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Money, from "Poor Side of Town," a song by Johnny Rivers

Subthemes: Inequality, Wealth, Taxes

Poor Side of Town, sung by Johnny Rivers, croons the plight of a young man without money, who loves a young woman who has had her affections toyed with by a guy with money. It’s not a level playing field: a poor wooer pleading for love and loyalty while a rich person (and the allures of wealth) tugs her away. The subthemes of Money are flush.

Sung by Johnny Rivers.

Do-doo-doo-wah shoo-be-doo-be
Do-doo-doo-wah shoo-be-doo-be
How can you tell me how much you miss me
When the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t even kiss me
That rich guy you’ve been seein'
Must have put you down
So welcome back baby
To The Poor Side of town

To him you were nothin' but a little plaything
Not much more than an overnight fling
To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
And girl it’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town

I can’t blame you for tryin'
I’m tryin' to make it too
I’ve got one little hang up baby
I just can’t make it without you

So tell me, are you gonna stay now
Will you stand by me girl all the way now
With you by my side
They can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

Oh, with you by my side
This world can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

[opening omitted]

Source: Musixmatch; songwriters: Johnny Rivers / Lou Adler

Inequality: The singer lives on the poor side of town, makes little, and languishes in the bottom quintile of wealth. We doubt his peers are [hearts are ever light](https://themesfromart.com/post/2021-10-15-money-from-money-o-a-poem-by-w-h-davies/moneymoneyo/). Historians and economists have studied the ratios between the wealth held by the richest strata of the society compared to the poorest strata. Wikipedia tells of that in 2017 the top 1% richest owned 38.5% of the country’s wealth in 2016. In the middle of that year, the Boston Consulting Group estimated that around 70% of the nation’s wealth will be in the hands of millionaires and billionaires by 2021. So-called “selective mating” perpetuates the wealth gap as kids with cash marry kids with cash. Countries vary considerably on the inequality ratios of wealth, and spirited debate persists regarding whether economic inequality is increasing, why that may be occurring, and whether the trend will harm social cohesion.

Wealth: Money is earned as employee compensation, self-employed income from a person’s labor, or a pension, but people may also own assets that generate income – known as “wealth.”

[I]t’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town
,

however, especially any semblance of wealth – unless gentrification is upscaling that part of town. Wealth takes many forms: stocks appreciate and pay dividends; real estate generates rent and grows in value; bonds and debentures pay interest; commodity prices rise; options vest and exceed the strike price; and other assets increase in value, such as fine art, memorabilia, antiques, jewelry, historical artifacts, or classic cars. All of these constitute their owner’s wealth. A portion of a person’s wealth may be illiquid, in that it is difficult to sell or exchange, but wealthy people do not need to draw salaries as the sale or appreciation of their assets (which they can borrow against) more than covers their living expenses.

Taxes: The young man is tryin' to make it, but his low-paying job – if he even holds a steady job – incurs low taxes. In all countries, earnings are subject to income taxes, although the collection, fairness, and base of income taxes vary enormously. In the United States since 1913, when the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified, everyone who earns over a minimum amount during the calendar year owes federal income taxes on those earnings. People who are single and under the age of 65 who make $12,400 per year or more must file a return. Earners may also owe state income taxes, and sometimes city or county income taxes. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia allow cities, counties and municipalities to levy their own individual income taxes on top of state income taxes.

Employees have prepayments of those taxes withheld from their paychecks. The US tax code has been knotted into intimidating complexity, so many people pay for tax preparation software such as Turbotax or services like H&R Block. The mind-boggling arcana of the Internal Revenue Code keeps an army of lawyers and accountants busy on behalf of their clients. Tax loopholes and sophisticated schemes are infamous for those with the wherewithal to take advantage of them. Working off the books avoids taxes but runs legal risks. Cash-basis businesses, such as retailers, may skim off some of their take and avoid taxes.

 

For those trapped in poverty, few possessions are pretty. The impoverished youth of Johnny Rivers’ song pines for the wonderful girl he loves, believes that the two of them as a couple can escape the grind, rise in the inequality rankings, perhaps accumulate wealth, even have to ponder about tax-minimization schemes.

Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town
.

If you are interested in further thoughts on the concept of Money, consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, About.

We invite you to read about other rock songs discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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