Why I hate the poor

A caveat:  our species, homo sapiens, while it goes through a childhood stage where fairness seems the most important thing in the world, is not, first and foremost, really concerned with fairness in any serious, lifelong way.  Please keep that in mind as you read my unfair account of why I hate poor people.

Why do I hate poor people?    First of all, there are just too many of them on the earth.   If you have no money, and a hard time feeding yourself, why do you have a child, then another, and sometimes many children?  Okay, I get the counter position — do the poor not have the same right as the wealthy to have a child to love?   Fair enough, but on the other hand, there are already billions, literally, of poor people on the earth.  Our planet cannot sustain the overpopulation we have now, let alone many millions more poor, hopeless, hungry children.  So when the rich, who tend to have a reasonable number of offspring, complain that the poor lack restraint when it comes to procreation, you can see their point, in a way.

Is it an unfair point?  In a way.  Would it be better, and more manageable for everyone, if each poor couple only had one or two children, or none?    Yes.   Would it be fair to require each poor couple to stop having sex after they had a child or two?   No.   Would it be fair to expect every poor couple to go out and buy birth control (assuming their religion allowed it) for many years after having the responsible amount of children?   Probably not, if they are already having a hard time feeding, clothing and sheltering themselves and their one or two babies.

Face it, though, fairness really does not enter the discussion of poverty.   If fairness in dealing with the brutality of poverty was the issue, everyone with a billion dollars would simply be required to donate 10% to a fund to end poverty by providing opportunities for poor people to emerge from the horrors of poverty.   For every billion you are worth, one hundred million donated, as a tax- write off.   Instead of your tax going to fund the programs of a government you most likely hate, just give it as forced a one time charitable donation to end poverty.   

People like the Koch brothers would contribute about ten billion to the fund.    They would do this hissing, screaming, kicking, biting, marshaling an army of lawyers to bring dozens of lawsuits.  They would be coerced by the very government they’ve spent a small fortune buying influence over to avoid government coercion of any kind.    But if fairness were really to be practiced, they’d be forced to do it.   Betsey DeVos, ignorant Secretary of Education, and her husband, Mr. Amway, would kick in about six hundred million.  The money would be overseen and distributed by a committee of our best and brightest, for low-cost housing, nutrition, job training, health care, education, subsidized college and so on.   Poverty could be eradicated once and for all, within a generation, if fairness were really our goal.

But wait, why should the super rich pay?   Not only because I hate them, they can best afford it.   Why, just because they have been immensely successful, or supremely fortunate in their birth, should they be punished by being forced to give that giant percentage of their hard-won wealth? Not only because I hate them, but because it’s fair.   A person can’t really spend even one billion dollars in a lifetime, no matter how many homes, planes, gold toilet bowls one buys.   If you can spend it just to prove me wrong, fuck off, you and your jackass addiction to sickening, wasteful luxury.

Hating the poor because they just keep fucking is a reductive reason for hating them, I get that.   I hate the poor because they keep churning out more poor people? The same could be said for the fucking rich, or even the middle and working classes.   Look at the president’s entitled offspring.  Would the world be better off without them?   Inarguably.   But I must have more reasons for hating the poor than the dumb one I have managed to spew so far.   I certainly do.

Many of the poor are in despair.   They are depressed, anxious, fearful, sometimes lashing out at innocent people, simply because their victims are not poor.   What the fuck?   Just because you were born in desperate circumstances, just because your parents and grandparents were born in desperate poverty… that doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk. [1]   Or maybe it does?   The jury is out on this one, but let’s look at a few of the facts of the case, for a minute.    

If you have an emotional disorder, like you wake up screaming in terror after short sleep every night, and you are the child of wealthy parents who love you, you will receive immediate treatment.   This includes a serious discussion with the parents, an examination by a physician, a full battery of tests, a psychiatric exam, talk therapy and possibly a course of carefully monitored psycho-pharmaceuticals.   If you are the tormented child of poor parents, the options will be fewer.    If your family qualifies for something like the Medicaid we have here, you will possibly be able to go on to disability and get medication.

