20 things the poor really do every day

ramsey

[Note: This post has been updated to more clearly identify the sources for each claim made below. The original post included links to each source but did not call them out as clearly.]

Dave Ramsey probably wasn’t expecting this much pushback when he shared a piece by Tim Corley contrasting the habits of the rich with those of the poor. In her response on CNN, Rachel Held Evans noted that Ramsey and Corley mistake correlation for causality when they suggest (without actually proving) that these habits are the cause of a person’s financial situation. (Did it never occur to them that it might be the other way around?)

Ramsey fired back, calling the pushback “immature and ignorant.” This from a guy who just made 20 sweeping assertions about 47 million poor people in the US — all based on a survey of 361 individuals.

That’s right. To come up with his 20 habits, Corley talked to just 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. Ramsey can talk all he wants about Corley’s research passing the “common-sense smell test,” but it doesn’t pass the “research methodology 101” test.

To balance the picture a bit, I wanted to take a fact-based look at 20 things the poor do on a daily basis…

1. Search for affordable housing.
Especially in urban areas, the waiting list for affordable housing can be a year or more. During that time, poor families either have to make do with substandard or dangerous housing, depend on the hospitality of relatives, or go homeless.
(Source: New York Times)

2. Try to make $133 worth of food last a whole month.
That’s how much the average food stamp recipient gets each month. Imagine trying to eat well on $4.38 per day. It’s not easy, which is why many impoverished families resort to #3…
(Source: Kaiser Family Foundation)

3. Subsist on poor quality food.
Not because they want to, but because they can’t afford high-quality, nutritious food. They’re trapped in a food system that subsidizes processed foods, making them artificially cheaper than natural food sources. So the poor are forced to eat bad food — if they’re lucky, that is…
(Sources: Washington Post; Journal of Nutrition, March 2008)

4. Skip a meal.
One in six Americans are food insecure. Which means (among other things) that they’re sometimes forced to go without eating.
(Sources: World Vision, US Department of Agriculture)

5. Work longer and harder than most of us.
While it’s popular to think people are poor because they’re lazy (which seems to be the whole point of Ramsey’s post), the poor actually work longer and harder than the rest of us. More than 80 percent of impoverished children have at least one parent who works; 60 percent have at least one parent who works full-time. Overall, the poor work longer hours than the so-called “job creators.”
(Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)

6. Go to bed 3 hours before their first job starts.
Number 15 on Ramsey and Corley’s list was, “44% of [the] wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of [the] poor.” It may be true that most poor people don’t wake up three hours before work starts. But that could be because they’re more likely to work multiple jobs, in which case job #1 means they’re probably just getting to bed three hours before job #2 starts.
(Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)

7. Try to avoid getting beat up by someone they love.
According to some estimates, half of all homeless women in America ran away to escape domestic violence.
(Source: National Coalition for the Homeless, 2009)

8. Put themselves in harm’s way, only to be kicked to the streets afterward.
How else do you explain 67,000 63,000 homeless veterans?
(Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs, updated to reflect the most recent data)

9. Pay more than their fair share of taxes.
Some conservative pundits and politicians like to think the poor don’t pay their fair share, that they are merely “takers.” While it’s true the poor don’t pay as much in federal income tax — usually because they don’t earn enough to qualify — they do pay sales tax, payroll tax, etc. In fact, the bottom 20% of earners pay TWICE as much in taxes (as a share of their income) as do the top 1%.
(Source: Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, January 2013)

10. Fall further behind.
Even when poverty is the result of poor decision-making, often it’s someone else’s choices that make the difference. If you experience poverty as a child, you are 3-4 times less likely to graduate high school. If you spend your entire childhood in poverty, you are 5 times less likely to graduate. Which means your future has been all but decided for you.
(Sources: World Vision, Children’s Defense Fund, Annie E. Casey Foundation)

11. Raise kids who will be poor.
A child’s future earnings are closely correlated to their parents’ earnings. In other words, economic mobility — the idea that you can claw your way out of poverty if you just try hard enough is, more often than not, a myth.
(Sources: OECD, Economic Policy Institute)

12. Vote less.
And who can blame them? I would be less inclined to vote if I didn’t have easy access to the polls and if I were subjected to draconian voter ID laws that are sold to the public as necessary to suppress nonexistent voter fraud.
(Source: The Center for Voting and Democracy)

13. When they do vote… vote pretty much the same as the rest of us.
Following their defeat in 2012, conservatives took solace by reasoning that they’d lost to a bunch of “takers,” including the poor, who voted for Democrats because they want free handouts from big government. The reality is a bit more complex. Only a third of low-income voters identify as Democrats, about the same for all Americans, including wealthy voters.
(Sources: NPR, Pew Research Center)

14. Live with chronic pain.
Those earning less than $12,000 a year are twice as likely to report feeling physical pain on any given day.
(Source: Kaiser Health News)

15. Live shorter lives.
There is a 10-14 year gap in life expectancy between the rich and the poor. In recent years, poor people’s life expectancy has actually declined — in America, the wealthiest nation on the planet.
(Source: Health Affairs, 2012)

16. Use drugs and alcohol pretty much the same as (or less than) everyone else.
Despite the common picture of inner city crack houses, drug use is pretty evenly spread across income groups. And rich people actually abuse alcohol more than the poor.
(Source: Poverty and Learning, April 2008)

17. Receive less in subsidized benefits than corporations.
The US government spends around $60 billion on public housing and rental subsidies for low-income families, compared to more than $90 billion on corporate subsidies. Oil companies alone get around $70 billion. And that’s not counting the nearly $60 billion a year in tax breaks corporations enjoy by sheltering profits offshore. Or the $700 billion bailout banks got in 2008.
(Source: Think By Numbers)

18. Get themselves off welfare as soon as possible.
Despite the odds, the vast majority of beneficiaries leave the welfare rolls within five years. Even in the absence of official welfare-to-work programming, most welfare recipients enroll in some form of vocational training. Why? Because they’re desperate to get off welfare.
(Source: US Department of Health and Human Services)

19. Have about the same number of children as everyone else.
No, poor people do not have loads of children just so they can stay on welfare.
(Source: US Department of Health and Human Services)

20. Accomplish one single goal: stay alive. 
Poverty in America may not be as dire as poverty in other parts of the world, but many working poor families are nonetheless preoccupied with day-to-day survival. For them, life is not something to be enjoyed so much as endured.

These are the real habits of the poor, those with whom Jesus identifies most closely.

[Note: For a followup to this post, see “Poverty is more than a matter of poor decision-making.]

781 thoughts on “20 things the poor really do every day

  1. Pingback: 20 things the poor do every day | MemePosts

  2. It’s rather ironic that you so pompously attempt to discredit Ramsay’s conclusions based on what you call a failure of the ““research methodology 101 test”, and then respond with 20 assertions of your own based on nothing more than a series of cherry-picked media articles and assertions by other individuals.

    I seem to recall that the Bible has something rather unfavorable to say about hypocrites.

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      • There are so many holes in all 20, of those “assertions” I don’t have the time to point them out. However, owning a business that sees a 50% increase from the 1st to the 6th of each month I know first hand that a large portion of that so called food money is spent on tobacco and alcohol. Also in regard to 60% of the Poor have one parent working full time, does that mean 40% don’t work or only part time? My wife and I work full time! More hours then I care to add up. Please don’t take into account that these big evil corporations hire people, increase benifits, lower product cost….. When you get off your soap box take a moment to consider that this country was built by the Sam Waltons, Henry Fords, and Steve Jobs of the world. What makes this country great is everyone has the opportunity to do what these men did. (Please note not one of them was born into means). It was not built by those who feel they are entitled to anything. Charity is not charity when forced at gun point. It extortion.

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      • Chis – You should read Howard Zinn’s “The People’s History of the United States.” You may stand a chance of learning who actually built this country. I’ll give you a clue – Sam Walton, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs did not pick up a hammer and nails and build their “empires” alone. For starters, they needed consumers – people who could afford to buy what they were selling. The “great man” myth of history is thrown out the moment you learn to think critically. Good luck.

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      • Chris, you say “everyone has the opportunity” to do what Walton, Ford and Jobs did, but aside from being untrue on its face, even if it were true, all it would mean is that everyone has the opportunity to be one of the extremely few who get to stand atop the pile of bodies that represents our present society. “Yes, you, too, can be one of the THREE who gets to stand on the backs of everyone else and revel in riches while the masses beneath you toil, squirm, sweat, sicken early and die young.” You see, if everyone TRULY could do what those three did, then everyone would be standing on top and no one would be holding them up, and this CLEARLY cannot happen within the current system, as it is built exclusively to be exactly what it is : a modern feudalism, replete with lords (your three heroes) and serfs (common workers) and everyone in between.

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      • Then you might feel inclined to share more than one source to make a point then. I don’t know about Research 101, but it my 500 level research class we were taught to have multiple sources to make a point or pass sentence.

        #2-4: I make about $47k being a teacher and my family of 3 is living on $110 a month for food. It’s doable. It takes work, yes, but if you’re looking to pinch some pennies, then it can be done.

        #5: If 60% of children don’t have a parent that has a full-time job, that means 40% have parents with only a part-time job or unemployed for various reasons. Saying that poor people aren’t lazy and then saying that 40% of them don’t put in their min. of 40 hours isn’t right at all. I’m also not seeing ANY data that says poor people are putting more hours than wealthy people. In today’s technology and communication age, many full-time workers are working at home or on the road (even while on vacation). I’m at my school 10-12 hours a day, go home, workout, eat, and THEN I break out more things to work on.

        The hours I put in are on the verge of 2 full time jobs and I know people who do more than I do! Where’s the data to back up #5?

        #7-8: What’s your point?

        #9: Brown data going on here. If I compared the gross amount that I pay in taxes, it’s higher than someone who makes less than me. Period. Both by % and by gross amount. Either way you look at it, I -whom is in the middle class- pay more than someone below the poverty level.

        #17: Are we comparing people to people or people to companies? The economics are different for the two groups. The law is also different for the two groups. I don’t get any subsidies. Poor people do. I am also paying for those subsidies indirectly.

        #18: Not in my neighborhood. My neighbors are doing nothing but making poor decision after poor decision and aren’t even looking for jobs or when they get one, get fired for behavior issues on the job. Your’re in your 30s and still getting disciplined like a child? Really? If one was sincerely trying to get out, I can’t imagine doing anything BUT acting in line with my employer’s rules.

        All of this is a mute point though because after today’s fast food worker’s strike, the kid at McDonald’s is going to be making more per hour than me, right? $15.00/hr? Seriously?!?!

        If you do the math for as many hours as I put in that’s just under what I make. They have a high school education. I am working on my doctorate’s, work at the #1 academically ranked school in my state and have 7 years of experience under my belt and you want to earn per hour anywhere NEAR what I make? Let’s put this in perspective: If that actually happened, I’d quit my job and find 2 fast food jobs and just work those. A lot less stress than I go through now, the hours would be similar and I could score some food every now and then. Sweet!

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      • Most of my friends, and people I deal with, along with half of my family are poor. Mr. Irwin clearly has no ideal what he is talking about. At best, his list of 20 are heavily edited misleading half truths. The rich people I know are responsible workaholics. The poor people are irresponsible slackers.

        All rich and middle class liberals are hypocrites. All liberals should be equally poor.

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      • Chris, you are totally full of it that you have a 50% increase in your business between 1st and the 6th of each month …..by people spending their “food money” on tobacco and alcohol. First of all, no one can buy tobacco or alcohol with FOOD STAMPS. Secondly, payments for welfare and food stamp benefits are spread out throughout the month and not just between the “1st and the 6th”. Third, I guess it never occurred to you that the major breadwinner, usually the husband, works full time, while the mother works part time because she takes care of the children. Working full time would require paying for daycare, which would take up more than half of a full time salary, so why work full time? As for the rest of your post…..it is total B.S and not worth answering.

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      • Chris, Steve jobs stole the mouse and GUI from Xerox — he paid nothing for it and his company was being paid ludicrous amounts by Xerox at the time. http://zurb.com/article/801/steve-jobs-and-xerox-the-truth-about-inno

        Henry Ford neither invented the automobile nor invented assembly lines. He made the vehicle simpler and created better assembly lines; however, of most things he was an idiot.
        http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/ford.htm
        http://www.historyaccess.com/henryford-histor.html

        Sam Walton was a smart man, but he paid $25,000 to franchise his first store in 1945. In today’s money that’s well over $250,000 — an amount no poor person has access to.

        If you want a single hero, stick with comic books.

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      • Kill the poor! That’s right, that’s what will fix the problem. Why should people of means endure the stench of the poor. I say round them up and gas them. They are the ones who are ruining America. Kill them, every last stinking one of them!

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      • @Geoffrey S. Bush
        I am all for picking apart this ridiculous comment, but if you are going to do so, at least make an attempt to know what you’re talking about. In fact, not a single one of your statements about Jobs has even a grain of truth. First, the precursor to the mouse, the trackball, was invented in Britain in 1946. The actual mouse itself was invented by Douglas Engelbart in 1963 at the Stanford Research Institute. Xerox had NOTHING to do with it. Second, it is complete and utter B.S. that Jobs paid nothing to Xerox, and stole their tech. Not only did Jobs pay Xerox 150M in Apple stock options (which they later sold for a LOT more) for his visit to P.A.R.C (unlike Gates, who DID pay nothing) he then went on to hire many of the key engineers, in order to use and further their work.
        I might even just let you stew in your own ignorance, but the link you provided to prove your point COMPLETELY contradicts you!!! What part of “Jobs Didn’t Steal The Mouse or The GUI from Xerox” (one of the subject heading of the piece do you not understand? What part of “Did Steve Jobs steal the GUI from Xerox… not really” are you too thick to process?
        I’d go on to say that I was one of the users of that Xerox system, the Alto, that Jobs got a peak at, and know for a FACT that the first Mac did not steal the GUI from Xerox, but at this stage of the game, even that is not necessary.

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      • @ Chris: How do you know 1st hand that all the poor people spend all their money on alcohol and drugs? That is probably the most idiotic, non scientific researched based comments I’ve seen in a long time. You remind me of the typical white guy who’s unhappy with their life and feels the need to blame another group all the while having access to a system that many don’t have access to.

        As far as the big evil corporations? I suggest you do a little research or at least access someone elses. A few years ago Time magazine did a scathing but accurate story on detailing at least 10 major corporations that received billions in tax breaks and incentives to expand or grow their company under of guise of hiring more people.They found something that most critical thinkers already know: before the contract was fulfilled, a large percentage of these companies declared bankruptcy or moved operations to another country! you know, with those jobs that “hire people, increase benefits…” you know…

        Chris. You are probably not originally from America and just moved here so Imma go easy on you. This…Country…was ….built….by…..Slaves. That’s right! this country rose to economic prominence due to free labor! Sugar, Cotton, lumber etc.. and not to mention those wonderful railroad guys! In fact they worked the hell out of most people of color.

        and Chris, many poor people can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps and work to become successful. Mostly because they are caught in the cycle of poverty. To put it simply, they don’t have boots to pull themselves up with! No one wants to give a poor person a loan to start a business and in fact, most poor people’s children’s schools average 10-15 k lower in money spent per kid than more affluent communities even utilizing public education.

