General Question

girlofscience's avatar

What percentage of Americans who cannot afford to live do you believe are at fault for their poverty?

Asked by girlofscience (7550points) March 3rd, 2011

I’m interested to hear perspectives on this issue, especially as it relates to two separate populations: those born in poverty and college-educated adults.

In our current economy, millions of Americans from all walks of life are struggling with awful financial situations. I’m specifically speaking about those who are unable to afford bills/food/shelter easily and consistently find it difficult to make ends meet. I think most of us could agree that some Americans are at fault for their situations (because of irresponsibility, laziness, or both), and others have worked as hard as possible and been as responsible as possible, but still find themselves in this situation. What percentage do you think fall into each group?

Additionally, I am most interested in how you feel this differs for the life-long poor as opposed to the college-educated poor.

For the life-long poor: What percentage of these people do you feel are at fault for their poverty (would able to live comfortably if they worked harder and were more responsible), and what percentage do you feel are doing all they can but still fail because of unfortunate circumstances out of their control?

For the college-educated poor: What percentage of these people do you feel are at fault for their poverty (would able to live comfortably if they worked harder and were more responsible), and what percentage do you feel are doing all they can but still fail because of unfortunate circumstances out of their control?

So, please indicate:
Life-long poor: % at fault, % unlucky.
College-educated poor: % at fault, % unlucky.

And discuss why!

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65 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

Poverty isn’t a matter of “fault.”

laureth's avatar

Insufficient data. (I find actual data, rather than mere speculation, invaluable for questions like these.)

Bellatrix's avatar

Goodness, without a lot more information I could not judge any person for being poor. Their situation is almost certainly the result of a combination of issues, some in their control and some outside of their control.

Cruiser's avatar

IMO both scenarios are 50% luck and chance and 50% hard work.

People take jobs with good intentions and work their asses off only to be out of work because of owners bad decisions. 50/50

College educations too are no guarantee of a comfortable living. My best job offer out of college was $5.25 an hour for the night shift at a Spanish TV station. Life is full of opportunities, twists, turns, dead ends and unexpected pain and suffering.

Bottom line you can and should plan for the worst case and hope for the best and if you do you should come out OK. Those that don’t are the ones who are waving their hands and crying foul!

john65pennington's avatar

Lets face it, in life some people make their own beds and then cannot afford to keep them.

I am talking about living above their financial means. The plastic that hides in their wallets, just waiting to ruin someones bank account.

Just a guessament here, but I would say that 25% of the population is born into poverty. This is a lifestyle they either get use to and commit criminal acts to make up the difference. Not all people are this way. 40% of the population are well-educated in everything, but how to manage their checkbook. I knew a woman that was draining her husband dry, with a platinum credit card and an expensive taste for the best clothes on the planet. She would hide her purchases from him everywhere in thier house. She would swear that the credit charges were wrong and eventually they had to declare bankruptcy. Both had degrees, but not in financial management. The other 35% are the truly rich people of the earth. Their desires are many and they have the money to create their own fantasies.

As you can see, the rich get richer and the poor are, well, just poor and always will be.

America’s middle-class has always run our country and always will.

12Oaks's avatar

It seems, in this, a lot depends on how one defines “afford to live.” One could also question using only life-long poor and college-educated poor as a meter. If those are the only two categories of poor, then it seems that the simple solution is to not go to college, hence you won’t be a college-educated poor. Even the non-college-educated know that that solution just isn’t the answer. So, really, the answer to the question is there is no simple answer or magic formula to this.

cackle's avatar

Life-long poor: 100% at fault, 0% unlucky.
College-educated poor: 100% at fault, 0% unlucky.

Luck is a logical fallacy.

girlofscience's avatar

@laureth: As do I, but for this question, I was specifically interested in perception: Are people more likely to view the life-long poor or the college-educated poor for being at fault for poverty?

@cackle: I was using “luck” (or lack thereof) as a figure of speech to indicate that the poverty was not self-inflicted but out of the control of the poor person.

girlofscience's avatar

@12Oaks: I was not trying to imply that these were the only two categories of poor; these were two (of many potential categories of poor) I wished to compare.

