Why do you think the poor stay poor?

I’ve already made clear what I believe to be the prime factors causing long-term poverty for individuals in America.  Here’s the results from an NBC/WSJ poll asking people what they believe are the reasons for continual poverty.

See Dan, America is on  my side on this one.  And they’re right.

Single parenthood, lack of work ethic, failure to take advantage of your educational opportunities, tolerating the lifestyle which is accommodated by welfare programs are the why people stay poor.  Poverty is — in the majority of cases — an accepted life situation, not a determined one.


  1. John,

    Certainly single-parenthood, lack of worth ethnic, and a failure to take advantage of educational opportunities are some of the reasons people are poor, but they’re not the only reasons. Some people are thrust into longtime poverty due to medical and other bills piling up on account of an illness. This is what happened to my mother and she’s still paying off debt that accrued 20 years ago when she had cancer.

    Also, some people just aren’t that smart. In the old days, that didn’t matter much if you had work ethic. But these days, muscle jobs go where muscle labor is cheap and that is not the U.S.A.

    Lastly, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: the bigger problem is corporate welfare.

  2. I think the first column is the best – too much nanny government. But that is often after other reasons send them down the road to poverty, the most often cited reason being the breakdown of families. There certainly is no lack of government funding!

    Racial discrimination has nothing to do with it. Lack of work ethic I think originates from family breakdown, as does involvement with drugs.

    No one can claim it is due to lack of good educational opportunities, since education really is what you make of it. Everyone has free schooling through high school, but too many drop out for reasons usually rooted in the family breakdown and then the nanny government giving them no incentive to work. The job opportunities are there – one just has to not wait until the perfect job comes along.

  3. This is a dumbing down of the issue for 2 reasons.

    Firstly it is a bunch of unstudied opinions. This doesn’t correlate to anything factual. And I thought you guys hated the mainstream media for being a bunch of Jesus hating liars.Or is that unless the data supports your opinion?

    Secondly, it doesn’t even come close to collating any real causal factors. For instance being born into poverty. Gladwell proves this out nicely and objectively. It also skips the ever growing number of working poor, now a record, that involves no entitlements. There are now upwards of 70 million people busting butt and getting no where. It doesn’t help that they are working for a dollar that is devalued by 38% since 1968.

    And it drives me nuts to see lazy good for nothing people milking the system. But they are the monetary minority.

    I can’t believe I am saying this but I fully agree with TH, that the health of the democracy is much more called upon financially to continuously bail out and provide unlimited welfare to corporate special interests. This army of lobbyists secures more in welfare by a factor of 12-1 when compared to social welfare. This has remained fairly steady for the last 16 years.

    Tax breaks, tax incentives, no taxes, grants, tax free land, discounted property, virtually free mineral rights and non stop eminent domain come to mind. All of these in spite of every right leaning flag waver telling me how much they love their free market capitalist meritocracy……which doesn’t really exist, other than a warm and fuzzy delusion.

    • I swear Nash, it’s almost as if you try your very hardest to either not get the post, or intentionally spin the discussion somewhere else.

      No one is suggesting this has any value as far as assessing the real reasons for prolonged poverty, it’s just a poll of what people’s perceptions are. Some people are informed, some aren’t.

      This poll has nothing to do with the media, they just asked the question, why do you think people stay poor.

      It doesn’t try to correlate anything or determine anything or solve anything. It’s just to find out perception. I happen to think the public perception is accurate and represents the real reasons.

      You need to stop trying to read between the lines or whatever you’re doing to totally miss the points of my posts. I’m not trying to insult or stir you up, but you look silly when you miss the mark by so much.

  4. I’m a bit confused. Are Terrance and Nash suggesting that corporate welfare is a cause of poverty? Regardless of whether or not it is true that corporate welfare is a “bigger” problem, why the poor stay poor is the issue here.

  5. wiley16350 says:

    I think most people’s perception is based on their personal reality. This is my perception based on the reality that I know. My mom has 7 brothers and sisters and they grew up in a poor family. My parents had me when my mom was 17 and dad was 18. They had one of my brothers 10.5 months after they had me. They were poor to start. Through hard work, careful planning and discipline they worked their way up to being middle class. 4 of my mothers brothers and sisters have also worked their way up to middle class. They all worked hard, remained disciplined and planned well for their futures so that they could become middle class. 2 of her other brothers were promiscuous and made poor decisions at younger ages which have made them poorer than they should be. However, they have become productive citizens and more successful. They may still receive some government assistance in food stamps (I’m not sure) because of the women they married (not having jobs themselves) and the number of children they had when they were making bad decisions with different women. The last brother has been lazy his whole life, graduating high school with me (even though he is 2 years older) and rarely ever keeping a steady job. He has had way too many children and has never really taken the initiative to improve his life. He definitely gets welfare and is one of those that benefits too much from government assistance. He is in the position he is in purely because of the choices he has made throughout his life. If I were to extend my experience to my cousins, most of us have become successful to middle class living. The ones that haven’t are the ones that were promiscuous, involved in drugs, lazy and didn’t strive to do well in school. So from my personal reality, people stay poor because they make poor choices and never strive to better their lives. They choose instant gratification over long term success.

