The poverty cycle/"Profiting from a child's illiteracy"

Dateline: Mon 17 Dec 2012

A family member, after graduating from a fine liberal arts college, was advised by her mom that the first thing she should do is apply for food stamps.

That was the mother's mentality: use the system, which mom had done, quite successfully. Fortunately, this young woman ignored her mom's advice and went on to get a graduate degree and a good job...all without benefit of food stamps. Then she went on to raise a successful family and give back to her community.

Unfortunately, the dependence on government to provide, even and especially when help is not needed, or the "help" has strings attached, is well-establshed among the poor and/or the lower middle classes, who are often the victims of social engineering. The disastrous effect is to create a cycle of poverty and dependence on handouts that crushes hope, initiative and independence -- all values that were once the cornerstones of the American dream.

Thus bravo to Nicholas D. Kristof, writing in Sunday's New York Times, from Appalachia, with a Jackson, Ky., dateline. He boldly tells it like it is, and his thoughts deserves our attention:

"THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

"Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18...

"This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

"Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

"Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

"Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month."

More observations.

My husband's family came from rural southeastern Kentucky, at a time when poor and hard-working people were expected to become productive citizens. Out of 9 children in his dad's family, 8 went on to college. They valued learning, literacy and higher education. Were they so different in makeup from the poor in Appalachia? Not really. But they had no safety net, no programs to reward them for remaining illiterate and down on the farm. And, in fairness, they had parents who expected better of their offspring than what they had; they had parents who wanted them to become educated, to achieve. Each generation was expected to improve; hence only one child in that family of 9 remained locked to the land, the wife of a rural farmer, and her life was sometimes hardscrabble, and her children did not fare as well as the others....Once again, education is the silver bullet. It always is.

Kristof has done us all a great service by acknowleding in, of all places, the New York Times, that sometimes anti-poverty programs have a backlash. That backlash hits children, fractured families and society at large, since we are all footing the bills.

"When our antipoverty policies harm kids, it's time to rejigger the programs," he says. And he's right.

Read it here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/opinion/sunday/kristof-profiting-from-a-childs-illiteracy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

 

Comments

Wilson E. Allen [unverified] said:

without the benefit of social programs such as taxpayer-supported journalism schools like Indiana University some folk wouldn't be writing blogs decrying a culture of dependency from social programs...

2012-12-17 22:43:45

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

One steps into treacherous turf entering into linear debate about "the face of poverty" and making an attempt to connect it with the illusory American Formula for Success: i.e., to quote a Cat Stevens song, "Work hard boy and you'll find, one day you'll have a job like mine."

Yes, many uneducated and lower-IQ people do abuse the system. Yes, steps need to be taken to try to limit this abuse.

But I have been following politics since 1962 and I have observed a long pattern of extremist conservatives using stereotypes such as the 1970s "Welfare Cadillac" to attempt to deny people help who really need it.

Perhaps if more public tax money was spent to improve educational opportunities in those poverty-ridden areas - instead of to support corprorate welfare beneficiaries like Irsay and his Colts and Simons and the Pacers - then we'd all be the better for it.

2012-12-18 01:24:54

Seneca [Member] said:

Just recently, the Capital Improvements Board (CIB) gave $10 million to a multibillionaire owner of a sports team in order to make up for a "shortfall" in revenue.

I guess poverty is relative (no pun intended).

2012-12-18 08:58:11

hendy [Member] said:

Imagine what $10M might have done for the homeless, or for marginalized children-- the future of America.

The defense for the $10M is that you have to look at the bigger picture. How many jobs, how much merchandise, how much community spirit there is.

But the IPS is ostensibly mismanaged. There is only the quid pro quo.

Big wheels keep on turnin';
Proud Mary keeps on burnin'.

Citations of the "welfare Cadillac" keep on appearing to be bandied about as representative of all of the problem, and why such public assistance is horrific to "working Americans". Imagine if we had a restaurant tax to benefit the homeless, those just out of jail, the laid off with little prospects of a manufacturing job-- since those jobs have to be done by offshore labor, the struggling students with gobs of student loan debt. Nah. Give it to Irsay. Maybe we can guilt him into some philanthropy.

2012-12-18 10:08:11

farm girl [unverified] said:

We have five low-rent rental units, and have seen many people misuse or manipulate the system. However, my main concern over the years has been the lack of safety nets. We give these people all the breaks we can, but when they get too far behind in their rent, they have to go. We never get that money back, of course. But it really bothers me: where is there for people to go when they have no money? Lots of them "fall between the cracks" but that is no place to live. We should probably not be landlords; we are enablers. I have taken food to people who are months behind in their rent, and my husband has "forgiven" months of rent because it would cost more to repair the place if they left. After years of work, this was supposed to be our retirement income. Instead, it feels as if we are running a mission for people we don't really like, but begin to feel responsible for.

2012-12-18 13:38:15

hendy [Member] said:

The bottom has a rocky reputation, to quote an old song.

You have to decide if you get to pick your charities, or they pick you. Some can tolerate the destitute. Some of the destitute cannot be rehabilitated in a way that will suit them, or you, or us. There are those that have the capacity to be charitable and do so without harming their own stability; others don't have that ability. You have to choose how you want to live life, and the possible rewards at the end. But you're not enablers, you're part of a support network if you choose this. You might be able to find others to help you financially supporting the desperately poor. Sometimes, much good comes of this; other times, it'll be money down the rabbit hole. But you can choose which is what. Others are more desperate.

I believe I'm responsible for the fate of others, but I can't save the world. Tried that, and the world is what it is. Your mileage may vary. But if it's of any use: thanks for doing what you do.

2012-12-18 21:25:36

Seneca [Member] said:

". . . look at the bigger picture. How many jobs, how much merchandise, how much community spirit . . ."