BarnacleBill's avatar

I don’t think anyone chooses to be poor. I do think that there is a significant portion of the population who had poor educational experiences and lack proper role models to learn how to extricate themselves from poverty.

With respect to college educated poor, not all education produces employability. It is false to assume that all education means greater earning power. On a certain level it does, however, there is a difference between education for employability and education for attainment of knowledge.

It takes three generations to raise your family up from poverty, but only one generation to fall.

I_Like_Toast's avatar

When I get rich I worked hard.
When you get rich you got lucky.

When I’m poor I was unlucky.
When you are poor you didn’t work hard enough.

girlofscience's avatar

@CWW: This was not my question at all?

girlofscience's avatar

@BarnacleBill: I know not all education produces employability… I don’t think I implied that I thought this at all? All I implied was that there are likely some college-educated individuals who find themselves in poverty because of irresponsibility/laziness and other college-educated individuals who have consistently worked hard and been responsible but are poor regardless. I was asking what percentage of college-educated people you believed fell into each group.

This is so frustrating. I asked a legitimate question and have yet to get a response that actually answered my question. Yet, I’ve gotten a bunch of people who made incorrect assumptions about my ideas. No wonder I stopped using Fluther regularly.

cackle's avatar

@girlofscience,

Who’s at fault, if not the victims?

girlofscience's avatar

@cackle: If you seriously believe there are no poor Americans who are not at fault for their poverty, that’s completely ridiculous, and I didn’t start this thread so that I could argue with those with such a perspective, so I’m not going to waste my energy on that. Anyway, thanks for your input, because I guess you’re the only legit response thus far!

cackle's avatar

How come you can’t answer the question? Answering it will provide thorough responses.

cackle's avatar

Your question is implying that the poor person is not always at fault. If the poor person is not always at fault, then who/what is at fault?

If you can’t answer this question, then by default, the poor person is automatically 100% at fault.

girlofscience's avatar

@cackle: Oh, of course I could answer this question; I mentioned, however, that I’m choosing not to entertain such arguments. Having this sort of argument wasn’t the purpose of this thread and simply isn’t worth my energy. Sorry.

WasCy's avatar

I think… everyone is responsible for his own condition. Whether you choose to read that as “poor people are ‘at fault’ for their poverty” is a judgment that you might make. I’ve been poor and happy and I’ve been pretty well-off and happy, and in all cases I’ve been responsible for my financial condition and my outlook, both. If I’ve been lucky, then I think I’ve been responsible for that, too. I find that being “lucky” is more a matter of being prepared, flexible / adaptable, patient and accepting. When I’ve been unlucky, I know without a doubt in the world that I’ve been responsible for that. The times I’ve been unlucky I have been unprepared, late, arrogant, self-centered, impatient and demanding.

I try to be lucky instead, because I like life better that way. So far, so good.

I’m still working on the ‘rich’ part.

Cruiser's avatar

@girlofscience I think I answered your question quite directly after all you did ask…

“Additionally, I am most interested in how you feel this differs for the life-long poor as opposed to the college-educated poor.

girlofscience's avatar

@CWW: You did not answer my question at all. I was going to re-explain my question to you, but if you couldn’t comprehend it the first time, why waste my time re-wording it, only for you to not understand again?

kheredia's avatar

I think some people are lucky. I’m saying this because I have a friend who graduated high school the same year I did but because her father owns two businesses and paid for all her expenses, she went straight to a UC, earned her BA, continued for her MA and is now a professor at a college. Meanwhile, I’ve had to work full time and go to school part because I don’t have anybody to pay my bills. I’m still working on my BA so she is obviously in a better financial situation than I am but it’s not because I’m lazy or because she’s smarter than I.. she was just more fortunate than I and that’s nobody’s fault.

girlofscience's avatar

WTF.

