Who's Keeping Us Poor? Part 1

Before we continue, let me preface this by saying that I'm not an economist, sociologist, historian or any professional. I do my best to research properly, but I'm obviously not a scholar. This is just my observation, and how I've seen this issue affecting ME.

I'll give y'all some background. I grew up in poverty. My parents immigrated here from Mexico, and didn't have much. They had 9 children, and they rarely made more than minimum wage. We were never really stable, as a child I remember moving from apartment to apartment multiple times a year. We never really had furniture, we would fold covers and have makeshift beds. Our lights and gas would get cut off in the middle of winter. I remember teaching my brother to drink water to stop hunger pangs because there were many days we wouldn't eat. I also remember learning to drink milk through my teeth because there were roaches in the milk. I'm not saying this for "pity points", I'm just saying this because many people often tell me that I have "negative" opinions of poor people because I've never struggled. Not true at all, if anything I have these negative thoughts because I've experienced it first hand. I've always wondered why we were in poverty, and how to get out of it. I'm still in it.

The Stats

So for quite a few years now, Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans have the highest poverty rates, 21.2%, 18.3%, and 25.4% respectively while the national average is 12.3%. I'll be focusing more on Latino and (a bit less) Black poverty, simply because it's more of what I've been around.

Who's Keeping Us Poor? Part 1

History of policies against Minorities

I know many of y'all will say that the past doesn't matter and we weren't alive when policies being created so they don't affect us. I'm not sure if I believe that, I'm not saying it's the sole or main reason, I'm just saying that it has lingering affects.

The obvious early policies against minorities, particularly black people, is slavery. Slavery kept black people back because they couldn't legally own property, get married, vote etc. I don't want to dwell too much on slavery, because it's been done to death. After slavery, there were still racist laws and policies that held black people back such as the infamous Jim Crow and segregation laws.

Minorities were often "redlined" which is "the practice of denying or limiting financial services to certain neighborhoods based on racial or ethnic composition without regard to the residents' qualifications or creditworthiness." This caused many blacks to be neglected housing, especially in suburbs. Wealth is more than just income, it is also assets like homes. By denying minorities access to housing, it caused a further divide in wealth disparity. Yes, there was a law in 1968 in attempt to remedy this, but its effects were already ravaging communities of colors.

I don't know to what extent this affects other families, but I do know how it affects my family. Not much if at all, since my family came from Mexico in the 80s, after many laws were passed. They also never bought homes.

Policies against Minorities today

In 1971, Nixon declared a War on Drugs. The War on Drugs notoriously failed (I'm not sure why the government doesn't just legalize drugs like with alcohol after its prohibition failed too), and it arguably hit minorities the hardest. Because of this, many minorities were incarcerated. Crack was given a harsher sentence than cocaine. Marijuana was classified as a Schedule 1 Drug, which is one of the most serious categories by the DEA. Many states are working to decriminalize marijuana, and some even legalized it, but for many decades, it has caused the disproportionate incarceration of Blacks and Latinos.

This affects many minorities and has affected me because unfortunately some people in my family were involved in drug dealing and drug using. I don't want to give too many details, but due to aforementioned poverty struggles, drug dealing was seen as way to solve many of our financial issues. However, they did have run ins with the law, which ended up setting the family back. It probably ended up costing us the same amount that they made drug dealing in legal fees as well as time wasted incarcerated.

Since minorities are more likely to be incarcerated, we're also more likely to be felons. Because of this, many argue that felon discrimination prevents proper rehabilitation and holds our communities back. Organizations like Ban the Box are working to remove the felony question asked on applications for jobs, public assistance, etc. Florida even passed a law that restored some felons voting rights.

This affects many minorities because many minorities are former felons. This doesn't really affect my family because some of them were able to dodge felony charges. And the ones who were charged with felonies were deported.

Who's Keeping Us Poor? Part 1

Other policies that negatively affect us are many barriers in the form of over certification and regulations. I'm not against certification and licensing, I only support it if it's necessary. Many times, it isn't and communities of colors suffer. With the high cost of testing, (sometimes) yearly renewal fees, and the time it takes to acquire these certifications, it's no wonder people who are already in poverty have a hard time acquiring them. As an example, the requirement of certification to be a "hair braider" leads to lower African Americans becoming professional braiders.

