The Middle Class

So often you hear that there is no middle class here (and over much of Latin America) or that it is very small. I have said this myself. Today I am feeling like we are just applying "Gringo formulas" to define the situation. I think there is an alternative.

The group of people that seem to be defined as middle class in the United States are those that have 2.3 children, a house in the suburbs with a big mortgage, a station wagon for going places with the kids and another car--both financed--and a lot of toys. They are also the people that work all day and when everything is done, about 50% of their income goes to takes--some think to support the poor, others think to support the rich.

If that is what you are looking for in Nicaragua to label as middle class then you are not going to find a lot of people that fit the definition. But, why should that be a realistic definition for a country where even car ownership in general makes little sense?

I think we can do better. So, I have just invented a new definition. I do not, however, own Nicaragua so my ideas are up for debate. So, feel free to disagree. Maybe the end result will be a better definition and a lot more understanding.

  • Lower class--Someone who lacks necessities
  • Middle class--Someone who has everything they need
  • Upper class-- Someone who has more than they can ever spend or use

Before you beat me up for being too simplistic, I will give you the same ability to define lower middle-class, upper middle-class and such that exists in Gringolandia. I just am defining where to draw the first set of lines. And there will always be a debate of what are really necessities. I expect we can all agree on health (which will dictate such things as enough to eat, clean water and a place to sleep away from the elements). Education is always up for debate. That is, how much education should be free. Personally, I like the idea of "all you want' but I won't make that a requirement.

Let's put this into practice. Across the street I see a family with four kids. Some of them seem to have clothes, most of them seem to have a runny nose all the time and they don't look like they are eating right. Simple--lower class.

There are other families on this street that while they don't have a car seem to have everything the need. That is, their clothes fit and don't have holes in them, when their gas cylinder is empty they just go get one that is full and which they don't have a car they get to sherever then want by bus, cab, bicycle or foot. That sounds like middle class to me.

So, who are these upper-class dudes, anyway? That's me. I have more bedrooms in my house than people, I have enough food here for at least a week, I have an extremely expensive ($100--a common question) dog and will likely have a car soon. And what these people don't know about me is that I have hundreds of books (which aren't here yet), probably a dozen pair of pants, 50 t-shirts and, well, a bank account with more money in it than the average Niccaraguan makes in a lifetime.

Looking at my definitions here I realize there is a huge difference between my middle class and the Gringolandia middle class. In Grongolandia, middle class means that you get ulcers, have heart attacks and generally have to spend all your time being worried that in order to look richer than your middle class neighbor that you will have to borrow more money that you cannot afford to pay back. My middle class person is someone who can just live their life. I guess that explains why so many more people in Nicaragua seem to smile when you seen them.

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Here's something worth reading, but

don'w worry, neither long nor scholarly: 'Gap between rich, poor a real threat to democracy'

David A. Love, The Athens Banner-Herald

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/031906/opinion_20060319067.shtml

Several recent studies show that the income gap between rich and poor Americans is widening. The nation's wealth is under the control of fewer and fewer people, and this tide of inequality threatens democracy.

A recent study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute found the gap between the highest-income families and poor and middle-income families is significantly wider than 25 years ago. Income gaps tend to be larger in the Southeast and Southwest, and smaller in the Midwest, Great Plains and mountain states.

A December 2005 research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University reported that between 1972 and 2001, the income of people in the top 1 percent grew by 87 percent. For people at the very top - the 99.99th percentile - the income gain was 181 percent. By contrast, the bottom 20 percent grew by only 3 percent. What's more, an analysis of income-tax data by the Congressional Budget Office found that the top 1 percent of households own almost twice as much of the nation's corporate wealth as they did 15 years ago.

These studies come amid a growing push to increase the federal minimum wage. For the first time in nine years, it has stagnated at $5.15. In 18 states and 130 cities, groups successfully have lobbied for living wage reforms, which would raise the minimum wage based on a particular area's cost-of-living expenses. Currently, a person earning minimum wage at a full-time salary makes only $10,700 a year. That figure is barely above the nation's poverty line for a single person.

Economic equality ought to be a bipartisan issue. But many Republicans in Congress want to make permanent the president's tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest Americans. And members of Congress have given themselves a cost-of-living pay raise for the past six years in a row.

