Lately I've been on Twitter a fair amount. I've found a lot of really great people to follow and I have a lot of really great people following me. Amongst the politically observant, a lot of conversation has been about The Health Care Reform situation. Any time you talk about something like that you inevitably wind up talking about burdens, especially tax burdens. This resulted in the following exchange between myself and fellow Twit @avivao.
@avivao: Government spending doesn’t burden the poor; they don’t make enough to be taxed. Taxes don’t burden the wealthy either.
@toriach: *raises eyebrow*That depends on 1s definition of "burden" Mny wys 2 tax pr bsides directly.Many types of burdens besides monetary.
She then asked for clarification, which I provided in brief. She then asked for more in depth discourse from me, (Frankly I don't think she has any clue what she's let herself in for, but far be it from me to refuse a request.) and so I decided the best way to do so, is to write this article. Which quite frankly I think needed done anyway, in hopes of countering some of the bullshit myths about the poor that seem to float on the ether not unlike the smell of a stinky garlic fart.
In addressing the many burdens the poor must bear rather than take an either/or approach, attempting to separate the monetary from the non-monetary, I shall instead be looking at how the two are deeply interconnected. Therefore fair warning the following list has no deeper significance that I am aware of, this is simply the order in which these things came to me.
Boy doesn't that seem blindingly obvious. Yet most people I think don't bother to consider this beyond the surface fact. So what exactly does it mean to be born into poverty? It means….
A: That you often live in a household where even if there are two parents neither is able to be available either physically or emotionally as often as may be needed for healthy personal development.
B: That your dietary choices are dictated by the circumstances of your poverty, meaning that consistent access to genuinely nutritious foods so as to aid in your physical and mental development may be scarce.
C: That your daily routine may be dictated by external conditions which make effective social integration and education difficult. This could mean, being essentially a latch key child in an area with no real “safe” peers, and no access to parental assistance with homework, or it could mean that you have to go with one of your parents to their place of work and then try as best you can to sit quietly not bothering anyone, lest it interfere with your parents ability to keep their job.
Furthermore, being born into poverty means that all those little social networking and personal development opportunities that Middle Class children take for granted may be restricted or unavailable to you all together. Add to this the fact that generally a poor child's clothing, while it may be clean and in good repair is usually noticeably "different". It might be off by a size, or out of style, or noticeably worn. This can have a crucial impact during the years when one's self image is being formed. No matter how hard we might fight against it consciously, on a base sub and un-conscious level we are social animals. We have a built in need to fit in, to find acceptance within groups of which we are a part. Plus on the flip side there is the burden the poor face when they have children, suddenly any spare money they may have used to give themselves a slightly better existence, materially speaking now goes to provide the bare basics for their child or children.
For some this means that they may have to quit school before even graduating, so as to get an entry level minimum wage job, and contribute to the household finances. For those that are able to graduate high school it often means that unless they are able to get a scholarship, higher education is all but out of reach without incurring massive debt. Plus often poor people have already made poor life choices which have had major negative consequences, which brings us to….
Now I'm not talking about the dreaded G word, "gangs". I'm simply talking about the kind of peers one has that have been raised up in a world where one is given almost no inducement to invest in society. Where petty theft and other criminal acts are seen as at worst harmless fun, and at best Heroic. A world where boredom and perception of lack of alternatives often lead to early and repeated sexual activity, drug use and more. So it is possible that a poor person at the age where they might be going to school, are burdened with a child to raise, or a drug habit to deal with, or might even be in jail. Sometimes a poor person is lucky enough to have a reliably positive extra parental influence (a teacher or neighbor) but sometimes that is not enough to fully counter the negative influence they are likely to get from their peer group.
First let me explain what I mean by "meaningful". I am talking about the kind of employment that allows for genuine personal enrichment, either tangible or intangible. Work that either pays well and allows one to build a personal wealth base from which to craft a decent life, or that contributes to the greater good of ones immediate or larger society and therefore offers personal satisfaction as compensation over and above whatever the monetary remuneration might be.
Most of the poor however are forced to make do with subsistence employment and even that can be difficult to find. The labor pool in which the poor exist is to put it bluntly huge. They are competing with not only people their own age, but also those either younger or older. If one is competing with a younger person, they have a disadvantage in that a younger person can work longer hours and may not have a spouse and children so can get by on lower pay. On the flip side if the competition is older, there is the disadvantage in that they are less schooled in the ways of work and so make mistakes that a more experienced work is not likely too. And of course they are competing with the working and middle class as well, especially as their employment options have been drastically reduced over the decades. Then there is the additional problem that many poor are limited in the range they can travel to find work. They must have either reliable transportation, through personal vehicle, ride sharing, or public transportation, or they must seek something within reasonably easy reach of their home. For many poor people especially those in cities being able to afford to buy and maintain a car, let alone park one is a dream that is more likely to go unfulfilled than not. If they are lucky enough to have a friend or acquaintance that they can travel with, they are beholden to that persons schedule and whims. And living in a country like the United States that seems to consider a robust public transportation system as some kind of affront to decency can mean that bus runs if they exist at all may be sorely limited, especially on the weekends.
Then upon finding a job, the poor are less likely to speak up for themselves in an attempt to either obtain a better position, or pay, or to redress a legitimate grievance. The pressure to keep one's head down and be happy to just have a job is intense and comes from within as well as without. Also most poor people are highly unlikely to have a job with any kind of benefits.
