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The difference between ‘broke’ and ‘poor’ (theguardian.com)
355 points by wallflower 40 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 217 comments



Poverty especially sucks when you're all alone like it seems this person was. Where I grew up, most of the people were poor, but we had rich lives for the most part. Lots of family dinners and outings. The people with more would let you take the leftovers home. You can't really train this and we all definitely need a social safety net, but I do think our closed off society prevents us from helping each other too.


Exactly - I’m from upper middle class and while this meant I was lucky enough to go back home when unemployed, all my peers were just career oriented and it’s very lonely to be ‘a loser’ - I recently moved in w some old coworkers/friends in a diff city who are from a diff socioeconomic background. At first they just let me stay in the apt, now I make more than them (though not a lot). We share like family and look after eachother. Sometimes I wish I made more, like the other day when we were all posting our salaries, or when I browse ‘Who’s Hiring’ - but other ppl are more important than anything (unless you’re like a genius or something), you can lose work, money, etc. The internet can make you feel more isolated, being isolated can make you crazy - you need people, mostly to talk to, but also to depend on and to help in turn.


Money is often used as a tool to control others.


[flagged]


This crosses into personal attack, which is not allowed here. It also breaks this guideline: "Please respond to the strongest plausible interpretation of what someone says, not a weaker one that's easier to criticize. Assume good faith."

Could you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting here? We'd be grateful.


Reread the comment you replied to and it’s parent, then decide if shitting all over the comment was still appropriate. Op’s very first sentence admitted how relatively privileged he/she was.


Perhaps this

> you need people, mostly to talk to, but also to depend on and to help in turn

was his point? I think it's a valuable thing to say.

In turn, I'd ask you to please try to be more charitable when reading other people's posts.


[flagged]


Please don't take HN threads further off topic. If you see an egregious comment, flag it, as requested in https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and explained in https://news.ycombinator.com/newsfaq.html. You're also welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com. Venting about it here doesn't help; we don't see most of the posts. All it does is lower the signal/noise ratio of a thread even further.

The reason I know about this subthread is that another user flagged the GP comment. Had you added a flag of your own it would have killed it as well.


Maybe you should make the flag button visible.


Yup, to some degree if you have the money you can buy yourself a safety net. If you neither have money nor the social safety net, the thing left is what government may provide.

I grew up with a divorced mother that could provide only a small social safety net through family and an unstable financial situation. Although my financial situation is very stable since I've graduated - with small gaps - I'm extremely careful about my spendings and earnings, and instabilities worry me a lot.


We all have to do our part to extend safety nets to those in our spheres of influence. I have done very well in life, mostly through what I attribute to luck and being at the right place at the right time. In return, I treat checking in and providing a helping hand (temporary housing, an extra line on my cellphone plan, or in some cases plain old cash) to extended family, friends, and others I encounter as a second job.

Societal fabric isn’t going to be solved through anything other than effort on the part of individuals.


> We all have to do our part to extend safety nets to those in our spheres of influence

...or we can collect taxes and provide goods and services to those that need it the most, even when they are not lucky enough to be in the "sphere of influence" of somebody that is (a) well-off and (b) willing to share their wealth with them.


I agree entirely. But besides run for office (soon) and maxing out my FEC contribution limits (which I already do) to candidates who support policies that align with what you mentioned, this is the only alternative I can suggest. Tactical short term suffering reduction, strategic long term suffering reduction.

Through both ideas and actions, you scale a compassionate society. A better tomorrow will hopefully arrive, but do what you can today with what you have.


> Societal fabric isn’t going to be solved through anything other than effort on the part of individuals.

Right, but this seems pretty defeatist, or even like it 's advocating against government support.

As a left-leaning person in the UK, I would look to the government before looking for financial support from friends and family, because I see that as one of the functions of government, whereas it may put more strain on my friends and family if they needed to give me significant financial support.

It seems like lot's of people have the moral position that the government should only be looked to for support as a last resort, and i would like to challenge that viewpoint. Kind of how it's much better to catch an illness early, it's much better to intervene early with difficult financial situations to prevent them snowballing into something much worse. And people shouldn't be made to feel bad for accepting that support.


Not advocating against government support, I’m advocating for bootstrapping community (which government is not a replacement for).


Easier then that, join a church. No need to wait for the Government to provide for you.


Joining a church requires money as most Christian churches expect or in some cases mandate a tithe. Furthermore, why should you be forced to join a religious organization that may have beliefs you don't agree with to get basic survival assistance? While my particular church doesn't require any particular beliefs or even that you're a member to receive basic necessities from our pantry, most churches I've been to are judgemental and terrible places full of people who go there just to prove they are better than everyone else. You don't even have to look far to see it, most churches discriminate against people of different sexual orientations, different religions, different choices regarding birth control, what you can eat, etc. I'm pretty much against churches being seen as a "charity". The Red Cross is a charity, churches are mostly am untaxed business.


Because church membership is voluntary there are no mandatory tithing. The closest you can come to mandatory tithing is if you are in the LDS church and want to go to one of the big white Temples. But even then you self-attest that you are tithing fully. Because there are many different types of churches with different peoples are beliefs you can pick one you like. When the dot com crash happened and I lost my job word got out and someone gave us $500 for Christmas. My children had a blow-out Christmas that year. We could have leaned on the church more but due to my self-pride we endured hardship instead. There is a benefit to hardship my children, now grown, do not take anything for granted they are entirely self-sufficient.


> Societal fabric isn’t going to be solved through anything other than effort on the part of individuals.

Very much indeed. We largely get the world we collectively bargain for.


It’s what we collectively create, not bargain. There is nobody on the other side of society to “bargain” with.


Sure there is. There is a huge swath of society whose precepts revolve around "fuck you, I got mine." What are politics but bargains between those two positions?

(They want to be they; we can only oblige.)


Wow.

You’ve really made me think.


I hope it helps. It has helped me immensely.


I think the recent decades turned us away from ~natural gathering/solidarity mindset. Consumerism drugs you thinking the best thing is to satisfy envy with things, and without a context of cultural sharing habits, many people end up alone struggling thinking people are selfish because today's mainstream is selfish and so it's hard to connect.


Not that simple.

Social connections require work, they also are slow and unreliable.

Before the information age, to get to know something, talking was the main way.

But now with books, panels, displays, packaging, signs, internet, GPS, etc., we have access to a huge quantity of information without having to talk to each others.

And we choose to do so because on average it's faster, more accurate, and avoid to deal with annoying people. After all, human relations also include a part of risk.

I lived 2 years in Africa, and there, you don't have that much information immediately available. You are back to talking, creating a social network and playing the game. People are way more friendly there, there is greater solidarity. But things are also way slower, unreliable, and you are a lot more at the mercy of popularity games even in the most simple activities.

This century we have been mutating our lives in deep ways, very fast. And it's not all bad. But we will need some time to reconcile the efficiency of our new life styles with the social needs we have at the primitive level. A few decades is way too short for that to have happened already, especially since we are not done with technical progress.


I think you're pushing it too far, even my parent's generation is confused how culture changed from a lot of social interactions to barely nothing. They had radio/phone/tv (a lot lot less of course) but the social quality was still present.

I agree with your conclusion though.


Radio and tv are worthless for information on demand. The phone is still talking to other people.

I can now travel into a city I’ve never been to, find directions to and make reservations at a popular restaurant, follow it up with directions to a nice scenic spot, and finally find a last minute nice hotel to stay in all without ever interacting with another person.

None of that was possible with radio/tv.


Everything has an inertia, including social habits.


> But now with books, panels, displays, packaging, signs, internet, GPS, etc., we have access to a huge quantity of information without having to talk to each others.

Very true. And not only information but 'stuff' as well: we buy (and now order) all sort of specialised tools that we will only need once, because they are now cheap and widely and quickly available, instead of borrowing them or asking a neighbour to come over with one.

But yeah, information availability is the main change: instead of asking a neighbour/friend where to get something, how to do something, how to choose something and so on, we browse the web alone for those pieces of information.

All this quickly brings more individualism since we become pseudo-self-reliant, do not need interactions any more, and since those 'forced', interested interactions are absent, the other interactions are lost too.


