"Until we stop paying people to be an underclass, we'll have an underclass." - discussDo you agree or disagree with this statement? Until we stop paying people to be an underclass, we'll have an...

"Until we stop paying people to be an underclass, we'll have an underclass." - discuss

Do you agree or disagree with this statement?

Until we stop paying people to be an underclass, we'll have an underclass

I have to write an assignment on this topic and my head is spinning round and round. On the one hand the quote makes sense, on the other hand it seems cruel and socially irresponsible. I need ideas, viewpoints, theories, quotes would be fanatstic, if you know any. Do I have a social responsibility to help people who can't (or won't?) support themselves. Yes, absolutely, I think. But is directly  supporting them financially the most effective way to help? 

I can't start the assignment cos I don't know which side of the fence I'm on! Someone push me, please :-)

Asked on by beefheart

10 Answers | Add Yours

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Great posts thus far.  But should we assume the question being discussed has to refer to a welfare type system?  I believe that paying people such a pitiful minimum wage in this country - not only making it legal to do so, but taking decades to approve even modest and reasonable raises in the federal minimum wage - is paying people to be an underclass.  It places them in poverty and keeps them there.  It denies them adequate housing, adequate medical care, adequate food and education.  So I think we should admit and recognize that a large segment of our society is indeed paid as an underclass, by the private sector, even when they work hard, obey the laws and pay their taxes.

So yes, until we have a livable wage, as opposed to a "minimum" wage in this country, we will have a permanent underclass.

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

My first response is that there will always be an underclass. It's necessary to maintain the capitalist system. I'm also personally affronted by the stereotype of the "lazy poor". Let me bring a personal example into the discussion. My mom was in a terrible car accident when I was about 5 years old. She severely injured her back, leading to several surgeries and limited mobility. When she and my dad divorced, she was unable to work, but also unable to receive disability. She wasn't asking for handouts-she was in so much pain that any job requiring sitting or standing for long periods of time was out of the question. Yet she wasn't "hurt enough" to qualify for disability or Social Security. The two of us lived on $8,000 a year when I was in high school.

Were we considered underclass? You bet. Were we "paid to be underclass"? No way. I worked every day to succeed in school, because we knew the importance of education. But you know what? I went to school hungry. I had to balance my AP and honors classes with the job I worked to help us pay the rent. When I applied for colleges, I received several scholarships, which was good for me, because I wouldn't have gone to school otherwise. But I was resented by "upper-class" students-those who came from wealthy, influential families-even though many of them had cheated and slacked off during our high school years. I was seen as getting those so-called "handouts" and "entitlements"- despite the fact that I had worked incredibly hard to get them. Somehow, just by virtue of being poor, they felt that I shouldn't receive financial aid to help pay for school.

Finally, I would add that this is a dangerous statement for today's economy. So many people are out of work who simply cannot find jobs. They are not sitting around, waiting for their gov't. checks. They are actively searching for work that no longer exists. It's irresponsible to assume that everyone, or even the majority of people, who rely on assistance are lazy. We're seeing the creation of a new underclass through no fault of their own. Consider the recent studies about Social Security. Nearly 60% of those receiving Social Security would live in poverty without it. And again, for most of them, it is not a choice. My mom would love to work if she could. I simply find this way of thinking far too simplistic and social Darwinistic for my own viewpoint. I also don't think there's enough evidence to support it. A more accurate statement, in my thinking, would be "Until we stop paying CEO's 90 times the average worker salary, we will continue to have an underclass." CEO pay rose 298.2% from 1995-2005, and corporate profits by 106.7%. The average worker pay has only risen by 4.3%. Or how about the fact that the wealthiest 1% holds 976 times the wealth of the entire bottom 90% of the nation? That statistic alone supports the idea that the underclass is not created through any kind of government assistance.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Excellent points presented so far.  I think you hit on the key to this issue when you note the distinction between don't and can't.  We (all humans) do have a personal and social obligation to help those who legitimately can not help themselves.  How or by whom this can best be done is certainly a matter of debate and disagreement.  For those who choose not to work and support themselves (for reasons outlined above) and have therefore become dependent on the beneficence of others, the goal must be a move to independence. It's better for them, and it's certainly better for those of us who have been footing the bill for their unproductiveness.  Being independent rather than relying on handouts from the government would have the added benefit of a positive change in nearly every aspect of one's life.  Weaning these subsidies for unproductiveness should be one of our primary goals, for it literally benefits everyone.

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

It's difficult to add anything more to the first post.  But I would say that as soon as people start relying on the government for basic necessities, then it's very difficult to wean them off of government programs.  My friend's husband works for the Social Security Agency, and when he asked a woman who had been collecting disability when she felt she would be able to get off disability, her reply was, "I worked too hard to get disability.  I'm never giving it up." This is not to say that people don't genuinely need disability, but it is obvious that programs once intended to help the needy have largely become entitlement programs.

In answer to some of your questions, as you stated, we do have a human obligation to help the impoverished, but that help does not have to be financial assistance.  Mentoring and skills training work better than hand-outs.  A person learns no sense of self-pride or a lasting skill when he is paid for doing nothing.  In contrast, humans seem to naturally enjoy learning new skills and tend to take care of property and possessions better when they have invested time, labor, and/or their own money in them.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Okay, I'll take the conservative side and say that this is 100% true.

