College Grad Succeeds With $25 And A Gym Bag

This college grad decided to live on the streets with just $25 and a gym bag to see if he could make it without any of the trappings of his upbringing, privileges, or contacts. After 10 months, he was moving into an apartment, bought a pickup truck, and had a savings of around $5,000. The point of the story is supposed to be that people are poor because they have bad attitudes. Which is technically true, but maybe he should do an experiment to see what being born poor will do for your “positive outlook.”

(Thanks to Scott!) (Photo: CSmonitor)


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  1. emjsea says:

    Well in this country being born poor gives you the outlook that everyone, especially the government, owes you a handout and god-forbid you get off your ass and get a job or even *try* Someone call the whah-ambulance.

  2. IrisMR says:

    Being piss poor often depresses you. But when you stop being pouty and emo and cursing society and actually kick your ass into action, you can succeed.

  3. beavis88 says:

    To play devil’s advocate, he didn’t do any of this in the face of, say, major illness without healthcare, or carrying the baggage of a youthful indiscretion on his criminal record. I think the overall message is good – work hard, stay out of trouble, and you’ll succeed, even if you started with next to nothing. But let’s not pretend that just because this guy did it that everyone can.

  4. Xay says:

    So this kid did what a lot of poor people do every day – and?

  5. aro says:

    I am wondering if he has any student loans to pay. I am a recent MBA grad and I’ll be in the hole for a while.

  6. kimsama says:

    There was an interesting article about this that talked about how it was possible for him to succeed because he was healthy and male. Healthy, because he was able to get a good job as a mover. That couldn’t have happened if he’d had a disability or was a weaker guy. Male, because he saved money sleeping in shelters and other public locations that would have potentially dangerous for a woman on her own to utilize. I congratulate him, but if he’d been a sickly single mom, his approach wouldn’t have worked.

    Nonetheless, it was a significant accomplishment. I know I will be reading the book. I suspect he didn’t save that money by buying himself an iPhone and a flatscreen TV, and every other “necessity” like so many people I know who are “poor”!

  7. Mr. Gunn says:

    This is a good overall message, but it will be pointed to by the same people that complain about immigrants doing exactly this.

  8. kimsama says:

    @beavis88: Exactly.

  9. Gev says:

    @beavis88: To further play, he also was not doing it in the face of having genuinely hit rock bottom.

    Always knowing in the back of his mind that at any time if things got too crappy he could bail and go back home probably had some effect on things.

  10. I think the comparison for him v. Nickeled and Dimed is completely unfair. Young (healthier)men have much better odds at finding a job that involves both manual labor and above minimum wage pay. The N&D experiments found that the most common manual jobs for middle aged women barely pay minimum wage, and rarely offer opportunity for advancement.

    Additionally, if you’ve been living in poverty your whole life, odds are you’ve been malnourished and have a much higher risk of becoming obese (cheetos will always be cheaper than a salad). Without your health, you really are screwed out of most manual labor jobs.

    All that said, I will go ahead and agree with him that with near super-human like strength and will-power, most people could get themselves out of poverty.

  11. MsClear says:

    This story is a perfect example of how perceptions of the world shape the reading of anything.

    Conservatives and Libertarians will just say that this proves that poverty is the fault of the poor, who need to stop whining.

    Liberals will say that this guy’s class privilege allowed him to escape his circumstances.

    The truth is that a combination of natural advantages of being born middle class and some common sense allowed this guy to succeed. It’s not either/or.

    I’m middle class, but I’d never be crass enough to think that I didn’t get some damn lucky breaks in life. Yeah, I’m also a good saver and very frugal, which adds to these advantages. But I didn’t do it alone.

    BTW, this guy used services for the poor while moving up, like homeless shelters.

  12. darkened says:

    @Mr. Gunn: I only complain about illegal immigrants. There is a process for immigration, use it or stay the hell out of my country.

  13. 92BuickLeSabre says:

    The faultiness of the experiment is present in the first three words: “This college grad”.

  14. mrjimbo19 says:

    I disagree, part of the issue is that everyone has a story they could use to prevent them from doing something about there problems. Setting aside medical conditions that would prevent you from working this is the attitude and type of plan people should be forced to have before being allowed on social services. Is it a perfect test that should be the stick to judge all others? Not by a long shot but it should be a wake up call that we need some responsibility to be placed not only on the ones paying the taxes and in turn supporting the poor.

  15. savvy999 says:

    Ten months into the experiment, he decided to quit after learning of an illness in his family.

    Ah, there’s the rub. In the back of his head, he knew this was just an experiment, fodder for a book and future appearances on GMA. One phone call and he was out, and back in his room in his comfy parents’ house.

    I’ve met plenty of trust-fund types who left college to follow the Grateful Dead, live like a street urchin for a couple of months or a year, yet always confident in the knowledge that someday they would rejoin society with ease. Every single one of those kids is now either a lawyer or a doctor.

    This guy is a total and utter fraud. It’s soooo easy to jump out of an airplane when you know you have the golden parachute of a college education and a stable upper middle-class family to catch you before you truly hit bottom.

  16. forgottenpassword says:

    pfft! This guy didnt even get mugged, stabbed & have his $25 & shoes stolen! Isnt authentic!

    Also…. he always had the knowledge that he could return to his priviledged life any time he wanted.

    Put him in a real dire, bankrupt & destitute homless situation & he may have very well turned into an alcoholic.

  17. humphrmi says:

    Here’s a quote that I felt was important (from the article):

    But surely your background – you’re privileged; you have an education and a family – made it much easier for you to achieve.
    … I don’t think that played to my advantage. How much of a college education do you need to budget your money to a point that you’re not spending frivolously, but you’re instead putting your money in the bank?

    Indeed, all you have to do is read Consumerist!

  18. harumph says:

    something about this doesn’t add up for me.

    also, in most cities being a day laborer does not pay well enough to get your own apartment.

    let him try to do this in new york.

  19. 4thispost says:

    Found this quote interesting as well

    “I was getting by on chicken and Rice-A-Roni dinner and was happy. That’s what I learned … we lived [simply], but still we were happy.”

    What does he mean by WE lived [simply]?

  20. iliveinyoureyelid says:


    Agreed, I remember reading a book called “Nickled and Dimed: on not Getting by in America” where a woman professor gave herself considerably more advantage than this chap, as well as admitted taking some breaks throughout the experiment, and despite working multiple jobs and trying in multiple markets could not make a success of it.

    The danger of this is that some of the more self-entitled readers of this board will use this as an excuse to push the message that America is indeed an equitable “meritocracy”.

  21. bravo369 says:

    I’m surprised by some of the comments. Sure he could have become an alcoholic if hit complete rock bottom. on the same point, he could have become a druggie, rob a bank, prostitute himself etc. But that’s not the point. his point is that your choices are what makes or breaks you. he didn’t do any of those things but instead got a job. Sure he was able bodied and was able to get a job as a mover. Other can’t so you have to find your own job. THere’s enough out there. become a janitor or a stock person or the guy that brings water to the table at a restaurant. if you are going to just become an alcoholic or druggie then they aren’t following the american dream and this article doesn’t apply to them.

  22. forgottenpassword says:

    he should have started begging…. []

  23. char says:

    Also, having an education makes helps this kid be articulate and confident. Even if he doesn’t use his degree, he still has those skills that are easily developed at college.

  24. ChrisC1234 says:

    I contrast this story to that of the former residents of Louisiana, who were moved to separate cities, and are still living off of FEMA’s dime… If they really wanted to have done something with themselves in the past 2 years, they could have.

  25. scoobydoo says:

    So he started off with no debt, probably good or excellent credit, insurance, good health and a good education?

    He’s already miles ahead of most of the people living on the street :(

  26. ChrisC1234 says:

    BTW: I LIVE in Louisiana, and know many people who have put their own lives back together WITHOUT help from the government.

  27. rickshawed says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite terms, “Trustafarian”.

    Exactly like someone else pointed out, these kids rough it for a little while and, then, once they don’t like the way things are going anymore, they go to work as a senior partner at their dad’s hedge fund or VC firm.

    The fact that this kid knew he could bail at anytime and be safe can not be overstated enough in all of this. The risks he knew he could take because of that safety net makes the entire experiment quite unrealistic, imo.

    Whether or not you have a financial safety net is probably a huge reason why it’s not easy to move up to a higher class in our society.

    When I graduated college, I wanted to get into PR. Of course, entry level jobs paid only about $22K per year. I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and bills with that job. I had to change gears.
    So, by and large, that field (and many others) are only friendly to rich kids who are supported by their family through the low paying years. It ends up paying off big if you stick with it but shows that, often, you need money to get money.

  28. Asvetic says:

    @harumph: you must have skipped the part where he went from day labor to a steady position within a moving company… that’ll give you a enough money to afford an apartment. Plus, it never mentioned what kind of apartment, it could have been an efficiency for all we know.

    The concept of the story isn’t that he went from rags to riches (or rags to slightly better rags), it’s that the attitude you have will be what gets you through the rough spots, plus having a goal to maintain that attitude is motivating.

  29. MissTic says:

    Good for him! I find the whining and “but, but, but…” entertaining to say the least.

  30. Razzler says:

    @HRHKingFriday: Good lord, not being morbidly obese is considered “near super-human” these days? I knew the health crisis in America was bad, but I didn’t realize it was that bad.

  31. Razzler says:

    @MissTic: Ha! Me too.

  32. bohemian says:

    It is rather a flawed experiment. He has his health, youth and intelligence. He was smart enough to finish college so that pretty much fills the intelligence quotient.

    I see too many have-nots on a regular basis that don’t have the common sense of a turnip. I think it is a combination of lack of good parenting, lack of importance on school at home, lack of good education access, probably malnutrition and general attitude.

    When everyone in your home growing up is backward, uneducated and lazy someone growing up there might find that the norm and never aspire to better.

    That is my best guess on why there are multiple generations of have nots in some circumstances. So we need to either ask them to not breed or find a way to break the cycle.

    Personally I have fallen flat on my face twice in life and had to start over. But it wasn’t that hard since I know how to function in society and have the intelligence to know how to obtain and keep a decent job.

  33. @Razzler: OK, you try having an above normal (not even obese) BMI and working manual labor jobs. Odds are you’ll be able to function, but not necessarily advance. I guarantee you that if he’d had a few extra pounds, he wouldn’t have been as successful at being a mover.

    The bigger problem I’m trying to point out is that historically, a lot of lower class jobs have been manual. Now, the paycheck at these jobs isn’t going to get you much more than junk food, so how are they expected to perform well at manual jobs?

    That is what ultimately keeps the have-nots being have-nots.

  34. EBounding says:

    I don’t think the point of his experience was to motivate people who are already homeless. I think it’s directed at people who are well off (like he was). He shows that even if things get bad (in terms of money), it’s very much possible to survive and not perish on the street. So if you just make common sense choices with your money you will be fine.

  35. Asvetic says:

    @savvy999: Actually, he met and exceeded his goals: he had an apartment, a truck and $5000 before leaving to attend his family. I’m surprised at that point he was still referring to it as an experiment.

  36. Tyr_Anasazi says:

    This is a load of crap! The experiment is flawed because this kid has several advantages that play to his factor. A true test of his ‘pioneer spirit’ would involve these factors:

    -Could not use banks or savings and loans
    -The types of jobs he could get would be limited
    -He couldn’t seek an apartment in certain areas or price ranges
    -He’d need to depend on transportation
    -Even if there was an ‘illness’ in the family, he couldn’t bail from his experiment

    You get the idea. Many people do flout the law and society and always get the handouts. Many of those do NOT poulate the ghettoes of this nation but the suburbs (can I hear ‘mortgage bailout’…)

  37. ExtraCelestial says:


    I’m really surprised that I had to read through all of those comments before that FINALLY came up. With two degrees (at least) life is already set up to be infinitely easier than someone barely making it out of high school.

  38. kantwait says:

    Does it piss anyone else off that he was using services that are intended for people who are ACTUALLY poor/needy/homeless etc?? I work for a national charity, and we have really limited resources compared to a regular business and this really rubs me the wrong way. He probably could have learned more about being homeless by volunteering or working with a charity/non-profit.

  39. Dashrashi says:

    Seriously. Why does he think he had such a positive attitude? Just naturally sunny? Or the product of a privileged and relatively worry-free upbringing?

  40. chilled says:

    this story has been around here for awhile,he’s local.He had aroomate in his apartment ,and it was pretty crappy and in a bad area..but i agree,good education will outrun a lot of problems most guys would have under same circumstances,plus race would play a factor,since this guy was,i,m irish,i would have stayed drunk!!

  41. tasselhoff76 says:

    Well, the point of the experiment was in response to the book, Nickel and Dimed. I see this as a somewhat faulty “experiment,” though, as he has an education. You cannot divorce yourself from your education and upbringing.

    It’s quite likely he was taught how to save and how to spend and had at least enough common sense to get by. I mean, making $5,000 and living in an apartment, when you have your health, no debt, and a brain, to begin with, does not seem like such a herculean task.

  42. kantwait says:

    @beavis88: Side note- Juvenile records are sealed, so a “youthful indiscretion” wouldn’t matter unless it was committed after he was 18. So at least kids can get a second chance if they screwed up when they were younger.

  43. I am not black, but ask a black person if this story rings possible for them. Black person who grew up poor and didn’t have a college education.

    I am a progressive. I think that a lot of poor people could use with an attitude adjustment to their benefit. I don’t hold patronizing views of poor people as many red state people might suggest. But, at the same time, I don’t think this man’s experience really translates to a real world poor person, just out of high school. Yes, he was a college grad. Yes, he didn’t mention it. But he didn’t unlearn everything he learned in college. And he didn’t give back the skills that made him a college graduate. There’s the gap. You can not mention your education, but your education is going to shine through, anyway.

  44. Razzler says:

    @HRHKingFriday: I’m guessing you’ve never worked a manual labor job. I did, as did my fiance, all through college (we did contracting work, installing insulation at the Dynegy plant in New York). My fiance is 5’10, 175 pounds. I’m 5’7, 150 pounds. Very few of our coworkers were visibly unhealthy, though we certainly had a couple chunkos (more on that in a sec).