If more employers paid their employees a fair living wage, they could gain overall through decreased absenteeism, lower recruiting and training costs, higher productivity and increased worker morale. Because the working poor spend most of what they earn, much of a potential minimum-wage increase would go back into the economy.

In 2004, 23 million people used food stamps, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up from 17 million in 2000. No longer can politicians sell the fallacy of trickle-down economics, which claims throwing more money to the rich will eventually mean more money in the hands of those at the bottom.

Seven decades ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ushered in the New Deal to save capitalism from itself. In light of current trends, something once again must be done to reform America's unfair and unequal economic system.

The United States cannot exist as a democracy and an oligarchy at the same time.

John, you are such a comedian :-)

Politicians listen to taxpayers???? That's news to me. I know that they listen to Abramoff and other lobbyists (usually for big corporations), who line their pockets, they also occassionally listen to advisers, to be sure they get more voters and continue to have their pockets lined. But taxpayers? When? How? (Can you bring a single example that this is the case???) What would be in it for them?

Communism and equality. Lol. Anather fairy tale and you obviously have neither lived under communism or even read enough about it. Communist elites could on paper have modest incomes, but their economic privileges were considearable. In countries where people starved, not only because they did not earn enough to eat, but because there always was a terrible shortage of food, communist elites ( even ordinary aparatchiks) had access to their own restaurants and food stores, not accessible to population at large. In countries, where there were enormous shortages of any type of consumer goods ( be it toilet paper --yes, I am not kidding, toilet paper was an ultimate luxury, because you could not buy it-- clothes, shoes, furniture, building material, light bulbs etc. etc. etc) the communists had their own stores, where they could get anything they wanted -- most often without paying a cent. They had access to "bonuses" like foreign travel, cars, dachas (=second residences), hard currency, without needing an income to afford any of that. So please, don't talk to me about communism and economic equality - communism was as corrupted as vulgar capitalism and yes, I will never forget the old times, though I shall never miss them.

And now you can continue to have a very dreamy fairy tale day :-)

manifestos and reality

Ah well, could communism have been done properly? Based on those idealogical bases you mention. No, it was another utopia, and not too nice an utopia to boot, because based of force, on lack of freedom.

After the World War I America and Europe (well, parts of it), as an antidote to communism, started experimenting with different models of NATIONAL economic prosperity: lets call them a heavily regulated socio-economic model (Europe) and free capitalism with some social concessions (USA) It accelerated after World War II and culminated, in my opinion in late 70s, early 80s, when both systems began deteriorating and both are now seriously crumbling, if not yet totally in ruins. Somehow, though, nobody seems to study or even discuss this phenomenon and nobody takes notice. Is European model crumbling due to overregulation - not enough freedom? And is American model falling to pieces due to too much freedom to exploit, not enough social concessions - which, by the way are now drastically diminished (all those disappearing pensions, totally corrupted system of health care, raging economic inequities)? Are they both unsustainable as they are? No doubt about it ( or very little) yet why do we all - in our own ways refuse to take notice, adjust our thinking and change paradigms?

P.S. And I am now closer to believe that you and Peter are the same person - just one part plays a clown.

I guess I am

for even attempting a discussion with you, whereas all you do is engaging in (cheap) demagogy ... all only to increase the amount of hits on Nicaliving and.... sponsorship? (= pocket lining) I should have known better, but... on Mexconnect interesting discussions take place. I don't know if Nicaliving participants are representative for American expats in Nicaragua. If they are, I would get serious ulcers trying to socialize with them and thus, at least for now, until I have visited Granada and checked it myself, I'd rather go live in Mexico. It's been very educational, though, to visit here.

Smiling all the way to Texas...

The people might often be smiling when you see them, but your "middle class" are the people who risk life and limb to get the hell out of Central America, in search of a better life. Of course, they might be misguided (I think, often they are), or unrealistic (I think, almost always they are), but the people who have enough to live are those who leave -- they can afford it, and what they want is more than what they need to simply stay alive.

Upper class-- Someone who has more than they can ever spend or

Phil, if you are upper class and you have more then you can ever spend or use, why dont you give me what you have up to the point where you have enough? Why does one have more money they one can ever spend or use? I dont understand that part. If you cant use it or ever spend it what good is it to you?