        Lastly Christopher you need to check your heart. If you are white…deal with the seed of racism or at least why you are so jaded against even considering another point besides yours and the Faux News Crew. If you are black or a person of color: seek therapy.

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      • Chris writes: “When you get off your soap box take a moment to consider that this country was built by the Sam Waltons, Henry Fords, and Steve Jobs of the world.”

        No. This country was built largely by slave labor, then wage slave labor, including lots of child labor, and was predicated upon a genocide against Native Americans. The white male owners take the credit undeservedly. They did not do the vast majority of the actual work, and they could not have done it without killing off almost the entire population of the continent first.

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      • I’m poor, and I actually agree with this article. I usually don’t agree with articles like these, but this one is spot on. I’ve been busting my butt to get off of assistance by going to school. It’s not been easy. My kids are facing the same struggles I did in school, and I’m challenged as a parent by not being able to financially meet those educational needs outside of the classroom. If we want less poverty we need more tutoring for low income families!!!!!!

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      • #9 is just useless….you are skewing the numbers to make it sound better. They don’t pay as much in taxes period. And as a banker for the last 25 years the majority of lower income people…make very poor economic decisions and do little to plan for the future.

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      • What a complete and utter load of nonsense. But thanks for yet another confirmative example that being a banker does not require any proficiency at math, sociology, or ethics. Using percentage of income is NOT skewing the numbers. Just the opposite. It is a measure of effect. If you are poor, by definition, you do not have disposable income to use for random purposes. So the degree to which an expense affected your overall purchasing power has a great deal of impact on your daily life, and is DIRECTLY measured by the percentage of one’s income a particular expense entails. Just putting forth raw totals carries NO useful, actionable information.
        In addition, the idea that being a banker gives you a representative data sample to form ANY informed opinion about the poor is ludicrous and asinine on its face. It gets more so when you dig below the surface.
        In fact, it is only the rich who can in general even afford to make such poor economic decisions.

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    • Wuz, did you actually follow any of the links? More than the first one, which takes you to a fact-supported NYT article? The three others that I followed took me to actual studies/data. And, no, I didn’t follow every link, just enough to be able to say that your own assertion that these 20 assertions are “based on nothing more than a series of cherry-picked media articles and assertions by other individuals” is itself unsupported by a complete set of data.

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      • Phil, what constitutes fact-supported? I work in education and hear constantly, “researched-based” or “fact-supported”. When I respond, “by who?”, people either can’t give me the source or I determine that the source was some group like the NEA or NYT, who certainly doesn’t have an agenda. C’mon guy, get real.

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      • “fact supported NYT article” … well, that just shot holes in your entire argument. NYT has been a propaganda arm for the Democrats for decades. OF COURSE their article supports that worldview. And didja know… I can pound data to fit any perspective I want it to. Links to data are now also subjective. But thanks for playing.

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      • And your ad hominem automatically invalidates yours. You do know how logical fallacies work, right?
        (No, sorry, apparently you don’t.)
        As to you “ability to pound data”, prove it. How about I post a series of stats 101 test questions that a first year student could answer, and see if you can give the the right value? Well?

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    • Loved “The Story” Ben…awesome. Thanks for writing it. But this post of yours seeks to further the “victim mentality” that is so pervasive in today’s first-world culture. Dave’s remarks were to simply draw parallels between healthy behaviors and successful outcomes. Period. And while the sampling was indeed small, think for a moment…about your own life…you likely are practicing many of the “healthy” traits shared by wealthy people, don’t you? Don’t feel bad; it’s who you are. You know what is healthy and what is not. It’s not rocket science. Impoverished people need guidance, direction and above all, hope. And his list attempts to identify behaviors that we all can follow in the hope that it may awaken us to make changes in our lives that lead us to be financially fit. Dave certainly doesn’t need my defense, but I will tell you he wants nothing more than for all of us to lift our heads up, plant one foot in front of the other and lead a life of making healthy decisions. Merry Christmas. And again, thanks for bringing us “The Story”.

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      • Glad you loved The Story. (Especially gratifying to hear, considering how close it came to not happening!)

        I would argue that the small sample size is a big deal. It means it’s more than likely that some (or most) of the statistics which were passed off as fact do not accurately represent the habits of the poor. I have no doubt some are at least generally true, such as the one about the poor eating more junk food calories — though not all the reasons for this come down to individual choice. But claims like “6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor” just seem to stretch the limits of credibility for me.

        You’re right that I probably practice many of the “healthy” traits on Ramsey’s list…at least I hope I do! But I’m fortunate to earn a decent living. I’m not wealthy by American standards, but my family and I don’t lack for any necessities. Now you could argue that’s because I’ve practiced a good work ethic, and I certainly hope that’s the case. But some of it’s because I was born into a reasonably well-off family that could afford to send me to a respected college.

        More to the point, the fact that I’m not poor gives me the luxury to practice some of these habits. I can do #3 on Ramsey’s list (exercise 4 days a week) because I can afford a gym membership if I want one. I can afford to buy decent running shoes so I don’t destroy my feet when I exercise.

        As for #4, I don’t have a commute per se (I work from home), but I can afford to buy audiobooks if I want. And I can afford a car in which to listen to them.

        I’m able to get up a few hours before work each day (#15), which I do so I can write, because I don’t have to work two jobs just to make ends meet. I don’t have to spend my evenings working a second or third shift somewhere so I can put food on the table.

        My point (which others have made better) is that Ramsey’s piece confuses correlation and causality. He assumes these habits are the cause of people’s poverty rather than a consequence of it. And I think the reality is more complex than that.

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      • Dave wants people to buy his product, period. That’s how he got rich – by peddling his stuff. It’s naive to think that he cares about anything but that. If he did, his products would be minimally priced – or even free.

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      • This list isn’t for the poor. It’s for those who have no understanding what the poor are going through. It’s not victim mentality. It’s not saying “don’t feel bad: it’s who you are.” It’s telling you judgmental types to pay attention. Also, did you read the article? Why would anyone say don’t feel bad: it’s who you are-working more than everyone”

        And to touch on someone else’s points. The people of means I know are quite lazy. Oh they work hard, but they pay people to do their yard work, they pay people to clean their houses, they pay people to do their laundry, they never cook.
        The poor people I know work just as hard outside the house and then have to do all of those things for themselves still when they get home.

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      • You referring to the parts that take you to the “fact” based left leaning news organization or the other opinion links? I want to throw it out there that I am conservative and therefore bias to an extent. I give very little credibility to either story since they both were not supported properly.

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    • Gently, brother. The Bible has even more to say about those who disregard the poor. Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Check out the prophets, the gospels, and the letters,

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      • The Bible has a lot to say about those who forgo everyone else in the world, and focus only on the poor. They’re called “goats”.

        You’ll find it when you actually read the damn thing.

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      • Don Brown – As a biblical scholar I take issue with that remark. The Bible says virtually nothing about “people who focus only on the poor.” The people called goats in the parable you allude to are the ones who refused to clothe the poor and visit the prisoners. Read James some time; or one of the gospels, or the prophet Amos, or just Google “what does the Bible say about poverty” and start looking at the 2,000 verses that deal with this issue.

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      • That was in the context of Christian groups who were convinced that since Jesus was coming back soon they just had to sit around and wait. It was a communal system in which you did the jobs that needed to be done and in return could expect food and shelter. You didn’t have to apply for jobs or pay for food out of your wages. They shared all they had in common, but expected effort in return.

        Not like a system now where some people earn money just by investing money they already have.

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      • A certain poor Jew from Nazareth did not paint an easy road for the rich. Nor did he, growing up in a small village where bartering was the way of life, contrasted with using Roman coins, speak kindly about mammon and about the coin exchange cultures that he found in Jerusalem. MLKJr apparently carried with him Howard Thurman’s “Jesus and the Disinherited”. Check it out.

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    • Your point is true but the real difference is that Ramsey’s conclusions are naive and lack common sense. The sad point is that Ramsey made his name in common sense financial planning but isn’t recognizing that Inequality of wealth is inevitably a problem in any free and prosperous society. If you play monopoly in the third grade you can begin to understand the basics of how capitalism creates winners and losers. Our next generations will be defined by how those with wealth and power treat those who don’t have it. (Does a extraordinary company like Walmart really value their hard working cashiers at less than $8 an hour?)

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    • I am below the poverty line, and I see this happen to myself and other poor people every day. They are spot on, except for the SNAP thing. Where I live SNAP individual recipients get a WHOLE $16 per month! That’s $0.53 a day for food! For a long time, I was lucky to get one meal a day!

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      • Since folks are curious. SNAP is on a sliding scale. So the more income you have, the less amount you get. ALSO family of 5 with an income the same as a family of 4 will get more SNAP money, than that family of 4.

        Outside of Hawaii and Alaska everyone is on the exact same scale. So the Author gave the average, but if one is working, with little to no kids, the amount they will get will drop substantially.

        The only extra tidbit of info is occasionally you will have a state that offers to give more money for federal benefits. Few do, and the few that do, are trying to get out of that business because it’s bankrupting them, AND you will see more dependency because with the added $$ to benefits it makes it possible to live off of the system. On the federal money one gets, it’s pretty much impossible. What I tend to find, is those that see people living off of the system permanently is they are in one of those states that supplement. I do not, thus in my poor neighborhood I don’t see generally people trying to take advantage of the system.

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    • I grew up hungry and poor since age 10 and still struggle. I have struggled with many of these truths. If you don’t believe any of it, ask a poor person. What gets me is people sit around talking about “the poor” and making assumptions and doing “studies” but does anyone actually get out in the world and have real conversations with each other? Um, not really. The poor, are actual people.

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      • Thank you! This is exactly the right answer in my opinion. Don’t just read blogs or newspapers or text books and think you know anything about poverty – go out and befriend a person who is living in poverty and share your skills, talents and life with them on the journey out of poverty. Anyone who feels like they live a successful life had people in their lives to help them through the transitions – from middle school to high school, from high school to college, deciding on a spouse, being a parent, buying a house, setting up a checking account… the list goes on and on. And one thing I know is that if you didn’t have parents that had many of these things then as a child you missed out on the natural process of learning how to be successful and resourced in this culture. So you need to find others that can help assist you and walk along side.

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      • Agreed. As an academic in this line of work, it is necessary that this dialogue and knowledge extend beyond the ivory tower, past blog postings, and into the communities. As for those who rebuke Irwin and his writings: it’s easy to feel defensive when your (class) privilege becomes threatened.

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      • People sit around postulating about the motivation of the poor to take advantage of the system, however if anyone really and truly wants to know what the average working-poor person has to do to keep a roof in a safe neighborhood, food for two children, cloths, personal hygiene products, laundry, transportation, school supplies for the same,they would get down where we live and live with us for a year on $8.00 per hour! This would be a study I would love to see conducted. Note taxpayers would rather this study than to see congress give themselves another raise in pay. This would be a real “Reality Show” that I’d pay to see! Please know that everyone who lives in poverty may not have started there, events in life, (death of a spouse, divorce, illness, forced downsizing, natural disasters) may have dealt people bad hands but we play the cards we have. Always hoping to get ahead and many times that’s not possible unfortunately. It should be a requirement (for those who serve the poorer populations and create regulations regarding said people) live for one year as a part of that population so that they will know what it’s like to be poor. I myself started of a word of the state, married, veteran,college student, divorced, homeless with two children, disabled with my teen daughter left to care for me while the Veterans Administration takes it’s time processing my claim. I’m educated and yes I’m poor, but I’ve worked everyday since the age of 15. I’m not on illegal drugs looking for a handout.

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      • I completely agree with you…what a great idea to do a study on this subject. Maybe with real numbers and the science behind that study there would be a shift in the thinking regarding the poor. When statements are made regarding the plight of the poor, many are stated as fact when in truth they are just stereotypes. We had been transferred from Wisconsin to Florida in September of 1996. Two months later we were living in paradise and jobless because the company sold and everyone was terminated. There was no severance, no insurance after the end of that month and a $800 a month mortgage. We sold bikes, computers, lost both vehicles, sold off my Mary Kay Cosmetics inventory for less than cost, and spent every Saturday and Sunday at the flea market to get enough money to by food for the five of us. We didn’t qualify for any services because we hadn’t been living there long enough to establish residency. What we thought was going to be the thrill of a lifetime, living near Disneyworld and all of the other theme parks became a nightmare because while the kid’s friends were going there, they could not. Despite our financial situation, I always got up, did my hair, makeup and nails and wore my jewelry that I hadn’t already pawned and went out looking for jobs. I was not willing to let my circumstances transform who I was as a person. I was more than my circumstances. People can say what they want about the poor, but you don’t have to be clothed in tatters, unwashed and without at least some of the things that you had before your circumstances changed. Don’t judge unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes. Just remember, Karma is a bitch…what you put out there boomerangs right back at you when you least expect or can afford for it to happen.

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    • Wuz…what does your Bible say about this whole subject? I guess Jesus was only talking about the “poor in spirit”. Hypocrisy…oh my!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • The Bible…yeah…can you think of any other collection that has been used more often to pervert the meaning of the BIG story by quoting “cherry picked” chapter, verse or line?
      You pompously attempt to discredit Ben Irwin by citing the #1 source for distorting the true meaning of a story/parable to use for your own weakminded end.

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    • How about 20 things poor people did to end up in their situation. I’ll start.
      #1 devalue education and do nothing while in school
      I grew up poor, with hardworking parents. We got by on cheap meals and garage sale clothes. We couldn’t even afford a television. But my parents worked hard, and made me understand that I was going to have to work hard to EARN things in life. I’m a successful adult, married with three kids, My sister is a doctor. Both of us poor growing up, both of us public school educated, both of us successful. Most poor people are provided many, many, many chances growing up to change their lot in life and don’t.

      Don’t tell me about their difficult life as adults. Tell me about the decisions they made along the way that put them there.

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      • Bravo,Joe…..you hit the nail on the head.Our life here in this country is only predicated on our decisions,our choices. While we are not all born into a level playing field, we are not defined by another individual unless we choose to allow it.Personally, I save my sympathy for those that are either mentally or physically handicapped in some way due to no fault of their own. There are very few that escape times where we’re unjustly treated or are victimized in some way. It’s what we DECIDE to do about it that alters our future.If as much effort was spent forging jobs and training as is perpetrating the victim mentality,we would be way ahead of the game.

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      • Humility, oh humility, where art thou oh humility?

        Privilege, just by the color of your skin and type of name you have, opens doors you didn’t even know opened because of the your unsaid birth given privilege of white skin and a name like Paulette Yates Corry. And you think it’s ALL related to hard work?!!

        Here’s a checklist of “white privilege”..that everyone of all colors and socio-economic backgrounds should read and learn from:
        http://www.residential-life.unh.edu/diversity/aw_article17.pdf

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      • You seem to think there’s no such thing as bad luck, or people being misled into thinking they’re training for a job that won’t be moved overseas, or going to bad schools, or being bullied to an extent that it interferes with schoolwork and learning.

        It is possible to overcome bad circumstances, yes, but that does not mean it is morally acceptable to look with contempt upon those who don’t. Not everyone makes it. How we treat those who do not defines how civil our society is.

