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Income Does Not
Define Poverty!

by David Stanowski
12 October 2009

A perfect society would be a true meritocracy where people were recognized and rewarded strictly on merit, and the contribution of those at the lowest income levels would be appreciated just like the efforts of the wealthiest citizens. In a perfect society, individual incomes would vary greatly, due to differences in talent, career selection, and effort; however, the amount of income earned would have nothing to do with someone’s value to society or self worth.

America has always been far from a perfect society; it is just more perfect than others. For many years, White men held a more dominant position in this country than was justified by their merit. This has changed dramatically over time, but not solely by moving closer to a more perfect meritocracy. Many Americans do not see themselves as individuals any longer; they have chosen to become members of grievance groups. Much of the shift away from White male dominance has come through a Politically Correct spoils system set up to reward people based solely on membership in one of these groups.

Deviation from a meritocracy was wrong in the past, but it is not an improvement to simply change which groups are favored, and which are not. You can not change what happened in the past by punishing people today who had nothing to do with it.

In our imperfect society, the natural variation of income levels is the source of great frustration to many. Much of the machinery of the federal government exists for no other reason than to alter the naturally occurring distribution of income. The focus of this effort is on raising the low end of the range. Unfortunately, most government programs merely seek to take income away from people in the higher brackets, and then give it to those with lower income, rather than helping them learn how to earn more themselves. This redistribution of income sends the wrong signals to people at both extremes, so that both high and low income people work less, because they have an incentive to do so.

Many people living productive and self-reliant lives suffer financial set backs that temporarily force them into the low-income bracket. Sometimes this is their own fault, but often it is due to economic conditions beyond their control. Most eventually find a way to turn things around and improve their financial condition.

Most of the people in this country begin their lives in the low incomes brackets, but pull themselves up "by their bootstraps" to higher income levels as their life unfolds.

Others are productive and self-reliant, but spend most of their lives in the lowest income brackets. No matter how anyone arrives in the low-income category, or how long they stay there, their self-sufficiency should be applauded, and their life should be acknowledged, because it is just as valid and meaningful as those higher up on the income scale. No one should ever be concerned with low income people living in their neighborhood, or in their city, because they are assets, and not  liabilities, or threats to others.

There is a very different group of people, in our society, who is  mistakenly classified simply as “low income”, like the people described above. However, they live a life that can best be described as “impoverished”. An impoverished life is really the result of a spiritual problem, and has very little to do with money. Certainly, there are also wealthy people who share a similar spiritual impoverishment, even though they enjoy substantial incomes. Helping low-income people, who are also impoverished, is rightly the job of religious or spiritual advisers and mentors, and not government bureaucrats.
Impoverished people have no sense of purpose or direction. They are dependent and helpless, and looking for someone else to take care of them. Government programs only enable their behavior problems, and make it more difficult for them to escape to find a better life.

Due to the very sad and depressing state of their lives, impoverished people often fall prey to drug and alcohol abuse, and are troubled by social or behavior problems like domestic violence, out-of-wedlock birth, a high drop out rate, and chronic unemployment. Their daily routines may include vandalism, loitering, panhandling, truancy, and vagrancy. Some turn to crime, and surrounding neighbors and businesses are their easiest targets. Due to the desperation that this lifestyle engenders, one study found that many young people, who are trapped in poverty, because of their parents, come to see themselves as guerrilla fighters against their more prosperous neighbors.
There is no reasonable argument why anyone should want to welcome impoverished people into their city and into their neighborhood, because it is obvious that they do not contribute to the community, they are a costly drain on city resources, and their presence and behavior represents a constant threat to those in their vicinity. This is why a very clear distinction must be made between productive and self-reliant low-income people, and those living in poverty, when crafting public policy.

The political movement that began during the New Deal, and was then amplified by the War on Poverty sought to blur the distinction between people living in poverty and productive people with low-incomes, because that created a much larger client base for their “programs”. These “programs” were designed to alter the naturally occurring income differences in society by redistributing income, using cash transfers, and new concepts such as "Public Housing".  