People are inherently lazy beings.  We will, in general, do the minimum work that is possible in order to get by.  Therefore, we need to be forced to work.

In a welfare state, people are allowed to survive even if they do not work.  We worry about their children (it's not their fault they're poor) or about racism or things like that.  But those are all just excuses.  If your only choice is work or starve, you will work.

If members of the underclass would work, they would get out of the underclass.  This is not just because they would have money.  It is because they would learn good work habits (or they would get fired and starve) and would pass those habits on to their kids.

In the old days, we didn't have an underclass because people knew that if they didn't work they would starve.  They made sure their kids got educated and learned good work habits because this made it easier for those kids to have a better life.

In today's society, you can have a decent life without working.  Therefore, if it is hard to get work or hard to get the qualifications you need to get work, why bother?

As long as we have this sort of a system, people will exploit it, even if it hurts them and their children.  Tough love may seem mean, but it is more loving than "compassionate" policies that enable bad behavior.  You may have a responsibility to help the less fortunate, but you should actually do things that help them, not hurt them.

The idea that you should just give them money to not work is like saying you should "help" kids by giving them an all-candy diet and by doing their homework for them.  It's a short-term "good" that screws them up in the long term.

cathykrafft's profile pic

cathykrafft | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Suggest we ask ourselves how and why the current system is set up the way it is. Which is on purpose - to impose and dictate the exact beliefs about working and money as is here. The system design is on purpose, and we are the slaves to it. Interesting that we fight for our own right of slavery.  Stop supporting the current monetary system and support and Equal Money System so all life here can and will stop 'the fear of survival' and begin to bring forth heaven on earth - so no child, no one anywhere is allowed to starve to death.  Visit EqualMoney. org - The Only Solution for all Life to live in dignity.

cathykrafft's profile pic

cathykrafft | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Okay, I'll take the conservative side and say that this is 100% true.

People are inherently lazy beings.  We will, in general, do the minimum work that is possible in order to get by.  Therefore, we need to be forced to work.

In a welfare state, people are allowed to survive even if they do not work.  We worry about their children (it's not their fault they're poor) or about racism or things like that.  But those are all just excuses.  If your only choice is work or starve, you will work.

If members of the underclass would work, they would get out of the underclass.  This is not just because they would have money.  It is because they would learn good work habits (or they would get fired and starve) and would pass those habits on to their kids.

In the old days, we didn't have an underclass because people knew that if they didn't work they would starve.  They made sure their kids got educated and learned good work habits because this made it easier for those kids to have a better life.

In today's society, you can have a decent life without working.  Therefore, if it is hard to get work or hard to get the qualifications you need to get work, why bother?

As long as we have this sort of a system, people will exploit it, even if it hurts them and their children.  Tough love may seem mean, but it is more loving than "compassionate" policies that enable bad behavior.  You may have a responsibility to help the less fortunate, but you should actually do things that help them, not hurt them.

The idea that you should just give them money to not work is like saying you should "help" kids by giving them an all-candy diet and by doing their homework for them.  It's a short-term "good" that screws them up in the long term.

   To say that 'People are inherently lazy beings' is based on a belief that, when actually the problem is that most are not happy clocking in daily, working the daily grind in order to provide food, clean water, clothes, and shelter for themselves and their family. There are millions now unemployed and honestly cannot find an adequate means to provide for themselves. The reason people exploit themself and their children is because the current money system sets us up to exploit ourselves. Common sense is easy to see in that - all of humanity requires the basic means in which to survive. In this we are all equally the same. If we don't have food and clean water to eat - then we die.  Starvation has reached an all time high of over 1 billion worldwide. The Solution is an Equal Money System - for all from birth til death - where all are provided for with the basic requirements in which to survive. Remove the fear of survival from beings lives and everything changes.  Self expression will emerge and perceptions of self laziness will end and suffering will no longer exist. No more slaves to a system that does not consider all life Equally. No more upper, lower or middle class people with only a few surviving, while the many are not surviving and are in-fact dying. We Begin again. EQUALITY - The right of Breath is to have the necessary human requirements in order to maintain our breathing.

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

@theten

Unless my memory is fading, that is the most moving and well-argued post I have ever read on Enotes.

I recently spent a couple of months in Sweden, where they have a popular high-tax, high-spend system which has functioned well for decades. There the rich don't cower in gated communities while the desperate and angry poor, brought up on false promises, slave for peanuts and moulder in poverty. There the wealth is spread much more evenly and so society is more cohesive and equal. The wealth gap in America is offensive. There is a third-world country hidden inside America. We are turkeys clucking about how wonderful Christmas is.

P.S. I bet your mum is/was very proud of you.

picturesque's profile pic

picturesque | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

I think to regulate a society, and a system in a society, it is natural that there are different groups and classes.Because every class has to pay its own role and a society needs different roles to survive.

hadayat

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

If we start with the assumptions that some people are not so well off only because they are too lazy or irresponsible by their basic nature, then we cannot claim at the same time that these people are lazy because they can get away with it, or that they will be forced to become active and productive if they are not given help. The fact is that the size of the underclass and the degree of hardships faced by them were much worse when the society had no system of helping the needy and poor.

Yes, some of the underclass may be lazy, but most of them have become victim of their environment and circumstances. Being lazy and irresponsible and is not a trait limited to underprivileged. Privileged class also have lazy and irresponsible people who are rich more because of better family background and better luck.

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