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The disparity between rich and poor
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So...just to clarify, you are someone who came from a less than advantaged background, managed to start your own business, get into college, and are making a decent enough living to pay for college. And you're complaining that people from disadvantaged backgrounds have no opportunity to go to college, get higher paying jobs or get into the same position as these business owners who make so much more money?
Out of curiosity do you have people who work for you? Do you pay them 7-8 dollars more an hour than most people make in their field so that their salary is where you believe it should be?
I don't think it's sufficient to look at your own situation, realize you've done well for yourself, and then immediately adopt the position that "Well if I can do it, anyone can -- and therefore anyone who claims they can't simply isn't trying hard enough."
What I mean is, it's not good enough that the chance of success when you start from nothing is
(which is all anecdotal evidence shows). We should be trying to make that chance large enough that anyone who honestly works hard for it can achieve success. The main thing standing in the way of that being truth at the moment (in my opinion) is Health Care costs (but there are other things -- though again, I generally think we do pretty good in America at equality of opportunity, but we can definitely improve).
Rising health care costs are the main reason our budget is in such trouble, and almost every American (whether they realize it or are willing to admit it, or not) is
one medical problem away from total financial ruin
. It is completely reasonable to suppose that a perfectly healthy person could end up in the hospital tomorrow, because of something completely outside their control (car accident, natural disaster, illness, etc).
From that point, it is (frighteningly) possible that their health insurance will find a way to drop them (maybe you didn't report a dental X-ray when you were 12 -- breach of contract, coverage dropped. It's called Rescission and health insurance companies have entire divisions of personnel who do nothing but contract rescission all day long, every day), or not cover a significant portion of the medical bill (due to coverage limitations, lifetime or otherwise). Or maybe even worse yet, they just don't have any health insurance because they can't afford it (possibly because of a pre-existing condition which causes most insurance agencies to refuse to cover them).
At this point, you're bankrupt, credit score is ruined, in all likelihood you'll lose your job and house. Who knows if you'll recover medically speaking, but if you do, then you're back at the bottom of the ladder and you have to start over again, and hope for better luck this time -- all due to no fault of your own.
So this "ladder" -- the one you climb from 'nothing' to 'success' -- is quite unstable in America. With enough effort and a bit of
, you can get to the top. But even the slightest bit of bad luck along the way can kick you right back down to the bottom. That's what things like social safety nets are for, and while there will always be abuses in the system,
we should design the system such that the "luck" factor is removed from the equation as much as practicable
-- with enough hard work, you should be able to climb to the top of the ladder, without worrying about a random event ruining your chances of ever making it.
The problem is, the tools to fix the ladder are at the top, and those who already made it very easily convince themselves that "if I can do it, anyone can," without considering how lucky they were to avoid all of the random pitfalls along the way. Since the people at the top of the ladder make the decisions (generally speaking), it doesn't seem to be a high priority to go and make that ladder safer -- but it should be, for everyone, top and bottom.
I totally agree with you Heckler, that the medical system is very, very broken. I think it got that way because the Insurance buisiness and the medical industry fed off each other for years, inflating prices much faster than the average rate of inflation, until they had created an economy of their own in which one can't survive without funding from the other. It's stupid, and what should happen is that medical costs are forced back down to a price reasonable in relation to the costs of production, the way the rest of the economy is forced to by supply and demand, and that insurance should be rendered obsolete.
However, there are a number of things that people don't know about medical debt. The first being that, in terms of affecting your credit score, medical debt is not weighed nearly as heavily as credit card debt and outstanding loans. In many cases, the effect can be negligible, especially if the rest of your credit history has been responsible. In most cases, medical debts won't have much of an effect on your overall credit unless they're turned over to a collection agency. And they don't do that unless you outright default. If you make even a nominal attempt to pay- 40 or 50 dollars a month- generally it never goes to collections. Also, many hospitals have a program where, if you have large medical bills, you can provide proof of inability to pay and financial hardship, a portion of the medical debt can be forgiven. People who go into bankruptcy over medical bills do so because they don't keep the lines of communication open, don't research the options, and get so overwhelmed that they stop paying altogether rather than make minimal payments to keep their credit score in decent standing.