You're not Nicaraguan

I see the reason things aren't "good" (meaning more people aren't middle class) here is lack of investment. That can be in the form of education of just needed infrastructure.

Now, I could just give you money and ask you to "help" but, well, I sorta like doing that myself. The Geek Ranch was to be that sort of thing. (Note that it got "delayed" because of things totally unrelated to my interest.) I have other ideas and hopefully will be able to use investment of that money I don't need to do some good things.

Way back in the archives...

From long ago in an economics class, a bonus essay question was something like this:

If you took all the money from all the billionares (there were like 80 at the time) and re-distributed it to the "poor", how many billionares would there be 10 years later?

My first (smart-ass) answer was that the IRS and (evil) US gov't were already doing that, right? My complete answer was there would be the exact same number, as the people who have both the ability and the desire to make money will and those who do not, cannot and will not. So many people in this world want money, the effect, without earning it -- the cause.

Of the 20 or so students at the uber-conservative University of Hawaii (sic), everyone got the credit except the kid who went around in the Che shirt everyday...

Social experiment

Try this take it and distribute it evenly to every one all the money. Tomarrow everyone wakes up equal. In our daily life of buying and consuming what we need to live how long do you think it would take before 98% of all people are poor and 2% have it all 20 yrs maybe a guess, any way Do yo think the rich would turn out to be the same people as before?

it depends

on the legal system of the country and its level of corruption. Many rich people are natural predators with entitlement thinking. If the system protects the majority of decent, considerate, hardworking people from inconsiderate predators (rubber barons come to mind and their - largely unproportional to their business prowess - riches) you will get what you have in - (homogenous, unfortunately: an influx of people from cultures where there is no so called "protestant work ethics" - I am overly siplifying not to take too much space - muddled recently the European model considerably)Europe: a very strong, very vast middle class, a small upperclass (part of which tends to be predatory) and a small underclass (part of which can be equally predatory ... just in a different way. If there were no protection against predators, then, yes, they would end up with all the spoils of work of other people again.

Our Business

Miskito Alan &#174

Your income is our business to properly determine your class distinction.

From that information; we will be able to determing your political leanings.

Then, we can decide the most suitable country for you to live.

Please, post the following income average/year for the last 5 years.

U$______ - Architect Income.

U$______ - Airplane Pilot Income.

U$______ - Airplane Design Income.

U$______ - Airplane Construction Income.

U$______ - Photography Income.

U$______ - Writing Income.

U$______ - "NicaLiving" Income.

With the above information; we can offer an accurate analysis.

______________________________________________________________

Right?

Miskito Alan &#174

I like what Samuel Clemens said: "Poverty is not an embarrassment to any man; but, poverty is certainly inconvienent".

I think that Mark Twain said the same thing when he was cruising up and down the Rio San Juan.

________________________________________________________________

Self-Employed

What about the months where accounts receivable say middle-class and the wallet says poverty. I seem to have a lot of those, praying I'll actualy get paid for those jobs that I thought would never end. Nice thing about software is things sometimes happen when the author doesnt get paid.

re: What's the goal here?

"I still say it's nobody's business how much I earn or what I do with my money, excess or not".

I totally concur with your statement!

Problem

The problem is thats this is not what people do, say, think, assume, want, etc. If peoples stopped bettering themselves and stopped caring and stopped working just because a great or greater portion of the money they earn is taken by the government and redistributed, then you cannot even explains why the giant percentage of people in high-tax Western European countries seek out higher education, demanding careers, marriage with like-minded people (who do not end up zinc-rust watching due to the 80% tax bracket...), engage in volunteer work, etc., etc., etc. And, whenever a theory cannot explain the facts all around you, it is time to find a new theory. Of course this has nothings to do with whether or not high incomes should be erased but if they should not be redistributed, the examples you give and all slike them certainly are not the reasons why the money should not be appropriated.

Time travel

Ah, I sees now, your theory is believable and would actually explain reality if only we assumed that doing something (presumably bad) slowly is wildly different from something same or similar not done slowly, or if social economics were applicable to high-temp toleration-factors of frogs. Your corollary isn't even a corollary, and the obvious reply is, "So What?" (people in general hardly believe the same things they did in 1913 in most facets of life, so this is little reason to assume taxation would be different).

