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sfmartin

Poverty

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In contrast to the swanky uptown condos and generally expensive developments that dominate our discussions, today's Observer is running a story about a nationwide increase in the poverty rate, particularly those considered severely/deeply poor, and notes that Mecklenburg Co. is no better off and the trends are not looking brighter.

The definition given for severe poverty is: "A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 -- half the federal poverty line ..." & "... individuals who made less than $5,080 a year." I don't know how anyone in this county, much less a family, could "live" on this income.

For me the most telling part is this: "At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries."

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In contrast to the swanky uptown condos and generally expensive developments that dominate our discussions, today's Observer is running a story about a nationwide increase in the poverty rate, particularly those considered severely/deeply poor, and notes that Mecklenburg Co. is no better off and the trends are not looking brighter.

The definition given for severe poverty is: "A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 -- half the federal poverty line ..." & "... individuals who made less than $5,080 a year." I don't know how anyone in this county, much less a family, could "live" on this income.

For me the most telling part is this: "At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries."

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"Corporate greed" isn't what is making these people poor, it's their inability to manage their time, think, and plan.

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No. I didn't say they want to be poor, but rather I was stating the obvious: that they don't have the intelligence necessary to function in society. Throwing money and services at them hasn't had any positive effects. Has the war on poverty been a resounding success? It has actually made them worse off.

I don't know what, if anything, needs to be done. Having nature sort things out for herself is probably the best policy.

But it is certain that placing the blame on corporations doesn't solve anything.

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Having nature sort things out for herself is probably the best policy.

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^Gosh how true. The measure of the quality of a society is not in how well it takes care of the rich, but rather, how well it takes care of its poor. In a city that is affluent as Charlotte I find it particularly disturbing there are 35,000 people that would meet this definition. Everyone is better off when opportunities are presented to those at the bottom of the societal ladder. The idea that we are living like animals, and economic worth should decide who lives or dies, i.e. natural selection, sounds like something out of a 3rd world nation and not a city like Charlotte.

However this isn't a Charlotte/Mecklenburg problem specifically but rather an American one. There was an interesting study that came out that said that Americans don't live as long as people in the other 1st world nations, at all economic and health levels, because we are all fighting each other over getting up the economic ladder.

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I would put forth that these people are actually pretty well taken care of, despite being in 'severe poverty'. They basically would not be living in delapidated housing, as the housing stock in this county is mostly above standard. They have a decent public transit system to avoid the need for a car. Also, if they work at all, then their income is about to be raised through state and/or national minimum wage increases. Their kids can also go to decent public schools to find a different life than their parents. All in all, our society spends quite a bit to provide a basic standard for people who are in poverty. You don't end up having people with distended bellies, no teeth, and crawling on the sidewalk hungry crying at the feet of people walking by. I have personally been places where that is the case.

I'm not so sure I interpretted Moonshield's comments as being pro-Eugenics. I think there is a certain degree of honesty in it, as the bottom line is we could vastly increase the welfare state and there would still be a study pointing to their income figure saying they're very poor. The study could just as easily say 'all these people making below the poverty line, $30k' and the conversation would be exactly the same. There will always be poor because there is always a numerical threshold that defines people as such. At some point, we have to say that we have done what a caring society can do and these people just have to figure out how to make their life sustainable.

Also, don't forget that some of these people don't mind making that little. My brother is actually one of those people, although he doesn't live in Mecklenburg. He has sworn off society, and works when he feels like it. He rides his bike everywhere. He lives in a rundown little home with a bunch of his friends. He wears thrift clothing, dumpster dives for food (it's not as nasty as it sounds, or so he says), and at random he gives it all up for a couple months and hitchhikes across the country for the hell of it. Would a government subsidy help? No, as he doesn't take them. Would more education help? No, he went to some of the best private and public schools in the world (including the british system when he was younger), and is highly intelligent and literate. Would the availability of jobs help? No, because he works or doesn't work based on what he feels like. Would he love to have free medical insurance? Yes, and I think he is going to move to Europe at some point to get it.

I am also pretty sure my grandfather (who takes care of my aunt and his mom -- my great grandmother). Individually, they would all count as people making significantly less than the poverty level. They pool their resources, live in a tiny house my grandfather bought in 1953, garden for their food, buy hardly anything new. They give 3 dollar sweatshirts to everyone for each holiday. But there isn't anyone he'd allow to call him poor. They just live inexpensively, and when there is a big expense, family members help out.

