Now that so many new members have joined the ranks of the poor, perhaps we need some new definitions of the various kinds and levels of poverty that abound in the Age of Reaganomics. A singular designation no longer seems adequate to cover them. Here are a few suggested ones.
The Traditional Poor: Better understood in the time of Christ or in Dickens' England than in 1982 America. Our descriptions of some of our citizens as "Third-Generation Welfare Recipients" is about as close as we get to this historical concept.
The Newly Poor: A "Go-Getter" who was wiped out in the stock market, or a $30,000-a-year middle manager who lost his job last year and has used up his benefits.
The Poor-Mouth Poor: Those who pretend to be poor to others who know better.
The Urban Poor and the Rural Poor: Each of these groups is poor in ways that the other does not understand or particularly appreciate. The Urban Poor have more chances to improve their situation, but the Rural Poor can grow some of their own food.
The Cutesy Poor: "I paid my bill from Bloomingdale's so I only have $17 to last 11 days. I wonder if that new Thai restaurant on the corner takes Master Card."
The Cozy Poor: Those who can be comfortable as long as they just get by. The coziness comes from sharing their condition with their neighbors.
The Chic Poor: A media concoction. It has never been chic to be poor.
The Striving Poor: A large number of people who work hard and steadily, but who can never seem to get ahead.
The Temporary Circumstance Poor: Students and horse players.
The Deserving Poor: Those independent souls who keep trying, and who deserve better than they get. See Striving.
The Undeserving Poor: Don't want to work.
The Disaster Poor: An individual or group suddenly devastated by fire, flood, catastrophic illness or serious accident.
The Working Poor: See Deserving.
The High Flying Poor: They never have any money, but are always beautifully dressed, go to expensive places for Sunday brunch and get to Europe occasionally. How they manage this remains a mystery to them as well as to others.
The Stuck-in-the-Mud Poor: Old, sick, poor, and alone in the country with no way to get to town.
The Proud Poor: A needy group who have usually seen better days. Very much aware of their circumstances, they nevertheless would refuse any assistance they might consider a "handout." Formerly known as The Respectable Poor. A dying breed.
The Poor in Spirit:Found in every society in every country in every age.