Monday, October 26, 2015

How to build wealth at "the bottom" Part 2

So, here's how we ended in my last post:

. . . a growing underclass struggles with intensive  toxic stress, resulting in a spiral downward for tens of millions of Americans. 

Poverty is growing. 

Poverty is tragic.

Poverty presents possibly the most serious threat to our nation's long-term security. 

What is necessary to overcome these negative forces?  How, in fact, do we build wealth at "the bottom?"

This seems so obvious, but to overcome poverty and its various expressions leading to the toxic stress ravaging so many urban neighborhoods we must create higher income levels among today's working poor. 

How do we do that? 

What steps must we take if we are really serious about attacking the problem of poverty? 

Step one:  raises wages, and not just to minimum wage expected standards.  Wages must rise to a livable level--the paycheck required for a full-time employee to be able to care for himself/herself and whatever family.  Wages have risen for the upper-class at historic and astounding percentages over the past 20 years, while the middle and lower classes have seen wage stagnation and exploitation produce the biggest income gap since the early 20th century.  This must change.

Step two:  provide quality, affordable health care to everyone who works and for the disabled who cannot work.  Health care costs and health disasters drive much of the growth in poverty since the 1990s.  An example of leadership failure in this regard is the state of Texas' refusal to expand Medicaid for our poorest citizens.  Not only is this shameful, it is terrible business practice. 

Step three:  develop and execute on a plan that enables millions of us to prepare for and purchase a home.  Nothing grows real wealth like homeownership. The expansion of efforts to teach financial literacy when coupled with the real prospect of home ownership will only drive incomes in the right direction.

Step four:  expand educational options for everyone.  Creative efforts to re-purpose public schools and libraries as community learning centers for children and adults could produce good results.  Finding ways to reduce student debt for those seeking college opportunities will be essential to progress in filling the mid-level and upper-level skill sets for which employers continually request. 

Step five:  eliminate predatory lenders and lending schemes and provide consumer protection against such unjust businesses.  Payday lenders must be declared illegal enterprises.  At the same time, banks must develop credit products for low-income households as a part of their community reinvestment requirements. 

Step six: require 1-2 years of national service along the lines of AmeriCorps on the part of all our high school graduates.  This "youth corps" effort would come with a monthly stipend and educational awards upon completion of each members tour of service.  Such an effort would provide meaningful work for students, significant impact on communities and pathways to careers across the spectrum of labor sectors. 

Stay tuned for part 3.

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