The second thing is that there are affordable insurance plans out there for people who have no insurance through their jobs. COBRA is a good example. It's not a perfect fix, but if you are someone who has a family, or know you are likely to need regular medical care, it's a cheaper alternative.
Anecdotal evidence isn't numbers, it's true. But as many people who say "I know people who got valedictorian and couldn't get a single scholarship" are using anecdotal evidence to say that there is no way out. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. It's much easier to live with money, and to become successful if you come from a successful family. But it's also quite doable if that's not where you come from. My anecdotal evidence is not just myself- it's a large number of people I know. I had a friend in college who's family had nothing, and she had to not only support herself and pay for college by working, but also support her terminally ill mother in the Dominican Republic while she was going to college. And now she makes very good money at a law firm. I had a friend who I went to college with who had so many stories about scraping to get by being raised by his lunatic mother in a bad part of the Bronx, and he managed to pay for and finish college with loans, grants, scholarships, etc. I've also seen people come from great families, who paid for their college and cars and appartments, and then did nothing with their life.
I agree that social safety networks are necessary, and that people who earn a lot of money should pay a higher percentage in taxes to fund those. But I think that people's gut instinct when looking up from the bottom is a Robin hood approach- take from the rich, give to the poor. They don't take into account how much of the ability of industry to provide them with any jobs at all depends on people at the top having capital to invest. They don't realize the reason that companies have the ability to make ramen noodles for 25 cents a bag is that their materials and labor costs allow them to do so. They don't fully understand the cause and effect of things, so rather than say "lets maybe up the percentages a little bit, or redirect straight monetary aid to an educational program that will teach kids coming out of high school how to better handle credit and plan for success" they say "Those people have no right to make that much- give me some."
I agree that government programs to help educate and provide investment capital for people coming from disadvantaged backgrounds is essential, and that the funding from the upper tax bracket is necessary and justified. But when people start thinking of the people at the top as having broken some kind of law or moral code by being successful and want to punish them for it, or start demanding wildly unreasonable and unrealistic plans like doubling the minimum wage, or putting a limit on how much someone can earn in a year and have the government take 100% of the rest, I like to give them a little bit of economics to show how this isn't the best solution. When people complain that there is nothing available to them at all, I like to point out some options they could explore (it might not work for everyone, but it works for many, and it's better than deciding you'll fail before you start and not trying at all). And when someone declares with indignation that they deserve free higher education in a paragraph with sentence structure and grammar errors that indicate they slept through English class in high school, I wonder where the sense of entitlement comes from for more education when you squandered what you were initially given.
I do believe that we should strive to raise the standard of living for everyone. But I think education is a much better road than handouts, and that we should make sure it's done in a way that doesn't replace personal responsibility with state paychecks. Money is not power- knowledge is power.
Statistics say that 1 in 3 people who win a sizable amount of money from the lottery are broke within 5 years. And these are people who are winning hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. The reason is that no one ever taught them how to use money, how to save, how to spend responsibly. So even when they have a lot of it, they spend themselves back into oblivion. If that's what happens to someone given millions of dollars, how much good do you think and extra $5,000 or $10,000 is going to do most people, if they don't know how to handle money?
Honestly Elhonna, I think our views appear quite different when you only look at the surface -- but if you and I were in Congress, I'm willing to bet that we could work together and come up with something agreeable to everyone that would have a positive impact.
My favorite part of discussions like this is when enough level of detail emerges from a group of opinions that you can really see how much gray area actually overlaps between them. The sad truth is that our little debate here was probably more productive than the past 3 weeks of floor debate in the House of Representatives or Senate.
Our "five-second sound bite" culture and the demand for instant gratification in everything (including information) are really what's damaging our society, and I wholeheartedly agree with your statements about educational system flaws being the root cause of these many symptoms. Culture is powerful, and ours is by and large broken.
I wouldn't be opposed to running with you Heckler, but however would we pick which party we'd represent- lol.
On a side note, I actually went to college for four years and got a specialty degree that was supposed to prepare me for work in the United Nations and/or the state department. It was called "International Political Economy and Diplomacy". I did one summer internship in politics after I graduated, and saw the difference between political theory, and how politics is practiced, and I have done nothing but sales and marketing ever since. No plans on ever going back.
