This afternoon, while running errands, I ran into a convenience store to get my afternoon Mountain Dew and I noticed one of my clients at the check out buying a Red Bull with an EBT card and buying cigarettes with cash.
First, I was stunned that you could buy a Red Bull with food stamps. Does anyone else find that infuriating?
Second, I decided to check out her tax return for her income information. This person is a single mom who made $20,000 last year. She paid no income tax last year and, in fact, received nearly $4,000 in earned income credit and additional child credit. That makes her income roughly $24,000 tax free.
Third, I don't know about other government programs but I do know that she would qualify for free school lunches and probably some type of housing subsidy.
Fourth, anyone who has money for smokes doesn't need food stamps PERIOD.
I am one of five kids. My wife is one of ten.
Counting spouses and partners, we currently have 27 in that group. Our unemployment rate is currently 0.0%. To my knowledge, none of us receive government assistance. Since the 2008 recession started, we've had three people lose jobs in that group. All of them have found other jobs.
Now if you believe that somehow we had advantages that others didn't, keep in mind the following. My father delivered beer and owned a bar for most of my life. Mrs. Gekko's father worked at GM as a mid level engineer. While I'm sure he made decent money, he also had 10 freakin' kids. None of us have jobs as a result of connections lined up by our parents.
So how is it that all of us are taxpayers and not food stamp recipients buying Red Bulls?
1) I believe that an intact family unit helped. While my parents are now divorced, they were married throughout most of our formative years.
2) I think nearly all of us had paper routes at some point in time. The point being that we started good work habits early and often. I think at least three in my family also worked at my aunt's pizza shack. Mrs. Gekko's family nearly all worked at the local Ponderosa.
3) If I were to rank the net worth's of everyone in our families you will probably notice that the siblings with masters degrees litter the top and the bottom of the bell curve. What's interesting is that the people on the high end got their masters part time, kept working and their employers picked up some of the tab (one of those benefits those corporate a-holes provide their employees). The ones on the bottom, quit jobs and went back to school full time, racking up huge student loans all along the way.
4) Illegitimate children - 1
5) Convicted criminals - 0
6) Drug users - 0 (although I'm pretty sure there may be one pot head in the bunch)
In my family, none of us were exceptional students. Mrs Gekko did have a couple of valedictorians in the family. The point being that nothing we did was really all that exceptional.
Only three kids between the two families live in our home towns, meaning we were willing to sacrifice proximity to family for job security.
We currently have an in law who's lived his entire life in Seattle. He recently took a position at the University of Alabama. Do you think that's a culture shock? I'm willing to bet that when he was 18, if he could have listed his top ten destinations in his life, Tuscaloosa would not have been on the list.
Frankly, there's just too many examples in our immediate family and others I know to believe that we're just lucky.
But then again luck is where opportunity meets preparation. And apparently, we have an entire population of people where luck is when Red Bull meets food stamps.