Monday, November 21, 2005

Now that we've got that out of the way...

The executive director of the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Athens weighs in in today's ABH about poverty.

We've got to admit, we're glad that the community as a whole is starting to pay attention to the issue, and that it's finally getting some ink in the ABH. Patty Freeman-Lynde (the aforementioned ED of the aforementioned Network) offers the usual solutions, and she gets it right. Put succinctly, if you want to ameliorate poverty, you've got to either raise wages or reduce costs, or preferably both.

And, if we had one criticism to make of her op-ed, its that it makes it sound far easier than it is. But, let us tell you, she hit the nail on the head on one issue, and it's one that not many folks are talking about.

Affordable Housing.

We've been saying for some time that affordable housing is going to be the sleeper issue in 2006, not just locally, but probably nationally as well. Will affordable housing drown out Iraq, the Warren Tara (TM), job loss, or the fact that 41.6 million Americans can't afford to go to the doctor? No, but smart candidates from both parties will be talking about it on the campaign trail.

Anyway, sounds like Patty Freeman-Lynde has gotten the poverty issue licked, so if the M&C would just listen to her, we could fix things and go back to talking about bike lanes and artsy-fartsy bus stops.


Jmac said...

Patty's a sharp lady, and we're quite lucky to have her at IHN. It's hard to get into details about how exactly we should fix poverty in town, but she's touched on the goals we should be striving for. Now we need to get a plan in place.

Anonymous said...

Pat is a good person and one of many.

I just have to shake my head at you KIA blog guys who somehow think that just because you have not heard about all that has been going on in this town for years and years and years that you somehow believe that it means that nobody has been doing anything.

The real problem seems to be that folks like you haven't bothered to step away from your XBoxes long enough to find out that good, honest, generous, sincere people have been working on trying to help people escape from poverty since before you started school in some north Atlanta suburb. Do you really think that reading the Banana Herald keeps you up to date on ALL that is happening?!

Get out in the real world and find out for yourself. Then, you might have something worth writing about.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

KIA? Have we been killed in action? Ouch!

For the record, both myself and my partner in crime were born in and grew up in the Classic City, not a suburb of anything, and we have both been here "for years and years".

And we're not suggesting that nobody has been doing anything. God bless everyone who has, and I certainly know some "in the real world", which I believe I'm in (if it's not, somebody's got a lot of explaining to do to me). Our point, or at least my point, is that it's hardly ever enough, and that the government has the responsibility to pick up the rest of the slack.

And also for the record, I have never owned, played, and besides unwittingly strolling by one in a Best Buy, never even seen, an Xbox.

Publius said...

Yeah, what's with the vitriol there, buddy? Way to generalize, I guess.

Beyond that, and thinking that your comments were kind of douchbaggy, I agree with my partner.

Jmac said...

Especially considering I'm on the board of directors for IHN (in addition to being an active volunteer), as well as the advisory committee for Clarke Central's Vocational Department.

Our anonymous poster is right - good things do happen with regard to poverty in Athens-Clarke County. The fact they happen without a comprehensive plan incorporating the public sector, the business community, the university, the non-profits and the religious community is even more amazing.

Imagine if we actually had a plan. Our successes would be more frequent and more numerous.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

Yeah, what jonathan said too.

Fishplate said...

I appreciate that people are working to eliminate poverty, and that it isn't always a person's own fault, but...

"There are many reasons for poverty - lack of education or marketable skills, illness or disability, early pregnancy, divorce, domestic violence and bad luck."

Not much we can do about bad luck, illness or disability, but there is a certain amount of bad decision making in lack of education/skills, early pregnancy, divorce, and yes, even domestic violence. These are all things that can be controlled and even almost eliminated if we could find a way to make kids pay attention, stay in school, and don't get knocked up.

"A person working 40 hours a week at minimum wage can afford about $275 in monthly rent. Do you know any homes available for that?"

Oh yes, many of them on the bus line. Not homes, but bedrooms in a home. If you are making minimum wage, you may not be able to afford a home of your own - get a roommate. If you can't do that ecause you started a family before you could afford it, then that was a bad choice.

"To lower the poverty rate, increase wages and benefits."

Won't this raise prices, which will then raise the poverty level, necessitating a raise in wages in benefits?