Since apparently people’s reading comprehension skills are not up to par, let me try rephrasing my question:

Do you think college-educated poor people are more or less likely to be at fault for their poverty than life-long poor people?

girlofscience's avatar

@kheredia: Okay??? This doesn’t answer my question at all.

thecaretaker's avatar

100% there fault, Ive heard many arguements from so called poor people and Ive found that most of them are full of it, immigrants Russian in perticular have said it is so easy to make money in the United States, there are no excuses, the trouble is a system of credit allowed for those that are not responsible enough to use it, a ignorant person is not going to tell you there financially ignorant thats where the BS excuses come in.

kheredia's avatar

@girlofscience Oh I’m sorry.. is this ruining your very important research paper? Nobody is going to give you an accurate answer here hun.. they’re just opinions.. that’s what this site is all about in case you didn’t notice when you first signed up for it.

girlofscience's avatar

@kheredia: No? I’m 25, finished college, and my work is in no way connected to this topic. This is not a question for an assignment/job. This was purely my own curiosity and interest.

And I wasn’t looking for accurate data in these answers! What I was looking for was opinions that actually answered my question! The opinions that have been offered have answered tangential questions but not what I was asking at all!

Bellatrix's avatar

And adding on to what @kheredia just said, why would anyone want to with the attitude you are displaying. If people aren’t giving you the responses you want, perhaps the fault lies with your initial question and the additional information you posted.

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Blackberry's avatar

@girlofscience This is a good question to discuss, but as an actual answer is concerned: what’s the point? There’s no actual answer. We could all throw out percentages, but that’s not going to produce anything. But I do think it could be a good discussion. I liked some of the answers here, like BarnacleBills and CWWs.

jerv's avatar

Well, it depends on how we define “fault”. It also doesn’t help that some people are poor in large part due to their student loans; they would be merely struggling otherwise; their poverty is, in a sense, their own fault as they tried to better their lot in life and things didn’t go according to plan. It’s sad to see a person with a Masters degree working the fryolator at BK.

But I don’t think that college education has much bearing really. I mean, the type of person who goes for a college education either has enough drive and savvy to make it even without their degree or lacks those qualities and thus won’t be more successful merely because of their diploma.

@thecaretaker No longer true, or at least not as true as it once was. I know enough struggling immigrants to know that. Things have changed considerably in teh last few years. The Land of Opportunity is no more.

@cackle “Luck” doesn’t exist, but probability does. While one can stack the deck in their favor, there is no such thing as certain success, especially in today’s economy. The only way to achieve certainty and take what people colloquially call “luck” out of the equation is to sabotage yourself intentionally as it’s easier to fail. Whether succeeding at failing is success or not is a question best left for Philosoraptor. You can fault a person for not trying to increase their odds, but I don’t feel you can fault a person for trying and failing.

nikipedia's avatar

0%, 0%. I think all our behavior is an artifact of our circumstances and fault is an illusion.

Aethelwine's avatar

@jerv It’s sad to see anyone working the fryolator at BK.

cackle's avatar

@jerv,

I’m trying to make this easier. Who is at fault, if not the poor person?

Coloma's avatar

Circumstances and opportunities are ever changing.
This is true for the rich or poor.

I am on my 4th spin of the finance wheel.
From young and poor to comfortable, to poor again to very comfortable and now, this last year or so, seeing the trend of less comfortable again. lol

It’s all cyclic.

There are no gaurantees in life, period.

One must be careful to never be smug, the rugs always poised underfoot.

I know several degreed people that have lost high paying upper management level jobs this last year or so. Several others that have lost huge amounts of cash and homes and businesses.

I know others, like myself, that have started over multiple times and gone from feast to famine.

We all live with uncertainty.

jerv's avatar

@cackle If I roll a standard six-sided die and it comes up 3, whose fault is that? Some things are faultless, and probability is one of those things.

cackle's avatar

@jerv wrote “You can fault a person for not trying to increase their odds”

Doesn’t sound faultless to me. The poor person is still at fault for not increasing his/her odds.

gondwanalon's avatar

Anyone must accept 100% of the responsibility of their actions and therefore accept 100% of the fault when their actions fail.

jerv's avatar

@cackle A few points:

1) There is a big difference between ”...not trying to increase their odds” and ”...not increasing his/her odds.”. Or are you one of those that sincerely believes that intent is the only thing it takes to guarantee success, and that it does so 450% of the time? If that were so, I would be rich, telepathic, surrounded by redheaded nymphomaniacs, and immortal, so I think it safe to say that intent alone does not get results.
My point was merely that you can blame a person if they don’t increase their odds due to laziness.

