FACT OR B.S. #5 – Poor People Need to Steal

This Target was one of many local stores looted during the pandemic.

(Editor’s note: One of my son’s favorite television shows growing up was “Mythbusters.” Each episode focused on popular beliefs, Internet rumors or other myths. The cast would examine each myth and then either confirm or debunk it. Circling the News is now offering its own series “Fact or B.S.” and in each installment we see if the claim is true or false.)

The fifth installment of the B.S. series is: Poor People Need to Steal. Fact or B.S.?

During the many looting events covered in the news over the last few years, there emerged the idea that these people needed to steal because they were poor, that property crimes and low-level infractions were done to secure basic survival.

According to a December 2021 Small Business Trends story (“These Are the Most Stolen Items During Smash-and-Grab Thefts”) designer clothes (34%), laundry detergent (21 %), razors (20 %) and designer handbags (16 %) were items most often taken. Tied at 13 % were laptops/tablets, infant formula, allergy medicine pain relievers and high-end liquor.

Growing up on the Sicangu Lakota Indian Reservation (Rosebud Reservation) in South Dakota, there are no wealthy. In 2019, the reservation had a 67.1 percent poverty rate, and the median household income was $19,453.

The first home my family lived in didn’t have running water. When I was about three, we moved to house that had an indoor bathroom.

My parents were teachers and three months of the year there was no income. We had a large garden and canned to provide food for the coming year. There was no money for shoes in the summer, we largely ran barefoot. At church, we wore “flip-flops,” and were taught that stealing was a sin.

I had an older cousin, who sent her outgrown clothes – which were then passed down to younger siblings.

As soon as my sisters and I could, we babysat – or worked as carhops at a local drive-in.

Where did the idea come from that poor people need to steal?

Activists argue that enforcement of robbery/burglary/shoplifting laws is a violation of basic human rights and enforcing these laws criminalizes poverty.

The federal government currently spends more than $1 trillion a year on anti-poverty programs, including general assistance, food stamps, housing vouchers, SSI, and WIC. Those in need in the United States, can receive it.

A July 2020 Business Insider story (“Why Rich People Steal”) argued that rich people were more likely to steal.

“A 2008 study in the American Journal of Psychology suggested that wealthy people — considered as those with family incomes over $70,000 for the study’s purposes — were 30% more likely to steal from any store than those who made $20,000.”

“One theory to explain this contrast in behavior is that low-income people are less likely to cheat and steal because they are more invested in their communities and fear being publicly humiliated. Conversely, the rich harbor feelings of entitlement and self-interest, which destabilizes their moral compass. Here’s another factor that may apply: the poor have a heightened fear of authority figures, and the rich do not.”

Why do rich people steal? It’s the wrong question to ask, according to Paul Piff, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The more money you have, the higher in status you are, the more self-focused you become and are more prioritizing of your own self-interest,” Piff told Business Insider. “They tell themselves justifying narratives that excuse their behavior, not as immoral, but rather a necessary outcome of their circumstances.”

It appears that some wealthy activists need to justify their own behavior, which leads them to hypothesize that the poor should be allowed to steal.

FACT or B.S. That the poor need to steal.

CTN Calls this B.S.


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4 Responses to FACT OR B.S. #5 – Poor People Need to Steal

  1. Stefanie Cho says:

    💯 on 🎯
    Thank you Sue for saying what needed to be said. I’m sharing this to make sure even more people read it!!

  2. Joe Somerville says:

    Is this you, the poor kid? I am very impressed by the story. Very impressed.

    Thank you.


  3. Tom Meade says:

    “Why do rich people steal? It’s the wrong question to ask, according to Paul Piff, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.”

    Well, what question did he ask – or answer? The answer was a stretch.

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