General Question

Charles's avatar

Why do broke people have all the latest gadgets?

Asked by Charles (4823points) April 12th, 2012
65 responses
“Great Question” (10points)

Maybe I’m the only one noticing this, but several friends and people I know have an Apple iPhone 4s, the latest iPad 3, every video game system, every new blu-ray DVD, but they don’t hold a job or at least doing minimum wage, living on credit cards, don’t own a home and have absolutely no savings. Do people simply give up at a certain point and basically say “screw it” and live day to day? Do you know anyone else like this?

One half of every household has at least one apple product.

Between ages 18–43 ,63% own an apple product.

That means more people own apple products then even have enough income to pay income taxes on.

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JustPlainBarb's avatar

That’s why they’re broke .. buying things they don’t need and/or can’t afford!

LuckyGuy's avatar

I have a relative in that position. He does not have enough to pay the rent; can’t afford health insurance; is waiting for the utilities to be shut off, yet he has Direct TV and a a flat screen big enough to watch from the moon.

I figure I don’t, because I can.

Linda_Owl's avatar

My ‘household’ has NO Apple products.

Aethelflaed's avatar

A few reasons.
1) You can buy Apple products used. They let you. Are you sure it’s the latest version, and not maybe a slightly older version? I’m looking at an iPhone that would cost me $15 on Craigslist.
2) Smartphones with a data-only plan are the cheapest way to get email and a phone line (via Google Voice or Skype), so that you can be looking for jobs, taking on extra jobs, etc. They are, in fact, so much the cheapest way to have this incredibly vital part of job-getting that homeless shelters recommend doing it to people trying to get out of poverty.
3) Just because you’re broke, doesn’t mean everyone you know is broke. It’s actually rather common to have a rich uncle or well-off friend or whatever give you nice hand-me-downs when they upgrade their 42” LCD tv to a 65” plasma.
4) Selling electronics after the fact usually doesn’t bring in much money. It might not always be a smart purchase in the first place, but selling it 6 months later isn’t really going to bring in any kind of substantial money.

tom_g's avatar

I don’t know. I feel odd jumping in to somewhat defend consumerism, but before people start piling on peoples’ choices of consumption, consider that most of us in the U.S. are major consumers – too much so for my taste. But when many people in this country have cable tv, televisions, go to the movies, eat out at restaurants, live in houses that are twice as big as they need, heat and light these houses, drive gas-guzzling cars, buy these cars, go on cruises, spend a week at Disney world, smoke cigarettes, smoke pot, go to expensive concerts and plays, etc… I think it’s worthwhile to step back before judging people. And if these things don’t apply to you (like yours truly), it might be wise to consider that the problem with these people is that they are a product of the consumer culture.

Edit: So, what I think I’m trying to say (sometimes I don’t even know) is that we might want to see if the pot is calling the kettle black, or at least focus our disgust/outrage on our economic system and national religion: consumerism.
Additionally, many people simply have different values. Personally, I find $26/mo for unlimited smartphone data much more valuable to me than paying for cable tv (which I don’t have). I have a friend who can’t believe I spend that much on a data plan, but pays $120/mo for tv, which to me is HD diarrhea.

jca's avatar

I work in a place where many people are broke (the government – the workers are broke and the clients are broke, presumably). The workers, many of whom don’t have $5 in their pocket the day before payday, are all on internet sites buying the latest most updatest (is that a word LOL) phones, smart phones, etc. They also (both the workers and the clients) have manicures, pedicures, the most expensive handbags (not just counterfeit but real) Coach, Guess, Juicy, you name it. But not a pot to piss in. As my mom would say “champagne taste on a beer budget.”

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (2points)
dabbler's avatar

Easy credit makes overspending/debt easy and seem more harmless than it is.

Pandora's avatar

Because they have too much time on their hands since they are sitting at home collecting welfare. How else are they suppose to keep busy? Work? Then they won’t have time for all these gadgets, or the 3 kids, or the two dogs, or to hang out with their buddies and smoke some weed.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with the first answer. We have had people on food stamps on fluther ask why people think poor people should not have nice things like computers and smartphones. They don’t understand at all that middle class and even wealthy people don’t buy something they want at times even though they have the money.

Poor mentality, check to check. Even when they get a bunch of money, they spend it all, because their habit is to spend what they get money. I don’t mean all poor people do this, I mean the ones who have that poor mentality do. There are poor people who do save, who when they finally get a break do all the right things and lift themselves up.

nikipedia's avatar

I don’t know a single person who fits that description, and nearly everyone I know has a low income (students). Everyone I know is very frugal and responsible with their money. In fact, most are terrified of running out and don’t buy things they probably could.

I do not make much money, but I was given an iPad as a gift by someone who got another as a Christmas gift from his company, and my boyfriend bought me my iPhone as a birthday present. I hope people like you do not judge people like me unfairly.

jca's avatar

@nikipedia: Come to my job (it’s what’s commonly referred to as a welfare office) and I’ll show you the latest stuff, including electronics, handbags and incredibly detailed manicures. Like I said, it’s both employees and clients.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (1points)
LostInParadise's avatar

I am not one to defend consumerism, but consider the value of something like a smart phone. For not all that much money a person is able to keep up with what is going on and get some recreation. Of course, that does not justify having a boatload of such devices.

