I know why poor people are poor

Maybe you saw that article about the fake poor person explaining why poor people make poor decisions.

You’ll forgive a poor person’s series of impulsive and bad decisions — eating junk food, smoking, having children with multiple partners. In an essay written to show the human side of poverty, Linda Tirado explains some of the rationale behind the self-defeating decisions she makes as a poor person.

But here is where you know, at the beginning of her opinion article, that she is neither poor, nor does she understand that a .99 cent burger is a better decision for a poor person than a .99 cent bunch of broccoli.  It’s a better nutritional decision for all sorts of reasons, not the least being that a Mcdouble will fill you up much more than a head of broccoli and feeding a family of four for four dollars saves you not only money, but time–and time IS money, as they say, and a poor woman’s time is no less valuable to her than a rich woman’s time is to her.  So you see, that isn’t really a bad decision at all.  It’s a perfectly reasonable expense and an actual time saver.  Think how long you’d be steaming up that head of broccoli, and you know you’d have to add cheese to get the kids to eat it, so add that time in too.  She saved time cooking, preparing, cleaning and fighting with the kids over how good broccoli is for them.

I am poor by American standards.  I am well educated.  I have resources. I know I could make a nice middle class living, but leaving home for work would mean abandoning my family to a situation that I would not be able to financially compensate for.  Add to that the stresses of work, having to take time off at a moments notice (which most employers aren’t too happy about) and the stress of having to manage a home with a family member with multiple disabilities.  These things, these worries and stresses at home, make me an unreliable employee unless I can work from home on my own time table or I can afford a full time tutor, nanny, nurse, taxi-driver, accountant, maid, construction worker, pool boy, lawn man, and I’m probably leaving out another dozen occupations.  So I accept poverty to try and keep a family functioning and whole while doing the best I can to fill in the shoes of all those occupations I mentioned.  I know I don’t fill any of them well enough, and some of them I fit very poorly, but it will have to do.  That is what you have to accept when you are poor.  You’d be surprised how many poor people are making the same decisions.

My father was laid off every year as a surveyor when the rain came and work was slow.  Was studying to be a surveyor a bad decision?  I have a friend who moved out of her apartment and changed jobs to raise a grandchild.  You probably know people sacrificing a quarter of their income to pay for child care or sacrificing normal work hours to be home when the kids are home.  Are those bad decision?

Poor people (in general) don’t make impulsive bad decisions.  As mentioned above with the McDouble, they make perfectly reasonable decisions for poor people.  If you don’t know when you will be able to next afford a gallon of ice cream, buying one when you can afford it is not impulsive, it’s common sense.  If you don’t know when you’ll be able to buy a big screen tv except with the tax return, buying one isn’t impulsive at all.  It’s common sense.  You might think they should save up, pay bills or invest in something, but many of us have done all of those things and still ended up poor.  Some of us were middle class before we invested and became poor through investments.

Sometimes planning and thinking ahead won’t save you from the events in life that can make you poor.  While we can all agree that having a child out of wedlock when you are young can make poverty the most likely outcome, it doesn’t mean that having a child IN wedlock won’t make you poor too.  Neonatal care for a preemie can wipe out your savings, your credit and your best laid plans.

Poverty can also be a matter of perspective.  Poor to us is still pretty wealthy in most Third World Countries and even segments of our own society.

When my family and I attended a deaf branch of the LDS church while I was working full time, we felt rich.  Nothing seems so hard as two deaf parents trying to raise a family in a hearing world when you are sitting in a chapel hearing of their troubles.  Suddenly, having enough to go out to eat every weekend felt like the finest of luxuries.  Spending money on iTunes was a guilty pleasure instead of something ‘everyone’ does.  Having a Kindle felt like owning the latest iPad.  We felt privileged to enjoy shopping at Sears and having credit, while our deaf friends were happy just to be able to shop at WalMart.  It was the first time we felt wealthy.  We were able to give small gifts of gas cards and they appreciated it like it was significantly more than 25.00.  But even at that time, most of America would not have considered my family ‘middle class,’ unless it was on the lowest end of that rung of the ladder.

Christ said there would be poor always, yet how can this be if we will all be made perfect?  Can it be that perfection does not solve poverty?  Can it be that even the best decision maker can still end up poor?  Despite the mantra of ‘hard work’ paying off in America, it’s not necessarily so.  While it does happen often enough to still fire the American dream, just as often hard work ends in poverty.

As for vices, being poor is immensely stressful.  In poverty you have to worry about if you can make it to your next check, how you will pay for medical bills, which utility can get put off until next paycheck, etc.  A few dollars on a stress reliever like beer, cigarettes, or M&M’s seems like better therapy than therapy–which would just be another bill, after all.

If our President Obama needs multimillion dollar vacations to relieve his stress with all his resources, staff members and unlimited tax dollars, and he gets no pushback on having to destress, why do we belittle the poor for overeating, smoking or drinking?I promise you that if poor people weren’t poor, they’d be golfing instead of smoking too.  You can’t blame a poor person for self medicating, they can’t afford a shrink.  If they could, they would be paying a trainer to help them lose weight after they ate all the Twinkies they hoarded when Hostess went out of business.  (I know now that they are back on the shelf so you better eat them before they are gone!).

Poor people, even married poor people, tend to have poor children, but don’t mistake them all for poor decision makers–the truth is they make very appropriate decisions for their situation–situations not always brought on by their own decisions.  Trust me, if they knew how to soak the public sympathy wagon and self publicize with a complete lie like Ms.

BTW, if you want to donate to this poor person, me, I’ll be glad to claim I made bad decisions too and you can go to my gofundme page for my husband’s CI and donate there:  http://www.gofundme.com/5n569o  I promise it will be used in poverty and not fake poverty.