2) If a person makes a good faith effort and tries to the best of their ability, then you are basically saying that it is their fault that they are incompetent or ill-suited for certain things, some of which are essential. Whose fault is it that Stephen Hawking is in a wheelchair? Are you blaming him for that? To my mind, you are.

3) In the context of making enough to live on, whether through employment, investment, or whatever other means, one cannot increase their odds to 100%. That brings me back to my previous post. People with identical credentials following the same courses of action can get different results and possibly wind up penniless. It happens.

Now, let us get back on track here. What is your definition of “fault”? Let us start with one that is near and dear to my heart; Is lacking charisma (and therefore the degree of interpersonal skills required to sell yourself to either employers or customers) something that you can/do blame a person for? In that case, you are writing off not just the people who just are ill-mannered, but also quite a few people that (due to neurology) legitimately cannot play that game.
Is a person to blame if they decide not to go deep into debt and sacrifice their livelihood for a diploma that may get you a better job than you would otherwise be able to get? And if they decide it’s worth the risk and then wind up flipping burgers and using their paycheck from Taco Bell to repay their student loans instead of their landlord, is it their fault, or is it just a case of “shit happens”?

I am trying to see where you are coming from, but the only way your viewpoint really makes sense to me is if you blame the passengers on the Titanic for the ship hitting the iceberg.

Sweetbearies's avatar

You could be financially poor, but have riches of the heart. People who enjoy life, are productive and creative are richer, and better off, than people who have millions of dollar in the bank.

cackle's avatar

@jerv,

Since you’re proposing faultless, then I think you’re fundamentally discussing random vs determinism, and free will. Is that correct?

Charisma is not the definition of fault. fault & Charisma

buster's avatar

Any ablebodied American who doesn’t use the many available resources to get a job, food, housing, and education is a drag on society. I feel as long as your putting food on the table and have a roof over your head but you work minimum wage and don’t have what society deems above a poverty level the middle class and rich are deceiving you and are living a pipedream. Unless your a crack addict living in a box bumming and stealing there is nothing wrong with being working poor. You want to see real poor people? Go to a third world country where people live in mud huts and half their babies are sick because they can’t afford to feed them or vaccinate them. In this country you may be considered poor compared to all the people trying to keep up with the Jones’s but there is no reason for an American to not have a job, food, housing, and education. When you start to pity yourself because you have to eat hamburger helper instead of filet mignon and you get depressed you don’t have a suburban home but a small apartment remember you are rich compared to most people in this world. If you work hard in this country and aren’t lazy and complacent you can come up and be something better if you want it.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Conjecture of statistics is difficult because there are too many abstracts. There are too many variables that influence “laziness” that don’t really make this as good of a question as you think it is. People are often perceived as lazy when there are other root causes. “Lazy” is a subjective perspective and in itself is not measurable.

I work 60 hours a week, and I can name 5 people who think I’m lazy because I’m a bad housekeeper.

People are in poverty because of poor educational experience and lack of employment opportunities. Most of the people in poverty in the US are working poor. 14.3% of the American population lives below the poverty level. Children under the age of 18 make up 25% of the US population, but 35% of the poor population. 28% of households with one or both parents working are living under the poverty level.

America is the worst of industrial nations for children living in poverty.

buster's avatar

Americas idea of poverty is not that bad compared to what is poverty in the slums of Rio De Janeiro or Calcutta India. Crime in our country is the real problem. And its not just the poor stealing bread or addicts robbing for there fix. Rich executives embezzle and overprice there wares that poor people have no choice but to buy.

jerv's avatar

@cackle Yes, at least as it pertains to financial success in todays economy, and I am confused as to the second part of your reply as I never compared those two words; I merely asked if you would fault someone for lacking charisma, which seems to be more important than competence in this economic environment.