I have inlaws that have had health crises in the past few years who have had next to no income for an entire year. They subsisted on help from their children. But they keep their little house clean and their Buick running.

Also, I myself have filed tax forms for $2-4k while in college. Are those college students who don't get claimed on their parents' taxes, but are still supported by their parents, somehow filtered off this list?

The bottom line is that this isn't the same kind of poverty as you'd see in the third world, or in ages past. Instead, it is just an income number, which is only part of the overall picture. If you tally up the subsidies, personal gifts, and charity these people are sure to be getting, they are probably doing okay. Also, as long as they live with self-respect, they would never consider themselves poor, even though some demographer might call them poor. Now, if you tell me those people have no assets, no family, no job skills, and no rights to government subsidies or transportation, then, well, that is just sad.

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I think Moonshield's point is that there will always be some portion of society that can't organize their own lives - set priorities, spend money wisely, etc. A lot of the chronic poor are not there by "choice" exactly, but they can't put a plan together, to advance from A to B to C and get out of it.

Doesn't Mecklenburg county have something like 10,000 homeless people? That could be a large part of this estimate. Many of these people are mentally ill, or have just given up on staying on the economic treadmill.

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I'm pretty conservative but I don't think the war on poverty was a complete failure. If you look at poverty rates among the native-born population, poverty has declined significantly since the 1960s. The overall poverty rate has stayed about the same, though, in part due to importing millions of relatively poor people from other countries. There are certainly a lot of factors (racism, corporate greed, etc.) that affect poverty but immigration is one of them.

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I've often wondered about that. Maybe more of our own poor could make a living, if they didn't have competition for those entry level jobs from foreigners. Or maybe those jobs would pay better in order to get Americans to do them.

After all, someone has to fold the laundry, wash cars, pick up cigarette butts, etc.

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Dubone, great insight. Thanks for sharing.

I think it's difficult to generalize the causes of poverty, as everyone has a unique situation. A good deal of it has to do with personal choices, upbringing, education, genetics (related to health and intelligence), and of course society.

Some people just make poor decisions with their money, regardless of how much of it they have.

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To be honest, the "severe poverty" group is not that large a concern to me. The majority of people at that level (beneath the minimum-wage line) have a reason for being there -- substance addiction, mental illness, physical disability, lifestyle choice, etc.

To me, the more important group to focus on is the working poor.

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....

Some people just make poor decisions with their money, regardless of how much of it they have.

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Just a point on that. We bombard people with thousands of hours of programming/year to encourage them to make these bad choices. I think it has probably been 25 or more years since I last saw a serious advertisement that asked people to conserve.

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It's much too easy to generalize about the causes of poverty in Mecklenburg and nationwide. There are a variety of causes: some people are lazy and don't want to work, others suffer from addictions and diseases that hinder their forward progress, others were raised in broken homes,given subpar educations and have no hope. Sure, compared to third world countries we don't have "poverty" but the US is the richest country in the world and not Bangladesh and we don't have an excuse for our poverty levels. Poverty is an intractable problem and will always exist on some level but we can make the group smaller by working to ensure living wages and quality education for all.

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Just a point on that. We bombard people with thousands of hours of programming/year to encourage them to make these bad choices. I think it has probably been 25 or more years since I last saw a serious advertisement that asked people to conserve.

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One of the mini-scandals in my own family is a fundamentalist in-law that dropped out of college, and eloped with a relative who also did not get to finish.

They have had 5 kids (which they refuse to vaccinate or send to public school), and have hopped around the country asking for handouts from unsuspecting churches, doing dead end jobs like house cleaning and selling newspapers. Currently staying in a motel paid for by some other inlaws, who feel sorry "for the kids". Amazingly, they will be closing on a house soon -- which I assert beyond a doubt to be an unsustainable act, that will end in foreclosure. (They've declared bankruptcy once already over a car loan...)

These dolts will be in poverty for the rest of their lives because of the decisions they make. No drugs are involved... Just people who really can't think straight, and "earn" their way to the poorhouse!