"Support public transit, good low-cost housing, and provide child care and health care for those who make less than a living wage. There are many nonprofit organizations in Athens working on these issues, but we can't do it without help, from government and individuals."

Meaning you can't do it without taking it from people who made good choices, stayed in school, waited until they could afford a family to start one, and weren't raised to believe that the Government would solve all thier problems.

I don't mean to sound harsh, because some people truly do need help for a period of time until they can get back on thier feet. If they have chosen to chop their feet off, then they don't deserve everything that everyone else has, just because they want it too.

Some hurricane evacuees make a perfect example. Those that are complaining that they only have two weeks to find a home seem to have been asleep for the past ten weeks, while everybody else knew they weren't going back, because there was no back to go to. So mid-September was the time to start looking for new housing and a job, instead of riding the FEMA gravy train as long as you could, and then acting surprised when it ran out of steam...

Poverty is a condition that can be cured easily, in many cases. But not by simply throwing more money. How many trillions (with a T) have been trown at the problem since we first started fighting this war over forty years ago? You think Iraq or Viet Nam are quagmires? The War on Poverty makes them look like an eyeblink.

I would like to hear some new, practical solutions to the problem. Athens is full of affordable housing, but every time some gets built, more is needed. We need to discover why traditional methods don't work, before we simply doo more of the same to make ourselves feel like we are doing something.

Publius said...

Whoosh! Lots of stuff to comment about, FP.

To begin with, you're right and you're wrong. You're absolutely right in saying that there are a variety of causes of poverty, some avoidable, some not. I'm not sure whether we do a better job, as a society of taking care of the folks who could avoid it, or the folks who couldn't.

My favorite thing that you said, because I agree with it so srtongly is this: "These are all things that can be controlled and even almost eliminated if we could find a way to make kids pay attention, stay in school, and don't get knocked up."

To me, that's the heart and soul of what the progressive agenda should be. We all know that we aren't going to fix the poverty problem without throwing a little money around. Thing is, that there are two ways to spend that money. Give it directly to the poor, or invest it in education and social programs. Truth is, you've got to do a little of both.

Direct grants-in-aid are useful to help people get on their feet. Good examples (that are woefully underfunded) are Welfare child care credits, Welfare to work-type programs, etc. But, if we want to fix the problems (I don't think that we'll ever eliminate poverty, but we can definitely reduce it substantially), then we've got to address the root causes of poverty. A lot of it is, as you say, bad decisions. To me, that means that we need to fully fund public education, and spend the money the right way. (More teachers in College Park, less laptops in Marietta.) It also means that we need to look at streamlining the adoption process, and maybe, just maybe, putting a few more boots on the ground over at DFCS.

Which leads me to where I may or may not disagree with you. You see, I'm willing to admit that a lot of poor people are poor through their own fault. But, two things. First off, most make those bad choices early on. Heaven knows, I've made my share of bad decisions, everything from tight-rolling my pants in middle school to taking on a few more credits cards than I should have in college. So, I'm not sure if it's fair to write people off for life for a bad decision they made at age 18.

Second, whether we want to castigate them for making a few monumentally bad decisions or not, we're still stuck with them. So, we can dwell on the past, or we can take steps to make the present and future better. And, while I'm well-aware that fiscal conservatives tend to blanch at the idea of helping people out who have gotten themselves into a mess through their own actions, I would say that if we can substantially reduce the amount of people in this city, this state, and this nation that are living in poverty, then we will ALL benefit. Less people in poverty means less revenue going to entitlement programs, which means lower taxes. It also means safer streets and safer schools, and dare I say a healthier economy? Most importantly, it means we're a few steps closer to that "shining city on a hill," that a certain former President was fond of referencing.

Anyhoo, thanks for the insightful comment. You've given me a few ideas to blog about in the next few days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fishplate said...

Well, I seem to be agreeing with you, too. I don't want to give up on people who are willing to work to get ahead - a point I left out of my screed... As for bad choices, I'll put my bad choices up against anyone's, including yours...

But, it must be pointed out that people can work their way out of some prety deep holes - there are plenty of examples. Those people, I'm willing to help, with the hope that they soon will be paying their share of the 95% income tax burden we rich folks must bear, thus helping the next generation of sub-earners.

However, those that choose to make a living out of suckling at the Government teat get no sympathy at all.

On that note, I'll join you in a Thanksgiving toast to all.