Monday, May 1, 2017

Being Poor Sucks And It Should.


Being poor sucks - it's supposed to suck!

A lot of people on the left posit that income inequality is a horrible thing and that we need to redistribute the wealth in order to make poor people  wealthier in our country.

To some, this is a noble sentiment, to raise everyone's standard of living and make the world a better place. To politicians, this a means of getting votes, particularly from the poor, which is a larger and larger voting bloc.  That may sound jaded, but it is the essential truth of the matter.  You can get elected by promising to give away free shit - whether to poor people or to corporations.

The reality is, though, that being poor sucks, and it should.  If poverty was comfortable, then there would be no motivation or reason to try to rise out of poverty.  If we make poverty attractive, more people will be poor.

And ironically, perhaps that is why we have so many poor people in the United States.  We have made poverty an attractive alternative lifestyle.  You can work various jobs under the table including legal jobs and illegal jobs (e.g., drug dealer) and then collect various forms of government assistance on top of that.  Work part-time at at least one legitimate job and you qualify for Social Security and also food stamps.

The problem occurs when we make getting ahead in life a sucker's bet.  When only chumps will try to improve themselves, few people will try to do so.  Already in this country, it is very expensive to try to get an education to improve your skills and earn more money at a skilled job.  You may be better off going to welding or plumbing school than to a four-year college.

While it is true that a college education costs more than ever, a good education can yield - or should yield - increased income over your lifetime.  However increasingly, skilled jobs, even professional jobs, do not pay much more than low-wage jobs in the marketplace.

Combine this with the tax system which really punishes the middle class, and there's really little or no incentive to achieve or exceed or excel.  You go to Engineering school, graduate, work your way up to a six-figure income, and after taxes, are hardly making more than a family making minimum wage, with benefits.

As I noted in another posting, the middle class really gets hit in the gut when it comes to taxation. They make too much money to take advantage of the 15% income bracket, but not enough money to hire lawyers and accountants to incorporate or move assets offshore or do any one of the number of tricks the very, very wealthy do in order to avoid taxes entirely or at least pay them at the lower 15% capital gains rate.  The very poor and very rich pay at 15%, the middle class pays 25% or 35% or more.

Perhaps - and this is a crazy idea - we should make achievement more desirable rather than make poverty more comfortable.  Rather than try to cater to the needs of the very poor and cuddle them and provide various forms of assistance, we should provide more incentives for them to climb the economic ladder.

When you see a 40-year-old man working at an unskilled laborer job, it kind of makes you weep. Strong backs and weak minds are fine when you're 20 years old, but by age 30 you should at least have some sort of skill that raises your pay level above that of minimum wage.

Just a crazy thought.  We have lots of jobs available in this country for people with skills that are going unfilled.  We have lots of unskilled people who claim they can't find good-paying jobs and instead want the government to intervene and raise their pay arbitrarily.  We have two needs here that could be filled to the benefit of society or remain unfilled to the detriment.

Just giving away money, whether it is in the form of welfare, doubling the minimum wage, or so-called "guaranteed basic income" is the wrong idea.  It won't raise the economic status of the people affected and it won't help our overall economy, our society, and our civilization.

Not being poor is the "reward" you should get for working hard and applying yourself.   Being poor is the punishment for doing the opposite.  And yes, sometimes the wrong people are rewarded and the wrong people punished.   But to take away this system of rewards and punishments isn't the answer.

And I will smack upside the head the first person who says, "But studies show that people work for reasons other than making money!"   Bullshit, utter bullshit.  Studies - pfft!  Study this.  Yes, the man who starts his own company often does it for reasons other than merely money.  He wants status, power, and control - as well as the money.  He also enjoys driving home at the end of the day, cushioned in his new S-class Mercedes.  He likes the rewards of hard work.  And the threat of poverty is one reason he works, constantly.

The reason I stopped smoking pot and went back to school - and went on to law school - was that I was sick and tired of being poor.  It sucked - always wanting and never having.   I didn't want to be like my siblings - calling Mom and Dad for money when they were 40 - sad!  I wanted to be financially secure in life, and not perpetually in debt and perpetually living "paycheck to paycheck."  Of course, I found making more money could put me in the same paycheck-to-paycheck situation - which again motivated me to change my behaviors and lifestyle.   The carrot and the stick - the oldest game in town.

It's like jail.  Jail sucks - or at least it's supposed to.  The threat of jail keeps most of us from committing crimes.  Oh, sure you can argue all you want about inherent human decency or status-seeking behavior.  The bottom line is, in addition to all that, most of us don't want to go to jail, so we toe the line.   When you make jail nicer and nicer, people feel less intimidated by it.  Indeed, many professional criminals are not deterred by it much - "I can do 5 years standing on my head!" they cry, mocking the sentence handed down (and odds are, they are out in 18 months for good behavior).

Poverty should suck.   And in this country, poverty means having a crappy car and not all the cable channels - at least to a large number of people.   We are generations away from malnutrition and starvation in this country - we are the fattest country on the planet (outside of Tonga) and have the fattest poor people.   So no, people are not "suffering" in this country, compared to the worldwide standards.   And the threat of poverty is a motivation - or should be a motivation - to get people to work harder to improve their lot in life.

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