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Not to bring this up all over again, but after a few more melt downs in the market like today we can add to the poverty number residing in Mecklenburg and accross the US. FWIW, the markets are not done yet. Those who will feel the most pain will be lower class and even middle class citizens who have been strapped down with so much debt thanks to the "easy money" that has been out there for the last 5 years. (Thanks Mr Greenspan).

Most of this debt is in the form of Credit Cards & ARM's, that no bank in their right mind should have loaned out. These debts will send many more to the bread lines & also put quite a damper on a lot more of our favorite projects underway in Charlotte.

*mark this post----It is going to get worse. MUCH WORSE!

A2

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This is a worthy topic that does not get its due in today's media or academy. First, the knowledge economy has further stressed the distribution of income in the country. Most of my peers who are college educated (except for some of the more recent graduates) are doing fine. Granted, many are in debt, but they have decent incomes. My friends and family who lack degrees are mostly working poor. That is, they get by month-to-month. Compounding the problems of working families is the "ownership" society ideology. Family's today have a much greater burden that previous generations because they are expected to shoulder more responsibility for healthcare costs and to fund their retirements. No matter how frugal one may be, it is unlikely that a family of 4 with a household income of $50,000 is likely to set aside a substantial amount in personal savings.

NPR recently ran a series on inequality and they had some interesting observations. They found one of the factors fueling the disparity gap is affinity marriages. Doctors are marrying doctors. Lawyers are marrying lawyers. Professionals are marrying professionals. Thus, the dual incomes dwarf those made by less educated affinity groups. Compounding the problem of disparity is the problem of empathy. We've created communities that allow people of means to function independently of the less affluent. Many live, work and play in communities that, given the price points, insulate affluent groups from less affluent groups. Their only interaction with working people is through service personnel at work or their landscapers. I realize that I'm making huge generalizations, but I honestly believe that many have willfully opted out of the traditional social contract by using their affluence to opt out of public schools and urban areas.

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I realize that I'm making huge generalizations, but I honestly believe that many have willfully opted out of the traditional social contract by using their affluence to opt out of public schools and urban areas.

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"I honestly believe that many have willfully opted out of the traditional social contract by using their affluence to opt out of public schools and urban areas."

---

Part of the social contract as well, is to raise children that don't bring weapons to school, mouth off to the teachers, sell drugs, spray graffitti, etc.

I'm not surprised that those who can afford to, raise their children far away from these problems. It's hard enough to raise your own kids, much less re-enforce to them to not emulate bad behavior which they can get exposed to.

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I've often wondered about that. Maybe more of our own poor could make a living, if they didn't have competition for those entry level jobs from foreigners. Or maybe those jobs would pay better in order to get Americans to do them.

After all, someone has to fold the laundry, wash cars, pick up cigarette butts, etc.

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"I honestly believe that many have willfully opted out of the traditional social contract by using their affluence to opt out of public schools and urban areas."

---

Part of the social contract as well, is to raise children that don't bring weapons to school, mouth off to the teachers, sell drugs, spray graffitti, etc.

I'm not surprised that those who can afford to, raise their children far away from these problems. It's hard enough to raise your own kids, much less re-enforce to them to not emulate bad behavior which they can get exposed to.

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i think running from the issues of poverty is a poor choice in the long run.... but, when yer talking about your kids - it's hard to deduce that.

*on a side note: i think it's important to mention an observation that i witness often. there is alot of focus on problems in impoverished areas, and rightfully so... but, i think there is an equal amount of issues that go mostly unaddressed in the affluent areas of town.

as a parent of a cms student, we see and interact with different kids... some wealthy some rather poor. in my childs classroom the couple of kids who are deemed "problems" come from the wealthier parts of town (1 from raintree and 1 from montebello). their neglect doesn't seem to come from actual hands off - not caring. rather it comes from parents that pander, spoil, and would never dare discipline their child. these kids have no respect for anyone and unless they have a dvd playing they are disrupting the class.

i think it's fair to point that out and quite honestly i think it's part of the root problem @ cms. you have parents who spoil their kids to death demanding one thing from cms, and civil activists who pick up the cause of neglected children of poverty - demanding another. trying to appease both and all would render ANY system ineffectual - no matter how good or bad cms really is.

some people need to learn how to disciplne or say NO to their children and some people need to get off their asses and get involved with their children.

it really all comes back to EDUCATION.

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