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JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia How many of the students you know, whom you speak of, were raised poor?

lonelydragon's avatar

There could be any number of reasons:

1) Maybe the item was a gift.

2) Although electronics require a high initial investment, they provide cheap entertainment value over the long term. Someone who’s poor may be unable to afford to go out every Friday or Saturday night, but they can enjoy a night in with their TV or computer that they have already paid for.

3) Maybe the person was fortunate enough to be able to treat him/herself that month. Just because someone is poor, it doesn’t mean they should never own anything nice. Of course, that does not justify owning enough gadgets to stock an electronics store.

nikipedia's avatar

@JLeslie, we have all kinds, some who were raised with nothing and some who are currently living off trust funds.

One of my friends who grew up with very little money is one of these flat screen TV owners this question tried to malign. She gets paid a little bit for teaching at our school and has a part time tutoring job, but the cost of living here is so expensive, that’s what it takes to get by. When we get together we usually cook at home because neither of us can afford to eat out.

But she has a huge, flat-screen TV. Because she wanted one. So she saved up diligently for months, and bought it in cash. She is one of those people who does not make enough money to have to pay taxes, yet she has the audacity to own a big TV! Some people, huh?

Aethelwine's avatar

Many great answers above. I’d like to add that the working poor receive EITC each year. After busting their but every day for little pay, it’s nice to splurge a little when that tax return comes in.

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia See the students from rich and middle class families were raised most likely with some idea of saving, not spending what they don’t have, and not expecting extravances when one cannot afford them. These are all generalizations, like I said above there are plenty of poor people who do everything “right” and given much more money would still be careful with money. There are also people with tons of money coming in who still live check to check. I know several people like this. They own Bentleys and coupke homes, and to me they have a “poor mentality.” Their whole house of cards would collapse with God forbid one illness or one paycheck not coming in. The poor cannot really help but live check to check, the big question is what do they do when more money, extra money is given to them? A little splurge I can see, but also having some money in the bank should feel as good as the splurge if they think like me. Students are in a unique category, amd young adults just starting out. How they regard money probably matches their parents, they just have very little money because they are just starting their adult lives.

I do think saving up for something someone really wants is ok, I just hope they contunue to save and had money left over when they made the purchase. I never save for something. I just save and save in general. Then when I want something I decide whether I am willing to part with the money.

But, it is not like I am the end all be all authority on money. People have different ways of doing things, and I always say people spend on what is important to them. I might not think buying a big TV is a good idea when money is tight, but then I might spend on something your friend thinks isn’t worth it.

The splurge @jonsblond talks about is something that I think would bother a lot of people. The EIC money is tax money, basically welfare. Most of the country doesn’t want a welfare check going to a big screen TV. I know @jonsblond really budgets and struggles during the year, because of Q’s she has written. I only have one small flat screen TV in my house, I think it was less than $200. All my other TV’s are old big square televesions, because they still work. I can afford any TV I want, but I can’t see spending the money when I don’t need it. I do admit I have one big screen TV, but it is the old kind, it is over 10 years old. The TV in my bedroom is over 15 years old. I would rather feel freer with money, have a nice cushion in the bank, than buy a nicer TV. I have no real idea of @jonsblond‘s finances, I am not picking on them, I only mention them because of the answer above, they may have lots of savings, I am not assuming, I am only talking about how it looks on the surface.

Pandora's avatar

@nikipedia I don’t think that is what the OP is referring too. But rather the people who have no money and live off the system and manage to buy really nice things all the time. Coach purses, flat screen tv’s. Or people who do work and don’t make enough money and buy some much stuff that they eventually have to claim bankrupcy. Who do you think swallows that pill? Credit rates go up and more people file bankrupcy because the banks are trying to collect the lost money from all their other customers.
I know of a person who knew they were not making enough. She got the house with her parents help but they are retired. She swore she could handle the bills. She bought a 250,000 house and already had a smaller home. She didn’t want to sell it. She figured she could have renters in there and they would help pay the first mortgage. She wanted to hold on to the house because there were new developments springing up all around and she thought she could sell it down the road and make double. Well that never happened and tenants shredded her place more than once and many times they did not pay their rent. Even with all this going on she bought a very expensive car with all the works. Then she lost her job and her house. While still unemployed she decided to adopt two dogs. WHY? You aren’t going to have a place for you to live or your kids? She lost both houses. And currently the kids and dogs are with the grandparents. Not to mention, she trashed her parents credit along with hers.
When my husband and I were broke, we only had money for food and a roof over our heads. The furniture we had was second hand and given to us. The only thing we had was 1 tv set. When the kids came alone we bought a cheap 2nd hand car. If the kids had anything nice, it was a gift. We couldn’t afford it. I had no problem telling them no if I had too because money was tight. My husband worked 2 jobs. If we had any money left over we would hold onto it for emergencies, or to buy the kids clothes. For about 4 years I didn’t buy myself anything more than underwear. I made sure I didn’t get big so I wouldn’t need to buy clothes. My mom and sister would buy me clothes for xmas and my birthday because they knew I wouldn’t spend money on myself. Let me say. It didn’t kill me nor did I starve or have to claim bankrupcy or not have a home. I also didn’t have to get government assistance because I didn’t spend money where I did not need too.
I once had a tenant who didn’t pay rent because she claim they were having hard times financially after her baby was born and that she had to have a major surgery. My manager cut them a break in the rent and let them pay the miss rent slowly. Found out, she missed the rent to pay for her boob job.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie Did I say that we splurge? I was just giving an example of why some poor people have all the latest gadgets.

