Note: Comments of readers are their own and do not reflect the feelings of Bob Lonsberry or lonsberry.com.
86 Responses to:
WHAT IS POVERTY?
# 1. 5/16/12 7:18 AM by Carl
Been broke but never poor.
# 2. 5/16/12 7:22 AM by rochester escapee
One of your best essays! I think America is done for. The people who work for a living, and get stuck with the country's bills, are outnumbered by the people who vote for a living. The founding concept of individual liberty has been lost on the majority. The people who think they are poor now may get to find out what being poor really is. But if you are in the ruling class, life is always good.
# 3. 5/16/12 7:24 AM by Don - Fort Worth
Bob, "poor" illegal aliens have it better than I do. As reference to you're column back in the '90's, you explained how well the illegal aliens have it with tax breaks, benefits, etc. I've worked my backside off, trying to make ends meet and at the same time, paying my taxes to support those illegals. Yes you can say I'm poor, because I've yet to meet my expectations from hard, honest work, because I have nothing to show for it. Bills an taxes take the lion's share out of my earnings. I'm among the nearly 9% who's unemployed. Thanks to the ones who are "entitled" to benefits, I'm paying to support them, instead of myself. When is this madness going to stop?
# 4. 5/16/12 7:33 AM by Grandma Taxpayer - Greece, NY
Growing up we had our share of 'poor" times. Due to a father who was a raging alcholic we had our gas and electric shut off too many times to count. Winter and summer. Phone too. Many nights all we had to eat was peanut butter and crackers. Doctor and dentist? Forget about that unless you were on death's door. Wearing clothes two sizes too small and shoes too. I swore when I grew up I would NEVER let this happen to my child and I would do whatever it took to keep her away from the life I had growing up. She is now grown with her own little girls and a business owner. I am so proud of her and the life we made.
I see many healthy young people on a daily basis who are on Welfare and the Social Security (SSI & SSD) band wagon who have cell phones, cars, gold jewelry, $100 hairdos and the fake nails and it makes me sick. They could easily get a job but the government makes it too easy for them to sit on their ass and do nothing but spit out babies and get paid to do it.
If you are an adult and believe you are poor it is because you want to be on the public dole. Period. They don't know the real world of being poor!
# 5. 5/16/12 7:35 AM by jeff - batavia
well put,thats how i see it.the poorest of poor can still eat steak when ever they like.
# 6. 5/16/12 7:36 AM by Anon - NY
Absolutely true, Bob. Many Americans know about living paycheck to paycheck, including me, but none of us know about starving, unless we choose not to eat.
What's sad is that the entitlements have gotten so bad that people, both the poor and the taxpayers, think that people living on the dole "deserve" cellphones, fancy birthday cakes for their kids, big screen TVs, etc. The government has somehow convinced a segment of the "haves" to buy into the idea that they should be paying for luxuries for the poor.
I have a friend who owns an apartment building. Most of the tenants are on section 8 (county pays their rent). All of them smoke. Their kids have video game systems and go on expensive trips. One renter who is not on section 8 is months behind on the rent, but spent hundreds to send their teenager to the prom. People don't have their priorities in the right order (food and shelter first!) because they are confident that when they spend their money on things they want, or believe they are entitled to, the government or some other charity will come in and save them from being homeless.
# 7. 5/16/12 7:40 AM by Larry - Virginia
I have often said that in many countries people don't know where their next meal is coming from. Look at the incidences of parents selling a child so they can feed the rest of the family. You are absolutely right that the "poor" here are not poor by world standards. A friend passes out food from a truck to poor people who stand in line talking on their cell phones. It sounds like they bought more minutes than I have. He says many of them also have decent cars.