Wheel Chair

No John, I didn't imply a person in the wheel chair should get 60,000 a year for sitting. Lets suppose though they used to have job and made 60,000 a year. Something happened and now they are crippled. Do we get them a little trailer, after the hospital and doctors take everything. Send them meals on wheels, run a line for cable, heck throw in HBO. We have to keep them from going stir crazy and quiet somehow. Maybe we put them down, like a lame horse, because they can't work? If the people who are unable to care for themselves are "Put Down" and this is acceptable, it's not long before the criteria grows in who is not longer acceptable.

In Nicaragua, it's not uncommon when families are faced with and have kill a child who has a birth defect. Other times its a member of the family they are unable to care for. Many times it's because the loved one is suffering needlessly. Often it's from maladies that can treated but because the family has no money, what choice do they have?

Lets go back to our friend in a wheel chair. What if that person gets a break and is able to go back to school and learn drafting? Heck they might even be really good. Now they're back in the work force. They can hold their head up again. Look their kids in the face and feel good about themselves, providing for their children. They didn't want anyone's help, they didn't set out that day to get run over, it just happened. They get caught in a safety net which allowed them to get back on their feet. When they get back on their feet they are contributing now to society.

Who paid your college tuition? Did you pay for with from money you keep under your mattress? Maybe you were a genius and learned everything down at the local library (Whoops, funded by tax dollars, libraries don't exist).

With the exception of a lot of personal wealth kicking around, someone helped you go to school. Low interest student loans, subsidised and backed by a government and tax's. Scholarships, someone had to pay in order for a scholarship to be available. The teachers still need to get paid, lights kept on etc. Did you have a silver spoon or have you worked for everything? If you were like most people and you didn't have the opportunities offered to working people, would you be an architect today? What about all the poor lazy intelligent people who cant afford an education, just the luck of the draw?

Why are so many Nicaraguans poor, I guess because Nicaraguans are lazy and stupid people? Why cant they afford medical treatment for their families, its not my problem. There are plenty of jobs for anyone who wants one, granted it might only pay 20 Cordoba a day for a hand full of beans but its better then nothing, whats all the fuss about? They should have gone to school! If they worked a little harder then they could afford medications. I guess according to you, its just the hand they are dealt and they should just stop whining and suck it up. Its not your fault after all and why should you have to help them.

"Let them Eat Cake".

cake or chocolate

Right on, Pete! But - lol - if you and John are the same person you guy(s) have a really split personality. Watch out so that you don't kill each other. But, honestly, reading this thread I had to gobble nearly a whole bar of Godiva raspberry filled chocolate to stay cool and calm and not blast anybody. And I kept thinking, that, although I happen to live in the ultra conservative part of an ultraconservative Bible Belt (or so it often seems to me) and need frequent escapes to Europe - or at least Vermont - to shake the arrogant nonsense so prevalent in business circles here, it is absolutely Enlightment in comparison what most of you guys presented here. Does Nicaragua attract mainly a bunch of ultraconservative ignoramuses??? Or do they congregate in only some parts of the country - better to be avoided by others??? Uff, I desperately need more chocolate!!!

but but but

What about "social justice"? What about being "your brother's keeper"? What about "to each according to his means"? Why isn't MY "need" a greater claim on YOUR ability than YOUR SELFISH wants? What about MY "rights"?

John, I am appalled at your insensitivity and lack of MORAL conscience in this world that is a mess because, in the modern world, it is the DUTY of every able-minded person to provide for those who choose not to be able-minded and/or productive!

And I, for one, am tired of hearing about all this personal responsibilty nonsense. Enough ALREADY....

What about "to each according to his means"?

that one goes, "from each according to his means, to each according to his needs"! AKA: COMMUNISM! For status, see: Dustbin of history.

"social justice"? "your brother's keeper"? What about MY "rights"? Check, check, and Capitalism just is what exists. It flourishes where the rule of law levels the playing field. See for example the antimonopoly laws. Not perfect, just best. signed, a lawyer.

what what what what!

