Fighting Poverty One Idea at a Time

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This is an opinion piece about a new direction for fighting poverty in America. I would really love to dialog about it without talking about political parties and/or liberal or conservative spinning. If we want to diminish poverty in the US, we clearly need to start thinking about new ways to approach the problem. What we are doing now is not working.

article wrote:

Each year, the federal government spends almost $800 billion on 92 programs to help struggling families. Yet the poverty rate is the highest in a generation.

I would agree that we need a new approach, but I doubt we, as a country, have the requisite moral and political courage to do what needs to be done over a sufficient time period to make the sort of difference we would like.

Primary among the changes that need made is equality of educational opportunity. The very concept that one is fated to substandard education by accident of birth is, in many ways, a human rights tragedy alive and well in this country. And the solution to this has everything to do with the fact that the market for education as currently configured relies on the idea that many must lose for a few to win.

Divorce education funding from property taxes and make it standardized with tracking and you will have the single most effective mechanism for accelerating intergenerational financial mobility implemented and working within even a single generation. We saw precisely the effect of this with the desegregation of schools by race. Unfortunately, it appears we are going in exactly the opposite direction today.

Next, I would tackle the idea of dynastic megawealth. In this case, the opposite extreme of dynastic megawealth by accident of birth is a tremendous perversion of the very idea of capitalism and one that folks like Adam Smith himself would have found obscene and offensive. Recent steps we have taken to protecting this dynastic wealth as well are deeply depressing. Bring back the estate tax for estates over $10mil. If you can't ensure your kids' comfortable futures with world class educations and $10mil, they have nothing of value to offer the United States of America and the extinction of your bloodline is probably a good thing for the nation as a whole.

You don't want conservative or liberal spinning when the op-ed you linked to was penned by 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Paul Ryan? OK...

How about this? Accept that poverty isn't ever going to be solved. When the Bible says there will always be poor people you might want to accept that it's a bigger and more lasting problem than can be overcome with a snappy new plan (and one based on "metrics").

As Paleo mentioned, education is essential. And that starts with pre-school. There's not a single investment that pays off for society more. Pre-school should be like regular school: funded by taxes and free for everyone.

And speaking of funding schools, once again Paleo's right: education funds should be divorced from property taxes. Beyond that, the funding a school gets should be based on the needs of its students. If a school's students are falling academically short then their school gets flooded with money and resources until they catch up with everyone else.

I'd probably opt to reorganize all anti-poverty efforts into a single new government department whose sole purpose is to take care of Americans in need rather than having various programs being operated by different departments. And those programs should be radically overhauled (and likely simplified) based on the dual objectives of 1) providing people and families with the basics needs of life, and 2) helping them overcome whatever challenges they face so they don't need assistance at some point, if possible. Call it a family-centric approach to assistance.

One of the first things I'd task the new anti-poverty agency with is updating the very definition of poverty. We talk a lot about poverty levels, poverty thresholds, and more, but all of these things are based on an absolute poverty line Johnson drew in the mid-60s. And that was defined as the point where people lacked the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living and had insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health.

From there the various government agencies started calculating what those absolute basic needs for healthy living were to determine what kind and how much assistance the government would give. And those initial calculations have largely been left untouched since the 1960s.

For example food stamp assistance is calculated on the assumption that there's housewife who's skilled at cooking and has the time to prepare every meal from raw ingredients. That's kinda difficult in a world where a substantial portion of people getting assistance are single mothers.

And any attempt to reform our approach to poverty would have to include a frank discussion about jobs, the economy, and the idea of a living wage.

The simplest approach might simply be the one economists would love the most: dismantle all various programs and just hand out cash to people in need. Unfortunately, that goes against a lot of people's paternalistic views of the poor.

Paleo has a great start.

I'd increase taxes on income high income earners.

I'd divorce healthcare coverage from employment, which would actually help businesses. While taxes would go up to provide a single payer system, it would control a major cost that businesses face.

I would increase the minimum wage and then tie it to inflation. I would limit the increases to once every 5 years.

I would really wish there was a way to eliminate the need to wage constant war, as that is eating away at any at the nations resources at an incredible rate.

My understanding is that many current policies are not designed to "diminish poverty" as much as they are designed to "keep the impoverished fed." So they aren't so good at the former, because they're not supposed to be, but according to friends I've had whose families had to utilize those policies, they are exceptionally good at the latter.

So, I guess my one idea would be to not dismantle important structures based on poor perceptions.

OG_slinger wrote:

I'd probably opt to reorganize all anti-poverty efforts into a single new government department whose sole purpose is to take care of Americans in need rather than having various programs being operated by different departments. And those programs should be radically overhauled (and likely simplified) based on the dual objectives of 1) providing people and families with the basics needs of life, and 2) helping them overcome whatever challenges they face so they don't need assistance at some point, if possible. Call it a family-centric approach to assistance.

