By Clay

Ending Poverty:  “For lack of willingness in Washington to rethink a half-century that hasn't worked, real families in real communities struggle to get by. Many are stuck in mounds of red tape just trying to access the programs for which they qualify.  This isn't what LBJ intended. He sought to remove not just the consequences of poverty but its causes. Rather than parking people on programs forever, he said in his 1964 State of the Union address, "Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it." Great. When do we start?”

Good quote and fair assessment on Ryan's plan in the article.  There have been a lot of positive reviews about Ryan’s plan from left and right—even if it is to say this a good start for a serious discussion.  Hopefully that serious discussion takes place.  But here in north Georgia we are an organization looking to work with “real families in real communities” and to be part of the solution to prevent poverty.  So when do we start?  We already have—you can start here.  And now it is a tax-exempt donation!!!

ARPI 2016!:  “His anti-poverty measures include calling for more effective drug treatment programs to reduce drug addiction in the inner cities, better schools to encourage students to get at least a high school diploma, and more effective job-training programs. “It doesn’t mean gutting government poverty programs, but it does mean targeting them more at the causes of the poverty and making them effective by getting them away from the top-down Washington approach and getting down into the communities where they are more effective,” Portman said.”

I know, I know.  You can be completely cynical about this, or encouraged that poverty is a major issue for 2016.  I choose to be encouraged, but understand that many people can be skeptical of “Hi, I’m X, and I have a poverty plan that I want to implement in 2016.”  I think it really is funny that these kinds of articles only come out about Republican candidates.  Why is it assumed that they don't care for the poor? 

Although, It does seem a bit self-serving—so I think this is a good time to announce that ARPI is running for the White House in 2016!  The Supreme Court says ARPI is a person--so why can't ARPI run?  I guess ARPI isn't old enough

I’m just being cheeky.  I think Portman is right in calling for targeted programs, but in today’s Chattanooga Time Free Press they have an article about the difficulties of a local approach to programs.  Maybe it is the growing pains of the changes to the program—but I just think any bureaucratic program is difficult to navigate.  But it is easier to navigate when those who are working in the program are more accessible to those who need it.

Rural Poverty in the 21st Century:  “That’s the story of the new rural poverty in America: If your hometown went south, you probably did with it, unless you managed to get out and had the wherewithal to not come back.”

Lydia DePillis nails it.  Read the whole thing.  This is why I came back to work here.  What is true in this small Colorado town is true here in Georgia—and much of the country for that matter.  It is an easier problem to identify than solve, but I’m willing to give it a try.

My favorite line: “The town of Las Animas takes about five minutes to drive through when the one stoplight is blinking yellow, as usual. It’s easy to miss but hard to escape.”

Good Question:  “If jobs that provide even low-skilled workers with a middle-class lifestyle are gone for good, and if the institutions that once enforced a moral framework that guided or forced people to make better decisions have atrophied — what’s left to us? How do you create a new framework where better choices seem viable? Answer that one — and maybe once and for all you solve the problem of poverty in America.”

I don’t have an answer, but this question should give people pause in any community.

And this stops me in my tracks (from the article Dreher article):

“Religion is culture, and culture has consequences. The answer to the question of poverty is hard, but it often seems like it’s easier to figure out how to transfer more financial capital to the poor than to figure out how to transmit more spiritual capital to them. This is not just a problem for the poor. It’s a problem for the Church. It’s a problem for America. It’s a problem for all of us.”

Now, I’m not an evangelist.  I don’t think religion is the answer for every person that is having a tough time—but I am concerned with the erosion of communities that once connected people and developed social formations that had rules, norms, incentives, and sanctions.  Isn't that the challenge of Kenneally's photos?  What do you do?  Whether you are religious or just a decent secular human being--you are taught not to judge--but there is certainly a time when you must have the moral courage to step and say this is wrong. 

Here’s a link to the digital folk art that sparked all of this.  Our communities are failing.  We are used to Dickensian poverty but not this.  This is on all of us and it reminds me of the two pillars of RFK's faith "that everyone has a duty to alleviate suffering, and that no one can live a fully happy life while surrounded by the unaddressed misery of others." On page 162 of this, Thurston Clarke's book which I'd encourage you to read.       

