Blaming poor people

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The idea that the poor are to blame for their misfortunes is as old as history. [1]


Too often people who are not and never were poor themselves think they know what poor people do wrong. [2] Today with the harsh, seemingly never ending recession poor people yet again get the blame. [1]

Working poor peopleEdit

Wealthier people can get well paid work, sometimes regardless of ability if their father or some other relative owns a business, is well placed and can persuade a friend to employ them. Other wealthier people get work through someone they knew at the expensive places where they got their education. Poor people don't have those opportunities.

Poor workers in the USAEdit

My Dad was poor as a church mouse and he worked his living rear end off for his Right Wing task masters all his working life – - – 8 to 12 hours a day and was on call 7-days-a-week in every kind of weather – - – and he never earned more than $35-a-week digging graves in the Republican-Owned cemetery in the Republican-dominated county and village where we all lived until I was of age and when I left home to go out in the world and become – - – a Democrat! [3]

Poor workers in the UKEdit

If the curtains in a poor house are closed during the day better off people tut tut and assume that person is lazy. It could just as easily be someone who's finished an exhausting night shift, say as an underpaid office cleaner or care home worker and badly needs to rest. [4]

In the UK Incomes are stagnating while prices rise so work no longer provides a sure route out of poverty. [5] Two thirds of UK Children in poverty are in families where at least one adult works. [6]


Stereotypeing unemployed people is wrong. People lose their jobs for very many reasons as well as racism see below, many become unemployed or are unable to find work because of the recession. People who worked hard can lose their jobs because work is outsourced to cheaper areas. When a firm goes bankrupt good and bad workers there all lose their jobs. Some people have difficulty finding work for health reasons. [7] People can even lose their jobs through refusing to do immoral things that their employer wants them to do.

Unemployment in the UKEdit

The Conservative government in the UK had a programme which didn't work out.

The failures of the Programme and of some of the companies such as A4e who have had contracts for getting people back to work have been well documented. There have been scandals and sackings. Government points out that since payment is by results, the taxpayer will not lose out. But it has lost out in terms of progress towards a better employment climate.[1]
Rather than admit they should have done more for job creation the UK government blame unemployed people and cut benefits. [1]

Unemployed young people in the UK are much more likely than others to feel depressed and even Suicidal. [8]

Unemployment in the USAEdit

The Great Recession should have put the victim-blaming theory of poverty to rest. In the space of only a few months, millions of people entered the ranks of the officially poor—not only laid-off blue-collar workers, [blue collar is a term for manual workers] but also downsized tech workers, managers, lawyers, and other once-comfortable professionals. No one could accuse these “nouveau poor” Americans of having made bad choices or bad lifestyle decisions. They were educated, hardworking, and ambitious, and now they were also poor—applying for food stamps, showing up in shelters, lining up for entry-level jobs in retail. This would have been the moment for the pundits to finally admit the truth: Poverty is not a character failing or a lack of motivation. Poverty is a shortage of money. [9]

Mitt Romney takes over under performing companies to make money. When turning the company round works Romney makes a profit though some workers usually are made redundant. When turning the company round doesn't work the company is usually forced into bankruptcy, all the employees become unemployed and creditors together with former workers pay. Romney doesn't. [10] Romney sneered about 47% who don't pay income tax in the USA and see themselves as victims. [11] Some are victims of predatory take overs by Romney and others like him.


Racist employers are less willing to give Black people, Hispanics or other minorities well paid work, racists make it harder for non-whites to live outside poor Ghettos where there are under-performing schools and few job opportunities. Then when high proportions of minority people are poor, racists blame the poor people from ethnic minorities. [12]


For very poor people even getting enough to eat can be a problem.