  6. Marhall,

    I do think there are times when the poor is stepped on in favor of the rich. The $700 billion TARP bailout fund is a prime example. Government went out of its way to secure the interests of Wall Street firms while simultaneously remaining totally indifferent to regular folks losing their homes.

    I don’t deny that some bailout funds were necessary to the stability of our economy, but the TARP fund was abused. This is undeniable. Books have been written explaining the fraud in great detail.

    I also find it somewhat curious that, though we conservatives constantly berate President Obama for his lackluster economy, we find no problem calling the poor and unemployed lazy and useless for not pouncing on those “good job opportunities.” Isn’t that a bit hypocritical?

    Conservatives on this blog, myself included, have said numerous times that Obama’s policies have businesses ducking and running, refusing to invest and hire new people. If that’s true, what the hell sense does it make to say, “Oh, the good jobs are out there, but poor people just lack worth ethnic. Har, har, har.”


    I know the point of this post, but you said, “I’ve already made clear what I believe to be the prime factors causing long-term poverty for individuals in America.

    And I remember your view. It almost perfectly mirrors the majorities view. That’s what I’m addressing.

    • Terrance,
      It isn’t the federal government’s job to bail people out of home mortgage problems. If they lose their home because they bought over their heads, or if it was just because they lost their job. You will not find that in the constitution. If local state gov’ts want to do that, then that is THEIR business.

      It also wasn’t the fed’s job to bail out anyone else! Nowhere is it allowed in the Constitution.

      A lot of those home mortgages were given out be gov’t demanding that banks give loans to credit risks because of “diversity” or “affirmative action” type policies. A lot were also with people who bought with these great balloon mortgages, thinking they’d sell before the spike. From what I understand, these two types were the majority of those who lost their homes. In other words – self-inflicted. They couldn’t afford the homes with normal mortgage policies or normal mortgages and got in over their heads.

      So these people became poor due to their own poor choices, and by government policies.

  7. Glenn,

    The point is they bailed out Wall St. and left Main St. to fend for themselves. And you just said that government (i.e., politicians like Barney Frank) are to blame for the mess in the first place. They encouraged banks to give high-risk loans to people that had no business getting them, and it was that irresponsibility, and Republicans were absolutely involved, that caused the the whole problem.

    All I’m saying is that if you’re going to bailout Wall St., then do something for the folks on Main St.

    And not everyone that got caught up in that mess was being irresponsible. My brother got a loan for a house and his payments were an affordable $450. He got mixed up in one of those subprime lenders. At the time, nobody knew how crooked they were. But at first, things were fine. Then one month they call him up and say his payments have been raised to $900 a month. He lost his house, and a few months later, the whole bubble burst and his former neighbors starting losing theirs. Nearly the whole block was vacant.

  8. Terrance,

    Without seeing the details of your brother’s situation, I have to default to the likelihood that he didn’t read the fine print, so to speak. I’ve had a few refi’s to deal with my own poor choices, and at no time did I sign a loan agreement that left me with a surprise increase somewhere down the line. I can’t say that my payments never increased, but when they did, it was due to tax increases, not the loan repayment going up. My payments have always been fixed because I would never sign on to any that did not have that stipulation. So if he got “mixed up” with an insidious lender, then he didn’t do his due diligence and that results in his situation being a result of HIS choices, actions or lack thereof.

    As for the difference between Wall St and Main, my position is that the gov’t has no business in business. If one cannot remain profitable, it should fail. But as to the definitive difference, when corporations fail, people lose jobs. When people fail, they basically hurt themselves. It’s a simplistic comparison, but I believe it’s accurate and explains why the gov’t would focus more on Wall St. But like I said, I wish they’d get the hell out of the way and let the market rise and fall on its own. All the gov’t does is provide false results upon which decisions are made that won’t strengthen anything.

  9. paynehollow says:


    See Dan, America is on my side on this one. And they’re right.

