Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Are The Poor Undeserving?

The common political mantra is “tax the rich” because as everyone knows the ‘rich” are the “lucky” ones --- the “fortunate” few, but no one ever seems to look below these statements to determine how the poor got to be poor and how the rich got to be rich. Yes, it’s true some people inherit their wealth but in reality they are truly a minority and the great majority of the “rich” are not truly rich and have gotten their wealth the hard way – they earned it. Well how about the poor? How did they get to be poor – did they inherit it or did they get it the old fashioned way – they earned it? I submit that the people who are poor --- in general – got to be poor by earning their status through personal decisions just as the rich got to be that way through personal decisions.

The undeserving rich – those lucky and fortunate few – seem to have several things in common. For example – they went to school – all 12 grades and frequently on to college although not always. They paid attention in school and learned to read and write and to speak proper English. They obeyed the rules and did not join a gang, steal a car, skip school, or get arrested multiple times. Of course there are those who see that criteria on how to become poor as racist (as if all poor people were minorities), insensitive, uncaring, greedy, or simply reflecting the inherent evils of capitalism. After all capitalism allows some people to get rich while allowing others to become poor, and this is seen as unfair and the greedy capitalists should be forced to give their ill-gotten gains to the poor, so everyone will be equal. What goes unsaid is that when this wealth redistribution is put into practice the result is making everyone equally poor.

But the real issue is how people get to be poor in the richest country in the world. Well if you examine those unfortunate poor you will discover that it isn’t a question of losing life’s lottery or being unlucky, but rather the result of a whole series of poor decisions. There is a failure to learn a trade or get an education, so they have no work skills and are left with only unskilled or lightly skilled jobs. In fact these people, if they are working at all – tend to just have a series of jobs rather than any kind of career or consistent form of employment. These are the people who when the do work spend what they make so they are never able to dig themselves out of the financial hole. These are the people who spend money on alcohol or drugs without seeing that the money spent on these things could be translated into a savings plan and thus eventually lead them into financial stability.

These are the people who fail to get married but instead elect to live together, which may not be morally acceptable but certainly common enough. The problem is that these informal liaisons yield children, many times multiple children by multiple father’s who may or may not be known or contributing to the welfare of the children. But the real problem is that this is simply another series of decisions that leads inexorably to a life of poverty. Children are expensive to have and each year the cost increases, so the decision to have children that you cannot afford is simply another decision that distinguishes the rich from the poor.

Then of course there is the work ethic. Employers expect their employees to be reliable, punctual, and willing to work. A close examination of these poor people shows that these are not common characteristics in the perpetually poor. Instead these people frequently have many excuses as to why they cannot work. They can’t get to work because of transportation issues, they don’t view punctuality as important, and when they do get to work they do not show a great deal of initiative, loyalty, or interest in the job, which leads to a lack of interest on the part of the employer, who drops the poor employee at the first opportunity. This contributes the cycle of poverty experienced by the individual just as it contributes to the idea that employers are greedy, insensitive, rich people who are exploiting their employees.

Of course the reality is that the employer is simply trying to maintain his business and to generate enough profit to pay himself, his creditors, and his employees. Marginal employees become a burden and drag the entire enterprise down, so it is the benefit of all for the employer to terminate these marginal employees. But it is important to realize that the employer – the undeserving rich person – is not lucky but the product of good decisions and a great deal of hard work. The undeserving poor person is not unlucky but the product of a whole series of bad decisions in association with a lack of motivation and a sense of entitlement. They feel the government or someone should help them and ironically many people – plagued by the guilt of success – agree with them.

There are many people who think that these poor people should share the wealth of the rich and if the rich are not willing to share it voluntarily then it is up to the government to seize their wealth through taxes and to give it to the poor. The reality is that there is no such thing as the undeserving rich just as there is no such thing as the undeserving poor. Both groups are the direct result of their decisions over their lifetime.

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