First off, I'm was not talking about homeless people specifically, but your comment about poor people :
if you're working several jobs and are still poor, it is likely due to poor decisions in the past or deficiencies of personality.
This rubs me the wrong way.
I lived for two years in a pretty rough section of town. Had my car stolen, watched my neighbors car get stolen, watched a police shoot-out with a neighbor, had addicts try to rip me off constantly. The apartment complex next door was mostly occupied with squatters (people who don't pay rent, they just break in to an unoccupied place and claim it as their own - squatters are not called homeless because they have a home, and they are usually younger).
I was pretty poor. Now I'm not. It took me a little less than two years to get out of that neighborhood, and that was working for $4/hr more than minimum wage.
There are a lot of people who can't work any job but minimum wage. If you work a single minimum wage job in America, you can't really afford to live.
Minimum wage in DC is $7 (which is more than the federal minimum, I believe). 40 hours a week x $7 x 4 weeks = $1120 a month before taxes. (Note : a really crappy place in DC is going to cost you $800.)
That's poor. A single person can live on this, maybe, in a very sketchy neighborhood, or with a bunch of roommates, but try raising a family on that - even with a spouse also working.
Now you might say that it's these people's own fault that they cannot get anything but a minimum wage job - but our school system is not doing a very good job of educating people in the big cities, and the only job market that seems to be growing steadily is in the service industry.
An example about the school system : My friend is a teacher in the Bronx. His administrators informed him that even though his social studies students don't know what the Constitution is, or the Bill of Rights, or even who Columbus is, or how America came to be, he needed to teach them about the Civil War. He asked if he could give them a 2 day crash course on everything pre-Civil War and was informed he didn't have time for that. This was true, since two days into the suppossedly week-long session on the Civil War, he was informed that he had to stop teaching them History in his Social Studies class, and instead help them with English, since there was an aptitude test coming up and unless the school-wide English scores were higher, the school would lose funding.
I could tell you a dozen more stories about this school, but the gist is that our system CHURNS out people who aren't really prepared to work high-paying jobs, or even decent-paying jobs. Many of these people do later manage, after a lot of work, to go back to school or learn trade skills. And it's true also that if these kids focused on learning outside of school, they would do better - but the sad fact is that a lot of people's parents never got a good education, either. If kids are going to guaranteed a quality education, our schools have to be better than they are, across the board.
Regardless it's not simply a "poor decision in the past" (unless you consider being born in a neighborhood with crappy schools a bad decision) that causes poverty, as you maintain. IF all kids could get a decent (or even passable) education, maybe I'd buy that arguement, but the fact is - they don't.
If you actually want to learn a bit about it, and aren't just a blowhard, read Nickel and Dimed in America. The author tried to live for several months on minimum wage. She discovered that it was almost impossible to do so without more than one job, and this was without kids, and she still made so little that she would be considered poor.
ps - class envy is so 1980's.
So is arrogance. Or wait : maybe that's timeless?
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