Reader suggests a path to address poverty

To the editor:

(Plain Press, August 2020)            With all the debate recently for amending the United States Constitution in favor of certain issues and/or those constituencies, perhaps a more appropriate amendment should guarantee each citizen of the United States the right to food, clothing, shelter and medical care.  Poverty is defined as the condition of being poor or lacking the necessary means of support to live or meet needs. Today we read of enormous corporate tax breaks, outsourcing of jobs overseas and outrageous salaries “earned” by athletes/entertainers.  More recently came the revelation of the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. on two wars.  In the meantime, the number of those in poverty continues to increase.  The Old Testament of the Bible often makes references to the promised land flowing with milk and honey.  All one has to do in this country is take a trip to the grocery story, or department store, and bear witness to the fact that if anywhere was close to exhibiting the characteristics of “the promised land”, this country is it. Yet somehow, we are still unable to meet the four basic needs every citizen has. Some would argue that this proposal is an extension of Socialism/Communism.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Socialism/Communism is a political or economic theory in which community members own all property, resources, and the means of production, and control the distribution of goods. No one is suggesting the replacement of Capitalism; an economic system in which the means of production and distribution are privately owned, and prices are chiefly determined by open competition in a free market. What is being suggested is that in this land of surplus “milk and honey”, there is absolutely no reason why the four basic needs of every U.S. citizen cannot be met.  Some would argue that food stamps, thrift stores, public housing and Medicaid already meet these needs but in the words of President John F. Kennedy, “this country is divided between those who have never had it so good and those who know we can do better”.  I think we can do better. Resolved, it shall be the right of every United States citizen (in order to further guarantee the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) to receive food, clothing, shelter and medical care that is adequate to meet their basic needs.

Now, that being written (uh oh, here it comes) everyone in this great country of ours would agree that the most effective anti-poverty solution is gainful employment. This Administration (along with Congress) didn’t take its eye off the ball; didn’t drop the ball and certainly didn’t fumble the ball. They kicked it down the road in the form of an onside kick. It has now mutated into the form of a hot potato that no one wants to touch.

Well folks, it’s time to prime the pump. One solution is Workfare whereby those able-bodied citizens are required to perform some type of labor in order to receive assistance. This will help restore their dignity (as they continue to search for even more meaningful work) while at the same time allowing a large group of people to start purchasing various goods and services.

As for getting people back to work the solution is not as complicated as it may appear to be. We need to bring back an agency similar (but not identical) to the Work Progress Administration (WPA) which should take a two-pronged approach. One is the most obvious; hire people to perform the very services (and more) that the private sector will never engage in simply because it is not profitable to do so. The second approach is a wee bit more complicated but can be successful by utilizing private-public partnerships.  Let the governments (at all levels) develop a plan to share (temporarily) in the salary expense of unemployed people so that they could work full time, re-gain their lost skills and eventually retain a full-time position paid by the private company. This would result in an immediate restoration of lost government revenues as well as help to “prime the pump” for the new-found consumer demand.  Increasing demand will result in the need for increased supply and hence an increase in production which will result in increased employment. You could think of this “stimulus” plan as a rocket booster that slowly fades away as the economy picks up. Isn’t this what government is supposed to do beyond providing safety for its citizens? Is it too late now? I hope not; but to continue to waste time over which side wins {while the rest of the country goes to hell} risks moving America’s dissatisfaction with government to the disbelief of the legitimacy of those who do govern. The question before us all is this: how far down must this country sink before it becomes clear and apparent that current government officials have forfeited their right to govern?

Government was never intended to be an ongoing circus act of constantly handicapping the next election while nothing gets done due to this self-perpetuating form of gridlock. I strongly suggest that members of both branches and parties start making a better effort to get to know each other more personally.  Whether it be over breakfast, lunch or dinner on the golf course, in a restaurant or the local disco tech you the leaders of our nation need to familiarize yourselves with what is at stake in the other person’s life and realize that compromising on a policy is not the same as compromising your values. Ladies, and gentlemen, let’s get to work by getting this country moving again. And no, I’m not running for office, but I am Joe Bialek and I approve this message.

Joe Bialek

Cleveland, OH

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