Real hunger in the UKEdit

For many in the UK Christmas meant a food parcel rather than a traditional Christmas dinner and those who don't know about the food banks may have nothing over Christmas. "A real fear of hunger afflicts hundreds of thousands."[13]

In the UK in the 21st Century there are unfortunate people who can't feed themselves or their families. A computer malfunctions, there's a slip up at an office so a benefit check is late, bureaucrats who aren't themselves poor delay processing a benefit claim. For people already on the breadline that type of trouble means no money and no food till the problem is sorted and that can take a long time. Even people in low paid work sometimes need to get food from food banks if there isn't enough money coming in. [14]

Many parents tell of going to bed hungry themselves in order to feed their children. Gove would call that reckless parenting.

Welfare cuts under the present Conservative and Lib Dem government have increased the numbers of people needing Food banks by 175% which is a lot.

Chris Johnes, director of Oxfam's UK Poverty Programme, said: 'Thousands are now turning to food banks, but they do not so out of choice, they do so when they have nowhere else to turn. 'The staggering rise in the numbers of people using food banks is down to failings in the benefit system, too many low paid jobs and rising prices that are dragging huge numbers into poverty.' In May a report by Church Action On Poverty and Oxfam suggested up to half of those seeking help were doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced or withdrawn. Other factors behind the increase on those using emergency help - the 'hidden hungry' - include rising food prices, unemployment and energy costs. [15]

Mark Goldring, CEO of Oxfam's said:

The shocking reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are turning to food aid. Cuts to social safety-nets have gone too far, leading to destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale. It is unacceptable that this is happening in the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet." [16]
Those who don't get to food banks go hungry together with their families. When children go hungry the UK government likes to blame the parents and ignore how their policies contribute to the hunger problem. [17] Bad monitoring means we don't know the real number of hungry people in the UK but it could be as high as half a million. [16]

During Christmas 2013 32,200 UK claimants couldn't get the money they needed on time, bureaucrats tried to gloss over the problem saying it was, ""limited number". That's 32,200 people short of money at Christmas of all times. [18]

  1. Some will get help from relatives and friends, others won't.
  2. Some will know how to access the food banks, others especially first time claimants won't.

Among those hurt through this administrative error were some hungry people and hungry families at Christmas of all times.

External linksEdit

The website of the Trussell Trust will tell you more.

  • UK Foodbanks This is the home page with plenty of information and links to other pages giving more information.
  • Search to locate foodbanks near you. This page will help you find a local food bank if you feel you may need food help of if you feel you can donate/volunteer.

Eating healthy foodEdit

Money spent on food in the UK has dropped significantly during the last few years, people are buying cheaper, processed food instead of better quality food and health experts are concerned. Families with young Children are affected worst and poor nutrition during childhood can have lifelong affects. [19]

Poor mothers know what their children should eat but can't get their children to eat healthy food or can't afford it. Poor mothers play safe getting their children something they know the child will eat. If they risk something different and the child refuses it mother has to throw food away. Then money that could otherwise have gone towards, say the next gas or electricity bill gets used up paying for something different that the child will eat. [20] [21]

In many poor areas healthy food simply isn't available or there is less about and what there is ends up pricey. [22]

Well meaning adviceEdit

Main article: Advice to poor people about food

Poor people should buy cheap food and cook it slowly, some cheap cuts taste marvelous after 5 hours slow cooking. Better off people understand only half the problem when they recommend the above. Should poor people really risk getting their gas or electricity cut off when they can't pay their fuel bills? [23] After cooking cheap food slowly for 5 hours at a time that could too easily happen.

Getting into debtEdit

Poor people sometimes get into debt, banks are generally more motivated to get better off clients so poor people can frequently only get loans at very high interest rates. In the UK the average debt of the poorest 10% is over four times their income and average debt repayment is close to half their income. Poor people of this type badly need credit they can afford and free debt advice. [24] Blaming poor people for being in debt is for too frequently easier than getting poorer people the help and advice to avoid or limit debt. A few possible reasons why poor people can get into debt are given below.

