May the will and the way meet
Edwards Launches 10-Year Effort to Halve Poverty
We can solve poverty today. There’s plenty of stuff to go around; it’s just not going. How do we make society’s surplus reach everybody? By way of an answer, we trim and append this 2008 article posted May 21.
by Haider Rizvi, OneWorld USFormer presidential hopeful John Edwards helped launch a campaign aiming to cut poverty in half in the United States by 2018.
"The challenge before us is to make it so that hard work is enough to get ahead again," said Edwards, a Democrat, in kicking off the antipoverty campaign in Philadelphia.
That is "not just a question of helping our brothers and sisters who are living in poverty -- it is a question of restoring the fundamental fairness that this country was founded upon."
The ex North Carolina senator championed the cause of economic justice during this 2008 election season and in his run for the vice presidency in 2004.
The campaign, billed as "Half in Ten," aims to reduce poverty by half nationwide over the next 10 years.
In 2006, 36.5 million people, or 12% of Americans lived in poverty. Nearly half of the nation's poor are Blacks and Hispanics. Of the White population, less than 1 out of 10 is suffering economic hardship.
Congress passed a $168 million stimulus bill in February, but many rights advocacy groups say that was not enough to provide sustained help to low-income Americans.
"With advocates across the country supporting us, we will cut poverty in half," said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN).
“By making some simple legislative changes, we can immediately lift thousands of people out of poverty," said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR).
In addition to LCCR and CHN, the groups leading the "Half in Ten" campaign include the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The groups are pushing for significant increases in: food stamps, unemployment benefits, the minimum wage, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, which offers a tax-time boost to the country's lowest-earning workers.
The campaigners also call for more funds for Medicaid; the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP); the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families cope with rising energy costs; and Head Start, a program that serves children in low-income families.
JJS: While it is the caring thing to do, should charity be a permanent state of affairs? Furthermore, having people prove they're poor in applying for assistance humiliates them. Additionally, paying bureaucracy to administer the above programs -- plus many dozens more -- costs nearly as much as the benefits paid out.
To share work and wealth fairly, over a century ago Henry George in Progress and Poverty proposed having government recover the value of land, so nobody would bother to hoard it, leaving lots of affordable sites for others on which to work and live. Every place that has used his remedy -- taxed land, not what’s on it -- has improved the lot of its people. Yet the reform remains little used.
George showed how to open up opportunity for people to work and invest -- the production side of an economy. Yet most activists address the distribution side -- income, both earned and otherwise corralled (corporate welfare comes to mind). Georgism can fit the distribution motif: propose that we all share society’s surplus -- what else to do with what belongs to everyone? Have government recover the values of nature, such as oil fields and downtown locations, and of privilege, such as corporate charters and broadcast licenses, then pay the citizenry a dividend from surplus public revenue, a la Alaska’s oil dividend.
Presently, people pay so much for nature and privilege that redirecting these flows, even to everyone, would still pay out big enough shares to lift the poor out of poverty. Paying everyone would erase the stigma. And we could shrink bureaucracy to human scale.
Better than redistribution -- the usual prescription -- is predistribution, sharing social surplus before the elite or state has a chance to misspend it. The advocates of both distributions need to talk. Caring people cannot eradicate poverty without affordable land. And Georgists cannot shift taxes without more proponents. Putting money in the pocket, rather than taking it out -- as does any tax -- could win everyone’s attention.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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