Poverty is highly correlated with large families

We have a global poverty problem, but what may surprise some, the US has not escaped the problem. Our middle class has been squeezed, but unfortunately, gravity has caused too many of them to fall beneath or just above the poverty line.

There are many reasons for the decline, but it has been occurring over the last 45 years, so all politicians own this issue. Technology advances, globalization, stagnant wages, downsizing of union populations, costly healthcare, etc. are all contributing factors.

Yet, it should be noted that large family size and one parent families are highly correlated with increased poverty. These two factors should not be a revelation, but too many folks look past these causes to others. This a key reason for the importance of family planning to help families manage their family size and health.

Today, I saw a report that noted the US has more teen pregnancies than other western nations. A data point was cited (without a source) that 30% of teens in the 9th grade have sexual relationships increasing to 60% in the 12th grade. The report supported the practice of more holistic sex education in schools, an experiment being promoted in West Virginia, where 1 out of eight births are to teen mother.

The training speaks to more than abstinence and contraception. It speaks to   how to say no and not give in to pressure. It discusses sexual assault and STDs. It speaks to relationships and the role sex plays when folks are ready.

Family planning and sex education are key tools in fighting poverty. There is a causal relationship between family planning and fewer abortions, which should give  those against family planning some consolation, Rather than condemn or not fund these efforts, we should look at the data and support them.

Giving makes me feel like I’m living

The above title is a quote offered by Morrie Schwartz, the subject of Mitch Albom’s book “Tuesdays with Morrie.” The book continues to sell with over fifteen million copies sold in 45 countries. It describes Albom’s weekly visits with his favorite teacher and mentor named Morrie.

Albom shared today on CBS This Morning, he was not the only person to routinely visit his mentor. Others went with the goal of cheering up Morrie, but they would leave being comforted as Morrie would invariably ask them about their lives and challenges.

When Albom inquired about this of Morrie, he said “Giving makes me feel like I’m living.” What profound words coming from a teacher. To me, this echoes the term I have used called “psychic income.” Giving to others with your time, ear, support, donations, etc. provides you with a psychic income.

Yet, like with lessons in the book, Morrie’s phrasing of why he gives is much more profound. Albom notes this is the reason his book strikes a chord with so many.

Please honor our teachers, mothers and fathers by paying forward their giving to us. We will also benefit.

Women have made huge strides, but why are too many still being raped and harassed?

Two different stories this week frame an important issue. First, I read an article that said 15% of undergraduate women who attended the University of Texas at Austin had been raped. That is appalling.

Second, Bill O’Reilly has been re-signed under another Fox contract. This is after a story of five settlements of sexual harassment claims were unearthed by The New York Times. It should be noted the network who signed him let go Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, for similar sexual harassment issues, but felt so badly they did not do it for “cause” and he was punished with a $38 million go-away settlement. Since O’Reilly has a following, his sexual harassment must be less relevant to the network.

These two stories come on the heels of the US Marine Corp sexual harassment scandal and the Baylor University football team rape scandal through a hostess recruiting program for players. And, we should not forget our President has admitted on at least two occasions that he sexually harassed or assaulted women because of his celebrity and power.

Women and girls are maltreated around the globe. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s powerful book “Half the Sky” graphically describes sexual slavery,  trafficking, mutilation, domestic violence, rape and second class citizen treatment. But, we have sexual slavery, trafficking, domestic violence, rape and harassment here in the Western world, too. Former President Jimmy Carter wrote of this in his book “A Call to Action,” which is an excellent follow up to the Kristof/ WuDunn book.

Western women have made huge strides in gaining more opportunity, yet the level of sexual maltreatment has seemingly risen. Perhaps, it is due to more rapes and harassment being reported. Or, maybe it is  due to women being framed as sexual objects though advertising, marketing and entertainment media. Sexual harassment and rapes continue to be a huge problem for the military (even before the Marine scandal) and college campuses.

What do we do about this? We need to say very loudly this is not right. We need to  come down hard on leaders and institutions who have looked the other way. We need to vote with our feet and not attend universities who don’t have their act together.

We should not vote for politicians who have maltreated women. I am still stunned that our President was elected after more of his sexual harassment was revealed. In my view, there were several reasons not to vote for him, but how could anyone do so after the Howard Stern interview and Access Hollywood tape became public?

To lessen this maltreatment, it has to have more than women’s voices behind the effort. All of us need to stand up to people and organizations that maltreat women or look the other way. Women hold up “half the sky,” so we all benefit by treating women like we want to be treated.

 

 

Have hope not fear

Have hope, not fear. These are the words that mentor and advocate Wes Moore said he wanted on his tombstone during a recent interview at High Point University in North Carolina. They relate to lessons he received as a child.

Moore came to fame when he wrote and did a documentary on the other Wes Moore, who was born to the same circumstances as the author, but made mistakes, was not encouraged and ended up in prison. The author got a Rhodes scholarship and went off to fight in Afghanistan.

When asked what accounted for the differences in the two outcomes, Moore said something simple and profound. He said it is not one thing, it is a lot of things that made a difference. Expectations, encouragement and environment change played roles.

When the author was a smart aleck teen, he was sent to a military school, which he hated. He ran away five times before settling in. What he regrets is he found out his grandparents mortgaged their house to  pay for the school and if had been kicked out, they would have lost everything for nothing.

Moore was quite interesting, but I was left with two comments. As he advocates and mentors young folks, he asks the question, “Who will you fight for?” Be more than just a major, job, or career, be willing to fight for people.