  1. A benefit check hasn't arrived or is unaccountably short, there just isn't the money to buy essentials. What does a poor person do then?
  2. Grandfather/grandmother has a chest infection and the doctor advises the family to keep the bedroom warm. The infection lasts a long time while the family fear a loved elderly relative could die. Later when the fuel bill comes it's much higher than the poor family can easily pay. Keeping a child's sick room warm, keeping any sick room warm can also cost a great deal of money.
  3. There were a great many important bills of whatever kind and when the rent bill arrives there just isn't enough money to pay it. The landlord threatens eviction.
  4. A purse or wallet is stolen, there is no money to last till the next wage check, benefit check arrives.
  5. Parents want to buy a nice present for their children at Christmas, perhaps a computer which will help them with their School work. An irresponsible Loan shark lends the money but makes sure the borrower doesn't understand the crippling interest rates.
  6. The United States doesn't have Universal Health Care, many comparatively affluent Americans become bankrupt because the their medical insurance doesn't cover all medical costs the way they thought it did. “Unless you’re a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, you’re one illness away from financial ruin in this country. If an illness is long enough and expensive enough, private insurance offers very little protection against medical bankruptcy…” (Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School). [7] [25] Poor Americans can't afford decent health insurance at all and if they become sick their plight is worse. Let's hope Obamacare prevents or at least reduces this problem.

If you are poor disciplining yourself to avoid unnecessary expense reduces the risk you'll get into debt. Even disciplining yourself to cook your own food instead of going to a cheap cafe saves a bit every time you do it. Looking to where you can save money before you get into debt reduces the risk an unexpected bill will force you into crippling high interest loans.

Pay day loansEdit

Pay day loans are run by irresponsible firms that take advantage of poor people. Pay day lenders charge very high rates of interest but operate just within the law. [26] These pay day lenders can be called loan sharks and aren't much better than criminals.

Loan sharksEdit

Loan sharks are criminal money lenders and others who charge far too much interest. Criminal loan sharks have ways of forcing repayment.

Victims turning up at casualty with broken limbs and acid burns inflicted by debt collectors - and strokes, brain haemorrhages and depression brought on by the fear of crippling interest rates. [27]

When I read the article quoted above I was shocked to find out how much damage criminal loan sharks are causing in my country. Please read the article:
Your money or your life! Brutal loan sharks putting thousands in hospital

In the big city where I live the local authority pays for advertisements warning people about loan sharks and many of these advertisements are in places like buses where poor people have a chance to read them. The same local authority is responsible for some of the delays in processing benefit money and getting money to people.

  1. These delays can force poor people into the humiliation of relying on Food banks.
  2. These delays can also force poor people to endure the tender mercies of the loan sharks.

Middle class people working in the town hall mostly want to help poor people but people of their class tend to blame poor people for getting into debt. These middle class people feel all that is needed is to educate poor people and discourage them from foolishly getting into debt.

The reality is poor people are different as all Human beings are, a few are reckless but most are sensible and do the best they can with what little they have. Warnings about loan sharks can certainly reduce the problem but no amount of warning will prevent loan sharks getting victims.

  1. When poor people can't feel themselves or their families,
  2. When poor people are threatened with eviction because they can't pay their rent,
  3. When their fuel supply could be cut off because they can't pay fuel bills,
  4. Any situation when poor people desperately need money now can leave them with no alternative except getting money wherever they can. That can mean going to a loan shark and facing the consequences later.

If loan sharks are causing you trouble the police or a Citizen's Advice Bureau may be able to help.
0300-555-222 is a UK helpline that advises and supports loan shark victims throughout the UK.

Credit unionsEdit

Credit unions offer low interest loans without the problems loan sharks cause, credit unions are cooperatives owned and run by their members. Credit unions can help you in the UK, in the USA and Worldwide. If you feel you may need a loan at some point it's worth checking out credit unions in your area.