I think we desperately need to reduce the gap between rich and poor on a global level. The nice car for somebody in Germany means life or death for a whole village in Somalia. The income from your second property (hooray! you're lucky enough to own a house!) could mean that a Brazilian farmer doesn't need to cut down yet more forest to send his children to school. Once we've achieved that, we can work on sorting out the situation at home, probably using the same methods. I'm not religious, but the saying "the love of money is the root of all evil" comes to mind. I also think that the Muslim practise of donating 10% of your income to charity/good causes is an admirable start.
We are all on the internet, which relatively means we are rich. There is enough food to feed the world, but we have managed to create a society that values the ability to make profit from food above filling hungry tummies. We have managed to create a society that allows buildings to remain empty rather than using them to put a roof over homeless people's heads. Lets start fixing it, and start soon. The solution will be by all of us talking and acting together, as we do on these forums. Think practical!
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with food distribution to developing countries is their infrastructure. It's relatively affordable for people to produce food, and in the US we have plenty of surplus to send overseas. Unfortunately, other than a few central hubs, many areas that need food have trouble bringing it in because of few or no roads, no rail system, no airports, etc.
I heard that some leaders in developing countries are resorting to really extreme measures trying to resolve this, like clearing forest to build roads. Luckily, there are people willing to go down and pour sugar in the gas tanks of bulldozers to stop these madmen.
Oh, come on, that was a low blow. If people need to destroy their homeland in order to sustain what they already have, but only just, something is wrong. Why do they have such poor, and old fashioned infrastructure? Could it be anything to do with debt, and colonial (state and or corporation based) pillaging? Fairtrade anyone? Yes, build roads, or better rail, but in the right places, and in a responsible way. Those decisions should not be left to road building companies, but a collective of local community development bodies, environmental specialists, and people concerned with developing vehicles that can run on locally available products, with zero sum emission output.
It's not really about crisis management, though I wish the private and military helicopters would be reassigned to resource drops, but careful and continued construction of a giving from the rich to the poor nations, and an energy structure based around our sorry history (renewables). Those countries should not copy us, or we are all screwed.
My point was that we collectively have managed, given all our advantages, to produce a culture that leaves most of the world in abject poverty, while we still rob them so we can have a Mercedes, and the average person doesn't even know. And even in the resource hungry countries, we still have glaring gaps, leading to awful problems.
I agree with you Pikey- the poor infrastructure and lack of production facilities is completely an inheritance from colonial opression, and perpetuated by an unbalanced global economy, and it needs to be remedied. I think that foreign aid from wealthier nations is crucial in helping the developing world catch up, and if we could direct more towards education, infrastucture, and funding for countries to set up viable business ventures that are not foreign owned, so that the profits are staying in their own country, it would be not only the right thing to do, but globally beneficial in the long run.
It's a hard thing to tackle, though, because of how widespread the problems are. Food aid helps, but it's not a long term solution. Monetary aid can help, except in many developing countries the governments in power are so corrupt that only a fraction of the money given goes towards anything worthwhile for the people who need it. What might be more effective is to give foreign aid in a way that makes it harder to be misused, and has more long term benefits.
If foreign aid could be used to pay teachers, agricultural specialists, etc. to go down and teach people how to make better use of the land, how to read and write, how to become doctors and nurses, it's hard for a government to intercept any of the money directly. If it could be used to send construction supplies and machinery down, it's harder for it to make it into someone's pocket. If entrepreneurs who wanted to apply for grants to start domestic businesses to provide jobs could apply independently to the UN or some non-affiliated source, it would be easier to assign the money based on the merit of the plan and not who they know.
My parents have gone to South America as volunteers on a number of occasions to build clinics, orpanages, bridges, etc. My mother, who was a nurse, also spent time educating people about hygene, basic medical care for children, etc. If they didn't have to make a living, I'm sure they'd love to do it full time. I know a lot of people who, given the choice between their current 9-5 and doing something to help build up impoverished communities, would choose the latter, if they'd be able to pay their bills and afford to live. If there were a decent budget for foreign aid to send trained personnel overseas to teach people things they need to improve their lives, and help build up necessities for communities, I think they'd find they wouldn't have any trouble finding people who would go.
