lhowell

Posts Tagged ‘OEDC’

Poor People Have Poor Ways: Poverty Czar is NOT Answer

In Human Condition and Treatment, mindset 3.0, poverty, social networking, Uncategorized on April 4, 2008 at 8:12 pm

What is poverty? According to American Heritage Dictionary, it is “The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.” Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton spoke today about creating a cabinet level position in which the primary purpose would be to end poverty in the United States. Mrs. Clinton gave her support to an idea long advocated by the King family, a cabinet position that she said would be “solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it, that will focus the attention of our nation on this issue and never let it go.”

I am not so sure that a cabinet level position would fundamentally change the condition of people who experience poverty and those that experience extreme poverty in this country. Let’s look at some facts and recent illustrations of what I refer to as “poor people having poor ways” which underscores the mindset and behavior of people who tend to experience poverty.

Currently roughly 12% of the U.S. population fall below the federal poverty threshold. There is however some controversy regarding the federal poverty line, arguing that it either understates or overstates the problem of poverty. According to the United Nations, which defines poverty among high-income OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ) countries as those earning less than 50% of the median, 17% of Americans lived in poverty between 1999 and 2002, the second highest percentage of any high-income OECD country.

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Human Poverty

Poverty is not just a financial state. Being poor affects life in many ways. The human poverty index uses indicators that capture non-financial elements of poverty, such as life expectancy, adult literacy, water quality, and children that are underweight. The 30 territories of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development use a different index which includes income and long-term unemployment; and not water quality or underweight children. This implies that the poor in richer territories are materially better off. This is clearly not the case. Otherwise, we would not need to create a cabinet post for a poverty czar.

Nearly half the African-Americans in a recent study of teenagers ages 14 to 19 were infected with at least one of the diseases monitored in the study — human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, genital herpes and trichomoniasis, a common parasite. Further, the United States still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion in the fully industrialized world.

We could cite many more illustrations to be fair. But not until we change our mental models about how we view people, getting away from being judgmental, helping others without compensation and doing so unconditionally is the way out of poverty. What I am afraid of is that some national figure will get nominated who is well connected, Congress would deliberate and ultimately approve the nominee, then a bunch of high-priced consultants who know little about poverty will be hired and create a national report on poverty with recommendations. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This issue has to be taken to the streets like presidential candidate Barack Obama has done. Use of social networking in a vigorous and relentless way. Providing tools like PCs (not old machines), for educational attainment, free high-speed Internet access, communicating with people via text messaging to remind of certain events and activities, creating “Meetups” weekly that engage, involve and excite people to change their mindset and their behaviors. Instead of going to the club, pool together talents of parents to conduct tutoring sessions. For example, if one parent is a math whiz, one is an english prodigy, and the like, have sessions in the home where it is safe and compelling to learn sans the television and side conversations. This the framework for the poverty czar to get things done because there are 196,000 search results for “poverty in america” so the work is already done. It is now time to execute much like what Obama has done to change the collective minds of people across America. It’s time for a different pace of action with fresh faces and relevant ideas and the willingness to change course.