BarnacleBill's avatar

The decline in manufactuing jobs in the US is directly attributable to people being in poverty. For decades, there were whole communities that were built on people getting jobs working and factories and plants, General Electric, Ford, Brown & Williamson, American Air Filter, garment manufacturing companies, steel mills, etc. People got out of high school and got a job that was hard work and paid enough money to raise a family on. For number of reasons beyond the control of the workers, those jobs disappeared and nothing replaced them that allowed for income to support a middle class lifestyle. Many of the people that went into those jobs weren’t college material. Not everyone is suitable for higher education for any number of reasons. That doesn’t mean they are lazy.

jerv's avatar

You know, on second thought, I think that we should blame the victims. I mean, the Republicans are always right about everything, and here is what they have to say about the jobless .

Seriously though, I think that this question is great for finding the hardcore Republicans in the audience and starting flame-wars. I have to say that I am impressed with @BarnacleBill‘s responses though.

@buster I am going to pick on you for a sec.
“Any ablebodied American who doesn’t use the many available resources to get a job, food, housing, and education is a drag on society. I feel as long as your putting food on the table and have a roof over your head but you work minimum wage… there is no reason for an American to not have a job”

Right there I think you are ignoring the fact that jobs are not as plentiful as you think. Many require more skills than the applicants in the area have or a (rather expensive) relocation. I don;‘t know if you’ve kept up on current events in teh last 2–3 years, but unemployment is considerably higher than normal, and has been for long enbough to almost become the new definition of “normal”.
Also, I don’t know if you noticed that minimum wage is not enough to live on in many areas of the country. Where I live (WA state), the minimum wage is considerably higher than the federal minimum wage, and I earn a fair bit above that, and yet my take-home pay isn’t enough to live independently. A single-income household can’t make it unless they earn nearly double the minimum wage, and if there is a kid involved then daycare alone often costs so much that it makes financial sense for one parent to stay at home.
I don’t pity myself for eating Hamburger Helper instead of filet mignon, but I do feel a little bit of self-pity when I don’t eat at all for a few days since my wife and I earn too much for food stamps but not enough to both pay our rent and buy groceries unless I want to forgo gas money and thus miss a few days of work (unpaid, of course). Thankfully, we are not usually in that position often, but some weeks are tighter than others.

You are correct that there is nothing wrong with being “working poor” though. At least it’s an honest living, especially compared to the CEOs and bank execs who swindle millions and don’t even get criminally charged. You are also correct that our definition of poverty is still better than, say, Calcutta…. usually. WE still have people starving and dying though, and it’s getting more prevalent despite all of the official indicators saying that we are richer than ever. Now, compare the GDP of those poor nations to the GDP of the US and I think you will see that they have a more legitimate excuse for allowing that sort of thing than we do.

squirbel's avatar

/hug @girlofscience: I completely understand your frustration at people’s lack of focus. I only decided to post when I saw your frustration.

What qualifies me to answer: My mother works as a chief executive officer in the local HUD, and has worked the same position in other locales. I was a filing monkey for my mom back in the day, and because of my insatiable curiosity, I ended up reading many of the statistic reports, other reports, and memos. I overheard her ‘talking work’ with co-workers. I learned alot. Then I learned from my social studies classes.

Sure, my knowledge is somewhat young, but hear me out.

poor poor – unlucky 40%, fault 60%

educated poor – unlucky 25%, fault 70%

The problems the poor poor face are numerous, and most of the problems the person will never be aware of unless told. For generations these people exist – without having financial sense. There parents did not teach them because they were not taught. Some things are common sense – like only spending what you have. But the poor poor never save, not even the coins that could add up over time – because they can only see that coin. It will never be bigger than it is. There is a misconception amongst the poor that you have to be rich to save. “I don’t have enough to save” is what is oft heard. On top of that, they are working minimum wage, trying to feed their families – family planning is not common amongst the poor – 80% of them wake up and say “darnit, I’m pregnant” or “oh! I’m pregnant!” Don’t tell them not to have children – set up seminars in their community to teach them the sense you know both financial and family. I guarantee that with that knowledge, the hard working poor will move up.