Bad housingEdit

A desperately poor refugee lived with her children in a substandard rented flat. The air was damp, there was mold on the walls, her children had continual breathing problems. A Guardian reporter tried to get the council to help her and her children because frequent complaints the mother had made herself got her nowhere.

They [the council representatives] stated that they witnessed first-hand that the windows were shut and they saw a pan on the hob boiling food and generating steam. As you are aware, this is not conducive to a healthy house and will have a negative impact on the property. [28]

None of this was the unfortunate refugee's fault, she needed to cook for her family. (Incidentally when poor people buy more expensive, unhealthy junk food instead of cooking themselves they are also blamed for their predicament.) The impoverished mother also needed to keep the windows closed because otherwise she couldn't have kept her flat warm. This article was written in April 2013 and March 2013 was exceptionally cold in the UK. [28]

Council officials with comfortable salaries and comfortable housing either don't understand or don't care about someone on the breadline. Most care a bit but few understand.


Many people with secure housing assume all homeless people are to blame, imagine they personally are superior to those without homes and would never face that problem. Ordinary people without friends or family to help can have nowhere to live due to crises like, Divorce, domestic violence, sickness, Unemployment. Landlords sometimes check credit ratings, therefore in the USA people with, for example unpaid medical bills may be unable to rent housing. The Minimum wage doesn’t provide enough so people can afford to rent place to live only if they share. Sharing can lead to overcrowding forcing tenants to leave with nowhere to go.

Homelessness happens for many different reasons and affects many different types of people. People face abuse in unregulated emergency housing and in the UK benefit caps mean some can't pay their rent. Difficulties paying mortgages or rent is one reason for homelessness. [24]

Spending cuts by the Conservative Party/Lib Dem government reduced the amount of help local councils and charities can give homeless people.

The number of households accepted as homeless in England rose in 2010/11 for the first time since 2003/04 and now stands at 65,000. The number of court orders for mortgage repossessions in England and Wales rose to 21,000 in the first half of 2011, the first significant rise for three years. [29]

Religious fundamentalist parents (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, perhaps others) drive teenage kids from their homes because of religious differences. Some teenagers get driven out for being LGBT, others get driven out for converting to a religion that's incompatible with the parents' fundamentalist beliefs, still others are driven out for being sexually active or because they're suspected of being sexually active. Kids may be driven out directly or subject to such severe abuse like beatings that living on the street becomes better than living at home.

People in the USA become homeless due to sickness, when people develop a serious illness they too frequently find their medical insurance doesn’t cover them as completely as they thought. People lose their jobs because of their illness, their savings are exhausted through expensive hospital care, then medical bankruptcy leaves them homeless. The United States badly needs Universal Health Care.

Women and Teenagers move onto the street because they just feel they must get away from whatever physical, sexual or emotional abuse is happening to them at home.

Some may argue that help is available but people in those situations might not have the access to such help or even know that it exists. Once they become lose their homes, those types of help often become completely inaccessible to them.[30]
Abuse on the street may be as bad as whatever happened at home.

Psychiatric problems also frequently lead to homelessness, a special problem is that society including sometimes the families of psychiatric patients too often blame people for being psychiatrically ill instead of providing support. [31] [30]

Old ageEdit

Many pensioners cope because of their extreme resourcefulness and determination not to get into debt – something they are proud of. They prioritise paying their household bills, shop around for good deals when they can, and go without things that many people would take for granted, such as replacing broken household goods or holidays.[32]
Employers are prejudiced against older people so even those able to work find it harder to get a job. Many people try to make provision for their old age but investments that appeared wise at the time don't always provide much due to the Credit crunch and related recession. Women sometimes face poverty in old age because their husbands didn't provide for them or made investment mistakes. Women who earlier in life cared for children or even cared for older relatives did not have the opportunity to qualify for a good pension. [32]

In cold weather UK pensioners my have to turn the heating off and walk around their home in outdoor clothing because they can't otherwise pay fuel bills. [33]

Let's Talk Money Advice for UK pensioners

Extreme poverty among elderly American women is increasing. [34] Whatever the reason for poverty in old age telling older people with health problems to work harder is unrealistic.

