Paul Ryan keeps talking about the “root causes” of poverty. He likes to say that there are “generations” of men who “don’t even think about getting a job or having a work ethic”. According to Mr. Ryan, his heart goes out to poor people. He proves just how much his heart goes out with his budget! Things that will really help the poor. Cutting food stamps. Cutting Medicaid. Cutting Pell Grants. And, giving the multi-millionaires a tax cut averaging $200,000.
Mr. Ryan wants to help the poor. He even says that his budget is based on his Catholic Teachings. I must have gone to a different Catholic school system than he did because the Catholic Teaching, especially on social issues, that I learned are totally opposite of what he has been preaching. We were taught that helping the poor was a social responsibility.
If Mr. Ryan really wants to get to the “root causes” of poverty there are some things that he can do. He can actually write, or pass already existing legislation that will help the poor. And, I am not talking about “government handouts” either. There are lots of things that can help eliminate poverty in this country. Yes, they will cost money as everything does and take time, but the return on investment will be tremendous. These initiatives would create better prepared people to enter the workforce, ensure fair pay, and increase revenue to the government by billions of dollars every year. Unfortunately, it will take guts and conviction to get them passed. I am not sure Mr. Ryan has neither the guts nor the conviction necessary to do the work.
Here is what I believe needs to be done to eliminate the “root causes” of poverty, in no particular order:
1. Stop Privatizing Public Schools and Create Solid Pubic Education For All! This is one of the main root causes of poverty. We will never have a chance to eliminate or significantly reduce poverty while public education is so dysfunctional. When I say it is dysfunctional, I am not referring to the millions of hard-working dedicated public school teachers either. I am referring to the “local control” of public education.
It has been argued for generations that public education “needs local control”. I have always asked why? Since our children will be working in a “global economy”, local control is not the answer for what they will need to succeed. Local control of public education is what got us into this mess we call public education.
Some groups want to introduce “religion” into science classes, while others don’t. The worst thing about “local control” is that public education is dependent upon local property taxes. Now, that may seem fair on one hand, but wealthy areas will pay more property taxes than less wealthy and rural areas. As a result, a two-tiered system of public education becomes a reality. Wealthy areas have new schools. They pay their teachers better. They are better equipped to help their students succeed. There is nothing wrong with that. However, poorer and rural areas don’t get the same funding as the wealthy areas. As a result, they have older and outdated schools. They pay their teachers less. They even have a hard time supplying the necessary equipment to properly educate their students.
The Republican plan for this is to privatize schools. The have called for vouchers for years. The stated goal it to “allow parents to choose the school their child attends”. That is a fallacy of the worst kind. Every student isn’t “allowed” to attend the school of their choice. There are restrictions on admittance. Most of these “charter or private voucher schools” won’t take special needs children. Many limit the number of minorities they take. Many are religious schools so if you don’t belong to “their church” you cannot get in or you have to pay far more tuition than others. Meaning the “voucher” you get won’t pay the entire cost of tuition so you won’t be able to afford to send you children there.
Worst, it leaves the most vulnerable children to rely on less funded public education. With public money going to these “vouchers”, there isn’t enough money left in the school budget to educate the left out children. As a result, we not only get a two-tiered school system, we get a three-tiered system. Since it is the most vulnerable children left in the third tier, poverty is going to be ever on-going.
The only real solution is to standardize education across the nation. That will mean taking control of public education away from “local control” and placing it in the hand of professional educators. Yes, it means that the Department of Education will have more of a say in how our children will be educated. I am not overly happy with “core standards” as they are, especially since teachers performance are based mostly on test results. But, we do need to ensure that all children get basic foundational education in areas like reading, arithmetic, writing, history, science, and yes, the arts.
The best way to formulate new ideas is to teach children to think! Children will not be able to properly think unless they are given the foundations of a good education. All of my life I have heard that “education is the great equalizer”. That wasn’t true while I was growing up, and this tiered education system is making things worse. Every child is not getting the education that could be their “great equalizer”.
Of course, going this route creates several problems. The biggest is funding. Since public education is currently funded through property taxes, we will need to have some other way to pay for it. Maybe we need to have a special tax for education. Taking part of the current property tax and moving it into a different pot may be the answer. That is something for people much smarter than me to figure out. But, I can think of no better way to ensure that public education is equal for everyone. Schools need to be remodeled or rebuilt. Teacher pay needs to be reexamined. Text books need to be standard in all areas of education.
I know this may get me in trouble with conservatives, but religion needs to be taken out of public education. Religion is a personal matter between you and your god. It has nothing to do with giving our children a good education. Religion has crept back into public schools mainly because of “local control”. While a majority in one area may want it in schools, it is wrong to force it on those who don’t. Public education needs to be secular. If you want your children to have a religious background, it is your responsibility to give it to them. Not the teachers in public school.
2. Affordable College Education. Today the average student graduates from college with a debt of anywhere between $30,000 and over $100,000. That is ridiculous! I know that college costs a lot of money. It was expensive even when I went to college years ago. Especially when you compared it to the cost of living then and now.
State Universities and Community Colleges are again tied to State budgets. Some state universities costs less than others, for in-state students because the State provides good funding to them. Other state universities costs more simply because the State Legislature won’t give them the money they need to keep costs down. Community colleges usually fall at the bottom of the food chain.