To be poor is to be with few or no resources, For many the only resources they have are what the government provides. Those resources are constantly being scaled back or stripped down as The ConservaLiberts (Conservative/Libertarians) continue to push their narrative about the evils of "Social" programs, and the inherent immorality of those who would dare to make use of such programs. As a result most poor are without access to healthcare that is free from cultural disincentive to utilize it, and even if they do make use of such programs they are usually only designed to "help" a person once they are in sickness. Measures to help a person make healthier choices or to seek preventative care are almost non existent, and the former is frankly a meaningless feel good sop anyway, as many if not all of a poor persons choices are dictated by their poverty. Furthermore the poor live under the stress of knowing that if they get sick or injured, get fired, or laid off, or just have a reduction in their hours they are liable to wind up with their utilities shut off, or evicted from their residence. Meanwhile they have considerably less money with which to use because of the way that access to options about purchases are denied them, Which brings us to….
Now some would assume I'm talking about things live having a checking or savings account etc. But I’m talking about something even more basic.
Take for example shopping. If a poor person has sufficient resources to purchase their own clothing, or if they have access to vouchers that serve in lieu of cash they often will choose/be forced by circumstances to choose, clothing that is only slightly less expensive than the next most expensive alternative, and considerably less durable.
Let's take for example pants. Let's say a single, impoverished male, with no dependents needs pants and shirts. Let's further suppose he's one of the lucky ones who has a steady job, although not much pay nor hours. He works five days a week, and because his job does not provide him with a uniform he must have enough clean clothes for a typical work week. So let's say this means he needs five clean shirts, and three clean pairs of pants. So now he goes to his local Wal Mart and looks at jeans. He could get a medium quality brand for about thirteen dollars. Or he could get a cheaper alternative for eleven dollars. But the material is not as good a quality, and the stitching is to put it bluntly a joke. So one of the pairs wears out in three months rather than the six months or a year possibly more he might get out of the better pair. So getting another cheap pair of pants will cost him another eleven dollars. And so it goes.
The same considerations effect the poor in everything they do. Have a vehicle? Be able to put just enough gas in it to get back and forth to work and have the next “fill up” potentially be at a higher price, plus if one only puts say half of ones cars capacity in the gas tank then cumulative fill ups that would equal full capacity are more expensive than if one filled the car all at once.
This is true of food as well. Rather than being able to look at things solely in terms of per ounce cost, the poor must view things in terms of total cost. So they have to buy smaller amounts, more often, thereby giving them less money to use for other things in the long term.
Then there are the more extreme situations. If a poor person with no savings has a catastrophic situation occur like the vehicle they depend on having a blow out, or their fridge dying then they must obtain money some where, somehow to pay for it. For most if they are lucky they can get an advance on their pay, or borrow from friends. But many are not lucky and must use payday loan associations, or avail themselves of their banks "overdraft" protection, either choice of which can potentially have such high fees as to make their ultimate debt triple or more of what they originally "borrowed". And that doesn’t even take into consideration those who don’t have a bank account.
All of these are burdens unique to the poor, and to a large extent the Working Class (who are poor in fact but not by the artificial metrics used by the Government) but do not remove them from the burdens of taxes.
First there is income tax. Do the poor usually end up with no tax burden, or so little as to be near none? Yes. But which way should a poor person gamble? Should they have absolutely nothing withheld (which honestly I'm not sure is possible as I believe if one works for another, then something gets withheld even if it's a small amount, but this is for the sake of argument) and take the risk of misjudging and winding up with a tax burden which could amount to a couple of hundred of dollars or more. Small potatoes to the middle class and rich but a huge burden to the poor. Or do they have a reasonable amount taken out, knowing that money will be unavailable to them until tax time in the form of a refund?
Then there are licensing fees for vehicles, taxes on gasoline, taxes on food and clothing in some states, sales tax etc. These are all taxes that few of even the middle class are able to avoid, and surely none of the poor.
Then there are things that while not strictly taxes are still a financial burden, late fees on utilities and rents and other bills for example.
I could go on, but I shall stop with just one more example.
How crushing must it be to hear at every turn how the fact of your poverty and the limitations it brings is somehow your fault, and how attempts to invoke societal factors is "whining" etc.? From the well meaning narratives about the “Heroic” poor person who held three jobs and studied to become a doctor while raising two children, which serve to make the average person not blessed with that individuals drive, will, or breaks, feel like a slacker, to the more mean spirited stories of welfare cheats, and the “lazy” in our society.
Meanwhile Conservatives, seek to keep the poor divided amongst themselves, to make disinformation prevalent and to frame the Liberal and Progressive agendas in such frightening terms that most of the un, and under educated poor are unlikely to support such agendas, thereby perpetuating their situation, not only for themselves but for their children.
I could go on. I haven’t even touched on the role that Christianity has played in this situation, but I think I’ve sufficiently made by point.
This is why I cannot view the Progressive belief that the rich and to a reasonable extent the middle class should have a larger tax burden. By their very circumstances they are spared the kind of emotional and psychological burdens the poor labor under, let alone the not tax related monetary ones, and have access to a great many more options. And as the bible would remind anyone who proclaims them-self a Christian "God’s judgment is perfectly fair. In this life, some have better opportunities to develop God’s character. Others have greater intelligence or natural abilities. God will apply the principle of “to whom much is given, much is required” with perfect fairness."
Keep The Faith My Brothers And Sisters!
Today, 4.22.14 the Supreme Court upheld Michigan's ban on using race as a factor in college admissions.