Thursday, January 2, 2014

This Is Why Poor People's Decisions Do NOT Make Perfect Sense

By now, many of you may have read or at least seen excerpts from Linda Tirado's HuffPost blog post titled, "This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense". I read it a couple of weeks ago and have been stewing on it every since.

Linda is a very articulate, well spoken woman. However... I am angry with her well written blog post for perpetuating the theory that poverty begets poverty. Jesus, does that attitude feel like nails on a chalkboard to me!

I, like Linda, can speak to being poor and intelligent because I have been as poor as any first world child can be. And it is generational in my family. My mother lived in a "home" with no plumbing, no true insulation, no refrigeration... where river rats crawled on her in her sleep.

The poverty continued on for me. I remember the excitement for the beginning of the month when food stamps came and I knew we would have food in the fridge again for a couple of weeks. The excitement when a kind stranger came to the door on Christmas Eve with a cardboard box of a few gifts for my brother and myself as that would be the only gifts we would get for Christmas. I remember washing the outside of a man's trailer in the trailer park we lived in so that I could get a fresh $20 bill at 9-years-old and go buy myself a brand new back to school outfit and feel like the "other" kids at school... if only for one day... in clothes that were new and actually fit me.

That abject, degrading poverty is where my similarities with Linda ends.

Unlike Linda, I made a cognisant choice to change my path. Just like washing that man's trailer... I knew that if I worked hard and avoided the stereotypical trappings of poverty... I could get out.

First off... Linda (as intelligent as she is) excuses her unplanned children:
"Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It's why you see people with four different baby daddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It's more basic than food. You go to these people who make you feel lovely for an hour that one time, and that's all you get. You're probably not compatible with them for anything long-term, but right this minute they can make you feel powerful and valuable. It does not matter what will happen in a month. Whatever happens in a month is probably going to be just about as indifferent as whatever happened today or last week. None of it matters. We don't plan long-term because if we do we'll just get our hearts broken. It's best not to hope. You just take what you can get as you spot it."
Do you think I didn't seek men to fulfill the hole in my heart left by my own absentee father? Of course I did... but I also knew that condoms are an amazing (and very effective way) to prevent unwanted births. As are birth control pills. And how did a poor girl raised in rural Maine possibly afford birth control? I got off my ass and started working at the age of 14. By the age of 17 I actually worked 2 jobs while going to high school and graduating at the top 10% of my class.

Linda also smokes... which I have never done. First off, Linda, you are selfish... every $7 you spend on a pack is $7 of healthy food you are stealing from your poor children. She whines, "I smoke. It's expensive. It's also the best option. You see, I am always, always exhausted. It's a stimulant." I might excuse that ridiculous option if it were not for your children you are stealing from... as well as chancing taking their mother from as she dies of self-induced lung cancer.

Linda is raising children with the most self-defeatist attitude I can even imagine: "I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor..."

Bullshit, Linda. You know what... I had every excuse of a shitty childhood of poverty and abuse that I could have started popping out babies with multiple baby daddies at age 15. Living on welfare. Sitting on my ass watching Jerry Springer while smoking my stimulating cigarettes.

But, I CHOSE not to be financially poor (or poor in any other manner, for that matter). I CHOSE a father for my 3 children who would be an amazing provider and daddy. (Even though our first child was unplanned... I knew that I was with a man who was a good man, a good person and this, in turn, reflects in him being a great father. All of these women who want to degrade the father of your babies, what does that say for you in laying down with these less-than-stellar men???)

I was a poor person whose good decisions make perfect sense. And how dare you, Linda, give other poor people a reason to stay helpless. How dare you give them excuses to raise their children in generational hopelessness and poverty.

I am here to tell them that you can make good choices... great choices. You can choose to work hard and pull yourself out. You can choose to provide an amazing life and sense of hope for your own children.

Shame on you, Linda.


  1. Well written- I agree with what you say above. I thought I might just point out that apparently Linda Tirado is not actually poor and did not write that article from her own experiences but rather from 'observations' of other people. Basically it is just a piece of fiction. Perhaps see this article to explain more:

    1. I did see that... but I would still disagree with her "observations" I guess.

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  3. Great post Michelle. As you know, we also grew up without too much and it has been a great motivation to build a better life for my family with careful planning and dedication. While I might be a bit more materialistic than you are, we spend a lot less than we earn and try to teach our children to appreciate the people in our lives more than the things we own or covet. (We recently helped buy a mobile home for my wife's aunt and her daughter and during the process Camden suggested we convert his toy room into an apartment for them! Crazy idea, but I loved his generosity and selflessness.)

    One of the biggest frustrations I have is watching people close to me make their situations worse through a pattern of poor choices and obliviousness, both in terms of lifestyle and financial planning. When relatives are facing bankruptcy and need to borrow money it is tempting to point out that they have bought 4 new cars in the time that I've been driving the same used car with 200K miles on it that I paid only $4400 for!

    Anyway, you're doing things right and I love reading what you write because it helps remind me what really matters. Hopefully you and the girls can get to Kittery this spring to visit our animals and dip your toes in the ocean!