> But does this mean that only those rare people with the right qualities deserve to live outside of poverty, or the imminent risk of poverty?
Send all your impoverished down to OKC. I'm not sure where you live, but absolutely everybody is hiring entry-level jobs here with minimal or no skills required.
Lifeguards and childcare-providers are paid $10-12 an hour, entry-level librarian positions are in the $10 range, upscale retail is $10-12, even food service jobs are $7-8. I see "help wanted" signs everywhere I look.
As long as you don't have debt and live frugally, you can get a clean apt, eat 3 meals a day, have broadband internet, and stash a good chunk away for a rainy day with a job like that. Cost of living is low here; that pay is far above the poverty level.
The problem is, a bunch of twentysomethings went in debt to to get a polysci degree under the mistaken assumption that it would automagically give them a better job. They can still return to the job they did in highschool and be a perfectly functioning member of society. They don't want to, because they think it's beneath them.
They don't want to, because they think it's beneath them.
For good reason. The opportunity cost of settling for a $20k/year job is very high, especially if the job is in a distant city from your hometown. Sure, you can save money on housing by moving a thousand miles to OKC, but you can't save money on plane tickets. So you aren't going to see your family very often -- better use Facetime.
(Incidentally, does AT&T have special OKC rates, or does my iPhone family plan cost $100/month in OKC just as it does everyplace else? For a $20k/year earner $100/month is 6% of pretax salary, so better not use Facetime after all.)
If an entry-level job on your desired career track opens up in your hometown of Atlanta, you might have a hard time landing that job when you live in Oklahoma City, make $20k per year, and have four years of "lifeguard" and "childcare provider" on your resume. It is notoriously difficult to get two days' time off from your food service job to travel to an interview, even if you can afford to do so.
But don't worry. Contrary to popular belief, people's hopes and dreams and lifestyles don't shatter instantly: The shattering happens in slow motion, over months or even years. Eventually, if the economy doesn't get jumpstarted, the new college grads will lose hope and realize that their best alternative is to work as a lifeguard or entry-level librarian, even if they have to move to OKC to do so. I hope OKC has a lot of libraries and swimming pools. Is there a library industry out there, making more libraries? Are they building more houses with pools, to go along with the surplus of houses we already have?
I think we must be coming from a very different background, because you and i have a very different definition of "poverty". I don't consider anyone who has an iphone to be impoverished.
I'm saying that anyone can come down here and get work if they really need it. Oh, but that would require them to work hard and make sacrifices? Tough shit; adults do what they have to do to pay rent.
Look, I am with you 100% if and when there are genuinely poor people who cannot put a roof over their heads. But as long as the sandwich shop next door is hiring to pay people a living wage, I'm not affected in the slightest by the boohoo tears of my peers who are in debt because they "needed" X, where X is anything other than food, clothing, a bed to sleep on, etc. If you are impoverished, the need to be close to your family is the last thing on your mind, because you haven't eaten in awhile. If you are impoverished, your resume isn't even on the radar, because you're not sure where you're going to sleep.
My version of the social safety net does not include:
* having your fill of face time with family
* hopes and dreams
* saving face in front of peers
* only working jobs that look good on resume
And no, i don't think anyone, including myself, is entitled to any of that just for breathing or for having a college degree. Especially if i didn't have a marketable skill.