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Characteristics of Poverty in Serving in Florida by Barbara Ehrenreich

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Ehrenreich and Hook both argue in their papers that we, as a society, view those who are considered poor, negatively and incorrectly. I agree completely with this statement. As Hook mentioned in their paper, we see people of poverty as dishonest, lazy, and unreliable, and that their desire to be rich, or obtain the materials riches can buy, can cause them to do whatever it takes to achieve wealth or obtain materialistic items. Specifically stated in Hook’s essay as, “...their primary theme the lust of the poor for material plenty and their willingness to do anything to satisfy that lust” (Hook,485). Those of the higher class are seen as generous, helpful, hardworking, and reliable. Especially in the media and films those of upper class are portrayed in this kinder light. In Hooks essay they use the film Pretty Woman as an example for this, and states, “Indeed, many films and television shows portray the ruling class as generous, eager to share, as unattached to their wealth in their interactions with folks who are not materially privileged” (Hook, 486). However, in my personal experience more often than not the opposite is true. Those considered to be poor are the kindest, most hardworking, reliable, and generous people I have ever met. Hooks talks about her personal upbringing and how the value of character and integrity was taught to hold much more value than the amount of money one had.

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Similarly, Ehrenreich discusses how poorly the poor are portrayed or talked about, and from her personal experience did not even recognize those she considered to be her ancestors. Ehrenreich states the following after reading Michael Harrington’s book, “Harrington did such a good job of making the poor seem “other” that when I read his book in 1963, I did not recognize my own forebears...some of them did lead disorderly lives by middle-class standards, involving drinking, brawling, and out-of-wedlock babies. But they were also hardworking and, in some cases, fiercely ambitious” (Ehrenreich, 607). Drinking, brawling, and out-of-wedlock babies are just as likely if not more likely to happen to those with money, however, especially those wealthy enough to pay to get these kinds of behaviors hidden, and not publicized, never get these behaviors acknowledged and therefore not associated with their class. On Top of engaging in these commonly frowned upon behaviors, it is common for the same people participating to degrade those publically or knowingly participating in these actions. The Watergate Scandal is a good example of this. Those who were already wealthy were greedy and wanted more so were burglarizing the Democratic National Committee (Nguyen-History). My grandfather came here from Peru when he was 23 years old with 210 dollars in his pocket. He had to pay 150 of those dollars to his first month of rent, and had no job lined up. He had never been to the United States before, so he grabbed a map and walked around asking for work. He got a job at a hotel restaurant, cleaning the carpets and the chimneys. My grandfather was and is one of the most hardworking and reliable people I have ever met. He is also one to always stop and give to those less fortunate than him. My grandfather worked very hard to end up earning 6 figures a year. My grandfather was also one to teach me the amount of money a person has says nothing about the kind of person that they are. With that said, as much as I do agree with Hooks and Ehrenreich that we as a society view and portray the poor incorrectly, it does not mean that all poor people are honest and hardworking, similarly not all wealthy people are greedy and dishonest.

I believe that poverty exists because what we as a society see as acceptable or appealing for positions is superficial. On a resume if you see a foreign name or a name that may have a negative connotation on it, it could prevent that person who is qualified for the job from getting it. Racism is a huge problem as well. In the united states in 2017 the percent of white people occupying the number of people who fall into poverty is never higher than 14%, and in those states the Hispanic and black percentage is nearly double that (KFF). People are much more likely to hire a Caucasian man rather than a Hispanic or black man. Majority of our poverty is occupied by black or Hispanic people due to this segregation. People are also much less likely to hire say a Hispanic man who doesn't speak very good English, or who may just has a thick accent. Poverty exists because a person’s looks are held at a higher value in our society than their character. A very pretty and friendly girl is more likely to get a job than someone who does not fit society's beauty standards, but who could be very hard working and reliable. Those who are societally deemed unattractive are more likely to get lower paying and less desirable jobs. A recent study done at London Business school states, “In three of the four experiments, participants were asked whether they would hire the two candidates for relatively more- and less desirable jobs. And in all three, they were more likely to hire the attractive candidates for the more-desirable jobs. However, they were actually less likely to hire attractive people for the less-desirable jobs” (Nguyen). I believe poverty also exists in part because of politics and higher demands for jobs.

There are very few jobs now that require anything less than a bachelor's degree. School is also very expensive, and even if you figure out ways to afford it most of the time people end up going into debt. Health care is also very expensive, therefore if for whatever reason you end up going to the doctors and don't have health insurance the amount of debt could be detrimental. Yes there are many people who are in poverty due to poor decisions such as drugs or alcohol, but there are just as many if not more in poverty due to reasons such as school debt, healthcare debt, loss of job, inability to find work due to either being unqualified or not physically fit the part. People who have kids at a young age are also more likely to fall in the poverty category more often, because they don't have as much time to put into working, or obtaining the necessary education, and they also spend an average of 14,000 dollars annually per child (Nguyen -CBS-News).

We could make poverty better first off by acknowledging it as a problem that needs to get better. Many people are unaware or don't really care to address or improve the problem of poverty, out of sight out of mind is a popular way of going about things in our society. Hooks states, “Poverty has not become one of the new hot topics of radical disclosure. When contemporary Left intellectuals talk about capitalism, few if any attempts are made to relate that disclosure to the reality of being poor in America” (Hooks, 483). We could improve poverty by making education more accessible. Health care more available. More jobs. Raising taxes on the wealthy and using that tax money to provide cheaper education, and more affordable health care plans. One way that is already in action in many states to aid the poverty problem is raising the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage has shown to have many positive effects, “...such as reducing the number of infant deaths and those born with low birth weights...reducing overall premature deaths among low-income individuals” (Nyguen, 367). Nyguen also states, “...increasing the minimum wage reduced child maltreatment… every $1 increase in the minimum wage led to a 9.6 percent decrease in child neglect” (Nyguen, 367). The minimum wage increase had these positive effects because with the slight increase in income families could afford more food, in turn children were less likely to be starving or unhealthy. This could also do the same for an expecting mother, high levels of stress and malnutrition during pregnancy could lead to problems such as premature births, which in some cases lead to infant death. However, with the wage increase it helps people just enough to allow them to afford proper care for themselves and their children, and helps expecting mothers afford their doctor check-ups.

Hooks argument about the sharing of resources, does not change my argument. It may however enhance or add to it. I do agree that today it is taught more often not to share than to share in order for self-preservation and survival. Sharing does not always mean giving away money, but it could mean donating and giving your time, or any unwanted materials. Such as giving unwanted clothes to battered women shelters. Volunteering at a soup kitchen is another great way to share. If money is something someone can afford to share, then donating to different charities, or buying canned food and donating those to different foundations are always helpful.

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