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      • Peggy: It’s more complex than that. My husband and I are college graduates and both worked very hard to support our young children. We decided to participate in the American Dream and open our own business. We have never worked so hard in our lives. Our business didn’t make it and left us desperately broke at Christmas time. Our community helped in many ways. I guess you could call them “handouts”. It took a little while to get back on our feet, but we managed to. Prior to our financial reverses, we had donated and volunteered for agencies that serve the poor. We still do. My point is that, sometimes things don’t turn out as we expect them to. There will always be people caught up in poverty unexpectedly. That’s why Christ asks us to help people in need. If the whole planet did this, there would be no wars and people wouldn’t fall between the cracks never to recover. Thank God for kind people and the Salvation Army.

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      • Tell me, Joe, what time period was it when you grew up poor? Because the gap between poor and rich is steadily growing larger, and with more momentum every generation. The top 1% of America’s population control more of the country’s wealth than the entire lower middle class COMBINED. It is no longer enough to just work hard. My mother worked three jobs, two of them full time, as a single mother to support three children. She did end up going to trade school, and becoming a medical assistant. Even with that, she barely kept her head above water. It wasn’t until the very unfortunate death of my step father that she was able to pay off her debt entirely with his life insurance policy. She is now a homeowner for the first time in her entire life, because she has good enough credit to finally get a home loan (she’s 50). It literally took someone dying for her to climb out of the poverty hole. And I watched her when I was growing up. She was not lazy by any means, and she would go hungry so that us kids always had something to eat. She was NOT on welfare most of the time because we didn’t have a steady place to live. Welfare requires a home address, as does EVERY type of government assistance. I stood in line at churches so that we could pick up a food box. And a lot of times, we couldn’t get to the church on time because we had to rely on public transportation to get there, and so all the food boxes were already gone. She didn’t put herself in that situation, either. When I was 4 months old, she was forced to move to an unfamiliar place where she had no money and three children to support because my father was abusive and she got us out of there. Was her poor decision taking us out of an abusive environment? Was it not staying there to continue to be beaten? Was it entering into a relationship with someone who was a very sweet and nurturing person until he had a child?

        So please, go on and keep believing the fallacy that poor people did something to end up in the situation they were in. For some people, poverty is forced on them (many are poor due to a medical situation that their insurance won’t cover that bankrupts them- most Americans are only one medical emergency away from poverty, even those who are well off).

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      • I agree Joe but not everyone has mentally healthy parents who are supportive. Some people are struggling with issues that they cannot control.

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      • More importantly, many people did EXACTLY what joe’s parents did, and did NOT manage to get ahead. This is the classical logical error of assuming that a single case can be extrapolated into a generality. In fact, if everyone who worked hard had the same luck, you’d ALL still be poor.

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      • Wow, Joe…you make a valid point, and all of the victim come out to show you haw are just privileged schmuck who must not have earned it. I saw the person who cried slavery and racism, and one who cried bullied youth, and bad schooling, and even low IQ. It must really suck to be them. Or, they can inspire others to study hard, work hard, and show them it can be done. For some reason, that seems to be missing from all of the victim comments.

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      • And intelligible English (not to mention simple editing) seems to be missing from yours. What is not missing is baseless condescension, unsupported dismissal of other viewpoints, realistic alternatives to actual challenges (you can’t just study your way out of a low IQ).
        Oh, and data to back up your argument. But we already touched on that.

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    • I did my M.Ed. Action Research on classism, which is what I see in the Ramsay. The information here is the same or similar to what I used within the work. If you check, which I am sure you won’t, then you will see that the stats here are good.
      You can not spend food stamps on alcohol and tobacco for the replay from Chris. If it is not food stamp you refer to as food money then please be more specific.

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    • Fortunately for you, the bible doesn’t clearly say anything unfavorable about idiots. You are the one who asserts the articles were “cherry picked.” Ramsay has a lot of good things to say about handling money, for those who have some. What he seems to miss is the devastating poverty that is beyond his model — and there is poverty in this country that cannot be addressed by using a method involving envelopes and snowballs. I have benefitted from Ramsay’s teaching. But people who work at a company that will allow them only 25-30 hours per week in order to avoid paying benefits, resulting in the necessity of using government assistance for food, or people who work in the food service industry and are not guaranteed the already inadequate mininum wage, are not going to be able to take baby steps and debt snowballs to a comfortable middle class lifestyle. Check what the bible has to say about our attitude toward the poor…but, of course, what Jesus said about that won’t fit your worldview so you will ignore it completely and recast it in some fashion.

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    • The Bible also has something rather unfavorable to say about those who do not help the poor, Wuz. Not to mention those who worship money over humility.

      Now who were you sugesting is being hypocritical?

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      • WUZ” there’s only one way for you to get what the reality of poverty is, that would be for you to join us for “A Night in a box” here in Denver. Once you walk in their shoes, you’ll never be the same. It seems that our culture has narrowly defined who is desirable to have as an employee and who is not. If someone has a physical disability, mental disability, lots of kids, old, young, stutterer, ugly face, fat, black, Korean, Mexican
        (I could go on forever) they are not chosen to be hired in this time of a poor economy. Are all these folks totally worthless? Or is there a very tight demographic that allows those who fit the right description, in the door and everyone else has to stay outside. You must know that there isn’t one single cause for poverty,just as there is not one single cure. However, poverty can be conquered. It just requires that ALL of us try to help those in need. Money can’t fix it all. A helping hand, treating folks with respect can go a long way to bring people back to self sufficiency. Most of just don’t want to get involved.

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    • The bible also says it’s okay to rape female slaves, and hey, having slaves is fine too, according to the bible. Please, if you’re trying to go for moral high ground, use something with a better set of examples than the bible.

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      • Hi, dear I went to Christian school and I have read the Bible so I know what you mean. God guided me in an unexpected direction and I finally found the truth I was looking for! Please read the following:

        2:177 Piety is not to turn your faces towards
        the east and the west, but piety is one
        who acknowledges God and the Last
        day, and the angels, and the book, and
        the prophets, and he gives money out of
        love to the near relatives, and the
        orphans, and the needy and the wayfarer,
        and those who ask, and to free the slaves,
        and he observes the Contact prayer, and
        contributes towards betterment; and
        those who keep their pledges when they
        make a pledge, and those who are patient
        in the face of good and bad and during
        persecution. These are the ones who
        have been truthful, and they are the
        righteous.

        2:235 There is no blame upon you if you
        openly propose marriage to these
        women, or you keep it between
        yourselves. God knows that you will be
        thinking of them, but do not meet them
        secretly, unless you have something
        righteous to say. Do not consummate the
        marriage until the required interim is
        reached in the book. Know that God
        knows what is in your minds, so be
        conscientious of Him, and know that
        God is Forgiving, Compassionate.

        2:256 There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in GOD has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.

        3:92 You will not reach piety until you spend
        from what you love. Whatever you
        spend, God is aware of it.

        3:186 We will test you with your wealth and
        with yourselves, and you will hear from
        those who have been given the book
        before you and from those who set up
        partners much annoyance. If you strive
        and be aware, then these are affairs of
        great resolve.

        4:105 We have revealed to you the book with
        truth that you may judge between the
        people according to what God has
        shown you, and do not be an advocate
        for the treacherous.

        4:109 Here you are arguing on their behalf in
        this world, but who will argue on their
        behalf with God on the day of
        Resurrection? Or who will be their
        sponsor?

        4:19 O you who acknowledge, it is not lawful
        for you to inherit the women by force,
        nor that you become harsh with them to
        take away some of what you have given
        them, unless they commit a clear
        lewdness. Live with them in kindness. If
        you dislike them, then perhaps you may
        dislike something and God makes in it
        much good.
        4:20 If you wish to replace one mate instead
        of another, and you have given one of
        them a large amount, then do not take
        anything from it. Would you take it by
        falsehood while it is clearly a sin?
        4:21 How can you take it when you have
        become intimate with each other, and the
        women have taken from you a strong
        covenant?

        4:135 O you who acknowledge, stand with
        justice as witnesses to God, even if
        against yourselves, or the parents or the
        relatives. Even if he were rich or poor,
        God is more worthy of them, so do not
        follow your desires from being just. If
        you twist or turn away, then God is
        Ever-aware of what you do.

        4:148 God does not like that any negative
        sayings be publicized, except if one is
        wronged. God is Hearer,
        Knowledgeable.

        4:51 Did you not see those who were given a
        portion of the book, they trust
        superstition and aggression, and they say
        of the ingrates, “Those are better guided
        than these who acknowledged the path.”

        4:60 Did you not see those who claimed they
        acknowledged what was sent down to
        you and what was sent before you? They
        wanted to seek judgment through
        aggression, while they were ordered to
        reject it. It is the devil who wants to lead
        them astray.

        6:103 No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is Subtle well-aware of all things.

        9:60 The charities are to go to the poor, the
        needy, those who work on their
        collection, those whose hearts are to be
        reconciled, free the slaves, those in debt,
        in the cause of God, and to the wayfarer.
        A duty from God; God is
        Knowledgeable, Wise.

        47:31 We will test you until We know those
        who strive among you and those who are
        patient. We will bring out your qualities.

        90:4 We have created the human being to
        struggle.
        90:5 Does he think that no one is able to best
        him?
        90:6 He says: “I spent so much money!”
        90:7 Does he think that no one saw him?
        90:8 Did We not make for him two eyes?
        90:9 A tongue and two lips?
        90:10 We guided him to both paths?
        90:11 He should choose the better path.
        90:12 Do you know which the better path is?
        90:13 The freeing of slaves.
        90:14 Or the feeding on a day of great
        hardship.
        90:15 An orphan of relation.
        90:16 Or a poor person in need.
        90:17 Then he has become one of those who
        have acknowledged, and exhort one
        another to patience, and exhort one
        another to kindness.

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      • Hey! The bible is enormous compilation of man’s relationship with God and each other. Of course anyone can pull some evil statements out of context and make it sound like the bible is full of garbage. HOWEVER! If one takes a moment to read what Jesus actually said, you will find that He asks very little of us. He promises us three gifts: Faith, Hope and love. He also said to” love each other as much as we love ourselves”. HE said that this was the most important thing. If I told you a story about my daughter, I might say something like: She is so kind and talented, but sometimes I want to kill her. Would you take me literally? The bible is a complicated to understand as Shakespeare and our
        sad country.

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      • There is truth in the Bible. As a historical text people would write about the shocking and obscene. Just because something awful is in the bible also does not mean that it is condoned by God.

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    • The Bible also has more to say about treating the poor with dignity and charity. And about the consequences to persons who turn their eye away from those who are suffering.

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    • The Bible also has something rather unfavorable to say about the rich. Over and over. Ramsay has taken a large group of Christian followers and encouraged them to think about money on a daily basis (in order to become debt free, but it still has become an obsession for many Christians that I know), which is the opposite of how Jesus lived his life.

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    • I seem to recall the Bible having plenty to say about surrendering the material things of the world and helping the poor, too….but I’ll bet those parts aren’t nearly so clear in your memory, are they?

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    • Poor people can become educated like a middle class kid. Unfortunately, the parents do a poor job of parenting and set bad examples. I feel bad for the unfortunate kids.

      Most poor people pay little or no taxes.

      If fully qualified based on income the SNAP benefit is between 150 and 200 per person with the 150 being for a family of 8 or more and 200 for a single person. The benefits are offset if they make too much money.

      “Because they can’t afford high-quality, nutritious food. They’re trapped in a food system that subsidizes processed foods, making them artificially cheaper than natural food sources. So the poor are forced to eat bad food — if they’re lucky, that is….”

      Looks like left wing propaganda. Processed food is always more expensive per pound than unprocessed. The problem with the poor is that they have little knowledge of nutrition and make poor choices. They can live within their food stamp budget if they eat beans, various grains, cooking oil, vegetables and small amounts of meat and milk like much of the rest of the world. They can’t if they drink pop, eat junk food and other prepared and processed foods.

      Many homeless suffer from mental illness which, if they can quality, will be able to receive welfare (SSI) along with food stamps. They just need a little help navigating the system. Any single parent will qualify for welfare benefits.

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      • Poor people can NOT “become educated like the middle class”. You need to seriously educate yourself! Educational opportunities are NOT even remotely equal. I thaw little to nothing to do with parenting. But care to cite ANY statistics to bolster your ridiculous claim? No, I thought not.
        Furthermore most poor people pay a significantly higher percentage of their income in taxes than the middle class, and in comparison to the rich, both pay far more. You simply have no idea what you’re talking about.
        Case in point, your nonsense about processed food. I don’t know where you shop, but it is utter nonsense that processed food is more expensive than processed. Simply typing it online does not make it so, and anyone who has actually shopped for food recognizes the nonsense in your words.
        “Many homeless suffer from mental illness….”
        And many do not. What is your point?

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      • Ugh, all those typos are driving me CRAZY. So to let me sleep at night, here is the edited version!
        Poor people can NOT “become educated like the middle class”. You need to seriously educate yourself! Educational opportunities are NOT even remotely equal. It has little to nothing to do with parenting. But care to cite ANY statistics to bolster your ridiculous claim? No, I thought not.
        Furthermore most poor people pay a significantly higher percentage of their income in taxes than the middle class, and in comparison to the rich, both pay far more. You simply have no idea what you’re talking about.
        Case in point, your nonsense about processed food. I don’t know where you shop, but it is utter nonsense that processed food is more expensive than unprocessed. Simply typing it online does not make it so, and anyone who has actually shopped for food recognizes the nonsense in your words.
        “Many homeless suffer from mental illness….”
        And many do not. What is your point?

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      • I don’t disagree with all of your points. However, “any single parent will qualify for welfare benefits?” I was a single parent for almost ten years and, considering that my not-that-considerable income is a little under $40k, I was most definitely not eligible for welfare benefits. Note for the future: not all single parents are impoverished.

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    • I seem to recall the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus says “then the king shall say to those at his right hand ….. For I was hungry & you gave me food, I was thirsty & you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger & you welcomed me, I was naked & you gave me clothing, I was sick & you took care of me, I was in prison & you visited me……(my paraphrase…the righteous asked when did we do this?) The king will answer them, truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” In the Holy season of our Savior’s birth perhaps – we need to remember this and emulate it rather than worry about people being hypocrites. This is sanctimonious; however, it seems it needed to be said.

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    • WuzYoung,

      I work with poor people at my church and I guarantee that this list is a very accurate portrait of the working poor. They work hard and are ragged and exhausted all the time.

      Sure, in over a decade of working with more than 200 poor women, I’ve seen 3 liars/cons and 1 woman who kept popping out babies for welfare, but that is really unusual, not the norm. 98% of the women who come through my door are hard workers who want the best for their kids.

      Scripture makes it really clear whose side God is on. Make sure you’re on the correct side. Jesus says your future depends on how you treat the poor, naked, and hungry (Matthew 25).

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      • This article is about poor folks in general, and as has been pointed out, you cannot take a small sample of folks, especially from a niche program, and make generalizations about the entire population. At best, your experience would indicate that 2% of women try to game the system.

        I help a lot of poor folks, but I do it on a personal level, and I can attest that there are more than a mere 2% of folks who try to game the system.