Rent control and rent stabilization also negatively affect us as they promote dependency on renting vs home ownership. To begin with, many cities who have these policies control how high a landlord can charge rent, and/or how high it can increase rent on a tenant (usually a percent of total initial rent per year). Those who are able to secure a cheap apartment are therefore incentivized to stay in their apartments because their apartment is artificially cheap. There are also policies in place that make it extremely difficult for a property owner to either evict or not renew a lease.

However, those who aren't so lucky to secure a rent controlled apartment suffer as well. Because rent controlled areas also have many regulations and fees, as well as regulating how much you can charge for an apartment, investors are hesitant to build affordable housing and instead choose to build luxury housing in order to capitalize on their investments. This makes housing scarce, and the housing that is available luxury and at a high cost. San Francisco (and California) is notoriously suffering from this crisis and have one of the highest rates of homelessness. Chicago, New York and other areas with some form of rent control or rent stabilization also see this trend.

Another indirect way this affects us is because the only affordable housing we can find in or near the city tends to be in very bad neighborhoods, thus further concentrating poverty. This leads to lack of quality education, violence, and all the negatives associated with poverty.

Policies and programs that are meant to help us, in the end, hurt us - this is a trend we'll notice.

Government Assistance aka Welfare

Let me preface this portion by saying I'm NOT against welfare. I believe a social safety net IS necessary. I'm also not against many people on welfare. My family benefits from it.

For some reason this is controversial, but I feel that welfare causes more harm than it helps.

For instance, the war on poverty back in the 60s introduced many welfare programs. After this, single parenthood has skyrocketed, especially for minorities.

It's been stated that in order to make it to out of poverty, one should at least finish high school, work a full time job, and not have children or get married until 21. Those who do this have only a 2% chance of remaining in poverty (2%!), with most making it to the middle class - 75% making at least $55,000. Another controversial but very important aspect is the accumulation of assets and passing down generational wealth, usually in the form of businesses or home ownership.

I believe many social welfare programs make it difficult to escape poverty at best, and encourage destructive behaviors that are conducive to poverty at worst.

Who's Keeping Us Poor? Part 1

One way government assistance makes it difficult to escape poverty, at least here in Illinois, is that if you're in college, you are required to work at least 20hrs/week to qualify for food stamps (I'm not against that). However, if you're not in school, you can be unemployed (even if you're an able bodied adult) and still qualify for food stamps. I see this as an incentive to not only be jobless, but also not even be in school (that would better your job prospects).

Another way I noticed is that there seems to be "tiers". This makes upward mobility extremely difficult. I'll give an anecdotal example, I remember when we were getting food stamp benefits, I had gotten a raise that I reported. It was only a $0.50 raise, which translated to only about an additional $50-$60 a month however, my benefits were cut by about $180. I spoke with a few friends and family about this, and many have told me that they refused promotions and pay raises because their experiences were similar. I also know too many people who will flat out refuse full time jobs, or reduce their hours on purpose to stay within the lower income tier and qualify for assistance. This clearly promotes not working full time (a behavior that will help reduce poverty).

Another controversial form is more in tackling the big 3 is that many welfare programs indirectly penalize those who are married by reducing benefits. A "trick" I've seen many people around me is to not get married (though still co-habitation or being with) with their partner. This way, they can claim that they don't know the father or where he is, and they can only report 1 income in the household and even avoid putting the father through child support. (I hate to throw undocumented immigrants under the bus, but it's even easier for them because there's no way to track them down, since they're undocumented). I know many couples who wanted to get married, but refuse to do so for fear of losing benefits.

And then there's the notorious Section 8. I hate Section 8. It also encourages dependency. Section 8 is a program that is based on a sliding scale and covers part of your rent. For obvious reasons, it fosters dependency not only on the government, but also on landlords. It prevents people from owning homes, something necessary to pass generational wealth.

