Why Are People Poor?

Politicians and political pundits are constantly engaged in battle over what to do about those living in poverty.  The Democrats want to solve poverty through government redistribution, and Republicans preach focusing on empowering individuals to help themselves.  The ideological divide is deep.  With so much controversy over what should be done to solve this problem, one would expect much attention to be paid to what causes people to be poor.  As far as I can see, this is not so.  So, we are going to discuss the various reasons people are poor, and possible solutions to help people overcome them.

Both sides tend to agree that broken familial structure tends to produce the environment conducive to churning out individuals destined to remain impoverished.  People who have children at a young age, tend to be involved in less stable relationships, with high failure rates.  Studies show that there is a direct correlation between single parent homes and higher crime rates, poor scholastic performance, and lack of upward mobility.  Add to this the fact that this is compounding over several generations for many poor families.  The question here is what to do about this.  What can the government do to help?  The immediate answer is to begin the process of strengthening the existing families.  The church and the community are both suited for this work.  Becoming part of a church will, among its many benefits, immediately open opportunities for mentorship, aid, and will provide the foundation for sound moral judgement.  The missing familial structure is always filled in, by loving individuals, happy to help those who seek it.  The local community has a place, as well.  Privately funded youth mentorship programs, resource centers, and parenting skills mentors can all help provide a struggling family with the tools needed to assure they are preparing their children adequately for adulthood.  Of course, the families themselves have a lot of responsibility here.  Help will only carry them so far, and then there is the necessity for growth, on their part.  Where does the government fit?  I would say their job is to get out of the way, and not incentivize the breaking apart of families, via tax policy and assistance.  The government's job is NOT to take the place of the family. 

Education is important for the prospect of upward mobility.  Most better than minimum wage-paying jobs require at least a high school diploma or GED.  Beyond that, a college degree or certification continues to be a dividing factor between lower and upper middle class.  Generally, the more educated and qualified the individual, the likelihood of gainful employment rises.  Coming from these broken homes, children are simply not getting the in-home support needed to aid the educational process.  Relying on the public school system to educate our kids, without parental involvement, is foolish and hurts our children's chances of future success.  This is one area in which households with both parents hold a significant advantage over single parent households.  There is only one parent available, and they are likely working full time, and taking care of all of the domestic responsibilities.  There isn't much time for help with homework, but it simply must be done.  One way the government can help here, is to provide parents with vouchers, so that every parent has the ability to choose the right school for their child.  A greater emphasis on working to identify students who need help, and getting them the help they need, should be a high priority.  Volunteers for tutoring failing students should be matched up with needy students. 

Last, but not least, is opportunity.  Opportunity is defined differently by the left and right.  Jobs need to be available and open, and individuals need to take necessary steps to meet the requirements for a prospective job. Typically, high crime areas are located in the most poverty stricken areas.  These rates tend to go hand in hand, as I stated earlier.  This is important to this issue, because of who provides opportunities for employment: businesses.  Businesses are not inclined to move into areas with particularly high crime rates, which puts those living in these communities at a disadvantage.  What should be done?  The government exists to take care of this one.  Effective policing policy, removing criminals and gangs, and ensuring the safety of the community is the first step.  Next, volunteers and community members should work together to clean up these neighborhoods.  Make them attractive to businesses looking for real estate.  Present a more safe and welcoming community, and businesses will be much more inclined to return to these impoverished areas.  This will significantly increase employment opportunities for individuals who reside in these communities, ultimately providing the necessary spark to generate upward mobility.

People are very often born into poverty.  Their familial situation is a strong indicator of the likelihood they will become or remain poor, as adults.  Education is a powerful force, which can thrust individuals up and out of poverty, if the proper environment is provided, and attention is given to our children's unique needs.  Opportunity for employment is crucial, otherwise everything else is for naught.  Encouraging entrepreneurs to invest in businesses, and ensuring safer environments for them, provides the opportunity for young adults to enter the workforce, and begin their journey up and out of poverty.  The government should protect our rights and stay out of the way, and communities, volunteers, and churches should pick up the slack, so we aren't continuing to push people toward government reliance for survival.

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