Monday, September 10, 2012

A Child's Walk

A child's walk through life is an easy one, isn't it?  Making a place in our community for a newborn isn’t difficult.  A home and family, doctors and medicine, schools and vacations, college and career; it’s an easy path, pretty much, isn’t it?

It is indeed easy for some, but certainly not for all. There's a huge and widening gap between those who 'have' and those who 'have not'.

No one chooses poverty for their family, but for many, it comes anyway.  None choose for their children to be fast-tracked to failure.  No parent chooses for their family to go hungry and slowly die from curable illnesses.  But it comes despite their attempts at escape.

Elias stands with his mother and baby brother before
leaving for school from their temporary home.
was forced to move into the shelter with her four
children when she lost her nurse's assistant job
two months ago.
Pointing at the poor in condescension, as though through some character flaw, poverty came from within them ...  speaks too truthfully about the one pointing.  We miss, perhaps, an underlying truth: poverty is a crime, and the poor are its victims.  Is that true?

This November, do we have a candidate in mind who understands the issue in our country?   

If a community exists just as a coalition of businesses and the families who own them, of homeowners and consumers; well then, it makes sense that they would provide for themselves to the exclusion of others.  No sense in diluting the value of resources by attaching too many teat-suckers to the udder, I suppose. 

Public schooling needn’t provide a quality education for the non-contributing members of society and their offspring.  They’re not in any position to make good use of it anyway.

Healthcare needn’t be made affordable, particularly.  Basic services should be enough for the masses.

Food distribution should follow the flow of money, naturally.  Just like every other commodity, food costs money to produce, to distribute, to buy and consume.  It’s natural that way.  Food, transportation, education, energy, water, roads, police, street lights, parks, libraries, shopping centers, all of them naturally follow the money because they all cost something.

If on the other hand, a community (or nation) exists for the sake of its citizenry, then the disenfranchisement of some is a troublesome circumstance.  If the lesser resourced among us are marginalized, then we at the center are the ones who have done them and their children a great disservice.

Thus arises the questions of what is to be done.  

Both the issue and its solution are structural, not partisan, not political party specific, and not addressed by one-line slogans.  Solutions, by the way, are many and easily incorporated into local and regional processes.  All the impediments to such ... all the impediments are political and cultural will. 

“The social contract is starting to unravel in many countries,” OECD Secretary-General
Angel Gurria said in a statement.   “This study dispels the assumptions that the benefits
of economic growth will automatically trickle down to the disadvantaged and that the
greater inequality fosters greater social mobility.”

The gap between rich and poor is a wide one and getting wider rapidly. In the 30-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Turkey and Mexico have more unequal societies than the United States. “Nowhere has this trend been so stark as in the United States,” the OECD concluded in a 2008 study. In the U.S., the rich-poor gap has widened by 22 percent (1967-2015), more than in most developed countries.

Raghuram Rajan, the IMF’s former chief economist, says countries with high levels of inequality tend to produce ineffective economic policies. Political systems in economically divided countries grow polarized and immobilized by the sort of zero-sum politics now gripping Washington, he said. 

Welfare, by the way, isn't a solution.  It began well, and even now is a safety net for many along the way, but it's often more of a problem for a given community than a benefit.  With billions invested each year, we've unintentionally rewritten the culture of the poor.  Taking advantage of the opportunity offered, the poor are often entangled and eventually trapped as they adjust to what's required for continued survival.  It's a dead end that kills every good thing along the way.

Simple solutions?  Can you think of a few?