Poverty is a plague on our nation that is caused, in part, by a system that encourages companies to cut costs by cutting wages, and hiring more part-time employees to avoid paying benefits.
This causes an accumulation of wealth at one end of the spectrum and makes poverty unavoidable on the other.
This is compounded by the fact that our society tries to cram those living in poverty in depressed areas where there are few jobs and poor schools. It makes it harder for adults to lift themselves out of poverty and limits the ability of children to receive an education that will allow them to be successful later in life.
Studies by the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and others show that stress, lack of cognitive stimulation, poor nutrition, exposure to lead and other neurotoxins and differences in medical care impedes the brain development of children living in poverty.
In adults, lack of money, time or even food to satisfy a dieter’s hunger — can cause “tunneling,” or over-focusing on one thing to the detriment of other things, making it harder for those in poverty to improve their economic position.
“For the poor, focusing on immediate financial crises means there’s little “mental bandwidth” left over for other day-to-day tasks, such as overseeing children’s homework or taking medicine on time, let alone building an emergency fund or taking other steps toward financial security,” states Princeton psychology and public affairs professor Eldar Shafir, PhD.
It is cyclical in nature, poverty breeds poverty.
Now, there are many obvious steps that we can take, and some of those have already been outlined in my 9-point plan for the economy.
For example, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour would lift millions of Americans out of poverty, and reduce the need for government expenditures on current income-support programs by $7.6 billion per year.
Investing in school infrastructure and technology would provide funds to repair or replace dilapidated schools and provide teachers with the technology necessary to teach our children. Providing poor students with better educational opportunities will increase their chances of raising their children free from the poverty that they grew up in.
Ending pay discrimination would mean an injection of over $600 billion in lost wages into our economy, this would help lift millions of American families out of poverty, rebuilding America’s infrastructure and ending tax-breaks for sending jobs overseas will mean nearly a million new jobs for American workers, making college more affordable will allow millions of children who are living in poverty to attend college, and rebuilding America’s social safety net will help prevent children from going hungry, and would prevent our citizens from falling into poverty due to setbacks in the economy, or because they have reached the end of their working lives.
Taking these steps would go a long way in helping reduce poverty in America, but there is much more that we can do.
All Americans should have a right to health care, but unfortunately that is not the case. In an upcoming point in this series I will talk about our need to move to a single-payer health care system. This will insure that all Americans have access to the medical care they need, when they need it. This will prevent millions of lost work hours and disability payments because it will allow those living in poverty to get care when they need it as opposed to having to wait until the problem becomes more serious due to lack of treatment and it will help keep more Americans from falling into poverty because of health care issues.
Probably the most overlooked problems concerning poverty in our nation is the barriers that we have built to separate the classes.
A perfect example of this is the I-20/59 corridor, which runs through the heart of downtown Birmingham.
When construction began in the early 1960’s, the plan was for those routes to by-pass the downtown area by following a path down Finley Avenue. Instead city leaders changed the plan as a means of separating the cities black communities from its white communities.
Today, the route continues to separate many neighborhoods from the downtown community, it seriously impedes efforts to revitalize the downtown district and future expansion of the route would bring it within 18 feet of some of the areas buildings including the Sheraton.
This is not just an issue for Birmingham. There are many American cities where these interstates act as a divider between one class and another, and by removing these sections of interstate and diverting traffic out of downtown areas we can rejuvenate many American cities. This would benefit the property owners, and it would provide much needed area for growth.
My plans for investing in our nation’s infrastructure would provide the funds necessary to remove the interstates that need to be removed and reroute them away from our downtown neighborhoods.
Now, while there are other issues that affect poverty, I believe that these are the first steps we should take in our fight against poverty, and when elected to the U.S. Senate, I will do everything I can to make sure that we take these necessary steps.
Ending poverty is in the best interest of all Americans, not taking steps to end poverty puts our economy and our nation at risk, and there is no ethical or moral point that justifies subjecting millions of Americans to a life of poverty when our entire nation would benefit from their success.
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