Letters to the Editor — January 31, 2014

Reader responds to poverty situation


Very few people in our country become poor. Most of our poor are born into poverty. I don’t believe younger children think much about whether they are poor. Only when kids get to school do they realize their situation may not be as good as their fellow students.

Knowing you are not as well off as some other kids can influence how the poor child sees his or her chances for a better future. This is where parents come in. Parents have a great deal of influence on either building their children up or tearing them down. Kids need the encouragement of loving parents and their teachers to feel good about themselves and to foster a positive outlook, including the importance of education and the value of hard work in reaching a goal.

Unfortunately, so many children in our country are born into single-parent families. This situation is a very serious impediment to becoming a successful adult. The prospects for these kids are abysmal! Typically, the mother is a high school dropout who receives next to no support from the father of her children. The fathers also lack education and skills. Statistics show that children from such families have a very slim chance of obtaining financial security and independence as adults.

What we need , first and foremost, is a national initiative to help young people, beginning in their early teens, to understand the absolute necessity of not conceiving children outside of marriage. This initiative would not be about giving something up or sacrificing freedom. No, it would emphasize the future value of choosing to follow a better plan that most often leads to happier, more successful lives for both parents and their children.

To those who might say, this a “pie in the sky” idea, I say, at least, let’s try something like this. Young people and their parents as well, would be trained in values and behaviors that have been shown to be helpful in getting children through school and into adulthood equipped to find a decent job with a good financial future. If this approach doesn’t help, then we should try other promising ideas until we get this fundamental problem solved.

Some people seem to blame the poor for their circumstances. They believe poor people prefer getting charity or government “hand-outs” over finding a job to support themselves. Personally, I don’t agree with this thinking. My experience with people leads me to be believe that a substantial majority of the poor have worked more often than not and they much prefer going to work rather than sitting around being idle.

Unfortunately, many people in our country have jobs that do not pay enough to get themselves out of poverty. This situation causes hopelessness. In the old days, after World War II and up through the ‘70s, high school grads could get an unskilled job that paid pretty well. Most of these good jobs, however, have slowly been moved oversees to poor countries where people will work for almost nothing just to survive! What we have left for unskilled workers in our country are too many low-paying service jobs.

What we need to significantly alleviate poverty for these unskilled workers is to have their employers pay them fair wages that are, at least, enough to support the worker and their family.

Right now, even moms and dads working two or three jobs cannot make ends meet because wages have been essentially flat for over a decade. Wages that are not raised to keep up with rising prices are actually pay cuts resulting in less disposable income that, if paid, could boost our economy! Lousy wages must go! We need to raise the minimum wage to at least $9 per hour over the next two years.

Finally, to those who speak out against governmental programs that help the working poor, I say, are you ready to give up your own government programs, like Social Security and Medicare? I doubt it!

Some may say these programs are not the same as welfare programs. Perhaps not completely the same. But, since the benefits paid out through these programs over time typically accede amounts that have been paid in, isn’t the difference essentially a government subsidy? I think so.

In addition, take note that governmental support comes in many forms. It is not just in poverty programs. The U.S. Tax Code provides both corporate welfare and other benefits for wealthy individuals. These benefits have been added to tax laws to please special interests who, in turn, keep elected representatives in office.

Corporations get to write off purchases of plant and equipment, research and development, wages, utilities and many other operating expenses. Wealthy individual taxpayers can deduct thousands of dollars in property taxes and mortgage interest on multiple homes and, as investors in the stock market, they have lower tax rates than those of us who work for wages or a salary. How upside-down is that?

Despite these obstacles, if we work together with our neighbors to reach brighter futures, instead of pointing fingers and making our neighbor the villain, there is hope for us yet!

Howard Boyd
Ocean View