I don't see much of a difference. There still is a popularity game and it's played with corporations, not people. Though I agree that it's not necessarily a bad thing in comparison.


Yes, but your popularity doesn't affect your experience of buying bread or your ability to reach a destination. In Mali you may get more expensive and shittier products for being disliked. You may have a hard time finding a good guide to accompany you somewhere.

You life literally depends on what others think about you.

It still true for us, but an order of magnitude less after high school.


>Yes, but your popularity doesn't affect your experience of buying bread or your ability to reach a destination

Your credit score does. In some places and situations, more directly than others.


Your credit score is a lot more straightforward and reliable than something like social popularity.


See what China is doing with the concept.


That's not the same thing. China has some kind of scoring system, but it's much more totalitarian and popularity based than the credit score you were referring to in the US and other Western countries which is fairly straightforward. It's not helpful to conflate the two.


From anthropological research people in subsistence farming societies do not tend to accumulate. If there is surplus (which is mainly crops) it is put towards accumulating social capital (fiesta, wedding, social gathering, gifts to neighbors and family). The safety network is not accumulated capital but social relations (social capital).

In urban societies relations become more money based and suddenly people tend to accumulate wealth and there is never enough.


Pretty amazing (since it confirms my own ideas ;) do you have name or books to read about it ?


If you just google for Social Capital Theory you will find enough of articles that you might find interesting or not.

Personally I have been inspired by 2nd hand source - I had been reading historical book on Afganistan (very good book but I can't find it at the moment). At the same time I had been living in provincial Sumatra and experiencing myself something similar (It is something that makes living in Indonesia a joy despite other shortcomings).


If you can find people with similar interests within minutes on the internet, it doesnt make sense to socialize locally.


On the flip side, I much more fear poverty with a family than without. I didn’t need much to make it as a single person, but now I have responsibilities.


You are referring to having children, which is only one example of having family.


We typically refer to the rest as an extended family, but I guess you could call my concern as one for having an immediate family. Of course, different cultures have different ideas about all of this (I’m specifically biased by growing up in an American nuclear family unit far away from extended family connections with no help during financial difficulties).


I’m an American and I sure as hell don’t refer to my parents as my “extended family” even though I’m married with children.


Neither do I, even if they aren’t around anymore, but that is hardly the point grand parent was making.


No, they were referring to the difference between having to support yourself versus the responsibility towards having to support your family. This could be their grandmother. It could be their children. It could be their pack of dogs. It doesn't matter, the point is singular vs multiple responsibilities of basic necessities.


Not only is she alone (as in 'single' - not to equate 'single' with 'alone' or 'lonely'...), she adopted three special needs children, too (I got this from following the link to her blog and then the 'about' section). From reading between the lines, it also seems she moved from the British countryside to a big Canadian city, likely leaving behind most of her social support network.

Of course it's easy for me to 'judge' (I mean, I'm not really - to each their own) from my position as a software developer with a working spouse and a traditional family in a Western European country, but still - when you're already not in a very stable position, why take huge risks like adopting three special needs children?


Raising children is the primary function of society. Someone going beyond their means in order to raise more, harder to raise children should be celebrated. That we would see any fault is damning evidence that our society is malfunctioning.


"Raising children is the primary function of society."

Uh, says you. If people can't afford something, maybe they shouldn't get it - children included.


Growing up in a poor immigrant family was a weird version of this. Most of us were poor and certainly provided emotional support in this regard. However from what I could see as a child there wasn’t a lot of material support. Maybe something with not wanting to trouble others.


Those people you're talking about, your friends, neighbors, and family used to be what we were referring to when we talked about the social safety net. Now we mean govt programs. I'm not saying it's a causation, but somehow we gained the govt safety net and lost the old social one. I think we're all really missing out on something great and I don't know if we can ever get it back.


This is why I really liked the startup Josephine. I wish it’d make a comeback.


Where did you grow up?


Northern GA


I'd even argue that "relative" poverty at least (i.e. once one escapes actual, severe deprivation, which is mostly a factor in underdeveloped countries but not entirely unknown in the West, either) is all about the "being alone" factor. The best "anti-poverty" policy, once material abundance is achieved (and a UBI can help with that) is to promote social inclusion and to strenghten institutions that provide social capital.

Conservatives understand this very well, BTW; strong social capital is key to the conservative worldview, whereas a "liberal" is often more inclined to see the world in terms of material relations of production and an inherently-unstable balance of power, and even the very notion of social atomization might be entirely foreign to them.


A lot of conservatives see the value in private arrangements (ie social capital) over public programs certainly, but I think their pro big business policies and suburbanization, inequality etc drive social atomization at least as much as the lefts policies do. Its a complicated problem and as long as we remain deeply commited to economic growth and individualism its hard for me to see how we can solve it.


While I have many thoughts about organized religion, one way that I see it benefits people is that it does give people a sense of community.

And when you think you have an invisible being in the sky that will take care of all of your needs, a government provided social safety net isn’t that important to some people.


I've been where this author has: selling off stuff and wondering how to pay rent, waiting in line for free food, donating blood plasma for $15, walking everywhere because it's cheaper than the bus, getting arrested for not paying child support. Nonetheless apparently I had it ass-backwards in my head: rather than "poor" I mostly still considered myself what this author would call "broke" the whole time. Maybe it was denial, maybe I was just another "temporarily embarrassed millionaire." But I adhered to the thought that I didn't belong in that situation, that it was temporary.

Regardless, poor and rich are relative terms; it's a continuum. You can never be "poor" and you can never be "rich." You can only be poorER, or richER, than somebody else. But there will still always be someone else poorER or richER than you. Ask Steve McQueen if he's rich, and he'll say well I'm not as rich as Paul Newman. Both dead now of course, but they once squabbled over who would get top billing in The Towering Inferno.

I think what I'm saying is that in some way, "poor" is in your mind, and as soon as you consider yourself poor, you are poor. I still wouldn't fault the author's friends for saying they're "too poor" to afford something; it is literally true. They're "rich" enough to afford food, sure, and I guess that offends the writer's sense of victimhood. The whole drama of this piece takes place in the writer's mind. It's a story of falling tragically from a place of privilege. People are "poor" every day and don't feel the need to write an article about it and nobody asks them to.


Your last paragraph is spot on. I definitely had a "I'm too poor" mentality for most of my 20s (I did some similar things to the author of the piece, but without the kids), and that mindset was definitely a limiting factor in my life. I was always too poor to do anything I wanted to do. I even considered myself too poor to date anyone, so I just didn't. Now that I'm in my 30s looking back, and even though I'm more financially secure now it seems like I had a lot more freedom then and could have done a lot more then, possibly more than I can afford to do now (because now what I'm poor in is time and energy, not so much cash).

I still managed to do a few interesting things in my 20s, but not as much as I would have if I could reverse time but with the knowledge I have now.


I had the same mentality in my 20s, even though I made a fairly average young engineer salary (in Canada). But comparing myself to others around me I felt poor(er) and made me both limit myself and more risk averse. Looking back now that was silly of course.


"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..."

When you're young is maybe the best time to be poor. Your ligaments are still supple and you can sleep on a hard surface and still get a good night's sleep. And you tend to be surrounded by other young people who are poor too, some of whom will be idealistic about it, or at least not care. Those are the healthiest people to be around, while I have to assume those who formerly disdained poor people and now are going through their own private hell, must be the most tedious company of all. Though I have some sympathy for this author having been gouged by the medical system, which I thought was better in Canada.


Tip if I may: don't get too comfy.

Life can come crashing down on you sometimes, and it can do so very fast. My own life lesson has been that you're poor and broke (whether aware of it or not) until you're financially retired.


I definitely don't consider myself financially secure, not by a long shot. I'm still a lot closer to the poor end of things than I feel comfortable with, especially since I know bad things could be right around the corner.

It's easy to not have it at the forefront of your mind though, and be a little too easy with money. My girlfriend is pretty bad about it also, and I've been a lot more loose with my money since dating her than I was when I was single. But I'm also to blame, we just enable each other to have bad behavior.

I do save a decent amount and don't touch that, though, we just could be doing better. I'm not saving quite as much as recommended, and nowhere near the almost 50% of wages that some people here claim to do.