# 8. 5/16/12 7:46 AM by Matt - Rochester, NY
Everything is relevant in the world. And you are correct, there aren't many living in pure poverty when you look at the world as a whole. I would imagine there might be a few across our country, but not many. I have always tended to have liberal views on things, yet I am against the welfare system we have. I know there are some people on it who use it for it's intended purpose, which is to bridge a gap between one job or another. It should be short term at most. But that is not what we have. To the rest, shame on you. I just learned of a house on my street, Post Avenue, which has a single mother with 8 children. A boyfriend of course lives at the home, as well as cousins, her mother, and any number of people who come and go at all hours of the night. This woman is on "public assistance" and I am sure the rest of the house guests don't pay a dime in rent since she will be on Section 8 housing of course. By law of averages, maybe 1 of the 8 kids will grow up to go to college, get a nice job, and have a nice family. The other 7 will continue the trend of mom, and her mom, and her mom. It is more sad than anything. Such a waste in so many ways. But poverty? I don't think so. They will eat better than I do some nights I'm sure. But I work. They will have a loaded shopping cart at Walmart. But I work. They will take the NYS stipend designed for school supplies, and they will buy a TV, and a Playstation 3, and games. But I will work. And I will continue to work day in and day out so that people living in "poverty" are able to provide their children these "necessities" that they are entitled to.
# 9. 5/16/12 7:50 AM by jaymor
"Poor" is relative. Definitions vary with experience. Envy is closely aligned with the the concept...and successfully exploited by left wing politicans.
# 10. 5/16/12 8:07 AM by RC - Bloomington
How I would love to hear a politician give this speech. I know you have written speeches before, but you should be on the Romney speech writing committee.
Editor's Note: i offered
# 11. 5/16/12 8:34 AM by Christopher - Newport News, VA
Many of the people on public assistance are like spoiled children. They feel entitled to all that is given to them. Reforming welfare would be a good first step. In an effort to buy votes, the government makes it too easy to receive benefits. The sad part is the recipients don't even realize that they have surrendered their freedom. They are slaves to there government benefactors.
Like baby birds learning to fly, they need to be nudged out of the nest and persuaded or if need be, forced to spread their own wings. They may crash at first, but eventually they will learn to soar and experience the joy of being free. Man was designed by his Creator to be free.
Freedom is a wonderful thing.
# 12. 5/16/12 8:41 AM by Diane - Utah
I read in Colonial times to help the poor in town, they had a community garden. The town mayor found that the lazy wouldn't contribute labor to the garden but would be the first on harvest day. The next year they announced there would be no community garden, that every family was to labor in their own garden. Problem solved. You either worked or you had nothing to eat in the winter. I am against the welfare system of handing out food to illegals and I think there should be a term limit or service attached to those receiving welfare. They can clean toilets in office buildings, clean up streets of litter, dig ditches, work in garbage dumps, wash cars of police and government, something so they make up their own minds, to get a job and that we make a statement...nothing is for free.
# 13. 5/16/12 8:47 AM by Mark
Sounds like a column from the past, but still true! Needs to be repeated until people get the message.
# 14. 5/16/12 8:50 AM by john - rochester
The maximum income level to be considered poor is constantly going up, much faster than CPI, but the income level to be considered rich is always going down. There is something sinister going on, I just can't put my finger on it.
# 15. 5/16/12 9:12 AM by Scott - Henrietta, New York
Excellent column, Bob, thanks for writing it. I was going to add my comments, however the first 10 entries said it all.
Good job, y'all!
# 16. 5/16/12 9:28 AM by Cal - Rochester, NY
Isn`t life great?! Our health is very important. Now if we contact something that is threatening our life, our government is there to give us the best medicalcare in the world, if we want! So now Obama comes along and threatens our health, with trying to cut medicare by 1/2 billion dollars, which will cost the doctors so much that they will refuse medicare patients... Now our health is threatened by his new socialized medicine which will ration care for all of us, while costing extra trillions of dollars!! He seems to be killing the golden egg that we all hsve enjoyed, in so many ways! The Republicans seem to be doing the same thing also, in the name of austerity, but have plenty of money to be spent on war, just like Obama wants! I say vote for Ron Paul to help straighten out the mess, constitutionally, for all of our well being in an uncertain future. He is now working on getting delegate votes back that the repubs stole from him... He just might still be a winner.
# 17. 5/16/12 9:44 AM by tom - penfield, ny
If you want to know real poverty in America, put three kids through college. The students and the parents will all be poor for the rest of their lives.
