Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Where Do Drug Users Get Money for Drugs?

The poor are not poor due to lack of money, but because of how they spend it.

I mentioned before that there are "poor" people in America who claim to be broke all the time or living paycheck-to-paycheck, but yet work at jobs sometimes paying in the six figures.  How is this possible?  And how can someone making half as much have money in the bank and no debts?  It makes no sense, does it?

I get this all the time.  People dismiss what I say in this blog as the ranting of some "rich guy" - you know, one of those evil 1%'ers who makes millions a year.  Yet, the peak of my earning years was not much more than what some of these guys were making in the fracking fields during the heyday - probably less, in fact.  The difference was, of course, that although I squandered a lot, I saved a lot, too.

A lot of money passes through the hands of the poor.  I recounted before the conversation I overheard from Mr. Mullet-head on the beach in the Bahamas.  The guy was complaining he was broke, but also recited a litany of internal-combustion powered vehicles he had in his barn - all broken - that he was still making payments on.

The list goes on and on.  Folks working in the car factories making huge salaries and banking none of it - but with a list of payments as long as your arm.   They make "good money" but save none of it.  Do you feel sorry for them when the factory closes and they are broke?   I don't.

It is like the guy profiled in the paper today who lost $800,000 by betting on an exchange-traded fund that was paying back 18% in dividends for a few years - until it went from $14 a share to 20 cents.  He's bankrupt now, as he put all his money - his "life's savings" - in that one single, highly risky investment.   Do we feel sorry for him?   Particularly when he was the guy laughing at you, just last year, for being so "tame" in your investments, by diversifying your portfolio and not investing in things you didn't understand.

A lot of people who claim to be "poor" actually have a lot of money pass through their hands - the key word is "pass through" as they fail to snag any of it as it tears through their wallets.  Not even a tiny amount can be retained, it seems, when some luxury item is for sale.

Drug addicts are a prime example of this effect.   Drugs are very expensive to buy, and drug addicts spend an awful lot of money - often other people's money - on their habit.  They find the money, somehow, to buy drugs.  In fact, it is pretty amazing how they manage to do this.  And I say this as a former drug user - looking back it was amazing as broke as I was all the time, how I could find $20 to buy a bag of weed.

But if you re-read that last sentence, you find the key.  I was broke all the time, because I was buying bags of weed - and drinks at the bar, and a six-pack from the convenience store (paid for by a check that bounced) and so on and so forth.

I recounted before about a friend of mine whose husband decided, in law school, to start smoking crack. Marijuana is not a gateway drug and donchuforgetit!   He went to George Mason Law School, home of Robert Bork (for a time).  It was then in a bad part of Arlington (which no longer has bad parts, but just good parts and really good parts) in an old Sears building (and they say you can't re-used old retail!).   He ran into a drug dealer and asked him if he had any pot for sale.  No pot, but this fun new drug called "crack"!  Whydoncha try it?

Well a year later, he's spending the mortgage money on crack.   His wife says, "But then we won't be able to pay the mortgage!" and he replies, "but think of all the crack we'll have!"    Like I said, any idiot can be a lawyer, and I'm living proof of that.   Last I heard, he was in jail for running a meth lab.  But of course, that's all been glamorized on a television now, right?  Sadly, I've run into people who have tried to convince me it was possible to have a "responsible meth habit" - although the word "habit" seems to negate this.   I ran away as quickly as I could.

So where do drug users get money from drugs?  The stereotype is the drug user living under a bridge, homeless, begging for money from passing cars.   And yes, there are people like that, who can collect hundreds of dollars a day this way - sometimes a hundred dollars an hour, in a crowded tourist district.   Money passes through their hands, but doesn't manage to stick.   Well-meaning tourists give them money, thinking they are going to spend it on medicine for their baby (as the weathered cardboard sign claims) but the only "medicine" it is buying is for Momma.

I said "well-meaning tourists" but they really aren't well-meaning, are they?   They claim they give money to a drug addict because they care about others.  But giving money to a panhandling drug addict is like giving a loaded handgun to a suicidal person.  "Here, let me help you!" they say, "this will speed things up!"   The other side of the coin is that they usually make a big show out of handing out this money, so everyone will see what a great altruistic generous person they are.  In other words, they are getting something out of this, which is evil.  Altruism usually is.

But not all drug addicts are the guy-under-the-bridge.   In fact, they are a small minority.   Many have jobs or are in college or are living with parents or otherwise have some sort of home, income, and whatnot.  They may be people you know, work with, or even friends - although usually you figure out pretty quickly about the latter.   They spend - like I did - an inordinate amount of money on recreational drugs, and then wonder where all their money went.

And then they borrow.  My lawyer friend divorced her husband when he decided to spend the mortgage money on crack.  Over a year later, she realized he took out loans in her name.   But many others take out loans, usually in the form of credit cards, in their own names.  Or they do a refinance of their home mortgage.  No, no one takes the cash-out and brings it directly to their drug dealer.   Rather, they use it to pay off the credit card debts, which in turn allowed them to use "excess cash" to buy drugs.

