What Causes Poverty?: More responses

I ask people the question, “What causes poverty?” Below are some answers.

A nine year-old girl: “Loss of job.”

A homemaker: “Doing a bad job. Poverty is a mindset. You can think yourself poor, a victim. You could get sick and lose your job.”

A legislator: “Poverty is a choice and a mindset. We lived on (little money). We did not think we were in poverty. We were happy and content with what we had and every physical need was met. We had no cc debt and only owed on our house and we saved money. The kids were never hungry. These were necessary times and everyone should go through them. They are good for you.  Here again the state takes away natural discipline and keeps people weak and dependent.”

An entrepreneur: “Lack of education. Choosing lack of education. Lack of education can be a choice.”

A convenience store clerk: “Ignorance. They don’t take the time to learn and educate themselves and do what it takes to improve themselves.”

A physicist: “Bad leaders can bring a whole people into poverty. Bad choices can lead to poverty. Lack of education.”

A small businessman: “Greed. The effect of others not sharing. That’s why the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and the middle class is shrinking.”

A music teacher: “Laziness. Sometimes it’s chosen. They just don’t know a different way.”

A researcher said, “I suppose genetics could. If you didn’t get much in the genetic lottery, you could have a hard time.”. So far, only the highly educated researcher came close to the, “Poverty is something that comes over a person out of the blue, there’s nothing they can do about it, and most are diligently trying to work their way out of it,” thinking that welfare programs assume.

A convenience store clerk in Ennis said, “People not wanting to work.” She didn’t have to think about it at all.

A hotel desk clerk look at me quizzically, “Poverty?” The next morning we talked more about it. I told her lots of people tell me “Education.” She assented. I said, “But education is free, at least through grade 12, and many don’t avail themselves of it. Why?” We both admitted perplexity. But desire to avail oneself of education seemed necessary. So desire is fundamental. Incentive. Where does persistence and desire come from? We mulled that together. We talked about food stamps and other aid, and the way limits and requirements reduce her incentive to work. She works 15 hours a week. I explained why taxpayers want to limit aid the more someone makes, and that’s why she has lowered incentive to work. She resents it. To her it feels like a trap. Each additional hour she works, she only profits a small portion of. She said she didn’t want her 6 month old son seeing her taking aid. I taught her the Rule of. I told her of the $25,000 settlement my employee got and how he drunk it up, and how an extra 15 hours of work a week between ages 16 and 25 nets millions at retirement. She was a keen listener.

A grocery clerk in Ennis said, “Beats me.” He then asked what the answer was, “What’s the punch line?” I assured him that I was gathering information, not propounding solutions. I said, “Our government tries, with billions of dollars, to solve poverty, but so many people do not know what causes it.” He said it makes sense to know the cause before trying to solve it.

I asked a homemaker. She said, “Handouts.” Can handouts cause poverty? Aren’t they supposed to cure it? She might mean that handouts change work incentives, decreasing need and desire to work.

I asked a manager. He said, “Freebies.” He may mean the same thing the homemaker does.

I asked a grocery clerk. He said, “What causes poverty? Do you have an answer?” He said, “I work two full time jobs, I’m just an average guy with a wife and kids, average house. I work 80 hours per week and my wife is a full time school teacher. And I see people coming through here with their food stamps, buying T-bone steaks. They eat better than I do.” We agreed that he has the dignity of his children seeing him and his wife earn the things they buy.

I asked a fitness business worker. He looked quizzical. The answer he gave, timidly, was, “The economy?”

Someone answered, “Lack of knowledge. Unwillingness to work.”

A dental office worker said, “I suppose you could have a series of unfortunate events. It can also be a lifestyle choice. You could get cancer; that could ruin you financially.”

A convenience store worker said, “I don’t know…government?” Her co-worker, when asked what the government should do to solve poverty said, “Quit spending all our money. Quit spending it on stuff that don’t matter.” (Park City,MT, December 16, 2011)

Someone answered, “Lazy ignorance.”

January 20, 2012

A deli server answered, “Complacency.”

A grocery store check-out clerk answered,  “Minimum wage is too low. Income cut off for the food stamp program is too low.”

May 1, 2013

A Walmart cashier: “I dunno. Not enough jobs?”


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