Editor's Note: i'm on my fourth
# 18. 5/16/12 9:45 AM by Bill - E. Bethany, NY
Since I read your article a few weeks ago, I have tried to stop saying the word Christ, then I find out that Christ was not Jesus's last name. Now I say Christ all all the time but without the guilt.
Editor's Note: christ is not a name, it is a title. it's profane use is a sin.
# 19. 5/16/12 9:45 AM by Margaret - Rochester, NY
Now, how do we change this? I am in complete agreement #4 and #6...excellent column today Bob.
# 20. 5/16/12 9:48 AM by OldVietVet - Rochester, NY
Right. But you are forgetting the final, and perhaps most powerfull leg of the three legged stool-the entertainment media. From the near deification of twisted skunks like Michael Jackson and the other vicious mumbling Rap "artists", to the portrayal of White men and women as fools,fags, and whores,the media has glamoraized a way of life that denigrates honest work of any sort as a pathetic alternative to-well whatever the Hollywood/NewYork sewer pipe dredges up.And its not just the "entertainment" schlubs that are to blame.W/out sponsors-Pepsi Cola and the elcetronics industries for instance,the junk on TV goes down the tubes.Sports? A hundred million dollar football player arrives in Buffalo, and the "fans" cheer, even as Ralph Wilson and Co. beg for a taxpayer handout to refurbish the stadium. And N.Y. State is still the cadiallac of welfare handouts. I blame the pop media, and culture, as much as I do the social workers, or politicians.When the roll is called, those bums will have much to explain.
# 21. 5/16/12 9:52 AM by Dave B - Fairport, NY
They say nothing in life is free, and they are right. It's not free, but just a matter of who is going to get stuck with the bill. We have become a country with no shame. Personally, I'd feel guilty is someone else was paying to support my family, but knowing people that are currently collecting from the government, I am constantly reminded that it doesn't bother them at all. They think they worked hard all their lives (until they were 50!) and they deserve it. If 50 is all your life, then how come many years later you're still around?
# 22. 5/16/12 9:56 AM by Chuck - Magna, UT
If you really are concerned about poverty then you must be unequivocal in calling for an end to free trade with communist China, jail time for employers of illegals, no amnesty, and an end to all work visas.
# 23. 5/16/12 10:04 AM by Mike - Mt. Morris
Sometimes the best lesson you can teach someone is to let them fully experience the consequences of their own choices. Life if a good teacher. Government programs for the most part shield folks from the consequences of their choices. End the welfare programs.
# 24. 5/16/12 10:08 AM by Tex - Honeoye
It is all Bush's fault.
# 25. 5/16/12 10:18 AM by Jan - Fairport
Anyone who thinks most poor people choose to be poor is so fundamentally stupid as to be a waste of oxygen.
Editor's Note: and yet it is true
# 26. 5/16/12 10:22 AM by Billy
Drop out of high school and now can't get a decent job - gimmie benefits.
Have kids you can't afford - gimmie benefits.
Wouldn't buy health insurance even if you could afford it and now you are sick - gimmie benefits.
Turned your brains into mush with drugs and booze and you are now useless - gimmie benefits.
# 27. 5/16/12 10:32 AM by Patrick - Syracuse
I recently received a junk mail piece offering a government cell phone for free. What's up with that program?
# 28. 5/16/12 10:33 AM by mark
I became a good shot at the age of 13. Father in the hospital for spine surgery and mother working with no marketable skills trying to go to school so she could get a job that would support us, spent most of the winter eating what I shot and bottled food from the garden. I never felt we were poor though, we were warm and dry, had food on the table and clothes on our back.
Later in life the Navy sent me to Central and South America, there I saw true poverty for the first time in my life. I met a cab driver who thought he and his family were fortunate because they had a three walled shack with a roof he drove a 78 Impala for a taxi and the shack was a little larger than the car, nine of them slept in it. The front wall was blankets and sacking sewn together to form a curtain.
For the most part I think you are correct Bob we do not have widespread poverty in this country but i think there are pockets of it especially in the inner cities. I also think that most people in those situations have brought themselves to that point through their involvement in criminal activity, addictive behavior or other actions there are certainly enough programs to help people out of those situations, unfortunately most of them only perpetuate the problem.
