You can say there are economic classes in America: a few rich people, the middle class, and those living below the poverty line. In this poor economy, many are leaving middle class and dropping into the poor class. In my view, that’s not a good place to be, except that some people choose to live there.
Hopefully this won’t offend anyone, but I’d like to discuss the underclass of American society: the folks living below the poverty line. Health and Human Services defines the poverty line in the 48 contiguous states as $11,170 for a single person; $15,130, $19,090, and $23,050 for families of 2, 3, and 4 respectively. The numbers are a bit higher in Alaska and Hawaii, reflecting higher costs of living in those states.
So, a family of 4 with income of less than $23,051 each year would be considered poor, unless they owned substantial assets. Assets are considered in most benefit calculations (example, to food stamps eligibility – not counting your home, you can’t own more than 2 or 3 thousand dollars.) Considering income only, in the United States, it would indeed be hard to provide food, rent, transportation, entertainment, and medical care with that amount of money or less.
In most other countries, however, such income amounts would put them in the upper middle class. Most “poor” American families have plenty to eat and own autos, TV sets, X-boxes, and phones. They have iPads and IPods. They have cable subscriptions. They drink beer and smoke cigarettes if they wish. They benefit from federal programs such as food stamps, school lunch, home energy assistance, and children’s health insurance. They may qualify for unemployment and disability programs. At income tax time they may receive cash from the government even though they didn’t earn enough to pay taxes. There are a host of programs, federal and state and public charity, which may help them. They get by just fine, but have few luxuries. You generally don’t encounter them in cruise ships, for example. Few of them fly to Hawaii.
Many people don’t choose to live in the underclass. They can’t help being there, because their breadwinners are unable to work or can’t find a job that takes them above the poverty line. Older folks may live on Social Security and/or other pension income – and they are too old to work. Those folks are OK in my book – heck, I’m one of them. But there are a growing number of people who choose not to work and earn a living, even though nothing but their attitude prevents them from doing so. They choose to live on the dole. Let’s give them a name: “parasites.”
The parasites are young enough and healthy enough to work, but they’d rather just live on what they can squeeze out of everyone else. There’s no way to get a precise measure on how many there are, but they seem to be showing up in ever-greater numbers. Some of the drastically increasing number of people claiming permanent disability – way too many to be legitimate – must be parasites.
The parasite lifestyle sounds cushy – sit around, let everyone else pay taxes so the government can support you – but there are a couple of downside problems with it:
1. As much as they’d like to, Democrats can’t pass enough legislation to pay parasites (or anyone else on government support) very well. Parasites could make more, and have a better life style, by working, if they would. The dole is rationed money, and will never be enough.
2. The socialist model of economics is unsustainable, as Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, and France are finding out. The collapse point comes when the national debt grows too large, or the number of taxpayers and the amount they pay is less than the numbers of people supported by government and the amount they receive. Our economy is reaching that point. What happens to the underclass (including the parasites) when government can no longer afford to fully fund Social Security, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, Aid to Dependent Children, food stamps, disability, and so on?
Do you choose to be a parasite? If you did, you’re a ward of the federal and state government. You must fill out forms, wait in lines, hide your assets, and make do with whatever they’ll give you – and it’s never enough. Your kids will be poorly dressed. Your lifestyle will always be shabby. People who work won’t respect you. More importantly, you’ll never really respect yourself.