But not only has it failed because of it encourages dependency, it also fails because it also exacerbates poverty. The way it's implemented in many places, they calculate rent by fair market rent. However, there is a cut off point and many times, the affordable apartments tend to be in poor neighborhoods. It was intended to move poor people out of the ghetto, but because low income area homeowners recruit Section 8 recipients, and higher income area owners refuse to rent to Section 8 recipients (because their income isn't high enough - hence why they need government assistance), it is failing and keeping many poor people in communities with concentrated poverty.

If you made it this far, congrats. I'll be doing a part 2 to further discuss why I think communities of color are so poor. And also why upward mobility is difficult.


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  • This is a well done take. I agree with a lot of what you wrote here. But I want to add something that often gets overlooked in the discussion about poverty and I believe it is one the biggest, if not the biggest factors of all, especially in the black community (sorry, I think we need to be brutally honest here).

    It's culture. Culture is what drives priorities, values and habits, and ultimately behavior, and that behavior is what determines success. The biggest difference between successful people and those in poverty is culture, and only people themselves can change that.

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    • That's going to be discussed in part 2. Otherwise, it would be a very long take (it's long as is) and no one would read it.

    • OK, fair enough. I'm looking forward to reading part 2.

  • i agree with some of this (mostly the 2nd half) and disagree with other parts.

    I think it needs to be explored that possibly there is a difference on average between races.
    There are no policies influencing blacks to have children out of wedlock at double the rate of whites? If minorities are poorer, how can they afford to do more drugs?
    Despite all the racist policies and slavery etc. minorities do worse everywhere else on the planet and mostly all European countries are safe and prosperous.
    For how many more decades will affirmative action be needed?

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    • What part do you disagree with?

      And a lot of welfare encourages poor people to have more kids. And more poor people are black.
      That's true, I know a lot of minorities who'd rather buy weed than food.

      Well I don't know about how it can be fixed worldwide, I'm focusing on the US.

      I think we don't need anymore Affirmative action.

    • "welfare encourages poor people to have more kids" - If you make this kind of decision, no policy will help you. You will claim victimhood under any circumstance at all. These people will claim victimhood if they don't get welfare and then also claim welfare holds them down. Nothing against them, but they are just not intellectually capable of being successful in a modern civilization. It's like expecting your cat to get a job and plan his family, not have too many kittens, save for retirement and not overeat.

Most Helpful Girl

  • Interesting read.
    I'm not sure I agree that more investors would choose to invest in affordable housing instead of luxury housing if there were no regulations. After all, it's still a risk to rent to people you don't personally know. I know that given the choice, I'd rather have 4 high-earning tenants than 20 low-earning tenants.
    I agree that a pay raise shouldn't lead to a cut in benefits that is higher than the raise itself or that someone who goes to college has to work to get food stamps while an unemployed doesn't. You feel like a fool for trying to do better.

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    • That's true. But if there's a market for it, I think that at least some would provide. Even a few extra homes available would definitely help places like San Francisco where the crisis is astronomical.

      And what's worse, is that pay raise was gross pay before taxes (because government assistance goes by gross pay, not net pay); so I saw even less money after taxes!
      Personally, able bodied adults should not receive benefits in my opinion. At all. I know many who do. But the fact that an unemployed person can receive them but a person in school can't, that's wild.
      I have a few "radical" solutions that I'll discuss in part 2 based on how nearly all the poor people I know behave with government benefits. Welfare is like crack. Once you get it, you'll want more and need more to get your "fix" over time.

    • Some? Who? Investors are for-profit, they invest where they expect the highest returns.
      there is absolutely a market for it here in every major city, yet all new rent buildings are built for the high earners or double income middle class in mind. How do you know that? If you follow the guidelines that rent shouldn't cost more than a third of your income, that is what they are charging.
      And once someone moves out from an older building, they will charge the next renter more (the current market price) even if they did not renovate anything or made anything better, simply because there is a high demand for apartments in or near the city. If they renovated something, they will charge just as much as the new buildings, because they can.
      Nobody who has secured a relatively cheap apartment moves out unless they have to either.