> Regardless, poor and rich are relative terms; it's a continuum. You can never be "poor" and you can never be "rich." You can only be poorER, or richER, than somebody else. But there will still always be someone else poorER or richER than you.

I say the same thing about the words 'liberal' and 'conservative'. Nobody is just one or the other, and everybody is both. Life is too nuanced to quantify like that.


> I think what I'm saying is that in some way, "poor" is in your mind, and as soon as you consider yourself poor, you are poor

It is very well known that people's perceptions of their economic status is well off. Including a very strong "reverse-into-the-median" effect on who is middle class or not.

I personally quite enjoy finding evidence that I'm poorer than I think I am, but I'm deep into the (upper?)middle class to that being a stressful realization.


I love this way of thinking about "poor" and "rich" as mental labels rather than objective monetary worth. It makes me wonder: Why is it easy to label oneself as "poor" or "rich", but not as someone on the middle of that spectrum?


I thought that the article was going to make the more relevant distinction between "transient low income/wealth" and "reasonable expectation of permanently low income/wealth". If we're going to specify a useful word, I think that's more interesting than what she's saying about "so little income it impacts your life stability" vs "low disposable income". I don't think it's useful for this woman to call herself poor, she had an explicitly transient state of unusually high outgoings and low income. She never looked down the barrel of 20 years of the same situation.


In my early 20's I had a girlfriend who was raised in Colombia and immigrated to the US in her teens. I remember one day recounting some bullshit middle-class slogan about how "it's better to be poor and happy, than rich and sad". She slapped me across the face and yelled at me. Passionate as she was she'd never done anything like that before. She told me what it was like growing up so poor you can't afford toothpaste. She basically gave me the whole "you know nothing John Snow". She described what a hard life it was. She'd take anything over that life.

She also wasn't poor in a 1st world country with community pools and libraries. Being poor in a 3rd world country is a whole other level.


You're both right. Research shows that more money doesn't make you happier - after around 80k a year in family income. Before 80k a year (depending on location, etc, I think that was the average for the USA), every dollar absolutely makes you happier with a linear line graph.

This is also a great argument for more marginal taxation.


That’s funny, because when I read “every dollar absolutely makes you happier with a linear line graph” I immediately thought of marginal tax rates.

The fact is that marginal effective tax rate approaches 100% at various points on the first $80k of household income.

If you are a family of 4 and require any health care, the first $80k is practically treading water.

This is because you lose out on $500/mo in food stamps, at least $2,000/mo in healthcare subsidies, and pay over $17,000 in total taxes. That’s not including various other programs you might qualify for as a family of 4 with zero income versus programs you no longer qualify for after earning $80,000.

On top of that, it actually costs a lot of money to go out and earn that $80,000 (direct, indirect, and opportunity costs) which eat into the very little money that actually remains after taxes and disappearing subsidies.

Here’s a CBO analysis on marginal effective tax rates for a single parent with a single child which shows gross income vs effective income — see how it flattens out? [1] The marginal effective tax rate is higher the more children you have.

This analysis does attempt to take cost-sharing subsidies for health insurance into account, although it’s not clear what level of health care utilization they are modeling.

The most fascinating thing about the curve on slide 6 is how “After-Tax Income” starts at about $19k (the value of the govt subsidies) and by the time the parent is earning $60,000 has only increased to about $40k (66% effective tax rate), and there is a point on the curve where slope is negative — earning more leaves you worse off!

[1] - https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2018-06/54093-taxrates.pdf


Most of that research has been shown to be bunk.


If 80k/yr is considered poor, then sure, but that’s absurd. She was right. He was wrong.


Totally agree, I should have phrased it better.


Colombia, right?


Fixed, thank you.


[flagged]


Honest question, what's a neo-liberal and how do I demonstrate that? This is something new to me.


> I often hear my friends say, “I’m too poor” when they’re frustrated about what they can’t have. Maybe it’s a trip they can’t afford, a renovation they want to start right now or a pretty pair of shoes they spotted in a shop window.

I'm pretty sure I've literally never heard someone describe that as being "poor". Maybe this is some regional language thing?


I think this article (and I've seen another before just like it about the poor/broke distinction that had a really powerful piece about mental math while buying groceries) do a disservice to themselves by focusing on the usage of two very common, widely used words. It's fine for words to have multiple meanings in different contexts and those meanings are defined by usage. If people say "I'm too poor to get a pool membership" then that's what poor means, at least in some contexts. Prescriptivism of common, mundane words is a terrible way to make a point. The author is hiding their real point, which would be still more powerful without this unnecessary baggage. See what we're discussing instead of what the author probably wanted us to discuss? If she wants a distinction, then there are other words or phrases (chronically poor, perhaps?) with more specific meanings. But it is fruitless to get "heartbroken" that people don't understand a distinction that isn't common use.


Seems like these kinds of articles always need to have a scold or a guilt trip associated, though I’m not sure it’s irrational of the author. We are discussing it, aren’t we?


Sounds like normal usage to my British ears. ‘Too poor to go out this weekend’ for example.

Poor means you don’t have enough money. Too poor to do something means not enough money to do that thing.

Too poor to buy a super-yacht sounds normal usage to me even.


Language evolves. People often say things ironically. Other times, they exaggerate for emphasis. A good example is "literally", which has evolved so much that the dictionary has literally changed its definition to indicate that it could be used metaphorically

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literally

Trying to police popular slang is a losing endeavor, and I don't think it accomplishes all that much. People already know that there's a difference between someone who's too poor to go clubbing, and someone who's too poor to buy food.

That said, I can empathize with the author's frustration, and I think it's sad that we don't hear such life stories more frequently. The stories we see on TV and hear in the media, are too often skewed in favor of those privileged enough to work in these industries, or to spend their time and money consuming them. That makes it all the easier to forget that people like the author even exist. Out of sight, out of mind.


> "literally", which has evolved so much that the dictionary has literally changed its definition to indicate that it could be used metaphorically

Just as surprising to me is people saying the word "silently" aloud. As though they don't know what it originally meant!


I think it requires some mental gymnastics to say that you shouldn't be surprised that a term that etymologically means 'according to the direct and actual meaning of the words themselves' could be reappropriated to mean, in effect, the opposite - literally almost nothing, a blank hyperbole - taking more purpose in its effect on the rhythm of a sentence, than from any of its dictionary definitions.


In the circumstances when "literally" is used figuratively it is an intensifier. It is never used to mean "figuratively".

Compare "really" (which funnily enough etymologically points towards meaning "literally" or "truly" as well.)


(American from New York state and currently in NYC.)

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the general-purpose definition of "poor" in English is used when discussing things from a life perspective -- economic background, current salary, job prospects, ability to go to college, etc.

When the context is how much money is in your bank account right now (e.g. to shop or take a trip), the general word is "broke" or just "I don't have enough money." And to be honest, "broke" seems outdated and rarely used these days, since it's usually fairly easy to have a credit card or ability to overdraft... so it's often more about your financial discipline than ability. I hear a lot more "I'm already over budget for the month" or just "I can't spend anything until next week" or "no money" than "I'm broke".

That being said, I've definitely heard "poor" used as a synonym for "broke", I'm pretty sure in the UK... but it does strike me as a regionalism.


I haven't heard it as much in the midwest. "I can't afford x right now" is what I hear more commonly.

To me poverty has a longer-term temporal component vs having surplus money and choosing to allocate it to different optional goods or activities.


I'm from the Midwest. I'm guilty of saying it. But that being said, 1) there was a time where I was seriously contemplating declaring bankruptcy, so I think that qualifies under the authors definition of 'poor', and 2) I don't see the value in making this distinction of 'poor' and 'broke' anyway. Sure there's a matter of degree of difference involved, but it just sounds like making an argument of semantics.

If the general usage is using your word wrong, invent a new word for it and popularize it, or just be more specific. Meaning of words gets co-opted and morphed by the public all the time anyway. I don't see this author creating any serious movement towards reclaiming the word "poor" for what they think it really means.


It's common everywhere I've traveled in USA to use "poor" to mean unable to afford something.

That's the dictionary definition of the word.


Not really.

