Our old friend Ammo Grrrl has forwarded these Mother’s Day thoughts under the heading of “Movin’ On Up…” She writes:
You hear the word “poverty” tossed around a lot. There’s been a “war” on it for some 50 years, and I am hardly the first person to notice that either poverty is a tough opponent, or the goalposts keep moving on what constitutes “poverty.” Or both.
As they say, the plural of “anecdote” is not data. But, I believe a little thumbnail sketch of the history of my own family illustrates the unparalleled opportunities in this great and good country.
My mother, as I’ve mentioned previously, grew up in the same teeny town in South Dakota as John Hinderaker’s father. Grandpa and Grandma were sharecroppers. The rent on their place was $8.00 a month (plus, as the name implies, sharing the crops) and during the Depression there were many months they could not come up with that cash. Drought, dust, Russian thistles, plagues of locusts ruined year after year of crops.
Eventually, they moved into town in a house without an unheated upstairs where Mom and her sisters slept, a house without indoor plumbing. Grandpa raised pigs in the back yard. Evidently their HOA was more lenient than mine: I got a snotty letter about a foot-high wooden burro in my yard.
Grandma ran a little cafe uptown. She left the house at 4 a.m., returning about 10 p.m. A full meal cost a quarter, including a piece of pie. My aunts were waitresses and never once got a tip.
Mother had a childhood friend whose mother liked to write poetry. The Lutheran Sunday School Superintendent used to save her little nubs of pencils with which to write. One December, Mom’s friend found a nickel in the street and bought her mother two long, new #2 pencils for Christmas. Her mother cried with joy. That’s poor. No Obamaphones, no hair extensions, no fancy nails, no new tattoos, no $200 Air Jordan shoes – just a pencil.
Mother went to a small two-year teacher’s college. She met and married Daddy while teaching first and second grade in his slightly-bigger town in South Dakota. He served in the Navy in WWII and went to SDSU pharmacy school on the G.I. Bill. They had 3 kids, the oldest of which was me. I was a preemie who weighed under 3 lbs., spending the first 3 months of my life in an incubator. The hospital bill was $100.00. To this day, my parents don’t know who paid it. (Several years ago, I was hired to do comedy for this hospital’s holiday party and learned that the hospital no longer can afford the risk insurance to provide Maternity. Thank God Obamacare didn’t include tort reform.)
My siblings and I grew up in a spanking new 1500 square foot house with five people, one bathroom, one telephone, one television that got one channel, and one car. In other words, unbelievable luxury by my parents’ standards. With some luck, blessings and hard work, we had clawed our way into the solid middle class.
Now, some people have a very tough row to hoe in life: debilitating illness, profoundly disabled children, dreadful accidents caused by nature or human error. For such people our compassion and helping hands should and must be extended.
Millions of us have at one time in our lives been part of the legions of working poor – people who struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Marrying barely out of our teens, my husband and I did not own a car for the first 7 years of our marriage, or a house for the first 12. But for a healthy, reasonably-intelligent American, you have to be really trying to be in anything close to “poverty.”
Follow these 6 simple rules and you may struggle, but you will never be in poverty:
1. Stay in school and actually pay attention. Do your homework, graduate.
2. Do not do drugs at all or drink alcohol to excess.
3. WORK. At anything. Currently, 20 percent of families have nobody working.
4. GET MARRIED. Marriage is the single-best anti-poverty tool there is. If you have a spouse, remember that two crap jobs are equal to one fairly-decent one.
5. Do not have a baby you have no intention of supporting. Do not have a baby without a lawfully wedded spouse, preferably your own.
6. Do NOT be a criminal. It is evil and hurtful to others, but most importantly, the habits and attitudes you will develop are the worst thing you can do to yourself. When you believe that you are entitled to take, by stealth or violence, something someone else has earned, then you are close to a lost cause as a human being.
Not one of these rules calls for a government program. But if every American followed them, poverty would end overnight.