America’s (Flawed) War on Poverty: The Doomed Current Approach

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I like Banksy

America’s current approach will never end real poverty.

The current approach is too flawed to completely eliminate poverty.  A failure to address educational issues, family concerns, disabilities, and racial disparities demonstrates that the absolute, pre-transfer, income approach is doomed.  The Council of Economic Advisers indicates that the income approach has not enabled these originally poor populations to escape poverty. “About half of the poorest individuals remain in the lowest fifth of the income distribution after 10 and 20 years, and no more than one-fourth make it to one of the top three income quintiles” *.  Those who are born poor die poor.  Alternatives must be investigated.

*Council of Economic Advisers. The War on Poverty 50 Year Later: A Progress Report. Washington, DC: United States Government, 2014. 33. Print.1


America’s (Flawed) War on Poverty: Financial Problems

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How poverty solutions are enacted is a big issue as well

Financial problems also plague the current poverty measurements as well.  Issues measuring the Consumer Price Index, the index of variation in prices paid by the average consumer on goods and services, understates the real fall in poverty by three percentage points over the last sixty years*.  Additionally, individuals deliberately under report incomes so they can accrue more benefits, hampers administrators allocations*.  This encourages them to become criminals or lazy, rather than working hard to ascend from poverty.  Such a singular emphasis on income results in recipients being able to easily manipulate the system to their own advantage.

*Council of Economic Advisers. The War on Poverty 50 Year Later: A Progress Report. Washington, DC: United States Government, 2014. 2,8,11, 26,27,33. Print.1

America’s (Flawed) War on Poverty : Logistical Issues

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Systemic oversights have led to failings throughout America’s War on Poverty

This problem is that poverty is based on pre-tax income and cash transfers but not on taxes, tax credits, or non-cash transfers*.  Many programs benefiting the less educated, families headed by single mothers, minorities, and the disabled such as SNAP, EITC, and WIC are not calculated in the current poverty index, unlike Social Security*.  This distinction makes it politically difficult to increase funding for these forgotten programs because increasing funding would not have a measureable impact on poverty.  Therefore, it is politically untenable.

*Council of Economic Advisors. The War on Poverty 50 Year Later: A Progress Report. Washington, DC: United States Government, 2014. 8,27 Print.1. 

America’s (Flawed) War on Poverty : Victory Amongst the Elderly

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Social Security and Medicare have insured the elderly are largely shielded from poverty.  Certain racial and socioeconomic demographics have not done as well.

Social Security and Medicare have insured the elderly are shielded from poverty.

The elderly are the only segment of the population whose poverty proportion has been dramatically reduced over the last sixty years.  For those over 65, their poverty rate has fallen from 36.9 percent to just 9.1 percent.  This is less than a fourth of 1959 levels.  Social Security is included in poverty measure for these individuals, buffering them above the poverty line.  It is the main reason why their poverty rate has fallen; if it were not the elderly poverty rate would be 54.7 percent.  By itself, Social Security raises 8.56 percent of all American’s out of poverty*.  Since social security is included as income it is measured in the current poverty index and officials are able to properly evaluate its benefit to the elderly.  This solution has not been applied to the other impoverished demographics, leaving them with higher poverty rates.

*Council of Economic Advisers. The War on Poverty 50 Year Later: A Progress Report. Washington, DC: United States Government, 2014. 26,27. Print. 

America’s (Flawed) War on Poverty: Systemic Racial and Socioeconomic Failings

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It falls along racial lines, mainly.

Sections of the population have not benefited from America’s War on Poverty

America’s War on Poverty has greatly reduced poverty in the United States; however, some demographics are remaining destitute.  This good news is the official poverty measure has fallen 7.3 percent over the last sixty years; only 15.1 percent of all Americans remain in poverty.  Disturbing trends amongst those remaining in poverty indicate segments of the population are not benefiting proportionally.  One third of all those impoverished have less than a high school education.   Twenty-nine percent of single, female headed households are included in the official poverty measure.  African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans all have a third of their respective population below the poverty line.  Meanwhile, Whites and Asians each have only a tenth of their total population below the poverty line.  Finally, while those with disabilities were not originally indexed almost thirty percent of them are below the poverty line today*.  Due to the inadequacies of the absolute, income approach we do not have national data to fully examine those below the poverty line.  They are all lumped together so we cannot infer any solutions from the poverty data.  All we know is those of lower education, families headed by single mothers, native minorities, and the disabled are disproportionally likely to be poor, indicating that the current anti-poverty program is not ubiquitous successful.

*Council of Economic Advisers. The War on Poverty 50 Year Later: A Progress Report. Washington, DC: United States Government, 2014. 11. Print.

Ending America’s (Flawed War) on Poverty: Thesis

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Serious issues should be introduced with a light joke

Poverty is a serious, unanswered issue. Lets start with something fun.

Emerging from the shaky growth following the recession from 1960 to 1961,  President Carter launched America’s War on Poverty.  His strategy comprised of “initiatives designed to improve the education, health, skills, jobs, and access to economic resources of those struggling to make ends meet*”.   The primary goal of the War on Poverty was to increase the standard of living of the American people in all dimensions, growing opportunity and strengthening social mobility.  An absolute poverty line was set up and poverty was linked exclusively to income.  As the decades past it became increasingly evident that this solution was not accurately assessing or alleviating poverty.  Shifting away from an absolute, income approach will be essential for the United States to better address poverty in the twenty-first century.  A fully developed relative, post-transfer, basic needs approach, evaluating both income and tangible symptoms, is necessary to liberate America from poverty.

*Council of Economic Advisers. The War on Poverty 50 Year Later: A Progress Report. Washington, DC: United States Government, 2014. 2. Print.

Pay it Forward, Pay it Back: Making College (Debt) Free in Oregon

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How will you pay for college?

How will you pay for college?

“The United States has a third of the world’s colleges and universities and nearly all its best teachers” proclaims John D Kasarda.  With these words I feel great pride in American higher education and abject sorrow concerning the student-loan crisis.  The United States might have the best schools in the world, but increasingly costly bachelor’s degrees are out of reach for widening swathes of America’s middle class.  Those who can still afford college are often drowned in debt, forced into jobs they hate just to pay the bills.

This endemic problem must be solved; it is in Oregon that we find a likely solution.

Under the “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” plan, students in Oregon public universities and community colleges can pay their tuition by promising three percent of their future incomes in the twenty-four year period following graduation.  No money down, no strings attached.  Everyone benefits.  Students of the humanities and other frugal majors will be able to rest easy and be able to pursue their passions without nightmares of debt. Those pursuing lucrative careers will have drastically fewer rivals, jobs will be easier to obtain.  Unemployed beneficiaries of this program will not have decades of credit-scores ruined, they will have not debt to haunt them.  And the specter of student-loan debt is banished, giving a new era of financial freedom for America’s youth.

Education is the cornerstone of the American Dream, in Oregon that glorious promise is rekindled for the twenty-first century.

The bill erecting the pilot program for “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” was elected unanimously by Oregon’s state legislature on July 1, 2013.  They will evaluate the program and vote again in 2015, to improve it and provide a role model for the rest of the country.  One little state has kept the flame of the American Dream alive, imagine what fifty states could do.  Or even a functional federal government.

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