No, you are right, I don't know what it is to be poor first hand. I only know what it means to be financially challenged (if that is the appropriate phrase) and needing to pare back to nothing but the basics. I do, however, have an understanding of some of the challenges that face the poor.
I can only understand, appreciate, and learn lessons from people that have been poor. My (now deceased 10 years) grandmother who lived to 90 years, living through the depression and maintained many of her frugal habits throughout the balance of her life; the next door neighbor immigrant from Latvia whose family fled the Nazis (whose sister was killed in a when a ship on which she was aboard was attacked by a German U-boat), ate dog food at times, yet put himself through the electrical engineering program at Purdue University and subsequently enjoyed a successful life, built his own house, and raised a family; one of my uncles (of nine children on my mother's side whose family routinely struggled to maintain the basics) who entered the Navy at 17 years of age to fight in WWII (actually on the USS Missouri when the Japanese came aboard to finalize the terms of surrender), returned to work the night shift at a PPG manufacturing plant for decades, and was motivated enough and sacrificed enough (I routinely recall him sleeping when our family stopped to visit during daylight hours) to work into a supervisory position to better provide for his family; the gentleman team member at my first employer who lived out of his car for a period of time, married a woman with chronic health problems, managed to work his way into a factory job eventually working into an “professional” level, exempt position, raised a daughter, housed numerous foster children, and provided me with invaluable guidance.
While I haven't experienced these particular hardships, please realize that I do have a partial understanding of what it is to be poor (in an industrialized nation). Maybe these accounts speak more about sacrifice, but I'd hardly call surviving on dog food, living out of your car, or enduring the Great Depression, sacrifice.
I am a champion of self-sufficiency in contrast to continued reliance on others. I'm not foolish enough to believe that their aren't situations in which individuals that must rely on others, typically unequivocally against their own wishes/desires (with exceptions of minors). I am also not opposed to providing a helping hand to those in need; extending assistance to enable people to turn things around/right the ship. However, I am opposed to those that are able, yet unwilling, to help themselves. I am opposed to those that aren't willing to be responsible for self or their dependents. I am opposed to requiring servitude to enable another a free ride.
Also, cheap food doesn't need to be crap food. I'm not advocating that one can or need eat fine cuts of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables with great frequency, or any frequency for that matter. There are plenty of choices outside of fast food (which was the original issue) that can provide adequate nutritional needs. Though, in my eyes, if you are allocating your money for food to fast food, you aren't frugal enough. However, I've gone grocery shopping around the first of the month when I lived in an area of widely mixed incomes and I'd be floored at what I'd see in the some of carts of those receiving assistance. I do, though, appreciate that foods of questionable nutritional value are absolutely desirable to no food at all though.
One thing I can't get my head around is the following:
Most are just honest joes trying to keep their and their families' heads above water in a world that demonizes them for being where their society has placed them.
Do we, in the United States, have a rigid caste system similar to what I've learned existed/exists in India? Are people relegated to a predestined way of life that they can never rise above? I'm inclined to believe that if we keep heading down the big government/central planning road that we are, this will be true. I'd like to hear my friend from college, who came from Brockton, MA (tougher, historically working class area of Boston) who was the first in his family to attend college, take on that belief. While I've basically lost touch with him in the last five years, he was enjoying a successful career in business finance. My father would might serve as a good example also. He came from a home where his father was a linesman for a local power company, who liked the drink a lot, who'd routinely beat up on my grandmother (my father tussled with him on occasion), yet my father entered the military (back in those draft days), then went to college graduating as an electrical engineer, and successfully worked in his “professional” career for 37 years. My father never drank to any excess, never caroused at bars, and never was abusive toward my mother. I'd also like to understand my godfather's take on that too. He left college after year one, yet has been extremely successful as member of a large, international packaging company. Also, something interesting I once heard is that nearly half of the members of Forbes Magazine's 400 wealthiest people or billionaires or whatever never went for or completed post-secondary education. I just don't subscribe to the fact that people have to accept their situation and are powerless to do anything about it. I don't know about the values and beliefs of Canadians, but the individuals I grew up with and the people I know here in the States would certainly take issue with such sentiment that folks had to accept where society placed them. However, placement per “society's wishes” will be/will continue to be a prominent feature of big government/central planning by conditioning individuals to believe that they have no chance, no opportunity, no incentive.
Also, I don't believe I ever said that no one was worthy of receiving health care or having health care dollars spent for their benefit. I have only questioned why it is society's responsibility to pay for health care of able bodied individuals that might not have to contribute anything.
Regarding the reinstatement of benefits, I guess it is a difference of opinion. Talented folks won't stick around if better opportunities are to be had elsewhere. It may not impact the company immediately, but it will in the longer term. I subscribe to the Southwest Airlines approach to managing/operating a large company...employees first, customers second, shareholders last. If you have happy employees, they are going to provide superior service and value to the customers. Therefore, that makes the customers extremely happy. Perhaps this is one of the reasons, in the realm of the tough domestic airline industry, that Southwest Airlines has been so wildly successful while the “legacy” carriers routinely struggle.
I heard Jim Traficant (a former U.S. Congressman from Ohio - recently released from prison – many have said he was railroaded) say during an interview that we can judge a society by how it treats its prisoners. A subjective argument I suppose. Others say that we can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable. I might argue that we can judge a society by how we treat each other (regardless of gender, color, shape, size, economic status, etc.). However, it appears that this health care legislation marginalizes certain members of those vulnerable groups. The elderly and disabled that rely on Medicare will be facing cuts. It's pretty black and white in the realm of $400 billion to $500 billion over ten years. Do you really think doctors are going to continue to see the same number of patients or be able to deliver a desirable quality of care on an ongoing basis for less money? There also appears to be mandatory funding for abortion in the Senate bill. We sure aren't protecting unborn children who can't protect themselves. Additionally, it will force employers to either to offer and pay (at least partially) for health care insurance or pay a tax. Those employers very well may just cut their workforce to avoid or offset paying for something they previously weren't mandated to pay, creating more poor and/or unemployed. Or perhaps, those costs will be just passed along to the consumers, forcing more to go without goods or services for which they once had no problem obtaining. Those working ill who rely on Flexible Spending Accounts to help defray some of the expenses for over-the-counter needs will now lose that benefit. Additionally, the bill is offering protections to makers of biotech medications (one would believe this includes biologics). The legislation apparently includes preventions or deferments of generics from coming to market. I'm not sure how this benefits the sick.
I agree that there is a societal influence on the situation of everyone, however the influence of society should rarely trump the influence of the parents/family (there are exceptions, but they are exceptions and not the rule). It is not society's job to see that your child is active and eating adequately to foster proper development and health and staving off obesity. It is the job of the parents. It is not the teacher's job to babysit your child at school. It is the job of the parents to teach that child how to behave, act with respect towards others, and be responsible for their own actions. It is the teacher's job to educate. I find it highly bothersome that society casually dismisses the importance of the family; a nuclear family, many with strong extended families. I'm not looking down on anyone from some high and mighty position (contrary to what one may believe), however, I find troubling the number of single parent families (excepting the unavoidable) and the challenges such situations pose to the children. It is not to say that children raised this by single parents are deficient and cannot succeed or excel, it is just perceived that these children would be at greater risk for being denied opportunities since a parent may not be able to advocate for that child or that the child may be overlooked. This is one area where I am blessed. I have the best parents in the world. I am also fortunate to be part of a large, extended family, that despite their differences, have remained relatively close and cohesive. It's not like it was when I was growing up due to the passing of many in the previous generation and people chasing lifestyles, but many of their children strive for continuity of family ways.
OK, I'm done. Off my high horse.