Immigrants pass the poor

 

With the help of the spokesmen for the poor, we have come to believe our poor are ‘trapped’ in poverty. Yet we know that poor immigrants can get ahead. Our poor are fluent in English and are ‘left behind’, yet poor immigrants with limited English get ahead. How did we develop these double standards? To find out, let’s compare both groups:

Many immigrants come from countries where they’ve seen: squalor, illiteracy, disease, civil unrest, war, hundreds of homeless kids on the streets, low status for women, and corruption we could never imagine. Some have had relatives taken away. Some have left or escaped through great hardship, been preyed on by smugglers and pirates, and lived in miserable refugee camps.

The homeless

Having spent years in social work and briefly managed a homeless shelter, I feel we are being misled.  The homeless are portrayed as the ‘nation’s failure’, the ‘disenfranchised’, who were ‘abandoned’ by the economy, ‘never had a chance’, and have ‘fallen out of the mainstream’.  They are ‘victims’ who are owed food, lodging, clothing, and services.

Some are shown on a food line with bizarre mountains of hair and dirty, matted beards.  No one would hire them that way; yet they’re never asked to get a haircut and shave in return for meals and lodging.

Hazlitt on poverty

hazlitt

After fruitless years in social work, it was with relief I read Henry Hazlitt’s THE CONQUEST OF POVERTY.Published in ‘73, his insights are as pertinent as ever. They explode the following myths:

  1. The amount of wealth is limited. (False, there is a much as people want to create.)
  2. The poor are trapped.(False).
  3. The rich get richer, the poor, poorer. (False, both progress proportionately.)
  4. The rich cause poverty. (False).
  5. The owners of a business get most of its income. (False, most goes for workers’ wages.)
  6. Capitalism helps the rich the most. (False, it helps the masses the most.)

Poverty myths

pov

Since ‘rediscovering’ poverty in the 60s, social programs have come and gone with few results. Yet we are made to feel guilty. No matter how much we spend, it’s never enough.

   This needs a close look. The irresponsible poor who do not work are featured with their kids in front of a shack despairing. The poor who do work are rarely interviewed, nor are those who have gotten out of poverty.

     There are others we don’t hear from – those abused by the irresponsible poor – landlords, merchants, employers, insurance companies, finance companies, utilities companies, sanitation, health, and other public servants, and chain stores (who avoid ghettos like the plague ).

Slums

After college I wanted to learn about ‘the downtrodden victims of society who lived in abject poverty’.  I lived in Spanish Harlem and the lower eastside – both in New York, in the late 60s and behind the capitol in Wash. D.C. in the early 70s to learn about urban problems.

Rather than ‘the pitiful and oppressed poor held down by the establishment’, I found something different.  Cars were benches – people sat on them, which ground the grit into the paint.  Some stood or walked on them. Occasionally a car found itself up on milk boxes in the morning with the back tires off.  The next day the front tires and engine parts disappeared, and later kids used it as a jungle gym.  Some were set afire.

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