OK, let's look. How many more jobs? How much more merchandise? How much more community spirit has been generated as a result of that $10 million going to a multibillionaire owner of a sports team which apparently can't pay its own way (unlike the Speedway, which can)? If community spirit is so high, why the need for additional subsidy? And how much of that $10 million found its way directly to the corporate "pockets"?

Why should anyone have to be guilted into philanthropy? I don't have to give my money to anyone (especially another multibillionaire owner of another sports team) to be philanthropic. I can be philanthropic on my own.

btw, who are these people on the CIB, and how did they get so much power to spend other people's (taxpayers) money?

". . . many people misuse or manipulate the system. . . ."

Seems to be perfectly acceptable for the rich and powerful to manipulate and misuse the system (and to get $millions of corporate welfare extracted from the taxpayers), but not for poor people. But it has ever been thus.

2012-12-19 07:33:49

Seneca [Member] said:

IBJ this morning is reporting that the Colts and Pacers owners are each pledging $750,000 to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

They are to be commended for their generosity to the ISO.

2012-12-19 07:59:16

hendy [Member] said:

I'm on record, @Seneca, for opposing the tax, the investment, the CIB's use of funds, and the rest. I was trying to demonstrate the rationale used by others to have the taxes-- and their nefarious and heinous use.

There is much more of course. The Simon's headquarters... the failed United Airlines tax abatement deal, the list is long and smacks of the deepest evils of cronyism. For others, it's economic investment as these teams ostensibly bring commerce and tax dollars. The process used, however, is evil in an "ends justifies the means" tale.

2012-12-19 08:47:55

Seneca [Member] said:

You're preaching to the choir, Hendy. Amen.

2012-12-19 12:49:24

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

As it seems to me, there is way too much gaming of government policies across all social strata. Which is more ludicrous: That someone of Romney's wealth pays such a low percentage of individual federal income tax or a parent who would deliberately keep a child illiterate? Which causes more cognitive dissonance: That a corporation with dubious governance and managerial prowess is deemed to big to fail and receives a gush of federal bailout money while some of the most economically vulnerable people in our nation -- children -- are too small to matter? There is a disturbing and inherent wrongness about these scenarios. You talk about America values, attitudes and traditions. Well, all that is undermined because what we have wrought is a system that encourages and rewards those of us who are best at gaming it. Enough, already.

2012-12-20 09:29:53

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Good synopsis, George.

However, I would mention that the billionaires of this country are generally well-education, intelligent and generally respected people who "game" the system. These Appalachian parents are generally poorly educated and not intelligent. How do I know? Those are the family roots from whence I come.

I think the rules of the game as played by the billionaires are much different than the rules of the game played by people living in ancestral poverty and ignorance.

2012-12-20 14:14:41

hendy [Member] said:

There is the 80/20 rule that says: 80% of your troubles only take up 20% of your time. Getting families out of poverty sometimes takes different tactics and motivations.

The drug problem is huge. Meth is so pervasive and it's stubborn to get users re-situated to think in terms that don't involve drugs, drug culture, families that tolerate drugs, and law enforcement that also has rehab in a useful context.

Then there are the problems with coal miners, and their cycle of death and poverty. Lots of small problems that people want to sweep with one broom, one stroke-- that never works.

You can task force these things to death, but it takes a generation to break the cycles, and patience and tenacity, two qualities not often found in government, to make the changes permanent. So this will continue, sadly.

2012-12-20 18:13:00

hendy [Member] said:

There is the 80/20 rule that says: 80% of your troubles only take up 20% of your time. Getting families out of poverty sometimes takes different tactics and motivations.

The drug problem is huge. Meth is so pervasive and it's stubborn to get users re-situated to think in terms that don't involve drugs, drug culture, families that tolerate drugs, and law enforcement that also has rehab in a useful context.

Then there are the problems with coal miners, and their cycle of death and poverty. Lots of small problems that people want to sweep with one broom, one stroke-- that never works.

You can task force these things to death, but it takes a generation to break the cycles, and patience and tenacity, two qualities not often found in government, to make the changes permanent. So this will continue, sadly.

2012-12-20 18:13:03

Gene Poole [unverified] said:

If education matters, programatic reflexes of government as a solution provider should be intellectually audited. Government is a blunt instrument, a hammer. Human beings shouldn't be instrumentized in the pursuit of any agenda.

There's nothing "kind" about leveraged misfortune or extorted compassion in service to protection rackets & adult daycare. The guilt complex isn't development, it's a pathology.

Brotherly love doesn't come at the end of a gun barrel, pointed by the state at citizens; dehumanized in the forced taking of their lives, by insidious percentages of THEIR, productive time.

Charity is a voluntary act of kindness; a blessing understood by benefactors & beneficiaries alike.

Thank you Ruth, for promoting the possibility of journalism.

2012-12-23 09:35:36

Seneca [Member] said:

Government is what the electorate (in the aggregate) makes of it.

It is very popular in right wing nut case circles (de rigueur, even) to continually bash government. According to this kind of thinking(?), government can do nothing right. Ever. Of course, unless it it controlled by the aforementioned nut cases.

Because so few people voted in Indiana's primary election, the right wing nut case crowd prevailed, and as a result, Indiana lost a world-class senator.

It is said that people get the government they deserve.

But do we deserve this?

2012-12-24 11:24:03

Seneca [Member] said:

". . . unless it it controlled . . ."

unless it is controlled

2012-12-24 11:26:28

Gene Poole [unverified] said:

"Bash government?"

Seneca, none will recall reading anything like "government by the / for the" wing nuts...



2012-12-24 19:36:35

Gene Poole [unverified] said:

"Bash government?"

Seneca, none will recall reading anything like "government by the / for the" wing nuts...



2012-12-24 19:36:39

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