    The company was pretty sexist and my career interests were elsewhere, so I quit once I graduated. My fiance, on the other hand, was promoted to foreman and still works the job while he does graduate work. He hasn’t gained a pound.

    That said, the owner of the company was massively overweight and unhealthy – easily 350 pounds, smoked and drank as well – and he seemed to have little difficulty hauling coils and building scaffolding.

    So what as your point again?

  45. Falconfire says:

    He has his health, youth and intelligence

    while youth and health might have played a part, intelligence means nothing in the realm of work he did. I worked as a casual carrier, ride operator, and a Dairy Queen ice cream jockey before landing a gig in the IT field. Neither required more than a high school graduation IF THAT. Heck the ride operator job I had was with mostly Bosnian speaking kids my age who came to America for summer jobs to make “mad cash” that they bought BMWs and fur coats with when they got home.

    The sad fact is, most Americans regardless of their stature refuse to lower themselves to “menial” jobs. They look for that great break instead of cleaning toilets, or dumping garbage.

    Most homeless these days have actually graduated High School, and if they didnt, its certainly not because they didnt have the opportunity. I couldnt tell you how many kids drop out because they dont give a rats ass and end up on the streets, vs how many truly have issue at home that requires them to drop out. Just about all school systems are required to provide alternate means of education to allow people who are required to support their family time for education and a opportunity to graduate.

    While I wont lie and say there is NO reason that people should be homeless, and that no one should be homeless, the sad fact is many who are chose to be that way, and refuse the handouts and help that they are given out of a mistaken idea of pride.

  46. sir_eccles says:

    Ok, so the experiment was not ideal. But I think the lessons it teaches are still very important. I think the main thing missing from his experiment was a real reason for being on the street rather than his made up story of druggie mother etc. While he didn’t have this emotional baggage to deal with, he also didn’t just sit there looking for someone to blame. He set goals and worked hard to get there. Do we need to be monetarily wealthy and overloaded with consumer goods to be happy with our lot? Less can be more.

  47. Sherryness says:

    Right, ’cause I’ll bet you never break the law.

  48. drewsumer says:

    In that case, I’ll have Rum and Coca-Cola.

  49. tiontech says:

    wow a college grad with no responsibilities to family, health issues, that had all the benefits of a nice childhood, teenage years, educated parents that could provide discipline and guidance serving as role models….who would’ve thunk it!!!

    pictures of this guy:

    This article makes me sick because it reinforces that all poor people are poor because of being lazy. Moreover, the racial overtones are deafening. “…gold rims on my Cadillac…”. Yea, that’s right all poor black people are poor because of rims and Cadillacs. What a jackass….

  50. DaleM says:

    What I dont get, as evidenced by the first two responses, is why people seem to hate the poor. It makes no sense.

  51. Razzler says:

    @DaleM: I’m more confused about why people seem to hate the middle/upper-middle classes.

  52. bbbici says:

    Yeah, the experiment was flawed. You cannot deduct a good upbringing and education from his persona, and his mannerisms and vocabulary would taint every job interview and other interactions with employers.

    Also, he was lucky he never required medical attention, or goaded into a fight by a ruffian.

  53. Sherryness says:

    This is a good experiment only if you compare apples to apples. Some people were born with lower IQ’s, which is not their fault. Some people were raised by their parents to shoplift. Some people were NOT taught lessons in resourcesfulness and self-reliance. Some people are mentally ill. What he proved is that hard work, resourcefulness, and self-reliance were attributes he possesses and that they are attributes which will help him succeed in life. That’s all he proved.

  54. Jim Fletcher says:

    In 2002 I was left broke and homeless with no car after moving across the country. Went to a crappy job waiting tables every day with a backpack and asking people if I could crash on their couch that night. Now I’ve got a job as a software engineer and live the yuppie lifestyle. It’s totally possible to go rags to riches just by working hard and having a positive attitude.

  55. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @savvy999, & @forgottenpassword: Exactly!

    It’s not like most people living on the street are young and healthy college grads who were raised in middle to upper class households and are only homeless by choice.

    I didn’t use my college education..But in real life, I had these lessons that I had learned. I don’t think that played to my advantage.

    I’m not the only person who sees the problem here, am I? Does he honestly think that people raised in poor households, especially those that are poor due to bad money management, are getting the exact same lessons work and money that he did?

    I refuse to believe that he turned off the part of his brain that held his college education and any knowledge, formal or otherwise, that most people on the street wouldn’t have.

    I also find it amazing that he thinks it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d been on probation and/or had child care payments. He was asked if that would have made it harder and he said all that matters is your attitude.

  56. Sherryness says:

    Everybody hates somebody, some time.

  57. kimsama says:

    @Razzler: I think it’s more a case that people don’t like when kids from high SES families say, “See? It’s easy not to be poor!” when in reality they have a host of advantages that kids from low SES families don’t have.

  58. katylostherart says:

    i wonder if he qualifies for a suit from the government for defrauding them for benefits.

    and to whoever said selling your body is a just a choice, you’d choose it too if it meant you got a roof and food. while i completely agree that drugs and alcohol are totally a matter of choice, and stepping down the road to addiction is something you only put yourself into, prostitution is on a different level of desperation. when you have one asset to barter with you use it to the best of your advantage.

    even the poorest people regularly get denied things like housing, foodstamps, state funded healthcare and education money. if we had an effective social care system this wouldn’t be a problem

    he did have all the advantages. he just reminds me of all the rich brats around here, “oh if you only tried harder”. sure, that’s all it is.

    i want to see him actually lose every line of support and then write a sequel about the reality of being down and out with no one to turn to in case things get too hard. when he actually only has his bootstraps to pull himself up by then i can believe this was an experiment and not some story for the grand kids about the time he lived on the streets. it’s like a bad romantic bohemian story about life abroad, backpacking his way around the country. what a load of garbage.

    he believes in himself only because other people handed him things to be confident in.

  59. darkened says:

    @Sherryness: On the level of treason? No I do not.

  60. hi says:

    Hey I have an idea! Let me come live at your house and try being rich for ten months, I wanna see if I live like you rich people! I bet I could save millions!

    This is about as authentic as Paris Hilton is on the The Simple Life. Try going through your entire life being poor. One reason I say this is because he was actually enjoying his time away from his normal life. To him it was like a long camping trip or backing through europe. Unfortunatly to poor people it is not a camping trip or any fun at all. To know you have nothing and all the problems that come with it.

  61. stuckonsmart says:

    Wow — the comments are mostly excuses, excuses, excuses. How about some self-reliance, self-respect and self-responsibility?

    95% of success is showing up with the right attitude.

    Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. (attribution unknown) BUT, we are in the age of ignorance is bliss. How’s that working for society?

    My father died when I was five, and my mother, rest her soul, raised 5 kids single-handedly, when women were paid next to nothing. Failure was NOT an option. And none of us have ever done a day of jail. Q. Wow – how can that be? A.See paragraph 1 and 2.

  62. hi says:

    @hi: Thats backpacking thru europe… sorry.

  63. Razzler says:

    @stuckonsmart: I completely agree with your point, dude, but that’s an awful lot of clichés for a 100-word post.

  64. darkened says:

    @DaleM: Because a portion of the poor, which is generally viewed as substantial (i have no real statistics to back up whether it is or is not) choose through their own actions to be poor, to abuse social services while being an overall detriment to society, generally causing violent crime, poor property value, ie the seedy districts of town.

    The issue is whether people choose to believe these people are there at no fault of their own (as a majority) and are deserving of our aid or whether these people choose to be there regardless of whether they flat out say “i want to be poor” and trying to help them is meaningless as they will just fret away all aid on frivolous items or drugs/alcohol and be no better off than without the aid and have taken something from you in the process.

    These are the 2 main views, obviously life is all about the shades of gray but i tend to view much more on the latter of opinions. Life is only the choices you make, there is no predetermination of fate, fate is what you make yourself or to choose to be subject to whatever fate will be forced upon you if you remain passive.

  65. Sherryness says:

    Oh, well that makes it ok, then.

  66. Peeved Guy says:

    Because the don’t have any money. Duh.

  67. Falconfire says:

    ‘m not the only person who sees the problem here, am I? Does he honestly think that people raised in poor households, especially those that are poor due to bad money management, are getting the exact same lessons work and money that he did?

    If they went to school they should. From first grade on your mathematical schooling is basically LINKED to money management and balancing a checkbook. Even my schoolastically challenged friend growing up who even at 28 can still not read, knows you cant subtract more than you have when it comes to money.

  68. Sherryness says:

    How lucky that you were taught good life lessons by your mother instead of being taught to shoplift – and that you had the IQ to understand and utilize these lessongs. And that you are not mentally ill, that I know of….

  69. enm4r says:

    I think there are solid lessons to be learned from this. If nothing else, that wise choices and decisions can make the most of an otherwise desperate situation. Obviously the experiment was not the be all/end all and of course it doesn’t show that every single person on the streets can be a millionaire. But it does show that hard work, some dedication, and wise choices and make the best of a situation.

    Sure, the guy probably sounded fairly intelligent in interviews. It’s not that hard to have a basic grasp of the English language. I can’t be an apologist when it’s effort and care that separates the majority of kids who fail out of public schools. Child care payments? Sure they would have made the journey harder, but why excuse the decisions made that led to that point.

    @HRHKingFriday: I disagree that Cheetos will be cheaper than a salad everywhere. I live in the city of Chicago, and with $5 I could walk into any produce store and get plenty to eat. I do it all the time. I’ll buy that eating healthy 100% of the time will be more expensive, but there are alternatives.

  70. Peeved Guy says:

    @Sherryness: I don’t understand. something… Are you saying that ALL homeless/poor people are mentally disabled? Because the last few posts that you wrote certainly suggest that.

  71. RandomHookup says:

    The funny thing about the comments is that one of the key elements to his success is self-esteem! While I don’t advocate molly-coddling, raise your hand if you would usually poo-poo self esteem building in schools. (I don’t think those are the answer, but I find it fascinating to discuss).

    And those who mentioned illegal immigrants should just come in legally, haven’t ever looked into our immigration system. With some minor exceptions, it would be almost impossible for a high school dropout Guatemalan without relatives here to get into the country legally. It’s hard enough for needed people with master’s and doctorates to stay. I’m not crazy about illegals everywhere, but I have to be pragmatic about it. Labor markets abhor a vacuum.

  72. BadStoat says:

    Oh, boy. What a little twerp. Of *course* he can make it. Taking away his cash doesn’t take away his education or everything you learn in a middle-class (or above) family about how to present yourself at jobs, how to network, how to present yourself as educated, etc, etc, etc. That stuff is all still class privilege.

  73. @Razzler: Yep, everyone who is in poverty and was raised on fast food must have the same luck as you. Obviously you and your significant other are young and are exception to what BMI’s tell us about overall healthiness.

    Listen, all I’m trying to say is that putting someone who is not only a few pounds overweight, but also vastly malnourished, has less of a chance advancing from a stock room clerk to a manager position; due to performing worse than counterparts that might have better (relatively) socioeconomic upbringing because they have their health. There were a few studies recently that tell us that, overall, thin/healthy people tend to be promoted more. We’ll never know if it was that the thin survey group tended to be better off psychologically than the fat group, therefore more confident and likely to ask for promotions. Or that there really is weight-based discrimination.

    Either way, youth and health was clearly on this guy’s side. If they had taken the supervisor you mentioned and this healthy guy and asked the moving company to pick, I’d bet you the healthy one would win every time.

  74. kityglitr says:

    I was frankly, a little put off at a few of the first comments regarding this piece. No wonder we have such a huge divide between rich and poor in this country. It’s easy to say that poor people are lazy, and believe the government owes them something for nothing when you have NEVER BEEN POOR! What a horrid generalization! Many of the poor people I know get up earlier than I do, work harder for longer hours, and receive less pay for it. I suppose the young gentleman who tried this experiment was caucasian. I wonder how successful he would have been at this if he a) were not an articulate college graduate, b) were black or latino, or c) was a woman trying to support a young child. Until people stop blaming the less fortunate for their lot in life and start innovating ways to teach them how to better their circumstances, the huge divide between the haves and the have nots will never go away. Practice compassion.

  75. Falconfire says:

    Well it seems everyone here is heavy on the “he got a good education” bandwagon, so lets put your money where your mouth is. Fund education better. Lets see the excuses for why not here.

  76. @enm4r: re- Cheetos. I don’t disupute that you can eat healthy for cheap. I would argue that the culture of poverty (media’s fault?) and just the general lack of parenting influence people to pick the unhealthy option of Cheetos rather than, say, beans and wild rice. Also, a lot of poor people tend to go with the quickest option, rather then figure out how to make the healthy foods taste good.

  77. Pithlit says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: I agree. But, the pull yourself up by your bootstraps crowd simply won’t hear it. And it is clear that this experiment was for their benefit. It’s all for laughs and one big back patting fest.

    It’s not as if there have never been poor people who have risen above and made something of themselves. It happens all the time. No one is saying that it isn’t possible. But many people simply want to ignore the many factors that go into poverty, and simply chalk it all up to laziness. It’s intellectually lazy, and meant to make the person exercising it feel better about themselves. No one likes to think of the advantages they’ve had, because people tend to think that somehow detracts from any accomplishments. Few people of any amount of privilege are completely aware of all of them, even those who tend to be more progressive.

  78. Sherryness says:

    @Peeved Guy:
    No, I’m saying that you can’t compare what this guy did with “all poor people” because there are a multitude of reasons for being poor and a multitude of circumstances. His experiment can only be a comparison of his experience with someone else of the same basic intelligence, upbringing, outlook, mental state, state of health, experieince, age, etc. I would say the majority of “poor people” have significantly more obstacles than he does, from what I’ve observed in my 40 years.

  79. DeltaPurser says:

    What a load of crap!

    The security of having a credit card in his back pocket sure as hell helped boost his confidence.

