There is a fascinating article I found on Frugaling about a poor person who wrote about why she made bad decisions, you can find the article here. She explains why she smokes, eats junk food and has several kids by several different fathers. The one thing that stuck out was the bad teeth component, as poor people often have bad teeth as Medicaid (health insurance for the poor) doesn’t cover braces. We had a hard time finding a dentist that would accept Medicaid when i was a kid. When my sister needed braces the dentist allowed my mother to pay for it in monthly installment plans, it took her over three years to pay that debt. Not many dentists would have the compassion to accept payment plans or wait that long for their money. (Thanks Dr. Lincoln for your kindness).
$34,000 income places you in the top 1% of income in the world.
Everyone talks about the 1%, but if you make more than $34,000 you are in the top 1% of income in the world. Your earn more than nearly 7 billion people. With the portrayal of the rise of the rich Chinese we forget that majority of the people there are dirt poor. To be the top 1% in China requires an income of $91,000, which is achieved by a fourth of all Americans. You’re thinking income is relative to the cost of living as $34,000 goes a lot farther in Vietnam, Asia or any third world country. In my previous post about the Amerian Dream I wrote about my relatives who were middle class inVietnam yet had a lower standard of living than I did growing up poor.
I flew from Saigon in South Vietnam to Hanoi in North Vietnam in 2 hours. When my relatives travel to the north it takes them days, none of them had ever flown in an airplane. Around Saigon a family friend drove us around in a car, majority of Vietnamese travel by motor bike. Riding on the back of a motor bike is fun, until I realized how f ing dangerous that it is. You would see entire families (as many as 5 people with little babies on board) riding on those things. No one obeys traffic laws, if you get hit by a car a helmet does absolutely shit. The only good it does you is to keep your brains from splaterring onto the road. Families on a motor bike getting hit by a car is such a daily occurence that no one flinches when that happens, I’ve seen several overturn bikes.
On my last day we stopped by the family friend’s house which was no more than a shanty. It had a metal roof held up by thick wood sticks with 10 people living in it. There were no rooms, the beds were elevated on wood blocks. Since it was dirt floors when it rains they’re unable to go anywhere, sometimes it can rains for weeks. He was embarassed that he was so poor, that was the first time I knew someone that lived like that. My heart went out to his family as I had never seen that type of poverty.
It’s a good thing that Americans (and Canadians) bitch about stuff, that means that our basic needs of food and shelter is met. Once you go up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs towards being happy you get to bitch about first world problems. Diseases that kill millions (measles, malaria, polio) is eradicated in developed countries. There are billions who yearn to have the same freedoms and opportunities we all take for granted. We got problems, but we ain’t go no problems.