Are medications for mental and emotional disorders always the best way to treat something like a reflex to terror, particularly if founded, not on terrifyingly imagined threats but real, day to day existential dangers?    Admittedly, no.   Are the meds better than nothing?  100%, certainly 50%.   Yet there are probably tens of millions of poor people and their children who get no treatment at all for serious emotional problems.

Am I really blaming the poor, who have much more to fear, many more physical, day to day reasons to be anxious than people with the money to pay for their immediate needs and wants?  Am I brushing aside the trauma associated with chronic hunger, violence associated with hopelessness, the fear of having what little you have snatched by someone more ruthless than yourself?   No, but still.   Not hating is fucking hard work, yo.

The children of the poor, when they become teenagers, often display a lot of anti-social behaviors.  They talk too fucking loud.  They throw garbage on the ground.   They are often promiscuous.   They take drugs.   They have children, while they themselves are still children, the poster children and poster grandchildren for irresponsibly.   When you tell them to stop talking so fucking loud they tell you to shut the fuck up and to stop looking at them.   When you tell them to stop throwing garbage on the floor, they threaten to throw you on the floor.   Forget about lecturing them about having less sex, taking drugs, having as many children as they feel like having.   What a bunch of selfish, intractable young assholes.

Of course, this behavior is not restricted to the children of the poor.  Many years ago, I once subbed in an elite private high school on New York City’s upper east side.   As I stood at the blackboard I had an experience I never had in hundreds of classrooms teaching impoverished NYC children.   An angry preppie came up to me, he was about my size, perhaps a little bigger, stood in front of me glaring, smirking provocatively for his classmates and refusing to move.   So I guess the children of the rich, when they become teenagers, can display anti-social behaviors and be just as fucked up as poor kids.   The poor kids I taught, I have to say, were, as a group, less entitled and more inclined to share than the rich kids at the prep school seemed to be. 

I grant you that it is hard to understand the pressures poverty places on an individual unless you’ve actually encountered any of them.  I’ve had the barest taste of it, and I can tell you how bad it tastes, though I am far from impoverished (at the moment) myself.   In order to not have to work for a living I have been frugal with the funds I have.    I’ve been living, since my mother’s death in 2010, on an income 164.74% over the Federal Poverty Level (“FPL”).   The FPL is set by bureaucrats who have never lived at anywhere near this arbitrarily set, terribly low monetary amount.   It is set very low, below what one needs to actually pay for everything required by a life that is not terribly, terrifyingly insecure.    That artificially low number helps when it is time to tabulate the numbers of people who are, from time to time, statistically lifted out of poverty.

I point out again, that though I live on a low income I have fixed myself, for the simple, selfish reason of not having to work for a living, I do not really live in poverty.   Far from it.   If the sun is glaring as it makes its fiery descent, and, blinded, I tap the brakes a second too late to avoid an imprint on the solid white ass of the stopped leased car in front of mine, I can easily get the $400 to pay the outraged woman in front of me (after verifying with a body shop that this charge is about right), meet her in a local Dunkin’ Donuts, and hand her the cash.  It barely hurts, although I could have also bought a nice piece of long-desired musical gear I won’t get now.

I stand on cold, or sweltering, NYC subway platforms late at night, powerless and angry.  The logic for the poor service at nights in NYC is simple: if you were not a powerless asshole unwilling to spend more than $2.75 to get home you could just jump in a cab, an uber, a lyft, spend the $40 or $50 not to be a powerless asshole with nothing to say about how long you have to fucking wait for public transportation, you wouldn’t be waiting forty minutes to stand on your crowded ride.  If you don’t stand for unreasonably long stretches on freezing subway platforms to get home, it means nothing, really, that many poor bastards have to do it every night.   What you don’t actually experience is an abstraction that will not move you very much, more often than not.  

