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View Diary: "People are poor because of the bad choices they make" (39 comments)

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  •  I think we're talking past each other (0+ / 0-)

    We both agree that the truth is not at either extreme: Neither "0% of our decisions affect our poverty" nor "being in poverty is 100% your fault." The truth is somewhere in the middle.

    My diary is about the people who have made generally average choices in their early lives. People with a four-year degree who are making $8 or $18 per hour are who I'm talking about. The other commenters have already pointed out that we don't need 300 million Engineers or auto mechanics. We're still going to need millions of bus boys and cashiers and persons occupying menial labor positions, even if most of the population is college-educated (and that is the trend. Thank HS guidance councilors for doing a great job on that front.)

    The question is whether we should punish these people for doing the work that the engineers and auto mechanics are NOT doing? We don't need a society where everyone is "rich." A little inequality is OK, but not at the point where those at the bottom are starving while those at the top attend $50,000 dinners.

    The point of this diary was to point out how the Republican talking point that poverty is ALWAYS caused by bad decisions was wrong by showing how something like a car breaking down or an unexpected hospital bill can turn a safe financial situation into a tight one overnight. You can interpret my diary a number of ways: as an indictment on our economic system, a call for better jobs, or even a condemnation of our low minimum wage.

    We could look at healthcare and see if a single-payer or fully Socialized system would be better for us, since that would eliminate one dice roll that can knock so many of us into poverty.

    Maybe we could talk about how our towns are structured such that cars are a necessity, and look at the cost-benefits of adding more public transportation or at least city-planning that makes it easier for people to use bicycles.

    There's a lot that can be done to decrease the odds that Average Joe citizen gets stuck in poverty from something besides his own doing.

    •  I agree that the talking point that poverty (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      is "always" caused by life choices is wrong.  And whenever you see someone who says that poverty is always caused by life choices, that should be criticized.  

      On the other hand, one of the things that irks me about some progressives is that they often discount entirely the notion that a person's choices can have a significant effect on their ability to lift themselves out of poverty.  I read your diary as going too far to that extreme -- sort of a "people who are poor have no control over that" view.  The truth is somewhere in the middle.    

      I don't think you can criticize one extreme view (I know very few conservatives who believe that in each and every case, the poor person was the sole cause of the poverty) without recognizing that the other extreme view (that poor people never cause their own circumstances through their own decisions) is equally invalid.  

      It's a gripe I have with both sides.  Conservatives sometimes fail to recognize that some in poverty are there through circumstances truly outside of their control.  Progressives sometimes fail to recognize that there are some in poverty whose decisions and choices played a significant role in where they are.  

      •  But Conservatives use the few (0+ / 0-)

        to demonize the whole. That's the point. They unfairly attack all poor people over maybe a few percentage of this class who legitimately made bad choices. My diary shows exactly how an average person, who made average decisions, can get screwed by the system.

        I'd rather build a tide to raise all ships than follow the Republican mantra that would let those ships sink. They keep trying to justify cutting Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and any sort of lower income tax benefit. They want to take away affordable healthcare from a lot of people. They have some twisted notion that "I got mine, so screw the rest of you!" I'd rather see a government work to give these people a hand up, not kick them while they're down.

        If Republicans truly cared about the poor they would be handing out condoms like candy, making birth control free, and keeping the Christian anti-sex teachings in church where they belong. If Republicans truly cared about education they would expand that full-ride scholarship plan like you mentioned exists in LA and GA.

        •  I think you generalize about conservatives (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          the same way you complain that they generalize about the poor.

          Surely there are some conservatives who generalize that all the poor are lazy, shiftless, etc.  But most conservatives I know don't think that way - they recognize that there are some poor people who did not "cause" (through their decisions, choices, and actions) their own circumstances.  Their complaint with government programs is often that government does not distinguish between those people and the others whose actions, decisions, and choices DID contribute to their circumstances.  They think the second group should be treated somewhat differently -- financial aid tied to more requirements on their part -- because they think there should be consequences to bad decisions.  Look up the conservative notion of the "deserving poor" versus the "undeserving poor."  They see federal government money as money they worked to earn, and they are not, as a matter of principle, happy with it going to people who could have been financially ok but aren't primarily because of things they did or choices they made. Those are the people who want federal assistance to be tied to "workfare," or to drug testing, or other hoops like that, as a way of distinguishing between the so-called "deserving poor" and the "undeserving poor."  

          That's where I think many conservatives and progressives disagree.  Most progressives, like you, think that aid (in the form of financial assistance from the   government) should not make any distinction between the so-called "deserving poor" (those who are there through no fault of their own whatsoever) and the "undeserving poor."  Most progressives believe that if you don't have money, that in and of itself qualifies you for government assistance -- and the same level of government assistance --  regardless of the reasons why you are in that situation.  They don't believe it's the role of government to make distinctions and impose different consequences based on the decisions a person made or actions a person took, but instead to provide financial assistance to all who are below a certain income level, regardless of the reason they are below that income level.  

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