Let’s face facts. Something needs to be done about the growing costs of college education. One of the main things that helps keep student debt down is the Pell Grants. But, Mr. Ryan wants to cut Pell Grants by $125 billion. That will either eliminate people from getting a college education, or make their debt significantly higher. Both results are not good.
I suggest that Mr. Ryan bring together college administrators, professional educators, budge experts, and anyone else he can think of to sit down and come up with a comprehensive plan that may reduce the cost of a college education. We need to make college available to anyone who wants to attend.
Bringing down the cost of college education without reducing the effectiveness of that education is not going to be easy. But, if we don’t do something, our grandchildren will be faced with either insurmountable debt upon graduating or will choose not to attend college at all. Sorry, but money should not be the deciding factor in getting a college education.
3. Bring Trade Schools Back To Public Education. When I was attending high school, most public schools had what was referred to as “shop”. These classes were for those students who were not looking to get a college education, but wanted to learn a trade that would provide good paying jobs. These classes have mostly disappeared from public education.
Today, we have “private” trade schools that teach these same trades as once were taught in public schools. Now, maybe having professionals teaching their trade is a good idea, but the cost of these “trade schools” is almost as high as getting a four-year degree! By “privatizing” trade schools, we have again eliminated the “most vulnerable” from attending. The cost is simply too high.
Additionally, I cannot find anything that says they must meet any particular “standards”. Even colleges must be “accredited” in order for their grades to be transferable or be recognized by most major companies. I may be missing it, but I cannot find any such “accreditation” for these trade schools.
Rather than rely on all of these private schools without accreditation, we could bring “shop” back to the high school level, and offer this “trade education” in our community colleges. If there are people willing to teach at a “trade school” we should be able to recruit them to teach the same thing at our schools. It worked before, it should work again.
By bringing back this type of education, we will be training students who don’t want to go to college. That will provide them with a “trade” they can get a good paying job in.
4. Create an Atmosphere for Job Creation not Job Exportation. It is far too easy for a company to move their operations overseas. As we discussed earlier, there are even tax deductions that make it even more appealing to move a factory overseas than to keep it in the U.S. Republicans have always said that taxes are the reason companies move overseas. The companies say it is because of wages. Both may have valid points, but each standing on their own have no merit at all.
One of the biggest expenditures that companies face in running a factory is energy costs. Reliance on oil or coal based electricity or other energy sources has driven the cost of powering a factory sky-high. Instead of offering more tax incentives to the oil companies, we need to offer more incentives to renewable energy.
Wind is free. Solar is free. We need to harness these energies, as well as a myriad of other free sources, to rebuild our power grid. That will help reduce the costs of energy for our companies as well as our households. If we could drive down the cost of energy by even 40%, companies would be able to keep wages at a livable rate, and still make more profits. That should help stop the exporting of jobs overseas. When companies have a choice of high energy costs coupled with labor costs, they will seek the lowest labor costs. If on the other hand they get a big reduction in energy costs that are not available overseas, they will be more inclined to stay put.
We can fix a whole lot of problems with this kind of policy. We can cut carbon emissions, slow down global warming, and cut energy costs all at the same time. But, again it will need bold vision to make this happen. It will require hard work, and a complete rebuild of our power grid. But, the return on investment would be tremendous.
Besides, look at all of the good paying, long-lasting jobs rebuilding the power grid, and other areas of our infrastructure would create. These jobs would increase tax revenue by the billions for several years reducing our budget deficit and national debt.
5. Raise the Minimum Wage. For Mr. Ryan to argue he “has compassion for the poor” and continue his fight against raising the minimum wage is a contradiction at best and totally hypocritical at worst. What is wrong with making sure that people who work for a living actually make a living? Why is it so terrible that everyone pay an extra 2 cents for that can of peas at Wal-Mart so its employees can afford to buy that can of peas without government assistance?
The arguments against raising the minimum wage have gone on for too many decades. Every time they say it will kill jobs, it doesn’t. According to the Republicans, everything will kill jobs. Remember in 2012 when the fight was over killing the Bush Tax Cuts for the wealthy was hot? The Republicans said that it would kill jobs if the tax cuts for the wealthy were allowed to end. Now, over a year later, we continue non-stop, with private sector job growth. Seems that raising taxes on the wealthy didn’t kill all those jobs. Raising the minimum wage won’t either. In fact, most economists argue that it will actually create more jobs.
When people have more money to spend, they spend it. That increases demand for products and services, which in turn, creates more jobs to produce those products and services. I thought the Republicans knew how capitalism is supposed to work?
There are a lot of other ideas that can work as well. Like passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, and ENDA. But, I believe that the five I listed above are the “root causes” of poverty.
I know that conservatives will argue that this will “cost too much”. That is not a valid argument since costs are always balanced by return on investment. Since I believe that the return on investment will far exceed the cost for these ideas, that should eliminate their arguments.
The real problem we face in implementing these plans is whether or not Mr. Ryan and his party are really interested in getting to the “root causes” of poverty. If they are, they should jump on these ideas immediately. But, I am afraid that Mr. Ryan and his party are NOT interested in getting to the “root cause” of poverty. They want poverty to continue since it only affects who they call “them”.
It is time we need to hound them to come up with something better than merely cutting taxes for the wealthy. We need to hound them to come up with real solutions to real problems. We must let them know we are sick of their “talking points” and want things to change. That is the best way to expose them for what they really are, the party of the rich only. Then, we need to work harder to get them voted out of office in November. Beginning with Mr. Ryan.