The Poverty Myth: It’s not for a Lifetime

tbs-avalanche-12-2010-102.jpgWhen considering those in poverty it is far too common to think of them as perpetually poor and forever on the public dole. This sentiment has long existed and been perpetuated by claims of generational poverty; families that have nothing and leave nothing for their kids, thus creating a cycle that keeps the kids poor as adults and their kids raised in unrelenting poverty as well. These people are forever a burden on society and forever in need of our tax dollars being redistributed to them in the form of low or free rent, food stamps, medical care and more. Or so the myth goes…

While its true that many in poverty can stay poor for a significant portion of their lives, that’s often not the case. A 10+ year old study found that a significant percentage of those who were in the bottom third of income earners in the 1970s at some point over the following 20 years actually attained a level of income putting them in the upper third of income earners. This illustrates the point that those in poverty and receiving assistance are often only in that financially troubling position for a short time in their lives. 

This makes sense when you consider that many of those who are poor are young adults or young families who have not yet attained the wisdom, experience, resumes or income to keep them out of poverty. But as they age and gain work experience and the wisdom on how to earn and save money they lift themselves out of poverty and often into financial well-being.

The author taking a break at his 3rd radio job in 1986 when my income rose to the grandiose level of $1000 per month.

The author taking a break at his 3rd radio job in 1986 when my income rose to the grandiose level of $1000 per month.

This was certainly true for this author. I have worked in the radio industry for my entire adult life. I began professionally in 1985 as a 21 year old country music DJ and part-time high school sports play-by-play announcer. This auspicious position paid me the awesome sum of $600 per month. A little extra scrambling for more work usually got my check up to $650.00. And that was gross income, paid to me with only one pay check per month. I worked 50-60 hours per week, 6 days per week; thus not allowing me to hold a second job. I was poor. I didn’t qualify for food stamps. At the time I did apply and was told I made exactly $5.00 too much each month to qualify. I lived on Top Ramon, Mac & Cheese, and Cheerios. Oh…and beer. Priorities, right?

Twenty years later my income climbed to a level in 2004 where my earnings put me in the upper 2-3% of income earners. I owned a home, a rental property, and was raising a family. In 2005 I started my own business, Total Broadcasting Service.

Total Broadcasting owner Michael Schuett does most of the camera work provided to customers, both still and video.

Total Broadcasting owner Michael Schuett does most of the camera work provided to customers, both still and video.

And I’m not special. Lots of people can tell the same story.

The myth that poverty is a life sentence has two deleterious effects. If believed by some of those in poverty it helps keep them in need. It also discourages generous giving from many who could dramatically impact the lives of those in poverty. “Why give if these lazy, drug using poor people are only going to use my money to get drunk and high and buy tattoos and other frivolous expenses? I was poor and I lifted myself up. They should do the same.”…or so seems to be the thinking.

When its understood that poverty is more usually a temporary condition Americans can feel more comfortable generously offering a hand up while not seeing it as a hand-out. If someone is too young to have learned and earned you are more likely to see their potential and give them the assistance you probably benefitted from in your own youth. When its plain that a medical condition has prevented a person from working and they lost their income and haven’t yet found a means by which they will eventually support themselves, you can maintain a much higher level of empathy for their plight. Even when someone’s own poor decisions or foolishness have driven them to the poor house, you can feel a greater desire to help them get back to being self sustaining if you have the confidence of knowledge that most people in their positions will use your generosity wisely to change the direction of their lives and improve their situation.

My faith tells me that its my responsibility to help those in need. But if my faith (or yours) didn’t dictate charitable giving, common sense would. Few people, regardless of political persuasion, like the government’s gun to your head (otherwise known as the IRS) approach to monetary redistribution. And frankly its terribly inefficient anyway. But many non-profit charitable and church based organizations provide efficient and meaningful help to the needy. 

One of these organizations in my community is Emergency Feeding Program of Seattle and King County. I met it’s Director, Glenn Turner, this year. He carefully explained to me and others how EFP fills the gaps in food distribution for the needy. Food banks typically only provide food enough to last an individual or a family for 2-3 weeks per month. The obvious problem being that every month is at least 4 weeks. Emergency Feeding Program will help those who can’t provide for themselves over each month’s final 1-2 weeks with carefully constructed food bags tailored to the specific dietary and ethnic requirements of the recipient. They provide 15 different types of emergency food bags to match their clients. Emergency Feeding Program has been doing this since 1977, and are Washington State’s third largest food distribution service for the needy. And they do it through the generosity of people. They have many people who volunteer their time. And many generous people and organizations who donate food and money. You can help them too. And this writer hopes that you will.

Isn’t it easier to help knowing you are actually helping. Isn’t it best to look at those in poverty as merely folks who are down on their luck and with the kind and generous assistance you provide they won’t stay where they are; they’ll rise up support themselves and in the natural evolution of their lives help others; maybe even you, should you someday be a victim of misfortune, poor health or unfortunate decisions. 

We can’t and shouldn’t rely on government to carry us through. We’re a free nation. And we should be free to help those we want to help. And we should help. It’s in our best interest as well as the recipients of our generous money and efforts. 