The other is a wonderful quote from entertainer and advocate Harry Belafonte. Belafonte’s reputation as an advocate cannot be overstated. He fought for people. Yet, he offered a selfish reason to go along with his selfless activism. He said rather than getting up and calling my accountant like some performers, I can get up and call Nelson Mandela. Who has the more interesting life? When you fight for the disenfranchised, your life is more interesting.

Have hope, not fear. Let’s fight with hope for a better life for many. If we fight with fear, we will become narrow minded. Plus, if we help others, our lives will be far more interesting. Moore and Belafonte tell us it is so.

Personal Finance Education is Essential

Attending a recent Board meeting for an agency that helps working homeless families obtain sustainable permanent housing, a thought struck me. We partner a licensed clinical social worker with families to help them on their journey while we offer temporary rent subsidies based on the client’s ability to afford 30% of the housing and utility costs relative to their monthly income,

Much of what these social workers do is help with budgeting for “needs” and prioritizing less “wants.” Yet, another key element is to require the parent(s) to attend classes on personal finance training. We partner with another agency to do just that.

The thought I had is we should require high school students to take a semester course on personal finance. One of my sons took this course as an elective, so I know the curriculum exists at least in our public schools. And, he benefited from it.

This course could run the gambit from monthly budgets to checking/ savings accounts to investments to credit/ loans to ID theft prevention. We are largely a financially illiterate nation. This would help educate people to make more informed decisions.

To illustrate my point, there was an economic study in New York several years ago called “Class Matters.” The study demonstrates that people in a lower socio-economic class ask fewer questions of advisors, bankers, lenders, etc, when they should be asking more. I call it the “suit and tie” effect. This is how people can sign up for mortgages they cannot afford, how they can succumb to predatory lending on car loans or make the mistake of using a pay-day lender. These folks are preyed upon because of their financial illiteracy. This also is one of the reasons for the 2007 housing crisis as lenders provided mortgages to riskier lendees.

I am not saying mandatory personal finance training will end homelessness or poverty, but it will arm our graduates to budget better and ask more questions. Avoiding 23% car loans can impact a budget in a major way.

If you agree, please reach out to your local papers and politicians. To me, this a sustainable and impactful change.

Two shooting stories bookend the issues


Shooting tragedies are too commonplace in the US. Just pick up a newspaper in any city on any day and count the gun shooting stories. Last week, we had several shooting deaths, but two stand out, one that is becoming a too common accident and the other an act of terror by a lone gunman in Ft. Lauderdale.

The first accident is yet another toddler who found a loaded weapon and shot someone, in this case his mother. She fortunately survived, but the other part of the story is the father was in law enforcement and knows better.

If you Google four year old shoots six year old, many child shootings can be found of all ages. These are accidents, but are highly preventable with training and consistent practice. Also, there is a movement to place a finger printed triggering mechanism which will prevent a child or adult from firing your gun. Sadly, the NRA is against this.

The Ft. Lauderdale mass shooting shows yet again, it is very difficult to stop a motivated lone gunman. With our freedom and readily available guns, even our highly skilled police and FBI cannot prevent all of these events from happening.

We must take a series of measures that will permit better gun governance. Gun advocates will state certain measures would not prevent certain shootings, but it is apparent that doing nothing won’t either.

Background  checks on all weapon sales will help. Extended waiting periods will help with the most predominant American gun death of suicide. The finger printed trigger will help with child shootings including using a parent’s weapon for suicide. Putting people on our no-fly list on a restricted gun sales list will help. With the exception of not selling to someone who is on watch list, the other measures are reasonable safeguards which do not infringe on 2nd amendment rights.

My frustration is we do not address this issue as parents. We address as politicians. Congress is too scared of the NRA to do the right things. Until we start addressing thiese issues, we will continue to have these problems. It is that simple. And, it matters not who is in the White House.

 

A tribute to my mother – may she rest in peace

My mother passed away early on Christmas morning. She was as fine a Christian as we ever knew, so passing on Jesus’ birthday seems fitting for her. She was an elementary school teacher and taught Bible Study Fellowship for many years. She was predeceased by her husband to whom she was married for 54 years after meeting at college. She left behind three children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

My mom loved her husband who passed in 2006. Their meeting at college was eventful, as our father actually fell into her lap. The story goes he was playing basketball for the college team and she arrived late. As she quickly sat and waited for the action to clear on one side of the court so she could walk around, he chased a loose ball and landed in her lap. She told me of another story where she jokingly pushed him into a pond, when the Dean saw her talking with a male student on the female side of the dorm buildings, as she did not want to be accused of fraternizing.

Mom loved her children and grandchildren. She was an avid reader and shared that love with each of them. When not preparing lesson plans for her students or fellow bible study worshipers, she was avid about her crossword puzzles, sometimes completing three a day. She was involved with the church making arrangements when outreach to people was needed for sickness, funerals, and celebrations.

And, she was devoted to her mother and siblings before they passed before her. She often travelled to visit them during their times of need. She simply was a doer who helped others. As her memory faded, her ability to help others faded as well, although she was an active participant in events at the assisted living facility.

There are two saving graces to her passing. We were told she did not suffer much and went quickly. One of the caregivers said Mom asked her to pray for her earlier that day, when helping her to bed. Also, with Alzheimer’s, my mother still remained the sweet person we knew, so she had not gotten to the point where the paranoia and unawareness causes routine belligerent behavior. She knew we were on her team, even though she was not certain which teammate we were. I am a better person because of my mother. I will miss her. We all will.

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