The Occupiers in America have one chief concern: economic inequality.
The Mexicans have one stunning solution: Oportunidades.
What is “Oportunidades?”
It is a conditional cash transfer anti-poverty program by the Mexican government that has revolutionized economic equality.
The Mexicans social welfare program differs from many in the developed world. Rather than paying out blanket benefits to beneficiaries specific criteria must be met before financial aid is released. Recipients must meet educational, health, and nutrition goals. Already the program covers 5.8 million families or 30% of the total population.
What are the Criteria?
Education, Health, and Nutrition.
Investing in the human capital of the future generation is of primary importance for Oportunidades. To be put in layman’s terms, the Mexican government works to make future citizens be self-sufficient and perhaps even give back to their country through employment and taxes.
Guaranteeing students attend school is vitally important. For each student attending school families receive larger cash transfers. In addition, for each successive year of education the cash transfers grow significantly. Rather than working in the fields engaged students are getting an education. Some even progress to college and acquire class changing jobs.
Health and nutrition are also essential ingredients in the Oportunidades miracle. Cash transfer payments are delivered as long as mothers keep regular medical checkups for their children and enroll themselves in classes detailing disease prevention. Other workshops educate the mothers about dietary needs of their families and the best methods to get the most nutritional food on the table.
Has Oportunidades Been Effective?
“In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses. Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced. Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined. But the most dramatic effects are visible in education. Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer. Child labor has dropped. In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent. High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels. Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.”
How Would Oportunidades America Help the Occupiers?
Below is one key demand from the manifesto of Occupy Wall Street : NYC.
CONGRESS PASS THE BUFFETT RULE ON FAIR TAXATION SO THE RICH AND CORPORATIONS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE & CLOSE CORPORATE TAX LOOP HOLES AND ENACT A PROHIBITION ON HIDING FUNDS OFF SHORE.
The Occupiers exclamation amounts to the government enforcing the graduated income tax on the super-wealthy so that the middle class can return to prosperity. Oportunidades is a physical manifestation of the Occupiers dream. The Mexican anti-poverty program redistributes the wealth of the nation, through taxes, to help and empower the impoverished and middle class. This is what the occupiers need.
America needs Oportunidades just as badly as Mexico did. Currently, 15.1% of Americans live in poverty. 10.5% of Mexicans live in “extreme poverty.” Oportunidades is one of the primary reasons why the United States has been surpassed by Mexico on taking care of its own people. The Occupiers must add reformation in anti-poverty programs in order sustain today’s America and empower future generations.
Are There Any Pilot Oportunidades Programs in America?
New York, ground zero for the Occupy Wall Street, is ironically the flagship of the American anti-poverty program. The private program was entitled Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards. It takes Oportunidades of the rural Mexico and optimizes it for the urban setting. Initial results were promising. The program quantitatively decreased poverty and day-to-day hardships, increased school grades and attendance, proliferated use of health insurance, and even increased dental care. Despite these promising beginnings, under capitalization and a short trial period doomed the program. It is no longer funded.
Instead, Bloomberg pays riot police to prevent the impoverished Occupiers from taking what they were once given.