    1. As you well know, mere numbers in agreement does not indicate being right.

    2. According to your survey, 24% of people at large think that “welfare reduces initiative” is the primary reason for poverty. No doubt that is true in some cases, but the question is: IS THERE ANY RESEARCH TO SUPPORT that hunch?

    3. To look at the specifics (regardless of what 24% of people may or may not think, whether or not they’re informed): Given the fact that TANF (“welfare”) is time-limited and pushes for people to move to work, I don’t see how TANF could be said to reduce initiative to work.

    4. Beyond that, I’m less concerned about what people in general feel is the “main reason” people are poor, and more interested in research by people in the field. Do you have any research – any at all – to support this hunch?

    5. Do you agree that we should base programs more on research and not on emotional feelings and unsupported hunches? Or do you think unsupported hunches are enough to justify funding or not funding a program?


  10. Marshall,

    I think one of the reasons Republicans lose so often is because we tend to blame the victim. These massive financial institutions prey on people who they damn well know don’t understand the legal complexities of a 10 page contract, so these people rely on the smooth talk of a salesman and they get burned. Are they gullible? Sure. But isn’t the bigger issue the dishonesty and unscrupulous business practices of lenders?


    Another problem is that millionaires speculated a bull market, bought property to sell, and then caused a panic by liquidating these assets. In fact, it’s true that more than a third of the people caught up in the housing bubble owned more than a single piece of property. 1 in 10 owned at least four.

    So I don’t see how you can argue that even MOST of this mess was caused by so-called “affirmative action” lending. It was irresponsible people all right, but irresponsible rich, white, poor, black, you name it. Everyone is to blame.

    • Terrance

      Dont take this as me being naive to the practices of some large mortgage lenders. But when I bought both my houses my closing attorney explained to me every page of the mortgage contract. I think thats common place to have a closing attorney, so at least as far as mortgages go, unless someone had a shoddy attorney, they understood the mortgage terms.

  11. paynehollow says:

    We have never had any kind of attorney representing us for any of our mortgages or refinancings. For what it’s worth. Didn’t know we were supposed to, couldn’t have afforded one even if we did.

  12. “Why do you think the poor stay poor?”

    There isn’t job and properties for everyone.
    Many works are poorly compensated.

  13. “I think one of the reasons Republicans lose so often is because we tend to blame the victim. “

    Terrance. I’m surprised at you. This sounds like something Dan T would say. It is perfectly proper and acceptable to “blame” whoever bears responsibility and drops the ball. The “victim” is too often a victim of one’s own shortcomings or character flaws. If we can’t deal with reality, we can’t solve the problem.

    Think about it. Who has not only heard, but advised others to “read the fine print”, “don’t trust anyone”, “get a second opinion” and hundreds of other sayings that are now cliche? Who can be duped but those who are willing to believe something important can be had without some effort put forth to do it properly? It’s pretty damned clear when after being “victimized”, most everyone thinks about what they should have done to prevent it. The problem was not in the sales pitch, but in the desire to want something badly enough to ignore what they already knew in order to avoid not getting it.

  14. paynehollow says:

    It’s not just me. It’s Terrance, it’s Bobby Jindal, it’s reasonable Republicans across the nation, looking at their gloomy future if the party keeps up the vindictive approach to reaching out…

  15. Marshall,

    It is perfectly acceptable to blame those who bear responsibility, but it is not acceptable, in my opinion, to blame one and not the other. People are gullible, uneducated, and perhaps a little foolish at times, I know. I don’t dispute this. But I also know that some lenders are deceitful, shady, tricky, pick your adjective. Why isn’t this also a cause for concern? Why are we focusing our attention on the borrowers and not the lenders? The unscrupulous practices of these lenders deserves just as much indignation – more, I argue – as the gullibility of the 45-year-old Nursing Assistant excited about finally owning her own home, even if she failed to read the “fine print.”

    If we can’t deal with reality, we can’t solve the problem.


    Again, I don’t dispute that people should read the “fine print,” hire an attorney if possible, and investigate the matter thoroughly. I don’t know anyone that would advise anything less. But something should have been done about the unscrupulous or “insidious,” as YOU put it, practices of these lenders.

    For a minute, let’s ignore every other cause of the mortgage crisis and focus our attention on subprime lenders and borrowers. Ask yourself this: Would you loan money to someone that you weren’t sure could pay you back? They showed you no proof of income, listed no expenses, nothing. They just waltzed up and asked you for the money. Would you give it to them?

    You probably wouldn’t. You’re smart enough to know that it would be too much risk. And if you got burned, well, it’d sorta be your own fault for engaging in a high-stakes gamble.