The philosophy of the elites, who developed the programs for the War on Poverty, was that their clients “deserved” the help that they were receiving, because they were usually members of grievance groups, so there should be no requirements or conditions on continued assistance. Due to this “entitlement mentality”, they succeeded in transforming many formally productive low-income people into helpless and dependent impoverished serfs in their feudal system. No group has suffered more from the War on Poverty than the Black community. Star Parker calls Public Housing “Uncle Sam’s Plantation”, and has said many times that life on the Plantation has destroyed the Black family. 

In 1968, four years after the War on Poverty began; the U.S. poverty rate was 12.8%. Forty years later, after spending over 14 TRILLION 2008 dollars; there was absolutely no progress, because the rate was still 13.2%! So why does it continue to have any support?

The reason is very simple.

This country has developed a Poverty Industry, made up of politicians, consultants, and bureaucrats who derive immense political power, and billions of dollars a year in earnings, by keeping this charade going. Any attempts to question the lack of results, for the money spent, or to point out that the programs destroy the character of the people being “served” by them are met with vicious attacks!

The Public Housing portion of the War on Poverty is a program that has bled the taxpayers dry, ruined the neighborhoods it shares, drained the cities of economic vitality, and sentenced millions of people to a life of helpless dependency. It is time to say “ENOUGH”!

The City of Galveston has been given the unique opportunity to end this program forever, within its boundaries, but the local Poverty Industry has vowed to rebuild it, and vastly increase its scope. As is always the case, they have more political muscle and support than the general public who has to live with the “side effects” of their grand schemes.

In one camp are the citizens of Galveston who do not want the impoverished returned to their city, for the very valid reasons outlined above. This would benefit the taxpayers, the neighborhoods, the local economy, AND the former residents of our housing projects, because it would force them to make necessary changes to their lives, where they are now living, which can not do anything but give them an opportunity to escape their former life of dependency. In the other camp is the Poverty Industry that will benefit greatly from a return of “the Projects”; BUT EVERYONE ELSE WILL LOSE! They stand ready to employ their usual tactics to win this political battle.

The last thing that the Poverty Industry wants to do is to have a rational debate about how well their policies actually work. They want to create an emotional battle using their key grievance group as political pawns to enrich and empower themselves while they accuse everyone else of being "uncaring"; or worse! Even though people of all races occupy housing projects, across the country, the plague of Public Housing has come to be associated with the Black community, in the public mind. This allows the Poverty Industry to play to the race card when anyone wants to open up a legitimate discussion about the legacy of Public Housing.

They ask unanswerable questions like, “What will those people do if you close the Projects?”, to play on White guilt over past transgressions. We must find the best answers for the current problem without being influenced by guilt! The question that we should be asking is, “What will the rest of us do as the economy implodes, if we have to support ourselves, the Poverty Industry, and their dependents?”

The ideal policy, in current situation, would be for the GHA to cease and desist with any and all efforts to rebuild the housing projects, or ANY OTHER NEW developments that are designed to warehouse a population of impoverished Americans in this city. The people of Galveston must be wary of any attempts to co-opt them into “helping to design new housing projects”, or buy into the “new thinking” of using scattered site, mixed use, low density development as an answer to their objections. This has already been tried in other cities and found wanting. The effect that Public Housing has on its surrounding neighbors has nothing to do with the types, numbers, designs, or density of the buildings that it uses; it has to do with the impoverished people living in them! Any schemes or formulas for housing the impoverished in this city will bring back their behavioral and social problems into our neighborhoods, no mater how it is repackaged.

The GHA should focus exclusively on housing productive low-income residents in the City’s existing housing stock using Section 8 vouchers with the goal of helping these people become more self sufficient so that the role of GHA in this city declines over time! Of course, the Section 8 program also needs much more oversight of the landlords and tenants, as well as how the GHA staff manages the program.

The only chance this city has to reach a political resolution that finds the horrors of Public Housing gone from this island, and its former residents liberated from the helplessness and dependency of the Plantation lifestyle is for the residents of Galveston to band together as a unified force, and say “NO” to the schemes of  the Poverty Industry.   

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