Cambridge Dictionary:

1. having little money and/or few possessions 2. to have very little of a particular substance or quality

Google:

1. lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society 2. of a low or inferior standard or quality

Dictionary.com:

1.having little or no money, goods, or other means of support: a poor family living on welfare. 2. Law. dependent upon charity or public support. 3.(of a country, institution, etc.) meagerly supplied or endowed with resources or funds. 4. characterized by or showing poverty. 5. deficient or lacking in something specified

Oxford Dictionary:

1. Lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society. 2. Of a low or inferior standard or quality. 3. [attributive] (of a person) deserving of pity or sympathy.


Cambridge 2, Google 2, Dictionary 5.

Having too little of quantity of something (money) to do X (go out, renovate, travel, etc).


Meaning of the word is defined by it's use, not by a dictionary.


I have heard it very frequently from 20 and 30 somethings in NYC. I'm sure I've said it before many many times.


I've heard this often growing up in NYC.


Wow, maybe this is a New York thing? We answered at the same instant.


Well I’m from Utica and I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase


Not in Utica, it's an Albany expression.


I definitely think it's an NYC thing too, the COL is pretty crazy here. Rent/Metro definitely cuts into my discretionary spending. All of my friends are in the same boat, we're just all young 20 somethings who are all cash poor paying student loans.


If there's a group of you try pooling your money together to do bulk grocery buying. I used to do this with my equally poor neighbors when I was barely scratching a living. Often we could come up with $120 each and buy enough staples to last the entire month, of quality food direct from farms and wholesalers and other things, like towells, socks, ect. I probably would have been forced to live off beans and rice otherwise. This is definitely something somebody could make an app for or organize: community group buys for laundry soap, vegetables, ect to keep monthly costs for living down. The more people included in the group buy the cheaper the cost. I still do this but in the form of CSA boxes which are delivered weekly and I split it with a neighbor. NY has these too, can probably find a much cheaper one than this https://localrootsnyc.com/


Thanks I'll definitely look into that, but I think I might be on my way out of the city. I love it but I'll have to come back when I'd have the money to enjoy it.


Irony is also a New York thing.


It's also common on the West coast, at least in California and Oregon.


I have noticed there's been some progress on reducing the stigma when you're poor and are surrounded by those that aren't.

When I was young, free and/or reduced school lunch paper punch cards were a different color than normal paid ones. Similar for food stamps, WIC, etc. Now they are all plastic cards that don't look obviously different from the cards the people with money use.


EBT moved to discreet debit cards more for ease of accounting and disbursement than recipient dignity, but WIC still uses stacks of paper checks that have to be run as a series of discrete transactions. They're embarrassing to use, almost more trouble than they're worth.

It's obvious when people are paying with it-- the conveyor belt is lined with bunched groceries and paper slips while the line behind the customer backs up into the aisles.


As with many things in the US, varies by state. Many states do have WIC cards that work like a debit card and many grocers have support for a single checkout process with two swipes.


My impression from the author's description of her friends is that they aren't broke either.

>I often hear my friends say, “I’m too poor” when they’re frustrated about what they can’t have. Maybe it’s a trip they can’t afford, a renovation they want to start right now or a pretty pair of shoes they spotted in a shop window.


The author didn't talk about the difference between wealth and income. That, to me is a key distinction in understanding people's choices and possibilities. I'd call someone who lacks income, broke, and one who lacks access to resources, poor. The article merely talked about different degrees of lack of income.


And this is in Canada, where the author's surgery and other medical care was covered in full by universal health care. Without that, her situation likely would have been far worse, and yet we can still do so much better.


The smug Canadian "well, we don't have these problems here" look on my face dropped into a shocked one when I read that she lives in the same city as me. Probably one of my neighbors.

Going to go make a donation to North York Harvest now. Seems like I don't understand poverty enough to say that it's not needed.


Canada definitely isn't mirror universe America where everything is good instead of bad, we have a ton of our own chronic social issues (such as housing affordability).


Thank you.

This was a real eye opener to me too which sounds fucking stupid in hindsight.


I lived in Vancouver, BC for three years having moved from Ames, Iowa. It was my first longish-term experience in a big city in which poor people are 'atomized' by their inability to make due in their current circumstances.The USA and Canada are big places, and I think that problems are more regional (varying widely intrastate/intraprovince) than the huge nets we draw around nation-states. My only takeaway from Van and Ontario are that Canada has a housing/employment location problem that needs addressing!


I walked near East Hastings everyday in Vancouver. Most people were friendly, even poor ones. Not sure what they saw on my face, I’d get drug offers all the time (probably eye contact and a smile). I used to politely decline and they left me alone.

This was different to my life in Australia. I was mugged and beaten a couple of times in Parramatta, NSW.


I recently lost my job. I have some savings to keep me going and work on side projects but COBRA is killing me with ~600/month. I only have a couple of months before I need to find a job, any job.

I feel like this discourages ppl from working on their own thing and makes labor market less flexible by forcing ppl into less that ideal positions.


If you are poor in the US your healthcare costs will mostly or entirely be covered. This includes major surgery.


Which I never understood. USA provides free healthcare for people who are poor because they don't work and healthcare for people who are retired and don't work.

But the USA does not provide healthcare for people who work and keep machine turning.

Hmm... I wonder if it's a political lobbying by healthcare industry to get more money for people who wouldn't provide it on their own by extracting it from the tax payers who do work and can (barely) afford insurance, etc.


The US provides health care to the poor but not other people because we view it as part of the social safety net, not a general public service. We can debate about which is the right view, but you don’t need “lobbying” to get to the US view.


How does this jibe with the (increasing) work-requirements for accessing social services?


The US provides acute treatment for the destitute (i.e. we'll fix your broken bone), but I don't think we'll provide chronic treatment for the destitute. I've never heard of a destitute person getting free chemo or hospice for example.


You're essentially right. My neighbor poster harryh mentions Medicaid, but there are many situations in which you can be destitute and not qualify, or not qualify for many months, during which time you can suffer from lack of chemo for instance. A schoolmate of mine died from cancer in her 20s because the cancer was discovered late due to lack of insurance/healthcare, and then treatment was delayed almost a year because she didn't qualify for X because she had a job with a certain hourly wage and needed to quit and spend down her meager assets to a certain level, then once poor enough it took 3 months to get processed into the state program for the poor, then she finally got coverage and started getting treatment then died quickly because it was so advanced.

Some homeless people get 'free' chemo, etc., but there are huge problems with the setup because with certain illnesses they're too well to qualify for hospice or housing or staying in the hospital full-time, but discharging to the street results in non-compliance with medication regimes because they don't have safe places or refrigerators to keep drugs, for instance. On the other end, hospice requires a lot of referrals and paperwork; if you can't get into the pipeline by getting all the referrals and evaluations and paperwork done, you don't get hospice, whether for money or for free.


It is true that their are gaps between the truly poor/broke that qualify for medicaid and those (like your friend apparently) who have some money but do not purchase private health insurance. This is, indeed, a problem.

It's worth noting that these gaps closed significantly with the passage of the ACA (ObamaCare).


This is incorrect. Medicaid provides for health care of all kinds including chemo and hospice care. There is some evidence that the quality of care isn't as good as private insurance, but there is definitely coverage of some kind for the items you mention.


This is definitely one of the most ridiculous points about the American system.

Medicare for all already exists, it just requires that you quit your job (forever if you have a chronic medical issue) sell your house and assets and stop paying taxes, or having productive input into the economy entirely.

What kind of sense does that make?


You don't need to sell your house, you can qualify for Medicaid and they'll place a lien on it. You can't keep savings to pay the property tax or the mortgage though, so I don't think you'd end up keeping the house.


This is why the ACA (Obamacare) was extra bad (for me and others in my situation). Not only do I have to subsidize the poor through taxes but now I have to subsidize higher risk individuals through my own increased premiums. I also make enough money to get zero tax breaks on any of it and the "marketplace" has removed all competition and downward price pressure.

EDIT:

People seem to think I'm being flippant or cruel but here's more background. I am not rich. I struggle to stay in the middle class. It doesn't take much to stop getting tax breaks but it takes a ton of money to survive. Paying $1,000 a month for health insurance on top of my already high taxes is a meaningful amount of money that greatly impacts where I can live, if I can retire and many other major life properties.


You were always subsidizing the poor. Hospitals must treat anyone who comes to the emergency room whether they could afford to pay or not. The costs were recouped by charging those with insurance more - raising your cost of private insurance or through some government sponsored hospital.

