I deal with impoverished people every day. There are two types; temporary poor and chronic poor.
Temporary poor have had a devastating injury or illness. Once they get better they go back to work. Sometimes people lose their job through no fault of their own. Once they find another job, they aren’t poor any more. They may remain in debt for awhile but they aren’t considered poor.
These people tend to seek out help humbly. When I direct them to aid agencies, they do exactly what it takes to get help. As a result, they bounce back fairly quickly from joblessness.
Then there are the chronic poor. Chronic poverty is a real problem not just for the individual but for society as a whole.
There are several causes for chronic poverty.
1. Poor life choices.
Getting bad grades in high school, dropping out of community college, dishonorable discharge from military, imprisonment.
3. Chronic illness/mental illness.
In each case, getting a good job is hard to attain. Keeping any job becomes problematic. Finally, the individual becomes discouraged and dependent on aid agencies.
Two approaches religion & politics.
Churches nationwide deal with addiction, promiscuous behavior and other poor life choices. Job training, temporary housing and child care are provided. My church also helps school kids with new back packs filled with school material. We provide home cooked meals for hungry seniors and Christmas presents for homeless kids. As we provide services, we also challenge the poor to seek out solutions. A promiscuous girl may have been raped. A high school drop-out may have deep seated emotional issues that can be dealt with in caring environment.
The government regularly contracts Church, parachurch and volunteer agencies to provide services. The government also provides cash, food stamps and grants paid toward gas and electric utilities.
The problem with government aid is this: policy is to avoid stigma or responsibility. The poor are treated like victims. They are not held accountable for poor life choices. In fact their poor choices are often directly subsidized. For example, an unwed teen with four babies is not challenged to examine why she keeps getting pregnant. Her cash, food stamps and utility grants simply increase. Tax credits are increased. Bad behavior is rewarded.
The worst part is the culture of Dependency and Passivity. Churches have finite resources. So they link cash to change in behavior. Many require participants to complete a financial class before receiving payments on utility debt for example.
Politicians have no such constraints, they can promise voters Utopia then tax the Law abiding citizens to try to purchase it. Billions are spent with nothing to show for it except a passive client class.
Potential voters are told that they have been victimized by the more successful. They are told that they are entitled to unlimited aid. The chronic poor become accustomed to an all giving, all powerful government to make all the arrangements. Sadly, once Passivity kicks in the aid becomes LESS effective.
Example, chronic poor in my state count on the government for free landlines or cellphones phones, reduced or free school lunches and hundreds of dollars in gas & electric assistance. Strict rules mean that people can go the ENTIRE WINTER without paying their utility bills. Utilities (gas & electric) are prohibited from disconnecting low income customers.
That’s exactly what people do. Then come spring, there is a panicked rush for aid and grants to catch up on the huge bills.
This happens every year. Someone always ends up getting turned off. They literally wait for an official shut off notice needed to get the grant. This doesn’t happen in the church aid because that aid is usually tied to more responsible behavior and habits.
Politicians tolerate this Dependency because it guarantees their party a reliable voting underclass. People are deliberately left addicted, mentally ill or promiscuous. Their kids grow up in an unhealthy environment. The kids replicate the bad choices. Now you have a sick, poor neighborhood.
Chronic poverty gives rise to generational poverty. Generational poverty is the root of lawlessness in youth. Not temporary poverty but longterm generational poverty that becomes rooted in a neighborhood. That neighborhood deteriorates into a ghetto. Police presence increases. Riots flare up. And so on.
Imagine if we stopped this sick circle. Who would lose? One parties’ politicians might lose a few votes. The families, neighborhoods and cities would benefit.
Poverty can’t be extinguished but it can be managed realistically. Let’s attack it at the root. Able bodied adults must work and Change their self destructive behavior. We can then afford to care for orphans, widows and the very sick.