Gone to seed

We have a poverty problem in the United States. Too many of our declining middle class did not rise to the next strata, falling instead, to near poverty and into poverty. Yet, we do not talk about this problem enough. We have let their ladders out of poverty, go to seed along with their environment.

Poverty should be succinctly defined, as it is often misdefined along with simplistic diagnoses. Quite simply, poverty is the lack of money. The causes are many and complex, so the solutions must be holistic.

Some like to say it is due to lack of virtue. Some like to say it is due to lack of work ethic, while others may claim it is due to drug use or alcoholism. When I work with people in poverty, I witness hard working, often pious people. I see people with a lesser propensity to do drugs than general society.

If we recognize the simple definition of poverty as lack of money, we can focus our attention on providing ladders out of poverty. We can invest in the communities that have gone to seed, both with economic and social capital. We can start with redeveloping depleted assets. The term coined with a successful program in Atlanta is ABCD – Asset Based Comminuty Development.

ABCD could focus on repairing and not closing a community school, recognizing the during and after school value it offers. Or, it could be redeveloping a gone to seed golf course or empty textile or tobacco mill. Or, it could be repurposing a mall to be a school, church, charity or governmental building. Replacing or refurbishing blighted assets makes a huge difference.

Coupled with these investments must be education and career development, or social investments. Jobs and careers are scarce in too many areas. Opportunities must be introduced and nurtured to make them sustainable. STEM education, apprenticeships, trades skills are part of an all of the above tactical strategy,

But, we must be mindful of four negative trends in areas that have gone to seed – crime, opioids, food deserts  and single families. Community policing by people living in the community is key. Targeted help with the opiod epidemic is important. Better food choices must be available as they may not have a grocery market. And, we must have holistic sex education and access to planned parenthood tools and birth control.

What we cannot have is kicking tens of millions off health care insurance. We cannot reduce an already minuscule food stamps program. We need to think about improving the minimum wage.

These are just a few ideas. But, first we need to address what people in poverty lack – money.




17 thoughts on “Gone to seed

  1. Love the no-frills, no-nonsense definition of poverty – lack of money. May it help us keep our focus on solutions that will solve that (instead of character assassinations).

    • Hugh, excellent point. I wrote this after seeing a report on PBS about the Congressional budget which increased defense and reduced food stamps. It focused on one of the many food deserts, where food stamps help folks. The dilemma is far too many paint broad populations of people in need with stories of the very few. Keith

  2. Dear Keith,

    I love this post.

    The right likes to paint the false picture of the welfare queen. Whereas, the reality is that most of the poor are working sometimes even 2 jobs, but even then, many qualify for food stamps.
    This should not happen in the USA.

    Then I get so frustrated with Democrats trying to figure out their message while Rome is burning. I would love to tell them to roll up their sleeves and get to work visiting areas particularly rampant with poverty and see what partnerships w businesses, volunteers. local schools can do to give these folks some hope.

    At a minimum, democrats should fight towards the goal of everyone who does work to be able to earn a living wage. They can fight for increase min wage rates to $11.00/ with an exception carved out for employees who are 16, 17, or 18 yrs. old, and they can help with college pell grants and student loan forgiveness programs/ jobs. There are lots of ideas. What these folks don’t need to a lot of finger pointing and useless lofty words.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, many thanks. We have discussed this before that Democrats are lousy marketers. It is true per the BLS that under an equal number of four year terms in the White House, the number of non-farm jobs have increased by a ratio of 2 1/2 to one under Democrats vs. Republicans since 1921. You can even throw in six months of Trump’s White House and the ratio is similar. Further, since 1901, per CMC Markets, a Canadian investment firm, the ratio of Stock market performance under Democrars to that under Republican White Houses is 1.73 to 1.

      The trouble for Dems is most Americans have been convinced that the ratios should be reversed. In short, the Dems are the party of jobs and making money. Note, I did not add that the economy does better as do the unemployment rates. Keith

  3. I agree with the trajectory of your post, however the basic assumption: “poverty is the lack of money.”is problematic.
    Short of POTUS, many millionaires might consider that they suffer from a lack of money. They may be in debt to the eyebrows or may have over leveraged their assets or may simply desire MORE of everything, thus believe they do not have enough money. It’s all about perspective.

    • Thanks Linda. I have a hard time commiserating with millionaires who over spent. In the documentary movie “I Am,” about happiness, the key takeaway observation is once you have enough money to meet your needs, more money does not make you happy. So, the absence of money can make you unhappy. Thanks for opining, Keith

      • Yeah. I agree with you Keith. But I fear an underlying problem that is driving a wedge into this country is that group of people who believe money will fill their empty hearts. If that is how one lives it’s pretty hard to part with any of that precious dough to help some other individual whom one may not even know.

      • Linda, you reminded of a quote from FDR who knew a little something about lifting all boats. He said “we do well, when we all do well.” Keith

  4. Excellent post, Keith! It brought back to mind a couple of months ago when Ben Carson said he thought poverty was “a state of mind”. If government is to help alleviate poverty, then we need people in government who actually understand poverty which, as you said, is a “lack of money” … the causes of which are widely varied. When all our politicians are of the top economic 1%, they have no concept. The U.S. has so many resources that put us in a much better position than some, undeveloped nations to help our people, yet we are failing to do so. The other sad reality is that a majority of those living in poverty are African-Americans, thus prejudice plays a role in the decision-making process as well.

    • Jill, all your points are valid, but one, which proves your point. Most people in poverty are white, not African-Americans, but more people believe what you said. Poverty is pervasive in rural America and it has creeped into the suburbs. Keith

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