09/27/2012 10:45 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2012

Five Ways Poor Voters Vote for Poverty

In a roundly researched and insightful post by Tom Zeller, Jr., "Rural Minorities Ponder The American Dream From The Bottom Rung Of The Economic Ladder" we find five potential cures for an age-old social cancer called poverty.

Zeller's presents a core issue we face daily. That issue? How we feel about ourselves based on net worth. Recent political campaigns employ a rabid focus on net-worth issues. How long will we use net worth as the preferred measurement for success? Your answer to that question predicts how long poverty will continue to spread and consume lives well before their time.

Poor voters unconsciously support a desire to remain poor. Sounds sad, right? Wonder why? Before we consider five common votes for poverty, time to clarify what poverty means to you.

Is poverty all about money? Ask a person who has millions in the bank (who also lives with an advanced chronic illness) if they'd trade their money for your health. Would you trade your health for millions of dollars? (Before you answer that question, ponder what you do, right now, to earn money.)

How do your feelings factor into your definition of poverty? Have you ever felt worthless due to your age, ability, appearance, culture, class, creed, education, orientation, or economic status? Do you consider others poor if they are old, differently abled, foreign or lack formal education?

What role does first-hand experience play in your definition of poverty? Knowledge lacking in first-hand experience has yet to ripen into wisdom. Ask a mother who's birthed her child to compare her childbirth story to an MD who's only delivered a child.

Do you consider a poor person to be someone with no power (actual or perceived)? Remember Rosa Parks? Mrs. Parks is but one of millions who may come across as a poor, powerless person. History teaches us otherwise.

This short list of potential poverty perspectives sets the stage to consider:

  • Five ways poor voters often unconsciously vote to remain poor.
  • Five paths to reduce and resolve poverty in our lifetime.

1) Easy to stay stuck.
Habits, traditions, routines die hard, right? Once in a rut, we think it takes more effort to get out of that rut than to just stay stuck. For example, why does it seem to be MUCH easier to get fat than to maintain a healthy weight? Remaining stuck also reduces the chance to be shunned. If you get unstuck, you risk a label like traitor. If you come from poor folks, will your folks still love you when you're not poor?

Dissolve poverty! Support desires to learn and grow out of poverty.

2) More simple to stay quiet.

Noisy people become targets after all, right? Do you want to be a martyr? Is it really more easy to remain quiet? What's the cost of silence? How long will you be silent before blowing up or imploding due to unhealthy stress levels?

Dissolve poverty by learning how to talk in ways that inspires others to respect your voice. Talk may gain you attention. Deeds will gain (or lose) respect.

3) Easier to be poor.

Ignorance feeds fear. Which is easier to do? Face your fears? Run away from fears? Poor people often fear the effort it takes to enjoy life with less poverty. This fear is largely based on not knowing how to go about being more wealthy. Have you ever taught someone to do something they thought they could not do? After teaching them how to do it, have they told you they thought it would be MUCH more difficult than it was?

Dissolve poverty by sharing what you know, with those who want to learn what you know. As you share what you know, be sure to ask your student what they can teach you! When you ask a student to be your teacher, you'll both earn more respect for each other.

4) Show or gain respect of those who seem to have some kind of authority (real or perceived).

Poor voters who want to improve their lot in life may want to kiss up to authority by voting the way that authority wants them to vote. At some point, this kissing up may inspire a sense of entitlement such that this authority now "owes them more respect" for their favors. This kind of "check-book respect" often results in disappointment. Once disappointed, it seems easier to remain poor, silent and stuck.

Conversely, poor voters often do what they're told to do to make sure they remain in favor of those in authority. How many employees vote in ways their employer suggests they vote if they want to keep their jobs? While employers may never know how their employees voted, employees may live in a constant state of fear (that if their boss ever found out, they'd be out of a job). Why live with such fear when it's easier to vote the way your employer wants you to vote?

Dissolve poverty by learning and earning respect. Respect sometimes shows up by respecting one who chooses to NOT respect their own life. Example: Parents who tell a child to not play with fire. When that child is burned by choosing to show lack of respect to their parents, they rapidly learn respect for fire and hopefully their parents.

5) Blind faith or loyalty.

Poor voters who are devout members of faith or cause-based communities often vote as blocks to demonstrate their power as well as loyalty to their religious or community leaders. To vote outside of what's expected raises the risk of being shunned should their non-conforming vote be made public. Once again, why live in such fear when it's more easy to simply vote as requested.

Dissolve poverty by creating respect for voices who wish to speak freely. Those who choose to speak freely will do so more often when they feel safe to do so. Strengthen faith and loyalty by knowing the strength of such faith and / or loyalty stands firm no matter how many or how few remain faithful or loyal.

This upcoming general election, U.S. voters will choose a president who we believe will lead us wisely to realize liberty and the pursuit of happiness. True, as Zeller's post points out, our net worth plays a role in how we realize and measure liberty from any ladder rung. Equally true is how our overall sense of worth plays a role in how we navigate life in general. Will we learn to value and respect healthy growth for all, or just for some. Each voter and vote matters. This election cycle, let's break the cycle of poverty once and for all.

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