# 29. 5/16/12 11:11 AM by tw - rochester, ny
Bob- This was an unorganized, rambling, and slightly incoherent diatribe. I don't think it was up to your standards.
That said, you did hit all the hot buttons that fundies and right-wingers use. Freedom! Socialism!
Anyway, it could be more easily distilled into one base statement: We would all do well to get satisfaction from work by enjoying the act of work itself. I guess what I'm saying is that if everyone in America tries to enjoy the act of working (not the end result, but the act itself), everything else will fall into place. Self worth comes from hard work.
# 30. 5/16/12 11:17 AM by Jolene - Sandy, Ut.
If your eating high fructose corn syrup your not poor.
# 31. 5/16/12 11:17 AM by Hm - Rochester
I have to agree with #28, and of course with the column. You have not seen poverty until you see people that are selling pretty rocks by the roadside, just to get by. Among other things. Travelling abroad was an eye opener to be sure.
I often wish I had a better house, but I already have a way better house and more land than a lot of people in the world, and I have to be grateful for that.
Every system is going to be flawed and will have participants that take advantage of it. I do believe if we fundamentally changed welfare to be more austere, there would be riots. I fear we are too far gone to be able to fix anything without really, really hurting some section of society.
# 32. 5/16/12 11:24 AM
I stumbled across this today while researching something else. It's from Time.com, and it illustrates the exact same principle:
"Millions of people in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus who live in areas most affected by fallout receive some form of compensation for the Chernobyl accident, whether they show any symptoms or not. But that may only be making matters worse. A 2005 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) says such compensation schemes have created a culture of dependency and victimhood. In Ukraine, for instance, recipients of benefits are designated poterpily — literally, sufferers. The report says, 'The designation of the affected population as victims rather than 'survivors' has led them to perceive themselves as helpless, weak and lacking control over their future.'"
# 33. 5/16/12 11:29 AM
#27 Patrick from Syracuse. I have a friend who's in a halfway house after being paroled for various criminal charges related to maintaining his heroin addiction. Everyone in his house has one of the phones you speak of. As they tell me, they began to be offered as a benefit under the current administration and they are referred to as "Obama phones" by all the residents in the house.
# 34. 5/16/12 11:31 AM
#14 John in Rochester....perhaps that's how and why they come to the determination that there is a shrinking middle class in America.
# 35. 5/16/12 11:32 AM by Abner D
People are homeless by choice. That's a good one. I thought they were homeless because they couldn't pay the rent. Maybe they chose not to pay the rent so they could be homeless.
I wish you would go out and get another job so the gubment can increase my Social Security Entitlement. Do you really need to run for two and a half hours every day? You could be bagging groceries.
# 36. 5/16/12 11:53 AM by NascarDad - Richmond, VA
There is some true poverty but very little. There was an old guy living in a little ramshackle place in my county, it never had running water or electricity though I think he had a propane heater. Lived basically hand to mouth. But when I look back at my own growing up "poor" in America - including the times when i had to sleep on the floor or walk a mile each way to get our family groceries (not fun in the snow) - I realize how rich we are, how blessed we in America are compared to the truly poor of this world.
How rich I was even as a poor person even compared to generations of Americans in the not so distant past. They built a world of near miracles, where food is cheap and can be preserved for days and weeks, entertainment is diverse and plentiful,and many common diseases that killed millions are distant memories, cured by drugs that can cost mere pennies a day.
So I shake my head sadly at people like the Occupy movement, who see our system as a failure. Only with extreme myopia could one ever claim such a thing.
# 37. 5/16/12 12:03 PM by Barb - Canisteo Valley
This issue is what the Nov. elections are all about-socialism or returning back to the freedoms on which this country was founded. Those who are sick and tired of working all their lives only to be forced to pay higher and higher taxes to pay for those who are able but don't work are frustrated. When I first had to support myself I didn't have a telephone, TV(couldn't afford the cable),a car(walked to work, grocery store),or a microwave. One by one I was able to afford those things and learned valuable lessons about being self-sufficient and handling money.
# 38. 5/16/12 12:12 PM by Alice - Penfield
The former indicators of poverty - no indoor plumbing or heating, underweight children - have slowly gone away. To be poor in the US is not the same as to be poor in Haiti.