It can take a decade or more for a credit card crises or debt crises to materialize.   This is true for the drug addict, for the consumer, or even for corporations.   We see companies like Sears or JC Penny stagger on with ever-increasing debt loads and declining income.   You wonder whether they would have survived even if people kept going to malls.  Once you hollow out a company with debt, the end game isn't a matter of "if" but "when".

Of course, there reaches a point in the drug users life where borrowing money isn't in the cards anymore.   They lose their job, they lose the house, their credit rating is shot, they lose their car  - they lose everything.   This is largely how homelessness happens - it isn't like they say on the television, where someone just loses their job and is homeless the next day.    The working person goes out and tries to find a new job - they also collect unemployment for a while.    They sell off possessions, they do something.   The drug addict searches out more drugs.  At that point in their life, there is little to be gained by interviewing for a job - no one will hire them.

So the panhandling and stealing starts.   Hang out on a street corner with a cardboard sign and hey, you're making almost as much as you did with that stupid "job" - and it is all tax-free!  See an unlocked car - rummage through it, maybe there is some spare change, a bottle of booze, or a cell phone in there.  If it's locked, a rock or brick will unlock it for you!  Your shelter needs are taken care of by the nearest bridge overpass, your food needs taken care of by the local shelter, food bank, or soup kitchen.  The feral lifestyle isn't all that bad - the big bonus being you get to stay high all the time.

So what's the point of all this?  I dunno.   Only that people who aren't drug addicts often behave in similar ways, although perhaps not resorting to vandalizing cars or panhandling.   But the early stages of drug use are not too dissimilar to the early stages of compulsive shopping, compulsive gambling, and so on and so forth.  People hollow out their lives so they can have "things" and not wealth.

I guess the other thing that made me revive this draft posting from several years ago was that we drove by a church yesterday and they were tearing it down.   Kind of odd to be tearing down a church, particularly one in pretty good shape.  But it was in a commercial district and churches can be a tough sell on the real estate market.

What set me off was a large sign posting at the site.  It read, "Coming soon!  Tiny homes for the homeless!"   Oh, boy, this isn't going to end well.   The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

And here, we have someone aggrandizing themselves by going out to "help the homeless" and perhaps get that nice profile article in the local paper - maybe even the New York Times!  ("Georgia man builds tiny homes for the homeless!").   Maybe.   But the reality of homelessness is that it has a lot less to do with not having a home and drug and mental health issues.   It isn't that these bums hanging out on the street corner with their well-worn cardboard signs need a place to stay - they make enough money panhandling every day to afford a motel room - but that they need mental health treatment, drug treatment, or a combination of both.  Or a good kick in the ass.

Unless these "tiny home" people are willing to intervene in the the lives of their "clients" this tiny home encampment is going to turn into a tiny ghetto - replete with its own tiny crime wave, tiny assaults, and tiny murders.   The theory that many "homeless advocates" have is that these folks are just like you and me, but had "bad luck" and lost their jobs and just need a place to stay until they get back on their feet.   The reality is that they are feral humans, who will take whatever society hands out for free, or whatever isn't nailed down.

Expect to see a rash of petty crimes, break-ins, and other sorts of thefts in the neighborhood once this homeless encampment opens up.   And expect to see a regularly rotating cast of characters, each with his own cardboard sign, at the nearby intersection.   Good luck getting through that stoplight.   Local businesses will get tired of the thefts and break-ins and shoplifting, and move to better locations (and since there is a plethora of commercial real estate, they have choices).  Customers will get tired of being accosted in the parking lot by bums shouting in their ears, "Excuse me!" and asking for money, while they scope out your car for things to steal.

When word gets out on the homeless grapevine (and they do have one, as they have cell phones, provided for free, paid for by your "universal access fee") people will actually move here to snag one of those free tiny homes.   It is the buglight effect, plain and simple.

It will not end well!

Sadly, these good intentions end up enabling a lifestyle - an expensive lifestyle at that.   These folks are not really "poor" and they are not "priced out" of housing in our area (where you can rent an apartment larger than a 'tiny home' for about $600 a month).  Maybe people in San Francisco or New York City are priced out of housing, but not here.

No, it is just they'd rather spend the money on drugs.  And speaking of which, I forgot to mention the other method may drug users resort to, to pay for their drug habit - dealing drugs.  It is tempting, with the high cost of even pot, to try to buy a pound or kilo and then cut it up into baggies and sell it to your friends, with your "profit" largely going up in smoke.

So as an added bonus, the tiny home encampment will mean more drug dealing in the area, right down the street from the local high school.

It is sad, but the neighborhood was just staring to improve.  Walmart put in their "Ghetto Gourmet" local market, and some boarded-up buildings once again had tenants.   But when you put poverty services in a particular area, you attract poverty.   It will only be a matter of time before the neighborhood, starts to go down.

Very sad.