Last week, the House of Representatives conducted a hearing on the “War on Poverty” and ways to combat and address it. They brought in Tianna Turner Gaines, someone who has experience with living in poverty, being homeless, and working non-stop to fight it. Gaines is the first person to testify before Congress with a firsthand account of poverty in America. Unlike when the right demonized and went on the attack against women, when Sandra Fluke attempted to testify before Congress, they actually listened, and what she had to say is a wonderful start to help turn back the tide of rising poverty.
Her solution came in three parts:
- Living Wages
- Increased Safety Net
- Investments in Community-run Community Projects
The most obvious of those three is ensuring that all Americans are afforded living wages at good stable jobs. Even at $10/hr life is a struggle. Across the nation there are places where a paycheck like that will barely cover rent and food. Many of the low-income jobs, which the right touts as starting positions for high school kids, are being taken by single mothers, working parents, and the elderly who lost their retirement savings thanks to the banking crisis in 2007-2008. A living wage that is based off the rate of inflation, rather than a set dollar amount, would be an instant solution to solving poverty from an issue of wages. We would never again have to vote on raising the minimum wage. Everyone’s wages, regardless of where they are in the job scale, could be based on a percentage of what the dollar is worth and readjusted every fiscal year.
The increased safety net is also a common sense solution. If people are floundering in debt, not paying bills, and can’t find a job is it not our duty as fellow citizens to help prop them up until they find another opportunity? It worked during the Great Depression – but again the robber barons of that time blamed citizens for their laziness as well. Rather than decrease the safety net, as always called by the teabagging turd-burglars on the right, the only sensible solution is to increase it – and yes that includes healthcare as well. Focus on giving people job skills, perhaps even by investing in infrastructure like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. Had America invested in its own nation like it did in these foreign nations, which are now falling into the hands of terrorist organizations, then most Americans could be close to achieving freedom from their debt as well as job opportunities now ill-afforded to them.
People living in poverty — those who were born into it, and those who are down on their luck — want to get out of poverty. We want to create our own safety nets, so we never have to depend on government assistance again.
The third and perhaps most interesting point she made was to invest in community projects that are operated by the community, rather than the government at large. If these communities, which are clearly going to have a more vested interest in their own success than is some municipality that only cares about data on a spreadsheet, are allowed to operate in manners with which they know will be successful shouldn’t that be upon us as fellow citizens to help them?
It doesn’t sound like the typical colloquial “entitlement” insult from the right, but rather a way of empowerment. If we can set people free from government dependency, which comes as a matter of necessity due to failed conservative agendas, then shouldn’t that be a noble project to invest our tax dollars in? Because cutting taxes and going to war sure hasn’t helped lower the poverty rate.
h/t Bill Moyers