On The Realities of Being Poor

I’ve been reading lately:

  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 19 March 2014 – “Do Federal Social Programs Work?”, by David B. Mulhausen, PhD
  • The Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, 15 September 2015 – “Poverty and the Social Welfare State in the United States and Other Nations,” by Robert Rector
  • Center for American Progress – “The Facts About Americans Who Receive Public Benefits,” by Joy Moses, December 2011.
  • UC Davis Poverty Research Center -“How To Reduce Poverty in the United States”

Poverty, as we all know, is a deep seated problem with no easy answers. The four articles noted above contradict each other on several issues, so it is not surprising that solving the problem is so difficult.

The March 2014 Backgrounder, for example states, “The American Public should have nothing to fear from the elimination of ineffective programs. Now is the time for deep budget cuts in federal social programs.” Some of the programs it suggests terminating include Head Start, which after detailed evaluation found that the program failed to improve the lives of the children, any more than the children who did not attend.  I’d have to agree, the Head Start program may have outlived its usefulness now that nearly all children attend a pre-school for at least a year before starting kindergarten. So, how much is actually spent on Head Start? According to one source: $7 billion.

Other programs the March 2014 article suggests are ineffective are:

  • Food Stamps (SNAP), which “failed to affect earnings and employment outcomes.” Sorry, what? This makes no sense. Were food stamps meant to increase the recipients earnings or employment? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It is a program to ensure better health through nutrition. So I deny that this is a failed or ineffective program based on the faulty testing criteria.
  • Moving to Opportunity (Section 8 housing) was also found to have failed “to produce statistically meaningful results” for the recipients.  This article does not explain the criteria used, but you can go here for more info. I suggest that part of the failure of this program is due to lack of participation of landlords. Applications for the program have actually been suspended for the past 10+ years (at least in Los Angeles), due to the long waiting list and short list of landlords, as well as the limited range; housing is not even offered in most of the surrounding cities. There must be some incentive provided to landlords to participate in the program, and currently there does not appear to be any.
  • The Job Corps program studies show that participants worked fewer hours and received less pay than the control group. I posit this is due to the dearth of opportunities in areas served; i.e., learn all the skills you want, if there is only a job at McDonalds, you will not make more money.  The program isn’t failing, we are. Yes, the program is ineffective, because it doesn’t solve the problem of job availability. Again, we need to provide incentive for businesses to locate in poor communities. Not an easy fix, so I guess it’s easier to just say it doesn’t work and trash it, than say it doesn’t work because it is flawed but could be improved.

The September 2015 Backgrounder discusses the living standards of those people considered poor. The US census (from which most financial data is taken) does not provide an indicator of those who may be using federal aid.  I should think that might skew the numbers, no? One of the criteria for determining poverty (other than income) include whether or not they have air conditioning. Most modern buildings have central heating and cooling.  While I might use my power for heating, I’m less likely to use the A/C because of the cost. So, just because A/C is available to me doesn’t mean I use it. And who says A/C is a luxury? Sure in 1945 it was, but today?

Nearly 75% of those defined as poor have at least one car. Again, who decided that a car was still considered a luxury item. The survey asks “do you have a vehicle.” It does not ask for the age or condition of it.  Two-thirds of the poor have a computer with internet access. Again, not really a luxury item either, now that so much of our lives need that access, especially when it comes to education. They have cable/satellite playing on a wide screen modern TV.  TV is again, not a luxury item. What the survey does not ask is “did you buy the TV or gaming system?” It might be a gift from a friend or relative. All I’m saying is that statistics don’t tell much of the story. Data can be skewed. Information omitted.bad wires

In the end, I know not all our systems work, and some should be dismantled, but others could be streamlined and improved. With each change we make to a system, it is only a patch. Now imagine that as an electrical system? Patch upon patch, always adding a new wire. I’d say it’s a reasonable assumption that this is why our government has become too large, too cumbersome, and too expensive.

And we never really fix the problem because of partisanship. Neither side will let the other side get exactly what they want. When did Party become more important than the People? (Much more on that later.)

