Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What are the chances of escaping poverty?

Protesters took these pictures at the home of the ousted Ukrainian president.  That's where their money had gone.  
The powerful members of government and industry consumed most of everything while regular folks struggled  
to feed their families and stay warm in the brutal winters.  Power corrupts rather spectacularly.    
In the Ukraine, rigged elections and government corruption brought the Orange Revolution ('04), Euromaidan and the 2014 Revolution.  There, as elsewhere, the rich were well served while the common folks provided the productivity with little benefit to themselves.  The country continues in political and economic turmoil, and it will be a decade or more before their governance and economy stabilize.  Their poverty rate is about 10%.  They're not the only example, of course.  Poverty in the U.S. is around 14% (20% for children).

So what are the chances of escaping poverty?  In the U.S. and in India, chances are about the same; they're somewhat better in the Ukraine.  That's a bit of a surprise.  Social and economic mobility, the chance to provide a better life for your children, that's been the reachable American dream in the past; now not so much.  Mobility here has been in a slow decline for many years as the GAP widens, and we see results similar to the caste system in India.

We're not alone.  Inequality plagues much of the world as the marketplace extracts more wealth exclusively for the wealthy.  In the U.S., virtually all of the gains in productivity for the last forty years have gone to the top 10%.  Their wealth accumulates rapidly while income for the rest has stagnated.

There are discussion about 'free trade' vs. 'fair trade'; is there a problem when one country extracts wealth from another without providing some equal benefit in return?

... or, when one segment of the population extracts wealth from the others without providing a fair return in exchange?

... or, when one works and his productivity benefits only the employer and not himself?

When does the imbalance become unfair and abusive?  At what point does it equal indentured servitude?

In the 70's, you could pay for college with about 800 hours of minimum wage work, about a summer's worth.  Higher education is needed more than ever by young folks if they're going to do well, but costs have risen disproportionately, faster even than the rise in healthcare costs.  You'd have to work more than full time all year to cover the costs.  Indebtedness is the offered solutions, and student loans now exceed credit card debt and automobile loans.  It was $1.2 trillion in 2016.

Even before college, a good education is hard to get if you're in the lower economic strata.  Life is different.  Struggling parents have little time for helping their kids with schoolwork.  Poorer neighborhoods intrude in a child's life with violence and drug culture.  Nutrition, healthcare, and social development are difficult to manage.

Here's some insight from a young lady in New Jersey ...

    You know, as someone that grew up in the suburbs to white parents (white step dad, but essentially my dad). I played sports and instruments and went to an amazing school where they knew my parent's first names w/o having to check my file.                                                                  I rebelled at 14 and decided to live with my black bio dad in, let's face it, the hood. I was suddenly surrounded by drugs and gangs and thieves, and girls that wanted to fight me for no reason.  My English teacher, most notably, was so amazed that I could read without help, as every other kid stuttered and stumbled over the simplest words when we were reading out loud. This is in HIGH SCHOOL.  These kids in the ghetto aren't taught that they can compete against white kids, they're taught that school isn't important and all they need to learn is survival in the jungle.      I know most people don't get a taste of both worlds, so maybe they don't understand, but going from a white school where they told me I could be president, or a rocket scientist, or whatever I wanted, to a school where they're like "omg you can READ", I truly understand how so few people can actually make it out of the hood. Their only role models are drug dealers and basketball players. I watched all my white friends prepare for college worrying about AP classes and SATs while my black friends were smoking weed and skipping class. You couldn't understand if you haven't seen it firsthand.                                                          I know this is long-winded but so many people truly don't understand how much harder it really is for people to make it out of an underprivileged situation.  I went from a straight A over achiever to a drop-out within a year of being in the hood because I couldn't take the violence, the feelings of hopelessness, the harassment for "sounding too white" and having long hair.  It's not as easy as some might believe. 

So what are we doing today to address the inequality?  What policies are in the queue to make a difference?

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