Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Poor, Rich, which is which?

"The poor will always be with us!"

There is a lot of talk these days about taking care of the poor. We need to do that. The politicians are batting all sorts of ideas back and forth on how they intend to tackle poverty and the poor.

We are taught from the time we can understand that we must take care of the poor. Who can disagree with that? There is one problem that has consistently muddied the water in the application of this charitable approach. The definition of exactly who the poor are goes all over the map. At one end of the spectrum: Wandering tribes living in portable housing without running water or electricity in the harshest territories on the planet often describe themselves as happy, free and not in need of anything. Some people not of their culture refer to them as poor. On the opposite end: Some people living in subsidized housing in developed countries are provided with food, clothing, shelter, heat and other amenities well beyond what we consider the necessities of life, with no need or inclination to fend for themselves and continuously whine for more are also considered poor. Some, not of their culture would call them rich. Although I find this situation very perplexing, I guess it's a matter of perspective.

One story: I co-signed a car loan for a guy that had lost his job and needed a car to get a new job to support his family and not lose his home. His new job payed him twice my income. He never made a payment for a hundred different reasons and I wound up paying the loan in order to maintain my credit. He said he just had too many bills with his family to meet the car payments. He described himself as one of the "working poor." A year after I paid off the car loan I put my motorcycle up for sale. He heard about it and came by my house (I hadn't heard from him in almost a year and a half), in his new car to see it. He said he always liked it and wanted to buy it. He offered me the asking price and hauled the cash out of his pocket. I asked if he realized that I had payed off his car loan and I felt he still owed me for it? He said he used the money for the car to pay his bills, this was different money.

Back to the politicians: Tax cuts, tax increases, housing, food and clothing assistance, tax exemptions, tax credits, tax free zones, overseas tax free accounts, tax deductions. It's as confusing as it always was. Occupy Wall street, occupy main street, it really doesn't matter. Taxes are a way of life. It's the definitions that do matter. The rich receive tax exemptions and credits as if they were poor in order to increase profits and create jobs. Mostly they create profits, effectively eliminating the need to create jobs. The poor receive assistance enough to meet almost every necessity and beyond, effectively eliminating the need for a job. Most of us are kind of stuck in the middle. Everyone is talking about this. Not much has been done about this because no one really knows who the poor are. And, of course, this is all different money.

The poor and the rich will always be with us. I wonder if it's us that will eventually disappear?

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