      San Francisco has a crisis, like every other major city, because everyone wants to live there and have the means to pay whatever necessary to be there. that's just the natural course of a free uncontrolled market with high demand and low supply.

      Able bodied adults could have invisible illnesses that make it just as impossible for them to work as someone who has no arms and no legs.

    • True, but they don't all just cater to rich people. Where there's a market, someone provides.
      There are high end purses like Gucci, MK, etc but there are still cheap $10 purses at Walmart that sell. There are luxury cars and cheap cars. There's even high end soaps that cost $1,000+ while Dollar Tree sells body soap for only $1. My point is, the market sees potential customers and provides. I highly doubt that housing is the only area where only the luxury version exists.
      Also, with high cost of regulatory fees, the cost just gets passed on to the consumer.

      And what invisible disabilities? Please list them.
      I also doubt it just so happens that more people in poverty have these invisible disabilities, sure some might. But not all.
      And I know many of them. I highly doubt that their disability is so bad that they can't work, but still go out every weekend and gang bang. That's the oddest disability i've ever seen.

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  • "Before we continue, let me preface this by saying that I'm not an economist, sociologist, historian or any professional."

    Please become one. You'll do a fine job, I've no doubt!

    Even better... BUCHITA FOR PRESIDENT IN 2020!

    Very interesting, Buchita. I look forward to reading part 2.

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    • I did want to major in sociology, because I wanted to become a social worker, particularly to help those who were in foster. But I'll admit, I don't think I could handle seeing all those children suffer. I don't know how people who are social workers or pediatricians can handle it, but I can't. I'd have an emotional breakdown everyday.
      Haha thank you :)
      Blah, I'd never run for government. I don't think I'd like it lol
      I'm working on the second part. It'll be out soon. I think that's where a lot more people would disagree with me. A lot of people here constantly claim that I'm "privileged" or have never experienced poverty. And they think I'm being ignorant for saying that a lot of poor people like staying poor. But it's what I've seen around me. It's what I've heard. It's what I've experienced. That's why I had to mention that I've lived through probably a bit more "extreme" poverty compared to others in such a prosperous country that is the US, because otherwise I get personal attacks saying I'm heartless or don't know or care because I've never been poor. Laughable. I wish that were true!

    • Actually, Buchita, I'm pretty sure you're disqualified from holding public office. I'm pretty sure in Crook... er, I mean Cook County that you have to have a criminal record to get elected.

    • Lmao! Probably. We're having a mayoral election and I was asking my brothers if they were going to vote. They said no because they didn't want to vote for the candidate who takes the least bribes since they're all corrupt.
      What's amazing, and I was telling my boyfriend this, is that nearly everyone here hates the government. We don't trust it, we think they have too much power. But then you ask them who they'll vote for, if they do, and they almond always say Democrats. But they rarely answer why they vote for them. I tell them that if they mistrust the government so much, why are they constantly voting for candidates that expand government power? Like I don't know if they think that the solution to government corruption is to keep voting for the same guys who get busted for corruption and that expand their power?

      And Democrats, I'm not saying all, but largely in Illinois have been extremely corrupt. Rod Blagojevich is an infamous example who everyone hates. That was the only time I saw people vote for a Republican as well, Bruce Rauner - who then everyone hated too. Nearly all my friends voted for Pritzker and I asked them why. They would say, "Rauner is a racist" or "he hates Mexicans/Latinos". And I'd ask why they'd say that. All they could say "he's a Republican". And then I'd tell them, "but he made Illinois a sanctuary state", and they'd be surprised. Like so many of my friends and family have no idea the policies their candidates have, they just see "D" and choose that one. They truly believe Republicans are racist and anyone who votes for them is too.
      I'm not against Democrats, I'm merely against these politicians who made us believe that Republicans hate us. Then they know their election is in the bag and they do nearly nothing to improve the lives of people (minorities) who are loyal to them, even time after time seeing them get jailed or scandals coming out every so often like here in Chicago.
      I'm sorry I went off on rant, I'm just so tired of the Dems from here.