JLeslie's avatar

I wanted to add that most likely I would think @jonsblond husband should be making more money. My big gripe with American is wages are not high enough all too often. The company he works for gets away with not paying a decent wage, so really the tax payer is subsidizing the business in my opinion, even though the EIC money goes to the individual. The individual working hard and the tax payer would feel better if the companies around America just did the right thing. Just my opinion.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie Did I say that we splurge? I was just giving an example of why some poor people have all the latest gadgets.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond My mistake, I thought you were talking about yourself. Well, my comments still stands referring to those who do splurge. That is my second mistake in two days not interpreting what someone wrote correctly. My apologies, thanks for clarifying.

SmashTheState's avatar

I patch my clothes because I can’t afford to buy new clothes. I go without food some days because I can’t afford to eat. I pay ridiculous amounts of interest on the outstanding balance of my phone and Internet bill because I can’t afford to pay it off. I often go winters without a jacket, and haven’t owned a proper pair of boots – in a city which reaches -40 C in the winter on a regular basis – for several years, since the last pair wore out.

But I also own a $3500 computer.

Food I have to buy every day, and the overall quality will be low without spending at least an order of magnitude more on what I eat. Likewise, whether I put one more patch on these cheap, shitty clothes isn’t going to make me look less like a bum. But having a high-end computer makes a huge impact on my life. I can download everything I care to play for free from Pirate Bay, which will make me forget how awful the rest of my life is for a while, and I can use my computer to render CG art, which allows me to transcend the squalidness of my otherwise miserable existence by creating something beautiful while I sit in my ragged, unlaundered clothes.

Sure, I could add some oranges and a few heads of cauliflower to my meagre rations for a while with the money I spent on my computer, but when it’s gone, I’ll be back where I started. Instead, I sacrifice elsewhere in my life so I can afford to have a least one decent thing which brings me surcease from my sorrows.

JLeslie's avatar

@SmashTheState See, I just don’t get it. That makes no sense to me. But, again, we all spend on what is most important to ourselves. My big question would be do have savings? That is where I think there is a big difference between people, whether they save or not, doesn’t matter whether they are fairly rich or poor. A realtive of mine who was making over $200k a year for a few years straight (which I think is a lot of money) lived in a very expensive apartment, took extravagant trips, bought expensive clothes, not sure what else, and then when the economy took a downturn and his business dried up, he came to my husband and I for money to move, he was going to get kicked out, he could not afford his rent. I just really can’t understand making $200k a year and running out of money in a few months when hitting hard times.

It does seem you only spend within your means, which is a lot better than a lot of people who are in crazy debt.

nikipedia's avatar

@Pandora, I’m sure it wasn’t what @Charles was referring to. But I wanted to point out that if a person 1. has very little money and 2. has nice things, that does not ipso facto mean they have bad judgment about money.

I also wanted to bring up the idea of decision fatigue. Studies have shown over and over, in a variety of contexts, that if you ask people to make many decisions, their ability to exercise good judgment tends to decline. It is true for people making decisions about eating healthy food, for judges rendering verdicts, and for people in poverty making difficult decisions about where to spend their money.

JLeslie's avatar

@nikipedia About your comment to @Pandora. It depends on the person’s age I think. If someone is 25, no problem. If they are 45, problem.

Pandora's avatar

@JLeslie Exactly. Most of the people that come to mind on this are people who have had at least 20 years of expience under there belt. Even in my early 20’s I had a sound mind and wasn’t reckless. If anything, people thought I was too careful. I think it all comes down to having very little common sense. Even exhausted I could make sound decisions. I remember going 3 days of surviving on micron sleep. I had to shuttle between the hospital for my daughter and make medical decisions and still get home to feed my son and do what I had too do. If anything. If your really too busy you shouldn’t have too much time to shop. I don’t recall ever doing a big shopping decision while exhausted. If anything it always made me want to go home to bed and revisit the idea of shopping some other day. Those days are the days I shop less because I like to price compare. Only time I don’t is for gas if my car is low.

ffsc's avatar

Consumerism is a funny thing, many people prefer to have the latest and greatest product today that will be outdated tomorrow rather than saving money for the future. I’ve heard argument that education has something to do with it, but I have met a lot of bright individuals who are very reckless with their money and don’t know how to properly save. I guess everyone is hit with the “keeping up with the Joneses” bug.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Personally, I do not know anyone like this. What counts as a reasonable expenditure, however, is highly variable by culture. A person who complains about someone who has a nice car and new shoes but refuses to take care of their house is displaying a set of values that is really quite as arbitrary as the values they are criticizing. It’s very easy to judge people for spending money on things that you don’t personally find valuable, but they might think that you are just as foolish.

