Archive for the ‘poverty’ category

The Coming Week – Will The Big Kids Show Up?

July 25, 2016

The Democrat National Convention begins Monday. It will not be difficult to present a more positive message compared to the just completed Republican convention. But is that enough?

For example, will it be enough to speak of tweaks to the Affordable Care Act or should the convention assert “basic healthcare” is a right to which all Americans are entitled?

Or, with respect to jobs, is it enough to say a Clinton Administration will work to generate jobs, or should the convention acknowledge the reality of globalization and the disproportionate sharing of productivity gains during the last 25 years?

And what about poverty? Is it enough to declare war on poverty without addressing why poverty exists at all and especially why poverty appears institutional with some Americans?

Americans would benefit if Democrats considered aloud the larger subject of healthcare. In a country that fancies itself as the world’s most powerful, offering a healthcare delivery system which is often too difficult or too expensive for many of its citizens to access, seems bazaar if not outrightly shallow.

And Democrats should be clear that no government service is free and health care is no different. Government, of course, needs to be clever about how it finances healthcare so that it is available for all citizens when they need it, even if they cannot afford the insurance or the co-pay. (Most other countries use a VAT to underwrite healthcare costs.) But beginning with the notion that America offers the best healthcare one can afford is no longer acceptable.

Globalization is like the elephant in the room. No one seems to want to discuss how it is a fact of life. Political leaders also seem to deny the best way to deal with globalization is through open trading arrangements and not protectionist measures. Open trading, of course, must be fair.    Democrat leaders, however, fear their many Unionist supporters will not want to face up to globalization and globalization is a subject better left unsaid.

Poverty is as old as the ages. Never the less, systemic poverty is a serious problem and a potential security threat (as we have seen in Europe with poor disaffected immigrants). Democrats need to move beyond the notion the Government can simply give enough handouts to the poor that they will rise above poverty and enter the productive economic streams. Poverty is not just a state of wealth (like having no wealth).  Poverty seems also to be a state of mind. Will Democrats step up and say the poor bear some responsibility in improving their own lot?

IMO, behind closed doors, Democrat leaders could have these discussions. During the discussions, however, someone will remind these leaders that the election is theirs to lose.

Clinton-Kane should walk away with the election by simply not self destructing. My guess is that regrettably  platitudes and PC talk will dominate and once again an opportunity will be lost.

The Catholic Disease

February 15, 2016

Pope Francis is visiting Mexico and has taken the opportunity to speak out about the scourges of the Mexican drug cartels and the poverty brought on by Mexico’s income inequality. The Pope has clearly identified two great curses with which Mexico finds itself.  As usual, Pope Francis smiles and then speaks from his heart what everyone could see but acts if it were not there.

The Pope, however, did not speak out on the dangers of the Zika virus.

Speaking out on the latest world health threat, however, was Bishop Leonardo Ulrich Steiner speaking in Brazil. The good Bishop reaffirmed the Catholic Church position on birth control, “no way, no how”. The Bishop recommended abstinence or the infamous “rhythm method” as the most appropriate methods to guard against transmitting Zika virus through sexual contact. Hmmm.

This advice is reminiscent of Pope Benedict’s advice to the faithful in AIDS infested central Africa, “condoms are against church teachings”. And the science (or even Biblical teachings) are what?

Unlike most religious teachings which impact only the faithful, the lack of safe sex and family planning advice endangers the lives of many more, especially those who can barely take care of themselves. The Catholic Church’s position on safe sex and family planning in the 21st century is nothing short of shameful.

Given Pope Francis’ public speeches one is left with the impression he clearly recognizes the hypocrisy and inherent danger surrounding the church’s condemnation of family planning and safe sex. One must assume Pope Francis has just been to busy to take on the Bishop Steiners of this world.


Do Churches Fail The Poor?

May 19, 2015

Ross Douthat in his New York Times opinion column on Sunday asked this questions, “Do Churches fail the poor”? But why the euphemism? Why the “poor” and not “African Americans deep in the poverty cycle”?

If Douthat did mean the heart and soul of the “poor”, his observation presents no contest, of course they do.

Without debating the question whether his assertions that churches have been more concerned with women’s health and gay rights, or that churches real interest in poverty bent to keep their pews filled, the question is has the churches’ malfeasance worsened the poor’s lot? Or even more important, had churches focused differently, could they have been a key force to end poverty?

One can spend hours listing the real interests of organized religions. These institutions are creations of man (or woman) and in the end take on characteristics of any other social or bureaucratic collection of people. Churches may claim a “higher purpose” but when the cows are counted, churches are interested in whether they have collected more dollars than what they owe. Churches will create any beliefs or visions to fit the narrative that most likely will fulfill their quest for financial survival regardless of its impact (or lack there of) on the poor.

So where do the poor fit in?

The world is awash in pockets of poverty. No continent is without its poor. Some maintain poverty is a necessary bi-product of a free market. In this zero sum world view, everyone has a chance, the smarter do better and the less smart, not as well. At some point, some begin a life long process of losing.
These losers reproduce and the cycle becomes a little more set. The question is can this poverty cycle be broken, and if so, how?

The US poor, it is said, have such dysfunctional lives, they produce a following generation less able to complete than itself.   Hmmm. This is a pretty dismal outlook.

Hmmm. I wonder how churches can break this cycle?

