Saturday, January 10, 2015

Our Myths about Poor People cost America Economic Growth

There is a great article in the Washington Post relating to rich people's attitudes about poor people. Check it out.  This is a mythology that hurts poor people; but not only poor  people, but the rest  of us also.  It is  self-defeating.

Interesting infographic on our attitudes about poor people.
We do ourselves financial injury with such myths.

There are many theories on how this attitude forms. TED- I hope you ar a fan of TED , their catch phrase is "ideas worth spreading "- well, TED has a great video that details what psychologists have learned through experimentation about people and money. You will enjoy this video.

Now I am not meaning to beat up or blame rich people for their attitudes. I would much rather see some calm reflection and understand that changing our attitudes about the poor is good for all of us. We are all in this together.

IThe sense of all Americans being in something together because we need all hands is an attitude we learn deeply when we are all fully engaged in a great endeavor like World War II. A "band of brothers" fits well here. In the trenches, on the invasion beach,  in a fox hole: all are a great impetus to understand that we all are  in this together- that we all depend on each other.

I would like us to rekindle a sense of how we are all in this together and that we are all better off when we show consideration for each of us. This is the simple concept of paying it forward, on a national scale.

This attitude about poor people certainly helps make it harder for poor people to get the help they need to transcend their conditions, but it hurts the entire nation as a whole. The myth that poor people sit on the couch and just suck up benefits, and have it easy; costs us all in several ways. Lets explore some of them.

When we are not producing at full employment, when all Americans that want work cannot find work, or find work that pays them a living wage; America is not as rich as it should be, our economy is not growing as fast as it should.

Now we should all understand this in our local economy. We want small businesses and local service companies busy building and repairing and remodeling buildings and we want them hiring extra workers.  We are hurt by this mythology right here in north Texas.

On a national scale, when we operate below full employment; the day we are eclipsed as the world's leader and the world's leading economy is getting closer.

When Americans are not working as much as they would like, they are not buying all the products and services that entrepreneurs would like to sell them. Imagine how much stronger the economy would be; more products and services sold and entrepreneurs would be doing much better with stronger consumer demand.

Poor people cannot afford  a lot of goods and services that entrepreneurs would like to provide. The great engine of our economy runs on consumer spending. By creating more opportunity, and by the money generated; creating more demand for goods; we all do better.

There are an unknown number of unintended consequences that are exacerbated by this mythology about poor people.

Great talent that is raised in less than optimal ways- not enough food in the house, or not enough attention because the parents are distracted by stress, by medical needs, by mental illness brought on my stress- a hundred thousand ways that can cause gifted young talent to be negated, to be squandered, to be destroyed, to be bent out of kilter... and we all suffer for this.

Who knows what kind of art and music or literature is lost to us because gifted talent was not nurtured. Who knows what kind of mischief comes from great minds that  turned towards the darkness to find a chance for opportunity. We all lose here. We all lose when talent is squandered.

When people have more money and fewer financial worries, mothers and fathers can spend more time getting out with their kids, getting involved in the community, having the money to spend for clothes, for car tires, for cars, to adopt canst and dogs, for socializing, for traveling, for entertainment...

These are all good. When people feel wealthier, they are more generous and kind...

We never know when we can be in trouble and need help. Needing help is not eliminated by wealth at all.  Dire circumstances can be a car accident.  It can be a flat tire.  It can be a smushed cell phone. a medical issue, or an encounter with ruffians; and you need allies. When people are doing better, they feel more robust, feel like they are in better control, and feel more resourceful. They are ready to step forward and contribute- even take risks.

There are millions of people with medical problems- dealing with pain, dealing with ill health, dealing with mental illness. If we were able to put attitudes about people needing help away; if we were abble to set aside attitudes about how people have brought their problems down on their own heads; if we had a more generous spirit as a nation; we would band together in common resolve and help solve these problems and all be better off spiritually and more secure.

Human difficulties are not caused by people sitting on couches but a lot of people sitting on couches have an issue which helped put them there.

We do not know, we cannot know, the issues of people until we get to know them and understand them; and them maybe, we will see things differently.

We will be better off when we can shed our hard hearted attitudes about people., as individuals and as a nation. We will all be better off.

At the heart of this hard heartedness as a nation is the wrong-headed idea poor people are lazy and not helping themselves- not taking personal responsibility and getting a whole basket of government goodies to just sit. This attitude is wrong. It is a stereotype. It is a caricature created in our own minds built around mythology. This attitude does us all harm. Because we are all in this together. We gain from the shared experience or we suffer from the consequences.

Each of us needs to test this attitude in ourselves. We need to get out and volunteer and meet good people that are different than us. No telling what we might learn. No telling what interesting new paths might develop.

We need to come to a common understanding of what our issues are in this country. And the first step forward is a more accurate ability to see and sense reality. We will be better off as a nation for it.

What do you think? Add you thoughts below. Have I missed something?  Remember, we are all in this together.

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