Start here, with John Scalzi's "Being Poor." http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/09/03/being-poor/ We'll come back to that.
I'm no fan of Rand Paul, and there are some valid soundbites in both sides, but the basic fact is that Americans in the bottom 10 percentile are incredibly well off by global standards, as a general rule. And I'm not even going to dignify the lefticle wank of "income gap" with a response, except to note it's pretty much Godwin's Law for economics. If you bring it up, you've admitted you have no argument.
A Facebook friend (meaning someone I don't actually know) posted the "thinkprogress" link.
This is part of the exchange:
Michael Z. Williamson There are no poor people in America. If you believe there are, let me take you to Bangladesh.
There are LESS WELL OFF people in America.
Michael Z. Williamson As an immigrant, I get REALLY ticked off at Americans whining about "poverty" that involves cell phones, microwaves, AC and cars.
- Wendi Dunlap I get really ticked off at people playing the poverty dicksizing game.
Now, I don't make a big deal of helping people, because I believe one should be helping, not bragging. However, near as I can tell, these people are hand-wringing all over the place, but not actually doing anything. I mean, I point out that someone with a roof, a car, food and a Wii is not in the same league as someone without food, potable water and shelter and get accused of "Dicksizing"? Really? So, I shouldn't care about those people? I'm really not clear on what that comment meant. It was certainly negative, though.
So, that seems to be a challenge. Here goes:
I remember growing up middle class in the UK. My father had a motorcycle, and eventually a car, while he alternated electrical work and school. My mother waited tables evenings. We had a "flat" with no heat, and a transistor radio. Lunch for me was usually a boiled egg or a slice of bread with jam. In 1969 we got a black and white TV so we could watch the moon landing. Since my father was an electrical engineer, he re-programmed the set and we got FOUR channels, though BBC1 and -2 usually showed the same thing.
Eventually we moved to a real house (well, a duplex), with plumbing. We were lucky. The row houses behind us had bathrooms tacked onto the back, with pipes running up to deliver water, and IIRC the sewage dumped down into a semi-open system. They were 100 years old and predated plumbing. Every day, my mother would walk me the half mile to school, and pick me up afterward. The bathroom was outside. After three years, they built a brand new bathroom, still outdoors. However, we no longer had to urinate in a gutter or crap in a hole. When school wasn't in session, she'd take my hand, and with my sister in a pram, we'd walk most of a mile to the town market. Now, at that time in Britain, you had to argue with the grocer, who wanted to get rid of the oldest food first for the same price as the fresh stuff. Then she'd load it in a small cart and walk home, pram in front, pulling that behind, or having me push one, while we crossed a couple of four lane roads to walk home.
We moved to Canada, and the first day, I was loaded into a Bonneville ("Parisienne") where my feet didn't even reach off the seat, and there was a radio in the car. THERE WAS A RADIO IN THE CAR! I was driven to an A&P, where there was 100 feet of fresh produce. It was really odd, because there was no glass and no grocers. You could take whatever you wanted and put it in a bag, then they'd load it all into the car for you. You could just leave what didn't look fresh, and they'd do something with it. I'm sure they didn't waste it, though.
Then we moved to America, where it was explained to me that we should have two cars, since we had two adults in the house. A friend's parents were unable to properly discipline their son, because if they sent him to his room, he just watched TV there instead.
My parents divorced when I was 15, and my mother, sister and I were on food stamps and some other aid while she sold real estate and tried to find something more lucrative. My paper route money went toward food.
After I enlisted in the Air Force, a friend of mine from high school made the local papers while homeless, living on the street. My mother took him in, gave him use of a phone, shower, and help with applications, fed him, and the state agreed to a stipend from his welfare benefits. A month later he left for the street again, because, "I don't want people playing communist with my money." That's right, the money he received free from the taxpayers, if allotted to the people housing and supporting him, was "communism." Still, we tried.
I can't count the number of times I've offered work to some "Will work for food" guy, only to be told, "My brother/friend/girl is coming with a car in a couple of minutes to take me somewhere." Presumably not to work.
During the downsizing of 1990, I left the USAF on a week's notice, and had to acquire lodging, furniture (a bed), pots and pans, a cat, the basic necessities. I wound up working in a factory at $5/hr, then a pizza shop at $5.35/hr. (Minimum wage was $4.75, and the drivers got tips. Then minimum wage went to $5.35 and the drivers kept getting tips, and I did not get a raise. Meantime, the price of pizza rose enough to account for the increase in outlay, plus a few percent. But that's a rant on another subject.) Officially, damaged food was to be trashed, to discourage employees from "Stealing" damaged food. The expired food (which the restaurant wanted to keep serving, health code be damned), went into the oven and then into me, because that was the only food I had when my rent was $400 a month. Yes, I stole food to stay alive.
College students are usually poor, and my choices in that area were pizza at $5.35 an hour, crappy factory work at $6, and none of it around a school schedule. In addition to running my own part time business at SF conventions, I was a stripper. It wasn't all bad, but it's no better for men than women, and the cops just assume you're selling sex. They're not your friend. And no, really, it isn't fun to have a roomful of drunken frat chicks try to paw you, because if they make contact with certain parts of the anatomy after you've been paid, IT LEGALLY IS PROSTITUTION as far as the government is concerned.