    It’s like “I bought an unsharpened pencil for 5 cents, sharpened it and sold it for 10 cents. Then I bought two more unsharpened pencils, sharpened those and sold them for 20 cents… Then I won $1,000,000 playing the lottery.”

  80. Peeved Guy says:

    Here’s what I’d like some of y’all to explain to me. It seems to me that there are many of you that are very passionately making excuses for the poors lot in life (poor education, lack of self esteem, mental disability, etc). How is that helping them? Are you giving them all a pass, or are you just trying to explain to those with opposing views some of the reasons for their predicament? Because I am definitely get the vibe of the former. They can’t help it, they’re , so we need to give them a pass. I don;t buy that.

    On the other side of the coin, there are some poor and/or homeless that truly can’t get a leg-up, no matter what. And for those folks, we need social services to help.

    My point is that there is no universal definition of a poor or homeless person, you realize? Some are hadicapped and some are just flat-out lazy.

  81. Pithlit says:

    @Falconfire: I’d be willing to bet that a majority of those with those viewpoints would be behind more funding for better education. Those of us who realize it isn’t just about laziness and moral failing are going to be all about the better education for all.

  82. Peeved Guy says:

    @Sherryness: OK. We may not be in total agreement, but I tend to agree with you’re over all point.

  83. @humphrmi: Yeah, while I thought the experiment was interesting, that quote showed an appalling lack of self-awareness. If you live in the learned helplessness of (some kinds of) American poverty, that’s NOT common sense, and it’s the middle-class values and education (official or unofficial) that he received from his parents that MADE those attitudes common sense — and possible.

    I keep trying to get a local poverty services/homeless shelter place to offer basic budgeting and finance class. They keep telling me the poor “don’t need that” because “they don’t have anything to budget.” These are people who don’t understand such basics of everyday life as “how utility bills work.” So when they manage to get housing, they face this bills, are often semi-literate, have few if any banking services available, no background knowledge on finances or bills, and nobody to ask. (When I run into new and confusing financial situations, I CALL MY PARENTS.) If they can get help from the utility, they may or may not understand what they’re told, because if they don’t have a basic knowledge of the vocabulary and processes, the words make no sense. But they may be too intimidated to seek help, or the utility may have crap customer service.

  84. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @Falconfire: But did your friend’s parents save money or were they always in debt? You learn basic math in school but most people still pick up the money habits of their parents.

    Furthermore, learning subtraction doesn’t teach you about high yield savings accounts or bank fees. You don’t learn about credit, loans, and debt in the first grade. You probably learn more about how to advance in a job from your parents than from school, especially if you don’t go to college.

    The guy in the article wasn’t just looking to break even, his goal was to have some savings and get off the street. That’s requires more than just subtraction.

  85. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: It isn’t about giving them a pass. It’s about acknowledging the problems. If we all just throw our hands up in the air and say “They’re just lazy, what can we do?” then nothing gets done. Then we ignore the underperforming schools, the parents who are never home because they’re working 3 minimum wage jobs and can’t pay attention to their kids’ education, the people who are too sick and have poor access to quality education, the people with mental issues who aren’t getting help, etc. You either ignore those problems and say “They’re all just lazy!” or you face them head on as a member of society and say “Let’s do something about it”. And every time, you confront those who just want to say the poor are lazy, because it’s a myth that hurts us all.

  86. crakkie says:

    This really opened my eyes. Next time I see a physically and mentally healthy young white male college graduate begging for money, I’m not giving him a dime.

    “So what did you tell people when they asked what you were doing?

    That was the only touchy part of my story. I had this great back story on how I was escaping my druggy mom and going to live with my alcoholic dad. Things just fell apart, and there I was at the homeless shelter. I really embellished this fabricated story and told it to anyone who would listen.”

    Because, geez, you’d have been the same person if that story were true, just as motivated with the same perceptions of the world.

  87. samurailynn says:

    The things you inherit from your family don’t leave you just because you leave your cash behind. My parents instilled in me a desire for knowledge and a good education. There was a time that I struck out on my own and lived with next to nothing. My parents didn’t have extra money to bail me out, but I did know that I could go back to their home if I ever needed to. I think that what really helped me the most was a desire to learn and do well and the ability to present myself well. I doubt that I would have been able to move up at the jobs that I had if I wasn’t able to speak English correctly (not all native born English speakers have decent grammar), or if I thought it was okay to show up to a job interview in sweat pants. Almost every job I’ve had I have moved to a better position in the company or gotten a raise within the first year. I believe this is because I go to work and do my job well, as well as learning quickly. I wouldn’t have the desire to do these things if my parents had taught me that my boss was “the man” and that I shouldn’t do anything I didn’t have to. I also wouldn’t have the desire to do these things if I thought that knowledge wasn’t valuable and worthwhile to pursue. His background had a lot to do with how he handled the situation. I’m not saying that poor people can’t have these values instilled in them, nor am I saying all middle or upper class people have these values. I’m just saying that his background helped him a lot more than he thinks it did.

  88. Tallanvor says:

    @savvy999: I agree. This isn’t a case of someone pulling themselves out of poverty, it’s somebody purposely trying an experiment to prove a hypothesis.

    Even if he didn’t “make use of it”, he still had many advantages: a stable family, an education, and something to fall back on. He didn’t have a criminal record, mental health problems, or any physical disabilities.

    @kantwait: Yes, I think it’s pretty disgraceful that he used services meant for people who really needed them.

    The only conclusion you can draw from this piece is that a young, healthy, white male with a good upbringing should be able to pull himself out of the deepest depths of poverty.

  89. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: I agree with everything you said. I just get annoyed when I get the feeling that when the “haves” (us on this forum) begin talking about the “have not’s” and ASSUME that they ALL want to be helped.

    I have no doubt that the majority (vast majority, even) of the “have not’s” do want assistance to better their life, but, I KNOW, in my heart of hearts that there are those that have caused their own misery and I cannot, in good conscience, bring myself to have pity for them. Or, for that matter, deny someone who is trying to help themselves some service because we are trying to help the lazy slob who would rather drink his social security check rather than pay his subsidized rent.

    I know that this makes me sound like a cold-hearted ass, but it pissed me off when the solution to a problem is “throw money at it”, which it always what it boils down to when the government steps in. I pay more taxes, they mismanage the revenue and wind up giving mony to the lazy people while helping a small minority of the people who really need it.


  90. missbheave (is not convinced) says:

    @TinkishDelight: with the reading and math level higher than that of an 8th grader no less, which is what most kids growing up in low-income communities have when they graduate.

  91. samurailynn says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Exactly. I worked in credit card collections at one point (it was during a bad job market!) and one of the things that I couldn’t believe that I had to explain to people was that they were charged interest every month. I had always thought this was basic knowledge – you get a credit card, you pay interest on the balance every month. A lot of people did not know this.

  92. Dashrashi says:

    @Pithlit: Oh, let’s be friends.

  93. sirwired says:

    Okay, this guy bailed on the whole experiment when there was an illness in the family.

    For quite a few poor folks, it is exactly this sort of event that makes them poor to begin with. Their parent/sibling/spouse/child gets sick, they take off work (and get fired for it), medical bills pile up which can’t be paid, etc. That sort of stuff sends you into the payday loan spiral awful quick.

    How fast would his savings run out if he had to pay for that medical care?

    How quick would he be living in that truck, and then back on the streets with no money, no job, no place to live, and trashed credit? Pile any one or more of diabetes (often a product of growing eating cheap, quick, food.), mental illness (a big problem for vets), sickle cell anemia (genetic), athsma (pollution), poor dental care (just try to get a good customer-facing job when you have a mouth full of bad teeth), a lack of education, any one of those conditions in your immediate family, or any number of other problems that are expensive that don’t just go away, and you have a recipe for almost intractable poverty.

    I’m not saying that all poor people are that way for good reasons, but it would be stupid to imply, as many posters here (and the college student) do, that all poor people have to do is stop whining to lift themselves into the middle class.

    Yes, some people are pathetic whiners that believe society owes them a comfortable life, but to imply that anybody can lift themselves out of poverty simply ignores the realties of life.

  94. hotrodmetal says:

    While this experiment has given him some limited insight on homelessness, it wasn’t exactly noble in nature.

    If he gives it all back to help some of those that are less fortunate, or devotes some portion of his life to the homeless that would be upside of this experiment.

    This is a case & point story proving that SOME people can make a better life in the USA if they try.

    Overall, it really brings to light the homeless situation in our country.

  95. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: Would you rather that the people who really did need and want help (and are subsequently helped) are just left to flounder because you don’t think the government deals with the problem in the best of all possible ways?

    I can’t sign on to not helping people who need and want help just because the gov’t purportedly isn’t running at optimum efficiency.

  96. descend says:


    Yep, what a joke this guy is. What he really should have done was continue through the 12 months he had pledged to, gone to care for his mother those next two months and see how quickly he went through his saved $5000. Illness is one of the major reasons people struggle to rise above poverty – lost wages, big medical bills, etc.

  97. Sherryness says:

    @Peeved Guy:
    No, I’m making the point that this guy’s “experiment” can’t be used to measure anything except compared to others who are similar in IQ, physical strength, etc. That’s fairly common sense.

  98. mac-phisto says:

    you know what i learned from this? if we provide the tools necessary – a solid education, good health & positive self-esteem – to our youth, regardless of their status, they can achieve success. imagine that! incredible, isn’t it?

    think about it next time your school district cuts their after-school & extracurricular programs so your property taxes don’t go up $6/year. it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to provide kids with the knowledge needed to succeed than it is to pay for their 3 hots & a cot when they decide to seek other avenues for survival.

  99. Sherryness says:

    @Peeved Guy:
    Ah, so you’re saying you teach people to fish, as opposed to giving them fish. That’s very noble of you. I’m sure they appreciate it.

  100. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Sure he could have become an alcoholic if hit complete rock bottom. on the same point, he could have become a druggie, rob a bank, prostitute himself etc. But that’s not the point. his point is that your choices are what makes or breaks you. he didn’t do any of those things but instead got a job.

    1) He didn’t hit rock bottom.

    2) He said he doesn’t think having to report to a parole officer or make child care payments would have made a difference. We’re saying it does.

    3) He said he doesn’t think being college educated didn’t matter. We’re saying it does.

  101. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: Of course there are people who create their own problems. But you don’t use them as the basis to make decisions on how we run society. There is simply no way to look at every single individual and judge their worthiness. We fund and set up the programs for those who do want the help. No one has suggested that anyone be forced to take that help. And it isn’t just about programs. It’s about an adjustment of how society looks at the problem of poverty. The more of us who realize it isn’t all about the lazy druggies, the more we’ll effect change.

    Throwing money at a problem would certainly not be effective. But it’s not as if that’s what happening. It’s not as if budgets are flush with cash to simply be throwing it around willy nilly. That’s another myth to soothe the conscious of the fiscal management crowd. Simply put, good schools cost money. Programs to help people cost money. There isn’t enough money to go around, so schools and programs suffer. For example, here in Tennessee they just gutted the program that pays for healthcare for poor children. They didn’t try to improve it. They didn’t try to manage it better. They simply shut it down.

    Are there government programs and school systems that mismanage money? Certainly. But that problem is a drop in the bucket compared to the much bigger issue that is underfunding. Local and state governments are strapped. Of course we should make sure that any money allocated is spent efficiently. I don’t think anyone argues otherwise. But, the solution isn’t to give up and do nothing about it because they’re all a bunch of shiftless lazy bums. And that is what the bootstraps crowd is basically espousing. That’s what this college kid that pulled this gimmick is saying. Let them work out their own problems, because it’s all a matter of positive attitude. We don’t have to worry about it, because it’s their fault if they want to be so negative.

    Want to talk about the need to stop throwing money at things? We need to stop throwing money at corporations in the form of big tax breaks for corporations. We need to stop throwing money at brand new football stadiums. You get my drift. That alone would go a long way. We don’t have to tax everyone to death to achieve these goals.

  102. Peeved Guy says:

    @Sherryness: And I’m sure they appreciate your pity. That really helps with that whole self-esteem issue that was brought up earlier.

    @Dashrashi: Now, I didn’t say that. I said I don’t like my taxes being raised and the government pissing my money away. I think the private charities that help people are the way to go. They are typically much better at their money management. I bring up the taxes thing simply because that is typically the next step.
    1) identify problem (poor/homeless/etc. people)
    2) raise taxes, explaining that it will be used to fund the education of the poor children
    3) nothing happens for the poor children
    4) wait 4 years, go to step 1.

  103. Pithlit says:

    @Dashrashi: Okay :) I’m pretty new here, so I could use some.

  104. timsgm1418 says:

    very well said@savvy999:



    Sorry I’m so behind and there’s no way I’m reading all 90 comments. But I totally agree with this devil’s advocate position.

    The first mistake in his experiment is that he had nothing to overcome – he started “from scratch.” A lot of people have credit card debt, child support, hospital bills or limited education, and I’m pretty sure that adds pressure when trying to pull yourself up by the bootstraps in just 10 months.

    I am educated and mostly un-depressed and it’s going to take me a lot longer than 10 months to get out of the situation I’m in. So I have a hard time believing that his story is representative of anyone other than upper class kids who slum it for the sake of a sociology project and a book deal.



    Oh, and my original point was that most people would give anything to start fresh with no debt, no transgressions and a safety credit card or family to fall back on.

    No matter what he says he did, in the back of his mind, he always had the knowledge that he could quit at any time. Having this kind of out certainly changes your outlook and likely provides a positivity a real person would have to fight really hard to achieve.

  107. SVreader says:

    “The effort, he says, was inspired after reading ‘Nickel and Dimed,’ in which author Barbara Ehrenreich takes on a series of low-paying jobs. Unlike Ms. Ehrenreich, who chronicled the difficulty of advancing beyond the ranks of the working poor, Shepard found he was able to successfully climb out of his self-imposed poverty.”

    You mean a healthy, educated, young white man was able to get jobs with better pay and advancement than an uneducated middle-aged woman? No way! This guy sounds pretty clueless.