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      • You have got to be freaking kidding me!!! Are you serious?!? How big of a freaking hypocrite can you be?!?
        “This article is about poor folks in general, and as has been pointed out, you cannot take a small sample of folks, especially from a niche program, and make generalizations about the entire population.”

        Yes, it HAS been pointed out. To YOU. Repeatedly.

        “I help a lot of poor folks, but I do it on a personal level, and I can attest that there are more than a mere 2% of folks who try to game the system.””

        Um, hello?!? You can’t attest anything of the kind, for EXACTLY the reason you JUST POSTED!!!

        Seriously, do you even think before you your complete ignorance?

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    • Clearly, you are one of the people so fixated on your own view the no amount of evidence to the contrary will convince you. I happen to be disabled and poor, and in a position where most of my acquaintances (such as Home Health Aides) are poor. Most of the strangers I see, usually in government offices or food pantries, are also poor and I eavesdrop on them shamelessly. What I see and hear constantly confirms, with a couple of reservations, every point up there. The reservations? First it is nearly impossible to live on $133 of food. Almost all the poor I know on SNAP are forced to spend more than the aid. Second, better food choices are possible, but not always available; both white flour pasta and whole grain oats are cheap, but if you have to go to a food bank, they are far more likely to have surplus pasta.

      The real trial of being poor is very simple to summarize: you have no margin. None. You can’t make a mistake and you can’t have unavoidable accidents happen or you will be in immediate economic jeopardy. Something as simple as having your battery give up the ghost on the way to work can set off a concatenation of economic consequences that may force you into the streets and even if it doesn’t it will take months to finally overcome.

      People with margin, who can treat such a thing as a dead car battery as a mere nuisance simply don’t get it. None of them do.

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      • I emphasize with your current circumstances, but SNAP is not a substitute for self reliance, it’s a supplement to aid those who have, for whatever reason, found themselves struggling. To criticize it for not providing enough for all that you want or need is quite disturbing given that it was never intended for that.

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      • I suspect you will be hard pressed to provide citations backing up your claim as to the rationale behind SNAP, i.e. what it was intended for, mostly because your contention is utter nonsense.

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    • So you have a problem with “cherry-picked media articles and assertions by other individuals.”, but you recall what the Bible says about hypocrites? You don’t see the contradiction there?

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      • Yes, I don’t see the contradiction here, since I didn’t do that. Nor, for the record, did the article’s author. Do you have a point?
        Also, of what possible relevance is it what the Bible says about hypocrites?!? First, as I have said, I did not do that. Second, as others have said, who the hell gives a crap what the Bible says?!? Certainly not me.

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    • WuzYoungOnceToo, on this one you are off, and I agree with Ben’s broader sources – which are all researched and verified, by the way. The problem with Ramsay’s and his crew’s assertions is not so much research but an opinion survey, and it aims at simply a validation of what they wanted to hear. This is highly influenced by the wealth and success “psychology” industry. Often, the expert industry preaches that success is based on solely on an individual’s choices. But any reasonable or wise person will recognize quickly that life is not always a result of choice. Poor people don’t usually have the luxury of choice.

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    • I like this list. I have had co-workers who work two jobs. I have seen some leave work and say that they are going to the next job. I have co-workers who work full-time hours but have food stamps. My dad gave me a car which has increased my income but it increased my expenses too. I have a college degree but I don’t function under high stress. I just seem to get stuck in negative thinking when under stress. The waiting list for housing is so long that there is no point to adding my name to it. I think it is longer than a year now. Food stamps? I think that a person can’t have savings in order to qualify for them. I have been told by some to take the money out and stick it hide it in my apartment but that is dishonest. I will not lie to the government just to get money or food. (If I get desperate, I might change my mind here. Sometimes, moral get trashed when desperate for survival.) Others claim that this requirement of little money in savings is not true. I may look into it but I can manage to live without. It is a challenge and involves buying groceries with my credit card once and while in order to juggle the bills. Juggling bills requires a good level of planning too. You have to estimate your income (changed every week since my hours change every week.) and memorize the due dates of my bills. Survival in this world requires brains if you ask me.

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    • I could write this list from first hand knowledge, and it wouldn’t look much like this.
      But I mean no disrespect. I think this post shows compassion.

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    • You’re correct. If they want to attack the efficacy of the “polling” methodology they should demonstrate it with a detailed response with citations for authority for their criticisms. e.g. http://www.surveysystem.com/sscalc.htm#one

      I didn’t see Ramsey’s presentation so I don’t know if it was represented as being statistically valid and frankly I’m not sure that it matters. It’s merely a recitation of recurring behaviors and the apparent link between those behaviors or habits and economic success. It’s no different than saying that children in two parent households tend to be more academically successful than those children who come from single parent households. I don’t need a statistically valid study to confirm a common sense observation processed and compared to my own observations and life experiences. If there was a disconnect between my life experience and a reported statistically result then I’d be interested in the data and how it was obtained and it would have to be pretty compelling to overcome a common sense grounded viewpoint.

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  3. I suppose it’s all in how you take it. I wasn’t offended by Ramsey’s list. I chose to see him as trying to help people and encourage them to have better habits. Like Job and his friends learned, sometimes you can do all the right things and you can wind up with the short end of the stick. I acknowledge that and I have known plenty of people who needed help just because stuff happens.

    The difference is that your list had nothing uplifting about it — no plan of action that an individual could do to try to change things. Personally I prefer his approach which encourages personal growth.

    Your points 1 & 2 are all about waiting for some list or some assistance, then later in your list you say that the poor aren’t just takers. Make up your mind.

    # 3 is bogus. Yes, it can cost more to eat healthy, but rather than whine about it if we educate people to its importance, people can make those choices for their families. A recent NY Times article reported that 97% of U. S. Household subscribe to pay television (ie cable or satellite). Yet nationwide almost half of school children are on free or reduced lunch. You can try and blame the messenger all you want, but there are people who make poor choices.

    Rather than pat them on the head and say “you poor dear, look what the world is doing to you” I think the more loving approach is to empower the poor to look at things a different way. To teach them that $1.50/pound for apples IS cheaper than $1.50 for a 7 ounce bag of chips. Or teach them that the $1 burger with 3 ounces of meat is WAY more expensive than boneless skinless chicken breasts that can be purchased for $2 to $2.50 a pound in most cities on sale.

    There is nothing I love more than helping someone out. What’s better is when I can help them in a way that they are able to succeed and prosper.

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    • Ray, you have to cook chicken breasts. Not so easy if you don’t have a proper kitchen or an hour between your jobs. And if you are going hungry, the chips with 155 calories per OZ (that’s 1085 in a 7oz bag!) is way cheaper per calorie than the 2 apples per pound (95 cal each).

      The point of this piece is that Ramsey’s list provides simplistic and individualistic answers to complex, systemic problems that affect real people.

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      • You can buy 550 calories of avocado for the price of 7oz of chips.

        Of course if you don’t like avocados, you could buy eight or nine bananas for the same price as the chips and get a whopping 1,060 calories.

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      • Walmart has cooked whole chickens for $5-$6. Can feed a family of 4-6 and they are already cooked packed full of flavour. My family loves buying them. You can do so much with them as well. For example make Chicken Fajitas with dollar store wraps. Dollar tree has so many frozen veggies for a buck now. I love buying them. In fact, frozen is better than fresh because they freeze dry them which keeps the nutrients better than fresh. So handy! Eggs are considered a super food now so eating an egg a day won’t hurt you unless you have extremely high cholesterol.

        Ray is correct in his posting, a lot of people just make bad choices.

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      • 1) As has already been pointed out, many people who are poor don’t have transportation to get them to and from a Wal-Mart without spending a great deal of money.
        2) Frozen vegetables aren’t freeze-dried. Freeze-dried foods require rehydration.

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      • 1) Every Walmart has a bus stop right outside the parking lot.

        2) Bicycle

        3) Carpooling

        4) Borrow a friend’s car.

        Stop being defeatist and making excuses. If you’re hungry, you’ll find a way.

        There are plenty of poor people who think feeding their kids McDonald’s every night is perfectly okay for dinner. They neither have the knowledge of nutrition, nor the desire to put in the effort toward long-term health when good-enough-for-tonight will suffice.

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      • @Sarah:

        Those cooked chickens do no good for people on SNAP (Food Stamps)… You cannot buy cooked food with them! Our local Subway honors food stamps, but ONLY for the cold sandwiches or salads. If they “toast” the sandwich, they cannot accept SNAP. Our local Kroger (sorry, I won’t set foot in a WalMart) has the rotisserie chickens as well, and they are bagged and placed under warming lamps in the deli. All of the cold sandwiches have stickers that say something like “Food Stamp Eligible,” but you won’t find those on the chickens.

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      • @lurkers
        1) my Wal-Mart does not have a bus stop out front
        2)my Wal-Mart is also quite far and would take far longer than feasible to get there on a bike. Not every Wal-Mart is in someone’s neighborhood.
        4) I don’t know many people who would do this, considering insurance liability (I know I certainly wouldn’t, that is just being wise)

        #3 is the most feasible option. But therein requires time and waiting- they may not be going for 2or 3 days, you are then stuck. Of course not going to Wal-Mart trying to find decent and cheap food close by is more likely an option.

        I am not being defeatist, I am being a realist, knowing what happens in my bubble of a world is not universal. Which is something you aren’t understanding. I am lucky in that I can afford nice meals and have a stocked freezer and fast food is a fun treat not a way of life.

        Also avocados by me are $3 each in the “cheap” supermarket. I would like to know where you find them for the price of a small bag of chips.

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      • Diedre, I think you’ve hit on a key point: “knowing what happens in my bubble of a world is not universal.” Exactly! My own personal experience of something, however valid it may be, doesn’t invalidate the data showing that something else is true for most people. The fact that somebody manages to feed their family for $110 a month (a response someone shared somewhere else in this comment thread) doesn’t mean that everyone else can. What if they live in a food desert? What if they don’t have easy access to a supermarket (the scenario you described above)? What if they live in a high cost-of-living area?

        Anyway, thank you for sharing this very important insight.

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      • So you’re saying the apples will help them lose weight and save money? That’s what we call two birds with one stone. :)

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      • That is perhaps the most lame excuse I have heard anyone use for why they eat junk food.

        As Americans, we consume entirely too many calories every day already. A chicken breast can be cooked in a skillet in less than 8 minutes. The problem isn’t time, it is being lazy … why should I cook a chicken breast when I can just eat some potato chips.

        Calories per meal I’d be willing to bet that calories per meal never enter the mind of anyone who eats a bag of chips instead of preparing a healthy meal. The sad thing is that after eating that 1000 calorie bag of chips they are going to be hungry a half an hour later, when if they ate a healthy meal of 1000 calories, they wouldn’t be hungry for hours.

        I’d rather have an apple and a couple chunks of cheese for lunch than a burger and bag of chips .. and my budget is happier because of it.

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      • The cooked whole chickens aren’t much more nutritious than anything else pre-cooked you get these days. By nature all that involves cooking to make things taste good more than providing proper nutrition and a balanced diet. Saying to someone who can maybe get to the grocery store once a week for a couple of hours that they can just make healthier choices is easy to do from a distance.

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    • Ray Reavis, if you live in a poor urban area (like I do) there is a good chance that you do not have the opportunity to purchase $1.50/pound of apples. You also might not have the opportunity to buy those boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale. Grocery stores with quality produce and decent prices do not exist in many poor neighborhoods, and if you are in poverty there is a good chance that you do not have a car to drive to another neighborhood to go to the grocery store. This is the dilemma for many of my friends in my neighborhood.

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      • So, are you poor? Do you not have the opportunity to purchase healthy food? How do you afford internet access if you are poor? Is internet access more important than food?

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      • My family is poor and high speed internet is a necessity. I homeschool our children and internet is required to enter test results and view lessons guides. We do not have an expensive house or new cars. We do not have cable TV. We do not purchase video games or movies. I cannot afford the gas to drive while my husband is at work or school. We struggle to pay every bill, yet by the grace of God we do. SNAP is extremely important to us and I am very thankful for the ability to feed my family. We do receive benfits.

        There are many commentators who are assuming strangers they meet are “poor”. Many of these people are not poor, but are being stereotyped based on their subculture. You cannot look at a person and know their economic situation. Some people buy an inexpensive house so they have a lot of spending money. Other people like energy drinks and RIMS which makes others assume they are deadbeats abusing the system.

        The average food stamp recipient (80%) is a white American who has been laid off or fired, they are on SNAP for 2 years, and are able to get a degree and find another degree.

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    • Dave has also almost single handedly changed the lives of millions of people in a positive way. I’m quite sure this article will effect the life of no one.

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      • Not true – it affected me. And will affect many others like me who want to care for the least of these in the world around us.

        “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

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      • I also to want to care for the least of these as does Mr. Ramsey who’s foundation gives away millions of dollars a year to charities around the world including drilling fresh water wells in Africa. You cant help many people though if you are buried in debt. He helps people eliminate that. I also prefer the government not be in the business of charity as they are incompetent and wasteful in most everything they do. I also believe in personal responsibility. We could quote bible versus all day on both sides of this argument.

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      • Exactly, Emily.

        And Jake, Dave Ramsey may have helped people but that list was no help at all. It could easily have been posted under the title: “The 20 things rich people get to do that poor people can’t because they don’t have the money.” I expected better from Mr. Ramsey.

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      • 1) What evidence supports your claim that this article will not affect anyone? That’s a pretty vulnerable position to argue. If even one person’s life is affected by it — including the author’s — then your claim is proven false.

        2) If you’re suggesting that, because Dave Ramsey has done good things, his argument is therefore sound, then you’re committing the genetic fallacy. The activities of Dave Ramsey’s publishing empire, and the philanthropic activities it supports, have nothing to do with whether he’s making a sound, evidence-based argument.

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    • Teachers don’t excuse children on reduced-price lunch when assigning watching the evening newscast or a PBS special for homework. We have broadcast basic cable (about 20 channels) for $12/month because it’s expected that we’re able to view certain programs.

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      • Yeah, dude. We have 15 channels just from a twenty dollar antenna. That’s 144 dollars you’ll be saving…. and my wife’s a teacher… they’d never make watching cable a required assignment.

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    • The only way to find solutions is to look at the TRUTH. This list is the truth. Your self righteous lessons just scream of your own ignorance and privilege.

      $1.50 a pound for apples is what you get in the suburbs, and that equals 1 1/2 apples, most of which is the core that you can’t eat. It is more likely that they will buy a jar of spaghetti sauce for that money, not your condescending bag of chips.

      Most inner city groceries cost more and the quality is horrendous. On top of that, how much can you cook when working 60-80 hours a weeks and raising a couple of children? Now factor in that you may have only one or two pans and maybe if you are lucky a working stove and frig. No dishwasher, no big freezer. And if you grew up in poverty it is highly unlikely you know how to cook a variety of foods. Most people growing up in this May or may not have ever seen much less cooked a fresh zucchini, asparagus, fresh green beans, mushrooms, acorn squash, or many other vegetables that others take for granted

      Chicken is rarely $2 a pound anymore and boneless breasts are the most expensive cut of chicken there is, usually closer to $5 a pound. I would guess you rarely ever cook for multiple people on a budget, much less shop in poor neighborhoods. Go buy some groceries in the Bronx or South Central LA, without a car, and see what you find.

