The Kentucky Poverty Task Force
I read a lot. I work in social services. I also live in the poorest Congressional District in the United States which is in one of the poorest states in the nation. So, needless to say, I’ve seen poverty and deal with it rather regularly. So, I took particular interest when I received this newsletter:
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Members of the Poverty Task Force held the first of their four meetings Monday in an effort to develop comprehensive anti-poverty legislation for the 2010 Regular Session General Assembly.
“The Bible says the poor will always be with us, but we have to try to take care of them,” said House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who is chairing the task force alongside Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard.
The initial meeting was staged as an information-gathering exercise, with a presentation by Drs. James P. Ziliak and Richard Fording from the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research. The two professors introduced some statistics on the commonwealth’s comparative poverty before suggesting possible policy solutions.
One in six Kentuckians lived below the federal poverty line as of 2008, Fording said, the fourth highest rate among all states. “Keep in mind this doesn’t include the bulk of the recession,” he noted, indicating that current rates are likely to be even higher.
Certain demographics fare even worse, Fording said, with minorities, female-headed families, rural families, those with less than a high school education, and children all having higher rates. Ninety-five of the state’s 120 counties had child poverty rates of 20 percent or more as of 2007, and three counties had rates of more than 50 percent.
Sen. Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, noted that he represented two of those counties, and that the federal poverty threshold did not account for local differences in the cost of living. Ziliak acknowledged that there were some shortcomings in federal data, but that it proved useful in tracking trends.
Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, pointed out that even in relatively well-to-do counties, there are pockets of poverty, and that effective programs are crucial in every county.
Among the programs tried by other states in reducing poverty are early education and home nurse visits, Ziliak said. “The seeds for dropping out (of high school) are planted earlier,” he remarked, and a high school education or more are crucial in the modern economy. Reaching children before they reach the age of 3 can have a tremendous impact on later achievement, he said.
Several lawmakers also said that additional opportunities for vocational education are essential to keep all students on a path toward personal prosperity. The UK researchers observed that workforce training helped boost the benefits of economic development subsidies to businesses as well.
Modernizing the tax code and establishing a state earned income tax credit could also result in more Kentuckians joining the work force, Ziliak said. Subsidies for child care and incentives for savings accounts could also help people lift themselves out of poverty, he said.
Expansion of broadband capability and other technology was a favorite of several legislators.
“The Internet provides access to information that the folks in the urban areas can get every day,” said Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Jeffersonville. Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, remarked that in many poverty-stricken areas of the state, large service providers choose not to expand their service because it’s not cost-effective, and Kentuckians suffer as a result.
Lawmakers throughout the meeting suggested options and programs that have worked or could provide promise. “It’s becoming clear to me that a multi-field approach is critical,” said Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington.
The panel also has meetings scheduled for Oct. 26, Nov. 16, and Dec. 1.
OK, so, we got legislators in one of the poorest states in the country meeting to discuss poverty. Right off the bat I see problems. First of all, the fact that there is poverty in Kentucky is not really something anyone needs to point out. It’s not like it’s been on national news over the last forty years or anything. Whenever Hollywood wants to make a movie with characters that are down on their luck and basically stupid, they were from Kentucky. So, for this group of esteemed lawmakers to suddenly feel a need to address poverty in Kentucky is rather amazing to me.
But it just seems to get worse once they did gather to discuss it. Greg Stumbo, known for not being a terribly righteous person, starts by quoting the Bible. I might add, he gets it wrong:
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
That’s not implying the poor have to always be with us. It just simply says if you meet a person in need, do for them as you’d have them do for you. Then another legislator points out we need all kinds of social programs to help them. Daycare, welfare, etc. etc. In other words, if a young girl goes out and gets knocked up and drops out of high school, we’ll make sure she’s provided for. That’s BS. That’s enabling. That’s the reason we have entire communities gripped in poverty.
The simple fact is this is the 21st century. This committee has the concept that if you bring internet jobs to a bunch of people who never bothered to learn to read, they will suddenly become good employees. Not one single employer on this planet will take that chance. And for good reason. These people have developed a mentality that it’s fine and dandy living on the backs of others via social programs. Not one kid born in this country sets out to be a pregnant, unwed, drug addicted, teenager. They learn that it’s OK to be that as they grow up. Their parents got by. They can too. Our society has bent over backwards, even going so far now as to fabricate verses from the Bible, to show how sympathetic we are to those in need. Politicians climb over each other in desperate displays of sympathy knowing full well they are enabling the next generation of losers who will simply be fodder for the next generation of politicians. I have seen six young girls in high school get pregnant over the last year. Only one I give a chance of not being on welfare the rest of her life. Their parents for the most part could care less where these girls were so long as they weren’t in their hair. They are cranking out kids about as quickly as they can get laid. They could care less what the consequences are.
So, the situation is we’ve got people making up Bible verses to enable parents abandoning their responsibilities, which allows their kids to not understand what responsibility is, which just passes on the problem to the next generation and starts it all over again.
Some hard realities need to be addressed before this cycle is broken. Jobs are not the answer for those who see no value in working. Harsh, but I know this to be true. Some people just feel justified to mooch off everyone else because of (insert cop-out here). They don’t care if they are considered a failure. Teaching them to fish is a waste of time. They do however, screw around, do drugs, get drunk, do whatever they please whenever they see fit. I don’t get that luxury, I have to work to support my family. So, pardon me if I’m possibly the first person to come and state I’m sick and tired of those that don’t feel compelled to work. There are exceptions of course for those physically unable to work. But, if you can work, you should be.