Yes, Elhanna! It's nice to know that even if our viewpoints differ, we have the same aims in mind. My only quibbles with what you've said are:
Helping the developing world catch up. Firstly, what are they developing into, and catch up with who? I'd rather see, say India, develop into a society based around renewable energy, and where the wealth of a community is used to benefit all in that community. Even if the company is Indian, if it is not giving land to the landless in Mumbai, rather than collaborating in their eviction from slums, and making them homeless again, it is not acting in everybodies best interests. It is completely unsustainable, and will lead to the collapse of our civilization, to attempt to get the whole of the "third world" to have a luxurious lifestyle like us. We need to step back a bit, accept more modest lifestyles, in order to reap the benefits of the Kenyan Einstein, or the Bangladeshi Darwin.
When I said catch up, I meant in terms of standard of living, food production, life expectency, medical care, etc., and not that they necessarily have to mirror the developed world in all aspects.
I agree that if monetary aid is going to be given to stimulate the economy, it should be for business plans that will help generate jobs and provide more for the general population, not increase wealth for a few and have no long term effect. That's why I suggested above that if the parties applying would do so to the UN, or an unaffiliated party, and not through their own government where they already probably have ties and influence, that the plans could be evaluated based on merit and not who knows who.
I assume everyone's read this already, but if not:
An op-ed by billionaire Warren Buffet:
Stop Coddling the Super-Rich
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
Exactly. Why did he not get automatically taxed at a higher rate than the others, given that he was eventually going to end up with a bigger share anyway? There was a proposal in the UK that the highest paid in a company could earn no more than 20 times the lowest paid. This would be a substantial improvement. I don't agree with legalized tax avoidance either. To me that equals legalized social robbery.
Firstly, what are they developing into, and catch up with who?
Probably catch up with Mexico.
The problem with taxing the rich (or just getting them to pay taxes in general) is that the people who make up the tax laws are bought and sold by those same wealthy people, senators and congressmen. If you don't believe the fine men and women of our government are being traded like Pokemon cards just watch the political winds change after lobbyists get done with their phone calls, "executive retreats" and of course, campaign funds.
I invite you to see for yourself what the starting salary is for a senator is
174,000 dollars a year
, plus full medical for their whole family. Now, just pick apart how each well known senator lives, what they buy themselves, their wives and husbands, their kids and grandkids, and their mistresses/girlfriends. Does it really add up to what they are paid? Oh yes, I am sure there are book deals and that their trust funds (if they have them still) cover some of it, but it doesn't add up. But let's all face it, power corrupts, and money is power in a capitalist society, the rich will never be held accountable for their full share of tax burden as long as our senators and congressmen are allowed to take "campaign contributions" the ultra wealthy provided that certain standards are held.
I am poor, I work 50+ hours a week at two jobs while supporting my girlfriend through college so that she can get a better than minimum wage job so we can do more than just barely scrape by. Because my parents were poor I started well below the poverty line. I have been homeless, not because my parents didn't work, because they did, so much so that I raised my younger siblings more than they did, but because of natural disasters and my father needing brain surgery. When I was little there were times I was happy that school started because it meant that I got to have more than one meal a day. I have the internet because I don't have basic cable or a phone, it's cheaper that way. I stopped playing WoW because the horrifying habit of eating at least once a day was more important. My only real indulgence is my gum chewing habit, but I only get gum on clearance.
I struggle every day to make ends meat, to make sure my fragile life stays on the razor blade track its on right now, don't tell me it's my fault that I am poor. I don't blame individual people for my circumstance, but rather the system that allows for such disparity between comfortably well off and just hoping you can make the poverty line. Hard work and determination only get you so far, it can be statistically proven. For ever story of moderate success there are a million people just like me, people hoping that they can earn enough money to pay for the next oil change in the car before it blows a gasket.
This post was from a user who has deleted their account.
The disparity between rich and poor
It's huge. It always has been, and it always will be. It's the nature of humankind.
