Panhandling Drug Addicts Make $60 Per Hour

A homeless panhandling drug addict in New York City makes about $1 per minute from donations from the public during rush hour, Steven Levitt notes in the New York Times. That’s $60 an hour. Such extravagance by the public makes little sense. But then, people give money to homeless panhandlers, and thus finance their drug habits, out of political correctness and irrational guilt, not logic.

By contrast, when my wife, a legal immigrant, worked for an embassy in Washington, D.C., she made $14,000 per year — less than 12 cents a minute. That’s less than one eighth of what a panhandling drug addict makes.

(She could have made far more money working for another employer as an illegal alien, but she wanted to abide by the law, and since she didn’t have a green card, the only way she could legally remain in the U.S., and work in the the U.S., was by working for a foreign government in a low-paying job).

Panhandlers save basically no money. My wife saved $4,000 per year on a $14,000 a year salary, spending less money on food than the poorest food stamp recipients receive in food stamps. (Lawmakers are currently working to increase the amount of food stamps welfare recipients receive, falsely claiming it’s impossible to eat well on a food-stamps budget, even though I and many others have spent less on food than food stamp recipients do).

But the panhandlers are considered “oppressed” victims of society by liberal academics and journalists, while my wife isn’t. (Ironically, illegal aliens are treated by liberal newspapers as “oppressed,” but legal immigrants like my wife are not, and receive no sympathy. The Seattle Times, for example, editorialized in favor of efforts by liberal legislators to exclude legal immigrants from in-state tuition rates that the Washington State legislature had made available to illegal aliens).

When I began work at a public-interest law firm, after graduating from Harvard Law School, I was initially paid $28,000 per year, while working over 50 hours a week. I was thus paid less than 20 cents a minute — less than a fifth of what a panhandling drug addict receives. I still managed to save money.

(As a result of my savings, and only as a result of my savings, I would not have qualified for government assistance in purchasing a home — a Washington Post story reported that in Alexandria, Virginia, people who have no savings to make a down payment for a home have received a zero-interest loan from the federal government to make a down payment, a loan they do not have to repay until many years later, when they sell their home. What a crime it is to be thrifty and save money).

Aesop’s Fables tells the parable of the ant and the grasshopper. The thrifty ant, who has saved up reserves of food, lives through winter, while the irresponsible grasshopper, who has saved nothing to eat, starves. In our society, by contrast, the ant is heavily taxed so that the the irresponsible grasshopper can live it up even while claiming to be oppressed.