Why do poor people cheat? It’s an age-old question. Yet we hear about it all the time:
The homeless guy who spends the dollar you gave him on a beer. The welfare mom who works (secretly) as a babysitter on the side and makes an extra $20 (or more!) yet doesn’t report it to the welfare office. The man who is physically fit and able-bodied yet is begging for spare change on the street. Doesn’t he know that there are lots of great jobs out there? Why doesn’t he just go out and get one? Or what about the woman who “chooses” to live in a shelter even though she has a nice house somewhere because she likes hanging out with all the fun, homeless folks at the shelter? “All my friends are here!” she says happily.
Oh, if only rich people could be so happy.
With all the horror stories you may have heard of poor people cheating on us and our system by collecting public assistance then working on the side and not reporting it, or worse, begging for money then mismanaging it by spending it on things we don’t think they should—like beer, for example—you might be sitting back in your comfortable chair, sipping your own beer, watching your flat screen TV and wondering…
Why do poor people cheat?
Is it out of jealousy? Are they purposely earning an extra $50 per week (or more!) by begging for money or working “under the table” so that we end up supporting them with our taxes because they want to prevent us from having the extra cash we need to buy that brand new car, iPhone, or flat-screen plasma TV?
Maybe they’re jealous of us because while we’re driving around in our car, they’re standing on the street waiting for a bus in the rain. Or maybe they’re jealous because while we’re in our house asking these important questions, they’re renting out a tiny room and sharing a house or apartment with a bunch of strangers, waiting for the kitchen space to become available so they can eat. And while we’re eating healthy, nutritious food of our own choosing, they’re eating stale, moldy food they’d gotten from a food shelf or processed food that lacks both flavor and nutrition they bought cheaply at the dollar store.
Or maybe they’re mad at us because when we get sick we can afford to see specialists, have testing done, get treatment, surgery, or whatever we need in order to heal the illness or injury, while they go to free health clinics where they wait for hours, then are seen by a nurse for five minutes, told they’re not really sick, that they should just go home and get some rest and maybe just take a pill if they’re still uncomfortable. (Ironically, many of them don’t have a comfortable home to go to, and they can’t rest because they have to work so much just to afford what little they have.) Sometimes there’s no free clinic available to them or the free clinic is unable to provide the treatment they need so some of them get worse. Some become permanently disabled by maladies not treated on time. Some might even die without treatment they need. One friend-of-a-friend has diabetes and can’t afford the insulin. She may very well die one of these days. Or end up in the hospital and then with bills she can’t afford to pay which will cause her to end up homeless. Sure, she may qualify for Medicaid but that’ll make her homeless too because the government might take her house. (People who collect Medicaid aren’t allowed to own homes in the U.S.)
Is that why they’re jealous of us?
Maybe they’re jealous because we spend a lot of our money on beer and drugs and some of us party way too much, but no one seems to notice how we mismanage our money. Because we have so much money, everyone just assumes we manage it well. Even when we waste a million dollars a year on stuff we don’t need, society doesn’t notice. Besides, we don’t “mooch” off the government because we don’t need to, right?
But wait–maybe that’s why they resent us. We do ask for assistance from the U.S. government whenever our businesses fail or our homes are damaged from natural or other disasters. We also get tax breaks and tax cuts that poor people can’t get. In fact, no one even suggests that poor people be able to write off the cost of their bus fare to and from work, for example, but a millionaire can write off the cost of his company car on his tax form. And no one questions that. Tax breaks for the poor would only cost this country a fraction of what the tax breaks given to the rich are costing—yet no one ever talks about this. Because no one is even thinking about the fact that the rich get assistance from the U.S. government all the time and often waste that extra money on drugs, parties, more big houses, more big cars, etc., and no one notices their waste.
We notice it as a waste of money when a poor person spends a few dollars on a beer but we don’t notice when a millionaire wastes thousands of dollars on cocaine, homes not lived in, cars not driven, clothes never worn–or only worn once then thrown out, or the myriad of material things not needed but just purchased to pass the time away or perhaps just to show everyone how rich someone is.
We notice it when a poor person “cheats” by collecting a few hundred dollars a month from welfare then makes a few dollars more by working “under the table” but we don’t notice when a millionaire takes thousands of dollars per month in tax breaks he or she doesn’t need (which costs our country a lot more) then wastes it by spending it on cocaine, trips around the world, buying another bowling alley, tennis court or another building—not because he needs it but just to make himself look more rich to the outside world. Nor do we feel “ripped off” by a millionaire manufacturer who over charges us by sometimes several hundred percent of the manufacturing cost when their products are made by children in third world countries who work for pennies a day, all day.
And really, isn’t it a form of stealing to pay your employees half (or less) than what they’re worth? So that they can’t afford to buy their own homes or cars, to get married and have children of their own–even while they are, in good faith, working hard for you?
Isn’t it a form of stealing to manufacture a product and charge your customers 100 times (or more!) for what it cost to manufacture that product–especially when you are already an overpaid multimillionaire yourself?
Hmm… Why do poor people cheat? And what should we do to stop them? Should we raise their taxes? Lower the minimum wage even more so that they have to work twice as many hours per week? Eliminate more jobs by downsizing and outsourcing to third world countries? Prevent them from getting an education by making college costs outrageously expensive so that they lose all hope of ever advancing and creating a better future for themselves? Prevent them from getting health care when they get sick so that they get sicker and just spread disease as their health deteriorates to the point where they become permanently disabled and unable to work anymore?
No, that’s already been done. Yet the poor continue to ask for our help. Some of them are continuing to get married and have children too, and they’re expecting us to help them do that. Many of these poor children are disabled by the age of five and already collecting social security checks as a result of the rampant pollution in poor neighborhoods as well as the malnutrition they suffer from years of eating processed or stale food their parents can barely afford to serve them. Yet the poor want to continue to live their lives at our expense! So what can we do to stop poor people from cheating?
I suppose the question is timeless, from the days when a homeless man named Jesus walked the earth in sandals preaching that we should not be attached to money and material things, that those “who have not sinned should cast the first stone,” that the “meek shall inherit the earth,” and that it is harder for a rich man to go to heaven than it is to “stick a camel through the eye of a needle,” to our current era when we spend thousands of dollars on things we don’t need, complain our houses and cars aren’t big enough yet worry about giving a dollar to a homeless person.