That was related to what Ryan was suggesting.

I think if we could revisit this later today with an audio recording of this:

Rep. Paul Ryan... will speak on poverty at the American Enterprise Institute today

the laugh track provided by the audience might shed light on what political traction the idea gets.

You don't want conservative or liberal spinning when the op-ed you linked to was penned by 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Paul Ryan? OK...

How about this? Accept that poverty isn't ever going to be solved. When the Bible says there will always be poor people you might want to accept that it's a bigger and more lasting problem than can be overcome with a snappy new plan (and one based on "metrics").

This is precisely what i was trying to avoid. Forget about who wrote it. Let's talk about the actual ideas.

Most of the posts so far are addressing funding, as if just pumping more fuel into a severely dilapidated old Pinto is going to make it run like a Bugatti. Let's look at the strides made in combating 3rd world poverty in the last 2 decades. The micro finance movement seems to be doing huge amounts of good for the money spent. Why would we want to suppress innovation and inventiveness in this area? Before we levy more taxes, let's take a look at how we are spending the money we have more efficiently. Instead of spending billions on a more powerful pump, let's try and patch the leaky boat.

H.P. Lovesauce wrote:

That was related to what Ryan was suggesting.

Distantly related, yes.

Nomad wrote:

Before we levy more taxes, let's take a look at how we are spending the money we have more efficiently. Instead of spending billions on a more powerful pump, let's try and patch the leaky boat.

What do you consider the leaks, Nomad? I mean besides the inherent inefficiencies we have going because our current anti-poverty programs are managed independently.

Forget about who wrote it.

Yeah, it really doesn't work that way, at least not for a politician who has put himself out there so much to a very specific group of voters with a pretty extreme ideology.

Nomad wrote:
You don't want conservative or liberal spinning when the op-ed you linked to was penned by 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Paul Ryan? OK...

How about this? Accept that poverty isn't ever going to be solved. When the Bible says there will always be poor people you might want to accept that it's a bigger and more lasting problem than can be overcome with a snappy new plan (and one based on "metrics").

This is precisely what i was trying to avoid. Forget about who wrote it. Let's talk about the actual ideas.

He has a point. If I started a thread about fixing healthcare without spinning, I sure as hell wouldn't link to Hillary Clinton's editorial on the subject.

Most of the posts so far are addressing funding, as if just pumping more fuel into a severely dilapidated old Pinto is going to make it run like a Bugatti. Let's look at the strides made in combating 3rd world poverty in the last 2 decades. The micro finance movement seems to be doing huge amounts of good for the money spent. Why would we want to suppress innovation and inventiveness in this area? Before we levy more taxes, let's take a look at how we are spending the money we have more efficiently. Instead of spending billions on a more powerful pump, let's try and patch the leaky boat.

None of my four ideas (or three and half, since the fourth one is a pipe dream) were increasing funding.

Jayhawker wrote:

curious... who was responsible for banning this?

Big oil, duh.

ranalin wrote:
Jayhawker wrote:

curious... who was responsible for banning this?

According to Time Magazine:

Was Nick Hanauer’s TED Talk on Income Inequality Too Rich for Rich People?

Though the talk drew applause from conference attendees at the time, TED Talk curator Chris Anderson decided it wasn’t worth sharing with the wider world, and refused to post it on TED’s website.

His explanation? The talk was “too political” to be posted during an election year, and that “a lot of business managers and entrepreneurs would feel insulted” by some of Hanauer’s arguments. This seems more than a tad disingenuous, since TED generally doesn’t shy away from controversial ideas, and is sometimes so “political” that it invites actual politicians to talk at its conferences.

I don't disagree with his ideas per se but I do have a knee jerk reaction against the whole more local control thing. I think it is often done to the detriment of those we want to help.

However I think the idea of having only one place to apply for all the different types of aid would be a great streamlining of an often complicated process.

If I were Queen of America, I'd start by going full-on Federation and provide a guaranteed basic income for every citizen over 18, regardless of wealth, and re-target supplemental assistance programs for those with particular needs beyond what a basic income provides.

I don't disagree with his ideas per se but I do have a knee jerk reaction against the whole more local control thing.

As you should. Attempts to break the social safety net are failing at the national level, so let's take it to the local where they have a better chance. This is basically a replay of the last decade with gay rights issues or abortion/women's health issues. It's not working federally because of the opposition party, so let's take the fight to a smaller battleground where the odds are stacked in our favor.

Local control is ridiculous and makes no sense. Everyone has to eat, regardless of the part of the country you live in. Everyone has to have a place to sleep/live.