On top of that, if you are under group insurance through an employer, they have always been required to insure everyone at the same price except they could have a smoking surcharge. Your risk pool and the price you paid was determimed by the group you were a part of.

Unless you die suddenly, there is a good chance that at some point in your life, you will have a “pre-existing condition” that would have made you ineligible for health insurance.

But on another note: right before the ACA took affect, I was laid off from my job. That by itself was no big deal. I literally was laid off on Friday after the company was sold and started contracting for one of our customers the following Monday.

I went to get private insurance and no one would sell it to me because I had mild cerebral palsy. My CP is so mild that it only basically affects one hand, I was a part time fitness instructor, I had just run two half marathons in the previous year, and I hadn’t had any surgery besides foot surgery and that was 12 years prior.

I was getting paid more than enough as a contractor to pay higher premiums, I offered to do a fitness test - I knew I was in shape to pass any of the military fitness tests for my age - but they wouldn’t go for it.

As far as CORBA, yeah I ended up buying into the acquiring company's health plan. But guess what? They cancelled their health plan and there would have been nothing to buy into.

The ACA means that I could buy insurance.

My then fiancé/now wife said forget it. We moved our wedding date back six months, went to the courthouse, got married and I got on her insurance plan. She since chose another job with the school system partially to guarantee that after 10 years, we would have access to health insurance for the rest of our lives no matter what.

But why should someone have to go through these contortions to buy insurance at full price?


One more fucked-up data point about the for-profit health care system:

before the ACA, I was also unable to purchase health insurance from anyone at any price.

Why? Because, in 2004, I had my gallbladder out. Then I moved overseas for a year and a half, and didn't have an American-based health insurance plan. I came back, and boom, I have a "lapse in insurance" and a "pre-existing condition".

The ACA at least let me buy health insurance, although the plan is so expensive and so shitty I can't really use it for anything.

American health care is garbage, and we desperately need a radical change in how we care for people here.


You're so well paid that you don't get tax breaks, and you are forced to help poor people through taxes and insurance premiums?

Sounds like a good situation to be in...


It's not helping the poor per se that makes many people uncomfortable: no sane person will share the "poor must die of hunger" attitude.

It's that we help only the poor. Look, I pay taxes. Poor people don't. Fine. I get it. But they do get free medical insurance, I don't. They get free college, I don't. All I get back are reminders about "straight white men privilege". That's not fair.

Nobody likes paying taxes. But if it's "guys, let's all cough up what we can and build a greater society for all of us", I'm for it. If it's "let's build a greater society for the poor" - that's a much more bitter pill to swallow.


It's that we help only the poor. Look, I pay taxes. Poor people don’t.

Poor people pay just as much as everyone else in sales tax, excise tax, tolls, meal tax, etc. And because they are poor, they pay disproportionately more of their income in taxes than the wealthy.

I live in the Boston area—even though there are 70 colleges and universities here, none of them are free for poor people.


> And because they are poor, they pay disproportionately more of their income in taxes than the wealthy.

That's incorrect. The tax rate is lower for lower income thus they pay less proportionally.

> I live in the Boston area—even though there are 70 colleges and universities here, none of them are free for poor people.

Every ivy league school has income adjustment and will offer free ride based on need:

https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/how-aid-works/harv...


That's incorrect. The tax rate is lower for lower income thus they pay less proportionally.

If you look at what I listed—sales tax, excise tax, meal taxes—those are the same whether you’re rich or poor, except they have a disproportionate impact on the poor.

Poor people do get most of what they pay in income tax back once they file but that’s not the case for these other taxes.


I'm pretty sure some, if not most, of those colleges have scholarships that are "need based". And even if they don't, there is the Pell Grant.


Except that students of poor families aren’t in good school systems and often don’t get adequate preparation for college, especially for majoring in STEM.


Having a STEM degree is not the only alternative to poverty.

A guy repairing my dryer has charged $350 for one hour. I'm sure some of it went towards spare parts and such, but even $50 bucks an hour is a pretty decent income.


Having a STEM degree is not the only alternative to poverty.

I didn’t suggest that having a STEM degree was the only way out of poverty. My point: if poor students wanted to get STEM degrees, they often don’t have the high school preparation to do so and their families can’t afford the tutors, test prep courses and academic coaches affluent families have access to.


Thats a different problem, and it is a blanket statement that isn't true everywhere.


Rich people don't need help getting into college: they just bribe their way in.


Not exactly. The people who saw their premiums rise the most as a percentage of their income as a result of the ACA were mostly low income.


The ACA hasn’t been shown to be the cause of group insurance to go up. Not too many “low income” people could have afforded private insurance anyway.

All of the mandates for what qualified as a real plan were things that were being offered voluntarily by both of my parents health plans in the 90s. My mom is a retired teacher and my dad is a retired factory worker.


How is expanding coverage to a larger pool of people (many of which have preexisting conditions that are forbidden from being factored into premiums) and subsidizing healthcare for the poor supposed to make healthcare cheaper? This is just voodoo economics, you don't get to simultaneously reduce costs while expanding coverage to higher risk people and people who don't pay market rates.

Getting nostalgic about the 90s isn't going to solve anyone's problem - not unless we're okay with euthanizing the elderly en masse to reduce the percentage of retirees back down to 1990s levels.


Most people come under group insurance for an employer. Insurance companies have never been able to exclude for preexisting conditions if you were part of the eligible group.

Also the plan offered through the exchange comes under a different pool with different cost. Insurance companies decide how to price group insurance for a company based on the demographics of a company.

Subsidizing health care for the poor would theoretically raise taxes not the amount you pay for your insurance.

Universal healthcare costing less per capita with a sane plan is not voodoo economics - we already pay more per person than every other industrial nation. There was nothing sane about keeping private insurance in the mix instead of just having a public option.

And seeing that retirees in the 90s and today come under Medicare, what does that have to do with private premiums?


> Most people come under group insurance for an employer. Insurance companies have never been able to exclude for preexisting conditions if you were part of the eligible group

2 million workers lost their employer provided health insurance following the ACA. Now they're paying for their insurance out of pocket. Granted their employers were paying their premiums, but from the person's perspective they went down from paying little or nothing to paying for all their insurance on their own.

> Subsidizing health care for the poor would theoretically raise taxes not the amount you pay for your insurance.

This is assuming that the subsidy covers the full cost of insurance. If this isn't the case then you're stuck paying an extra tax because your didn't buy the insurance that your can't afford.

> And seeing that retirees in the 90s and today come under Medicare, what does that have to do with private premiums?

Older people cost insurance companies more. 80% of healthcare costs are usually spent in a person's last year of life. Insurance companies can't factor age into cost beyond a government set limit. So the other insurance buyers subsidize the ageing insured population.

Fundamentally you're trying to say that the insurance companies can provide more services, charge high-risk people the same as everyone else, and greatly expand the covered population while reducing cost. That just doesn't happen. If a company provides more services and more expensive services then it's costs are going to rise. And because putting those costs onto the people that incur those costs mean than the majority of the insured population is subsidizing their healthcare and thus their premiums rise.


2 million workers lost their employer provided health insurance following the ACA. Now they're paying for their insurance out of pocket. Granted their employers were paying their premiums, but from the person's perspective they went down from paying little or nothing to paying for all their insurance on their own.

https://www.factcheck.org/2014/04/millions-lost-insurance/

This is assuming that the subsidy covers the full cost of insurance. If this isn't the case then you're stuck paying an extra tax because your didn't buy the insurance that your can't afford.

That was repealed last year....

Older people cost insurance companies more. 80% of healthcare costs are usually spent in a person's last year of life. Insurance companies can't factor age into cost beyond a government set limit. So the other insurance buyers subsidize the ageing insured population.

Older people wouldn’t be part of the private insurance pool. They would be part of Medicare.

Fundamentally you're trying to say that the insurance companies can provide more services, charge high-risk people the same as everyone else, and greatly expand the covered population while reducing cost. That just doesn't happen. If a company provides more services and more expensive services then it's costs are going to rise. And because putting those costs onto the people that incur those costs mean than the majority of the insured population is subsidizing their healthcare and thus their premiums rise.

