You Really Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

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“True wisdom is knowing what you don’t know” ― Confucius


I am a firm believer that with hard work and dedication you can accomplish just about anything that you set your mind to; it’s that optimistic gene. Optimism is just one of those things that you are born with or you’re not. You kind of can’t help it, and although, a pessimist never annoys you, you don’t quite know what their issue is with just about everything. Don’t Worry, Be Happy, right? Not quite.

What I mean to say is that I am firm believer that with hard work and dedication, the right resources, tools, and mindset, you can accomplish just about anything. See the slight difference? A lot of people choose to believe that hard work and dedication is enough to overcome obstacles such as poverty and a very difficult background, and I’m going to take a little time to disagree.

In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted in April 23-27, 2014, asked, “ Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Because of the widening gap between the incomes of the wealthy and everyone else, America is no longer a country where everyone, regardless of their background, has an opportunity to get ahead and move up to a better standard of living.” (source) 

The majority of the poll (at 54%) agreed with this statement. Do you know why? “After adjusting for inflation, the average income of the top 5% of households grew by 38% from 1989 to 2013. …By comparison, the average real income of the other 95% of households grew less than 10%.” (Source). This is a direct quote from Federal Reserve Chairwoman, Janet Yellen, from about a week and a half ago in her somewhat untraditional speech as the Federal Reserve chairperson. “Ms. Yellen offered extensive evidence of increasing income and wealth inequality, offering a number of figures to support her case, including lots of data from Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances. The report began in 1989, and was most recently conducted in 2013 and published last month”.(Source).

I understand why she used her platform to address such an important topic, because there are too many people who don’t believe the widening income and wealth disparity has the potential to hurt the economy. Yes, people should care and help the poor and impoverished, because it is the right thing to do. BUT we are also reaching a point, not helping the less fortunate reach a modicum of success, will affect the middle and upper middle class. And every one at least agrees that America cannot survive without the middle class.

One of the ideas that continue to the current climate of the wealth/income disparity is the notion that anyone no matter where you come from in America  can reach a certain level of success; those golden days are gone. What I find surprising is that many of the people who over emphasize that anyone can take the road out of poverty are people who themselves, pulled themselves up from their bootstraps, and don’t understand why everyone else or others are struggling more and more in the current economic climate.

What people fail to understand is diversity or more plainly is that WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT. But Americans can be rather selfish and egotistical. If I can do it, so can everybody else?

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People are different and come from different backgrounds, have different parents and experiences. Two children from the exact same parents, with similar upbringing and experiences, can end up very different. I think it’s insulting, as if people want to stay in a place where they cannot do better for themselves. Now wait, there is a segment of the population that is lazy, doesn’t care, and wants others to do for them forever, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THEM. But people who don’t understand the nature or nurture of raising a child miss the point.

A few years ago, I was a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and my little sister in the program told me one day that she wanted to be a teacher, but that she was only going to work for about 3 years, because she has this back injury from when she was 9. That girl was A okay. Here I was talking to a ten year old who already knew that saying you have a disability (even though it’s not a real one) could get you out of work was disheartening. The harder part is not being able to explain to her that this “mindset” that she was taught by someone she so desperately loves and tries to win their affection is wrong.  In that capacity, I felt helpless, all I could do was try to show her a different way.

Why is this important? As James Piereson and Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote, in their Washing Post opinion piece, “Getting more poor kids into college won’t fix income inequality”, they make that the debate by the time kids make it too college, it’s too late. The major problems plaguing the K-12 education system are hurting our children’s possibility of overcoming income equality. (Source). Now, I agree that the kids cannot be raised by the school system, but if you’re surrounded by laziness, lack of hope, or simply have parents who don’t know how to help, school may be the only point of access to provide a child with a light to want and dream of more. So if our school systems are ineffectual then the possibility of changing generational curses of poverty seem to get further and further away from us. I only saw my little sister twice or three times a month, I could only show her so much; our schools have to better for our youngest children.

I am a daughter of an amazing teacher, she would be amazing by the world’s standards, because she literally won almost every teaching award possible, but what makes her truly amazing are the things she did, and continues to do are outside of the classroom (and she’s retired). I would call my Mother, the “Queen of Social Capital” for poor and underserved populations. What people fail to realize is the lack of social capital that a person/child has, can make a difference where they end up on the totem pole. The definition of social capital is the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively. But it is so much more than that, you have to first know the relationships and the network before you can begin to use it, and if you don’t know, you cannot function properly and succeed. I call my mother the Queen, because she grew up poor and reached a certain level of success, so she can relate to others who are born in a similar background, and help navigate them through the difficulties of being poor, making it through the K-12 school system successfully, and eventually college.

Now do I think it’s possible think all teachers have the capacity to do this? Not one bit. And in some communities, like Austin where I live, there are great non-profit organizations that help kids and their families obtain access to help their kids succeed. But in my mind, we need to better arm adults to improve themselves, recreate ways in America where you can improve your situation and pull yourself up from your own bootstraps, because I like that idea, but we can’t say pull up, if the bootstraps are not there.

I’ve mentioned in other posts about the never-ending, never-seems-like-they-are-going-to-fix it public assistance programs, or minimum wage problem. Not enough Americans are sitting down to discuss their differences and find a solution to this problem. But I think there’s more to it than partisan politics, I mean no one would be a loser for fixing social programs, and I believe that at the end of the day the democrats and republicans are not as far off from each others as they think are. Maybe they are, but the real truth is that “the policy preferences of the wealthy (average income over $1 million annually) vary widely from those of the general public.” – (source) . Money has seeped so far into the political system, interest groups drive many of Congress’ decisions. But pointedly, most legislators, judges, or people with influence are all rich. So unless they are truly empathetic, what is their real understanding for creating policies or reform for social policies that could really make a difference for the people. The way elections work it is hard for a person from the middle class or upper middle class who is educated to run for office.

A person who struggles to overcome the hurdles of poverty sometimes just doesn’t know exactly what to do during that journey is the same to me as a rich bureaucrat who doesn’t really know how to actually IMPROVE the system and combat wealth inequality. So please go vote, but in the next two years, let’s see if we can bring REAL change makers to the ballot.

M/P

Please comment and Share your thought! Let’s get the conversation started.

2 responses to “You Really Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

  1. Christopher Scurry

    As always, good article. It was well thought out and very articulate. Here’s the thing, DEBT is the major driving factor between classes right now. It’s not politics. The rich have a mindset of sacrificing now, so they can win later. The poor have a mindset of “I want it now” and will go into debt to get it. When all of your income is going out into payments, then of course you will stay in the lower class. Usually when people get better jobs, they increase their standard of living to the point where they are not building wealth. If you make $30,000 a year without any debt, there is no reason why you should not retire a millionaire. We’re giving politicians too much credit for what they do or don’t do.

    If the poor want to move up in society, rent a small apartment with about five people to cut cost. Pay off all debt while living on beans and rice. Get a couple of extra jobs (e.g., mowing grass, delivering pizzas, etc.) to increase income. And go STUPID CRAZY to pay off all debt within 2 years. Afterwards, save an emergency fund of about 6 months. Then INVEST INVEST INVEST. That’s how the rich become rich. At a certain point in time, your money should make more for you on a yearly basis than your job.

    Like

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