For years there has been careful concentration towards poverty, and the effects that it has on our society. The solution for the War on Poverty can be resolved by addressing income inequality. Our key to social stability must begin by making smarter decisions that aren’t based on speedy financial results. Influencing the behaviors that perpetuates poverty are industries that where initially intended for the betterment of the majority, and are now for-profit, such as education, healthcare, housing and security. Unfortunately, instead of clarity on the matters of poverty, political grandstanding currently prevails in our media (for a profit, I might add), which only complicates our economic atmosphere. It is rare that you hear any effective solutions being introduced to combat against the deficiencies in some of the socio-economics indicators that make up poverty, such as life expectancy, mental illness, educational acumen, crime, imprisonment, infant mortality, obesity, and under-aged pregnancy.
Discussions, like the one in a July 2012 article in GQ by Jon Ronson: ‘Amber Waves of Green’, only touch upon living within a society that is economically unequal. By providing solutions for those outlying issues, and not discussing the financial policy manipulation, writers make great cases for living within abhorrent conditions without teaching the history for how we arrived at the prevailing environment, nor do they provide economic prescriptions for how to change it.
The politics of income inequality
Ironically, the statistics from President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty are now being used improperly to justify discontinuing funding that was designed to deter the creation a lower class of citizen in the US. House Representative Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has recently unveiled his budget plan that doesn’t make any effort to change the current structure. This plan deals with the current problems as a failure, by slashing funding to those programs in an attempt to address the country’s overall budget problems, but just like those who write about economic inequality, he doesn’t address the cause of those problems. The plan approaches poverty as a financial situation, almost as if the organic attributes of the equation are not a factor. It’s easy to see that he never operated from a perspective of property.
It doesn’t seem that Ryan approached his report with an attempt to understand the purpose of the funding, he had never attempted the ‘food stamp challenge’ as mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ tried in 2012. Booker lived off of the amount of money that he would have gotten from the government in the form of food stamps. Approaching the war on poverty without this perspective deals with income in a false pretense where human behavior has no outside influence. As if the social, environmental and political factors are never manipulated, and cast a spotlight on being poor as a result of the funding, instead of looking to see how these factors have become the causes of poverty.
The Ryan budget cites on an investigation done by Daniel Moynahan called the Negro family: “the case for national action” released in 1965, to identify the causes of poverty and identify the breakdown of the family as a key cause of poverty within the black community’. The report’s focus is then shifted to research done on Americans of all backgrounds, and looks to provide statistics for all Americans, without coming to the realization that almost 70% of Americans that are in poverty are from the African American and Hispanic communities.
How did we get here
The chairman’s report does not mention the financial policies of the 1980’s and 90’s, which precipitated these changes, nor is there a mention of any measure of the programs’ success. In 2014 at The Institute for New Economic Thinking, Lord Adair Turner presented his annual lecture on “Wealth, debt and inequality”, he noted that since the 1980’s, there has been a remarkable expansion of the income gap between the top 1% of income earners and the rest of society, and proceeds to relate this with the social disorders.
Ryan’s budget focuses on the most expensive federal aid programs and their costs, and then cites those programs as fiscally ineffective. There is no effort in addressing any of the contributing factors of the aids recipients, despite countless examinations conducted internally by those very institutions. Nor is there an account of what the results would be if those programs had not been in place. Research from 2004 conducted by the University College of London, labeled ‘The Whitehall Study 2’ revealed the allocation of disease on a socio-economic level that gradates from the richest to the poorest among us, which remarkably exists weather there was access to healthcare or not.
Clean up, Clean up – everybody, everywhere…
Social Service industries are used by a majority and should be regulated not for their potential, but for safe guards against corruption. Just as with any independent organizations, privatizing social services leaves few checks and balances for malfeasance at the administrative levels, where misconduct has a greater impact, and allows profit to supersede virtue.
Just like the Ryan Budget, most global economic management does not acknowledge the organic nature of what a culture needs to not only survive but to also develop. The policies only focus on solutions based on financial health calculated by what is bought or sold. They systematically fail to connect poverty as a result of social inequality, or more exactly to globalization or monetization. The business sectors that affect the health and well being of the majority of civilization should not forsake its long-term effects for short-term gains.
The counterargument of a country that is moving towards socialism would be contested as many other business sectors are left to free market. Policy initiatives that specifically protect income deficient families from predatory commerce practices are very important; however there must also be consequences for those who violate those laws based on a scale of effectiveness. There must also be a reconstruction of our tax code in terms of progressive taxation in the form of reinvestments as well as tax restoration.
In his book Fault Lines, author Raghuram Rajan reminds his readers, “Faced with rising inequality, and in an American political system unable or unwilling to devise alternative offsetting policies, the extension of mortgage credit to wider groups of people appeared to be the answer. But it was an answer, which led to instability.” Regrettably, the argument against poverty ends as soon as the talk turns into restructuring some of our abilities to make more money.