  • A good take, plenty of detail to back up the points you make. Yet i don't see it all your way. People are deliberately locked into poverty. It's the cheap labour market for some employers, and somewhere to point your finger at when you want a rant at the state of the economy and crime. I'm not in the USA, i'm Irish and i see things from a different perspective. I see a very different since the crash in 2008. A crash that seen huge job loses, wages and salaries reduced by half. Where before two people working in good jobs were well able to afford a roof over their heads and food on the table. Now with austerity taxes and cut backs in all public services we see people not being able to afford the home they lived comfortably in before the crash. The rise of eviction courts and the introduction of American Vulture funds who pay no tax on the huge profits they make, but up distressed mortgages, or the property at huge discounts. We see the government trying to "normalise" the huge homeless problem that has resulted, the low paying work, the unprecedented rise in the cost of homes and rents. The government privatising as many public services as possible, putting huge funding into the public health service, but making sure it doesn't function at all. Why am i talking about Ireland, you may ask. The reason is this. The USA is a by word in noeliberal capitalism. There's no society, people live in an economy. The "pay your way" and "personal responsibility" are the neoliberal mantras we hear day in day out here as they rush to turn a society into an American style economy.
    You cannot commodify the basic needs of society. Be it health, housing, public transport, water, social welfare, education, the poor, the low paid lose out. You cannot have "if and when", zero hours, minimum wage contracts and expect people to either pay their way or take personal responsibility. The crash in 2008 was deliberate. It was engineered by banks and politicians turned a blind eye. It has overseen the biggest transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. Home ownership was the norm in Ireland. Of course there were always those who for many reasons could never afford their own home. Governments, at a time when the country hadn't a pot to piss in built social housing to house the working class who lived in the death traps of tenement buildings. Neoliberalism dictates that no social housing is built today. Those who are social welfare those who lost their homes, the homeless are decried as parasites, scroungers, pay for nothing brigade. All driven by government lies and spin.
    The poor will always be with us. It is a mark of a functioning society in how the poor are treated. An economy will leave them to rot on the streets and blame their ills on them.
    Nothing will ever change in the USA as long as neoliberal capitalism holds sway. You can blame the poor all you want. Give all the reasons you like to say they are locked into the poverty cycle and still blame them. Neoliberalism is new to Ireland, 2008 seen the start, and 2011 gave us the first lying neoliberal government ever seen. Though the ground work was laid years before.
    Greed is behind this, be it the USA or Ireland, the greed of bankers, rampant capital, and a corrupt political system. We either want to live in a society or an economy. Ordinary people cannot afford an economy.
    One thing is sure, the lessons of history tell us that people will only tolerate so much. Those in power, and those who pay them, would do well to remember it.

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  • Nice Take. Educating yourself, learning a trade, and being a productive and useful member of society are the best ways out of poverty.

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  • great thoughts. I was hoping for something more along the lines of why we’re all getting poorer and where is the money really going. I hope you’ll consider a part 3, 4, 5, ...

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    • I'm focusing on minority poverty because it's much more prevalent and it's what I'm used to.
      But we're not all getting poorer. The quality of life, at least here in the US is pretty good even for those in poverty. And I don't mean just running water and shelter. I'm talking about most people have at least a phone, even smart phone, and flat screen TVs. That's a pretty nice life for someone in poverty.
      If you're referring to the growing income inequality aka wealth gap, to me income inequality isn't an issue. I'm not a socialist. To me, what matters is the quality of life for those in poverty, and especially the eradication of abject poverty- or at least extremely reduced.
      Materially, the quality of life isn't too bad for most poor people I know. But many still lack proper health care, struggle with bills, etc.

  • I'm afraid you're pretty right... you see the same in Europe.
    Some immigrants have chances on the labour market and get out of poverty. But it's a minority :-(
    Many end up workless, low income, and concentrated in some neighborhood.
    Most frequent reasons are (1) not learning the language, (2) coming in uneducated with no chance the get a decent job. Including people who can't read or write :o

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  • You may not be a economist, sociologist, historian or any professional, but you got so many points those so-called experts don't.

    Hard work and effort get out of poverty, not waiting for a miracle and screaming when it doesn't happen.
    Keeping suckling the welfare's breasts encourages dependency and allows mere survival.