The Educational System in the US (A Rant)

Recently the education system of the US was mentioned in a conversation I had with another blogger.  It got me to thinking a bit more about how screwed up our educational system is in the US.  We don’t teach our children to think.  We teach them What to Think.  Teachers don’t want the right answers to the questions, just Their answer to the question.  I I’m disgusted to learn that the same story about the Pilgrims, Paul Revere, the Mayflower, Columbus is the same drivel I was taught 40 years ago!  I imagine it was the same shit they were stuffing down the throat of my grandmother in 1900.  With all we have uncovered about the truths of these events, they still teach the “traditional” BS.  I can’t imagine what sort of crap we’re trying to teach our college students.  From the state of things we’re teaching them not to care about others, and only about how to make money with hedge funds!

I know that I learned more about the world and the truth about history years after I graduated high school.  My jr. college was a little better, but by then I’d been out in the world for 15 years or more.  Now you can turn on the History Channel and in one hour learn more about Columbus than you ever learned in 12 years or more of school.

College is all people care about.  You must have a college degree to be successful.  What about people who work in construction, roads, houses, or anything else needing to be built.  Does a painter really need a degree to be successful?  Would a degree have gotten me a better paying job?  Yes, it would have, and not having a degree has caused me to miss out on some very good jobs.  Why?  Why does a piece of paper which shows you can apply yourself to learning by rote make a difference?  I remember one job I had for 10 years, and I could not get more money, I was told, because I didn’t have a degree.  This was at a company fully owned by the man who started working there 25 years prior as a gopher!  He didn’t have a degree, yet he wouldn’t pay me as much as those in the office with a degree.  One of them had a degree in ART.  Not that a degree in art is easy, but what the hell did it have to do office work?  This other woman did the same thing I did at the beginning, then she got opportunities that weren’t offered to me.  I eventually ran the entire operation and still got paid less than she did.  Sure it’s a bad idea to know what other people in your office are being paid, but we girls talked.  She agreed that she had better pay and opportunities than I did and felt I was being mistreated too.

Now it’s practically impossible to get even a cashiering job without a fricking degree!  My son is looking for a career.  He has a high school diploma and is not interested in spending 4 years getting a bachelor’s degree.  I went back to school in my late 20s and it took nearly 15 years just to almost get an Associates Degree, which counts for nothing today.  Son has looked at the less conventional jobs, going to a technical school, or just learning a good trade, like X-ray technician or medical records clerk.  But these don’t really interest him, and since he has the luxury of choosing…well, he’s being choosy.  He considered being a chef.  He loves to cook and bake and is very good without recipes and altering existing recipes.  Then he watched the Anthony Bourdaine program where he got to see what a chef really does.  He was totally turned off by it, way too stressful, when all he wants to do is cook.

Some of our most educated people are running my country and look at the state we’re in!  A bunch of money grubbing, ungrateful, selfish, compassionless, heartless bastards.  Is that what our educational system turns out?  Is that what we want for our country?  A bunch of greedy, uncaring bastards interested only in the almighty dollar and a conviction that they are correct because they have a degree?

Doctors and nurses are becoming rare.  Doctors find their hands tied by the insurance and drug companies, and unable to pay their college loans of $100,000!  People don’t want to become nurses because they are underpaid and under-appreciated.  Nurses get yelled at by doctors, families and patients.  The only ones that have it worse than nurses are the nurses aids.  For $9 an hour you are on your feet for 12 solid hours, torn between helping the naked patient back to bed, feeding the woman who can’t move her hands, or taking the new patient’s vitals, all the while getting yelled at by the nurses, other patients and a patient’s family.  Not to mention trying to log in all the information in each of 12 patients’ charts.  (I know, I worked as a nurses aide.)

In a nutshell, we need the lesser educated people to fill so many niches, but fewer and fewer as factory jobs have been sent overseas for cheaper labor (i.e.; child labor and piecework).  It’s a shame and a disgrace that just because some of us haven’t the opportunity to go to college we have become not second class citizens, but third class citizens without unions to represent us, without government support that we paid into for when our job is outsourced.  There are a lot of things wrong in the US, but a lot of it can be repaired if we properly teach our children.  Teach them the truth about how our country was really founded.  Teach them to think for themselves.  Teach them to care about the less fortunate.  Teach them the things that matter.

You may say, well that’s the job of the family.  And I would agree, but parents have been taught by the same broken system.