      How do you get housing with no savings? How do you pay the deposit when any shred of extra money you have is spent on groceries or heating?

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      • Never mind the fact that he pointed out that they live off of $4.38 a day to eat!!! So $5-6 per pound is COMPLETELY out of their price range. They have a budget that they have to keep to. Now throw in the variation of utilities during the winter time and see how well they eat. I am a single mother with special needs children and I work FULL TIME and must run to pick them up from daycare after work and have TWO HOURS in the evening to cook a healthy meal (and yes I only use ground lean turkey, whole wheat breads, rice and pasta and fruits and vegetables which makes cooking a meal take a LOT longer) feed my special needs children who have cerebral palsy which results in difficulty in swallowing and using utensils and takes a lot longer and get them ready for bed and into bed by their bedtime of 7:30 so I can start the whole process over at 6:30 a.m. the next morning. I make a good wage compared to most but have unemployed ex and am not receiving child support at the moment and must maintain a house that is different than those with able bodied children but there is very little assistance for me other than a childcare subsidy. It would be easier to just expect the government to take care of me and my children but I come from an uneducated family history and have worked my butt off changing that by getting my education but am drowning in student loan debt and that will not be off of me for decades. WHY? Because I have a family who was opposed to my getting a higher education, went to school with children and could only work part time and the scholarships I won and financial aid along with a part time job DO NOT support a family of three. Now I graduated with a horrible economy and have had to take a job far below my education level because I do NOT have CONTACTS due to no family or friends in the social circle of my chosen profession. I attend social functions and events of the local association trying to make an in so I can progress in my career. To say that those who were born into an educated family and fairly well off family are not placed in position to make their life better is ludicrous. I work hard at trying to change my children’s life and it is happening but it is not a situation that most people in my situation can do. It is extremely difficult. My oldest son (not special needs) is graduating in June. He is the second grandchild of 12 of my parents and of the oldest 5 grandchildren only 2 have gone to high school (both of them mine) and they will be the only 2 to not only graduate from high school but they already have scholarships for college and plans on what they will do. My hard work may not make my life easier and I may struggle for the rest of my life financially to make ends meet BUT I have changed my children’s future and they will definitely have it easier and be better off than myself. That has made EVERY struggle, every hardship, everything I have had to go without and every sleepless night worth it. My kids are going to succeed and have good lives and that is all I could ask for. I completely agree with Ben Irwin – for most people the “habits” that are displayed are due to necessity of their situation NOT because they have options and choose the poor one.

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      • Please google “teach a man to fish in the bible”. You’ll find that it isn’t in the bible and it isn’t gospel aka good news. Then spread the word.
        I imagine the Pharisees pulling out “teach a man to fish” right before the prostitute showed up to wash the feet of Jesus. You have to agree that a prostitute is someone who has learned pretty well how to “fish” for her supper. Jesus didn’t say to the woman at the well, “It looks like someone already taught you to draw water from a well and you’ll never thirst again. Since you are your own savior now, I guess you don’t need me and my living water.”
        Please get a study bible or the Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and read the gospel with new ears and an open heart. It has the power to put you to death and raise you to new life.

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      • “Food Money” (at least in the State of Kansas) is restricted to food items only within the system, and cannot be used for any non-food products, nor any prepared foods such as fried chicken, Chinese or other kitchen foods within a grocery store/convenience store, etc. This balance is kept on a pre-paid card that only pays for approved items. Some recipients also receive “Cash Assistance” that they may use at their discretion.

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      • Sure, but let’s cut ALL funding to education and fire all the teachers, because….we’re kinda stupid. Stupid enough to break the law by selling alcohol and tobacco to people illegally paying with food stamps and tell about it online. I certainly hope you’re lying about the percentage of your business you’re paying for by committing a crime.

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    • “…encourage them to have better habits.” All the points listed above and more, such as the time-consuming meetings and requirements to receive SNAP and other assistance… These things ensure the poor do no develop better habits.

      A) They’re just not exposed to them because of social stratification. Occupy saw a lot of this, white middle-class protestors fleeing from or pushing out poor protestors who “made the movement look bad” or who had trauma-related behaviors that disturbed the middle-class. More on that in a later point.

      B) They don’t have time or resources. Developing better habits is not spontaneous. It’s the product of good examples and the means to resist fear. While it’s true that survival situations can teach people to manage their resources with greater care, the truth is that they have to have some consistent and/or expendable resources to learn with.

      They don’t. A misstep, a failure to be learned from or a risk holds the threat of degradation or death to the poor. And the paradox is that this invites even more dangerous decisions. For instance, buying lottery tickets feels like a way out or at least a fantasy that relieves the pressure of day-to-day survival.

      Furthermore, when you start out not knowing if your situation is sustainable, you develop feast-and-famine habits with your resources. And it’s not without reason. You need a lot of things right now to make your situation either more stable or just more bearable. You struggle to prioritize those needs because they ALL affect your survival and your opportunities to become stable. So what resources you do have are whittled away because there’s always a need that has to be filled immediately. You can’t save because of these nickel-and-dime expenditures, you can’t break the cycle unless you make more money, you can’t make more money because you can’t use what you do have more effectively. Can you imagine years, decades of this internal debate?

      C) On trauma, the poor are shamed. Relentlessly. They are constantly told that they’re wrong, unmannered, violent, smelly, ugly, selfish, crazy, hopeless, manipulative, lazy, ignorant, depressing and threatening. No one, NO ONE, deserves the kind of blame and humiliation that the poor, both the innocent and the guilty, are burdened with. Some people who become successful after poverty still demonstrate the twisting of the soul that it causes. Ayn Rand did. Starting with the right idea that no one should apologize for their existence and no one should be made to feel they have to, she concluded that no one should be sorry for abusing and stepping over others, either. This toxic mindset carried out of poverty ensures that poverty continues because there is always an underclass to condemn, to blame.

      Christ himself said “the poor will always be with you”. But He gave us a model of mutual aid and forgiveness to ensure the poor would not suffer like they do otherwise, so they would be able to participate in society and be compensated for it as anyone else expects to be. The whole point of Christ’s message is to not leave people to suffer fear, abuse and death but to build a society in which everyone can trust in providence. And that cannot be done by insisting that the poor take a leap of faith. They have, time and again throughout the whole history of humanity, and they still keep falling.

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    • Cable TV $1500 a year
      Cell phones for the family $2000 a year
      New dr dre beats audio headphones $400 dollars for the family
      Xbox $500 dollars
      New Jordan’s and matching hoodies $800 a year
      New rims for your whip $1000
      Pack a day smoking $1200 a year per person X 2
      Two monster energy drinks a day $1200 a year per person X 2
      Total $12000 a year

      That’s $210 dollars a week. That’s less then my grocery bill for a family of four.

      Don’t tell me poor people can’t afford decent food. I can buy a pork roast for $15 dollars, throw in some corn and potatoes and make 8 meals at an average price of $2.50 cents per meal.

      Every morning I go to the gas station and grab a coffee. See the same people every day. 4 monster energy drinks, a couple pack of ho ho’s a pack of smokes, and then 2 or 3 dollars in lottery tickets. They spend $15 dollars, I spend 99 cents.

      Don’t blame society for repeated stupid decisions by a certain percentage of the population, and then tell me I’m supposed to feel bad for them and subsidize their lifestyle. I’d like 4 monster energy drinks, some friggen ho ho’s and donuts and some lottery tickets to. The difference is I’m SMART enough not to do that every damn day.

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      • Ooo, nothing like a ridiculous stereotype to make you look like an idiot and an outright bigot. I do not pay for cable, tunes, hoodies, rims (I drive a 22 yr old vehicle because my town doesn’t have public transportation.) I make my own coffee for a few cents at home and I have never smoked or had an energy drink in my life! I have more than one college degree and have a times worked 4 different jobs simultaneously and still barely get by. Thanks for reminding me of the definition of “holier than thou.”

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      • The practice of closely scrutinizing poor people’s lives to make sure they do not have any luxuries (that may have been gifts, discounts, from back when they had a better income, etc.) is just savage behavior to me. Maybe if we didn’t live in a consumer culture that constantly tries to sell us wonderful things, and maybe if we didn’t treat being poor as a thing to be ashamed of, people would spend less on status symbols?

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      • Joe, THANK YOU! Very well said. Ben Irwin’s essay & list is a nice compilation (mostly government propaganda, though.) Maybe he should have included the list of over SEVENTY freebie programs for ‘the poor’ that we productive citizens pay for through flagrantly abusive taxes.

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      • How is cable 1500 a year? Who says anyone is paying over a 100 a month? Who is buying 2000 worth of cell phone service? Prepaid is much cheaper…even for a family!! Xbox is not $500 and maybe someone gave it to them as a present. Are you reading people’s mail? Are you following them home from the gas station to see how they live on a daily basis??? Maybe that energy drink and hohos is the only pleasure they get in life. WHO are you to judge? You waste money on gas station coffee when you could make your own for less than 20 cents.

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      • The bigger issue remains.. How do you know these people are poor? How do you know they are on welfare?

        More than half of Americans are on some form of government assistance. Well over half of us don’t live in the ghetto, own Air Jordans, or drink energy drinks.

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      • Wow Joe, did you just make all of that up? And what’s your point? That people who are struggling should give up everything else so they can eat? A phone is a necessity. What poor person buys rims for their whip (I don’t even know what that is) for $1,000? How do you know all poor people smoke? How do you know those smokers are poor? Maybe the energy drinks are so the people can stay awake for their second job. What a narrow and ignorant view to express. I’m glad I don’t know you.

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      • so we have two theories of poverty here. there’s your theory, that people live miserable lives because they’re dumb. they COULD change it, but instead, they make a choice to remain poor, and raise their children in poverty and die in poverty. Just a dumb choice that lots of people make.
        or there’s the theory subscribed to by professional fields like sociology and psychology, not to mention the rest of civilized society, that poverty is caused by a lot of really complicated factors, including an entire system set up to keep poor people poor, and that it’s a really difficult thing to break out of, regardless of an individual’s innate intelligence.

        Hmm. Poor people are dummies, or poor people face a lot of challenges that keep them from getting ahead…tough call..

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    • I used to volunteer at a local food shelf, you know where you had to show an I.D. to pick up food- but you don’t for voting? Anyway, you know what they accepted their phone bill- which consisted of their cable t.v. bill or cellphone plans- I never in my life have had a $500.00 phone bill- and, by the way, I still exist without a cellphone…………..that drives my children crazy, but it’s doable. It’s about priorities. If I was deciding between eating, cable t.v., and a cellphone- it wouldn’t even be a close call.

      I missed the part on the fair taxes the poor pay………….don’t they receive earned income credit as well. This list was sloppy at best.

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      • You’re old. Very old. You don’t understand that not having a cell phone means losing a job to the person who did have a cell phone and picked up as soon as the potential employer called.

        There are twenty or thirty applicants to every low-wage job. You don’t have time to get home and check messages and call back. The job is gone by then.

        The labor market is not what it was when you were young. You voted for politicians who shipped all the jobs overseas.

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      • Bagofnickels- I’m 55, I don’t think that’s old, very old. Guess what I have a 33 year old son- no cellphone, and has a job. Don’t give me that about not being able to make it without a phone.

        Again, it comes down to priorities, period.

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      • One of my responsibilities is to help the homeless find work. The employers ALWAYS require: Address, phone, email address and the most important resume. If you son got a job, he HAD to have access to all three of things. Th homeless may be carrying a cell phone, but typically it’s stolen and only good for a few more calls. Our ministry would loan cricket phones to those people who seemed able to land a job. We had great success with this program, because a prospective employer could contact in order to hire them.
        I would love to partner with you and help you find a job without using the top three requirements. Would you be willing to try that?

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      • it’s super nice for you that you can exist without a cell phone, but some people don’t have all the privileges you have. some people are single parents working two jobs, who, out of necessity need to leave their kids home alone for periods of time, and for safety, they NEED to be reachable by phone. Some people don’t have stable housing…they and their children move a lot, couch surf, are at the mercy of seasonal work or slumlords etc. They need a phone that moves with them, that doesn’t have a connection and disconnection fee every time they move. for those people, the invention of cell phones means they finally have a better chance at securing jobs, be more available to their kids, and take advantage of other opportunities the rest of us take for granted. a cell phone means something different to you than it does to them.

        Same goes for TV. if you had a choice between leaving your 10 year old home for a couple of hours after school, or quitting the job that feeds them, you’d choose leaving them home. TV may not be the best choice if you’re a privileged middle class white family concerned about whether you kid has spent enough time practising on the piano, but when you’re a poor single mum, working your ass off, concerned about whether social services is gonna find out you left your kid alone and take them from you, TV is a lifesaver.

        The point of this article is to get people to think of stuff like this, to think of WHY people in different situations than themselves may have different needs and make different choices. The idea is to become MORE open minded…it’s not intended as an opportunity for you to use your standards of privilege to judge those whose lives you obviously don’t have a very accurate sense of. Why is it easier to assume that poor people are just making stupid choices than it is to assume they have reasons for their choices that are just so far from your reality, that you actually just haven’t thought about what they might be? Why do you even feel entitled to have an opinion about the choices they make in the first place? No-one is looking at your finances and all the decisions you make and publicly judging them…”you know, if you had done without your starbucks and outings to the movies these last 10 years, you could have used that money to get your kid into a better college”. You haven’t been invited to judge other people’s lives.

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    • Ray, you clearly haven’t ever received food from a food shelf (SO much canned & boxed food), or tried to shop on a tight budget (not food stamps). There are rich people that also make poor choices. The article wasn’t saying “you poor dear, look what the world is doing to you”, it was pointing out that many people living in what the U.S. considers poverty are hard-working people who would give anything to have 2 healthy parents, or parents with better-paying jobs. Nobody’s asking you to help, but to have compassion and not throw people into stereotypes based on income. “Blessed are the poor” was not a judgement call in the Bible, but somehow it is by so many “Christians”.

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    • So much of the poor bashing I hear is obsessed with cell phones and cable TV. Rich people probably don’t know this, but poor people buy cell phones because it is possible to find prepaid plans for $25/mo, which is substantially less than a land line and a zillion times more convenient, especially if you’re a parent who has to work and can’t be home with the kids.

      Also, getting internet at home — an absolute must if you are going to be job-searching or trying to pull yourself up by your self-employed bootstraps — is usually cheaper if you get a package deal that includes television. Comcast internet costs $60mo, but if you get a TV package with that, the whole deal drops to $50/mo. NOT having TV is more expensive!

      Rich people don’t know these things because they are so rich they don’t have to shop around for deals. They can afford to throw away money left and right and they assume everyone else’s cell phones and TV packages cost the same as theirs. When you are budgeting an exceedingly small amount of money per month, $10 off the cable bill and only $25/mo for phone — which does not come with a reconnect fee if payday happens to fall a few days after the phone is shut off — makes a big difference.