And as @SmashTheState says, a computer can make a monumental difference to someone’s life. The internet has gone from something non-existent to non-negotiable in a very short period of time. The university where I work is the single largest employer in town, and we now only take job applications through an online system. In a wired world, it is not quite accurate to call some gadgets luxuries. Even if they are luxuries, however, people get to decide for themselves what constitutes an acceptable existence. Some would find my job unacceptably unrewarding because it doesn’t pay much. I find some jobs to be unacceptably unrewarding because all they offer in exchange for my time is money.

Surely this is a matter of personal choice in a free society?

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire But, would you say if someone is supplying you the money they get to choose to some extent what you can buy with it? Financial independence is really what gives someone independence in a society like ours.

gorillapaws's avatar

I think for many of the people the original question is referring to, the answer is the marshmallow test.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@JLeslie No, I would not. If you want to decide what I do with the money you give me, send a gift certificate. If you want to leave it up to me, send cash.

rooeytoo's avatar

In the NT of Australia when the children were going hungry and the dole payments were going for grog, drugs and stereos, the government stepped in and instead of handing out cash as had been done for years, they handed out a pseudo credit card that could only be used for necessities at approved stores such as the grocery store, clothing store, automatic and automatic deductions for rent. Some complained mightily but the grannys and the aunties who were responsible for the children were thrilled, now they had money for food instead of it going out the door for gambling and whatever.I personally thought it was an excellent idea, I had fewer kids coming to me wanting something to eat and suddenly the dogs grew fat and healthy because now there was money for dog food as well.

I guess it all comes down to what you think you are owed by the government and the working tax payers who support it.

SmashTheState's avatar

@rooeytoo Citizens. Governments are supported by citizens. Not “taxpayers.” The amount of tax one pays does not determine one’s importance, liberties, rights, or responsibilities.

jca's avatar

@rooeytoo: I agree. I have had those thoughts when I am at the bodega across the street from my job, seeing the people spending major bucks on candy, chips and soda with their food stamp card. They live in the shelter, so their 3 hot meals are supplied, and the food stamp money is like bonus money for them. Meanwhile many working people wouldn’t be able to blow that kind of money on crap like that because we couldn’t afford it, and we know better.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (2points)
rooeytoo's avatar

@SmashTheState – I agree that the amount of tax paid should not determine importance, liberties, rights or responsibilities. I guess where the difference of opinions come into play is the “rights” part. What are the “rights” that the government is expected to provide and pay for with the money paid in by the the tax payers?

@jca – I kept tuna, cheese and bread in the refrig at all times so when the kids came in begging for money for food because they were so hungry and there was nothing at home to eat, I would give them a sandwich and a bottle of water. At least that way I knew no one would take the money from them before they could buy something to eat and I knew that what they were eating was at least better for them than a greasy burger and a coke. It is always the kids and dogs that suffer the most.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@rooeytoo I think you are correct to say that the debate is over which rights we institute. And it seems to me that in a democracy, which rights people have is a matter of which rights the people vote into place. I would argue that there is no fact of the matter about which rights people should or should not have; it is a question for democratic decision. For my own part, society seems to be a reaction to some simple facts: we’re all in this together, no one makes it completely on his own, and some sort of organization and formalization of these facts serves everyone’s interests.

Whether or not the current way of organizing and formalizing the fact of our interdependence is optimal is a whole question in and of itself—one I’m sure @SmashTheState has many thoughts on—but the facts about being in this together and not being able to make it completely on our own (or not wanting to, even if we technically could) suggest to me a society in which we do something to take care of those who the current structure has left behind. Structuring society in any particular way, after all, presupposes certain values. People who are at the bottom under one structure may have been on top under another structure. So it’s not necessarily any inherent failing of theirs that they are at the bottom. So if we cannot justify our current setup to them, it is dubious whether or not our system is really justified.

Those are just some random preliminary thoughts. I do not mean to pretend that what I’ve said answers all important questions or responds to all important objections. They are just a starting point, and perhaps a rather meager one at that.

SmashTheState's avatar

The problem is that people have forgotten – or been deliberately blinded to – the fact that there is a difference between a State and a polis. Look up the word polis in a dictionary, and most will tell you that it is synonymous with State or perhaps city-State. This is incorrect.

A polis is not tied to any geographical region, and simply being born in this place or that does not necessarily make one a citizen of a polis. In order to belong to a polis, one must agree to the principles under which the polis is founded, a formal agreement to a social contract which sets out rights and responsibilities. Furthermore, a person could be a member of a polis anywhere. An Athenian who happened to live on the far shores of Ionia remained an Athenian, with the full rights and responsibilities of any other Athenian who happened to reside in Athens.

A State, on the other hand, is by its nature an oppressive structure of governship in which people are annexed to a rigid social hierarchy on the basis of birth or physical location. Since propertarians hold that States own everything (the principle of eminent domain), it is therefore a physical impossibility to withdraw from a State. To remove physically from the fiefdom of one State is to become the property of another. It is feudalism writ large, a boot stamping on a human face, forever.

