Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What I would do...

My comment over on Forbes: If The US Spends $550 Billion On Poverty How Can There Still Be Poverty In The US?

The ignorance of privilege and prejudice shown in this article (and some of the comments) is just appalling.

First of all, the measurement of poverty is not to say where people are after they have received assistance but to measure the underlying problem. The money spent doesn't magically make things better - we often actually refuse to spend funds on root cause. Instead, we've decided as a nation to only treat the symptoms at the absolute minimal level we can possibly get away and still let the 'rich' sleep at night.

Saying things like "many of your disadvantaged poor people are just lazy free-loaders", as elmer did, shows just how deep this ignorance runs. This is an inexcusable cheap shots at people whose lives elmer clearly knows nothing about. I've lived in those shoes personally, I managed to get out but I don't make the mistake of misattributing that success. I'm not better than anyone else -- I got lucky, period. And I'm thankful even for the woefully inadequate job the government did in assisting my family during our hardest times (I remember shopping with food stamps). When my mother was working multiple jobs, for substandard wages, to try to feed us. When we had to move because we couldn't afford the rent. When that forced us to move into an area with an inadequate school system. When that trashed my education and I had to work jobs during the day and finished High School through a program I attended at night). I went from a highly progressive, loving, caring school system into one that almost despised students.

You carp and moan about it while doing EVERYTHING in your power to continue and worsen this atrocious system.

The people I know even now are working 4 jobs and trying to get an online education (the only one they can afford, as insufficient as that is). But the institution of the United States has decided that women aren't worth paying fairly and they don't want to give people actual jobs -- they want to pay below poverty wages for back-breaking and mind-numbing labor.

I would take 1 of them over 100 elmers.

Disclaimer: I now (happily) pay more in TAXES than about half of those in the US make in total income. I welcome more taxes if they actually go to improving the situation. I want to HELP people and I can see with MY OWN EYES that they desperately need it. It's not easy to help others, most often issues run psychologically deep due to abuses of the past. But I refuse to turn a blind eye and let others suffer without doing what I can.

What we need to do is simple:

1) end the drug war, full stop -- and put every person in prison for ONLY possession (not including those pleading down from violent offenses) into a program where they are released once they get a degree. This will also end that source of funding to terrorist and organised criminal organizations. This will also put a stop to ripping apart families (that are, DISPROPORTIONATE TO ACTUAL DRUG USE, minorities). The ignorant drug war is a massive source of the problems in this country.

The entire drug war is founded on racism and lies.

There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others." - Harry J. Anslinger, Federal Bureau of Narcotics, testimony to US Congress supporting Marihuana Tax Act, 1937

and later used by Nixon as a political tool:

"You have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this all while not appearing to." - Richard M. Nixon, about the War on Drugs to Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, according to Halderman's diaries


2) Anyone who wants to attend a brick&mortar community college for a 4-year degree should have every class and book paid for. They shouldn't have to jump through massive hoops that are practically designed to prevent people from getting aid. Just cover it.

3) We need a way to intervene earlier and more compassionately for those who are suffering mental and physical abuses. We need MORE intrusion and intervention into people's personal lives -- but, in exchange, we need to do so with an eye towards improving our future. You CANNOT simply throw everyone into prison -- that exacerbates the issues ten-fold. To borrow a recent metaphor, we need to OCCUPY the lives of people who, probably due to abuses in their own past, are abusing those in their current lives. If we do this with love and compassion and a desire to improve the lives of the next generation we can, step-by-step, crawl out of the current psychological deficit we have in the world.

This also means we need to stop yanking kids out of homes on the slightest pretext. The outcomes for such children are just as bleak as the abused (and they offer suffer worse abuses in foster care).

Except in the extreme cases, don't imprison, separate, & destroy -- OCCUPY, HEAL, SHOW COMPASSION.

Note that this is NOT saying that someone who harms a child gets off Scott Free. Violent acts against others should be tried. I'm talking about what do we DO when someone is found to be a threat to the family? Locking them up in prison punishes the family as much as the offender - this is STUPID.

I'm saying, take however many we can afford (let's say 10,000 for starters), and put someone on them 24x7. Watch them, educate them, make them do the things that must be done. Show them how to care for and treat children. And educate them on how to help the next generation in turn. Let those that are successful participate and lead the next generation.

Or you can take the only father figure those children have out of the home, leave the mother alone to care for 2 or 3 kids -- giving her jobs that don't cover child care. That's surely been a recipe for success for the past 50 years (NOT).

4) we need to ensure those in need have adequate shelter, clothing, food, education, and medical care. We do the bare minimum palliative care today and we do almost nothing to actually try to improve the situation. Cut 1% of the military budget every year for 10 years and move it into funding education -- not just more of the same but we need research programs to guide development of an improved educational system.

We have some of the best education in the world in some cases and we have a LOT of education that is bottom of the barrel.

We should produce a series of programs that teaches deep, key concepts and critical thinking skills. This should be developed by the best of the best and made available online to everyone along with a promulgation program to encourage people to participate (btw, things like iTunes U is already an incredible resource for free education programs -- more of that is good but I'm talking about programs more targeted at the currently disadvantaged). The majority of this is a one time cost! This is low-hanging fruit.

For example, memorizing a bunch of historical dates is PURPOSELESS and utterly worthless -- what needs to be taught (broadly) from history is why things are the way they are today -- how we got here and the mistakes we've made. And, if done properly, that makes history vibrant and interesting. Most of what passes for 'History' in schools today is actually harmful to an education.

And hey -- maybe I'm wrong about some things -- I wouldn't propose we do anything without setting metrics for success or failure and, when things are failing we need to try something else. Why don't ANY bills have clearly defined metrics for success? This is standard business practice: set goals, define metrics, measure results.

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