After our daughter was born, my wife was unemployed because the boss hired his daughter in law to be "Trained" by Gail…and then take the position. I took a job hauling trash during the week. When you've handled a dozen 70 lb trashcans full of diapers, cat litter, medical waste, rotten food, come back and we'll talk, about how that's your first 10 minutes and you're not working fast enough, and when it gets warm in a few hours (80 degrees instead of 45), it's really going to stink. (I actually impressed them. I wanted to get it done fast every day.)
I remember a friend whose husband took off with something that may have been younger but couldn't have been better looking, leaving her with a baby daughter. In her case, she was a dropout, and wanted to work but couldn't get hired. She wanted to go to school. However, the state would only provide day care while one worked at menial jobs, not at anything productive, and certainly not while one was going to school, because going to school isn't working…right? Several of us pitched in to help until she could make arrangements to not starve with no car, no roof, no job and no skills. Yes, she's doing well now. She was determined.
I remember watching the SWAT team and fourteen cars show up, tromp through my yard, and arrest the "photographer" next to me who worked in his garage, for selling crack. Then his girlfriend held office hours, during which young men who should be at work or school would walk out the open front door zipping their pants. Then they burgled our house and took most of the few possessions we had.
A current friend I've mentioned on my blog, suffering a permanent pain level of 4-5, with frequent spikes off the chart to incoherent convulsions, whom the VA and Social Security insist isn't really sick, because no one who scores that low on the tests could actually walk, so he must be faking. After enough public humiliation and DAV help, with me going into the hospital every few days with him (several hundred hours in the last year, including driving time, and no, he can't afford to cover my gas) to argue with them, finally has a princely $450 a month to pay rent and food. For several months the property manager let him slide, until the owner got antsy. His neighbor—a disabled combat vet on disability, going to school—paid a couple of months of his rent from her stipend. I covered June rent and food for him out of pocket, though I haven't seen a royalty check since May, and my wife's been unemployed since May. (No, we're not broke yet. Though savings and cards and backups are getting scarce. We're STILL waiting on that 2009 Federal Income Tax Refund, you IRS bastards. And 2010. "Lost." Three times. Is that 0bamaspeke for "We're broke too"?) He can't drive because of the headaches, can't go out in daylight without wearing welding goggles, and can't recall his appointments or medication. Forgetting appointments is further "proof" that you're faking, because pain isn't really a problem, you know. He does laundry at our place when I drag him down here, and I buy him socks on occasion. That reminds me, I need to do so again. Oh, yes, under the current administration's "plan" his appeal will take 2-7 years, because they aren't hiring anyone else to save money. (My wife worked in military training. They eliminated that position. Because, when you're fighting 2/3/5/what are we up to now? wars, it's a PERFECT time to cut military training. She interviewed at the Budget office, and then that position was eliminated. Again, this is a rant for another time).
When I talk to contractors in Kuwait and Iraq making $50 a week to work 12 hours six days a week in 126 degree heat, doing construction, while being legally required to fast (including no water) from dawn to dusk or face jail and beatings, and whose female associates are expected to put out for a "chaste" married Arab, I know what poverty looks like. When I talk with other vets about 10 year old Afghan kids who weigh 50 pounds and know how to defuse bombs as a marketable skill, because that's how they survived to be ten, I know what poverty looks like.
When I talk to a former South African Catholic priest, who left the Church in disgust over the ass-covering (no pun intended) about child molestation, moved to America, got a job, and can tell you about diseases that mutilate the body, people panning for flakes of gold to buy food and not even knowing what medicine is, I get an idea of what it looks like.
Heartless? Yes, I am heartless when some urban punk with $10 grand of rims, amps and gadgets on his car pulls into a convenience store with a food stamp card, buys junk food, beer, lottery tickets and smokes. BECAUSE THAT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE POVERTY TO ME. And yes, I saw that daily, dozens of times, at the convenience store across the street from the house that got burgled. I probably could have applied for one of those cards myself, but I had the luxury of self-respect.
Heartless? When someone accuses me of "dicksizing" but has no actual argument to present, no facts, and doesn’t appear to be doing anything to help anyone, other than blaming those "evil right wingers", yes I am. I'm also not a "right winger" but I'm sure you can convince yourself I am.
Really, let's look at that again. The left's ideal is that everyone be equal. So, Wendi, you're proposing we lift the 80th percentile into the 90th percentile, and sneer at the 30th percentile? "Dicksizing"?
Poverty is a scale. However, poverty in America is better than middle class most other places. My bet is that you probably have no clue what real poverty is like. Read Scalzi's list again. I like John, he's a good guy, and I would never suggest he had ill intentions. He's got you pointed in the right direction. It's probable that what you read there IS poverty to your way of thinking, and if so, you should consider yourself amazingly blessed, because ¾ of the world would abandon what little they have right now, and accept almost any terms, to have it. Remember that young Filipino women knowingly prostitute themselves to wealthy Arabs for $50/week, and clean house, cook and wash as well, because it will help their families. THAT is poor.
I have never been poor. I've only been inconvenienced.
If you have a roof, food, a fridge, a stove or microwave, a car, and access to the internet or a game you may be inconvenienced. But you are not poor. If you have a credit card, no matter how extended, you are not poor.
This doesn't mean I won't help you. Just understand that no, you really aren't entitled to anything, and if there were entitlements, you're a long way down the list for them.
And if you're going to whine to me about poverty, I do expect that you be able to identify it when you see it. It would also help if you've actually done something about it.
Ten percent of Americans are at the bottom end of the American bell curve. But only a tiny number of those are really poor and in need of help. The rest are sucking resources the truly poor, here and abroad, need.
So much for liberal compassion. It drives a Prius and plays Wii.