    For all the people going “excuses, excuses,” I think it’s pretty clear that this guy had a whole lot more advantages than a “real” poor person. Yes, some people are “slackers,” but this “experiment” is deeply faulty. If you don’t have a credit card in your back pocket and the knowledge that you can go home at anytime, you have to weigh risks differently. If you’re a woman with little education and the only jobs open to you are retail or waitressing, it’s unlike you’ll be moving up anytime soon (especially if you work at Wal-mart). If you don’t have health insurance, one little accident or illness can bankrupt you. He talks about how inspiring the guy in the wheelchair at the homeless shelter was…let’s give him a wheelchair and $50000 in medical debt and see how his experiment goes.

  108. TechnoDestructo says:
  109. ancientsociety says:

    Awesome! You have to love the baseless, unscientific “experiments” that continue to rationalize and support people’s stereotypes of what it means to be “poor”.

    BTW everyone, there are rich AND poor people who believe that the gov’t/society/etc. “owes” them something w/o their having to work for it. Each side has a different way of asking for it (many rich want tax breaks and lower gov’t spending, many poor want gov’t assistance and higher spending), but they each want essentially the same thing.

    Class doesn’t define a person.

  110. nequam says:

    What this guy did was similar to playing Flight Simulator: One finds he can do amazing things when there is no actual risk.

  111. TechnoDestructo says:


    Kind of like Jeremy Clarkson playing Gran Turismo vs. driving the real Laguna Seca.

    + Watch video

  112. Pithlit says:

    @RGISMYFAVORITECANADIANMORMON: Good point. He basically started from the same point that many of us middle/upper middle class kids did. He always had that safety net that we had. He just pretended it didn’t exist for a lark. He didn’t really do anything that many kids in his socio-economic class hadn’t already done. Many of us ventured out with little to no initial help from our parents, sometimes because the parents refused, wanting us to find our own way. Often because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do it. Either way, we did it and succeeded at least in part because we had the benefit of our upbringing. Ignoring it and pretending none of it helped didn’t help us is naive, and doesn’t make any sense. Most people who make it, regardless of their beginnings, do so because someone helped them along the way. Gave them support that made all the difference. I don’t get why some want to ignore that factor.

  113. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: Excellent points all, I appreciate you taking the time to rationally explain your POV.

    I know that I have a very defeatist attitude regarding this, and hence, very unproductive, but I simply cannot overcome my cynicism. I don’t NOT want to help the less fortunate, indeed, I contribute to charities throughout the year, but inevitable conclusion to this type of problem is to simply raise taxes.

    While the “bootstraps crowd” might be extreme on one end, I just wanted to point out there seemed to be many from the opposite end of the spectrum here today. That the poor people were total victims in all of this and there is nothing they can do about it. It seemed to be as defeatist as my attitude is…

  114. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: I don’t like to depend on private charities for this type of thing. First, there’s no guarantee that they’ll continue to do what they do; at any moment, the well could dry up, permanently, for the person in need.
    And second, I don’t like the intimation that you getting fed if you need food is a matter of charity, and that it’s a privilege to be American and to have enough to eat. I don’t think it’s a privilege. I think it’s a right. And I don’t like the implication that poor people don’t deserve to be fed as much as rich people do, and that they should depend on others’ whims for it.

  115. SVreader says:

    @SVreader: To clarify, Ehrenreich is educated, I believe, but the jobs for her book were ones generally available to uneducated middle-aged women, and she profiled “real” poor people.

  116. silenuswise says:

    Ben Popken: “but maybe he should do an experiment to see what being born poor will do for your “positive outlook.”

    Bingo! Look, I refuse to spend any time considering any perceived merits of this asinine “experiment”. It proves nothing. I don’t care what kind of variables this dipshit attempts to manipulate and control for, there’s absolutely no way he can avoid the obvious reality: he always has a guaranteed way out. That’s just the reality of his fortunate situation. No crime in that, but don’t fool yourself into believing your attempts to demonstrate escaping poverty will mean a goddam thing. Plenty of poor people work their way out of misery through absolute determination and hard work, and they are the people who can provide the inspiring lessons to us all. Not this douchebag.

  117. silenuswise says:

    @nequam: “What this guy did was similar to playing Flight Simulator: One finds he can do amazing things when there is no actual risk.”

    Succinctly (and humorously) put. Many of you made the same point above, with similar insight and eloquence. As a meta-comment, I was all irritated after reading the initial story, but the intelligent Consumerist commenters put me in a good mood again. Thanks, y’all!

  118. Landru says:

    @DaleM: People hate the poor because they fear the poor. Like they could catch it or something.

  119. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: You’re right, it isn’t that simple. And no one is ever going to make poverty go away completely. There’s no one magical solution that’s going to help everyone. If an individual doesn’t have the will and the drive to succeed, no one else is going to be able to make them do it. But, we do the best we can to make the playing field as even as we can make it. That’s basically what the whole progressive movement is about. We certainly have our share of cynics on our side, too. But, it boils down to the fact that becoming a success in life requires support. A child is rarely going to be successful if he/she has been written off as a loss. And that’s basically what happens when no one wants to do anything about the situation that child is living in, and assuming he/she is just another one of those shiftless bums. I don’t think we can eradicate poverty completely, but I do think we can make it a lot easier for people to rise out of it. Even the playing field. We could do a lot more than we already do.

    I don’t think the bootstrap crowd is wrong when they say that positive thinking and determination are important. They absolutely are. I think they’re wrong in thinking that that’s all it takes. They’re wrong that the kind of support a child receives has little or no bearing. It’s not that I think poor parents don’t also provide support or are unwilling to do so. It’s just often a lot harder due to their circumstances.

  120. says:

    I found it quite funny that his privileged life was in North Carolina and his poverty life was in South Carolina. Why’d he have to move to a different state to be poor?

    Guess I chose the wrong Carolina to live in, I need to move north and find that there privileged place…

  121. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: Holy crap. We might want to be careful, here. I consider myself a classic conservative (not a neo-con, thank you), especially fiscally (hence my strong feelings on the whole tax thing). If you (as a progressive) and I (as a conservative) agree on anything the entire space-time fabric might just unravel. :)

    Seriously, I don’t want to trun my back on anyone, but in reality, I have enough trouble getting my own family fed, clothed and educated, I hate having to worry about the people down the street, too. You know what I mean?

  122. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: So, charity is too demeaning for them, but welfare is OK? Any person with any sense whatso ever would see them as one in the same, just one is state-funded charity. Right?

  123. Techguy1138 says:

    @HRHKingFriday: in nickle and dimed she lived in rural areas. This kid lived in a city. In any city you can work without a car. not so in the burb’s or country

  124. brent_w says:

    @rickshawed: How can a single person making 22K a year not meet bills and rent?

    Perhaps you left out “of my expected lifestyle”.

    There are people struggling by with families and less income and you want to talk like 22k salary is poor?

  125. brent_w says:

    @Techguy1138: And in rural areas you also have a lower cost of living. Whats your point?

  126. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: Just look at it this way. We would all benefit from a more even playing field. There are many of us who aren’t at either end of the economic spectrum. For most of us, the reality is that we can do everything right; go to school and get that education, land that dream job, raise our kids right. And things can STILL fall apart. A lot of life is a crap shoot. If we beef up those safety nets, we all benefit from that. And we can indeed do it without taxing everyone to death. The better off everyone is, the more that gets thrown in the pot. The better quality of leaders we vote in, the better that money gets managed and used for what we as a society want. I honestly don’t think you and I are really all that different, so it doesn’t surprise me that we agree the way we do. I’ve had this same conversation with many a conservative.

    I think that fear is a big problem. It’s comforting to think we have that level of control over our lives that doing the right things will protect us from failure, i.e. poverty. It’s comforting to think that those who have failed did so due to their own weaknesses, because then we feel safer, even as we struggle ourselves. It sounds corny, but I think we all need to come together and realize that shoring up our society and letting few er people fall through the cracks benefits US as well. I think both sides of the political spectrum often misunderstand each other. We allow ourselves to be too divided, and it’s a shame.

  127. @Peeved Guy: I think most people know there are different reasons for and kinds of poverty, and one “kind” is definitely “gaming the system and mooching off hardworking Americans.” But for those of us who work in/with poverty at all, that really is a small proportion. There are many, many more who’ve ended up in poverty from a combination of shitty circumstances (often medical). And then there are many who either have mental or emotional problems, or who live in this learned helplessness where they literally don’t have the skills to escape poverty and don’t know how to acquire them. Sometimes they’re so defeated they don’t give a rat’s ass, but other times they’re applying themselves … in totally bizarre directions that don’t accomplish anything. They’re flailing and hoping to hit on a combination that works.

    Even when it IS someone who “wants” to be poor, I still have pity. I evicted a crack-whore welfare queen a couple years back who actually WAS a crack-whore welfare queen who had elevated gaming the system to a fine art. I didn’t feel to bad for her, but she had three children who are clearly victims, and I expect all three will grow up to live in the same poverty, with no clear idea how to get out … and probably with emotional problems from growing up in an unstable home with an addict mother to compound it. They had no family in town, no connections, no friends, no truant officer because they moved so often. I don’t know how these kids were supposed to get any footing in life.

    Some of these problems are maddeningly frustrating and potentially insoluble. Makes me sad. :(

  128. Wagner says:

    I have several questions about the mechanics of thsi experiment:
    1) How did he receive Public Assistance(food stamps) with only a shelter address? I thought that you needed a permanent address.If he used ID from his parents address, that is violating the spirit of his experiment.
    2) same question for banking, did he use accounts that he already had? What address did he use for new accounts if he opened them? Also, I guess the homeless scene is a little more genteel in Charleston,becuase he would have had his bankroll taken from him in New York,Philly or Dc.
    3) Are there cooking facilities in homeless shelters? How did he get a spot so quickly?Charleston , I guess.Here in Philly its first come first served 1 hot and a cot.

    Like a good consumerist, I will take the book out from the library to find out if there are answers.

  129. Tonguetied says:

    ‘2) He said he doesn’t think having to report to a parole officer or make child care payments would have made a difference. We’re saying it does.”

    I can see why making child support payments would make a huge difference. But how would reporting to a parole officer?

  130. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: It’s not just state-funded charity, it’s a long-term commitment that can’t be revoked at whim, and it’s a sign that they deserve to be fed, so much so that the government will provide it just as a part of everyday life. When you get stuff from the government, it becomes, in many ways, a right and not a privilege anymore, and I want the poor to feel like they have a right to eat.

  131. getonmymap says:

    His picture makes me want to punch him. Sorry, not to be knee-jerk but reading the whole article linked at ABC says he kept a credit card “in case of emergencies.” The only risk this kid took was testing the limits of white privilege in the working class. I don’t know too many truly homeless people who can rest easy with the knowledge that in case things get really desperate they can just charge their way back to fiscal solvency. The real test of will would have been to ditch the credit card, get addicted to drugs and/or develop a legitimate mental illness. Homeless people aren’t all able-bodied and minded white men in their early twenties. This putz makes that crack about “rims and Cadillacs” like that’s aimed at his lazy classmates from the private Liberal Arts college in Massachusetts? How many single mothers are riding on 20’s? How many people without healthcare and trying to raise kids on a minimum wage income are droppin’ their Escalade? Takes a big man who was raised with over a $1 Million worth of private education to criticize the lower masses and harangue their few minor indulgences.

  132. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: Of course, I was more than half joking about the progressive/conservative thing. That is yet another concept that is all too often boiled down to one or two words, for the sake of simplicity that does everyone an injustice.

    Funny thing, I was just thinking about the issue you mention the other day in the context of car accidents. When you hear of an accident that tales the lives of a few people, the basic reaction is to nitpick the victims of the accident to mitigate the fear that random accidents just happen (well, he was obviously following too closely, etc.). If we find fault with the victim, we can then say, “Oh, well I don’t do that, so I’m safe”. It’s a hard thing for people to come to terms with that sometimes ‘shit just happens’.

    I agree that most people do want to do the right thing and agree on what that thing is, it’s just the vehicle by which we effect that change that is usually the sticking point.

  133. Dashrashi says:

    @brent_w: There’s a level at which things become impossible, though. If you need a car to get a job in a rural area, a lower cost of living won’t get you a car all by itself. And you can’t get the car because you don’t have any money. And you can’t get money because you don’t have a job. And you can’t get a job (in this rural area) because you don’t have a car.

    @Tonguetied: Parole places a lot of restrictions on people, in addition to simply limiting your freedom of mobility. No jobs in your state? If you’re on parole, you’re very restricted in your ability to pick up and leave, even to find a new job.

  134. hellinmyeyes says:

    This sounds a lot like the Pulp song “Common People”. It’s a fun story, but that’s about it. It does impress the “you can get out of any problem with will power solution”, but we all know there are a lot of things that some families never overcome, especially starting much worse off.

  135. Peeved Guy says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Well, I think, as my conversation with PITHLIT, you and I are generally in agreement. If the person is disabled due to some physical or mental disability, by all means, let them get help. Children of crack-whores, help the crap outta them (so to speak), but I get peeved (get it?) when the crack-whores are given more money for the children which they user instead to buy more drugs. That just worsens the problem, doesn’t it? The kids are still hungry and the C-W mom is getting positive reinforcement to continue her crack-whoring ways.

    As for the folks that are where they are due to bad luck, doesn’t this experiment speak directly to them? The people who were middle-class-ish (maybe college, maybe not. At least with an advantaged background) and hit hard times. shouldn’t they see this and have evidence of it being quite possible to recover?

  136. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: He was starting at 0. A lot of people who hit bad luck are starting with debt and/or families who need to be provided for. Rather different, as I understand it.

  137. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: See, I read this:

    It’s not just state-funded charity, it’s a long-term commitment that can’t be revoked at whim, and it’s a sign that they deserve to be fed, so much so that the government will provide it just as a part of everyday life.

    and my brain translated it to this:

    Free, guaranteed meal ticket that I don’t ave to work for.

