Friday, January 24, 2014

Why are they poor?

Don’t you just hate it when people sugarcoat it rather than give it to you straight? If you answered yes you’re probably in the minority. We always talk about how we want some straight talk but then people get bent all out of shape when they hear it.

I’m going to lay some straight talk on you and each time I tell people this their body language tells me they’re getting defensive. It tells me they really don’t want to hear it but they need to
hear it. Facing the truth is the only way we’re going to solve problems. We overcomplicate things by ignoring the real reasons they exist.

Okay, here it is. Most poor people are poor because of the poor choices they make. Some of you are already bowing up on me but it’s true. Until we embrace that realization there’s nothing in the world that can be done to help the poor. If you coddle them or make excuses or just give them free stuff from the government you’re never going to improve their plight.

Kevin Williamson recently compiled some stats for National Review and they were eye-openers. He dug down into Census Bureau data and found that for the bottom income group there’s an average of 0.42 earners per household. What exactly does that mean? It means that there’s less than one person per every two poor households that’s working. To illustrate it another way, 68.2 of the households were not working at all. Imagine that. In almost 70 percent of the poorest of the poor households there was no one working. 

At the other end of the spectrum, the top income group averaged 1.97 workers per household. Almost 2 workers per household at the top. Only 13.3 percent of the top income group had no one working. I know it sounds elementary but when nobody’s working in your household you’re going to be poor.

Marriage was another big discrepancy. For the top earners, 78.4 percent of those families were married couples. It was only 17 percent for the lowest income group.

The data don’t lie. The clearest way to get out of poverty is to find a job, work hard, get married and stay married. You may say that’s an oversimplification but at least we should encourage that first before we start all the excuses why poor people can’t get ahead.

Other habits contribute to poverty. How many times have you had to stand behind someone buying one of those irritating lottery tickets? ‘Let’s see, give me two Pick-Six. Naw, make that one Pick-Six, three Aces & 8’s, two Find the 9’s. Naw, forget all that. I’m gonna do the Jumbo Bucks.’ ‘Will that be all?’ ‘Yeah, well, naw. And two packs of Marlboro Reds and this 12-pack of beer.’

And all you wanted was to pay for gas on Pump 5 because the credit card reader was broken. By the way, that transaction you just witnessed was north of 30 bucks and for some poor folks it happens several times a week. Sometimes every single day. Notice you don’t see much of that over in the rich section of town. 

If I were emperor-for-a-day no one taking any kind of government handout would be allowed to buy lottery tickets, alcohol, tobacco or drugs. I would pee-test them for the aforementioned substances and find a way to restrict lottery ticket sales. Oh, okay. If I’m emperor, I eliminate the lottery entirely.

Until then, we have to shoot straight with people. Bad choices have bad consequences.

Phil Valentine is the host of the award-winning, nationally syndicated talk radio show, The Phil Valentine Show.


  1. Finally a blog that presents me with clear statistics that I can then go and research myself. I think it's too far to imply that 70% of the nation's poor isn't working because they don't want to, but I definitely agree with the marriage statistic. I am a huge believer that marriage and a traditional family works against everything that represents the position of a poor inner-city person.
    I think that gambling, especially the lottery, is not a wise way to invest one's money, but I read a stat that said almost 50% of lottery money goes to public education, which can total up to half a billion dollars a year for any state. Wouldn't you agree that public schooling needs this money?

  2. Are you paying more than $5 / pack of cigarettes? I buy my cigs over at Duty Free Depot and I save over 60%.