community service. It’s not a bad deal. 12 hours of labor for 12 credit hours.
Again, the research suggests that most folks have a job or two and just don’t earn enough to make a difference. Student loans are NOT the answer. Despite so many having been essentially lied to about what the situation was, and was not, especially given artificially inflated tuition and rent.
Programs like food stamps also need reformation. No more crap food. I’ve worked at gas stations. Half the people on food stamps drive BMWs and lie about their income, then turn around and buy junk food. What’s worse is that many poor people will also buy crap food like donuts when it’s not needed. Like it or not, from the mouth of a guy who grew up on food stamps, it’s an issue. Meat, grain, flour and such, are all things that should be bought. Basically the same things that one would get from a commodities line, are the only things people should be able to buy with food stamps.
Anyone receiving benefits should also have their pay information checked against the IRS, and their paychecks first deposited into a monitored account to prevent fraud. A lot of people need food stamps to survive, a ton of people (usually conservative, ironically) defraud the system to make up care payment and nice shoes. For those that do, they should see mandatory jail time.
Now let’s go back to the other half of this. Removal of issues. Whether bad stuff happened to you, or you did stupid stuff does not matter.
Healthcare should be mandated for those on assistance. Job training should be mandated for those on assistance. Life skills classes should be mandated for those on assistance. Counseling should be mandated for those on assistance. Work( I reiterate) should be mandated for those on assistance, who are not already working 32+hours/week lest we cause learned helplessness. And should a person refuse to do any of these things, including routing their pay through a monitored pay system(one without fees or bullshit debit cards, like is being done to already poor people as it is), then the benefits stop for a good long while.
This also has other benefits. By having people work repairing roads, or cleaning up graffiti, they make connections and form community bonds. They learn skills. They gain pride.
What we are doing now is that for 8 years people who need help and are doing the absolute best they can get no help, or much less than they need. We give half measures that only shame people. Then for 8 years we ask nothing in return, teaching people to give up and stop wanting a better life. In the end there are politicians and business people who continue to reap the rewards of doing these things, but never the poor. And this is a matter of gradation for those curious. While most in America aren’t as poor as the kids in the image featured, they are poor enough that; given relative costs, they have essentially the same chance of overcoming their circumstances as do the little ones in that picture.
And why should you care? Well, that person who isn’t making it impacts your life directly. That’s one less consumer supporting the economy that makes your own job a reality. That is one more person on the brink of giving up and breaking into your home while you’re on vacation, or taking your car. That is one more person who isn’t adding fuel to the fires of progress In our shared society. No matter how much you might want to think so, you’re not an island. None of us are, and what fucks the goose and keeps him down generation after generation, absolutely destroys the anus of the gander. It takes resources to create opportunity. It costs money for education. People with nice clothes are more likely to get jobs that pay well. All facts. All issues. As for those who refuse to believe that 99.9% of the time a person dies in the same economic bracket they were born into; I don’t care about your opinion, it’s a matter of fact and is a non argument. Hard work simply pays a higher wage for those who had a good start than it does for those who didn’t. Simply put, having a million dollars makes it shit load easier to manifest the opportunities required to ‘earn’ 5 million. That’s not rocket science, nor is it in any way false or subtle. Using denyalism as a basis for thinking because one does not wish to admit that some of the shit they bought might be the result of where they started in life is weak minded and pathetic. It’s as pathetic as arguing that hard work had nothing at all to do with, or that not making a bad situation worse isn’t a real factor in ghettos and trailer parks around the nation. It’s foolish and stupid. It’s false. Rich kids have chances poor kids don’t. Poor kids very often do stupid shit that helps guarantee they have NO chance for upward mobility.
On that topic: Let’s drop a few more nails in certain inevitable coffins right now.
- There aren’t actually enough jobs for everyone who needs one, even if we kick out every immigrant in the country. Oddly enough, the profits of certain corporation are at all time highs. The difference between the number of people they hired, compared the number of people previously employed by the smaller business they replaced, magically happen to be very similar to the number of people who are lacking jobs. Weird, isn’t it, how that works. One business with 60 employees replaced 10 businesses with 100 employees and now unemployment is up.
- The number of middle and upper middle class abusers of food stamps is far far higher than the number of lower class and poor people abusing the system. It’s much easier to get the car to impress your boss and get that raise if you just lie about your income so taxpayers will buy your lunch.
- Those on welfare are substantially less likely to look for work, especially after a year. (The same is true for unemployment actually). Weird how people don’t work if they don’t have to, or if it does nothing real or positive for them to do so.
- Of the jobs there are, roughly 15-20% of those jobs do not provide adequate income for those working them to get ahead. If those working them get two jobs, that means another person with no job. Can’t pay for school if rent and rice exceed the amount you make. Can’t get more jobs if they don’t exist, and besides, there are only 24 hours in a day. Weird how that works, isn’t it. A business replaces a $17 an hour job with a $9 and hour job and the economy shrinks.
- Less than 2% of those on (cash) welfare were on drugs, . Those things take money, welfare is by means enough money for one to have those habits. Most drug users either suck cock, sell drugs or steal shit to get drug money. What they are most likely to steal, your car or your gun. Weird, drugs cost money and poor people don’t have money.
- White privilege does not exist. There are more poor white people than any other group(US). It’s a fact, though by % we see a different story, still 1 in 10 being unable to make ends meet isn’t fucking privilege. Male privilege does not exist. 70% of all homeless are male. Most are white. Unemployment for males is higher than that of females, and this is severely misleadingly low due to those no longer seeking. Suicide rates are higher, as much as 7 times, double that for unemployment white males. Privilege means living on street and no one actually giving a shit when someone is killing themselves at epic rates.
- The data simply does not support a wage gap, and in fact, when you remove the ultra wealthy like Trump and similar dildos, the wage gap actually started swinging the other way some time back. Weird, poor people are powerless.
The point? Poverty is an issue for us all. It affects all, cutting across sex and racial divides. The way we are attacking it now does more harm than good. Class is a more valid, soluble, and accurate predictor of success than race, sex, age or even country of birth. End of story. Now we can argue that point, entrenched in wrong beliefs, or we can find ways to actually do something(else)about it. I say else, because what we are doing now isn’t helping anyone at all.