“Hi, is Joe there? This is Pete. You don’t know me, but Joe does work for me now and then. He must have lost his phone again, and he left this number on my voicemail.”

“Hey Pete, he’s out for the moment. I’ll have him call when he gets in.”

“K. It’s really important. The Housing Authority sent an application update form to my house because this is his contact address, and he needs to fill it out by the end of the month if he wants to stay on the list for housing assistance.”

“I’ll make sure to tell him Pete. Thanks.”

I called back two more times in the following days. Three weeks later the month ended, and there was never a response.

Joe was dropped from the Housing Authority list.

I’m writing this column out of frustration. My experience in life gives me an insight into the workings of some folks who would be considered on the fringe of society — those folks that are always on the brink of financial disaster, and who are always in need of one form of social program or another.

Those folks that get help from the government, but the only help they get is money.

And money isn’t the help that is needed.

I’m writing because I’m tired of listening to politicians talk about income inequality, and how it’s a shame that billionaires exist in America when we have so many poor people here.

I’m writing because people like Bernie Saunders think taxing really rich people on what they are worth, not what they make, is going to solve this problem.

It’s not going to solve anything, it’s just going to make some folks feel good.

I’m writing because some people aren’t poor because some people are rich. I’m writing because income inequality isn’t the problem.

There are millions of people who will never be able to take care of themselves the way the average American is capable of doing. There are so many folks that have no cause and effect about how they go about their lives. They are nice folks, like Joe, who will forever lose the government phone, not call back when someone tries to help, make horrible decisions, spend the rent money on a frivolous item, and have no understanding about why life is hard.

Because for whatever reason, they make their own life hard.

This problem will never be solved by giving them things. This problem will only be solved by teaching them about why things happen.

Why not following up on an appointment will end up with you being dropped from a housing program so you end up having to live with a relative.

Why not being prepared for a job interview will end up with you not having a job.

Why not being responsible with the money you do have will result in you being poor.

None of these issues will be resolved by pointing a finger at the wealthy. None of them will be resolved by making folks feel guilty about being successful. None of them will be resolved with just giving someone money.

They only will be resolved with a concerted effort to teach people how to be responsible and by giving them the tools to understand the cause and effect of the world.

Before you send me a ration of emails about why this column may sound like I’m being a bit harsh, please realize that except for some inner city social workers, those of us in the restaurant business see and hear more of the pain and suffering of humanity than most.

We get it all from the addicts to the weak to the abused. And we see what works and what doesn’t.

This is my experience in life. And it’s been an education worthy of any university on earth.

Pete Mitchell’s “In America” column appears every other Monday. He lives in Geneva and can be reached at peteinamerica@yahoo.com.

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