Why Are Poor People Poor?
Most people are poor not because they don’t want to work hard, but because they don’t have access to jobs that will pay them a living wage.
By David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)
Republicans Claim Poor People Are Just Lazy & Stupid
There’s a constant claim in list of Traditional Republican Values that most, if not all, poor people in America are poor because they are lazy, weak and stupid, and that therefore they deserve to be poor.
Is that true?
Certainly it’s true for some people. It seems self-evident that very lazy, weak and stupid people who don’t have a trust fund are going to be poor.
But what percentage of the people in the bottom one-third to one-half of the American population are poor because they are lazy, weak and stupid, and what percentage are poor because there are no jobs available that they’re qualified to do that will pay them a decent, middle-class wage?
Lazy — Hard working, Weak — Strong, Smart — Stupid, are not digital qualities which you have full blast or not at all. Everyone’s level of intelligence falls on a scale someplace between a polymath genius and a person who is too stupid to be able to tie their own shoes.
What Are The Factors That Determine If You Will Be Successful Or Poor?
So, let’s take a look at some of the factors that affect a person’s financial success.
Factors Over Which The Individual Has Some Control
Notice that some of these factors such as being a hard worker or lazy are innate to the individual and are based on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual, whether or not they were born into a two-parent, upper-middle-class family or a single-parent, lower-class family.
Factors That Are Primarily Beyond The Individual’s Control
In contrast other factors, for example, level of education, are almost entirely dependent on the class, family and neighborhood the person was born into and are almost entirely beyond the individual’s control.
If that same person had been born into a different family in a different neighborhood and different culture their level of success would have been materially different.
So, the first set of factors reflect the individual’s innate strengths or weaknesses and are, at least to some extent, within the individual’s own control.
The second set of factors are the result of the luck of the draw and they result in financial success or failure that is almost entirely outside the individual’s own control.
There Are Always A Few People Who Are Exceptional
Of course, there are always unique, unusual individuals who defy the odds. There will always be the Horatio Alger who, in spite of a terrible upbringing, will succeed through a combination of sheer intelligence, talent, determination and strength of character. This person is rare.
And there will also always be the wastrel, black sheep child of a monied family who, in spite of tutors, the best schools and every advantage, ends up a hopeless loser.
We Need To Plan For The Average Citizen
We must think about the country as a whole and how we want our country to work. We don’t design economic and political policy to deal with the extreme cases at the edges of the normal curve, the Horatio Alger or the Black Sheep. We have to craft public policy to deal with the average citizens, the 80% of the population in the middle.
We want a system that will provide the opportunity (not a guarantee) that the bulk of the population has access to a full-time job that will pay them enough to have a decent life.
We want a system where the ordinary people in the middle, the ordinary people with average intelligence, average talent, average diligence and average determination, can earn enough money to have a decent life.
We want a social and political system where the average person has the reasonable ability to push the slider on their Rich–Poor, Financially Successful–Unsuccessful scale into the middle of the range.
Most People’s Poverty Is Caused By Factors That They Cannot Control
The idea that this middle of the population, this 80% of the American adults, today can actually have a decent life as long as they’re willing to work a full-time job is false — its’ just not true — because in America today a willingness to work is not enough. Average intelligence is not enough. Average talent is not enough. A high-school education is not enough.
Without being born into a family that has the money to educate you for a skilled job, without the college degree that most employers require in order to even apply for a skilled job, plus the physical proximity to that job or available transportation to get to and from that job, the mere willingness to work is not enough.
In America today it’s just not true that all or most or even a substantial percentage of poor people are poor because they are lazy or stupid or weak. The overwhelming majority of poor Americans are poor because they don’t have access to good schools, skilled training, and good-paying jobs that they are qualified to perform.
People Must Have Access To Good Jobs Before You Can Blame Them For Being Poor
First, you have to give people access to that training and access to good-paying jobs that they are qualified to perform and only after that can you honestly and fairly say that poor people deserve to be poor.
Until you do that, the claim of the Traditional Republican Values that poor people are poor because they deserve to be poor is a toxic lie.
— David Grace (www.DavidGraceAuthor.com)