It's also about converting established federal programs into block grants for states. Grants whose funding can be easily throttled back or simply cut off at some point in the future.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

My concern regarding the poverty in USA in general is that at this point, there are strong interests entrenched in our economy that WANT the poverty to continue. For our model of the modern capitalism to work, it is essential to have a a large pool of workforce that is:

  • educated and skilled "just enough" to qualify for the jobs offered
  • hungry enough to gladly accept the jobs offered at inequitable wages and next-to-no benefits
  • unprotected and destitute enough to eagerly grasp at whatever surrogate healthcare you offer them, in lieu of a universal healthcare system
  • immobile enough not to be able to migrate at will to other parts of the country where their outlook could be is slightly brighter

If you are a big business in US, you want your workforce to be poor.

Pretty much. Where would Wal-Mart be if most of their store workforce wasn't on food stamps?

Who provides the jobs for these people? Many of the companies now offering such work are abusing their workers. There's nothing in here that would make *them* more accountable, or help improve opportunities in poor area, or anything else that would reduce the number of poor overall. But the question remains. In Appalachia, or Detroit, or West Baltimore, or wherever, where are these jobs coming from and do they really provide opportunity? Or will be just be enabling wage slavery again, like the early 20th century?

The idea of testing different methods is interesting, but there's a lot of handwaving about how that is to happen. Who validates the plans? Who judges whether they are actually improving things, and how? If all states voluntarily participate, how do we push adoption of improvements to all states? Where does the money for the new administration come from - he tacitly describes it as not costing any more than the current system.

To me, this is simply more bailing. We need to patch the boat instead. But as Paleo notes, I don't think we have the stones to do that. Heck, if we don't eliminate gang culture, we won't solve a damn thing for many urban poor. Same thing for addiction, poor education, ramshackle housing, abusive minimum wages and so forth.

My concern regarding the poverty in USA in general is that at this point, there are strong interests entrenched in our economy that WANT the poverty to continue. For our model of the modern capitalism to work, it is essential to have a a large pool of workforce that is:

  • educated and skilled "just enough" to qualify for the jobs offered
  • hungry enough to gladly accept the jobs offered at inequitable wages and next-to-no benefits
  • unprotected and destitute enough to eagerly grasp at whatever surrogate healthcare you offer them, in lieu of a universal healthcare system
  • immobile enough not to be able to migrate at will to other parts of the country where their outlook could be slightly brighter

If you are a big business in US, you want your workforce to be poor.

It's also profitable to continue the cycle of poverty for the private prison system.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...

If we want to diminish poverty in the US, we clearly need to start thinking about new ways to approach the problem.

It's all tied up in going off the gold standard; as soon as politicians took the power to create wealth tokens from thin air, the economy started to reorient itself to serve the people making wealth tokens, instead of the people making actual, you know, wealth, the stuff that you have to work for.

This is the fundamental reason why wealth is concentrating to such an extraordinary degree. There are many, many details of how this is happening, but the fundamental reason why is because the economy is no longer in service of the people actually doing the work. The US is wealthier than it has ever been, but the fruits of that labor are going to the people who manipulate wealth tokens, not the people who do the work.

Massive taxes on the uber-wealthy might be a stopgap, but the core of the economy running on utter fiction is probably not something you can spot-fix.

It's not coincidence that real personal income for normal people has been dropping steadily since 1971.

Want to reduce poverty?

Give free contraceptives and free abortions to anyone who wants them. Pass them out at high schools and colleges.
Create single payer universal health care.
Return income and estate taxes to 1985 percentages.
Stop government subsidizing college student loans.

Done.

LeapingGnome wrote:

Want to reduce poverty?

Give free contraceptives and free abortions to anyone who wants them. Pass them out at high schools and colleges.
Create single payer universal health care.
Return income and estate taxes to 1985 percentages.
Stop government subsidizing college student loans.

Done.

Early childhood care is also huge, along with smaller class room size.

If you don't have unwanted children to begin with, many problems solve themselves.

NathanialG wrote:
LeapingGnome wrote:

Want to reduce poverty?

Give free contraceptives and free abortions to anyone who wants them. Pass them out at high schools and colleges.
Create single payer universal health care.
Return income and estate taxes to 1985 percentages.
Stop government subsidizing college student loans.

Done.

Early childhood care is also huge, along with smaller class room size.

Both of those get way easier to tackle with that first one in place.

I'd add "Return to government subsidized low interest education loans and grants".

IMAGE(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BtVcxPvCIAAdueH.jpg)

Has anyone seen my jaw? I think I heard it bounce when it hit the floor, but I didn't see where it went.

Jayhawker wrote:

IMAGE(https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BtVcxPvCIAAdueH.jpg)

Mainly because they are too busy doing hipster things like working minimum wage jobs and being crushed by student loan debt.

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