Thursday, January 09, 2014

Declaring war on poverty

Fifty years ago President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a "war on poverty" as a key component of his Great Society strategy.

Johnson was a poor Texas boy who understood poverty.  He emerged as the most powerful arm-twister in the Congress!

His results on poverty were actually impressive, if you look at the numbers (efforts drove national poverty rate down 19% in the very short-lived effort thanks to the waste and escalation of the Vietnam conflict).

Naturally, lots of people are remembering, analyzing and commenting on Johnson's approach to poverty, both pro and con, at the anniversary (for a good example that gets at the complexities of poverty read here).

The discussion is also  in large measure due to the fact that the U. S. continues to struggle with the challenge of poverty in a land of amazing wealth.

So, what steps could be taken to wage a war on poverty, 21st century style?

Here's a beginning list of notions and strategies:

1)  Make universal national service  a requirement for every U. S. young person before the age of 24.  Deploy these young people in community service focusing on health improvement, education, public works, gerontology, nutrition and community development, among other possible disciplines.  Pay a sliding scale stipend with housing plan and educational credit upon completion of 2-year tour.

2)  Raise the minimum wage to livable range for everyone who works:  $13-15 an hour.  Such a move would virtually guarantee that all who worked would escape poverty.

3)  Regulate hourly work week practices of American corporations so that part-time job options were no longer forced on American workers simply to ensure that benefit packages were reduced or eliminated. Reward companies that evidenced a commitment to fair work plans for their employees and penalize those who did not..

4)  Re-energize urban and rural school districts by offering state-of-the-art trade school training to students seeking such trades labor options.

5)  Fully fund and adequately promote the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

6)  Fully fund and adequately promote the child credit deduction.

7)  Provide pre-K and kindergarten for all American children.

8)  Reform/restore funding for Pell grants and other programs that make it possible for all U. S. students who desire it to attend colleges.  Incentivize universities that accommodate low-income students and that provide creative options for low-income students.

9)  Create national strategies to "bring jobs back to the U. S."  Reward U. S. companies who actually return jobs to the U. S. using tax credits and other rewards.

10)  Create federal "investment zones" in pulverized urban and rural areas of the U. S., like Detroit.  Reward companies who relocate to and invest in such communities.

11)  Make the reduction of poverty a genuine national priority.  

12)  Require every faith community in the U. S. to "adopt" and provide whatever is needed  for at least one (1) homeless person continually in order to maintain a tax exempt status.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying that this applies to me, but why when people work hard, get an education and play by the rules they often are looked on with suspicion. It's as if people think that becoming upper middle class or rich causes others to remain poor.The Associated Press put it like this:

"Fully 20% of U.S. adults become rich for parts of their lives, wielding outsize influence on America's economy and politics. This little-known group may pose the biggest barrier to reducing the nation's income inequality"

I believe we should applaud people eho "make it." One person being "rich" does not make another person poor. In other words, there is not a certain amount of money and no more to go around to the population. There is no such thing as income equality, nor should there be. People go up and down on the income scale throughout their lives.