The difference between Poor and Broke

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In recent weeks we have seen some of the candid feelings of the Republican Candidate, Governor Romney, which have surfaced through Mother Jones. While it may be easy to attack Gov. Romney because of his “off the cuff” remarks in the video, I think it is more important to consider how a grown man can come to believe that people who do not pay federal income taxes are shiftless, lazy and entitled.

Earlier in the campaign, Ann Romney told a story of a time when her and Mitt were poor college students barely getting by living off the sales of a some of Mitt's stocks. Times were tough, especially compared to the rest of their lives, the young Romneys were broke. Most, if not all American's have at some point or another experienced being broke. Being broke is a state where perhaps you have overspent your paycheck and are gonna have to wait to buy things until your next paycheck. Personally as a recent college grad I know a lot about being broke. Broke like I had no money to buy gas, or beer (groceries mom and dad) because my parents had already sent me an allowance and I was gonna have to wait for next semester to get more.

Being broke sucks, but its temporary, and its a situation one can easily get out of, I got a campus job to add a little income in college, and when I graduate (theoretically) I will get a good paying job. A lot of College students, Graduate students, young people, are broke. It takes practice figuring out how spend, save and earn money responsibly. Recently I spoke with one of my College Republican friends and she said “Man I'm so poor, I'm eating ramen noodles second time this week, shouldn't have bought the new iPhone 5.” This is the same mistaken confusion of poor and broke that Mitt Romney makes. My friend is not poor, she's broke, theres a difference.

See being poor is not temporary, its not easily solvable, its not remotely like being broke. As a survey question to assess the economic stability of a family the receive governmental aid (SNAP/TANF) they ask the following few questions.


By utilizing your family, friend and professional contacts:

1. If there were an emergency tomorrow could you get $200.00 cash tomorrow?

2. If there were a larger emergency could you get $1,000.00 cash tomorrow?

3. If there were an even larger emergency could you get $5,000.00 cash tomorrow?


If I were in trouble tomorrow, I have no doubt that I could reach out to my family or close friends and could get each of those three amounts. When Mitt Romney was in college, I imagine that he could have had access to each of those amounts of money too. Indeed when Mitt went to start his own business he had hundreds of thousands of dollars that he could access to do so, but for many people in this country, who don't have trust funds but rather survive because the federal income tax credit saves them a few hundred dollars each year, the answers to those questions are profoundly different.

The solution to being broke is precisely what republicans talk about, hard work and personal responsibility, but those do not even begin to address the structural disadvantage of being poor.

Julian Castro said it best in his speech to the DNC, “

Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it. A few months ago he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. “Start a business,” he said. But how? “Borrow money if you have to from your parents,” he told them. Gee, why didn't I think of that? Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams. I don't think Gov. Romney meant any harm. I think he's a good guy. He just has no idea how good he's had it. Read more:

Being broke is not the same as being poor, Mitt Romney and many people nationwide, don't understand the difference.


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