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Poverty and the Politics of Honesty

July 30, 2012

My posts have been absent for a couple of days because I was in an internet free zone late last week and have been busy at Chautauqua the last two days… and I’m using an opportunity between lectures on digital identity to catch up on some timely articles I set aside as I scanned the newspapers of the last few days.

Among the “souvenirs” I’ve gathered here at Chautauqua is a bright yellow pin that reads” TAX ME…end poverty”. I got it before I read the article entitled Why can’t We End Poverty by Peter Edelman in Sunday’s New York Times. The article reinforces the effects that children have experienced in the recent past:

The safety net for single mothers and their children has developed a gaping hole over the past dozen years. This is a major cause of the dramatic increase in extreme poverty during those years. The census tells us that 20.5 million people earn incomes below half the poverty line, less than about $9,500 for a family of three — up eight million from 2000. (emphasis added)

This has a major impact on schools. It means that 8,00,000 MORE students who entered 12th grade in 2012 lived below the poverty line as compared to those who started their senior year in 2000….

We have the ingredients (to end poverty). For one thing, the demographics of the electorate are changing. The consequences of that are hardly automatic, but they create an opportunity. The new generation of young people — unusually distrustful of encrusted power in all institutions and, as a consequence, tending toward libertarianism — is ripe for a new politics of honesty. Lower-income people will participate if there are candidates who speak to their situations. The change has to come from the bottom up and from synergistic leadership that draws it out. When people decide they have had enough and there are candidates who stand for what they want, they will vote accordingly.

I have seen days of promise and days of darkness, and I’ve seen them more than once. All history is like that. The people have the power if they will use it, but they have to see that it is in their interest to do so. (emphasis added)

Sadly, from my perspective, neither political party wants to talk about poverty… and until someone in a leadership position draws this issue out the people have no power and the vicious circle described by Peter Edelman will continue to turn.


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