Kenneally is working in the best tradition of Riis, whose work has been a daily reminder and motivator for what I’m doing.

I wonder what Cooper (from a previous post) would have to say about the trappings of a lack of moral framework—this is why I don’t believe it can be something as simple as a wealth transfer (he argued to mirror Nordic programs and just give more money to fight poverty).  This also fits into that structural vs. personal choice argument that I dislike.

50 Years After Lyndon Johnson Declared the War on Poverty: “The trailer is parked in the side yard of the home, now rotting away, where he grew up. A second camper trailer, even older, is in the front yard and is filled with the tools he used before a stroke left him disabled. The detritus of his life – a lawn mower, an upholstered recliner, a couple of plastic buckets, an old car that hasn’t run in months – are scattered around the yard From the camper’s door, Traviss, 55, can look across fields, where deer graze.  If he steps outside with his walker and surveys the neighborhood, he sees poverty – rural poverty, the kind that is little noticed by much of the nation. He used to be a machinist and a tool and die maker, but now, since the stroke, his only income is from Social Security disability.  “It’s not enough. I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s hard to get by out here. For me it’s rough. There’s a lot of people in a lot worse shape than me.”

That line about the War on Poverty always appears in these articles.  This looks the same in Georgia as it does in Michigan.  The same tone of helplessness, disempowerment, and lack of opportunity for the young is always there.

Health in Rural Communities:  “Children in Ohio's rural counties face health problems their city peers don't, and the gap is getting worse in some areas, according to a Children's Defense Fund report released Thursday.”

Not sure if this holds true for Georgia communities but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Let’s Film Rich Hill 2:  Directors Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo’s documentary Rich Hill follows three teenage boys as they struggle through a life of poverty in a small Missouri town. The directors, who also live in that community, take an intimate, loving approach in depicting their way of life in the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film.

I really want to tell the story of the rural poor here and in the same fashion.  I’m looking for a filmmaker.

SIB Problems:  “It is also clear that the cost of, and the time required for, negotiations on how Social Impact Bonds will work are an even bigger problem than first suspected. It took 11 months of negotiations between the private sector intermediary organization and the British Ministry of Justice before they could agree on what data to use for measuring whether or not the first Social Impact Bond project was a success. This is after spending 18 months negotiating on how the program would be set up.”

This is a concern of mine as well, but I think it can be overcome.  The first problem with the bond failing to meet its objective is why I believe the law should be changed so that this money from investors should be viewed as a tax-exempt donation if the program fails.  Although, I doubt the author would like that very much. 

Unfortunately, I know the fact that the Peterborough SIB failing is going to be something that will be repeated by SIB detractors, but I guess the unions can have a measure of schadenfreude in watching rich investors lose money.  Although, happy unions may not be the social impact we are looking for. 

All of the above—the stats on poverty, the personal stories, the photographs, and hearing about this country’s failing communities has me angry and ready to march out and do something—so does Iraq and ISIS, Afghanistan’s presidential election, Ukraine and Russian military aggression, Boko Haram, and Ebola.  Instead I’m sitting at a Starbucks trying to get this organization off the ground.  Instead of focusing on all that’s negative in the news, I want to leave on a positive note.  This was something that was engrained in me from my days as a college athlete.  I never left basketball practice on a miss.  You have to leave on a positive and here it is.  The memory of Judith Schorr.  I’ll let the Times Free Press tell it:

“Judith Schorr was a tenacious woman.  She marched up and knocked on the doors of drug houses and told the occupants they weren't welcome in Highland Park. She called neighborhood kids to warn of police chases through the streets. She confronted prostitutes and urged them to get help. She testified in front of state committees. She would break into a song at the drop of a hat.  For decades Schorr was the heartbeat of Highland Park, almost single-handedly rallying the neighborhood to fight against crime, bridging the gap between police and citizens.  She diligently worked until the very end, when she died unexpectedly June 20.”

Here is a person that was dedicated to improving her neighborhood.  I may not be as courageous or tenacious, but I can try and follow the example in trying to rally a neighborhood.  RIP.