A little history here. Pre-1960 or so, people went wherever they had to in order to work. There was no welfare. There were no food stamps. In that situation, children were a burden. If things got too bad at home, you went to large cities to get a job. Most of Kentucky went to Michigan and Ohio to work. There just weren’t any jobs. My grandfather came to this area by way of Alabama. He came here to work building bridges and sawmills. His children all left here for the most part to work. Sitting on your ass just wasn’t an option. You starved. People felt pity, but they had their own to feed.
Rule #1 to fight poverty, don’t reward laziness. We’ve gotten ourselves in a jam by doing that for forty years. Let’s not make it that much worse by creating even more programs to reward doing nothing.
Rule #2, don’t reward behaviors detrimental to society. If you’re living off the public, ie, my money, I just don’t think you’ve got what it takes to raise a kid. Sorry, but you’ve obviously not thought much about what you have to offer a kid. If that person wants to continue living off of me, get fixed. And, if they continue to live off me for more than, say, two years, give the kid to someone who doesn’t. There are lots of people desperate to adopt. I’d much rather they adopt our own than import third-world kids. And, I’d love to give that kid an idea that there are better things in this world to pursue than, well, what their mother obviously was pursuing.
Rule #3, if a guy fathers a child and doesn’t feel like supporting it, make him feel like it. Right now things are just too easy if the guy doesn’t want to deal with it. He just basically denies paternity, the mother doesn’t push it, he’s off the hook, and I am put on the hook. Screw that. If a girl cranks out a kid on the public dollar, that kid is automatically DNA’d and fingerprinted. If the couple is not terribly willing to identify that dad, the government will do it for them. When it does, that dad pays, period. If he’s on welfare, he’s docked whatever the benefit for that kid is. No exceptions.
Rule #4, when applying for benefits, when jobs are made available, don’t limit those jobs by location. If they have to move to another place to do the job, so be it. Give them a little extra for moving.
Rule #5, if you don’t pass high school, no drivers license. Period.
Rule #6, if you don’t pass high school or get a GED, no state or federal jobs. Period. Reserve those for those that do try.
Rule #7, LIMIT FOOD STAMPS TO ONLY THOSE FOODS DEEMED NECESSARY. No Coca Cola, only generic. No Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Nutter Butter. Only nature cereals, bread, corn, green beans, things like that. If they want to gorge themselves on sweets, get a job. In this day and age with grocery scanners, this is way too easy to do.
Rule #8, make sure they understand that only one kid will be provided for by us. If they get, say, $500 a month for childcare, that’s for one or ten. It’s very difficult to get young girls to understand the burdens and responsibilities of motherhood before they have kids. It’s a lot easier after the first.
Rule #9, give out condoms, birth control pills, sponges, and any conceivable birth control device to any kid receiving free lunches. Teach them how to have sex without cranking out accidental burdens. I’d go into that detail here, but, I’d enjoy that too much. The assumption unsupervised teens don’t get horny is about as stupid as having kids in high school.
Rule #10, double the tax credits for adopting US born children. It’s a very expensive process for the average person. If they can afford the process, they should be putting the kid in a better environment and most often appreciate that child a lot more than a mother that just had an accident. We should do everything we can to get that kid in a better environment.
Rule #11, do not allow a GED until that person has performed a bona-fide job requirement. These legislators think bringing the internet to these communities will help, but, people have to know how to even use the internet tools to be attractive to employers. Cruising Facebook just won’t do it. Make them compose a web page. Unless they are retarded, every single one of them can do it.
Rule #12, if someone’s receiving public assistance, require random blood screening. Make it hurt too. For a lot of people on assistance, this is their job. Hit their paycheck. Let them worry about the ramifications. I could care less if someone wants to get stoned on their own dime. I have real problems with an entire culture that feels they have the Constitutional Right to get stoned on my money.
Rule #13, penalize those that abandon family. It’s gotten so bad that in Kentucky, the state is pushing a program that rewards kids who abandon their indigent parents. Re-visit the moral implications of Consumer Directed Options, Stumbo. If the state has to provide for an indigent family member, then the state should dock the other family members for that expense. The annoying thing about that is that is already the law, the state just selectively enforces it.
Rule #14, don’t allow politicians to pander the issue unless they have a concrete plan to remove people from poverty. No one program is going to do it all. You see a situation, you address it. One of the biggest hurdles here in poverty stricken Appalachian Bible belt is drug abuse of every sort you can imagine. People are blowing themselves up to make meth. If you want a social program to address poverty, get these people off meth and other drugs. No internet company will ever hire them the way they are. If they don’t want to get off the drugs, cut off assistance. They’re killing themselves just a little more slowly and a lot more expensively if we simply abet and supplement their habit. Do interventions, rehab, drug-replacement programs, you name it, whatever it takes to get them back on their benefits until they can find a job. You lower the drug abuse rate, you lower the poverty rate. Period.
The reason we have the poverty levels we do right now has been vocalized by a lot of non-committees. We reward poverty. When we make it undesirable to live in poverty, poverty will lessen. It really is that simple. If kids become a burden, they will have fewer kids. It’s not that hard to do. It does however, require two things that our society seems to have completely abandoned over the years, sternness and personal responsibility. In most cases of a healthy young person on benefits, it really is their own damn fault.