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Saturday, August 13, 2011

The New Poor: Lazy Spongers Pizzas Don't Pay

We're examining the new face (or perhaps the same old face) of poverty in America.  We're watching many of the New Poor and some of the Old Poor as they sponge off of others,  show no "personal responsibility", and demonstrate how little they value money:

Lazy Sponger Number 1:   Pizzas don't Pay. 

A man now in his late 30's grew up with a welfare mom who was ill and rarely worked during his childhood. He struggled as a young man, dropped out of high school but eventually got a GED. He worked a series of low-wage jobs, but did take classes and managed to get a real estate license. He wasn't particularly successful in real estate, unfortunately, and left the business. 

Finally he discovered he had a knack for computers. He took some classes, and created a small business for himself with 5 or 6 regular small-business clients. He was doing reasonably well, adequately providing for himself, when the recession hit. One by one, his clients stopped calling him due to their cutbacks, and, one by one, most of them closed their doors. He had no unemployment insurance to fall back on, so he returned to one of his earlier gigs:   Delivering pizzas. 

Things had changed, though, in pizza delivery land since he had delivered pizzas a decade or more earlier. He says that he used to be able to make as much as $500 a week delivering pizzas, due to an hourly wage, tips, and a stipend per pizza delivered. But now most pizza places were paying their delivery people as 1099 contract workers, paying them very small hourly "on call" stipends and, other than that, the delivery person only gets tips. And tips are down these days. He was lucky to make $200 most weeks.

Last summer he had a stroke. Undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension contributed to his stroke as he hadn't had any health insurance or health care for several years. He couldn't pay the medical bills, even though he had been treated in a county hospital, so he had to declare bankruptcy.

His car broke down just as he was recovering and he couldn't afford to fix it. Finally a family member helped him out with the purchase of and repairs to another older car. He did find out that he was eligible for food stamps and energy assistance, and he found a doctor at a free clinic to treat him for his medical conditions. 

Now he is delivering pizzas, but he doesn't make much doing it, and he got a job working at McDonald's part-time on their clean up crew. He's trying to resurrect his business when he has the time, but he isn't having much luck. And many potential clients want to pay half of what they were paying a few years back for similar work. On top of it, he now badly needs dental care and that doesn't help when he is trying to make an impression meeting clients. 

Lazy Sponger Number 2:   Busy with Businesses    

Another man, now in his early 60's, grew up in the "projects." He worked his way through school, got a job programming computers in the 70's and worked in IT for several decades. He did reasonably well and worked steadily. 

He had a son, but that marriage didn't last. Other family members struggled, and he was always generous with them

Read more here:


  1. I like your approach MM, but would be interested in finding out more regarding the lifestyle choices these people make. Do they smoke? Drink? Exercise? Eating habits? How do they spend their free time?

  2. You have sarcastically challenged your readers to "Let's watch them sponge off of others, show no "personal responsibility", and demonstrate how little they value money" as if this was NOT the case for many poor people who get themselves into bad situations, then use the resources of other people to bail them out. I feel I am up to that challenge.
    Sponger 1: Delivering Pizzas.
    1) First, this guy dropped out of high school. Taking personal responsibility in our society means going to high school classes daily, studying, doing the homework, and passing tests so that you can graduate. He made many choices each day that lead to him eventually dropping out of high school. Taking personal responsibility would then mean that he would be prepared for the fact that this will blemish on his record that may make him unemployable later in life, whether he got a GED later or not.
    2) He wasn't particularly successful in real estate. And why was this? Did he not put enough work hours into this job? Not show up at meetings for clients when he was supposed to? Not respond quickly enough to client calls? Not study up on the homes he was selling? I only make the assumption because he had already show that he was incapable of showing up for high school classes and study for classes, so why would he be any better at selling real estate, which requires knowing about your product and punctuality?
    3) You say he had undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension leading to a stroke as he hadn't had any health insurance or health care for several years. This makes it sound like he had no chance to monitor his health at all. Yet AFTER the stroke he managed to find a doctor at a free clinic to treat him for his medical conditions. Why didn't he do this before? And what stopped him from using one of those free blood pressure monitors that you see in many pharmacies and grocery stores. You said he had a car, so it isn't as if he didn't have access. That would have been a personally responsible choice, but he didn't make it.
    Here are some other personally responsible choices he could have made but probably did not: saving money he made over the years when business was going well to pay for the times when business slowed down, taking care of his teeth daily and getting regular cleanings over the years when he could afford it, taking better care of his health (type II diabetes does not just "happen"), and developing better credentials, contacts, and skills in IT while he had the chance so that he would have been more employable when his business fell through.
    Truly taking "personal responsibility" for his life, and "valuing money" requires making good decisions both in work ethics and financially, but this guy made a series of bad decisions leading to him either suffering, or needing public assistance (i.e. "sponging").

    1. 1) Taking personal responsibility means getting a GED when you are mature enough to realize what taking personal responsibility means.
      2) Real estate sales is an occupation that sucks people in with the American myth that all it takes is punctuality and putting in enough "work", and, voila! welcome to the 1%. BTW, many people who actually are successful at sales jobs didn't do well in high school, and/or didn't graduate. Sales is one of the jobs "those people" can still get. Furthermore, people who eventually develop the character and skills that will help them to be financially successful, often didn't have those attributes in high school.
      3) Free clinics are not for health maintenance. How blind, self-righteous, and short-sighted can you be? Where are you from? Mars? Free clinics are understaffed, overburdened, few and far between, last resorts. The necessity of free clinics is a symptom of our sick society. That's sick in the head - like you - not medically sick, BTW.
      You're basically saying that people who didn't see the future at age 16, are rightly doomed to poverty and contempt from people like you. You're wrong. All of the ideas you present here are wrong-headed. You ought to be embarrassed. I have nothing but contempt for YOU.

    2. Ms. Waters, what I find contemptible is the decision for you and people like you to repeatedly make excuses for personal choices. I am NOT saying that people who didn't see the future at age 16, are doomed to poverty and contempt. I am saying that people who make a series of bad decisions should pay the consequences of those decisions. I disagree wholeheartedly with YOUR assertion that a persons life is determined based on their situation when they are 16. I disagree that people cannot alter their own fates with hard work, self-control, and making good choices on a regular basis. THAT is what personal responsibility IS, not apologizing for mistake after mistake AFTER the fact and asking others to bail you out when the consequences become dire.


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