    I know that’s not the case all the time, as was pointed out by Eyebrows. Not to mention that I truly think people who need and deserve welfare are reluctant to take either simply because of the handout factor. I’ve known several people who were too proud to take welfare OR charity. But I have to reject you assertion that if someone is too proud to take charity, they would happily take welfare.

  138. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @TechnoDestructo: It’s deja vu all over again. Tell me you posted this on another Gawker site a long time ago, please!

  139. @Peeved Guy: I generally agree, and I’ve enjoyed your comments.

    As for the crack-whore mom with the kids, I just don’t know what the solution is FOR THE KIDS. That makes me sad.

    For people who’ve had bad luck, I don’t think it does — he was a single, healthy, young male with no debt. For many people who land in poverty from bad luck, those conditions don’t apply. I know a family where they have two dependent children, the mother has an education but doesn’t make a ton of money, and the father, who had a better job, was diagnosed with brain cancer. The cost of the medical treatments ate their savings completely and has put them DEEPLY into debt, while losing them their primary earner. So now they’re trying to survive with one healthy parent on a single salary, two dependent children, a dependent adult with brain cancer who is too ill to work, massive debt … and mom is (quite understandably) slowing going ’round the bend. She’s breaking down from grief and stress, and that’s obviously impacting her health.

    (And while the brain cancer bit makes it a very dramatic story, it’s sadly all-too-common an occurrence, albeit with less prime-time-TV-drama diseases and medical problems.)

    I’m not sure what lesson his experiment has for them.

  140. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: I mean, I think that meals should be free and guaranteed, if you need them and you don’t have the means to pay for them yourself. Call it a meal-ticket if you want. Or food-stamps. Or government-soup kitchens. At that point it’s a labeling question.

    Oh, no, of course many people are too proud for both charity or welfare. But depending on charity, or advocating charity as a substitute for gov’t-funded welfare programs, sends a message that taking care of the less fortunate is merely a whim and not a duty that we bind ourselves to, and I do not want it to be a whim. Not for their sake, but for ours.

  141. KJones says:

    I find it utterly tiresome to hear people with no experience being poor talking about the work ethic of those asking for assistance. I’ve been there, and seen the hypocrisy and ignorance of such people; it sucks only slightly less than being unable to find a job.

    I was lucky that I had some skills and could work to get an education after being on welfare. But for those who want to get out, who want to work, the worst thing are the roadblocks: the biases against those on welfare (“They’re unreliable, that’s why they don’t have a job.”), the contradictory “thinking” – or lack thereof – by governments (“If you earn money, you get less welfare.”), etc.

    The “experiment” in the story was a fraud because the man had numerous advantages, as others have noted – single white male, healthy, educated – things which, without them, eliminate many from any worthwhile or passable paying jobs.

    The real “welfare kings and queens” aren’t those receiving welfare. The biggest scammers are those running the “job training” programs which almost always consist of nothing more than resume writing courses and paid by taxpayers at $1000 per “course” per person. That money would be better spent on something like a basic bookkeeping, secretarial or inventory management course, things which would get people a decent paying job. Instead, such programs are considered “academic” and not funded.

    The real “welfare kings and queens” are those running the programs, ot those who want to get off of welfare.

  142. kimsama says:

    @Peeved Guy: I would recommend that you read some of Pierre Bourdieu’s work on the effect of non-monetary capital on the ability of the lower classes to catch up to those in high SES families. Being middle or upper class means more than just having money. The cultural and social capital you gain from having middle- or upper-class parents gives you an automatic edge over those from low SES families (e.g. your ability to navigate the social systems of the class in which you wish to reside). This includes things like knowing how to wisely invest and save money, how to eat and manage your health, how to avoid fights and accidents, how to deal with law enforcement and the government, and many other areas.

    While I, too, believe throwing money at the system doesn’t help anyone, I also don’t fool myself into thinking that a kid from a good family who starts out with $25 is really in any way equal to a kid from a disadvantaged family starting out with the same dollar amount.

    I taught in inner-city schools for a while, and some students didn’t know the most basic “common knowledge” because it simply wasn’t “common” in their SE class. It’s simply not fair to claim all poor people are gaming the system and therefore we shouldn’t support social programs. Should we let that crack whore mom and her children die because of a drug addiction? We certainly can’t “reward” her fro doing drugs, but don’t her kids deserve some chance NOT to become crack addicts/thieves/welfare queens themselves?

    Ugh, I don’t know — it’s all very easy to answer this stuff philosophically. I know how it is to see people gaming the system (I come from a poor, rural town) and frankly, it makes my blood boil (though most that I know were gaming Social Security/Disability).

    However, I also know for a fact that social programs can mean the difference between ending generations of environmentally-influenced poverty and being given a chance to have access to upward SES mobility.

  143. D.B. Cooper-Nichol says:

    @Gev: Always knowing in the back of his mind that at any time if things got too crappy he could bail and go back home probably had some effect on things.

    I’d think that would make him less motivated to make it work.

  144. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: Not to butt into the conversation, but I do think that many people, if they have to chose between any combination of starving ,eviction, and lack of healthcare, and taking the hand out, will take the handout. They may not necessarily feel all that good about it, which is exactly why I find it hard to believe that safety nets are a disincentive to work hard. I think that would be the case for a very small few. It’s human nature. Unless drugs and mental illness are at play, people are going to want better for themselves and their families. The bare bones basics aren’t going to be enough for most people. But it will make working for the better life much easier. A lot of people who have given up have likely worked at it and have simply given up, knowing it won’t get them anywhere.

    No one should have to work 3 jobs to barely eke out a living. That is the reality of poverty for most, particularly since welfare reform was enacted. How can anyone improve while doing so? Promotions are a lot harder to get if you’re exhausted and worried about your kids getting enough to eat and getting proper care while you’re out working your ass off. If their basic needs are met, they wouldn’t have to.

  145. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: Well, I disagree that people, even the needy, see charity as a whim.

    Maybe that is where I differ from the rest of y’all. I like to think that the people who truly need the help will take it in whatever manner it presents itself, government, church, private charity, whatever and not get hung up on wether it will dry up or not because they don;t see themselves in this situation forever. Whereas those who are really counting on the never-ending supply of support from the state I see as sponges.

    I hope I am explaining myself. As to your eralier point, he is starting at 0, that is a good point to make. Most times people are in a deep hole.

  146. baabaablacksheep says:

    It should be noted that a very large percentage of people living on the street, which is how this man began his experiment, have mental illness or a dependancy of some sort. He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple.

  147. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: Jinx. Owe me a Coke.

  148. maztec says:

    Lets redo this but have him start with $10,000 debt and bad credit – then see where he manages to get to.

  149. brennie says:

    @Tallanvor: Perfectly put. He was trying to prove a conclusion at which he had already arrived. He didn’t graduate from college in Massachusetts and try this in Boston, did he? He graduated in Mass, moved back to the warm, cheap, familiar south and THEN tried his ‘experiment’.
    @mac-phisto: Hells Yeah.

  150. what strikes me, having been homeless myself and often unable to stay in a shelter because they were already full, is that this guys “test of the american dream”, in effect, pushed someone who WAS actually homeless out of a shelter … that, and those food stamps he got were on our tax dollar!

  151. TechnoDestructo says:
  152. mistaketv says:

    Choice is an illusion. 90% of who you are as a person is outside of your control. And good luck with that 10% and all your “choices.” And anyway, how can you really ever prove that with your exact brain and your exact experience and your exact immediate situation, you could have ever made any other choice than the one you did? If you had chosen differently, you wouldn’t have been you.

    Just because you don’t care to think about all the complex variables that made you who you are and your life what it is, including the most complex of all–your brain (also not within your control, btw)–doesn’t mean they don’t have a very real effect.

    So basically, bootstrappers, it’s just not that simple.

  153. SexierThanJesus says:

    I respect what this guy tried to pull off, but I have to echo everyone else who called “BS” on it. I grew up on welfare with a single mother, and when she was diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t just “call the experiment off”. I had to make sacrifices. And you know what? She made a lot of sacrifices for me too, only to have people like a few of our fellow commenters accuse her of being “poor and lazy”.

    I have a pretty great job now, but I don’t want to think about where I’d be if it weren’t for those government programs so many of you despise.

  154. veraikon says:

    Go Go Gadget Gap Year!

  155. maztec says:

    Tonguetied: You would theoretically have a record that would give some employers a reason to refuse you employment . . .

  156. ironchef says:

    plus being reasonably good looking and white, he ups his chances of success.


  157. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: Actually, I do agree with DASHRASHI in that it has to come from society. Othewirse, nothing has changed, really. It has to be seen as a basic right in our society, not a whim of whoever happens to be doing the giving at the moment, and the only way to do that is to make it a part of the basic underpinning of our society. The government is the very underpinning of our society. It’s not something scary to be feared. It is us. It’s our schools. Our roads. Our infrastructure. Those are all very basic needs that are met through that structure. We’re all pretty much guaranteed those things only because they’re a solid part of that government infrastructure, and not based on the whims of the market, or whatever is popular with the majority at the moment.

  158. UpsetPanda says:

    I see how the experiment is flawed, but look at how far he’s gone…would most college grads with a privileged life (supportive family, college education) leave that for however long and live with next to no money? He didn’t know what was out there, and he pointed that out…his education was a disadvantage, because he didn’t know what life on the streets was like. And the fact that he didn’t call on any friends or contacts means that he was truly alone. Yes, he was healthy and was able to get a good job, but what did he eat during that time? I guarantee that unless he was finding a way to be properly nourished every single day, his health deteriorated just a little.

    Anyways, kudos to him for roughing it just a little, and emerging wiser. It’s more than a lot of us would have done, and that counts for something.

  159. SexierThanJesus says:

    @UpsetPanda: It definitely counts for something, but I’m not sure it was the “see how easy it is to be poor!!!” statement he thought it would be.

  160. Dashrashi says:

    @mistaketv: You ever heard of Jon Hanson? I think you’d like his work.

  161. UpsetPanda says:

    @SexierThanJesus: Yeah the experiment side of it wasn’t too significant, but the only way it would’ve truly been a good experiment was if he started in a good bit of debt, and that has ramifications on his ‘other life’ that I wouldn’t have chanced either. After all, banks aren’t going to understand “but I was trying to understand the condition of poverty” when they see you had significant debt. I think the right statement should be “this wasn’t extremely difficult for me, but with a few tweaks like debt, criminal record, or health problems it could have been much worse.”

  162. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: I guess it depends on how “Constitutionalist” you want to get, really. (Govenment should provide defense only, etc.)

    It seems that you are of the opinion that the government is, or should be, responsible for all sorts of services, whereas my conservative roots are showing in that I believe in as small a government as possible.

    Barring the involvement of more government, the obvious alternative is privately funded charities.

  163. planochap says:

    to peeved guy: and whenever private charities are out of favor or fail, what then?

  164. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: That’s not “Constitutionalist,” that’s libertarian. No particular reason to think that the lists of what gov’t should do were meant to be exhaustive, imo.

  165. Pithlit says:

    That’s a viewpoint I have a tough time with. I don’t get the “small government” crowd. I like having good roads. I love having a great public school I can send my kids to. I love the benefits of that public school education system, as imperfect as it is, every time a graduate of that system provides me with an invaluable service. Those things wouldn’t exist without the government some seem to despise. I don’t want a government weakened and narrowed to such a useless degree as the “small government people” seem to want. It isn’t there just for protection from outsiders. It never was. Go take a look at countries with weak infrastructures. That’s the result of a weakened, reduced government.

    There’s a reason I put “small government” in quotes, because my viewpoint isn’t about “big government”. It’s about a functioning government. What is the point of having a government if we’re all supposed to live as individuals and provide only for ourselves and our own immediate needs? The countries with the best quality of living are those that have a strong, efficient government. I think “small government” proponents seriously underestimate just how much our “big government” makes the wheels turn and makes our lives go as smoothly as they do.

    Getting back to the scope of this discussion, we used to be a country that relied more heavily on private charity. That system failed us miserably, which is why we have the government programs we have in the first place. They were enacted BECAUSE private charity simply couldn’t hold up. If they’d worked, we never would have had to go to a government based system. We already tried your way. It didn’t work.

  166. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: When I say Constitutionalist, I mean in the sense of “government doing only that which is explicitly stated in the Constitution”.

    I respect your opinion that the govt. should provide, but my opinion is that smaller government = good.

    I think we have run into the conservative/progressive divide. I’m not say that to be inflammatory, but I suspect this is the point where a compromise cannot be reached. We can agree that something needs to be done, but not how to pay for it.

  167. Superborty says:

    Main problem is people on the streets are mostly mentally ill. Not really a fair comparison. To follow up, they should be taken off the streets and put into clinics that can try to recuperate them.

  168. Mr. Gunn says:

    Falconfire: THIS

  169. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: To be clear, when I say “small government”, I mean “as small as is reasonable possible” (i just don’t want to type that all the time). I, too, think that taxes for roads and schools and cops and firefighters, etc. are necessary and good. And, I don;t mind paying higher property taxes for better schools (something I didn’t in the last election, BTW). But, politicians, in my experience, don’t stop at the necessities. They need to get more and more and more of my money. Money that I work hard for (except for when I’m posting on this time sucking site :-) ) and would like to keep. This is why I explained in an earlier post that I am NOT a “Neo-Con”, they spend like sailors on shore-leave.

    You say that the private charity model couldn’t hold up, well, I think the same could be said for the welfare model, too. I just can’t help but disagree with you that more funding would be panacea. Would it help, undoubtedly, but I really have a hard time trusting the government to do anything right when it comes to managing money. Blow the shit outta people they can do, but not manage money.

  170. DaleM says:


    So in your opinion all poor people are thieves, drug abusers, alcoholics, and feed off various public services. Evidentially you are quite proud of your ignorance as you proudly state in you rant, “I have no real statistics to back up whether it is or is not”. Well lets hope a catastrophic illness hits you, your health insurance dumps you, and you lose your job only to find out your investments are worthless due to the banking industry screwing everybody.