    And people who just survive this way not only become complacent, but also get angry because they aren't living like other people do.
    Excellent myTake, waiting for part 2.

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    • Thank you :)
      I mentioned that because I've had arguments with people here about poverty and they always say "are you a sociologist? If not, then your arguments don't matter" Or something like that. (It's also why I mentioned how poor I grew up. Not to get pity, but because I'm constantly being accused of being insensitive because I MUST have lived an affluent life). People attack me personally and not my arguments, it's annoying.

      Yea, I don't know why it's so controversial to say that welfare is almost encouraging us to do the very things that'll keep us poor. I don't know if it's by design or mere coincidence. Like we can admit the War on Drugs failed, why can't we admit the War on Poverty did too?

      Yes, we're kinda of raised to hate those in power because we're taught it's their fault we're poor. Be it rich, white, men - the usual suspects. There are a lot of conspiracy theories in the ghetto to explain nearly everything of why blacks/ browns will never make it.

      Thank you, I'm finishing it up. It'll also include some kinda "controversial" solutions that we all can do to alleviate poverty. As well as discuss how schools, communities of color, and individuals themselves contribute to poverty.

  • So we gotta read a part 2 of this next? Wow I don't know if I have all that time in the day to do that lol

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  • Who's Keeping Us Poor? Part 1

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    • I don't know what this means? Wall street is to blame?

    • Show All
    • The upper class isn't more numerous, they're much richer since Reagan.

    • a higher % of the population is upper class now than ever before.

  • the more you depend on the welfare system the more likely you will be to remain poor. Try not to focus on all the poor minorities out there and try to find the success stories of minorities in America. Work hard, save, learn a skill, dont get pregnant, attend school. Set a goal for yourself and do whatever it takes to attain that goal. Take advantage of what grants and handouts and welfare there is but only to help you reach your goals. The slogan is America is the land of dreams and prosperity. Not America is the land of dreams and prosperity if you are already rich. Stop putting roadblocks in front of yourself and do what you have to to (legally) push through. Ignore the ones who say you can't and listen closer to the ones who say you can.
    Try to seek out success stories of minorities who have made it and mirror them.

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  • The wealthiest people and corporations in the world have basically purchased the government as a result six people have the same money as the bottom half of humanity (most of the 6 are Americans) democracy is dead and we need to bring it back

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  • You've touched well on how the social benefits are really traps and hard to get out of.

    What I see among some "minorities", especially black as that is what I was experienced wtih... my home town was 1/2 w/b.
    A) they have kids sooner - kids are expensive
    B) family units are not good, fathers don't stick around
    C) lack of religious structure to encourage better family units
    D) Lack of drive for high education and achievement. See this strongly in chinese and indian, rarely in black and in some areas, white
    E) Discipline - often lacking

    Fix those things, they rise up where they should be... some make it out, many do not. most of my black HS class is dead... drugs!

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    • can also look at other societies that are poor. like mexican or italian... they learn to work hard and grow their own, can food, etc.. survive... hard work ethic. That was in some segments of society, white and black. Once corruption is in the family, it is hard to root out.

  • I only skim read, sorry not going into the thick of it with something like that.

    I just want to suggest one thing and it's that something gets overlooked and its generally desire. Not all people want to be rich. Its not that they dont like money, its that they are satisfied. Problem with that is in our changing world you do need to be rich. Like looking at a black or white educated person, they are nearly identical in most regards. Hill billies and ghetto blacks may appear different and have different climates but they possess the same underlying traits.

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    • Ill add this too. What I see and that others share in the opinion of is latino types, mexicans are incredibly maternal and feminine. Like even their macho men are sexy like women. They seem to have very strong famial bonds and that takes precedence. It might just be that these character traits decide a persons ambitions. But thats looking at things broadly

  • People keep themselves poor, by spending all their money their earn.

    If they had more money, they will spend it equally.

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  • The ones keeping us poor is the reptilian-aliens that have invaded Earth and taken over our government.

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  • its tough. a lot of complicated things to fix... hugs

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  • Taxes and bad habits, lack of morality keep people poor. .

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  • Great take

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