"What about "social justice"? What about being "your brother's keeper"? What about "to each according to his means"? Why isn't MY "need" a greater claim on YOUR ability than YOUR SELFISH wants? What about MY "rights"?

What about Darwin's theory...Survival of the fittest!

"Darwin's theory" applied to social sphere

Another example of mixed methaphors and logical errors due to... what, exactly? The so called Darwin's theory DESCRIBES (it does not prescribe) the behavior in a natural world - here natural to be understood as largely devoid of human interference - world as mother nature created.

Not only is the natural world not "natural" anymore: we humans by various interferences DISTORT (either consciously or as a byproduct) the natural laws in ever greater degree.

Society is a totally human creation: the rules, regulations create a playing field, that most often is VERY UNEVEN. The class of the "fittest" and the class of the "least fit" are artificially created by ruling classes, who, of course, make themselves the fittest. Countries like Nicaragua have no middle class = the playing field is very, very skewed for the benefits of ruling predators, be they Somoza and company (vulgar, inhuman capitalism with strong feudal elements) or Sandinistas (vulgar, predatory communism /or "communism" - I won't argue that one here).

The USA is currently under an - accelerating - process when the middle class shrinks rapidly and both the "beneficiary" class and the "victim" class grow rapidly = political regulatory redesigns of the current ruling class are making the playing field for Americans increasingly uneven, benefiting predators, punishing ever increasing groups (including former solidly middle class - affected by outsourcing for example). You are not socially "fit" or "unfit" by yourself, you are being made to become "fit" or "unfit" by politicians. You may occassionally overcome the obstacles put in front of you if you happen to belong to the dicriminated underclass, but you will be an exception rather than the rule, if the rules of the game of life are - in many ways - stacked against you. Also, even if the rules are in your favor, you may still occassionally fail, due to own shortcoming. But the space for "individual responsibility" for success or failure shrinks proportionally with the increasing unfairness of rules. So, please, do not hide behind a - I repeat: descriptive and describing the natural world - theory, to justify politically created social world where the rules change constantly and are PRESCRIPTIVE.

Unfortunately, this is true

I am all for redistribution if it actually can do something useful. But, that is not charity.

If I was in charge of this planet (and, no, I don't really want the job) the first thing I would do is eliminate "financial discrimination" in handout programs. This, I think, is the biggest problem.

Now, what does that mean? We don't need welfare, unemployment, disability, ... Treat them all the same. That is, if you don't have money to survive, offer the same level of service to everyone. Those with motivation will likely find a way to better their situation and those without will cost less to maintain than dealing with lots of different programs, tossing them in jail, ...

Now, what is this level of service? I would see it along the lines of a room, access to cleaning facilities--from shower to laundry facilities--meals, an address, access to a phone and medical care. In other words, survival but with the ability to get cleaned up, contacted and get job interviews.

Now, I don't want to implement this right now (as I don't have that world management job) but my suggestion is that doing this--however it is implemented--is less subject to corruption and will cost less than the systems in place and will likely produce not billionairs but people who understand that work can better them.

Note that I am not going require anyone to move out because they are "doing better". Anyone can have access. So, we treat everyone equal at this basic level.

this is nothing new

This is what European welfare systems offer (with exception of unemplyment, generally). There is a lowest acceptable standard of living assumed (usually at the level of a typical industrial worker= your lower middle class) and provided to those who need it - either instead or in addition to other forms of income they might have. This assumes an access to a decent housing, nutrition, healthcare, furnishings etc. etc. Unemploynment is separate, because if you earn more than a typical industrial worker and loose your job, you are given a chance (time) to find a new job without a considerable loss of your standard of living (since ynmployment compensation in Europe on the average runs around 70% of previous income (and in some countries gets up to 90%) That's why an average European was so totally shocked when - after Katrina- he/she saw the level people live at in the USA's. The polls show that regard for the American system evaporated overnight. And they haven't yet heard fyl's solution. Imagine the horror they would feel - and promptly locked fyl in an insane asylum...because a sane person could not have been so coldhearted towards fellow citizens and be sane... or could he??? No offense, Fyl, this is nothing against you. I understand you might onlyt have USA as a framework for your divagations, I just wanted to present a European perspective. Granted, European system has its disadvantages and there were some proponents of a capitalism with a less human face (Maggi Thacher comes to mind) and they had followers... till Katrina. Now most Europeans think: Good grief what horror America is. Our problems with overprotective bureaucracy are a much lesser evil than the vulgar, predatory capitalist system America has.

