Editor says: Note the author’s name.
The Poor in America have had less-favored status for a while. Sure, there are food stamps, low-income housing, transfer payments, and some kind of support to obtain healthcare, but the system is rigged such that once you’re in it, it will take an act of God, or tremendous internal resiliency, to overcome one’s station.
Some efforts to “help the poor” marginalize them even further. For instance, there is a push for well-to-do neighborhoods to be more welcoming to having the poor live in their midst. Like many policies, this is well intended, but simply by breathing in the same air and having the same cable TV provider and garbage pick-up doesn’t help the poor out.
What this scheme does is to make brutally clear and distinct the differences between the rich and the poor—and it may even hurt the emotional well being for the less advantaged. For instance, say that your income falls below a certain level, but through an act of government, your neighbors are much, much better off than you are. When you have to walk two miles to a bus stop, and are choking dust kicked up by your neighbor’s BMW, you can hardly count your blessings. Never mind that at the local grocery store, you have to shop at the margins—that is, your food budget will not go as far in hoity-toity land as it does at the Shop-n-Save in a neighborhood that isn’t as “desirable.”
If you are poor, and the public school is not abysmal, your child will be shoulder-to-shoulder with the indigenous populace—in this case, the privileged kids. Facts have to be faced. Rich kids can afford a lot more stuff than poor kids. Their clothes will be better and more plentiful; their after-school activities will be expensive and exotic; their home life will be full of the little luxuries that make life bearable. Poor kids have to live with the strain of not being on the same plane as their richer classmates. While it’s possible to cope, it’s hard, and it’s hard not to feed feelings of jealousy and inferiority.
The government has been working against the Poor for some time. For instance, consider the incandescent light bulb. Plentiful and cheap, which are good qualities if you’re poor. But the government had a better idea: to ban them and replace them with something that is more expensive, but yet may prove to kill us after all.
The thrift store or resale shop is a boon to the poor person. Useful things can be had at below Wal-Mart prices (or rather, this used to be the case; lately some shops are getting ahead of themselves and think they can charge $8 or more for a pair of used dungarees). One government functionary thought to herself that items for children in such shops may contain lead and forthwith, a directive was put in place mandating the testing and certification that such products are lead free. Later, a clarification (rather than a retraction) was put in place that confused the matter further. According to Snopes:
Of course, vendors of second-hand products still face the quandary that even though the CPSC has stated they are exempt from the testing and certification requirements of the CPSIA, they still have to ensure that the items they sell meet the new standards for lead and phthalate content.
When the government gets overly concerned about regulating what goes on thrift stores—the buyer is already pretty aware of what the situation is—then precious freedom has slipped away.
And the whole idea of “healthcare” insurance is just ridiculous, and true to the cliché, the poor are hardest hit. For a young couple starting out, the bill for insurance can rival the rent. Throw in a couple of college loan payments, a car payment, and they are under water before they get out of the gate. While they may not have started as Poor, that is where they end up. All thanks to our beneficent and benevolent government.
People, regardless of income, should be able to make their own decisions about how to spend their resources, and form their own definitions of what is “desirable.” This isn’t to condemn the Poor to the ash heap, but to grant them their dignity and give them opportunity to find their way. Not everyone wants the same material things or experiences. Everyone doesn’t want to live in the same place or eat the same food or have the same job. We know that we are different from each other, and recognize that everyone has different abilities, needs, and wants.
We also know that finding one’s way—one one’s own terms—is the business of life. Many people who started life in diminished circumstances were able to improve their circumstances by hard work. Proscribed solutions by do-gooders can have unintended consequences, and one consequence may be that fewer of the Poor will be able to scale the ladder of life.