The problem, therefore, with inveigling people to uphold some Rousseauvian social contract is that they never agreed to their end of it. Every legal system of which I am aware holds that in order for a contract to be binding, it must be entered into by the free will of all signatories. A contract entered into under duress is not binding. Furthermore, the courts in most of the world agree that a right does not exist unless the circumstances of its practice are possible. For example, here in Kanada, courts have mostly held that shopping malls are what are referred to as “quasi-public property”; because businesses have largely taken over and supplanted public space, they must now bear the legal burden of providing space for free association and free expression, since there is no other place in which these liberties could be practiced. If we apply this logic to the State, we can see that the State, having claimed all possible physical space for something other than the State, should by rights be compelled to provide resources for those who wish to “opt out.” Unfortunately, we run into the 800 pound gorilla, where the State, by the very nature of its monopoly, cannot be compelled to abide by either natural law or its own legal principles.

This is why the acceptance of, for example, welfare, does not compel a person to be beholden to either the State or the so-called “taxpayers” who provided it. Welfare is not largesse gifted upon an unworthy shirker, it is the tiniest amount possible for a State to provide in order to keep one of its peons from weighing open revolution as being less injurious than starvation. The pittance the State provides to those who suffer under its yoke in no way implies any kind of agreement by the recipient to be grateful, and indeed, only the greatest sort of imbecile would feel gratitude to the jailor who throws crusts to his prisoners.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire What if I don’t want to send you money at all? should my tax money still go to you to spend anyway you want? You know I am a democrat, fairly liberal, but I understand the complaint of people who resent poor people having lots of expensive toys, while the middle class skips on the goodies and plans for their kids college fund, etc. Or, living in Section 8 housing in a three bedroom house subsidized by tax money, because there is a boy and a girl in the family when middle class people might only have a two bedroom apartment, because that is all they can afford. There are cultural difference between the different social classes, different attitudes about money, education, and more. Are you fine giving your money to people who spend very differently than you do? Give money to a poor person so they can buy a computer triple the price of your computer? Or, do you feel like you worked hard for your money, you want the better computer yourself?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie Not everyone in the middle class skips on goodies and saves. Not everyone below the middle class spends like crazy. You’re setting up this whole dichotomy of middle class = good, poor = bad. I know tons and tons of people who are middle class who spent way, way, way beyond their means, they just had a high enough paying job that they could still afford to be seen as middle class. Stop having this problem with “poor people” and “poor attitudes” like it’s somehow representative of the whole community; it’s not. The people I see being the most greedy, the most selfish with money tend to be higher up on the ladder. And really, compared to all the other stuff my taxes go to (see: killing people in other nations), welfare is such a teeny, tiny, minuscule portion I couldn’t be bothered to give a fuck if on very rare occasions, someone out there is abusing the system.

JLeslie's avatar

@Aethelflaed I think I said not everyone about 10 times. An exaggeration of course. I gave an example above of someone making over $200k who didn’t save and plan for the rainy day that did hit them.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@JLeslie And yet, when a single Fluther user on a thread a long time ago says something you don’t agree with, you take it as representative. You don’t take examples of middle class people spending tons as representative of the middle class.

rooeytoo's avatar

“The people I see being the most greedy, the most selfish with money tend to be higher up on the ladder.”

Everyone forms their own opinions and create their own generalizations based on their personal experience. Mine is based on being 67 and still working to feed myself and put a roof over my head. So people such as I have a bit or a problem with others who could be working but choose not to, meanwhile spending the money I pay in via income tax to purchase luxuries I can’t afford.

Is that a “right?” Apparently so, but I don’t have to like it. And I think the longer you work and pay in your social security taxes only to see what you can actually collect if you retire, the more annoyed you get with that “right.” In Australia most unemployed teenagers who never paid a cent to the government are collecting more than pensioners who worked their entire lives. (Yep another generalization but based on my experience) Meanwhile jobs that pay huge salaries but would necessitate relocation go begging because they won’t hire oldies and the youngsters don’t want to or are afraid to go.

SmashTheState's avatar

Funny how people who think what welfare pays is luxury never seem to quit their jobs to enjoy that opulence, even though they could do so at any time. In Ontario, welfare pays a single individual a maximum of $590 a month. Rent for a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto is about $1200. A single room in a roach-infested flophouse starts at $450 a month. When I was on welfare, I shared a 1 bedroom apartment with two other people, did my laundry in the bathtub, and had a budget of $40 a month for food. Which of you would care to lounge indolently in such incredible luxury?

I was able to buy my $3500 computer because I received two years worth of back-payments when I finally received a disability pension (which pays the princely sum of $1000 a month). In fact, I couldn’t have saved the money even if I wanted to. The back-payment put me over the allowable asset limit for disability, so I not only had to spend every single dollar, but I had to keep my receipts and prove I had spent it all and not simply stuffed the money in my mattress.

rooeytoo's avatar

@SmashTheState – I used to say I was a product of my environment, now I guess I have to say I am a victim of my generalizations.