The rest are at fault because they are following tradition. These ones get pregnant so they can get welfare like their mom did, and move into their own ‘apartment’. It’s the culture – that’s what was done before and what will continue to happen. These ones are hard to pull out, and their work ethics are similar to their parents’ – awful, most times. These are at fault.

The unlucky ones are just ignorant of what the middle class and rich know. Teach them, will you? Someone? I will. Alleviate the poverty in our nation with some knowledge.

I’m too tired to type my thoughts about the educated poor; enough people have covered that. I provided my statistics (faux though they be)...

Good night!

Start a seminar! I betchu they will show up in droves. Everyone wants to better themselves, and hard work is not the way to get wealthy. Money smarts is the path to wealthiness.

jerv's avatar

@squirbel “But the poor poor never save, not even the coins that could add up over time – because they can only see that coin. It will never be bigger than it is. There is a misconception amongst the poor that you have to be rich to save. “I don’t have enough to save” is what is oft heard.”

I have heard that from some people, and used to be in that position often. I mean, how do you save when your expenses exceed your income? Sometimes buying basic food and totally eliminating non-essentials isn’t enough to close the gap, so there truly is nothing to save.

As for me, the few times I have saved a few bucks, something happens to deplete that reserve in short order. Something like blowing up a car, or being laid off and having an unemployment claim spend 2 months in administrative Limbo, or something else costly. Oddly, that stuff doesn’t happen nearly as often when we have no savings, so maybe we are cursed to remain struggling :/

Yes, there are some short-sighted fools out there who won’t save, but not everybody who doesn’t save is shortsighted fool.

thecaretaker's avatar

@ all opposition, poor is a state of mind, if you want something bad enough you will find a way to get it, trouble is we live during a time where everyone expects a handout, thats where credit comes in, the difference between this generation and the last few that have lived through “real” hard times is peoples attitudes and the use of credit, my Grandfather once told me stay away from credit, credit is the devil, he worked for other people and ran his own farm without the use of credit, so dont tell me this time in history is so different from the last, the real difference is everyone has made themselves a slave to the use of credit and banks, ask anyone who lived through the great depression about banks and what they did during that time with there money, banks and underwriters are the real evil in the US and Europe, take a look at your mortgage sometime and look at what your paying towards the actual principle and then interest to the bank, it would be cheaper if you saved up the amount and payed cash

jerv's avatar

@thecaretaker I have always rented, never had a loan, and barely used credit cards or the like in my life, preferring to pay cash for everything or wait until I have saved enough to do so. But of you think right now is no different then I challenge you to survive on zero income for a year. People do it, and so can you. And until you do so, I don’t know of I can take you seriously on this topic.

Is wanting a job “asking for a handout”? If your grandfather lost that farm, would he have fared nearly as well without some form of “handout”? The more you post, the more I am convinced that you are living over half a century in the past. You also seem to think that credit is the sole problem and ignore the unemployment crisis, outsourcing, rising cost of living compared to declining real wages, and just about everything except that which gives you an excuse to call people lazy and/or stupid. At best, that is a logical fallacy, specifically the Fallacy of Converse Accident.

You are entitled to your opinion, but we are entitled to disagree and to point our where your arguments lack merit. Knowing how to use periods and capitalization might also increase your credibility.

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mattbrowne's avatar

Insufficient data. Very difficult to determine.

Here’s one case where society could blame the individual:

Normal life. Good parenting. Good schools. Good job. Enough money. Able to afford to save money while still living a good life. No interest to save. No interest thinking about the future and unforeseen events. Indulging in luxuries. Spending more than able to earn. Fun always comes first. Consumer debt. Unforeseen event. Ending up broke.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne Yep. So many reasons, so little data. You pretty much have to take it case-by-case. Also, fault isn’t exactly a binary proposition; some people suffer out of proportion compared to their mistakes.

listener's avatar

Poverty is a state of mind. The people you call life long poor are those people satisfied with what they have. To them eating a meal three to four times a day is already considered a blessing. Now the educated poor becomes poor because they compare their life to what our society considers to be a luxurious and comfortable life.
Here is a story, i hope this helps.
“The Story of the Fisherman and the Investment Banker”
The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”
The American then asked, “Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”
The Mexican replied, “I have enough fish to support my family’s immediate needs.”
The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “fifteen to twenty years.”