  171. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: A lot of people who think like you re “small govt” don’t agree that schools should be funded by the gov’t; others think that welfare and adult literacy programs should be. At that point, “as small as reasonably possible” is merely code for “what I like and think is necessary,” and so it’s just a question of line-drawing. You think schools are necessary; Milton Friedman disagrees with you. He would say that a government that funds public schools is not as small as reasonably possible. So you’re actually a big-government spendthrift from his POV.

    So “small as reasonably possible” is not really a phrase with a lot of meaning, as I see it. You can always go smaller. Or bigger. It just depends on what you want, and you go and call it “necessary.”

  172. Jraktal says:

    I wholeheartedly disagree with the presumption that everyone on the streets is broken or defective and therefore requires us to take complete and total care of them while they return little or nothing. I do agree that many have a difficulty of some sort, (Drug, Alcohol, and other abuses) these can and should be overcome by the person (pick themselves up) and with the thousands of aid agencies that exist to help them as well, however there are many that cannot be corrected (psychological) due to lack of access to meds or refusal to take said meds when available.

    to sum up: as a democratic society we allow others to make bad choices wallow in squallor, help is available, most refuse that help, or are uneducated/idiotic enough to not understand what real help entails (IE Hard Choices).

    here in Canada we have a socialized system (IE Communist) and have lots of homeless, we have aid agencies that are supposed to help them, but the issue does not go away.

    Cause the problem is a universal one and crosses all borders, the issue is not economic one like most liberals would like t you to think, it is Human condition one.

  173. Dashrashi says:

    @Jraktal: This isn’t even legible. Are there programs? Do they help? Are they…well-funded? Is alcoholism a choice that can be “overcome” by the person “picking themselves up”? I mean…have you ever had any experience with addictions? Or read anything about them?

    You can’t ignore the economics because they make you uncomfortable.

  174. Pithlit says:

    The problem with private charities is they depend upon what and when people give, meaning they have no or little long term planning ability. They cannot have economies of scale. They tend to duplicate each other’s work to a large degree. They are dependent on what people want to give for, not necessarily what would be in the best interest of society to fund. It’s not unusual for charities to get plenty of money for flashy events but almost nothing for the basic infrastructure necessary to make a real difference in the problem. Besides, with private charities, if you don’t like who’s mismanaging the charity of your choice, there’s really not much you can do about it. You can hope to find another that matches where you’d like your money to go, or you can start your own charity, provided you have the resources and knowhow to do so. If a charity is mismanaged out of existence, or fails due to lack of donations, the needy are suddenly left hanging. This is exactly why that system failed in the past. A much better model that has already proved to be superior is one based on governmental oversight, where we collectively and democratically as a society address the needs of its citizens.

    All I can say about your mistrust of the government taking your tax dollars: Your tax dollars go the same place other people’s taxes go. Where the democratically elected government decides they do. Convince your fellow citizens that they are wrong about the necessity of certain programs. That is your right as a citizen. But, keep in mind your tax dollars wouldn’t even exist without the government. If you were born in the Sudan or Afghanistan, you wouldn’t have nearly what you do here. The reason for this is the very government you distrust. I think you’re misguided in your mistrust of it and wish to see it reduced. It’s a very Libertarian stance to take, rather than a conservative one. I also think you grossly overestimate the amount of tax dollars that actually go to these social programs you’re against. Social conservatives like to harp on these programs because of the moral judgments against the people who need them. True fiscal conservatives know there are much bigger fish to fry. There are much bigger tax waste issues out there, by far. There isn’t enough time or space for me to go into all of them.

  175. coreyander says:

    Sorry, but this is the STUPIDEST EXPERIMENT EVER!

    It is flat out impossible to simply strip oneself of one’s privilege. That someone with a college degree thinks otherwise only says something about how rampant anti-sociological thinking is.

    The fact that anyone might read this unbelievably unscientific story and think that it actually says anything (other than that this dude is very naive) makes me understand why I wind up giving so many poor grades: some people have no critical thinking skills!

  176. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: Whatever. I was trying to clarify my world view in the hopes explaining to some folks reading this that not all conservatives are evil, power-hungry, rich, old men who dress like Mr. Monopoly and use poor people as door stops, but many are concerned with overly-liberal politicians getting a little to spend happy with our money.

    If you feel the need to analyze my words for the sake of comparing me to other outspoken conservatives, then have-at.

  177. Dashrashi says:

    @Pithlit: I can think of one specific money-suck specifically. Perhaps the libertarians shouldn’t have reelected George Bush. I don’t imagine they voted for Kerry in 04.

  178. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: I’m simply saying that “small as reasonably possible” cannot be more than code words for “government that only funds things I think are necessary,” and so it’s merely a catch-phrase, and not very useful for articulating an actual policy preference.

  179. Pithlit says:

    @Pithlit: This was meant to be in response to PEEVED GUY. Sorry about that.

  180. Trai_Dep says:

    It’s wryly amusing that he tried to do an anti-Nickel-And-Dimed-To-Death, then failed. Someone got sick, he bailed. Just like those 40m Americans can when they face the inevitable medical catastrophy. No, wait, they can’t. Oops.

    I think a more honest person would hit the interview circuit saying, “I tried, I really thought it’d be easy. But then something out of my control happened that wrecked all my plans. It’s given me pause on how I’ll think about this from now on.”

    It annoys that he bailed two months early, and instead trumpets his “experiment” as a success. As though taking advantage of our frayed social net, his background, his advantages and good health wouldn’t result in anyone like him being able to find a room to rent and a truck. No huge accomplishment.

    Typical that the media doesn’t call him on it.

    Nice to see all the thoughtful posts here, though. Really good job, people!

  181. Kajj says:

    @Peeved Guy: It’s not making excuses, it’s pointing out the problems that need to be solved if we actually want to fight poverty. Improving education, medical care, and job opportunities will do a lot more for the poor than shouting “Bootstraps!” and sticking up some more Ron Paul bumper stickers.

    And since the junk food vs. healthy food cost debate is here again, I’d just like to remind people that fresh produce spoils lightning-quick in the old, poorly-maintained refrigerators common in low-income apartments. An 85c head of lettuce is a lot more costly than a 1.20 box of mac & cheese if you only get to eat one meal’s worth of it before it rots.

  182. SexierThanJesus says:

    @Pithlit: You’re freaking awesome. I also must say, I’m saddened to see people harping on useful social programs as if they’re a waste of tax dollars, while the real problem is pork barrel spending on both sides of the aisle.

    I also hear we’re having some sort of expensive problem in Iraq…..

  183. Pithlit says:

    @Dashrashi: I think I know what you’re talking about. I was sorely tempted to mention that as well, but thought it might veer the topic too far off track. But, it was the first thing I thought of.

  184. sue_me says:

    Teaching someone how to fish takes time. In the meanwhile, they need to eat. And thus, in the meantime, we need to give them fish to eat. And when they can fish for themselves, they can eat because they have a skill.

    As in, we need some sort of annual guaranteed income for everyone along with teaching them a skill so that they can enter the skilled labor market. Skilled labor’s not just accounting, it’s not just medicine, or law, it’s also plumbing, electrical work, etc. etc.

    If we are to reduce poverty in this country, the rich need to get off their fat asses and actively help fund programs that provide vocational training or education to poor people who want it (that’s the LONG TERM solution) and provide some sort of temporary assistance in the short term, because the process of vocational training/education->getting a job and earning a decent salary TAKES TIME. In the meanwhile, we need to give them some sort of financial assistance so that they don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat for dinner tonight and focus on their vocational training/education. Because if you look at it, when everyone has a stable job and can support themselves, we can start cutting taxes and paying off the national debt.

    That’s the solution to this country’s poverty crisis. Siphoning off welfare doesn’t work.

  185. The Porkchop Express says:

    @bohemian: smart enough to finish college??? I didn’t read the entire article, but what college? I think that everyone (less the people with actual mental/developmental handicaps) is smart enough to finish college. now, whether they are motivated enough….that’s something else

    The point is that the kid was able to get a job that paid for a home of sorts, without using the actual college education. I’m not saying that his experiment proved that every homless person or welfare recipient can move up in the world, but chances are that most can at least do a little better for themselves. Especially those that already have some type of housing arrangement through the state/county/feds.

  186. Pithlit says:

    I want to clarify my position on charities and say that I’m not anti-private charity. I’ve given money to them myself. I just don’t think we can rely on them entirely as a solution for society’s ills. I hope I haven’t offended anyone who works for one, and I didn’t mean to downplay the enormous amount of good they have done for many people.

  187. Peeved Guy says:

    Yeah. Let’s not go there except to say that I disliked Kerry more than I disliked GW (and still do BTW).

    I was reluctant to go down the Democrat/Republican road for fear of starting a flame war or de-railing the discussion, but you have to admit we were all thinking it. That may have been my undoing. In an attempt to avoid labeling myself, I may have mis-labeled myself as a libertarian. I really am a conservative that votes Republican, typically, simply because it has been my experience that Democrats are simply too socialistic. Listening to the speeches of the Democratic front-runners and they want to do universal health care and several other things and I’m concerned about how they plan to fund this stuff.
    Raising taxes on the wealthy? I think that is a bad idea (and no, I’m not wealthy). Raise taxes for “Big Oil”, again I disagree. That just depresses the job market, ultimately. The only place I see where they can get more money is from you and me.

    And Dashrashi, I’m not really doing anything different than the presidential candidates, am I?

  188. girly says:

    Youth goes a long way. I wonder how many people his age were at the shelter?

  189. balls187 says:

    good article.

    Now what would have happened if he was black, or mexican?

    And he always had a way out.

    I think that yes, you can work hard and make a good living in america, but I also think that our society stacks the deck heavily against the poor.

  190. Ah consumerist. We hate on people with money and people without money all in the same post.

  191. girly says:

    @maztec: I think has to be older and unattractive, too.

  192. girly says:

    For his next experiment, he will fast for two months and then see if he can recover from anorexia.

  193. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: I think repealing tax cuts on the obscenely rich would be a good place to start. And now you know why I’m not super pleased with any of the current choices for president, policy-wise.

  194. UpsetPanda says:

    @Lo-Pan: The article says Merrimack College in Mass. I looked it up at…. middle 50% of first year students SAT scores were 520 – 580 for writing, 530 – 590 for math, which is pretty normal for a non-Ivy Leaguer or the equivalent. Of course, this is the new test, so I think he may have taken the older test, that I took which didn’t have the writing portion, and just had math and verbal. In contrast, Harvard’s middle range is 700 – 800. Merrimack’s GPA graph says “34% had h.s. GPA between 2.5 and 2.99” which isn’t terrible, but that was the highest percentage, with “10% had h.s. GPA of 3.75 and higher” – 10% who presumably got into “better” colleges.

    Honestly, my SAT scores sucked…the SATs are a poor way of gauging intelligence and ability, because it tests what you know, but not your ability to learn…some people with a below average high school education can become amazing in college because they have a high ability to learn, the ability was just dampened in an environment not conducive to learning. I did horribly at them, but when I got into college, I made the dean’s list, got into an honor society and became an editor with my college paper….some people I know did worse in high school than I did, but continued doing poorly in college. It’s a matter of motivation, not smarts. One who studies their butt off and makes A’s is just as worthy as a “naturally” smart person who doesn’t study and merely makes B’s.

  195. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    The point is that the kid was able to get a job that paid for a home of sorts, without using the actual college education.

    @Lo-Pan: He said he didn’t tell anyone he had a degree. That isn’t the same thing as not using the college education.

    Lots of colleges have Career Centers, classes on getting a job, public speaking classes, etc. There’s plenty that he would have learned in college that would help him find and get a job that he probably used even though he didn’t put it on his resume.

  196. Dashrashi says:

    @Pithlit: Oh, agreed. I just don’t want them to be the end-all and be-all for anyone for something vital. (You also did an awesome job explicating the “whim” thing. We’re like totally BFF now.)

  197. digitalgimpus says:

    This has an important exception:

    He was a healthy educated adult male who just recently became “poor”.

    It’s a little different when you’ve been like that for years, aged prematurely, have health issues that haven’t been attended to (injuries from past jobs, ignored health problems), etc. etc. Just because he didn’t “use” his education doesn’t mean he didn’t use it on a more basic level. He had a lot better education in managing a budget with a college degree than some kid who dropped out in middle school to work for food.

    Most people don’t become poor with $25. They are poor in debt, with people after them, health problems, social problems, etc. etc.

    If he had a loan shark and the mob after him, and he was a diabetic war vet with psychological problems… that would have been a very interesting experiment.

    He just proved the obvious. If you have no reason to be poor, you won’t be poor.

    Obviously testing the real thing is unethical. You can’t put some advantaged-ill person on the streets as a social experiment.

    Interesting work, but should be taken with a grain of salt.

  198. UpsetPanda says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Most career centers don’t teach you how to find a job as a day laborer though.

  199. girly says:

    I wonder what a sociologist might comment on this…

    Is it possible that he has a manner of speech or set of behaviors that cue people to give him things (that he’s developed as part of his upbringing) or that people who hire identify with or are more accepting of?

    I’d assume he had higher expectations (as he would be raised to have and being accustomed to having more)at the very least.

  200. girly says:

    @UpsetPanda: I think you can apply what you’ve learned to that task, though…

  201. RandomHookup says:

    It’s interesting how civil the discussion here actually became. Perhaps by Page 2, all the emotion has gone out of it.

    Private vs. Government “charity” — the money is there to take care of people, but it’s not coordinated. Little pockets end up with money for their programs; charities only support the things they want to support (or they like to show off with big Xmas baskets, but little the rest of the year). States have some programs, the feds others, vets get some services, mentally ill get others. It’s too big and matrixed to work… and it’s not really a system at all.

  202. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: Oh, I see. You’re BFF with Pithlit, but not me? I’m crushed…. It’s because I vote Republican, isn’t it…? Well, I guess I’ll just take my bag of money (better to light by huge cigars with) and have my chauffeur take me to the country club early to drown my hurt feelings in 25 year old scotch.