Generalizations suck, I know that.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@SmashTheState None of this is a big deal, and feel free to ignore it, but I find it a little odd that you took Rousseau as your example given that he would agree with a lot of what you say. He is the most anarchic of the main social contract theorists, and he is the one who took issue most stridently with Locke’s notions of property. Indeed, Rousseau believed that no taking of private property could be justified without the universal consent of humanity (though temporary use rights were quite another matter in his mind).

It seems more like it is Locke’s views on property and consent to which you are objecting. Locke, for instance, is the one who went through so much trouble to “prove” that we had all tacitly consented to the social contract (since, as you say, contracts require all parties to freely consent to their terms). He is also the one who most forcefully pushed the view that we cede our land to the state upon entering it. I agree with the overall point of your answer, though, especially the bit about welfare not being in any way good evidence of consent—tacit or otherwise—given that it is, by definition, something given under duress.

@JLeslie First of all, neither you nor I ever gives our money to anyone except through direct personal charity. In the case of taxation, we send our money to the government. It then becomes part of a big pool from which our contribution cannot sensibly be separated. All this “my tax money” talk is a red herring. My tax money does virtually nothing. It is only together that our tax money does anything.

This is important because it relates to my basic point: we decide collectively what to do with that money, and it’s just no good feeling put upon because you lost a vote. If you want welfare benefits to be more like food stamps, convince enough people to get the law changed. Don’t pretend it’s a personal affront, though. It’s not. I didn’t support the war in Iraq, but I would never claim that sending troops to the Middle East without my consent was a violation of my personal property rights.

When you ask if I am fine giving my money to people who spend differently than I do, then, I want to say that’s the wrong question. The right question is whether I’m fine with the government giving some of that collected money to people who spend differently than I do, and my answer to that question is yes. I am fine with it. I am also fine with it not being like food stamps. The point is to make the desperately poor not desperately poor. It is to make their situation somewhat more like the situation of those with more wealth. What they do with the money after it is given to them, then, is their own choice—just like it’s my choice what to do with the money I have.

Like @SmashTheState said: no one ever seems to give up what they have to live in the supposed luxury in which the poor are sometimes said to live. All this jealousy about the poor having things you don’t is silly: they are just as subject to opportunity costs as the rest of us. Everything they buy means there is something else they can’t buy. You made your choice, they made theirs. It’s almost like it’s a free country or something.

P.S. I own an Apple MacBook. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to wind up with a computer three times as expensive as mine. ~

jca's avatar

@SmashTheState: In the US, at least in NY state, if you quit your job or are fired from your job and then apply for public assistance (aka welfare) you will be sanctioned for 90 days, meaning you cannot get a cent for 90 days. Then, if you are eligible to work (not an addict or mentally ill) you will be put into the Pride in Work Program, where you will have to work 21 hours per week for the money. So when you say people could quit their jobs to receive welfare, you are not correct.

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (1points)
JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire Generally I agree with you. I don’t want the very poor to be so poor, especially the working poor. I really would much prefer wages be better for people than giving them money at tax time, because I think it is better for everyone, better for the poor especially, to feel better about their earnings, their contribution, their compensation for working hard instead of a “handout.”

@Aethelflaed @SavoirFaire It is not just taxes. It is family and friends too. That $200k example I gave, he is not the only relative I have had to wire thousands of dollars to, and we do not make more money, we just don’t spend all of ours. I don’t mind helping family when they hit a hard time, I want to, I want to because I want, and I hope they would help us if we ever needed it, because goodness knows unexpected things can happen to anyone. But, if my husband loses his job I don’t lose my house and everything in two months. We keep our expenses low. We waited until my husband was 40 to buy our expensive car outright. We waited until we could afford it. We have not paid tons of interest to banks, money on the street. We waited. We waited and saves, and if our relatives had done the same they would never have had to come to us. None of them had health issues that took them out of commission for months and months, they just had a downturn in business for a while and were living check to check. Do I judge them for not saving and then asking me for help. Yes. If they had saved and their bad spell was prolonged, that is different. If they were 25 years old and had not had a chance to save up, that is different. But, in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and no planning for the future and they make great money by anyone’s measure. It’s annoying. Am I going to care what they buy while they owe me money? Yes.

@Aethelflaed I think a whole bunch of people in the middle class suck at handeling money. I judge them for living check to check way way waaayyyyy more then people who live in poverty. I don’t even judge those in poverty, because they barely even have the money to save. Many in the middle class do all sorts of stupid shit, credit cards charged to the hilt, buying expensive cars on lease or financing for what seems like forever, instead of buying a very good still less expensive car.

jca's avatar

@SavoirFaire: In the example I gave above, the food stamp recipients buying major snacks at the bodega with their cards, “everything they buy means there is something else they can’t buy” doesn;t apply. It would apply to me or you, with a paycheck, but with them in the shelter, getting fed, it is just bonus money, may as well spend it!

jca (36059points)“Great Answer” (0points)
SavoirFaire's avatar

@jca If you look at the context of the discussion I am having with @JLeslie, you’ll notice that your example has nothing to do with what I was talking about. We’re talking about what can be done with non-food stamp money.