And none of that is true. The insurance companies have a separate pool for what they offer for group insurance and what they offer on the exchange.

And older workers would be getting insurance through Medicare.

You’re conflating multiple risk pools. The insurance companies don’t do that.


The Economist reported 2 million employer healthcare plans killed off: https://www.economist.com/united-states/2016/09/10/encumbere...

Furthermore, I would suggest reading your sources in greater detail before posting them. The factcheck.org article does not deny the claim that millions lost their insurance through their employers. From the article:

> It’s true that insurance companies discontinued health plans that had covered millions of people who had bought them directly rather than through an employer. That’s because those plans didn’t meet the coverage standards of the new law.

> In a March 3 posting on the website of the journal Health Affairs, two researchers from the Urban Institute analyzed findings from a nationwide poll and said, “Our findings imply that roughly 2.6 million people would have reported that their plan would no longer be offered due to noncompliance with the ACA.” And in this case, the methodology is made explicit.

> That range could be higher or lower depending on what number is used for the total who had non-group coverage in the first place. The Urban Institute authors cite a study published last year that found estimates of the total number of people covered by non-group policies ranged from 9.55 million to 25.3 million. So if 18.6 percent of non-group policyholders got notices that their policies were being dropped because of the new law, as the poll indicates, then the actual number whose plans were dropped could be as low as about 1.8 million or as high as 4.7 million (coincidentally, the same as the AP’s figure), depending on how many had such policies in the first place.

Many "fact checker" sites try to "debunk" factually correct claims through whataboutism. This is prime example. It does not deny the claim that millions of Americans lost their insurance plans. It turns around and talks about how millions bought insurance on exchanges instead, as though this somehow refutes the previous fact. Using this to try and refute the claim that millions of people no longer have insurance through employment is intellectually dishonest.

> That [the tax mandate] was repealed last year....

Much to the disappointment of the ACA's proponents

> And none of that is true. The insurance companies have a separate pool for what they offer for group insurance and what they offer on the exchange.

> And older workers would be getting insurance through Medicare.

Not every retiree is over 65. And besides, Medicare is getting very expensive, too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Medicare_Parts_A_B_C_D.pn....

> You’re conflating multiple risk pools. The insurance companies don’t do that.

Exactly. Now that the affordable care act regulated insurance companies ability to determine patients, higher risk people are joining and having their healthcare subsidized by the other plan members. In the past, people either got their healthcare through insurance or subscribed to their plan when they were young and continued with it until old age. Now that companies are forced to charge the same rates, there's nothing stopping people from not buying any health insurance (or very cheap health insurance) until they start having high medical costs and then joining an insurance plan to have their costs born by the other customers. People are smart. If they can have their cake and eat it too by passing their costs off to other people, they're going to do it.

It's laughable to claim that providing more services, and increasing the quality of services can be done without increasing costs (short of some significant technological advancement). To claim that the same can be done while decreasing costs is beyond absurd.


Not every retiree is over 65. And besides, Medicare is getting very expensive, too:

How many retirees do you really think there are on individual coverage plans?

Besides that if you are part of a group insurance plan, they aren’t part of your group, or your risk pool.

Exactly. Now that the affordable care act regulated insurance companies ability to determine patients, higher risk people are joining and having their healthcare subsidized by the other plan members.

Do you really think that there are that many higher risk people who can afford to be on the exchange? And once again, they are not part of your pool if you are under a group plan. If they are part of your group plan, they would have been eligible for the same prices before the ACA.

Now that companies are forced to charge the same rates, there's nothing stopping people from not buying any health insurance (or very cheap health insurance) until they start having high medical costs and then joining an insurance plan to have their costs born by the other customers. People are smart. If they can have their cake and eat it too by passing their costs off to other people, they're going to do it.

If only the people who came up with the ACA had “mandated” health insurance or force them to pay a penalty. Oh wait! They did...

Not every retiree is over 65. And besides, Medicare is getting very expensive, too:

And that had nothing to do with the ACA.


The income threshold to no longer qualify for premium subsidies through the ACA is ~$48.5k/year for an individual, pre-tax. That's a pretty good income in some areas, but it would be tough to afford ~$500/month for insurance premiums if you're living on $3k/month of take-home income in a high cost of living area.


It's not. I'd rather support my family than someone else's.


How about society gave you nothing then, and left you to live like an animal?

Not in a city -- because cities are established and built collectively, with infrastructure, and roads, and so on. Not allowed to use and own money, because that's a public good. Not allowed to have a citizenship (because a country is about people working together). No protection from thugs (because the police is a social good), and so on?

Does it sound enticing?


Things aren’t as black and white as that. There’s a difference between paying a reasonable amount of taxes and having everyone share some of the burden versus a lawless Mad Max style society. The current system is setup to punish the group that I (and probably a lot of developers) belong to. We pay a huge portion of our income in taxes and for me at least, an additional massive chunk of income to insurance post-ACA. Poor people get healthcare and many other things for free. Rich people mostly pay 15% capital gains tax. If you’re in the middle class, the screws come out right as you start succeeding. There’s a massive structural push to keep middle class people in the middle class and I don’t think that’s fair.


It's not a punishment; that sort of language is tantamount to sophistry. The tax structure in the US sucks, especially with how, the more you have, the more you can dodge supporting the country that obviously made you so very rich.

But, it's not a punishment. It's just a shitty set of laws -- fortunately, laws can change.


> the more you have, the more you can dodge supporting the country that obviously made you so very rich.

My point is this is not true for people who are on the upper end of middle class. You can't dodge anything because your income is taxed at income tax rates, not capital gains rates. You also get all benefits stripped from you as you rise in income. Can't get any breaks on health insurance, can no longer put money into a Roth IRA... Also remember, I'm not just talking about taxes. I'm talking about taxes plus the structure of the ACA.

The system is absolutely designed to put the middle class at the largest disadvantage. Whether you want to call it unfair or a punishment seems like personal preference.


That’s not how society works.


[flagged]


Please keep nationalistic slurs and flamebait off this site.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


This isn't correct. In states that accepted Medicaid expansion through the ACA, those who make a certain percentage of the federal poverty level[1] would be eligible for coverage under Medicaid. I would argue that the FPL is laughably low, and that an income that is even twice that of the FPL still counts as poverty level income.

In states that didn't accept Medicaid expansion through the ACA, people who are poor are not eligible for coverage under Medicaid.

You can see which states accepted Medicaid expansion through the ACA here[2].

[1] FPL for a single individual is $12,140. For a family of 3, it is $20,780.

[2] https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/status-of-state-med...


That’s not totally correct either. First, the “percentage” is 138% under the ACA, or about $16,500. Second, every state covers at least parents, children, and pregnant women under Medicaid (the author of the article would be covered in any state). Some states who didn’t accept Medicaid expansion don’t cover childless adults.


> Second, every state covers at least parents, children, and pregnant women under Medicaid (the author of the article would be covered in any state)

I'm unaware of a nation-wide program that covers parents under Medicaid at either 100% or 138% of the FPL.

The numbers I can find paint a different picture, for example, parents in Alabama are only eligible if they make below 13% of the FPL[1].

If you have another source, I'm genuinely interested in it.

[1] https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/program-information/medica...


> those who make a certain percentage of the federal poverty level

For those unclear, the percentage is more than 100. Medicaid has long applied to people well above the federal poverty line, and in most places applies to people even further above it than before.


Not really, or there wouldn't be so many medical bankruptcies


That doesn’t logically follow. People can make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not be able to afford their hospital bills.

Indeed, in many cases Medicaid requires you to become poor, by spending down personal assets first to pay for care, qualify for government support. (Arguably that’s the only fair way to do it. How is it fair for the government to use tax dollars to maintain the social status of a someone who was lucky enough to build up a nest egg, but unlucky enough to get cancer, where it won’t give money to someone who was unlucky enough to be born poor in the ghetto?)


Bankruptcy is a middle class concern, the concept presumes a level of credit that poor people rarely have. Medical care is often written off or billed to the government up front if you meet the criteria.


If you have employment you'll have to pay the bill. I absolutely could see that driving people into bankruptcy. If you have no or little income the government will pay your medical bills.


Not really, and it varies by state.