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Call for Video Production Services: 425-687-0100

Call for Video Production Services: 425-687-0100

As an addendum: Emergency Feeding Program is hosting its first ever Summer musical event to raise awareness and donations. Jazz on the Houser will be from 3-9pm Saturday August 23rd. Click here to learn more: http://www.emergencyfeeding.org/events-wedge-details/354217/1408824000

Election Reconciliation

(en) results of the U.S. presidential election...

U.S. presidential election 2000

Well…at the time of this posting we’re a little over 1 day from an election some have called the most important election in our time; some have called the most important ever. Based on what we know and what we guess the election race between Republican Mitt Romney and Democratic President Barack Obama is a virtual tie.

Who ultimately wins comes down to who wins a majority of Electoral Votes in 11 states that polls and/or history say are the only ones of the 50 where any doubt exists over who will win. They are (in alphabetical order):

Colorado- 9 electoral votes

Florida- 29

Iowa- 6

Michigan- 16

Nevada- 6

New Hampshire- 4

North Carolina- 15

Ohio- 18

Pennsylvania- 20

Virginia- 13

Wisconsin- 10

Some pundits have said Minnesota, and Oregon are up for grabs. But barring Romney sweeping the Eastern Time zone swing states (and he might) and getting a lot of voter momentum that doesn’t seem likely.

President Obama and Mitt Romney Different Word...

President Obama and Mitt Romney Different Words, Different Visions

Based on polls, history, common sense, 6th sense, and admittedly some wishful thinking this is where I currently see things going among the swing states:

Romney definitely wins: North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado.

Obama definitely wins: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Iowa.

Romney PROBABLY and HOPEFULLY wins: New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Obama PROBABLY wins: Ohio

The result: Romney wins 271 to Obama 267.

I won’t call the popular vote. It could go either way.

If I’m wrong I’m wrong on either Wisconsin or Ohio or possibly Pennsylvania.

What I’ve learned in this year-long election contest is that Democrats think Republicans are crazy to vote for Romney. They also think Republicans are mean, heartless, lacking in compassion, greedy and longing for the 1950s. They really believe this, and all my efforts to convince my friends otherwise has not changed their thinking.

Republicans think Democrats are absolutely loony for voting for Obama. They also think Democrats are stupid, and lazy, and greedy and stupid and lazy…and oh ya…hypocritical. And most importantly tyrannical. I don’t think most of the Republican claims about Democrats are true. But I do think some of those thoughts are true of some Democrats.

Sadly, the conclusion I come to is that regardless of who wins this country is and will remain seriously divided. These days even natural disasters cause political blame and argument. Hurricane Sandy brought debate from both sides about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s gracious and patriotic commentary and treatment of President Obama. Conservatives felt he went way over the top in his praise. Democrats accused him of hypocrisy and based his civility strictly on Christie’s selfish desire for Federal Funds to be  “gifted” to New Jersey. All I can say to both sides is PUUUUHHHHLEEEEZZZZ! Get over yourselves.

And before anyone thinks this is a one time or recent thing just think back to the most recent national emergencies of such size and scope. Hurricane Katrina was political from the moment it hit the shore in August 2005. Democrats…many of them not only accused President George W. Bush of incompetence but of actual racism. REALLY? REALLY? And the financial meltdown of 2008 was purely political and remains so much so to this day that it prevents real and fair decisions from being made. Four years later has the Obama Administration prosecuted any of Wall Street’s big mega-bankers for their complicity in the theft of billions of dollars? Uh…that would be NO. Is that Bush’s fault too? Uh…that would be NO. See…it goes on and on.

Though I didn’t vote for him and I didn’t have confidence in him I wrote several complimentary and encouraging blogs about President Obama following his election win in 2008. I was heartened by the election of America’s first black President and naively felt that our nation’s never-ending battle over race might finally be drawing to a close. I was wrong.

What has happened since George W. Bush was elected in the closest election in U.S. history in 2000 is that Red state‘s have become redder and blue states have become bluer. This election was fought in the narrowest geographic scope in history. Aside from the occasional fund-raiser neither candidate campaigned outside the eleven states mentioned.

The togetherness and American patriotism we ALL felt following the evil vicious attacks of 9-11  is now a distant memory. Efforts of civility on my part and the part of others have been bitch-slapped by the opposition. Faux offense over every little and possible conceived slight is displayed by both sides, such that too many of us stop listening to each other.

What is saddest of all is who is to blame for all this division. It’s our elected leaders and only our elected leaders. Sure we can lower our heads in shame for pulling the lever and putting them in office. But ultimately our leaders are supposed to lead.

I’m tired. Really really tired. I’ve done all I can to civilly and honestly pursued those who disagree that my point of view was correct. They’ve done likewise to me. In the end I wonder if any good came of it. If Romney wins and does much (he won’t do all) of what he says I suppose perhaps the answer is “yes”. I just hope another 9-11 or WWII or even Civil War doesn’t have to transpire in order to bring us together again as Americans. I think Mitt Romney can and will be transformative…but he won’t stand a chance if the opposition continues to not listen and instead paints him and his supporters as evil, greedy…etc. In Obama’s case…we already know THAT’S true.

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

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