# 39. 5/16/12 12:13 PM by Chuck - Albion, NY
Poor people in America can afford cigarettes and beer, or marijuana. Poor people in America get the best health care in the world.... Don't forget the hideous looking tattoos.
# 40. 5/16/12 12:15 PM by Slimon Jamie Dimon
In our country, poor is just a lazy, pitiful state of mind. In America being poor is just an unmotivated, unnecessary choice of condition. Ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand in being poor. Go somewhere where people are truly poor, like Haiti or Bangladesh. You will see what their fellow man has done to tromp them into the ground and keep them there. Our country is no longer like that, for the rich know they have millions to skim just a tiny bit of tribute from and they can get away with it virtually unnoticed. They are like termites, one tiny bit at a time. And we survive, so we do almost nothing to stop it.
Maybe the time for that is coming. Please pass the AK, and a scoop of ammo too. And gimme an RPG for dessert... C4 anyone? Don't forget to take your detonators!
# 41. 5/16/12 12:21 PM by Oscar
Staying poor is a choice. You don't have to remain that way in this great country.
# 42. 5/16/12 12:26 PM by Matt - Rochester, NY
Hey #33---you're an idiot. Do some research:
Was this program instituted by the Obama administration?
No. Nor was it just instituted "earlier this year," as the email claims. The program as it exists today was created over a decade ago by an act of Congress, the Telecommunications Act of 1996. A version of the Lifeline program was already in operation as far back as the early 1980s.
Editor's Note: 1996. the clinton administration.
# 43. 5/16/12 12:50 PM
Vargas seeks to scale back school leaders' benefits.....
Urbanski loved this guy, but I bet you that has all changed now.....
# 44. 5/16/12 12:56 PM by Pissed Off - Sandy, Utah
The fact that they made poor life choices does not mean I should be responsible for them. The government should help those in need due to TEMPORARY circumstances but not for their ENTIRE lives.
When do we hold people accountable for their life choices? Why do we find it so easy to hand off irresponsibility to others who had no part in the poor choices they have made?
# 45. 5/16/12 12:59 PM by Ella - East Rochester
Few adults who fall into poverty will EVER escape that poverty.
So sad for our country.
# 46. 5/16/12 2:08 PM by Patrick - Syracuse
About the free phones again...Somebody's got to be making money off of it if they are sending out mass mailings to sign people up. The number I called to get more information went to a call center in....wait for it....India. Go figure.
# 47. 5/16/12 2:13 PM by Poplar Beach
Four years in the navy visiting foreign ports taught me what poor was. In recent years pleasure trips to central & South America show me that there is still plenty of real poverty in the world. Comparably the USA is Shangri la!
I have been broke, I have never been poor. I am not broke these days, but salt pork gravy on mashed potatoes is still is a delicious entree to me. So is lentil, or split pea soup with a ham bone, add fresh baked bread and butter, as good as an expensive steak.
Poor for most folks in the USA is more a state of mind than a fact of life!
# 48. 5/16/12 2:15 PM by Chris
People no more choose to be poor than rich people choose to be rich. Stop patting yourselves on the back. Don't for a second think you've earned anything, and you won't feel bad about giving it away, or having it taxed away. You're LUCKY to have what you have. And spare us the crud about hard work making luck. If hard work were all there was to it, women in Africa would all be millionaires. Everybody works hard. Except for the very rich of course.
# 49. 5/16/12 2:23 PM by Rick G. - Spencerport, NY
Question: What's the worst thing that could happen if welfare went away?
Editor's Note: you mean, after civil war 2 is fought?
# 50. 5/16/12 4:23 PM by Thomas M. - Arkport, NY
RE: # 49. Editor's Note: you mean, after civil war 2 is fought?
Unfortunately I think that's exactly what will happen when our country finally goes bankrupt. Equally as unfortunate, I believe it will be a very uncivil war. Something along the lines of the French revolution.
Editor's Note: yeah, there will be a lot of necklacing. it's one of the reasons for my belief in the second amendment, and in the wisdom of having a whole bunch of bullets.
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