(Let’s be clear, the poor or poverty cohort is mainly African American. But all African Americans are not poor or stuck in a poverty cycle.)

The apparent perception is that churches, somehow, should be able to inspire the poor so they become winners. Alcoholics Anonymous, a quasi-faith based organization requires attendees to swear to a “higher authority” as the prerequisite to becoming sober. Do you think this would work with just substituting “poverty” for alcoholic?

Regrettably AA has a relatively low success rate ( despite what even those who get the “cure” think). But what is evident with those “cured” is (1) they want to be cured, and (2) they recognize they are responsible for their own cure.

America is based upon notions that upward economic mobility is available for all. Americans believe that the destitute can become better off if they try hard enough. Americans also generally believe that if they do better, their children will have a chance to do even better if they work hard. Both of these notions is hard to detect in the US poverty zones.

So, to the question, “do churches fail the poor”, the best answer is “we don’t know”. All we know is that churches have not enhanced the lot of those stuck in the poverty cycle.

“Fail the poor” implies that churches have either done nothing (when they knew what to do) or have done somethings (which turned out to be incorrect) and in either case, have not reduced poverty.

While the answer to the breaking poverty cycle is still unclear, it is hard to imagine any solution that does not run through education and skill development, a family unit with limited family size, and community support within the poverty cohort.

I wonder whether churches know how to teach math, english. plumbing, carpentry, nursing, etc?  I also wonder  whether churches would step up to real family planning and birth control?  And lastly, just how far are churches (especially those with large African American presence) willing to push parishioners to help their brothers and sisters do what they should know better to do?

Is It Time For Free College Education?

April 22, 2015

The Democrat Party’s progressive wing is beginning to lay out what causes they want to see pursued if a Democrat nominee wants their support in the 2016 Presidential election. In a broad sense, this is understandable since the two dozen or more GOP hopefuls will be airing a boat load of conservative proposals. Without any counter currents one would expect the Democrat nominee (most likely Hillary Clinton) to gravitate towards a slightly right of center position.

One of the early Progressive wants is free college education for all. Hmmm.

Advocates claim college education is the key to better paying jobs and the narrowing of income distribution inequality. It would also be especially valuable in breaking the cycle of poverty supporters claim. Progressives additionally call attention to the amount of debt the current average college graduate is accumulating and how long it will take to pay the loans off. But is this enough justification for free college education?

Maybe, maybe not.

For the maybe case, there are currently no good proposals on how to break either the poverty cycle or to narrow the income distribution inequality. So absent any other ideas, what’s wrong with at least considering free college education. (I must assume “free” means the same as “free” in K-12 public education.)


There are two reasons I can think of which say resoundingly “no” to free college education. They are:

  • “Free college education” will simply lead to more kids hanging out in colleges studying courses which do not lead to employment opportunities or jobs above the minimum pay level. Current experience already shows that too many students are graduating with huge debts and still unable to find jobs.
  • “Free college education” is not free. It will cost the nations billions and will represent lost opportunity cost for many other critical needs like infrastructure and healthcare.

Another way of considering “free”higher education to make the means (that is loans) available to anyone seeking study in approved institutions which themselves possess endowments below some amount per student capita (high endowment schools should be actively aiding prospective students). In return for these loans, students could upon graduation (1) repay in cash, (2) repay in public service (including a national peace corp-like program), or (3) repay by entering a line of professions and locating in areas designated in need of these services.

College Education for as many Americans who are willing to work for it is a cause to be proud and one that will return value to the country. “Free” is just not the best approach to liberate this value.

America, Anything Is Possible, But Is Anything Probable?

January 9, 2015

America has earned the reputation of being the land where anything is possible. The orphan can grow up and become rich, the poor can grow and become President, and the immigrant can grow and become a superstar. This vision has fueled much of the American dream over the years but slowly the world has changed and the question is, is anything still possible?

President Obama announced yesterday his goal of insuring that all Americans can get a “free” education of at least two years at a community college. Details are still not clear but the proposal’s intent is to provide those financially challenged a chance to gain skills necessary to attaining a “good” job. This may not be the best idea for breaking the poverty cycle but it is the only idea put forward by either political party in recent times.

The idea of “free” is troubling. Must we always revisit the “no free lunch adage”? A low interest loan with provision for ultimate principle forgiveness might be wiser, and provide a better life lesson. It is never too soon to get that satisfaction of “earning” something.

Building upon this thought, let’s consider the generational factor. Getting ahead and truly improving a family’s wealth (security) position can happen in ones lifetime, but that is not probable if you are starting from an uneducated and dirt poor condition. Dirt poor and uneducated is no place to put confidence that the American dream is around the corner. Look around.

On the other hand, if one is from an uneducated, poor generation and dedicates itself to ensuring their children reached a high school/trade school education level, it is not unreasonable that from this platform their children could reasonably anticipate competition of a 4+ year university program. Success breeds success. And with 4+ years university, the American Dream probability increases significantly.

Like most progressive policies, “free” community college may be good but it is woefully insufficient if we are interested in breaking the poverty cycle and creating a generation of productive members of society. America must demand that those receiving this “free” education repay not in money but in kind for the next generation (their children).

Unless each generation takes responsibility to improve itself AND provides more capability for its children, large portions of Americans will be condemned to failure.

Education is a tool which passes on a vision and sets the course towards the American dream.