@JLeslie If the poor had better wages—which would be great—then they wouldn’t be poor anymore. I don’t think anyone here is saying they want poverty to continue. The question is what to do while it still exists. As for the case of your relatives, it seems different. You are talking about caring what people buy while they owe you money. The desperately poor do not owe us money. Regardless, your relatives should be free to do whatever they want with their money if they are also making regular repayments. And if you didn’t set up any ground rules for repayment when you sent them the money, you only have yourself to blame.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire Oh, I do set up ground rules with some of them. The ones who I expect repayment, because they are obviously bad with money. I am talking about a mentality, which @Aethelflaed seemed to not get from what I wrote. I agree with you the poor themselves are different than what I am talking about in terms of just handling money, but some people are poor, because of how they handle money, not only because they earn low wages. Like those stories of people winning $10 million in lottery, and within a few years are broke. Those stories are real. They get a windfall and spend, spend everything. They don’t understand what they really can and can’t afford, which goes back tothe very first andwer on the Q.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@JLeslie You are the one who brought up wages. I have never denied that how people are habituated with regard to money affects how they spend it. What I have denied is that I am somehow better or more correct than someone who spends differently than I do, or that paternalism regarding spending habits is warranted in cases when people have different values than I have. My wife and I have a very close friend whose spending habits are very different than our own. We don’t understand, but we also don’t judge. At the end of the day, he just has a different set of priorities.

Now, it also turns out that he’s not likely to stop being very poor. Saving power can never outrun earning power, after all, and he has never been able to get anything better than a minimum wage job. Add to that the fact that he is supporting a mother stricken with cancer, and the way society is currently set up virtually guarantees that his best case scenario is staying in this holding pattern until his mother dies. That’s assuming he manages to keep his job, of course, which is certainly not guaranteed.

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know what you’re trying to get at here. The only problem would be if someone has economic goals that they don’t even know how to achieve because they lack education. But that is rarely, if ever, the person’s own fault. People who don’t know about money also tend to not know that they don’t know about money. Perhaps you should be talking to the school board rather than looking down on the poor.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire I am not looking down on anybody. My paternal grandparents were very very poor, my father grew up poor. I think my paternal grandfather is probably one of the most admirable men in my family. He came over as an immigrant, has significant mental illness and was slightly hard of hearing, and he went to work every day and kept a roof over his family’s head and enough food to survive. I think at any time any of use can be hit with an unexpected bump in life that can knock us down financially, even when we think we have planned for bad things. I don’t feel superior, or untouchable by difficulties.

I said “poor mentality,” it’s a term. There are people at all levels of the the social strata who think like that. I was just asking you your thoughts, I was not trying to argue. I agreed with much of what you wrote above, and in your last post. Iam just thinking the issue through.

I don’t really care much what people choose to spend on in the end, each of us has what matters to us, what we enjoy, what we feel we need, but I do take issue with spending everything or overspending. Again, people who are poor are so limited in theor funds saving is almost impossible, I am talking about those who are not poor who still spend every penny. I don’t judge the poor, but I admit to judging what I think are a lack of saving habits, or not too swift borrowing on high interest credit cards (unless there is a critical emergency) things like that. Living on credit, because someone had to everything wjen they really didn’t.

We basically agree overall I think, except you don’t want to use the word judge, which is fine with me.

Thammuz's avatar

Because they buy gadgets instead of saving money. They wouldn’t be broke if they didn’t spend 500 bucks on shit every time something new comes out.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@JLeslie I am not trying to argue either. I’m just responding to your thoughts with my own thoughts. It’s not just that I don’t want to use the word “judge,” though; I actually don’t want to judge. A lack of saving habits is not a thing to judge. It’s ultimately no different from having blue towels instead of green ones. It would be one thing if a person wanted to save and consistently failed to do so. Then we could point out an inconsistency between their desires and their actions. But if someone chooses to spend rather than save in full awareness of the opportunity costs, then that is their choice. There’s no swift or slow about it. It’s just a case of different values and different habits. That’s how I see it, at least.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire I believe you when you say you don’t judge.

It seems unfair that those who suck at handeling money wind up getting money from those who handle it well. I am not talking about the poor, that is a separate category in my mind. I don’t want anyone to be without shelter or food. It simply is not fair. But, life is not fair. It really is not just their problem if they suck with money, it is all of our problems, because as a society we don’t let people have nothing, we have safety nets, social services. Or, there are people helped by family, like my example above. It seems there is always at least one deadbeat relative who keeps losing everything over and over again. Again, I am not talking about the poor who are trying, I am talking about those who make really good money who can’t think past tomorrow, and probably are too busy worrying about keeping up with the Jones’. They lose a lot, a lot more then they think they will because of their habits. When they are in debt they pay tons of money in interest. When they lose their house because they lost their job ajd cannot pay the mortgage, they not only lose the house, they lose the thousands in equity already paid in. I can’t stand to have that type ofnloss, I will do everything to guard against. I do not mean things like real estate prices dropping, that is out of our control.