Benevolent despot of the world

Maybe a new title?

I agree on the one hand with providing the tools for those who need them to help themselves. However, there will be those who won't and don't want to help themselves. We have that today, the entitlement class. If you don't require them to move out, no one will. Who pays for all of this? Those who are motivated to improve their situations? Why do we have to pay for the unmotivated? This is the part I really don't understand and really don't agree with. Teach them to fish and stop giving out fishsticks.

Why punish those who are motivated? Why is it so horrible to be successful? As Marty put it, "......the ability and the desire to make money will and those who do not, cannot and will not. So many people in this world want money, the effect, without earning it -- the cause."

People are not equal. They never have been and they never will be. Looking around the world, in every example I can think of, where a great social experiment was implemented to "equalize" everyone, the method chosen was to lower the standards of living of the successful. To me, this is counter-productive. It's the "emptying of the half full glass" approach. As I stated in my other post, allowing people to be satisfied is a better way of improving everyone's lot. Stop the social engineering, let people be self-determining. Give them the tools and opportunities to get to their individual levels of satisfaction. It's all about enjoying and living your life as you want to, not according to some economist/sociologist/political theory.

Saturday morning pontificating! Always enjoyable.

Is there a better way?

I assert that my approach is the lowest cost one short of extermination. That is, if you don't just eliminate (as in kill) those that don't live up to your "motivation requirements" then my approach will cost less than not helping.

Here are some reasons:

  • People with no money will go to an emergency room for treatment of something that would have cost much less to treat with a regular doctor visit.
  • People with no food are more likely to commit crimes to get it. The cost of this crime on victims plus police and jailing costs is much larger than "minimal support".

    There are more but that's my assertion. I am not saying I like the handout approach--it is that I just feel it costs less than alternatives.

Slippery Slope

This might be a solution you can apply to those who are able bodied and unmotivated. I agree there are people in class who apply. I agree if you don't provide them something, they will become an even greater expense to society overall.

What about those who don't fall into the lazy subculture? Where do those children, elderly or crippled fall into? Does a society offer education to children who want to learn or do they go to work? Is higher education available for anyone who is seeking it to better themself or is it just for those with money already?

If I'm on my way to work one day and I get hit by a car, through no fault of my own, does my family then get thrown into the system, one rung below extermination?

If I am a hard working person with two jobs, trying to keep my head above water, but cannot afford going to the doctor, if I get sick I cant work. If I don't get better soon, I'll loose my two jobs and now I'm out of work.

What about hardworking people, who to no fault of their own, get hit by a car. They lying on the ground, unconscious so they cant tell the paramedics "No No No" please I don't want to go to the hospital. When they wake up, their life is over. They loose everything they worked for, their house, job, savings etc, to the hospital and doctors. The funny thing is, he pays often ten times more for the same care the insurance company has to pay for the guy in the bed next to him.

As a society I think we have an obligation to those who cannot help themselves. Regardless of what one might think, there are those who cannot be "Productive". There are times when bad things happen to people (Might Me, You or someone we love and care about) of which they have no control. Do we flush these people down the toilet into the same class as those who are lazy or on drugs?

FEMA has several trailer city's setup for those who have lost their homes in New Orleans. These are for people who have lost everything, including their homes, cars, jobs etc. Now, lets assume 75% of them were just lazy good for nothings. There are 25% of the people who really want to get on with their life. FEMA has given them one year before they get booted out of these little trailers. Its great they have been supplied to them at tax payers expense. What would they have done, those 25% were talking about, if they didn't have them? These trailer cities are located in the middle of nowhere. Many of these families don't have family they can call up and say "Hey come get me". They have no transportation. FEMA will not allow telephones to be installed so they cant make a phone call even if they wanted to call about a job. Even if they could call, they couldn't make it to the interview in the first place. I guess these people get thrown in the crapper with all the other lazy people because they get stuck in a system that keeps them there.

Its easy to think "Well I'm doing well, why cant everyone else" But after you walk in the shoes of good people who don't want welfare, would love to get a better education, need to feed their family, work hard (If they can, cant see a doctor, have no way out, often that attitude changes.

