Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Have The Poor Done For Us?

How often have you heard something like (From Here):
1. "Is the government now creating hobos?"

2. "You know, we should not be giving cash to people who basically are just going to blow it on drugs.

3. "We shouldn't turn the safety net into a hammock. It should actually be a safety net."

4. "[W]e have put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry

5. "[C]ontinuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work."

6. "You know, there is an argument to be made that these extensions of unemployment benefits keep people from going and finding jobs.

7. "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina]. We couldn't do it, but God did."

8. "If you've seen one city slum, you've seen them all."

9. "You know, people are poor in America ... not because they lack money; they're poor because they lack values, morals and ethics.

10. "[Y]ou gotta look people in the eye and tell 'em they're irresponsible and lazy .... Because that's what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen.

Statements like these begs the question:

What Have The Poor Done For Us?

Here is a great list of what they have done for us:
  1. They built it. The country was literally built on the backs of poor immigrants and slaves. To this day, construction workers are some of the hardest working people in the country, yet their average wage is only $50,000 per year, which includes management. People that maintain the roads driven by the wealthy (and everyone else) are paid only $30,000 per year.
  2. They care for our children. The average nanny is paid only about $30,000 per year, usually without benefits.
  3. They teach our children. The average teacher makes around $45,000 a year, which might not sound poor, but for that salary, most positions require advanced degrees.
  4. They make the world beautiful. It would be difficult to determine the average salary of an artist, but very few of even the most talented artists achieve financial success.  They inform and entertain. Writers, actors and filmmakers are just as likely to live in poverty as visual artists.
  5. They create. Inventors are often poorly paid for their inventions, if paid at all.
  6. They are entrepreneurs. Two thirds of startup businesses fail. Many of them fail because they were simply out financed (think the big coffee chain moving on to the same corner as the independent coffee house).
  7.  They keep our world clean. People that do the dirtiest jobs are notoriously some of the least paid, yet can you imagine a world without people emptying our trash and cleaning our toilets?
  8. They keep you alive. Without poor people, produce would rot in the fields. There would be no goods on the shelves. There would be no store clerks to sell them to you. Most Americans would most likely starve.
  9. They fight for our country. The average starting salary of enlisted personnel is about $30,000 per year.
  10. They save the world. Many of history’s most selfless people live their lives in or near poverty. They join the Peace Corps. They work for or start charitable organizations.
  11.  They pay their taxes. Much is made of the statistic that between 40 and 50 percent of people don’t pay federal income tax. That is typically because they are too poor. But even if they don’t pay federal income tax, they pay taxes. They pay Social Security taxes. They pay state taxes. They pay the identical sales tax on food and clothing as their wealthy brethren. They pay identical gasoline taxes as their more fortunate counterparts. Unlike the wealthy, taxes deeply impact the well being of the poor, yet, unlike the wealthy, they are unable to take advantage of the loopholes that were designed to specifically benefit the wealthy.
In otherwords,



  1. Super job Jerry! I love this post...the wingnuts won't believe it though, they look down on hard working poor people.

    Actually, what's strange is alot of republican voters are working class poor, but they will always vote GOP, it makes no sense at all...

  2. Jerry, according to Teacher Salary (2009 figures), the average teacher salary in Connecticut is $64,773. In Rhode Island it is $67,060. In Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland respectively it is $59,640, $66,760, $61,830, and $56,896. According to the Digest of Educational Statistics, the average teacher salary nation-wide in 2007 was $50,816. According to, that salary rose to $56,000 by 2011. I agree with you, some teachers ARE underpaid (even with those 2 months off in the summer). But some are overpaid, too, and probably shouldn't even be working. Maybe we can all come together and try to get rid of the bad ones and pay the decent ones better. That's what I'd like to see anyway.

  3. VERY well said, Jerry! Those 10 suppositions conservative Republicans love to hold so dear are all proofs of their ignorance and their total hatred of and lack of knowledge about the poor. It also proves that their hearts are almost non-existent and are standing at absolute zero temperature-wise.

