Welcome back! Happy New Year! I ended a day early and am starting a day later than planned—thank you electronic world for all that you promise versus what you deliver. The Internet is a marvel when you can be a part of it, and oh, so frustrating when you need IT. Anyway, I know that everyone out there feels my pain, so let’s just begin. A new year, yet apparently, the same old rants will do.
“There will be poor always/Pathetically struggling…”
For those who didn’t memorize every line of Jesus Christ, Superstar, that is the Messiah himself saying that the War on Poverty will never work. So, WWJD? Maybe set up a safety net, and in the meantime, not wrack himself with guilt or waste a lot of resources on something that will never change.
I get the feeling that those most “concerned” about the sad state of the poverty-stricken aren’t really familiar with anyone who has been long-term poor. I know some long-term poor types personally, and I know that they have a truly different mind-set. The concerned types think that simply throwing money at the poor will elevate them to middle-class status. But there are those for whom it is impossible to have enough money to even maintain themselves at a minimal level. No matter how much money they receive, they will have month remaining long after their stipend has been accounted for.
For the long-term poor, planning ahead has no meaning. So long as they have walking-around money, they spend it. When the money is gone, they stop. Whether they receive government handouts, or cash a paycheck, their wallet is their bank, and their budget is however much they have on hand. An extra $20 makes them rich as Croesus for the day, and having no cash means asking somebody, anybody, for a loan till payday.
It is not the money, or lack thereof, that keeps these people poor. It is their inability to care about anything later than right now. There are those who can take $10 and make $1 million of it. And there are those who can start with $1 million and end up with $10. Because of this, I think that having some sort of safety net is a basic human kindness, just not necessarily the safety net imagined by the guilt-ridden. When the poor have blasted through their allotment, they turn to their true safety nets: family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, bosses, anyone who will let them borrow till next week, next month, next infusion of cash. Until those who are fighting the War on Poverty have had someone scrounge from them month after month after month after their money has somehow mysteriously disappeared yet again, they will have no idea of the scope of the War they are fighting. Especially since there are people who are in the same, or worse, financial straits, who somehow still manage to have a little bit left over at the end of the week.
At every income level, there are savers and there are spenders. Being a bit of a miser myself, I have some trouble grokking the attitude of the spenders. I try to balance my knowledge that the car will break, someone will get sick, a vacation would be nice, with enjoying myself today. But for spenders, today is all. The car, the sick, the vacation will all somehow take care of themselves, or not. But it is not for the spender to plan for, or to take on the responsibility for, them.
On Elementary a couple of weeks ago, a woman was talking to a wanna-be reformed addict. The addict was apologizing, yet again, for bad behavior. The woman said, yes, yada, yada, we’ve had this conversation before, you apologize for being naughty. What I don’t understand, she continued, is why you continue to put yourself in situations that require you to apologize later. Or, as I would say, Stop that!
I don’t know what it takes to change someone who drifts along with the vagaries of life, living high on the hog when there is cash available, starving when pockets are empty, but I do know that money is not the solution. The War on Poverty will not be won with larger hand-outs. We may have a fighting chance when we can somehow change people’s minds.
The lilies of the field…toil not, nor do they spin. (Matthew 6:28)
As caring human beings, we can hold out that safety net, allow the spenders to spend, and not expect too much of human nature. I just don’t think that the War on Poverty is something that the politicians ought to be spending a lot of their time, and our money, on, until they have some concept of what type of solution might actually make a difference.