    But if you could sell that loan to your other neighbor and make a nice profit, then you might consider it. Hell, you might consider loaning money to the whole block so long as you had a buyer lined up. You’d make all sorts of money, just like the Wall St. fat-cats did during the subprime boom. They ate up the profits, but when things turned sour —- oops. And regular folks paid the price.


    Like Dan, I’ve never heard of having an attorney for a mortgage. I don’t think it’s all that common.

    • What about those sub-prime loans, etc, for those who were not qualified by credit ratings and yet had to be given by order of the U.S. government? You can’t blame the lending institutions for that!

  16. John,

    Isu said,

    Many works are poorly compensated.

    We’ve talked about this before, John, haven’t we? Remember what I told you I do for a living and how poorly I’m paid? You were shocked to hear it. Well, I’m not the only one. A lot of people do work like mine and are paid nothing for it. You could flip burgers at McDonald’s for a few years, earn a raise, and make more than I do. How pathetic.

    • T

      Youre not wrong. In my head when I think of the poor I envision people, the people im mostly referring to are those who arent working and are universally living off the government. Maybe that causes confusion.

  17. “Ask yourself this: Would you loan money to someone that you weren’t sure could pay you back?”

    The historical point is as follows:
    I loan the money of my company for a high interest. I get rich by commisions and when things blow up, I’m rich and borrowers and companies crack.

    And because borrowers are the “guilty ones”, I get hired into another company and do the same.

    • Actually the government forced them to through the community reinvestment act through threat of lawsuits. They claimed it was discrimination to not make the loans. The govt bought the bad loans from the banks so they had less liability.

  18. paynehollow says:

    Of course, I’m sure you know that most people on TANF do work?

    About six out of 10 adults receiving welfare in 2002 reported that during the previous 12 months they had either worked or engaged in activities to prepare for work. Many held paid jobs; some took job training or job preparation classes

    Then others are taking care of children, which is work, too. And, factually of course, TANF is Temporary Assistance (it’s in the name TANF), so no one is “universally living off the gov’t…,” just getting temporary assistance.


    • That quote doesnt say they held jobs.

      You know there is more than TANF right? Theres section 8, the ebt program, SNAP, TANF, subsidized school meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), public transportation subsidies, no cost cell phone service, anf others. Do try to be a little less narrow.

  19. In a 2003 research paper, economists at the Federal Reserve could not find clear evidence that the CRA increased lending and home ownership more in low income neighborhoods than in higher income ones.[84] A 2008 Competitive Enterprise Institute study resulted in a similar finding.[85]

    “consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institutions”
    Housing and Community Development Act of 1977/Title VIII

    “I loan the money of my company for a high interest. I get rich by commisions and when things blow up, I’m rich and borrowers and companies crack.

    And because borrowers are the “guilty ones”, I get hired into another company and do the same.

    And yes, I was forced by the filthy goverment.”

  20. Seriously, I recommed you to watch “Inside Job”.

  21. I don’t dispute that government is somewhat responsible, but I’m aware of no regulation that forced lenders to totally ignore the employment and income status of potential borrowers. They weren’t even checking, for crying out loud. A regulation forcing lenders to approve low-income borrowers is one thing, but no income borrowers? I very seriously doubt it. I think you’re making an excuse for the fat-cats.

    • T

      I think he might be referring to the “no doc” loans. The ones where the borrower didn’t have to prove they had a stable income with pay stubs and bank statements, they just signed affidavits that they had jobs and enough money.

      The biggest driver of banks accepting those loans is the federal govt promised the loans wouldn’t fall back on the bank if they failed. So they got even greedier than they may have normally.

  22. I’m still not convinced it was even greed as much as self-preservation. Gov’t pressure to get people homes was far easier to absorb once the gov’t began covering the bad loans.

  23. John,

    “The biggest driver of banks accepting those loans is the federal govt promised the loans wouldn’t fall back on the bank if they failed.”

    I doubt the federal goverment would make such promise. Anyway, if it was made and sincere, a banker wouldn’t rely on it because it wouldn’t be viable for the goverment.

    The problem is the current financial system. Sometime ago, the bankers owned the banks (their capital) so they were concerned for their bank progress (it was their profit) and they took the decisions accordingly.
    Nowadays, some bankers don’t own the capital and there are finalcial tricks by which they can make profit betting or taking decisions against their own company.

  24. John,

    I still doubt the federal goverment would make such promise. Maybe it was a lot of fuss about nothing. Could you give me a reference?

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