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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Poor: Lazy Loafers? or Hard-Working Wheeler Dealers?

Some say that the "New Poor", not to mention the "Old Poor", need to learn "personal responsibility" and stop sponging off of those rich "job creators".  The rich job creators threaten to move all of the jobs offshore unless the poor start pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and stop sucking on the gub'mint's teat and asking for higher taxes.... 
We're introducing some of the "New Poor" (and some of the "Old Poor" as well).  We're watching them as they suck on the government's teat while they laze on the couch:
Lazy sponger Number 4:  Grandpa Cuts Grass

The young man grew up in a dirt poor neighborhood on the "wrong side of the tracks". He was very bright, did well in school, went to college on a scholarship, and graduated with honors. Vietnam started up just as he was finishing school and he was drafted. When he left the Army and came home, he struggled to "find" himself, which was the story of so many vets who returned from Vietnam in the 60's and early 70's. 

After a series of odd jobs, a broken marriage, and a stint in graduate school, he got a job as a computer programmer trainee, and quickly rose through the ranks. Back in the early 90's, he was making a six figure salary, owned property, was married and had children. But he was 50; his company was preparing to sell itself, and he was pushed out the door. 

He decided to use his savings and some of his pension fund to start a business, as he had always wanted to work for himself. It just didn't go well for a number of reasons, and he poured good money after bad into it..

He became more and more depressed, things weren't going well with his wife, who was working while he was often sleeping night and day, letting his employees run his business. Not a good idea. 

He tried to find a "regular" job, but with qualifications as a business owner and a corporate manager (not to mention being over 50), he was "overqualified". He did get a real estate license, and was able to make a little money doing that. He finally closed down his business; taking major losses, and he and his wife sold a property.  But they did wind up in divorce court.  He still did not have any regular income; they had been living off of equity from the property they sold, and that didn't last that long.

During the divorce, he lived in several places, each one smaller than the last, and was homeless for a few nights here and there.  There was little left for his wife and he to split. After he divorced, he moved in with his new girlfriend; she basically supported him while he tried to find steady work... for two years. He did make a little money selling real estate.  He "tried out" for a job selling insurance but was let go. He did the training for preparing income taxes and did that for a couple of springs. It was not a lot of money, however, and clients were few and far between as more and more people were using online programs to do their taxes.

Finally, through a friend, he got a lead on a job in another state.  He got the job, initially on a temp basis, and he moved there.  His girlfriend (now his wife) followed and got a job. Both of their jobs were in construction-related fields, and things were going well for a couple of years. But we know how that ended. He lost his job, then her job was cut back to part-time, then she lost it altogether. They had bought a home for cheap after the real estate crash, but they didn't expect that prices would continue to decline so acutely. A year later the house was worth only a fraction of what they paid for it; the entire subdivision was empty; they were both out of work and couldn't pay the mortgage. They walked away from their home.

They had started selling stuff on eBay during the early 2000's; they decided to ramp that up. They both have worked odds and ends, done "projects" for pay; they've bartered, they've "wheeled and dealed". He took early Social Security; but her unemployment ran out, and they are working an incredible number of hours a week just to keep their heads above water with the eBay business. They are up at dawn a few days a week to get to the garage sales and the thrift stores early.

He's now in his mid 60's but he mows grass for a few neighbors, some younger than he is, to make a few bucks. He is grateful that he finally qualifies for Medicare and can again see a doctor regularly. His wife won't be eligible for early Social Security for 5 or 6 years. 

Lazy Sponger Number 5:  Wounded Vet Wanting Work    
Another bright young man, from an upper middle class background found himself alienated and not doing well in high school. He barely got through high school, and, as Vietnam was calling, he enlisted before being drafted.  He thought he might have more options.  He did go to Vietnam and was wounded, though not seriously. 

After getting out of the service, he struggled, worked odd jobs, tried to get himself back together; again, the story of so many who were in Vietnam in the 60's and 70's. Finally, after living here and there, after a marriage that didn't work out, he went back to school and got a nursing degree.

Lazy Sponger 5: Wounded Vet Wants Work


  1. Sponger #5 is a real sob story. He "decided to use his savings and some of his pension fund to start a business" then "poured good money after bad into it." Yes that is a sad story indeed. But this does not negate the fact that Sponger #5, at 50 (just 10 years or so before retirement) chose to make a decision to risk everything, including his financial future. His failure to value money by properly weighing risk and reward(he continued to risk his financial future by doubling down on a bad bet)got him to this point. This is not different than going to a casino and betting your rent money on a game of cards, then doing the same thing next week hoping to recoup your losses. Now he fails to take personal responsibility, because he expects other people to pay for his health care (Medicare), because he risked the money he would have spent on health insurance. Personal responsibility would have been to cut his losses so that he pay his own medical bills rather than having other people pay them for him.

  2. Oh America... you suck in the most sanctimonious way.


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