When you show up with an emergent condition, you get treated and kicked out. We probably spend more money on Medicaid for babies addicted to opioids than it would cost to privately insure mothers.


Every state covers mothers under Medicaid.


Every state covers mothers who are poor (133% or less of poverty line) or mothers who are "medically needy" under Medicaid. You need to prove you're poor or medically needy to get Medicaid coverage.


Some states make it more difficult to enroll in Medicaid, and have reimbursement rates that exclude many from getting care.


That's way off. While it's true public hospitals can't turn you down for emergencies, they'll still send a bill (which is normally much higher due to not negotiating through an insurance company) that would bankrupt the author. And a lot of things people need to survive don't fall under medical emergencies but rather preventative care. A heart attack is an emergency, but not surgery to stop it from happening / the patient's health deteriorating. The author's issues don't seem to fall into the category of an "emergency".


This is definitely not the case, the standard of care available to poor people roughly matches that of the region where they live, it is just typically less convenient and more ad hoc. Been there, done that. The details vary with locale but healthcare is generally available to the poor at little or no cost everywhere in the US. It is a different experience than an insured middle class person but outcomes are largely the same at a given facility.

I've personally seen a (likely illegal) migrant worker helicoptered to Stanford hospital where they surgically re-attached a severed limb. Best standard of care available, far above what was required, with no possibility of repayment.


You're incorrect. I've seen people get full cancer treatment and multiple surgeries and have all of the bills 100% covered by the government. You have to have little or no income to qualify though.


I don't know why you've decided to tell everyone in this thread that they're wrong and how the government is oppressing you with taxes to find a social safety net but your really need to understand and acknowledge that your anecdotes are not helpful and they are not indicative of the health care system in this country at large.

I can state similar anecdotes of people I know having gone bankrupt due to medical debt or having died due to inability to afford care at the time (what with having no income for almost two years). "The government" did not step in to completely or even mostly cover life saving yet expensive long term care.


His anecdote refuted the point he was responding to, which inaccurately stated that only emergency care is covered. Medicaid covers long term care for poor people. (In 18 mostly southern states Medicaid doesn’t cover childless adults, but that encompasses a distinct minority of the population of poor people even in those states. In the other states Medicaid covers everyone below a certain income level). Most people who fall into the “went bankrupt from medical bills” category are ones who weren’t poor before the medical bills and didn’t qualify for Medicaid.


I was under the impression that Canada’s health system does have a yearly deductible for perceptions at least. $750 I thought.

Edit: Yes, this was for BC or Alberta and is still the case in at least one of those.


Every province has their own system, some provinces extort their population with all kinds of fees/deductibles and some don't depending on how shady the regional ruling regime is. This article is about Ontario's system but there's much worse, such as looking up the FVRD's policy of ordering hospital beds be turned faster by using a taxi to dump patients, sometimes in different jurisdictions https://globalnews.ca/news/5033260/chilliwack-mayor-fraser-h...


It's different in every province. The Federal Government has a very narrow jurisdiction in Canada, and healthcare is not in it. In BC I pay for my prescriptions but it's heavily subsidized for most of them.


To be fair, this person would likely qualify for Medicaid in the U.S. Also, in Ontario there's a healthcare-specific tax which is not eligible for credits like normal income tax, but instead uses a standard deduction like the U.S. Federal income tax.


The bar for Medicaid for a two person household in most states was $22,715. Pretty good chance she was over that.


I use to work for a company that facilitated in home nurse care for special needs children. The majority of our reimbursements were from the government.


I agree words matter. I'm working as a bookkeeper and broke is when you're spending more than you make wether you're making < 22k$/year or > 500k/year. Poverty is a completely different animal.

"Sometimes I splurge and make homemade hot cocoa. [...] every week we give to the food bank..."

?? Land-o-Lakes hot cocoa mix is $1 at my local grocery store. What kind of hot cocoa are you making lady?


It says "homemade hot cocoa", so it might mean from chocolate or something? Not really sure


Leaving aside the politics of a universal basic income, would a UBI have helped or hindered this person? Do most UBI schemes assume that healthcare subsidies would stop for instance, and the money be redirected to the UBI? Or would the income be on top of whatever healthcare subsidies already exist?


I think the article is a good example of why universal healthcare would have to remain in place when UBI is implemented. UBI is unlikely to be enough to afford quality healthcare.


Agreed. There are two types of healthcare expenses that insurance is important for:

1) massive, unexpected ones, which $1000 a month would be useless towards, and where the word "insurance" actually makes sense

2) recurring costs like doctor appointments, prescriptions, and teeth cleaning, which could arguably (but still probably shouldn't) be lumped in with UBI

#2 can still wreck someone who's truly poor, to be clear, but the author's case sounded more like #1


#2 should not be lumped in with UBI since the costs wildly fluctuate between people. A 25-year-old person will have fewer preventive checkups than a retiree or a small child. And people with chronic diseases have way higher recurring medical expenses than people without. My bookkeeping shows that I spend two weeks' worth of salary per year on medications, most of which is for keeping my chronic ailments in check.


Or even some base level of healthcare for anything remotely serious. It's implicit in UBI that it would have to be paired with something along the lines of universal Medicaid. Otherwise, an income that is truly base--say $8K/year in the US--is not going to have any real slack to cover healthcare.


This is what insurance is for, to smooth out risk. UBI is a concept, not a specific dollar amount. You don't need universal healthcare, just regulation of the risk pool.


> Do most UBI schemes assume that healthcare subsidies would stop for instance, and the money be redirected to the UBI?

Most UBI schemes position UBI as supplemental income in conjunction with public assistance.

There's a small, but vocal, minority who wants to replace all public assistance with UBI.


The author is Canadian, in which case the assumption would probably be that universal single-payer insurance is in place rather than individualized subsidies.


As tragic as this story is, let's not pretend that it's commonplace. A disabled single mother of a disabled child? She won the reverse lottery.


This is an important distinction. CBS reports [1] that a $500 emergency expense would put most Americans in debt. Our consumer-focused economy with easy credit lures people into purchases that they cannot afford. Many spend without careful thought and purchase homes, electronic devices, automobiles, and college educations that they cannot afford to repay.

My wife and I had little savings when I got out of graduate school. Neither of our parents had taught us about budgeting. I found books that taught us how to make a monthly budget. The authors stressed the importance of working together to plan a budget and setting a goal of saving for an emergency fund that would eventually cover six months expenses. We drove our old car until it was too expensive to repair. Eating out was a rare treat. I carried a bag lunch to work. We bought a used tent and camping supplies for a vacation. We had a used B&W TV for years. We were able to purchase a modest house. We never upgraded to a bigger one. A careful lifestyle helped us get our kids though state universities with no debt.

In time we could add more "fun" items because we had a buffer. We were still careful. My employer had perennial layoffs. We knew I could be laid off at any time. Happily, I was ready to retire when my time came (My company went from 65,000 employees in our city to less than 1,700 when I was laid off).

I have a friend who ran his own computer business and counseled (free of charge)many families with money problems. His conclusion was that lack of money was not the biggest problem these families had. He concluded that poor management of what they had was a bigger problem.

[1] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/most-americans-cant-afford-a-50...


Any unexpected expense can knock you down when you're on the edge. Unexpected expenses are how people become homeless.

I am friends with a camgirl who is a prime example of this. In her case, she made a go of full-time camming, and thought she was doing well. What she didn't understand is that the site she worked for paid her as a contractor and withheld nothing. She never thought much about taxes, and all her previous jobs had withheld taxes, so she didn't pay quarterly estimated taxes. Last month, when she went to file her taxes, she realized she owed thousands. She has been struggling to pay this while other unexpected expenses mount (car repairs). She's struggling with the decision on whether to pay her taxes or her rent, and is about to become homeless.

The super irritating thing to me is that she had a gofundme setup for her friends and family to donate to help with her tax issue. The campaign was going well (close to 50% complete) but gofundme took it down and refunded all the donations. This was likely because they don't want to be associated with sex workers, and she apparently had a link to it from her cam-site page.


That reminds me: Does anybody know of any US crowdfunding sites that are not hostile to sex workers? That seems unlikely after FOSTA, but it does not hurt to ask, and I figure this would be the place to do it.


