Poverty Injustices Wrong View



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Poverty Injustices: The Wrong View

Brittnee Phillips

Calhoun Community College









Author Note

This paper was prepared for English 101-S54, taught by Professor Denton.


Poverty has been a violent beast that has overtaken parts of the world. In Barbara Ehrenreich’s article “How I Discovered the Truth about Poverty,” she explained with Michael Harrington’s book The Other America and a few other scholars how the world viewed the poor. Ehrenreich’s article effectively used logos, pathos, and ethos to convince taxpayers that the impoverished do not have money.

First, Ehrenreich used a logical appeal throughout the piece to prove that the less fortunate have less money than the wealthy. Ehrenreich (2018) mentioned, “He [Harrington] estimated that one-quarter of the population lived in poverty- inner-city blacks, Appalachian whites, farm workers, and elderly Americans among them” (p. 483).  This quote appealed to logos by citing from Harrington’s study that ” one-quarter of the population” are in poverty. By telling her audience this statistic, she not only conveyed the message about the percentage of the poor but also how racially and ethnically challenged Harrington was in his definition of “the culture of poverty.” She did that to let her audience see that his view was narrow-minded while hers addressed the socioeconomic issue of money. To further illustrate this point, Ehrenreich (2018) went on to say that “TANF” recipients “were subjected to drug testing, along with fingerprinting and computerized searches for outstanding warrants (p.484). This quote was an excellent use of logos because it showed what the impoverished had to do to get assistance.

Equally important was how she appealed to the readers’ emotional response to the plight of the poor. Ehrenreich (2018) described this scenario to prove her point, “Think of the earnest liberal who encounters a panhandler, is moved to pity by the man’s obvious destitution, but refrains from offering a quarter-since the hobo might, after all, spend the money on booze (p. 487). This quote invoked anger toward the liberal because they see that the panhandler was in need and pitied them but chose to do nothing because of the negative connotation surrounding poor people. Furthermore, Ehrenreich (2018) expressed, “The poor were dissolute, promiscuous, prone to addiction and crime, unable to ‘defer gratification,’ or possibly even set an alarm clock. The last thing they could be trusted with was money” (p.484). This statement invoked the anger response because of the assumption that poor people were less than the wealthy. It also invoked the emotion of doubt in the audience. Doubt was relevant in this statement because it gave the audience a connection to their personal lives. The readers know someone, either personally or professionally, that has been poor and has none of those traits. An emotional appeal was necessary for this text to bring a sense of humanity back to people who were seen as less-than.

Finally, Barbara Ehrenreich used ethos to prove that the impoverished do not have money. Throughout this article, Ehrenreich referenced Michael Harrington’s book The Other America to show that she had the right to talk about the same subject as Harrington. She used an ethical approach. Ehrenreich (2018) emphasized, “I worked with him in the 1980s, when we were co-chairs of Democratic Socialists of America, and I suspect he’d have the decency to be chagrined, if not mortified” (p.485). This use of ethos was effective because she used her authority to show that she was qualified to talk about poverty since she was a part of the same board. It also displayed the professional relationship between Harrington and Ehrenreich. The subsequent use of ethos is demonstrated when Ehrenreich discussed “the Reagan Era” (p. 484). Ehrenreich (2018) declared, “By the Reagan Era, the ‘culture of poverty’ had become a cornerstone of conservative ideology: Poverty was caused, not by low wages or a lack of jobs, but by bad attitudes and faulty lifestyles” (p. 484). This quote effectively used ethos because it showed the impact that the president and his constituents had on the poor’s worldview. However, Ehrenreich used the viewpoint that poor people have bad attitudes to counterargue that being poor had nothing to do with their attitudes but everything to do with them not having money to be as successful.

In conclusion, the use of logos, pathos, and ethos throughout the article established a well-rounded argument to prove her point: poor people do not have money. She has effectively persuaded this reader that it was not the poor attitude that is the issue. It was the lack of funds and compassion from others. Unfortunately, poverty is still running rampant across the world. It is time to bring humanity back to impoverished people.




















Ehrenreich, B. (2018). How I discovered the truth about poverty. In S. Greene & A. Lidinsky (Eds.), From inquiry to academic writing: A text and reader (4th ed.), (pp. 482-485). New York, NY USA: Bedford/St. Martin’s.



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