|Posted by firstname.lastname@example.org on May 15, 2020 at 1:40 PM|
“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.” –Albert Einstein
Poverty is pervasive, persistent, and painful. It is complex and cruel in its scope. It impacts society on many levels. Both the individuals and families experiencing hardship directly, and the opportunity costs to all of us. In my tradition, the gospel calls us to acknowledge poverty and to meet it with intention and resources. For many our response to that call, while filled with good intent, does not fundamentally change the trajectory of those living in poverty. One could argue that much of our current public policies share the same attribute. The impact of our actions does not change; long term the lives of people in poverty. Does it bring comfort, perhaps, does it save lives, at times, but does it at its core attack the root cause of poverty and drive change. The stark, data-driven, answer is no.
The social service sector, along with government safety nets, has been the backstop to those in poverty. Poverty in American in the 1960s was 15% of the population. Today 60 years later, unadjusted for inflation, it remains essentially the same. If one looks at the living wage, the numbers are significantly higher. Some argue poverty is a human condition and that the poor have always been with us, an interesting perspective unless you are the one experiencing hardship. No reasonable person can make the case that poverty is good for America. The question is who and how to address the challenge it represents to all of us? Clearly, the approaches and attitudes of the last 60 years are not working.
Imagine an America where the 30-35 percent of Americans living below a living wage and likely drawing on the social safety net is no longer doing so. Imagine the impact on growth, individual and corporate taxes, crime, families, and our overall quality of life. Imagine an America where full employment comes at a living wage, and a skilled workforce drives investments in infrastructure, new technologies, and innovation across any number of critical needs. Imagine an America where opportunity is available to all and that the engine of change is a living wage job and a self-determined life, not by circumstances, but by choice and a real available opportunity and path to economic mobility.
There is a Movement in America of individuals and organizations that believe this dream is real and reachable. A Movement that draws on Einstein’s observation that big problem requires bigger ideas. Ideas that challenge the status quo while drafting off the opportunity and uniqueness of a diverse, innovative, and courageous America.
At its core, the Movement requires that government, corporations and individuals come together and make the ending of poverty in America a national priority. A Movement that believes the opportunity to advance one’s self is available to all and that opening that door is an obligation on all of us. The Movement is the belief that economic mobility is not a redistribution of wealth, but the creation of wealth through innovative public policy and incentives to create living-wage jobs while lowering the need for the social safety net. By matching investments in education and training to employment in the new economy that address infrastructure, technology investment, innovative new markets, and the environment. Jobs that provide a path out of poverty and creates a new generation of consumers and contributors.
The Movement will also require leadership that thinks big and bold and is willing to take on the old ways. It will need a consensus of voters, markets, and the private sector to take the long view. It will require us to view that maintaining individuals and families in poverty is no longer acceptable and that fundamental changes require investment, time, and a long-term generational commitment. A belief that the way out of poverty is a job at a living wage and that opportunity is indeed available to all.
I believe we are at the tipping point. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” One need not look far to see and feel the divide in our country, and long term intergenerational poverty is perhaps our worst/best example. We are not far from social unrest and with it all of the consequences.
We have a choice. We can continue as we are, and the problem will not change or we can look to our better nature and say enough. Let us hold leadership accountable at every level of government and the private sector. Vote at the ballot box and as consumers. Get educated on the issues and look for the long term, innovative programs and policies that can scale, drive real change, and support them. Support them with your vote, your Visa, and your voice. Be courageous and call for change. If you are in leadership, lead. If you can volunteer, volunteer. Put grandchildren ahead of greed.
Let us go to the next level and let us go now!
It is time to rise above.
Dave Griffith is the Head Coach at Episcopal Community Services, where they are part of the Movement using innovative brain-based science to coach individuals towards and to economic mobility and advocating for public policies that drive the same agenda. ECS employees some 175 professionals and works with some 2000 participants and 300 volunteers through its various programs.
For more go to www.ecsphilly.org