    Just kidding. I had fun talking to you about this stuff.

  203. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: They get it from you and me, instead of the rich. Why are you okay with that? The rich benefit the most from society, yet pay proportionately the least. The poor and middle class suffer the largest burden. I don’t get why some are okay with this. It makes no sense. And oil companies profits are astronomical. You could triple the amount of taxes they pay and not scratch the surface. I know, I know. Differences of opinion. But, it really is hard to understand. No one ever explains the why of these opinions.

    Yes, I agree that the Repub/Dem thing probably is veering off topic, though I think the questions this college student raises really gets to the heart of the differences. You contend that helping people is socialistic. But people with your viewpoint never explain how helping poor people, which by extension helps us all, is any different than providing any other service that benefits us? Never mind the actual costs of these programs is small potatoes compared with other tax expenditures that benefit is far less. I’d like for once for someone to explain why it’s any different? Because I don’t think a single person I’ve ever discussed this with has ever explained it. They just revert back to “It’s socialism. I’m a Republican. That’s that.” You vote for Republicans because Dems are socialist. But look what voting Republican has gotten us? A crappier economy, a war sucking trillions and costing us the precious lives while wrecking havoc and making things even worse and breeding more terrorists in the countries we’re fighting. Look at the countries that employ the “socialism” you decry. Better standards of living for all. What is wrong with that? That’s another question that never gets answered . What about the improvements in the standard of living in our own country since we started employing this “socialism”. Always with the crickets there, too. Never mind the fact that none of these programs detract from capitalism the way true Socialism does. I think if someone finally did address these issues during these discussions, some headway might be made. I’m not promising I’d change my mind personally, but I’d like to at leas try to understand that mindset better.

  204. jaewon223 says:

    Why is everybody ragging on this guy? Yes he had something to fall back on and yes this was an experiment but I don’t see why that matters if he really did only start out with $25 and didn’t tap into credit history or used his education for a starting point.

    Also using facilities for the underprivileged is legitimate because those opportunities are available to anybody that is in a similar situation.

    A lot of people are missing the point of that this young guy was able to eek out a decent living from nothing. This is not representative of all poor people I am very well aware of but it does show a good example that it is quite possible to do so.

    Don’t forget though that he probably had no health care, doesn’t have a family or children to take care of, I will assume he has a minimum of a decent education since he did go to college and finish (although he didn’t use it as an advantage his knowledge is one nevertheless), and he started out with no debt. Many people that are poor are stuck in their situation because it’s a vicious cycle they are placed in.

  205. girly says:

    Two things I wonder:
    1. did hey donate to the shelter before the experiment to compensate for their resources he was about to waste, so it did not affect anyone?
    2. The job he got, was he the only one who applied for it , or did he beat out someone who actually needed it?

  206. XTC46 says:

    @KJones: how is it backwards to think “if you are making money you get less welfare” seems spot on to me. If you are making money, you assitance.

  207. Dashrashi says:

    I honestly just think it’s hysterical that the people congratulating this guy are the quickest to hate on poor people for “choosing” to be in their situations. Here’s a guy, who amazingly literally, CHOSE TO BE POOR, far more clearly than your average “welfare queen” does. Why aren’t people sickened by that?

  208. Vanvi says:

    I haven’t read all the comments either, but I agree with some points that I think should be repeated.
    1. Race – he’s a white male. That’s a significant advantage already, especially among those living in poverty.
    2. Education – it may not have been stated, but it shows in his speech and mannerisms.
    3. Language – English is his first language. Again, +1 for him.

  209. deadlizard says:

    Many immigrants come to this country with nothing but the clothes on
    their backs. They have no education, no papers and most times don’t
    speak any English, yet they get into the workforce and end up raising
    theur families. If they can do it, I’m not surprised a privileged white
    boy can.

  210. Pithlit says:

    @jaewon223: I think the problem is less with the fact that he was able to do what he did, and more with the attitude he expressed and the conclusions he drew from his experience. Of course, it’s a good thing any time anyone is able to pull themselves out of a bad situation. The problem is with his apparent dismissal of the advantages he had. It is significant that he always had an out. That goes a long way toward having a positive attitude about the whole thing. I guarantee no one else in that shelter had a valid credit card at the ready in case of an emergency, for example. None of them were able to stop the ride and get off, as he was able to do when a crisis emerged. I think the point is there is a big difference pretending to be poor, as he was doing, and actually being poor. Other people who have done similar experiments were careful to note those differences, and were doing them to bring to light the problems the poor experience, not downplay them as character flaws.

  211. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: See, this is why I was reluctant to get into this and start with the politically charged diatribe. I will briefly address some of your questions since I am convinced that you are genuinely interested in the answer and not looking for a way to entrap me. I don’t really think this is the most ideal forum to get into it, but… I’m having fun.

    1.) The rich benefit the most from society, yet pay proportionately the least.
    I believe that the rich pay the lions share of taxes in this country. Something like 80% of the taxes, I think? So to say they need to “pay their fair share” seems odd to me…

    2)But people with your viewpoint never explain how helping poor people, which by extension helps us all, is any different than providing any other service that benefits us?
    Like I think I said, I’m cool with helping those that need AND want help. I tossed the socialistic thing out there because of the way I see the current crop of politicians wanting to fund these programs. In a speech, referring to oil company profits, Hillary said that she is going to “take those profits and give them to…” (I don’t recall to whom). How is that NOT socialistic? Maybe Communistic? The government taking private companies profits? If I wanted any part of that I would move to Venezula, thank you. The Health care proposal reeks of socialism too, I’m going to be REQUIRED to buy into it? No sir, I don’t like it (with apologies to Mr. Horse).

    3)But look what voting Republican has gotten us? A crappier economy, a war sucking trillions and costing us the precious lives while wrecking havoc and making things even worse and breeding more terrorists in the countries we’re fighting

    I am SO not going there. Sorry.

    4) Look at the countries that employ the “socialism” you decry. Better standards of living for all. What is wrong with that?

    Russia, China, France, Venezuela, Cuba? Whats wrong with them? Really? I’m being loose with my interpretation of socialism and communism, I know, but I have a HUGE problem with the government being that comfortable telling me what I can and can’t do and feeling like they can take my money or product for the common good. Look at Venezuela, for example, and tell me that that is the country you want us to emulate.

  212. Dashrashi says:

    The government is always taking your profits. It’s called taxing you. Unless you want to get rid of all taxes (which no one does, because without taxes, you don’t have a dependable military, which even Milton Friedman agrees is necessary), then you don’t have a problem with the government taking your profits; you have a problem with them saying it that way. Again, a question of labels. Which I’m not terribly interested in as a policy-matter. (Academically, though? Fascinating.)

  213. seanSF says:

    1. He’s white.
    2. He’s male.
    3. He has no kids.
    4. He’s college educated.
    5. He’s not actually poor.

    An interesting experiment but not really a good commentary on how difficult or easy it is to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

  214. UpsetPanda says:

    @deadlizard: My family is one of the families who immigrated with nothing, and made a good life…so why is it that so many people born in this country who speak English can’t seem to do it?

  215. planochap says:

    @Peeved Guy: I thought there was hope, but was wrong. You could have saved your typing and simply wrote: see FOX News talking points.

  216. Vanvi says:

    Oh, also, this is a shameless plug for an under-appreciated TV show, but if anyone wants insight into the kind of suffocating environment that this guy is trying to prove anyone can escape, watch season 4 of The Wire.

  217. Peeved Guy says:

    @Dashrashi: I see a difference between taking a businesses profits and taxing them.
    Taxing = taking a percentage of your profits.
    Taking your profits = taking 100% of your profits.

    Maybe she meant “tax”, but she is too good a public speaker to make that rookie mistake, isn’t she? Either way it was very ominous to me.

  218. Dashrashi says:

    @Peeved Guy: Oh, seriously. You can’t possibly believe she meant taking the whole wad of the oil companies’ profits. This is Hillary Clinton. If she’s not corporation-friendly, I don’t know who is.

    And textually, taking doesn’t necessarily imply taking the whole as opposed to merely taking a part. It just implies some taking of an unnamed portion. No reason to assume one over the other, unless one is clearly unreasonable–like reading her comment to mean 100% would be.

  219. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: First point: The rich don’t pay their fair share proportionately. It doesn’t matter if the sum total of the amount of taxes paid come from the rich. That’s no surprise considering the sheer amount of money they make. Since they benefit the most, that’s only fair. The poor and middle class pay a much bigger chunk of their income toward taxes. That’s why it makes no sense to give the rich and corporations all the huge tax breaks. And that’s exactly what the Republicans do every time, with the blessing of the people who vote for them. I don’t understand this. Do you realize that if they taxed the rich and corporations the same way they taxed us, we, the poor and middle class, could pay substantially less? Yes, we, the people who provide the infrastructure and labor to the corporations that that profit heavily, and the rich people who reap the benefits. You still haven’t explained why this is wrong.

    Second point. Why shouldn’t corporations pay their fair share? They benefit from the very infrastructure you and I are paying disproportionately for. Again, I don’t see the problem here, and you haven’t explained why that is a problem to tax them.

    Third point, how is that not socialistic? Because we’d still be a capitalist society. The corporations wouldn’t even feel the sting. It doesn’t change the fabric of our society or change how we do things in the least. The health care proposal reeks of socialism. Again, why? No major social uphevals are required. We’re still a capitalist, democratic society. You don’t have to agree with it, but calling it socialist is wrong. You’ve still yet to explain why it is socialism.

    Fourth point, not going there? I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t want to go there, either.

    Lastly, no, I don’t mean those countries. Try everywhere in Western Europe except for the UK. Hell, try Canada.

  220. yesteryear says:

    this guy is a fraud. he’s a good looking young kid who wants to prove a point that’s already been made a million times – and is still wrong. the major hole in his “experiment” is that he doesn’t have a lifelong history of being destitute and the accompanying depression and hopelessness that often crop up as a result. i grew up poor, put myself through college (it took ten years!), and now i have a great job that pays well and i still have money issues – how you’re raised really makes a difference in how you deal with work/money/etc. read ‘rich dad, poor dad’.

    and to all of the ‘bootstrappers’ out there – can someone please point me to the country/society where the government has not given all of the ‘lazy poor people’ a ‘free handout’ and it’s resulted in no poor people?

    some people need help… those of us who do not, those of us who are successful, it is our job to help them. it’s part of living in a society. it’s the price way pay to live in a country where we don’t have poor people starving to death and living in cardboard shanty towns and sleeping in our streets (unless you live here in San Francisco, that is).

  221. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: Again, this is why I didn’t want to go into the political during this discourse.

    I am tempted to rebut your post as I am truly intrigued, but I suspect that we could argue our positions (with supporting evidence on both sides) until we were blue in the face and neither of us would change our minds or truly understand the position of the other person in the end. I think you alluded to this earlier. But, such is the fabric that is our America. Gotta love the two-party system.

    I think we have both done a fine job at keeping this a civil discussion and I have truly enjoyed reading everyones opinion on this subject, but I feel that we are going down a dark and ugly road right now. I really don’t want to go there right now. Some other time, maybe?

  222. girly says:

    Not everyone in the US is poor. Not everyone who was poor stays poor.

    So his experiment represents one of those people who was poor but didn’t stay poor.

    The book “Nickel and Dimed” is more useful for understanding poverty because it proves what some people would be less likely to believe–that you can work hard and still struggle.

  223. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: Ah, well. Maybe another time. I would genuinely like to hear the reasons why. I don’t agree that neither side would truly understand. I think the discussion, if a Republican ever truly answered my questions, could still be civil, and I might just understand those answers, even if I didn’t agree. At least you didn’t merely regurgitate talking points, which is usually what happens. I either get those, or a brush off.

  224. Glaven says:

    Cripes, people, this kid didn’t have to do this experiment. He read Nickel and Dimed and was interested enough to do what he did…at least he cares a little bit. He could hardly make himself into a non-white disabled illegal immigrant with a drinking habit and a large dependent family just to see what it was like. Perhaps he’ll go on to do more and better in the future, take up something where he works with the less privileged.

  225. covaro says:

    Great googly moogly. Of all the things I send in to the Consumerist and they finally post something and I start a massive comment war. Go me!

  226. isadora says:

    I can’t even list how many advantages this kid had starting out. I’m not even talking about a credit card and a safety net. He very likely had decent clothes, haircut, and a profound lack of debt.

    I am one of those “success” stories–I’ve pulled myself up (by my bootstraps!) from my lower working class family to almost solidly middle class! And let me tell you? It really f*cking sucked.

    I had to figure out every element of going to college myself (nobody to ask who had done it), pay for everything myself (*waves at student loan police*–we’ll be besties for at least the next 17 years), had to learn to manage my own money, buy a crappy car that had a habit of breaking down every five minutes (thanks Discover Card for paying for those repairs), and try to figure out what to do after college with no grown-up connections whatsoever. Add to that a sickly mother, no health care for myself, and a general sense of dispair that things were never going to really, truly change no matter how hard I worked and you start to get a glimpse of what it really feels like to be poor. And the college degree was not exactly a “get out of white trashdom free” card. Welcome to crushing debt!

    Universal health care. Free college. Those are “hand-outs” us PWTs could use.

  227. yesteryear says:

    @girly: great point.

  228. BStu says:

    Oh, what a joke. A kid with a lifetime of advantages on a paid for college education slums around for a year and he thinks he proved something? What a self-righteous jerk. I know plenty of kids like this in school. They felt an education was a birth right and NEVER understood what people who had to borrow themselves into their 40’s just to get a chance at what they had given to them. I didn’t get to go grad school because I was already deeply in debt. These guys had parents who put them up in posh apartments while paying for yet more education. They are the embodiment of those who were born on third base and thought they hit a triple. They refuse to step back and see their privilege, which justifies both their self-importance and their judgementalism. Bah!