A desperately poor US university professorEdit

Margaret Mary Vojtko was an adjunct professor at Duquesne Roman Catholic University in the United States before she died in extreme poverty. They paid her far less than people with her qualifications usually get, they provided no pension forcing Margaret Vojtko to carry on working when she was over eighty. She got no health insurance, when Margaret Vojtko developed Cancer she had to pay for expensive treatment herself. The United States badly needs Universal Health Care. Margaret Vojtko did a night job to try and pay for her treatment, she couldn't pay to repair her boiler and couldn't heat her home. She tried sleeping during the day in her office at the university which at least was warm. The university got the police to remove her. A few months later the university decided she was no longer an effective teacher and terminated her contract without severance pay or anything. Letters were sent to Duquesne University explaining Margaret Vojtko's plight but those letters were ignored. Supporters of Duquesne University say she was allowed to live free on campus with meals provided for a few weeks but this must have been humiliating for an old lady used to some respect. Providing medical insurance and a decent pension so Margaret Vojtko could afford to live with dignity in her own home would have been much better. All Margaret Vojtko got was "intermittent charity and prayers". The fact that Margaret Vojtko needed charity indirectly shows how shabbily the university treated this lady who had worked there conscientiously for decades.

When desperately poor people can't look after themselves it's generally assumed they are at fault rather than that they can't do better with limited resources. Anyway Margaret Vojtko wasn't looking after herself properly and she was referred to an adult protection service, she got a letter saying she looked after herself incompetently and had to see a caseworker or face legal action. This final humiliation was too was too much for Margaret Vojtko, the stress caused her a massive heart attack and she died without recovering consciousness. [35] [36] It looks like the pious Hypocrites of Duquesne Roman Catholic University could do well to listen to what Pope Francis has to say about poverty and show more compassion to their own staff.

Spending money unwiselyEdit

We all make mistakes when we spend our money, frequently we don’t find out if a product is good value or not till after we’ve bought it and tried it out. Better off people may, for example go to a café or restaurant which looks like the type their class of people uses, and then decide they don’t like the food and won’t go there again. Better off people may buy a gadget for their computer but later find out it’s nowhere near as good as advertised and doesn’t do anything their computer couldn’t do before. When better off people make mistakes other people tend to assume how they spend their money is their right and we shouldn’t criticise them. When poor people make mistakes other people tend to assume they’re poor and incompetent. It’s no good giving them money because they don’t now how to spend it etc. etc. etc.

The consequences of mistakes in spending money are far more serious for poor people, if a relatively large amount of money is spent on something cheap that breaks and needs to be replaced after a short time that person’s finances can be seriously reduced.

Certainly a minority of poor people have serious problems like alcohol or drug abuse. A minority of rich people have similar problems. Stereotyping a whole group because of a minority with problems is unfair.

The blame game isn't all about spending mistakes, sometimes poor people get blamed for spending unwisely when they had sound reasons for what they bought. Expensive clothes, handbags, briefcases can be the difference between success and failure at job interviews for example. [37]


"Far too many poor people waste their Money on large television sets they don't need!" So say people who don't understand poverty. Even in Developed countries poor people can't afford many entertainments, that better off people take for granted. Cinemas are too expensive and theatres are even more expensive, a club you go to plans a day out, the coach ticket and the cost of lunch are too much, so it goes on. If you can't afford much entertainment except television you get the best television you can manage. Some poor people get televisions on credit and struggle to pay for them, others have televisions which they got before they became poor or which relatives gave them. Incidentally large screen televisions in out of date styles can be relatively cheap second hand.

