Yesterday, without a trace of irony, a friend asked me about alleviating poverty. We used to be of the same socio-economic class but I am poor now. I don’t think she realised that .
But it’s the question itself I want to address. Do we need to alleviate poverty in the US ? Well, no. We have already done that. There are no poor starving in the .streets. The hungry and homeless we do have are mostly the mentally ill who have trouble accessing assistance for a variety of reasons.
Oh , yeah , we certainly do have poor people. I am not arguing otherwise. But our poor have cell phones . I am writing on an Android smart phone that I bought a couple months ago for $35.00, as an investment toward getting a better job.
Compared to a third world poor person, I am rich. I have the option to apply for government assistance, some of which I can reasonably expect to receive. I see college kids on food stamps where I work daily. That’s in and of itself a topic for discussion for another day. The point is that we in the US HAVE alleviated poverty. What we haven’t done is cure poverty.
I am a Christian – and I am not ashamed of that fact nor will I be – and I fully believe what Jesus taught. According to Him, we will always have poor to help, which makes sense in a fallen world. Sin is at the root of a lot of poverty.
Some idiot out there is shouting at his/her phone that I should not blame the victim. I fully agree. Now stop yelling, people are watching you and thinking you’re crazy.
Some people do cause their own problems – it’s foolish and counterproductive to deny that reality. Some people cause problems for others. Systemic issues cause problems for still more. Thing is I that if we don’t understand the actual causes and complexity we can’t fix it .
Which brings me back to the topic. My answer to my friend was that poverty has been alleviated – throwing money at the symptoms does alleviate them. What it doesn’t do and can’t is cure the actual causes of poverty. The causes are multi-level and complex. Those are two things government handles very poorly. Government is really good at creating complexity, usually needlessly, but it truly stinks at navigating the complex.
It is for this reason that all of the various governmental programs aimed at fighting poverty do so by the same tried and true – and failed – methods . They alleviate the symptoms but do not cure the disease. Money, job training, more money, new programs, more money, new studies. more money …. You get the picture.
In a roundabout, piecemeal way various aspects are addressed but no systemic, methodical and comprehensive program exists. Even in an ideal world where departments don’t fight over turf and funds, this approach has no hope of ever working.
Just because we can never fully care the disease of poverty doesn’t mean we can’t make a much bigger dent. But to do that we have to address the problem as it really is and face the reality that government can’t do the job for us.