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    • No. It’s actually $145 for 4 people for a week (taking yearly total of ($632*12=$7584)/52). And the *average* is only $112 for 4. A lot of families get even less than that. My family of 4 gets only $68 a week in SNAP benefits since the cuts in November.
      http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1269
      I did a whole series on this over at my blog (click my photo and check out my “SNAP” page)

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  4. Some folks treat the poor like they can’t do anything or provide for themselves or family. There are exceptions to everything I suppose; get to know some and find out just how resourceful they can be. When my wife and I were in college our grocery bill ran about $20 a week. I ended up not liking Spagetti very much afterwards, but we ate just fine. Now that was in the late 60’s and prices have gone up for sure. We did not spurge, we were resourceful and planned well.

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      • Exactly James. I mean you can’t expect people to be resourceful and live a meager lifestyle with meager means. We gotta blame people. Don’t you understand James? It’s not their fault. It’s all your saving and frugality and being responsible that caused this mess. Your probably close to retirement so can we cut your social security benefits please? We got people that gotta be able to buy iron man 3 on blu-ray. Don’t you understand that things have changed? You are such a moron.

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      • Actually, that isn’t right. While it is true that inflation has caused the price of food to increase, according to the USDA the cost of food has dropped precipitously throughout the vast majority of the last 100 years, except during WW2. To quote the USDA:

        “America’s share of personal disposable income spent on food has declined since the mid 1940s, reflecting rising incomes and and falling inflation-adjusted food prices.”

        One dollar in 1968 is worth $6.71 today all due to inflation. (you do realize that inflation is a product of the federal reserve printing fiat money, of course you don’t)

        Anyway, that $20 in 1968 is worth $134.22 today. However, the cost of food today isn’t $134.22 for what $20 would buy in 1968, it is actually much less. Again, according to the USDA, the cost to purchase food today is about 35% less in real dollars than it was in the 60’s.

        What that adds up to is that you can purchase that same $20 worth of 1968 groceries for roughly $87.25 today.

        So, while James did spend more than what many folks today spend (my father for example, spends no more than $50 per month on food), he certainly didn’t spend the $800 a month in 2013 dollars that you claim.

        Also, because you were so adamant about something you are obviously ignorant about, I’d like to point out that there has never been a decade of double digit inflation ever in the history of the US.

        The longest period of double digit inflation was between late 1916 and mid 1920, which was then followed by another 3 years of double digit deflation.

        The next longest period of inflation was during the Jimmy Carter years, but even then it was only 2 1/2 years.

        There has been absolutely no double digit inflation since November 1981 and 2009 was actually a year of deflation .. your dollar actually gained purchasing power. Coincidentally, the cost of food in real dollars increased .2% in 2009 meaning that despite the inflation in the cost of food, your dollar went farther and you could still buy more food.

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      • I would disagree with this statement. The quality of today’s food is poor compared to 50 years ago. To make it appear as if inflation hasn’t skyrocketed, food producers switch to cheaper and faster production methods. The government also gives our tax money to subsidize gentically modified crops and the growth of huge monocrops like corn. Factory farms are essentailly animal torture factories where the animals are given vaccines to keep them alive just long enough to slaughter. If you want to compare the differences in real food prices then go to Whole Foods and see how much it costs.

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      • RichPoorMan – the one thing you fail to note is that the ‘basket of goods’ which is used to calculate inflation values has changed over time. This is supposed to be the apples-to-apples comparisons that lets the economists say things like “$20 in 1968 is worth $134.22 today.” But we don’t really know what it’s worth today, because the list of items the researchers bought in 1968 with their $20 included a pound of steak, and now it’s a pound of fatty ground beef (or something like that). See – they adjust the basket now and then to account for changes in consumer habits. That means that as an item becomes too expensive for most folks to afford, they don’t count that item in the basket any more, and substitute a more affordable alternative. So while maybe someone could eat reasonably well on $20 a week way back when I was a kiddo, the inflation-adjusted amount actually will not buy the same quality or quantity of food now.

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      • Ok they can no longer eat steak. I don’t eat steak because it is too expensive. Look around the world and you will see few people can afford steak and many seldom eat meat. We are spoiled thinking we should have meat every day, and internet service, and cell phones and cable tv and junk food.

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    • how about you and your wife (and a coupla kids), join us here in this decade, and spend a 3 months living on $20 per week worth of groceries. take into account that if your kids eat nothing but pasta, they’ll end up with diabetes and some pretty notvble developmental delays.
      when you’ve managed this task today, do come back and judge all the other people who are trying to do the same thing. until then, you might as well be saying “my pet fish can live under water, so I don’t see why my cat is having so much trouble. the cat must just not be trying hard enough. it can obviously be done if the fish is doing it.”

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  5. Pingback: Poverty is more than a matter of poor decision-making « Ben Irwin

  6. I was thinking of a list similar to this one after I read the post on DR’s site. Thanks for taking the time to research and share this! It is so important for people to understand that being poor has SO much more involved then just simply personal choice. Because really, how many people would actually choose to be poor? If poor people could truly choose their way out of it – wouldn’t their be a mass exodus to the middle class?

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    • I think this is where the myth of the “welfare queen” comes into the picture. There’s this pervasive notion out there that says some people refuse to work and choose to be poor so they can live large off of government welfare. In the 80s, Reagan made a speech about a “welfare queen” who got rich by scamming government welfare programs…and this image has stuck in people’s minds ever since. Only problem is, she never existed. Reagan made her up.

      You’re absolutely right, if poverty were a simple matter of choice, there would be a mass exodus…a point that I think is supported by data showing that those who CAN get off welfare do so as quickly possible…

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      • There may not be millions of welfare queens but they are not a myth. You need to go in to the ghetto/projects and hang out. I lived there and there are definitely some ghettos queens. They know all the tricks to get free assistance.

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  7. Nothing is a simple as it seems, but Dave is trying to educate people about the stupid things they (we all to some degree) do with money. He attacks the consumerism so prevalent in our culture. No, many poor cannot just choose to be rich, but many can more quickly get into better situations by making better decisions. We take people’s words to the extreme and set up straw men to knock down. BTW, the poor don’t pay payroll tax. Whatever is withheld is given back in a refund…sometimes more.

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    • So you never received a tax refund?? Many people do, students, veterans retirees, part time workers who try to be home to take care of their kids, people with mortgages, people with disabilities.

      Federal income tax is one of many taxes, and those refund they get go right back into the economy.

      Many people get deductions. Why are those deductions bad for the poor, but when the rich want deductions it is good for everyone? Oh right, it isn’t.

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      • You are confused as to what a tax refund is. It is a refund for overpaying your taxes. I could get a big refund every year if I wanted to, just by filling out my deductions to be higher. But that is basically providing the government an interest free loan so I don’t do it.

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    • What? The poor don’t pay payroll tax? Are you crazy? You must mean income tax withholding. Payroll tax is Social Security and Medicare, and the poor pay a greater percentage of their income toward Social Security than your average 1 percenter.

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      • Yes, you are absolutely correct … the poor pay exactly the same percentage of their income in SS Tax as the 1% does .. except the tax is capped at $113,700. For medicare, everyone pays the exact same percentage of 1.45% on every dime of income. So, the 1% pays no less as a percentage of income than those making $20k.

        The fact is Social Security is a ponzi scheme whereby you need more and more people to pay into the system to be able to pay out benefits that will exceed the total of all money put into the system. When fraudsters like Madoff and the like do it, they go to prison, when the federal government does it, people claim the rich don’t pay their fair share into the scheme.

        Social security is a sham that needs to be fixed, otherwise nobody will have it.

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    • Yes. They can make better decisions, like striking until minimum wage is raised to a living wage.

      We’ll see how you get along without us for the four and a half days it takes before you cave.

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  8. I’ve read through all of these comments and it is clear to me that empathy is the shortfall of the Ramsey backers here. Ramsey’s ‘Just Do This’ approach to every problem is symptomatic of a person who when they hear “Walk a mile in my shoes” responds with ‘Wouldn’t you rather walk in mine?

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    • I read a letter written by a homeless kid in my community (10k people) that he left in the coffee house the other day. His letter claimed all he wanted was a chance, for someone to look him in the eye and be willing to spend time with him. I left my number and asked for the kid to call me next time he cam in as I was building a fence at my home just across the street and would be happy to pay him for a good days work and “spend time with him” in a positive way. I checked back in later and found out he had gotten my message but told the barista, ” I don’t want to help build a fence… I don’t like that kind of work” I had plans to get this kid some cloths and allow him access to the office gym and bathroom so that he could clean up and be able to interview or what not. He is the poorest of the poor but didn’t want to do any labor and therefor missed the opportunity. This has happened to me many times over the years though has also turned out differently on other occasions as well. The moral of the story it has NOTHING TO DO WITH EMPATHY!

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      • Well, that may be the case. But one time I came upon a man with a “Will work for food” sign and I took him home with me and put him to work cutting my grass. It was a blistering hot day and all I have is a push reel mower but he went to work with enthusiasm.

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      • “He is the poorest of the poor but didn’t want to do any labor and therefor missed the opportunity.”

        We are the poorest of the poor who say “I don’t like that kind of work” to God on a daily basis. The issue isn’t if you have empathy or not, it is whether you identify with the poor, the stiff necked, etc. and come to understand YOUR need for a savior who invites you to mend fences.

        Thanks to Jesus we get the opportunity to mend fences here on earth and in heaven.

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      • one time I was waiting for the bus and a well-dressed white man made an obscene comment at me. imagine how limited my life would be, and how silly I would sound to everyone else if, every time white guys came up in conversations, I brought up this random anecdote to show how awful white people are. People probably wouldn’t take me very seriously. Go ahead and apply the same logic to what you just said.

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  9. Great post. And really, one can (1) agree with Dave Ramsey’s financial advice and general individual principles and (2) realize that his particular post on the poor was short-sighted. I believe this article (and some others) pointed this out that both can be true. We live in a complex world. Dave Ramsey giving good, practical financial advice AND this post making good points about the reality of the working poor can BOTH exist in this complex world of ours. Also: there have been unfair posts attacking character, and fair posts critiquing the original list. Critique is not the same as personal attack! :-)

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    • Thanks Kevin. That’s a helpful distinction. Personally, I think Dave Ramsey gives some valid financial advice. (Some of it is the same advice my dad gave me years ago, and it’s served me pretty well.) But I think his post reinforced some unfortunate (and, for the most part, inaccurate) stereotypes of the poor. And I was disappointed that he and Tim Corley made such sweeping generalizations based on surveying a few hundred people. That’s irresponsible. But you’re right: any critique should be limited to Ramsey’s content, not his personal character.

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  10. This list is a wade through complete victim mentality… leaves a person stranded, powerless in victim-hood. It doesn’t matter how a person gets where they got (Unless it is a situation that has a fix that makes SENSE and empowers the INDIVIDUAL)..by others fault or their own.. The reality is the individual is the only one who can get themselves out. And some do. I guess they are just lucky? No, I don’t think they would agree with that. Nothing wrong with looking at factors..with UNBIASED research sources..and examining what we can do to encourage people. I do it for a living. I’ve been with, I have been without. Wooden spoon fed and spanked.. I love the mention of homeless vets. I am also a veteran, and I have worked with homeless vets as well. I guess we must assume that all 63,000 of the homeless vets are victims and decisions/mental illness had nothing to do with that number. I will tell you that the majority of homeless vets have unmet mental healthcare needs that 90% of the time.. on close examination, the source of the homelessness appeared disconnected from their service, and many refused help offered. (My personal experience, not a study.) I don’t think me being a vet entitles me to not fall on my face. Or special programs for me. Or extra money. If I fell down, I would not want the govt. to pick me up. I would want my fellow vets to do that. I do think ALL our politicians are liars and basically could care less when it comes to taking care of and funding care for mental wellness. A serious mental illness is NOT a decision.

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  11. If you want to help the poor, you have to be so much like Jesus that people think you just might be. Seriously. Pursue people first and make such an impact on their lives that they cannot help themselves but to reach out and want what you have to offer.

    My husband and I have been on both sides of this spectrum. He was raised by a poor (in money/spirit/wisdom) mother who left her abusive husband (his father) to raise him and his brother in relative poverty. Had it not been for his aunts (her sisters), she would have lost their family home and they would have lived on the streets or passed around. I, on the other hand, had a somewhat wealthy-to-middle-class-upbringing. Though divorced, both of my parents are very wealthy, one with a high school education and the other with a doctorate. My husband and I both went to college and earned our degrees, but have found it very hard to succeed in the world.

    A few years ago we made the decision that I would be a stay-at-home mom and we would run our own company. Our company hasn’t always done so well, but we have made ends meet and live an extremely frugal lifestyle.

    Just this year, through a miraculous act of God, we jumped up in our wealth-status and have been so immensely blessed. Had it not been for the Lord, we would not be almost 100% debt-free. If it wasn’t for this blessing, we may never have gotten ahead in life, not matter how hard we work. We have not changed our lifestyle and do not plan to live lavishly, by any means, just because of this blessing.

    If you REALLY want to learn something about money and wealth and poverty and so on and so forth, the book/author I highly recommend is Randy Alcorn’s – Money, Possessions and Eternity!! That is what has changed our lives, hearts and perspective.

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  12. Pingback: 20 things the poor really do every day | darraghfarragher

  13. I’m so disappointed in Dave, but guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m grateful for his success, and what it has meant for many others, but I really don’t think that Jesus would have posted a list like that, and certainly not later used the language Dave did to describe people who don’t agree with him. So his view of things is paramount now?

    He’s not truly an ‘educator’, or he’d do a better job of factoring education and environment into his. Dave’s biggest flaw seems to be assuming that just because he got out of a (big) rut and succeeded, that everyone can do it. He also consistently fails to remember that he had the wherewithal to put himself in that rut in the first place. We can’t really know the capability of most of the people who: grow up in a ‘depressed’ area, and/or went to a failing school, and/or didn’t and don’t get proper nutrition and healthcare, and/or may not have a church home. While I understand that government is not the answer, and that a ‘victim’ mentality does exist, I can’t for the life of me figure why Dave thought there was any ‘love’ in that post. It would have been better for him just to take that list and put his folks to work helping to change those numbers… for example:

    6. ***63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.*** (the first part of that stat, as a teacher with 2 kids in excellent private schools, I’m not inclined to believe)

    So, then let’s collect as many non-fiction books as possible and have people volunteer their time to tutor or read them to poor kids.

    Get behind that, Ramsey. On every single “point” you made on that spurious list.

    I dare you.

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  14. Reblogged this on An Amazing Woman and commented:
    Just Thinking Out Loud
    I lived as a middle class, stay at home mom for 20+ years. Was divorced and slowly removed of all my family and belongings by the local county court.
    Put in a homeless shelter one year after my husband moved into his soon to be new wife’s home.
    Spent the last year in one shelter after another due to limited housing options.
    I was disabled in a care accident in 2007, creating a list of limitations that limit my ability to ‘gainful employment’.
    I find too often the people that think its just a lazy game are the ones that are the most ‘blindered’ and ‘closeminded’ people on this earth.