Sky TVEdit

Sky TV is a UK television network costing about £40 a month. People on the breadline or close to the breadline aren't likely to have Sky TV, still people with incomes above the breadline but well below average sometimes pay out for Sky. Richer people judge relatively poor people for this and overlook that poorer people with Sky have few entertainments except their television.

Judgmental rich peopleEdit

Then there are those rich people, the most important entertainment decision they are taking is, whether to buy a completely new outfit for their next evening at the theatre of whether to risk their upper crust friends seeing them in the same outfit they wore last time. The rich people imagine they know what poor people should and shouldn't do with their televisions. [2][38]

The mediaEdit

News outlets tend to be controlled by wealthy media magnates like, Rupert Murdoch or in the case of public broadcasting, well paid salaried officials. Those who criticise poor people and those who try to defend them often have no direct experience of poverty themselves. Websites like Poor Magazine (USA) and A Girl Called Jack (UK) give valuable direct experience of poverty.

What we should doEdit

We need job creation rather than austerity, we should invest in helpful social enterprises and protect public services instead of pandering to international big business, we need fairer Progressive taxation. Amnesty International wants European governments to protect Human rights (including the right to proper Education, [39] healthy food, Health care, proper housing, good sanitation, clean Water, [40] Work [41]).

We need to strengthen social protections for the vulnerable rather than make them scapegoats for the failings of government. [42]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Don’t blame the bankers or politicians. Blame your unemployed neighbours
  2. 2.0 2.1 I didn’t need a hug, Jamie, I needed a fiver.
  3. Right Wingers Often View The Hard-Working Poor As “Lazy” !
  4. Do we blame people for being in poverty?
  5. Social mobility report: Work 'may be no route out of poverty'
  6. Alan Milburn says child poverty 'no longer problem of the workless and work-shy'
  7. 7.0 7.1 Are the Poor to Blame for Being Poor?
  8. Young people 'feel they have nothing to live for'
  9. Time to Wake Up: Stop Blaming Poverty on the Poor
  10. How does Bain (Mitt Romney's Company) make money?
  11. Dumb Mitt Romney Quotes
  12. Conservatives Blame the Poor for Being Poor
  13. Food banks: cowardly coalition can't face the truth about them
  14. Christmas dinner on a food parcel
  15. Poor forced to use food banks?
  16. 16.0 16.1 The truth of austerity Britain: Half a million go hungry
  17. The Government are feckless, neglectful and abusive – my speech at the #TUC2013
  18. Some Christmas Eve benefits not paid due to DWP 'error'
  19. Food poverty 'now a health emergency'
  20. ‘Poverty, not ignorance’ prevents healthy eating
  21. If you are a mother in this position in a week when you haven't very many bills perhaps you can try out a few new healthy recipes.
  22. Jamie Oliver Blames the Poor While Food Industry Cashes In
  23. Can my fuel supplier disconnect me?
  24. 24.0 24.1 Poorest families 'need more help over debt'
  25. Medical bills prompt more than 60 percent of U.S. bankruptcies
  26. Labour plans payday lenders levy to fund low-cost credit
  27. Your money or your life! Brutal loan sharks putting thousands in hospital
  28. 28.0 28.1 Why are poor people seen as culpable for the things they suffer?
  29. Monitoring poverty and social exclusion
  30. 30.0 30.1 Some Reasons People Become Homeless
  31. Homelessness crisis: a tale of rogue operators, neglect and abuse
  32. 32.0 32.1 Living on a low income in later life
  33. Living on a low income in later life transcript
  34. Living longer and earning less: are elderly women doomed to be poor?
  35. Woman Who Taught At College For Decades Dies Making Reportedly Less Than $25,000 A Year
  36. Death of an adjunct
  37. The Logic of Stupid Poor People
  38. Jamie Oliver, you haven't tasted real poverty. Cut out the tutting
  39. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 26
  40. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 25
  41. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 23
  42. Why governments are blaming the poor for their own poverty

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