  229. Peeved Guy says:

    @Pithlit: I actually would like to continue this as well, but a) it’s time for “family time” (and dinner) and b) The Consumerist comment system is beginning to piss me off. I have to reload the page like 50 times to get fresh comments… I don’t think it was intended for more than 100 comments. That’s usually enough room for folks to get their snark in and bolt.

  230. humphrmi says:

    Wow, haven’t seen this many comments since that guy sent his cruddy PS3 in for service. :)

    Twenty five some odd years ago I managed a Domino’s Pizza in the area of Seattle that was (at that time) frequented by a lot of homeless people. The homeless would come into our store and ask for handouts.

    I had a Domino’s uniform, freshly cleaned, ready for them. The phone spiel was easy to learn, this was back in the days when Domino’s only sold Pizza and gave away free Cokes, very simple operation.

    So the deal was: I’ll pay you to work. Come in anytime (I was always shorthanded back then), put on a shirt and take some orders for me for a couple hours and I’ll pay you cash and feed you.

    In two years, I was taken up on the offer once. Most of the “needy” just grumbled and walked out when I suggested work. Some got cranky. Only one took me up on it. The guy who did explained to me why – most of his friends made more money begging than working. Some of them weren’t even homeless, they just kept grubby clothes around because nobody gives pocket change to a well-dressed hobo.

    There are a lot of different reasons to be homeless, then as now. Not one of the people who came in and asked for free food and refused to work for it were unable to answer a phone. They all had working hands and ears and spoke English clearly (enough anyway for Domino’s). I hope we can solve this problem but after my experience I’m convinced many simply don’t want to work, because begging makes more money.

  231. ivanthepig says:

    Funny, I did the same thing for 12 months in Duluth, Minnesota back in 2004 – but for other reasons then publicity. I did it for personal experience.

  232. DaleM says:

    As has been said time and time again, this guy had all the advantages and chose to slum it for a while. Hell, I can choose to slum it for a while but that in no way makes my life experience nearly the same as Isadora or the many others who have had to fight tooth and nail just to get a hint of success.

    Ultimately, it is easy to slum it when you know it is only temporary and by choice.

    This little phrase from from “Pulp” says it all.

    Common People by Pulp.

    Rent a flat above a shop,
    cut your hair and get a job.
    Smoke some fags and play some pool,
    pretend you never went to school.
    But still you’ll never get it right,
    cos when you’re laid in bed at night,
    watching roaches climb the wall,
    if you call your Dad he could stop it all.

  233. Pithlit says:

    @Peeved Guy: Yeah, this format isn’t conducive for extensive discussion. It’s too bad, because it’s hard to find people on the internet who genuinely want to civilly discuss rather than snark and insult.

  234. Rabbigrrl says:

    You can succeed well, especially if you’re able bodied, male [i.e. more likely to be hired for manual labor jobs, and less physically vulnerable], young, have no outstanding health issues – and God-forbid that you’re mentally ill, such as many many homeless folks – and no outstanding debts. Also, no child to support, thus no child care issues, the ability to live anywhere (not true if you have a child), oh, and for good measure also definitely do not have to worry about, say an abusive spouse, ex-spouse,boyfriend, or the like. Yes, then it’s easy to succeed and get out of poverty.

  235. Techno Viking says:


    Good luck my friend cause very soon I am about to join you. Finishing my marketing major and pay the loans. This guy I assume had all set up for him by his parents and others but his little experiment proved nothing. We do this on the day to day basis so nothing special about him.

  236. EricaKane says:

    This experiment is a joke. Study after study have shown most homeless people have mental have mental problems you usually aren’t reliable and can get fired.

    So yeah this kid was probably a god-send for moving companies looking for cheap labor. Dependable and not crazy.

  237. Jcakes says:

    A very facile experiment.

    But, hey! Shock! A book can come out of his deep learning experiment.

    Why not just get a job and keep his sense of entitlement to himself.

    yaaaaaaaawwwwwnnnnn….. braaack…

  238. girly says:

    When it comes down to it–even if we all had an education, or just a ‘can-do’ attitude, isn’t somebody going to have to end up at the bottom?

  239. girly says:

    Did he make the attitude connection in his book?
    Sounds so much like “The Secret”. Ugh.

  240. nardo218 says:

    @Lo-Pan: No. If you graduate with a 6th grade level of math, reading, and writing, have no study skills, and have never been taught how to keep up with something for a long-term commitment, you can not finish college. Or even get in.

  241. aphexbr says:

    I’ve weighed in on this elsewhere and I’m probably going to be repeating a lot of what’s been said here (sorry, gave up reading after 100 comments…), but here’s the way I see it. The “experiment” was flawed and proves nothing, but it can give a few good points.

    Good points: it’s been showed here that simply being “poor” is not necessarily a disadvantage in itself. It is possible in the US to get something from nothing with a bit of hard work and diligent use of resources.

    Bad points: unfortunately, this is a much bigger list. The obvious one is education. This guy has had the advantage of a stable, happy upbringing among people who are good with money – you can’t buy this kind of education, even discounting the degrees. He claims that he didn’t “use” his college education but that’s only true in that he didn’t use his degrees as collateral to get a white-collar job.

    He definitely used his college education – from maths skills to balance his accounts to networking, interviewing and spoken English skills. Most poor people simply don’t have these – being brought up in a violent, poor neighbourhood by a single parent and never making it through high school will not give you these skills, hence the poverty cycle. Good credit will also have helped – many landlords won’t rent to someone with a poor credit or criminal history, much more likely among the poor.

    Then, there’s the other benefits he had. He’s young, strong, healthy, single, childless, male and white. An overweight black single mother in her 40s might end up in the same situation, but wouldn’t have a hope of repeating his “success”. Many people on the streets are there *because* of drug or alcohol addiction, or mental health problems. It’s harder to drag yourself up from that abyss too. Not impossible, but many times harder than this case. He also had the knowledge of safety, knowing he could go home any time. He never hit rock bottom, never had to face the psychological barriers that hit anyone who is in that situation for real.

    Then, there’s the nature of the “experiment” itself. He didn’t drag himself out of poverty at all. He simply proved that it’s possible in 10 months to come off the streets and have some meagre savings. He was still one work-related accident, one auto wreck, one criminal attack, one family disaster away from being back on the street. As soon as disaster did hit, he simply folded up and went home. I’m not suggesting he should have ignored his family for the sake of this experiment, but had he actually been poor with a poor family, all his savings would have evaporated in an instant.

    It’s a shame that people are tending to miss the flaws in this experiment if it helps people confirm their own prejudices. The fact is that this guy took benefits, jobs and cheap housing that others may have missed out on and proved little other than the fact that an educated young man with no major personal problems can live a basic existence with some hard work. Nothing we didn’t already know, though I’d still applaud this if it was a character-building exercise. Instead, it was just fodder for a book and personal promotion. Sad.

  242. mammalpants says:

    he’s just like Jewel!

  243. Anonymous says:

    Maybe he would be interested in another experiment where he works for a middle class family for next to nothing doing things like cutting the grass, raking leaves, doing odd jobs around the house…

  244. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @UpsetPanda: But they do teach you how to find a job which gives you skills to succeed at it no matter what job it is you’re trying to get.

  245. Anonymous says:

    People defending the homeless obviosuly have never know anyone who was homeless. Well guess what. My dad became an alcoholic and eventualy wound up on the street. He did it to himself. Everyone tried to help him… but you can only do so much for someone. He wasted his money, he stole other peoples money. He abused peoples trust and took advantage of anyone who tried to help him. When he ended up homeless he blamed everyone but himself. I too, used to feel sympathy for the homeless, and while I’m sure every situation is different, I no longer feel anything for them. They might as well just die.

  246. Anonymous says:

    ps. Why does everyone keep saying he has such an advantage because he’s male? has no one noticed that 90% of people you see on the street are male? I think women just think differently and possibly try harder. For ever 20 guys asking for my change, maybe one time there will be a woman.

  247. ChuckECheese says:

    Some random thoughts, many that have been posted here. I have over a decade of experience working with the needy, homeless and mentally ill. I may get some of the details of the “college grad’s” (CG) story wrong.

    For you worried about your taxes, please consider the pittance that is spent on welfare services vs what is spent on the military and payouts to businesses in this country. Find the numbers yourself. It is silly for you to argue points you have no facts for. Our medical services cost much more than those of other nations, and cause US businesses to be less competitive. And the messed-up system leads to a large % of people having no access to medical care, and bankrupts many.

    Most of the clients I worked with who were chronically poor had multiple disadvantages including physical and mental illness, crazy interpersonal/family situations they could not easily escape from, and the garden-variety problems of having no skills, being unattractive, or having demerits in one’s past. There is large social currency in being young, white, male, reasonably attractive, and having a sports background. It’s obscene and odd, but being a jock or ex-jock opens a lot of doors. Social scientists have studied this vanity and found that athletes get more career money and have better prospects than those who have no such background. And BTW, having the time and $$ for sports avocations is a definite sign of a middle-class or better background. It translates into instant privilege.

    There is the huge issue of availability and access to supportive services. In Wherever, NC, where CG lived, apparently there were things like food stamps and shelters available to him. Many US cities have no available shelter beds, and he would have found himself on the street many nights. And in many states, being an able-bodied single male means you will never qualify for a dime of welfare, either food stamps or especially cash. Finding and keeping a job will be much harder if you and your clothes are filthy and you have nowhere safe to collect your thoughts. It is important to not make assumptions about the availability of supportive services, which vary a lot from place to place, but across the US, remain stingy and low quality overall.

    One of the important details about Ehrenreich’s experiment is that she lived in Maine, which, due to onerous planning and zoning requirements, has a shortage of housing, and very high housing costs. It is generally easy to find work there, but most of your paycheck will go to pay the rent. I’m glad CG had access to a shelter and food stamps, so he didn’t have to sleep in parks and eat whatever he could forage from dumpsters and the occasional church mission, but many don’t have such luxuries.

    It’s far more common for workers like myself to see the most abject need (say, a mentally retarded 35 year old woman, covered with bruises and spider bites, who is being abused by her parents), and discover, after weeks of intense searching, that there is nothing available to her–no income support, no housing, no medical care.

    And doesn’t anybody find it as offensive as I that CG gained people’s sympathy by badmouthing his parents? How would his prospects have been different had CG said the problems with drugs and alcohol had been his own–a far more realistic scenario?

    It is clear that the lesson he claims to have learned is bootstraps, gaining him full entree into the world of upper-class trustafarians who nevertheless claim they did it all on their own. No doubt Glenn Beck has some sloppy kisses waiting for him, but CG’s experimental design was fantasy. Betcha he carried a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” in his backpack to inspire him.

  248. banmojo says:

    what a lot of liberal bs I’m reading here today! he did this because he’s ‘male’ and ‘healthy’?? what about chicks with quadriplegia who paint with their mouths and can pay their rent bill each month?

    this guy DID do something amazing, and he has shown us that MOST homeless and poor people are in their circumstances due to THEIR CHOICES, nothing more, nothing less.

    liberal d-bags would have us giving all our hard earned money away to take care of poor d-bags – oh, wait a sec, that’s what we ALrEADY have to do! What a crock of shit.

    Kudos and hats off to this genius college kid who has shown us once again that the American dream is alive and kicking – all it takes is initiative and drive.

  249. PaulS says:

    How does this kid think people end up homeless in the first place? Does he think every homeless person started out by saying “See that homeless junkie going through opiate withdrawal? That looks like a LOT of fun!”

    Wow, so a white, fit, healthy, kid with no mental disabilities, physical disabilities, or criminal record, was able to support himself? Alert the media!

    This “experiment” proves nothing, except that this kid, like most children of privilege, have literally no idea how privileged they are.

  250. Pender says:

    @harumph: So don’t live in New York. Why should we feel sorry for people who try but fail to live in a location that is beyond their means?

  251. aphexbr says:

    @melanie.dawn: I’m sorry to hear that but I hope that you feel some sympathy for the next genuinely homeless person you meet who really needs your help. I don’t think that what you’re describing there is a “homeless” person but an addict. There’s a difference though one can lead to another.

  252. aphexbr says:

    @banmojo: “what about chicks with quadriplegia who paint with their mouths and can pay their rent bill each month?”

    What about those who can’t? What about the children of those who can’t?

    “liberal d-bags would have us giving all our hard earned money away to take care of poor d-bags – oh, wait a sec, that’s what we ALrEADY have to do!”

    Did you read the article at all? He started off by living in shelters and taking handouts. Even he wouldn’t have been able to achieve what he did if it hadn’t been for the support of those first couple of months.

    “Kudos and hats off to this genius college kid who has shown us once again that the American dream is alive and kicking – all it takes is initiative and drive.”

    You really think that living in a rathole apartment with an old pickup truck and a few bucks in savings is “the American dream”? Really? If he’d dragged himself from poverty to riches I’d agree, but from the streets into poverty? Not so much.

  253. KJones says:

    @xtc46: how is it backwards to think “if you are making money you get less welfare” seems spot on to me. If you are making money, you assitance.

    The thoroughness of your written language is reflective of the thoroughness in your thought and experience. You either misinterpreted what I said or misconstrued it to say something I didn’t.

    I said people who get welfare and work are worse off than by not working.

    Hypothetical: A person is on welfare at $1000/month. They get a part time job for $400/month, and the government deducts $400 from the welfare cheque. Does that mean the welfare recipient is getting $1000?

    No. The person pays taxes on the $400, as well as paying the cost of work clothing, transportation, lunches, and other incidental costs of having a job. After all such costs and deductions, the recipient is getting less than $1000, and is financially worse off by working than by not working.

    Unless a welfare recipient is lucky to land a job that pays more per month in wages than the welfare benefits, then there is no incentive to start working. This is one of the principal reasons able bodied people don’t take just any job; they’re not lazy, they’re being realistic about money. And the situation is even worse for those with additional problems like dependents, disabilities and such.

    But, of course, those who have no experience being on social assistance arrogantly think they know the reasons people stay on welfare and then speak without knowledge.

  254. I’d say you qualify for “minimal amount of knowledge.” Rectilinear as always you got it right friend.