Probably best to talk to a tax advisor-- and I am not one. I think the first time you owe a lot in taxes you are not assessed a penalty (if you keep owing every year, you are). This filing season is also exceptional due to tax bracket changes last year.

She can pay in installments vs the entire sum at once: https://www.irs.gov/payments/payment-plans-installment-agree...


I've been trying to encourage her to do just this, but she does not always take my advice. She had her mind set on putting this behind her. She does not always make the best decisions.


Why go through a third party which will take a cut of the donation. If it is primarily money donated by friends and family, can they not talk directly through phone or email?


I meant to say "friends of family". Think grandparents friends at church, aunt's co-workers, etc.


Bitcoin? It doesn't really have a crowdfunding site per se, but "people who moral guardians hate" is basically the number two reason for its existence, right after "people who lawmakers/financial regulators hate".


Sure, but bitcoin may be hard for her grandparents friends at church to figure out, for example. Heck, I've worked for tech companies, and I can't figure it out. Gofundme is comparatively easy to explain.


True. There's probably a business opprotunity in there somewhere for a payment processor with a policy of never disputing chargebacks, since that's the main excuse used to kill crowdfunding/patronage platforms that don't play along with moral guardians.


I feel like crowdfunding someone's taxes is pretty weird and doesn't sit right with me. Assuming her income is rather steady I think a loan is precisely what someone should get in this situation.


I agree, if you can get it.

But credit rating counts for a lot.

Even if they can prove sufficient steady income, if they don't have a good credit rating, there's a good chance they are unable to get a bank loan, credit card (or additional credit if they have a card already), and perhaps not even a small overdraft.

I can't speak for the US, but in the UK, even "payday lenders" who charge >1000% APR rates will no longer lend to someone with a poor credit rating.

On top of that, for someone who isn't used to it, and who already lives on the edge of what they can afford, "thousands", probably at high interest, is a big loan they may reasonably worry would put them into an unrecoverable debt spiral.


> He concluded that poor management of what they had was a bigger problem.

Counseling works for broke families - not poor ones. 6-months of savings and all the financial discipline in the world won't do you any good when you get a medical emergency that costs 5-years worth of family-income and leaves one spouses unable to work (or both! Caretakers are expensive). You can't budget your way out of poverty.


I grew up poor. I don’t know how my dad managed it. I’m thankful every day that I don’t have to worry like my parents did.


Likewise. My parents raised myself and my siblings well, and somehow managed to give us all a good education and life despite both being on minimum wage.

As an adult, I'm angry at my younger self for being annoyed at the things I used to be annoyed at, now I realise I couldn't have done it any better (probably a lot worse).

Luckily, we are all doing well now, and we have a good relationship with them, and get to pay it back via buying them gadgets, sending them on holidays etc, and just being there for them.


We work in a very fortunate industry with respect to economic mobility.

I've seen many people in tech go from a lower class or lower-middle class socioeconomic upbringing (myself included) to reaching a much more stable and comfortable point.

This is why I'm so excited for startups like Lambda School that allow more people to cross over even if they couldn't afford to take on the financial burden of an engineering degree. The aggregate economic impact on people's lives is astounding.


Seems increasingly the marginalised , feel it necessary to take it out on the not so marginalised, to police their language, to compel them to appreciate their lot, even to make them feel shitty, for wanting a pair of shoes, as if this would make their lot in life better, to make the world "more equitable".

How about the old fashioned approach of targeting the rich and powerful? Or is that considered too difficult now.

I couldn't give a damn about the difference between broke and poor. Changing their use isn't going to change a damn thing, just as changing how words are used has never changed a damn thing in the whole of history.


This article would have been stronger if it simply addressed the issue of poverty directly and dispensed with the nit picking over the words broke and poor. I also disagree with the assertion that her middle class friends were using the word wrong or that broke was an apt description of their financial situation.

Broke is a a synonym for bankrupt or being in bad debt. If someone says they can't afford something which is what was being expressed when someone says "I'm too poor" that doesn't mean they are broke.


I came up from poverty and its a trap. I grew up in a trailer park with parents that didn't care how well I did in school, who I hung out with, what I did away from home, where I was most of the time or when I came back. They treated me like a burden not a part of the family. At least not the TV families I saw growing up. Started smoking with the neighbor kids when I was 15, started drinking shortly after. There were no examples to me of life outside of that, I couldn't comprehend what life was outside of being a fuck up. Until I met my uncle. He was a former cop turned SysAdmin @ TCI he introduced me to a side of computers I didn't know existed. I envied what he had, I daresay I coveted his gear and his lab and his stuff. I had been a run-away about 4 or 5 times from the time I was 10 well when I saw that life could be different I decided to run away one last time. I moved in to his house and he taught me a lot of what I learned, not about computers specifically but about learning how to learn. How to teach myself.

I eventually got fed up with him being a bit of a strict hardass about everything. I mean, dude was a cop. Everything I did had to be by the book in terms of life outside the house. I ended up just kind of traveling around the country with my gypsy blooded estranged mother, started a pretty serious drug habit for a bit. But all the time I kept thinking about computer stuff. I kept learning, and eventually I got fed up with my situation. I took a look at my mom's boyfriend and at the time I thought he was pretty cool but one day I was smoking pot with him and I looked at him, like really for the first time. I saw a dude that paid child support to 3 different women, who, if he wasn't dating my mom, basically lived on other peoples couches. He worked at a winery and made less than I made @ McD's. I looked at him and then I asked myself, do want to be this dude when I'm 45? I stopped all drug use except the occasional drink, spent all my free time learning the stuff that my uncle had been trying to teach me and moved back to my old home town. These days I'm actually a Developer which I never thought I could be. I'm content that I made it out, but I know that my case is unusual.

I've driven through that trailer park occasionally and I still see familiar faces more than 20 years out. The truth is we're all poor. If your not making $300k a year you are no better than a generation away from trailer trash. I mean look, here they were, two brothers, grew up in the same house with the same opportunities and I was born to the crappy one. I made it out basically on accident. The difference between being rich and being poor these days is generational, not situational. I disagree with this article, its not that you are broke, it is that you are poor, unless you're filthy stinking rich, you are still one generation away from trailer trash.


Easier to go down than up, and the people on your level will often try to make you feel bad for trying to move up and out. Good on you for escaping the trap. Props to your uncle for giving you tools to do it, hardass though he was.


I lost interest after she states that she donated to charity.


Why? If you disagree with giving to charity, does that invalidate the rest of the article? Or are you suggesting that it was financially irresponsible to give to charity?

If the second, I think that this is wrong. She had a 6 month emergency fund - the (presumably) relatively little she gave to charity is unlikely to extend that runway very much. I think (some of) the point of the article is that true poverty is living a life in which your _needs_ are greater than your means. A little extra runway isn't going to help you in the long run there. Once you're in this position, often through no fault of your own, you become stuck in a cycle of poverty.

Rhetoric about poverty that implies that the poor are financially irresponsible I think is very damaging. No amount of fiscal responsibility could have shielded her from not being able to earn once she became sick, and having her costs drastically increased due to having a disabled child. I don't think it should be possible to find yourself in a situation where you cannot provide for your families needs (ie, food, rent etc) and we should be working towards creating a society where this is the case, rather than labelling poor people as financially irresponsible.


Nothing to do with charity, poverty, socioeconomics, etc. I simply lost interest in her article after it began to read as a self-serving 'look at me, I donated to charity!' post.


But why?


The way this guy lives sounds extremely stressful.


The prevalence of charity is evidence of the failure of society to provide equity of opportunity.

That's okay. I prefer proportionality to equity, personally. But the ideas that everyone must be given a chance to make it are incompatible with the absence of the welfare state.


With all the hands out on that web page, I think it's The Guardian that's broke.


The Guardian isn't run like most newspapers


Clearly. A full page piece on a semantic argument. Most newspapers don't waste our time like that. There's nothing of value in that article.


Ignoring that (in the UK) the Guardian is probably influential newspaper of the last few years (Breaking large stories), most do.

Newspapers can't just sell news anymore, it's not profitable.

Besides, do you not try and expose yourself to opposing views? Maybe not applicable here, but opinion pieces are important.


Maybe you are just not the target audience.

I don't consider stories like that waste of my time.


They probably didn't pay her very much.




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