First, wages need to be sufficient, many of the "Jobs" available will not provide enough of an income regardless of how many hours a person works. In the United States, Nicaragua, Timbuktu, where ever they might be. Second, medical care in the United States is way out of control and sending too many hard working people into poverty. Third Education should be on top of the list. Education is the foundation of any successful society. If you take away education then the society is doomed.

always a better way

I never advocated killing anyone, and my entire point was one of self-determination. No one has to live up to my idea of motivation. Yes, your idea would probably cost less. However, in a sense, your approach is like giving into social blackmail. If I don't pay now (handout), I'll pay later (jail). You're correct in that it will cost less, but does that make it better?

Why don't they have money? The 64K question! There are many reasons for it, but, in reality, none of them matter. Because as long as you're alive with a brain, you have the means of taking care of yourself. I do and have always advocated helping people help themselves, but never have I advocated simply giving them money or minimal support for the rest of their lives. I don't want to split hairs by going into mentally handicapped or other truly disadvantaged people who really aren't able to take care of themselves - whole different matter.

I believe in personal responsibility. I believe it is the bedrock of all of our social interactions. A person who can't take care of himself has failed that responsibility. Do we help those people? Sure, but not for the rest of their life. Those that choose to not avail themselves of these programs (education, training, healthcare, etc - as you originally posted) and not take care of themselves have made a decision. Our self-imposed obligations end there.

Here we are back at the beginning...is there a better way? I would hope sure so.

Classlessness

I tend to agree with Marty. However, I would like to put forth my own idea....The idea of or labels of Lower, Middle and Upper classes are categories invented by a sociologist or economist or some other ..ist in an attempt to put everyone into a nice box so that the same ..ists can study us and pontificate on us. My idea of what boxes people should fit into is two boxes...satisfied and unsatisfied. Satisfied people have everything THEY think they need or want. This is a very important distinction. The ...ists don't take this into consideration. The ...ists set up some sort of artificial econometric or social standard without taking into consideration what their subjects think. Unsatisfied people don't have everything they need or want; and because they don't, they work to satisfy those needs or wants. If we put these people into the standard ...ist categories, there will be satisfied people in all three categories and there will be unsatisfied people in all three categories, which in my mind pretty much negates the ...ists ideas.

Happiness can be a cardboard box over a grate to a mansion on Maui and so can unhappiness. To each his own.

the usefulness of... ists

lies mainly in it they they STUDY certain phenomena - even if they make certain generalizations (all ...ists do: biologists with flora, zoologists with fauna, physicists with materia and energy etc. etc.) And from studying comes knowledge, better understanding. If you, for example, ever bothered to read any studies in happines, you could have found out that the feeling of hapiness is very UNEQUALLY distributed - but not between rich and poor, but among NATIONS - at large UNRELATED to wealth or economic status. That there are satisfied and unsatisfied people in all social classes does not, however, as you seem to hope, the ...ists ideas, it just gives scientific dimensions (the proof in the pudding) to create better underbilt theories and design better functioning solutions. According to you we should redistribute all mansions in Maui to those chronically unsatisfied. And you - if you happens to be satisfied - as you seem will get a cardboard box over a grate. P.S. Don't American school teach any THINKING and logical reasoning??? Do irrational beliefs (be it religious or economic or political) supersedes all LEARNING? (That could explain Bush being elected twice etc.) I did not notices that spending time with eggheads, but here I see it plain and clear.

Thinking

Nope that went out of style in the 60's. The baby boomers got bored eating grass, smoking dope, peace love and harmony and traded it in for the same things they were marching against, sort of. Instead they live off of inheritance of the prior generation, the ones who really did fight for freedom, went throug tough times, struggled, worked hard.

Now the boomers are raising X & Y, generations who are foolish enough to think the gravy train will keep rolling. They are lulled into believing there will be plenty left by the time their folks are finished. If there was a draft, things would be a whole lot different because it would be more then just the poor lazy people that find it necessary, in order to get an education, need to fight this war.

The other day a college student next door told me, "I love the President. I wish people would get behind him in this war".

"Why are you not over in Iraq fighting then," I asked."When I believe strongly about something, I do something about it."