  4. I see a parallel in this kind of thinking, especially #9 & 10, to that of whites toward blacks - beginning in pre-Civil War and still very much in evidence today. "They (blacks) are lazy and shiftless." Poor white "trash" was labeled likewise. The wealthy have simply widened their circle to include not only minorities and the poor but the middle-class as well.

    One time while visiting a wealthy relative in south GA, she stood at her kitchen window watching her "slave" mowing a portion of their 17 acres under a very hot sun. "That's the laziest n..... I've ever seen." He merely worked from sun-up to sun-down day in and day out. I guess it wasn't enough that he was killing himself.

  5. Teaching is like most professions in the aspect that there is a range of abilities ranging from excellent to "should be fired". Teaching is unlike most professions in that it is one of the most important jobs concerning our children. The education of our children is critical to the survival of this country. Teachers get paid about the average American wage for a very un-average job. It is disgraceful.

  6. Great post. Loved the contrast -- a bunch of wingtard spewings followed by actual facts.

  7. Like I said, Jerry, pay the good ones better and get rid of the lousy ones.

  8. I'd just like to say Leslie's story about her relatives' "slave" broke my heart...I can't fathom looking down on another human being with such a cold heart. Gives me shivers...

  9. Figure out a way to get the poor to vote in greater numbers and they could rule the world Jerry.

  10. Here's a good one.

    What has The War On Poverty done for the poor?

    What is the cost of that war?

    In purely social terms, it broke down families. Black families more than any other.

    It sapped the American spirit of the individual by creating a welfare class that has become dependent on government subsidies of one form or another.

    And most importantly, it created a solid Democratic voting bloc.

    The situation in the 1960's is the same today. Compared to many other countries, America's "poor" both then and now would be at least "middle class" there.

  11. Very true, Truth. That's why the republicans continue to try to restrict free and open voting.

  12. Yeah, Ross. Without The War On Poverty maybe all the poor would have just died off and we wouldn't be bothered by them anymore. Ya think?

  13. No. I think they would have learned to depend on themselves, family, and whatever other social network is in their town for help, instead of becoming dependent on the government (aka taxpayers) to care for them.

    Now, the mooching class just thinks all they have to do is put their hand out, instead of get off their ass, and their new parents (the government) will take care of them. They can't help it if that is the way they were 'trained' or 'raised,' by Washington. For generations of welfare families, that is all they know.

    And changing that phenomenon isn't going to be easy. But it does help that we're broke now and maybe they will see that there is no other way out.

  14. Oh Ross: you've become blinded by right wing propaganda. Nobody wants to be poor. Most people do want meaningful work and the means to raise their families in security.

    My problem isn't the relatively few moochers as you call them, there are rich moochers. Ross Perot made a billion off government work. Cheney's Halliburton makes millions, if not billions.

    My problem is with those who don't excersise their power to vote for people that will actually support educational and economic policies that would help make their lives better.

    Cheney's pals vote. When the poor as a group realize that's they way to start getting people out of poverty and making the American Dream a reality for the millions of people for whom it is only something that exists on television o for the privileged, real hope and change will start.

    There's enough largesse in America for all of us. Nobody will have to move from his gated community because good schools and factories are built in poor neighborhoods. Nobody will have to leave the country club because everyone in America can go to publicly supported colleges and universities tuition free. Or income based on what they can afford or what they can repay after graduation.

    Sorry to hijack the comment section with the long reply Jerry.

  15. No problem Truth. Your comments are always welcome.

    Here are the real "moochers".

  16. This fine post brought to mind a part of Rev. Jesse Jackson's speech to the 1988 Democratic convention.

    "Most poor people are not on welfare. . . . They work hard everyday.

    "I know. I live amongst them. I'm one of them. I know they work. I'm a witness. They catch the early bus. They work every day.

    "They raise other people's children. They work everyday.

    "They clean the streets. They work everyday. They drive dangerous cabs. They work everyday. They change the beds you slept in in these hotels last night and can't get a union contract. They work everyday.

    "No, no, they are not lazy! Someone must defend them because it's right, and they cannot speak for themselves. They work in hospitals. I know they do. They wipe the bodies of those who are sick with fever and pain. They empty their bedpans. They clean out their commodes. No job is beneath them, and yet when they get sick they cannot lie in the bed they made up every day. America, that is not right. We are a better Nation than that. We are a better Nation than that."

