income inequality is not poverty
by T Nelson
by T Nelson
ust like Cal Thomas, I, too, suffer from the dreaded affliction of income inequality. In my case, I caught it during the era of Jimmy “Malaise” Carter. There was a lot of it (by which I mean income inequality, although there was a lot of malaise, too) going around then.
I had just gotten out of college. There was no way I could afford graduate school, so I started looking for a job. There weren't many, but I turned down the first one I was offered—driving an ice cream truck through the inner city—when they told me that the previous guy on that route had been murdered and his truck set on fire by inner-city black youths.
So I reluctantly passed up that enticing career opportunity and kept looking. Eventually I found a job repairing lamps. It paid 75 bucks a week. I lived in a run-down apartment with a broken window that the landlord never fixed. In the winter, cold air would blow through that window. I would also wake up in the middle of the night from people outside my window saying things like, “Hey, don't kill me, man!” There were times when the only food I had was half a box of spaghetti, and I could eat nothing but spaghetti sprinkled with dried spaghetti sauce mix from a packet, for the rest of the week, until the next paycheck. White privilege, my ass.
But I never even considered taking welfare. In those days, taking money from the government was considered a disgrace. I still feel that way. To me it's incomprehensible that people would buy huge bags of junk food with their EBT cards, as I often see them doing.
I walked two miles to work, uphill both ways, through the snow, in a slum district called East Liberty. That's where I learned the best way to act in the city. You have to make yourself look like a crazy person who's just looking for an excuse to pull out your Uzi and kill everyone in sight.
That attitude came naturally to me, and I was pleased to discover that, for whatever reason, I had a natural talent for acting like a crazy person. I was so good at it that even the blacks that hung out in the doorways harassing the people walking by were afraid of me. “That son of a bitch got a mean walk,” one of them said.
I kept sending out résumés until I ran out of money and had to sell my typewriter. Then I used the pay typewriters at the University's library. In those days, we didn't have any of those fancy schmancy laser printers. Kids today have it easy. Back then, you put a quarter in for your half hour and typed your résumés by hand, one at a time. Then you put one in an envelope and mailed it. It was slow and boring.
My dream of becoming a scientist, curing diseases, and being able to participate in this income inequality thing, was hanging by a thread. (Little did I know then that, despite what everyone says, society doesn't really want scientists to cure diseases. But I was still young and naïve.)
I began thinking about other career options. I considered becoming an entertainer and twerking onstage with a giant foam rubber finger, but I didn't see how anyone could make money doing that. I never imagined that, only 35 years later, someone else would steal my idea and get rich.
After nearly a year, I finally got a job interview—2,000 miles away. They promised to reimburse my airfare, but my beat-up car barely made it to the airport and back. After paying the parking fee I had a grand total of seven cents to my name. Luckily they hired me, and things started looking up. I eventually saved up enough to go to graduate school. While there, I was so frugal that I was probably the only person to ever make a profit on an RA's salary.
Now, Barack Obama and the Democrats are creating more people like me. In fact, Jimmy Carter's stagflation and interest rates above 20% look pretty good now. At least in those days, the government told us the truth about inflation and unemployment. Today they pretend to tell us the truth and we pretend to believe them.
Years later, my income inequality finally kicked in. I drive around in a fancy Subaru Impreza. I have a color TV and eight computers, not counting the one that got struck by lightning while I was using it. I have a drill press, a gasoline-powered weed whacker, and several power tools. But once you've been poor you can never feel rich, no matter how many computers and power tools you have. It imprints itself on you and affects your whole life. Today's kids will be imprinted the same way.
Of course, there's always somebody who's worse off, like our neighbors when I was a kid, who were always breaking into our house and stealing our food.
This was a family of rail-thin white kids. They found ways to have fun, but it was superimposed on a background of dirt-poor poverty. They were rail-thin for a good reason: much of the time, their parents were too poor to feed them. They also knew right from wrong. When caught stealing food, they begged heartrendingly for us not to tell their parents.
When people steal out of genuine poverty, they don't steal your TV or trash your house. They go straight for the food. We caught these kids several times stealing food from us, so we gave them more. These kids never bullied the younger kids, and, as far as I know, never committed any crime besides stealing food. For genuinely poor people, violence is out of the question. If you're hungry, you risk getting injured if you commit a violent crime, and that can be fatal if you're malnourished. Those young people today hitting whites and Jews on the head and trying to knock them unconscious for fun, maybe killing them, aren't hungry. Their only motivation is hatred. If you're not hungry, you're not really poor. If you were, you wouldn't have the energy to do things like that.
Likewise, those of us whose residences have been burglarized know that burglars almost never steal the contents of your refrigerator. They steal TVs, watches, and luxury goods. Food is of no interest to them.
So when people tell me poverty causes crime, I know they're lying. What got me through the Jimmy Carter era was my faith that I was the smartest person in the world (which turned out not to be exactly 100% true) and my faith in the American system. In those days if you learned a skill and kept trying, you had a chance to succeed. But there were no guarantees.
Today's poverty is now more insidious. It's being created by the government, which means it will stay with us as long as the government thinks they can run things better than the people. As government starts controlling more and more of our lives, that faith of real people in themselves is gradually crushed. That creates the kind of poverty that stops people from even trying.