“But what then?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions . . . then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.

laureth's avatar

I’m not sure every “life-long poor person” is like your Mexican fisherman. I’m sure there’s plenty of people working minimum wage jobs with no health insurance in areas of low opportunity that can’t afford to pay for everything they need to make a better living, who are not so calm about it, especially as tax credits, scholarship funds, low-interest student loans, collective bargaining rights, subsidized child care, and supplemental food assistance are being stripped away every day. In order to move out of poverty, you have to have even the tiniest leftover resource to make something else with, and many do not have that, hence the “life long” part of it.

It’s super-easy to condemn them from one’s own comfortable position of strength.

jerv's avatar

@listener I always loved that story.

However, I have to agree with @laureth here. I am pretty sure that if my mother and I were in the same position we were in 35 years ago under conditions similar to today, she would still be on welfare. And personally, I am waiting for the government to just start rounding up the poor and killing them off. I mean, it would actually be more humane than the siege tactics that they have been using; I would rather be shot than starve slowly.

It saddens me that The Land of Opportunity has returned to medieval times in that upwards mobility is less and less possible. It used to be that a person born a serf remained a serf until they died. For a while in America, someone with a good idea who was willing to work hard could be quite successful, but that is no longer the case. Good ideas are a dime a dozen and hard work is no guarantee of even being successful enough to eat every day. Yeah, there is still the rare rags-to-riches story, but even those are becoming less common.

As @laureth points out, ”, you have to have even the tiniest leftover resource to make something else with, and many do not have that, ”, or in other words, it takes money to make money. Sure, someone born to rich parents can afford college and at least have a chance, or someone who has a little let over can save/invest it wisely, but what of those with nothing? Bill Gates was born to a lawyer and went to a prep school that could afford a computer in 1968 (back when they were very expensive) while Steve Jobs had Mike Markkula, without whom Apple never would have existed, and Jobs has actually stated, ”
“I was lucky to get into computers when it was a very young and idealistic industry.”, implying that there really is less opportunity out there than there used to be. It seems to me that they had a bit more to start out than most people.

So take the average poor person. I would wager that they aren’t college grads, and they probably live in a place where to tie into the metaphor of the story above there aren’t many (if any) fish. Yeah, you occasionally run into someone who squandered what they had, but they are a minority compared to the number of people who do everything they can yet still can’t make ends meet.

mattbrowne's avatar

@jerv – The one case I described is relatively common.

listener's avatar

@laureth and jerv I approached this question with a philosophical answer because there are so many factors and variables involve. There are sociological,political and economic issues that needs to be address before we can truly determine what is the right and the wrong answers are.
When i read the question “What percentage of Americans who cannot afford to live do you believe are at fault for their poverty?” I only had one answer, the people who choose to be poor. There is no one else to blame for the bad choices people make but themselves.
If you do not have the means to stay alive then stop being choosy and use whatever the government or the non government organization are offering and better yourself. If you need to work three jobs to stay alive then work three jobs and stop complaining. If you can only afford a hamburger then eat only a hamburger without the drink and the fries. If you can’t afford the petrol then walk it will save you money and keep you healthy. If you don’t have health insurance then keep yourself healthy.
I could go on and on like the energizer bunny but i won’t anymore,i’m sure you guys get the idea. Living a simple and disciplined lifestyle doesn’t mean your poor it only means you are living simply.

jerv's avatar

@listener If you need to work three jobs in this economy, you are better off dead. Take it from someone who was out of work for over a year despite going after even the most menial of jobs. I felt otherwise before the economy turned to shit.
FYI, it has been many years since I had a job that I could walk to, and I’ll be damned of I am going 15 miles or more on foot or bike in the middle of winter. As for insurance and health, what about accidents? I didn’t choose to park a car rubber side up in the median. My friend was born with his diabetes; it wasn’t due to obesity.
I agree with some of what you say, but I think you attribute too many things to personal choice.

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