    Well, ours should be a better nation than that. Obviously, we've still got a long way to go.

  17. I have no problem with poor people being taken care of. But Ross's point, however indelicate, shouldn't be so kneejerkingly thrown aside. Starting in the 1960s, unwed mothers could live with their "boyfriends" and not have their benefits reduced, and they could also earn money. We also added food stamps and rent subsidies in the '60s. Now, nothing against any of these programs in particular but it does kind of make you wonder. In 1960, out-of-wedlock births were one in twenty. By 1995, they were one in three, a 550% increase. Is there at all a causal connection? I don't know. It is interesting, though.

  18. And, Truth, are you accusing Mr. Perot of malfeasance here? He received money from the government in exchange for a service. That, as far as I know, is only a crime if it involves bribery, inside connections, etc.. I'd like to learn more here if you know something.

  19. Well, Will, I suspect that the increase in out-of-wedlock births is much more due to changing sexual morals and the lessening or extinction of the stigma of having a baby out of wedlock since the 50's.

    Food stamps and rent subsidies were added because of the need and desire to help these people, not the other way around.

  20. I suspect that there isn't ONE cause for the breakup of the black family. But it is kind of interesting that, while the black family was able to survive slavery, Jim Crow, and lynching, it wasn't able to survive the 60s.

  21. Will,
    That kind of comment is like me asking you if you still beat your wife.

  22. I just think that there are sometimes unintended consequences that NEITHER party is all that good at deciphering. The sequelae of the 2nd Iraq War was a perfect example of that on the right. The left, while I in no way doubt their sincerity, don't always seem to understand the secondary consequences of their policies, either.

  23. I've got to agree with you there, Will. I think there are plenty of unintended consequences that both parties would like to ignore. At least I hope they are unintended although at times I think we are never given the real reason why some things are done.

  24. If you're talking about Ryan and that douchebag Governor of Wisconsin, I agree - neither of those fellows was on the up and up. And they seem to be paying for it, too, huh?

  25. And the democrats will make them more poor by diminishing the resources.

    You can't fix a broken system with a broken government.

    We will never be able to provide everything people need if we continue down the path we are on with wasteful spending and strangling regulations. I don't see this ending well.

    Eventually you run out of other people's money.

  26. Anon,
    Your solution is to make the rich richer and reduce services for the poor? How does that help?

  27. I'd like to make an observation . Putting a floor under the poor, limiting how poor people can be, makes sense for all society for several reasons. Not the least is how we regard ourselves and one another — whether we gain the self-respect that comes from being humane and satisfaction from being kind, or let selfishness guide what we do and refuse to do.

    There's also the matter of the environment we create for our children and grandchildren to grow up in. The blight of poverty doesn't just degrade neighborhoods. It affects societies too.

    Let me be clear. Whenever you have programs that provide food, shelter, money and such, to the needy you'll have a few undeserving slackers who take advantage. Whenever you have a lawn, you'll have some weeds and insects too. Would you use that as justification for replacing the grass with bare dirt or pavement? As long as reasonable steps are taken minimize abuse, don't worry about it. It never has amounted to that much. The Pentagon by contrast, can't account for several billion, and it's considered an unfortunate set of circumstances.


  28. Here's another thing. In a poor, blighted part of town you might have a lazy mother and ne'er-do-well, mostly absentee father, and three kids. Those kids are going to have a tough go of it under any circumstances. How much harder on them are you willing to make things to ensure their undeserving parents don't get a dime they haven't earned?

    Anyone who doesn't find that a difficult, troubling question is probably in an attitude zone I can't reach and that probably no one can reach.

    I think living in a decent, humane modern society requires a certain largeness of spirit and openness of heart. In the last hour of the last day your life, what will it matter how much lower your taxes were for a few years? Especially if those few dollars you got to keep came from refusing help to some people who got a rough start in life and never caught a break?

    I wish everyone would set their preconceived notions aside and give these things some quiet thought.

  29. This is the Straightest thing I ever read. Exactly and Precisely the Truth in clear and easy to understand language. Thank you.