Have you found any statistics about how much their wives and husbands make? How much they're making in interest and dividens on their investments? If they maybe owned businesses before becoming senators, and if that business still turns profits? Don't assume that because someone's paycheck is less than the money they're actually taking in, that it's all bribes. There are a lot of ways for people to make money, legitimately, if they know how to do it. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, but the math you're using is flawed in that it uses one known variable, their salary, and then assumes that all unknown variables must be illegal contributions from special interest groups.
I'm sorry that your family had hard times- the medical system is screwed up, and it can definitely damage the financial security of a lot of families to have to deal with the inflated prices we have in this system. I know that it's hard working 50-60 hours a week and not having much to show for it, not even a decent amount of money to feed yourself. I did that for a couple of years trying to start a business, and it was hard. I think it's commendable that you're able to work and pay for your girlfriend's college at the same time, and if you have this kind of a work ethic, I'm sure things will get better for you.
I still stand by my statements that there are ways to improve your situation regardless of where you come from. It sounds like you're a prime examples of someone who is doing just that. Was college not an option for you- did you attempt to find scholarships? What kind of jobs do you do, if you don't mind me asking, and what kind of salary are we talking about?
I am not trying to say that every politician excepts bribes, just that the most influential tend to have some unexplained capital lying around. I didn't use math, just stated if we really picked apart most politician's income we might find some discrepancies.
I did qualify for minor scholarship of $5,000 in high school, but the need to help support my family so I got a job at 17 and thus tanked going to college for now. As for my jobs I work in a bakery and at a local grocery store making just above minimum wage in the state of Florida. I am trying to better my situation but its taken nearly a decade to do so, not because I am lazy, but because opportunities are slim to none after a certain point, especially given the factor of being a lesbian in the Southern US. I have been fired from jobs because of it, never said to my face but one has to assume that if an employer loves your work and tells you so often then sees you kiss your girlfriend good bye in the parking lot and less than a week later you are suspended until further notice for "inappropriate behavior", you tend to read between the lines. (And I am just talking about a peck on the lips here.)
In the end I guess I feel that politicians shouldn't be making as much money as they do, but that starts getting into my personal feelings on government and jumps straight into off-topicdom.
I'll agree, you seem to have had some unique challenges in terms of family responsibilities and other prejudices that are affecting your ability to move up. It sounds like you're pushing hard against your circumstances, though, and I'm really hoping it works out for you. It's really unfortunate that your family had to ask you to sacrifice your education and financial future to help support them. I could never imagine doing that to my child, as a parent. I feel like it's terribly unfair to make your children pay for any mistakes you made. After all, if you with one income can support yourself, put your girlfriend through college, and probably still help them out from time to time, why would they with 2 incomes need you to sacrifice getting off to a good start in your life?
I understand that medical bills are tough, but I have had a number of friends who needed significant medical care with no insurance, and have had found ways through existing government programs and hospital policies of forgiving part of the debt based on economic need, to reduce how much they had to pay significantly. Also, since most hospitals can't or won't send you to collections while you are attempting to pay, even a substantial bill can be kept from ruining your life with $100/month. I can't imagine the type of rebuilding that you have to do after a natural disaster, but I'd imagine that there's insurance for that,a nd govenrment assistance programs. I don't feel like you got a fair shake from your family, even with their extenuating circumstances.
That being said, I think many people who complain about not being to go anywhere don't have the same kinds of challenges you face. They don't have a family that asks them to put off college to pay their bills. Racial, religious and ethnic prejudice and discrimination are taken much more seriously by the legal system than discrimination based on sexual preference, and as such it's easier to fight it and companies tend to come down harder on management that exhibits it. I think what I've said is still true for the majority of people who feel like they're unable to get anywhere- but not for you specifically.
And, besides that, you're taking responsibility to push past what's been dumped on you. Wouldn't you resent the heck out of someone who came from the same circumstances as you, but never put any effort into their grades to earn scholarships, never worked a full 40 hours, never put any effort into putting themselves or their significant other through school, etc. Then, once you've worked hard enough to move up and out of your situation, told you that you were "lucky", and someone needed to "give them" the same advantages you got, because it wasn't fair that your girlfriend made more money than them?
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