The indignities of the services for poor and working class people are one thing.  Imagine being poor enough to need government assistance of any kind.   My friend, you are pretty much fucked.   When I worked as an officer of the court, I found myself standing in the shoes of hundreds of impoverished New York City tenants who, but for me, were totally fucked.   The double amputee who got a mailed notice, on Monday, to appear for a face to face meeting the following day, and was unable to get an Access-a-ride scheduled on such short notice?   She immediately lost her public assistance, with no right to appeal, for her failure to attend a mandated “face to face”.   Many moons passed, an eviction proceeding was initiated and she was in debt to her landlord something like $13,000 before I was called in to try to prevent her eviction into homelessness.

Wait, I know, I know.   Why had she had her legs amputated?   Diabetes.  How did she become diabetic?  By being obese, by eating irresponsibly, by not hiring a personal trainer, and eating coach, not seeing the proper experts before it was too late, before she simply ate herself into a lifetime disease and had both of her legs amputated.  I know.    Why was it my problem?   I know, I know…

I appeared in court month after month, for more than a year, as her debt to her landlord doubled.   The attorney for the landlord was furious at me, but I played things out as I had learned to do.    The court is loathe to evict a woman with no legs, send her rolling to a homeless shelter, it makes everybody look bad.  Yet, she was a deadbeat who owed her landlord more than $20,000 formerly paid by a government program for disabled indigents.   The landlord’s attorney railed every time we went before the judge, but to little effect.  It took me more than a year to realize I could only resolve the situation by having the judge sign a subpoena for the head of the agency to appear in court and explain why the agency had cut off my client’s benefits and was not hearing an appeal yet. 

When I served the subpoena (ad testifcandum, as opposed to duces tecum — production of documents) for the agency head to appear in court to testify about why the double amputee had not had her appeal, or her benefits restored, in more than a year and a half, I quickly got a call from the head of the agency.   Would it be possible to send an assistant, she wanted to know?

“You should talk to your own legal counsel about this,” I told her, “You are personally named on the subpoena, and the judge ordered you to appear.  I’m not your lawyer, as you know, and I can’t really give you legal advice.  All I can tell you is that refusal to answer a lawful subpoena is contempt of court, and it would be up to the judge to decide how severely  the contempt of court would be punished.”   Of course, I was talking mostly through my ass, there would likely be no consequence for this bureaucrat not appearing in the lowly Brooklyn Housing Court.

The ruse worked.  She showed up, was a lovely woman with whom I chatted for a long time before the judge saw us.   By the time we were in front of the judge we were of one mind.   The director of the agency kept her promise to the judge, had her people pull all the proper papers, expedite the appeal process, and within a week or two the double amputee had been restored to the rent-subsidy program her poverty and physical disability entitled her to.   The back rent was paid by a huge grant and I got paid my $400 by New York City for more than a year of legal services.   Fair is fair.   This particular story, which should never have taken place,  had a happy ending.

Poverty sucks.   Everybody knows that.   Poor people don’t like it, they just often have no choice about whether to be poor or not.   More determinative than work ethic, high morals, determination, creativity, desire, discipline are the circumstances one is born into.   The data shows that a person born into poverty, in most cases, will die in poverty.  Simple fucking math.  Better to be born to parents with money that parents eternally insecure about paying for what they need?  No question.   The children of the rich, while they may have many legitimate complaints about the unfair things they face in their lives, are innately less sympathetic to me than even the often obnoxious, angry, in-your-face children of the poor.   Not to say I don’t hate them too, of course.


[1]  I note, in spite of the unfairness of doing so, that the poor are disproportionately locked up as criminals.   This is because they are stopped and arrested in large numbers, cannot make bail (odds of conviction go up tenfold if you can’t get out of jail on bond) and wind up pleading to lower crimes to minimize their prison sentences.   Wiseasses like Anatole France may crack that “the law in its majestic equality forbids rich and poor alike from begging for alms, stealing bread and sleeping under bridges” but, well, wiseasses will be wiseasses.

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