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  15. So the poor seek to live on $133 of food stamps per month because that is the national average. I’ll get you a dictionary so you can look up the word “supplemental” as in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, not the Complete Food Budget Program. Then there’s draconian voter ID laws, the laws that require the same ID that every state gives free. Forced to eat bad food? Those in front of me at the grocery store who pay with food stamp card are buying the same food I buy. I’m afraid I don’t see a basket full of crap food with the exception of frozen pizza, ice cream, and the sort. The rest of the stuff in their basket is food like everyone else eats. The 60 billion in housing subsidies is only a drop of what welfare is–in 2011 it was over 1 trillion. And by the way, oil companies don’t get any subsidies, they get tax write-offs which is very different from a subsidy although I’ll grant the word subsidy sounds so much more sinister when applied to those evil oil companies.

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    • That ID is not free when you have to take time off work and find a way to travel to get the birth certificate social security card or other documentation. That costs money and can take many hours depending on how far you are from where you were born. It is not free to lose hours of work to wait at the DMV.

      Oil companies are making record profits, they don’t need any assistance of any kind.

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      • Your ignorance of business is exactly why you would fail in business.

        The last time I checked, which was last week actually, I could get a birth certificate for free if I was on some sort of government assistance. You can get a shiny new social security card for free, just ask them for one. Now, a government ID is another story … because of the federal Real ID law, you have to prove who you are and where you live, and you have to get the ID in person. Again, if you can prove need, the ID is free in most jurisdictions. If not, then there is a nominal cost, but the ID is usually good for several years. Mine is good for 8 years.

        You are full of excuses why you can’t do something, which is exactly the reason why you don’t do anything. My mother used to tell me that “Can’t never could do anything”… if you would stop saying “I can’t” and instead say “I can”, you would do so much more.

        Find ways to do things instead of finding excuses why you cannot. That is how people bootstrap themselves.

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      • You talk of ignorance?!? How ironic. Your ignorance in most matters despite your feigned knowledge, is beyond measure. Even your basic English comprehension. To wit:
        In response to “That ID is not free when you have to take time off work and find a way to travel to get the birth certificate social security card or other documentation,” you write a load of nonsense about free of charge Gov’t-sanctioned IDs. That you can not realize that that was NOT the issue, and that you COMPLETELY failed to address the O.P.’s point is astounding. Beyond that, your comments about “free” I.D. just serve to indicate that you have no idea about the actual issues involved. For instance (and just one such instance) a large number of elderly black citizens have NO birth records, because they were either born at home, or in rural, segregated hospitals that, at the time, kept no records, and/or did not submit them to the state. Without these records, while getting a birth certificate is not impossible, it is highly problematic, and can be quite time-consuming and expensive. The people affected by such issues are predominantly democratic. If you really want to contend that the same politicians pushing for voter ID laws would be doing so if the groups affected were heavily right wing, even in the face of Republican strategists caught red-handed ADMITTING this as the motivation, you are so biased as to be beyond reason (as if there were already any doubt).

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      • Free is free .. and while you do pose some interesting points, there are a number of ways around those requirements as well.

        My father has no birth certificate and yet he got a government ID. My father in law also did not have a birth certificate, but yet somehow he managed to get a government ID as well.

        To assert that one must take off from work to get a government ID (free or otherwise) and that is a “cost” to them would be completely true, if it weren’t for the fact that we are talking about people who are either unemployed, underemployed or working a minimum wage job, which coincidentally is usually at a time when government offices are closed.

        There is no impediment to the masses because of having to take off work to get an ID, much less an impediment for someone who is not working or works part time.

        So, while I concede that there might be someone out there that fits the profile you have created in your mind, that is far from being the normal situation, even for minorities.

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      • I don’t know who “John Gault” is but if you mean “John Galt” he is a fictional character in a book written by an atheist with a very non-Christian agenda.

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    • Which states give away ID’s free, I’ve lived in numerous states and haven’t seen this yet. Just fact checking Mr. McCord.

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    • Why is a tax credit not a subsidy??? If I have to pay 36% on every dollar, but the oil company that makes a 4 billion profit last quarter pays nothing, that sure as hell is a subsidy.
      And, you profoundly misunderstand the voter id laws– When a gun license is considered a fine ID but a college ID or SNAP ID are both not acceptable, the real motivation behind voter id laws becomes obvious.

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    • How exactly do you know that they are paying with a Food Stamp card? How are you getting close enough to read what it says on someone else’s debit card? Also, how do you know that the EBT card is drawing on Food Stamps, and not their monthly disability or cash assistance check? And are you aware of how much cheaper it is to buy some frozen pizzas with coupons, than it is to buy vegetables? Or how much cheaper ice cream, which will stay good for months on end, than it is to keep buying bags of perishable fruit? And you’re wrong about subsidies. Look it up.

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  16. Hey, wasn’t Jesus an out of work carpenter running around Galilee persuading other guys who did have jobs to quit and take up the life of hobos. I wonder what sagely advise Ramsey would have given maybe, “Get back to work you lazy undisciplined bums? And that sermon on the mount thing to put it bluntly, a bad sermon. You are really handing out some bad advice, Christ.” Ramsey certainly would not have advised these guys to thrust themselves into poverty. He probably would not have instructed these unsuccessful ones in that the truly fortunate people are those who are rich in the things that matter to God, not those who have money, power, popularity or fame. I think Gandi said it nicely, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians.” Me, I hate Kings kids.

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    • Actually, nowhere in the Bible is Yoshu ben Yusef referred to as a carpenter. That said, he did not have any documented source of income, or employment, and the record is quite clear that he subsisted on the charity of others.

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      • I think you mean Yeshua ben Yosef and yes, in the gospel of Mark, he explicitly stated that Jesus was a carpenter and in the gospel of Matthew, he said Jesus was the son of a carpenter.

        Aside from that, other historical and period documents indicate that the one called Jesus made yokes and plows. Now whether he did this without being paid is debatable, but the underlying assertion that he was a carpenter cannot be debated without throwing out the existing evidence.

        Apparently you are not as much of a biblical scholar as you had imagined.

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      • Um, wrong. First, the “a” is a later addition. The contemporary name was Yoshu. Second, he is NOT referred to in either gospel, either explicitly OR tangentially as a “carpenter”. He is referred to in the Septuagint as “tekton”, meaning “artisan”, from which we get our word “technician”, which did not in and of itself mean carpenter, and that was in turn most likely stemmed from an attempt to incorporate the Hebrew חרש, which mean craftsman.
        Nor would it make sense that a man who was in the direct lineage of David would be a carpenter. Instead, it is far more likely that the use was akin to its figurative use in ancient Hebrew texts, to mean leaned one, or scholar.
        Similarly, NO WHERE in the Gospels is Miriam referred to as a prostitute.

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      • Oh, and “existing evidence”?!? There is no “existing evidence”. There are NO contemporary accounts of his life, or any evidence at all that he existed. All references to him are after the fact, and are just as likely about the stories about his existence as they are about the existence itself. For instance Josephus.
        Similarly, most evidence points to the fact that the town or Nazareth did not even exist until several years after his supposed death.

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  17. This entire situation- from Ramsey’s original list to the people debunking those who are standing up defending the poor are breaking my heart.

    We don’t know what the working poor are experiencing because for the most part they are completely voiceless. I don’t see them commenting, defending themselves. They are not on these blogs defending themselves as too many of us callously make assumptions and judgements because they are working, caring for their families, sitting on a bus for 90 minutes to take them to their first job of the day, trying to suppress the guilt that they honestly CAN NOT attend that parent teacher conference because to do so would mean being fired.

    Ride your bike to Walmart? Are you honestly kidding me? When did we become that society where it is ok to demand that the working poor suck it up and deal, while we sit and judge them? Why is it that the food stamps, Head Start, Meals on Wheels are being cut? Because the people affected are voiceless, they have absolutely no political power. These are my neighbors, my students, my brothers and sisters in Christ, too tired and without the resources to fight. A neighbor is in the business of moving stolen goods- the game is the game, and he can feed his family. I hear the example of the poor person living on food stamps with the giant flat screen, but I promise that is one in two hundred, probably more.

    Instead of coming together and figuring out WHY a family can’t make ends meet with 2 minimum wage jobs, we seek to blame them, point the finger and relish that we are not there- we are without the flaws that THEY must have, so we can separate ourselves.
    Call me a liberal, call me whatever- I’ve been accused of being an English major, egads!
    The Jesus I know and love with every ounce of my being would never create lists, seek reasons to judge and condemn.
    Thank you so much for this list- it reflects where I live, and the people I know.

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      • Thanks, ellie49. It seems to me a lot of the counter-arguments I’m hearing resort to anecdote…i.e. I’ve seen some poor people behave a certain way, therefore ALL poor people behave that way. Which to me proves the point I was trying to make: we let our limited experiences, combined with our personal bias, shape our view of the poor…when the data tells a very different story.

        Actually, I’m greatly encouraged by your response and that of others like you…and by the fact that thousands of people are reading this post and (hopefully) thinking about poverty a bit differently as a result…so again, thank you.

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    • You’re absolute correct, even if you believe in Jesus or not. Where is the fairness in attacking those without a voice. Some of us would rather kick a person when they are down, instead of reaching down and helping them stand.

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    • Thank you~ a voice of reason. I am an educated single mom. I had a home, nice SUV, a nanny for my daughter. All needs and a few wants covered. I had 24,000.00 in savings. Then I was in a car wreck.. broke my neck, and have a TBI long story short ~ I am now homeless, struggle to survive with a 14 yr old. I am on SSDI ~ how ever I am not on any SNAP or TANF I may be down at the moment ~ however I refuse to stay here for the log run.

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  18. Pingback: 20 things the poor really do every day | elkore1's Blog

  19. Way to go. The native peoples in my part of the country have a wonderful saying that until one has walked a mile in another person’s moccasins one cannot know, and must not judge. In other words, Dave Ramsey is not wrong in his own context, using the rules and assumptions that are valid in that context.

    Dave Ramsey is like most of us reading this. We have internet access, We have never needed to do without for years at a time. Dave Ramsey, like many of us, can’t imagine how it is possible that their own successful strategies do not work in every context. In the USA Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is great for people who already have food, clothing, shelter, and communications access.

    Long-term, severe poverty is a different story. I mean more than going through a scary rough patch now and then. Long-term poverty produces a chronic lack of sleep, lack of healthful nutrition, and lack of safe, adequate shelter. Poverty means lack of healthcare, lack of clothing for conditions, lack of reliable transportation, and lack of connections to the resources that make life work. Many poor have to be on the move constantly to survive. That means lacking a home address, banking privileges, and dependable relationships.

    All those “lacks” undermine a human body’s physical ability to function. That loss of function happens entirely apart from character, perseverance, desire, or any other attribute of character. It would happen us too, if we had to endure what so many endure lifetime after lifetime.

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  20. I work for a county government agency and see the lines of people coming in every day to sign up for “benefits”. They can be very demanding, acting as though they “earned” this free handout. The first place new immigrants go is to the welfare office to sign up for whatever they can get their hands on. Generation after generation stay on the dole – there is no real “5 year limit”…they just move them to a different program and keep the benefits rolling. You can talk about the food stamp allotment, but you also have to remember that most of these people qualify for cash assistance, rent assistance (some pay as little as $10 a month in rent), free health care with no copays, child care assistance, earned income tax credits if they work part-time (and most get a LOT more back than what they pay in – sometimes thousands more!) People stay on the system because it is much more profitable to do that than to actually get a job. Why would you go to work if you have to start paying for these things yourself? The incentive to work is gone…it’s much easier to come in and fill out the paperwork and have everything handed to you than to provide for yourself and your family. Eventually, it will affect our social security system because there will not be enough workers to support all of the retirees; a large portion of the younger generation will be on the system themselves and not paying in to keep paying the benefits of those who worked their whole lives and earned their social security benefits. It’s interesting that there is always enough money for cable TV, fancy fingernails, cigarettes, etc. but they complain that their children don’t have enough. Some are definitely setting the wrong priorities when it comes to their children!

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    • Rent subsidies are NOT available to people now days. I had an honest need (spent one year homeless with my two children) while working full time. This was because every red cent I made went to diapers, childcare, gas, food and when I was lucky a hotel room for the week. The waiting lists for the rental subsidies were 6+ years and due to that they no longer accept people to the list. HOW IS THIS HELPFUL TO THE POOR?????

      I suppose my children should suffer with earaches, sinus infections, no therapy for my special needs children, no surgery when their shunts fail, no wheelchairs, no orthotics, no immunizations, no well child check ups, no flu shots because I am not offered health insurance from my work and cannot afford to pay out of pocket even tho I work full time – that makes more sense then having the ability to have them covered minimally by health care with no copays – they don’t offer it to adults so I HAVE NO INSURANCE. My special needs daughter is on the verge of walking at 4 years old when her prognosis was wheelchair bound and vegetative. She is in school progressing well and may possibly be able to eventually have some type of job and be independent, or not. The chances that she may be a productive part of society would not have been possible AT ALL without her medical care. I suppose it makes more sense to leave a person unable to care for themselves or participate in society unless their family is already rich enough to afford the extensive care they require.

      Having special needs children in childcare while I work as a single parent (oh and by the way, my ex husband bailed after 8 years of marriage because dealing with special needs children was too much and he uses almost none of his court ordered visitation and will not assist in taking them to doctor’s appointments so I take unpaid time off to make sure they are taken care of) costs MORE THAN I MAKE IN A MONTH – so how is a person supposed to work to support their children without childcare assistance???? My family works I don’t have people who can watch them for free!

      As far as people and their feelings of entitlement – I see it daily among the middle class children and particularly among well off children who are handed whatever they want and have to do nothing for it. My children have chores and responsibilities to help me with their younger siblings and do what is expected and don’t ask for much. Apparently children having chores and responsibilities in the home are an archaic way of thinking but I would take my teenagers over any that I have met in EITHER economic class. It has to do with the way they are raised and NOT their economic class. BLAME IT ON THE PARENTS INSTEAD OF GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES! The newest generation believes they deserve what they want simply because they want it and that it should just be handed over to them. MAKE YOUR CHILDREN WORK FOR THEIR THINGS and then we shall see a change in the belief that they are entitled to anything.

      Yet again ASSUMPTIONS about poor people. I HATE that my hard work, struggles to make a good life for all my children are just lumped in with those who don’t work as hard and it is assumed I am lazy. The people I work with are NOT lazy and altho I would NEVER deny there are those who feel they can live off of government subsidies it isn’t true. Cash assistance for my family was just over $600 per month with a few hundred in food stamps. That doesn’t cover rent or utilities or gas or car insurance or car tabs not even bus fare. I found work within a few months and got off of it because it does not support a family at all. Get to work – but do it with nothing. Find a job – but do it with nothing. Not helpful suggestions. Our system is broken but pointing out the faults and blaming it on the poor is not going to fix it. Give some helpful input and work to make a change.

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    • Cher- I don’t know where you live, but it sure isn’t Mississippi, Kentucky, South Carolina or New York. In those states, I can assure you, there is no cornucopia of benefits like you describe. I have worked with the poor in those states, in those states, the 5 year limit is real, the cash assistance is non existent, the SNAP is $240 a month or so, medicaid is ONLY for the children and the disabled- no adult males or non pregnant women qualify– I figure you must be living in some spectacularly wealthy state. Tell us, which one is it?