His reply, silence, a few stupid sentences that didn't make sense and again nothing. I asked again.

"I'm going to school and getting a degree in business. There are other people much better at fighting, I'm not a very good shot," he replied.

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"An entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off." -- Tyler Durden

Emergencies

One thing which does not fit such a model well is what happens in an emergency (and for many people in Central America, there are 1-3 per month, month after month after month, year after year -- it is life here). A middle class person in most countries has a way to handle an “emergency”. They have some money, they usually have several credit cards, they usually also have family and friends with the same. In Central America, if you have some money and credit cards, you are, right there, not middle class. What happens when you have no way to handle an emergency, is either the Empenos which is often not enough, or a rather drastic step (I know teachers and dentists and police officers in Central America who have used the Empenos --getting ripped off for about $0.07 on the dollar, to pay a simple $30 bill that needed to be paid). It is not uncommon for people to not buy medicine they need, because it costs $4, or to have an otherwise healthy tooth extracted instead of repaired because the extraction costs a little less, or that the special technical school of Juancito is not considered because the 6-month program is $1.85 weekly -- and all such people have rice, beans, tortillas, a radio & tv, jeans, t-shirts, etc., but that isn’t much to brag about. “Middle class” ceases to mean much if one is labeled middle class, but cannot handle a simple economic challenge in life, and basically has no way to escape this never-ending situation, and virtually no chance of preventing the same for their children, even as the years pass by and they reach adulthood. It may be true that if such people had more money they would buy things they do not really need, but that is a different debate. If one looks only or primarily on what one really needs to stay alive, it becomes awfully easy to head down the road to romanticizing poverty, which is something only rich people do.

Right

Exactly!

i think that's right

Lower class--Someone who lacks necessities Middle class--Someone who has everything they need Upper class-- Someone who has more than they can ever spend or use

but it is not just limited to material things - everyone needs love and boundaries - and some children don't get 'em because thier parents don't give 'em. and some of those parents don't give 'em because they didn't get 'em, so they don't know how.

and some children don't get 'em ......

because their parents want to be their friends and not their parents.

another definition

In gringo landia Lower class: is the inability to qualify for the american dream Middle class: is the american dream owing more each month than two souls can earn to keep what they think they need. Upper class: Doesn't matter just go buy it, the account is as deep as the pacific ocean. I like the southern definition better though.

Homeless

John do you really beleive that all homeless people are there by choice?

Reality is a fig newton of your imagination...

Thoreux said you could be happy living in what amounted to a packing crate. The average American now believes they can't live in less than 2200 square feet. Somewhere there is a big gap in expectations.

I think most homeless people in the states are that way because of mental problems and substance abuse and would be social burdens no matter where they lived. In Central america its different. Wars, natural disasters, and environmental collapse all lead people to move to cities looking for jobs that are not there.

The type of affluence the past couple of generations of Americans have come to think of as normal is just a fluke (and a fluke that "globalization" will rapidly take away from many of them). Historically, most people in the world, including most of our American ancestors, were very, very, poor. "Poverty" is the natural condition of mankind and the few people in history who have not been poor are the lucky exceptions. Count your blessings, history isn't over yet.

Not for me

Good points Bob and your right, history isnt over yet. There is still time to get it right. I can't give into a philosophy with a fatalistic foundation because its a common pillar for those who have lost all hope. Call me what you want, but I still haven't lost it yet.

My favorite bumper sticker is...

the one that says "I fight poverty, I work!" It's real cute in the states where the work is generally available and the pay and fringes are decent (though going downhill, methinks, for the past 25 years). But after working and supporting own's self and one's family first, I think decent people also try to help out others or environmental causes that support human life. In Central America it's easy to do because there are NGOs aplenty. You can donate time or money to help orphans, reforestation, bicycle transportation, or what ever issue interests you most. Or, start your own local project.

Is there hope for the future? With a human population of 6.5 billion and growing in a world with limited resources and a myriad of political, social, and religious battles being fought out, the future is pretty dicey. I don't think in terms of immediate Armagedon, but I think I see a major decline in human civilzation coming in the next 50 years. But not to worry, I'll live my life as best I can and hope for pockets of sustainability in a crazy world.