There was a study done with kids who are told they can have one marshmellow now or if they wait they can have more. They later observed the ability to delay gratification at a very young age, 4 years old, seemed to foretell how these kids would be as they got older. There was a correlation for test scores and other measures. Maybe some people just can’t do it. They just can’t help themselves, and the people who can wind up taking care of them sometimes.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@JLeslie But now we are talking about two very different groups of broke people. The OP specifies people who are unemployed or who hold minimum wage jobs (which are often not even full-time jobs so as to avoid having to provide benefits). That is one reason why the conversation turned to poverty. You want to talk about another group of people: those who make plenty of money, but spend it in a way that you characterize as squandering.

Whatever we want to think about this latter group, however, the fact is that they do not receive welfare benefits. If anyone gives them money, it is entirely of their own free will and the giver can choose the terms. No unfairness about it. The former group receives benefits so as to bring them to a basic minimum income level. From this point on, they have the same discretionary freedom with regard to how the money is spent as any other person. To do otherwise would be to disrespect them. So again, no unfairness about it.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire True, I am talking about various groups. I kind of got off on that tangent trying to explain the poverty/poor mentality, because often those people wind up “poor” every so often throughout their lifetime. I think I had responded to @Aethelflaed at one point who accused me of stereotyping poor people, and I had already pointed out poor, middle and rich come in every type of spending habit. It does tye together, because if those who tend to be broke have all the gadgets and never save, they will always be broke. I am not in favor of telling someone how they must spend their money, but I can critique it. Same as I would never force abortion on a woman, but I do question a woman who has three babies by the age of 21 and she lives in poverty. The decisions most likely will keep her poor, and keep the demand on medicaid, food stamps, and other services. I prefer for her, for me, for her children, and for society at large that she know better, and understand how the decisions she makes about having children, spending her money, how it all affects the trajectory of her life. But, don’t get me wrong, I want to help her live in a decent safe place, for her kids to have a good education. I will help pay for it. My hope is her children will make better more informed decisions.

People do work full time at minimum wage, or slightly above, and are poor.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@JLeslie But what I am resisting is that our decisions are necessarily better or more informed. They might be more informed. We may have information that others do not thanks to our education. This does not entail, however, that our decisions are better. Someone may prefer having gadgets to having a saving’s account. We are free to have different values, but we need to be clear when we are calling people wrong and when we are merely recognizing a difference. My brother is a person who always has the newest everything and very little money in the bank. He makes a lot of money, and he spends a lot of money. I couldn’t live that lifestyle, but I do not think he is wrong to do so. It’s just how he has chosen to live.

JLeslie's avatar

@SavoirFaire I am usually loathe to judge people. I figure everyone has a right to make the choices in their life, so you are putting me on the spot, which I don’t mind. I guess we would have to know the stats, which I don’t. The stats on the likeliness to wind up in a tough financial spot depending on spending and saving habits. Once armed with that, if someone knowingly wants to avoid difficult financial times, but chooses to spend and save in a way that statisticly puts them at greater risk, then I questions their decisions I guess. The people I know who go from a lot of money to none, I mean none, and then eventually build back up again, they seem to take it in stride, so maybe that just is their choice, not for me to judge, they live life that way. Not for me to judge, but maybe if they are ok with that they should not come to me for help.

Someone who has plenty of money who wants to spend on all the new gadgets fine, I don’t care if they buy $400,000 cars, I was just looking at one last night at a Mercedes social event last night. One of the club members had some sort of special Mercedes. I can’t imagine it, that is a house to me. But the original question is about poor people who are probably spending the little money they have on gadgets.

This question makes me wonder about charity vs government services. Thegovernment probably gives money with less strings or rules with how to spend, except food stamps are for food obviously. Chariable organizations choose how they are going to help the person, would you agree with that? Less likely to give money directly to an individual, except for hand outs of money person to person.

TedEv's avatar

Same reason minorities/poor people pump out the most children. They’ll never know the joys of a great vacation, or a fancy car, nice house, etc so their kids are their only “joy” in life.

cskaj88's avatar

Because most people who live check to check rather it be from Employment at a Minimum Wage job or a monthly welfare check see no hope in their future. They don’t think they’d ever have an income to support having an extravagant item that most middle class could barely afford without putting it on a line of credit. So they go out on a binge an spend what money could be better used in other ways on stuff they feel would make their already miserable life a bit more bearable.

Tons of people make fun or talk down about people who are disabled with disabilities that don’t necessarily depict someone who is visually disability worthy. People who suffer from severe anxiety an depression who don’t always appear to have any problem holding a job an making an honest living should they go out an get hired on some place. In most cases it would be easy for someone like this to go out an get on some place but their underlying disability makes it a daily mental challenge for them that many can not understand. Reason I go so in depth about this is because I’m one of those people who do lose hope an end up spending what money they should hold onto for an endless amount of fun. Long as I pay my electric bill an stuff the expensive item that I bought will bring me countless hours of endless fun.

On the other hand the person could have been gifted the item. Took a risk on a lotto ticket an got an extra pocket full of cash. May have been on sell. May of inherited the item. Might have gotten it from a RAC or Aaron’s rent to own business. Either way I don’t see how it’s any of your concern. That is the biggest issue with society today. Living so close to each other sometimes on top of each other we can’t keep from the jealousy an being nosy of our neighbors in every possible way. Money really is the root of all evil.

respann's avatar

…you are the combined average of the 5 people you hang around…I think you need new friends.

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