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    • You really need a different job, Cher. Where in God’s name are you living where anyone is paying less than $10 a month? Since you hate the people your programs are designed to help, you should get a different job. One that pays a lot more and isn’t attached in any way to the government teat. It’s immoral to do work you don’t believe in or approve of. You might as well be a pole dancer. Why don’t you just get a better job? It’s so easy to find work in this country. You know, because of all those job creators having more than half the money now, and being so eager to hire everyone to do some kind of great job. 7% of the nation’s money is being shared among the bottom 40%. The poor are getting about a third of that. Gosh, we’re all gonna be so rich once we yank that 2% out of those starving peoples’ mouths….wait. No. We’re not. Assuming you earn $50,000 yr, you are paying about $5 or $6 a year towards the upkeep of the people you despise so much. I’m sure getting back that $5 or $6 a year will more than compensate you for the job you’re gonna lose when your parasitic government job is eliminated once and for all.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I have worked for over 20 years since, 16. I have had chronic pain since then also, and now have more and more problems with pain, it hurts to stand, sit, with the medications I have to take which I do get free from the drug manufacturers I have a hard time concentrating, also the pain makes it hard too, also can’t drive most of the time because of the medications. I have tried epidurals, facet blocks, burning of my nerves, botox for the pain, in the past, so please do not say I want this pain for this “free ride” I have.

      I do not qualify for cash assistance, rent assistance, free healthcare (medicaid–I live in Florida) since I had too much pain didn’t want to get pregnant and also could not afford them, I didn’t have children with my husband at the time. In Florida to receive Medicaid you have to have a child, be pregnant or be a non-citizen, or disabled. In 2010 I had to stop working because I fell down the stairs on my tailbone, I went thru caudal epidurals, that helped a little but still have pain, and hurts to sit. I still tried to find jobs and tried some but couldn’t work for long. I have now applied for disability, and waiting for a hearing date. The whole process can take 3 years. All I get is food stamps. Thankfully I live with my parents, which I feel terrible about. When I was working I took them out to lunch, bought them gifts, etc. I do not have cable tv, fancy fingers (never had), no pedicures for years, I do not smoke and I do not buy alcohol. Sometimes shit happens. I fell down the stairs, lost my job –because I couldn’t drive (sitting), I got a divorce, no alimony, no health insurance, and I drive a 1997 buick– and very rarely can I go anywhere. I make coffee at home, do not eat fast food (cost). I would love to know this free healthcare and cash assistance you so speak of in all of your knowledge.

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      • You tell em’ girlfriend. So sorry you are suffering like this. I wish you the best. I promise to pray for you. I too suffer with pain and it keeps me from doing so many things that I really want to do. I have found things I CAN do where the pain is not so vivid. I hope you can find somethings you enjoy doing to fill you days with some happy times. God bless you and your mom and dad.

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    • Yet because of them you have a job. Maybe you should change your tune and be thankful before your job because obsolete and you find yourself feeling needy.

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  21. I would love to see an honest/open dialogue on this topic in a viewable forum like public TV, and suggest Dave call Tavis Smiley and book a spot on his PBS talk show to discuss this issue with he and Cornell West and ask about their findings from their poverty tour from last yr…..and then watch the sparks fly ;-0

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  22. I think we’re missing a pretty big distinction here. The list is made up of (according to them) good habits of the rich…not bad habits of the poor. That would be a TOTALLY different (and also controversial) list. Whether accurate or not, what the Corley/Ramsay list claims, are things that help the rich be rich…not what keeps the poor poor.

    I do understand Ben’s concern over the “research method”, but I think the ire over the article is misplaced…at the very least, misunderstood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramsey and Corley’s list contrasted the habits of the rich with those of the poor. Each item on their list included the percent of wealthy people who (supposedly) practiced that item and the percent of poor people who did so. So the resounding message of the post was that the poor are poor because they (supposedly) don’t do these things.

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      • Had they not included the contrasting poor numbers, would you have felt the same? I realize hypotheticals are wonky…just curious.

        One thing that I find wonderful (some find it annoying) is how we view something from our own ideological lenses, and see different things. :)

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      • That’s a good question. I can’t say for certain (like you said, hypotheticals are wonky)… but I think I would have. Because the implication would still be, “if you’re not rich, it’s because you don’t practice these habits.” I don’t deny that our personal habits can play a role in our financial situation; that’s not the issue for me. What bothered me was the lack of recognition that there are many other factors that contribute to someone’s financial success or hardship. Just as an example, I earn a decent living.

        By including assertions about the poor (which were poorly researched and at times tipped over into a caricature of the poor, in my opinion), I felt that Ramsey went from being not merely wrong but also unfair.

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    • Well, Ramsey has closed comments to his thread and posted a sanctimonious justification for his weird list. Many of items on list are clearly wrong in their percentages– I am certain that 70% of wealth people DO NOT force their kids to volunteer 10 hours a month. My observation is that very few kids- at ANY wealth level are volunteering to that degree (note: I am fairly wealthy, have three children ages 10-22 and have been heavily involved in their schools). Not one parent I know, much less some 60% force their kids to read two nonfiction books a month (the kids all read like crazy, mostly fiction).
      But most weird in Ramsey’s statement is his biblical defense of wealth! The single most repeated message from Jesus is to stop accumulation wealth, period.

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  23. I believe both lists have validity in what they say and should be understood and treated with a thought of how habits can change and how society norms can be differently approached. I didn’t read that Dave Ramsey believes that poor people are lazy in his response to the report. Him being poor has him come across as humbled. Plus, even though he’s rich and is a for profit business person, he seems to be also a giver and living a good life. I’m sure the writer of this column does too. Instead of demonizing others for viewing the negative in each other’s articles. We should look into the why’s and why nots of these articles and do our part to make changes so that everyone gets a fair shake. So, now that we got “facts”, let’s start making change.

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  24. Wow, it seems like some just can’t grasp the fact that it is very difficult to get out of poverty when one is born into it. Sure there are success stories, but as a general rule, it doesn’t happen. I’ve travelled out of the country & I think that helps one to get a better prospective on social societies. We are social beings, but it seems that many are just stuck on pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and damn those who don’t make it. Seems like a selfish attitude. Many of our country’s policies could be better; in education, health, infrastructure. Why do we not have a high speed rail when Europe & China have one? Why does Italy build edifices to last for hundreds of years & then continue employing people to keep them up? We seem to do everything for a quick fix, ignoring long range goals. This capitalist society needs some tweeking to benefit all of us. Maybe if the wealthy paid their fair share, others wouldn’t be working 3 jobs.

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    • 1) The cruel, Imperialistic, slave-society of Rome built those edifices I believe you refer to. Don’t think you want to go there again.

      2) We do not have a Capitalist System. [I know readers here probably care nothing for Ayn Rand, but her “Atlas Shrugs” is a great illustration of true Capitalists & the “crony” kind, along with of course the “moochers” both government & civilian.]The large corporations receive their own legislative-kickbacks/tax-welfare, etc.

      3) The entire system from top to bottom is corrupt and feeds off one another: Bigger and bigger Government to “control” the evil “Capitalists” but at the same time must feed-off them to get their “operating capital.”

      4) Capitalism doesn’t “benefit” anyone, it is merely a system that offers the freedom for individuals who will live/work with Integrity, Honesty, and CREATE with quality and dependability. There is no TWEEKING that could possibly fix this. It must be rebuilt from the ground up, starting with Liberty from the shackles of Government for all.

      Sorry for the lack of organization in this.

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      • Um, actually, Capitalism benefits those with capital. Eventually, inevitably, laborers become more and more desperate as more and more capital accumulates at the top. The only hope of continuing capitalism indefinitely is to have constant redistribution to the laboring classes.

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  25. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865590583/Poverty-depletes-brain-capacity-study-finds.html

    I also recall a study conducted a few years back that showed a direct correlation between people who attack others perceived as vulnerable and weaker as a means to elevate themselves, temporary alleviating the physical, emotional, mental and often sexual abuse they endured as children. I really wish I could find this because it was done within the past two years. I received little attention but said a lot about our current culture.

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  26. You would need a lot to prove #5. What was actually done was you attached a link to a heavily biased study that shows that *some* poor people (with no numbers) work more hours. With that said I think neither your post, nor those of most of your detractors are balanced. It IS too hard to make a decent living in the states right now. Where we’ll probably disagree is that I believe the government’s increased involvement in fixing that is not the answer. Less government, more privatization of many things the government does. A simplified tax code. And here’s where the government can get involved, remove barriers to small business.

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    • Regarding #5, above should have said “you would need a lot to prove the ‘work harder’ part of #5″. The link spoke nothing of that element.

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  27. May I add to the list?

    #21: Give more to charity than the rich. Poor people give nearly twice as much as a percentage of their income.
    Documentation here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/why-the-rich-dont-give/309254/
    Or here if you only get your news from FOX: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/04/24/poor-middle-class-and-rich-who-gives-and-who-doesnt/

    Dave Ramsey advocates tithing. Poor people, on average, come closer to doing so than rich people.

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  28. I didn’t think this was a good response to Dave’s basic premise, however you did highlight some truths that people (including myself) need to hear. Too often people make insensitive and inaccurate assumptions about the poor including Christians.

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  29. Hm-m-m…making “…sweeping assertions about 47 million…people in the US — all based on a survey of 361 individuals…” is WRONG when Dave Ramsey does it but a few hundred Congressmen (doing the will of their Master-in-Chief) decide for 300 million people to go ahead and WRECK/socialize-even-more the U.S. HEALTHCARE industry/system and I bet you think that’s hunky-dory.

    And as opposed to a “survey” which merely offends you, the coming healthcare implosion will actually affect you (unless you are an exempt-pet of the M-i-C), AND it was done after & over the very vocal & repeated written protests of 10’s of 1,000’s of U.S. voters.

    So don’t think “the poor” are the only ones discouraged & clearly disenfranchised by this so-called Representative Government.

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    • We are getting socialized medicine? When? Cause what we got with the ACA was simply private insurance with subsidies for the poor and working classes. No matter what Fox and Rush are telling you.

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  30. A sample size of 361 is actually pretty strong, especially if Corley did interviews. (I haven’t read up on his methods). There would be additional problems with the methodology if people were recruited very non-randomly (i.e., Corley talked to all his rich friends), or through other channels that would lend bias to the results. But I would say the main issue here is causality, as you mentioned, and the implication that poor people are poor because they have bad habits, not that they have bad habits because they are poor.

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  31. Also need to add a grain of salt to my use of the phrase “bad” habits. A lot of the habits of the poor are pretty necessary to short-term functioning and survival.

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  32. Pingback: 20 Things The Poor Really Do Every Day - Christian Forums

  33. This article was a much better handling of the situation than Evans. Though I still don’t understand why you, Evans and company insist on interpreting Dave’s “correlation” in light of his “cause” and not the other way away. If he confused the two, why not assume by “cause” he meant “correlate” (he used both words). If that is the main issue (as Amy above says), well that would suck the wind out of Evans article. And I do agree with Amy that you can’t look snarly down your nose at a sample size of 361 if that size was sampled through personal interviews (unless the cards were stacked, as it were).

    Having said all of that, this article offers a much needed balance to Dave’s. Good job.

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  34. I want to focus on #10. Here is where the majority of the ‘cycle of poverty’ happens. When kids drop out of school for whatever reason they almost assuredly sign up for a lifetime of poverty. With education being free, it should be illegal to drop out of school until you have graduated from highschool. The only exception to this would be if someone was incapable of learning and then that person could be on disability. If a child is incapable of getting to school for any reason, then is that child really being raised by responsible parents? I hear statistics of some public highschools having a 25-50% drop-out rate. This is absolutely ridiculous! The reasons for this happening need to be studied and corrected. With an education you can get a job that will pay your bills and provide for your family. There are many middle class families who have two working parents and sometimes even those parents are working 2 jobs, but the bills are getting paid. Without an education there is really no hope.

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    • Cheryl – I’m a huge believer in the value of education (and a strong supporter of public education) – both for personal fulfillment and gainful employment. However, a simplistic rule requiring everyone to get a diploma would do little or nothing to break the cycle of poverty. While it is true that, statistically speaking, a high school graduate in our current economy will earn more than a non-graduate, if 100% of students graduated, not all of those students would magically be better paid. The jobs available would still be split among the existing population – and there would be some other criteria to divide the people deemed qualified for entry jobs. For example, a restaurant may only hire high school graduates to wash dishes now, but if everyone was a graduate, the restaurant might only hire those with a C average. So the arbitrary “everyone must graduate” rule doesn’t actually solve the problem – it just shifts what the dividing line looks like. You are right about needing to understand why the drop-out rate is so high. Anecdotally, I can share my experience: we have 3 teenage boys – the oldest two got their GEDs instead of regular diplomas. The reasons were complex, but it happened in spite of my husband and I being regular middle class folk and very strong supporters of education (doing all the things you’re supposed to do – volunteering in the classrooms for years, encouraging voracious reading at home, following teachers recommendations to a T when they struggled with grades, etc etc etc). For kids who are not inclined (either through ability or interest) to perform well in the current academic structure, there are precious few benefits to sticking with the program. Schools no longer have the vocational programs they used to have. Music and arts programs are almost non-existent. These things helped keep some marginal kids in school, and prepared them for jobs upon graduation. No Child Left Behind (and now Common Core) have been the death of those programs. College has become so expensive that unless you are going into a specific profession (law, medicine, engineering), the financial payoff is no longer guaranteed. Our educational systems need an overhaul for sure, but we have an economy with serious systemic problems, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor (with the middle class sliding more and more to the poor edge) won’t be solved by requiring a diploma.

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      • Thank you for your comments. The only thing I would like to add is that music and are art may keep kids in school and make them more well rounded but will probably not help them get employment.

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  35. As a Christian it’s so hurtful to see the judgement and lack of compassion heaped on the poor. How, why, or when they got there is not really my concern nor my judgement to make. Imagine if those qualifiers were placed on US in order to receive Christ’s love and forgiveness? I’d rather err on the side of grace. Thanks for the post.

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    • Andi, I do agree with your sentiment. However, if we want to improve conditions for the poor and not create a larger poverty base, we do need to look at ways to make things a ‘hand-up’ vs simply a ‘hand-out’. A hand-out is a temporary solution to a long term issue, a hand-up can be a method of change. At the same time, our nation is spinning out of control in terms of the vast gulf between the rich and poor. The person in the 70th percentile for wealth is far closer to those in poverty than they are to the top 1%.

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  36. You chose to rail against voter ID laws as a poverty point? You lost a lot of credibility in your otherwise useful list when you chose that as a point, especially when calling them draconian. Do you even know what that word means, or were you trying to make the idea sound much than it actually is?

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  37. As a mother living in poverty, none of these are accurate, at least for our family. My husband works 40 hours a week. On days off, our family often drives around town, visiting stores, and letting our children play with the toys there. Because we have food stamps, we can afford gas to go on drives around our town in the evenings together. We watch movies together in our living room and make popcorn. We play together in our back yard, and garden with tools we bought from our tax returns. We are poor, but because we have each other, we are neither destitute nor unhappy.

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