Duane Gundrum

Duane Gundrum
Location
Grand Rapids, Michigan,
Birthday
February 12
Bio
Writer, professor (did his Phd work in political science and holds another graduate degree in communication), former computer game designer, previously a counterintelligence agent, and currently an all around strange person. Author of 13 novels of all different types. Lives a life that is sadly in the shadow of a room full of stuffed animals who have a lot more Facebook friends than he does. Writes a lot of humor, even if his mommy is the only one who says he's funny. Also the creator of the comic strip, The Adventures of Stickman and the Unemployed Legospaceman. *********************************** My first book, Innocent Until Proven Guilty, is now on Amazon in the Kindle store. See the link as part of my links below. *********************************** If you're interested in my science fiction novel, Thompson's Bounty, the link for it is at the bottom of my profile, under Professional Writing. The link is for the Kindle version, but the paperback version is also available on Amazon. ************************************ My blog can now be subscribed to on Amazon. See my links below. ************************************ If you want to friend me on facebook, feel free to send me an invite to www.facebook.com/duane.gundrum ********************************* For twitter, follow me at DuaneGundrum.

Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 22, 2010 9:01AM

Surprisingly, the Solution to Poverty Doesn't Involve Money

Rate: 33 Flag

wealth poverty  

(If only it was as simple as choosing the street to walk or live on)

During one of my runs through graduate school, one of the courses I took was about poverty in America. The information read in class was all very scholarly type of information that looked at the problem from the outsider perspective, and the reading list included one book of someone who decided to “live poor” as part of her investigative reporting concerning the process of being poor. What struck me as being most odd about the course was that everyone in the class had a conception of what poverty meant, and almost always it was from an observer’s perspective, not someone who grew up with the very nature of what being poor might mean. There always seemed to be a “let’s compare it with Africa” or some other intellectual method of explaining poverty, and then we would analyze the many socialist methods to “fix” the problem. I think I walked away from that course more frustrated about understanding poverty than when I went into it.

You see, I was born dirt poor. I mean really poor. My family had little to no education. My dad took off when I was too young to ever remember him because we were a “burden” to him. My mother, with an incomplete middle school education, tried to function as a buffer between starvation and death for her kids, and she was too proud to ever consider taking any type of financial assistance from the government. When we had access to a stable apartment, it was usually overrun with cockroaches, and very rarely did we have enough food to sustain even one of us during difficult periods. Clothing usually came from what the Salvation Army couldn’t sell for ridiculously low prices. The apartment building where I lived most of my childhood was heroin-addict central, and strangely enough I remember this fondly because some of the most bizarre conversations I ever had with other people my age were with people who were so far gone that seemed to make a lot more sense than I probably ever will.

What changed for me was that some grammar school teacher discovered I had a strange methodology of writing and felt there was something there that needed further cajoling. I started winning a bunch of awards for young writers, which eventually put me into another demographic of students that teachers watched out for rather than ignored. Because of this, I read more than I ever would have, and I studied a lot more than I ever would have, even if it meant having to do most of my work at a school library or the public library — which often threw me out because I looked “homeless” rather than “scholarly.” I was nominated by my congressman for West Point not because I was the best choice, but because I stood in front of the selection committee and lectured them for calling me into a “review board” for the Naval Academy when they had already decided on someone other than me. My congressman called me back the next day after I stormed out and offered me West Point instead.

If anything, I got lucky. That’s it.

This brings me back to my gripe, and that is on the situation of poverty itself. Way too often we talk around the issue, often blaming those in poverty itself, or we talk about great plans to get people out of poverty. But I’ll tell you what the real problem is: Few in poverty ever believe even getting out of it is possible. Shortly after I left the Army, I decided to travel the country to get a better idea of what makes this country tick. I had enough money to get me through about a year of nonstop traveling, so it should not be surprising that after the second year, I was running out of money. I ended up in San Francisco. It was there that I decided I had to get back to the real world again, and for a period of about six months, I found myself living a very lousy, poor experience. It took me about that long to get a real job and start moving out of flop houses to real, sustained living again.

But one thing that hit me during this time was that there are some really bad people who prey on those who are part of the poor demographic. An example: I went into a convenience store on a downtown corner, and I decided to buy a small jug of milk that had a price tag of 99 cents. When I got to the cashier, he looked on this chart that was printed on his counter and then said, “that will be $1.34.” I almost paid it and then asked him what the 35 cents was for. He said tax. I then realized that even in the Socialist Republic of San Francisco, sales tax was not 35 percent. I told him this. His response was the one I grew to remember well when I was a child; he threw me out of his store.

american poverty 

(Usually, I make jokes with my pictures, but I have a hard time coming up with anything funny here.

So here is where I tell you what I think the real problem of poverty really is. To begin with, I have many degrees now, and I have numerous other skills that will probably get me a job no matter how bad things ever get. But I was born into poverty, and I see everything from the mindset of the poor. One of the hardest things to do is to realize that when I wake up tomorrow, I’m not going to be forced from my home and required to fend for myself on the streets. Other people take this for granted; I fear it constantly, even without merit. A social program that targets someone who lives with the mindset of this type of poor person only tends to alleviate immediate poverty needs but does little to change the belief of the person that things are ever really going to get better. Whereas someone from a stable background may see a savings account as an investment, the person of poverty will more likely see this as “emergency cash” for when things go bad. I know that’s how I see any type of savings I ever make, and it will probably be that way even after my first or second million.

To truly understand how to combat poverty, it is necessary to understand how someone born into this lifestyle sees life. It is usually day-to-day living, which rarely does anything to combat poverty. To truly defeat poverty, it is necessary to defeat that concept of thinking, which is difficult, at best, considering that I truly understand it, am highly educated about it, and I have yet to defeat it myself.

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Yes, it's called "learned helplessness." We all have to fight it...
Few seem to realize that it takes masses of laboring poor to make a few wealthy Duane. Few seem to realize that there is a wat out of poverty. And once you reach the bottom of the pile, it is harder tahn ever to get back up towards the top.
And in this horrible economy now, there is more poverty than ever.
I wish there were some easy answers to this. Because there are none I know of. I say education. And more opportunies for everyone.
But I my view is from the bottom here.
In 12 years of living in this neighbourhood no one has move out yet more have moved in.
It never stops.
This is one great story Duane.
Rated with hugs
Patrick: I think it's more than just a sense of helplessness. It becomes a funk that you start to live in, convinced that it's a part of your normal routine. You don't really feel helpless. You feel worthless.

Mission: It would probably help if more people could see it from the bottom, but not too many people on top really care. They even have these "poverty simulations" in my area that drive me nuts because they can't duplicate the sense that you're never going to get out of it, which is the one thing that makes living through a simulation that much easier because you don't have to live in the grime and realize it's never coming off.
Linda: I think I understand. I know my neighborhood where I grew up just continued to get worse, and you knew everyone after awhile, but no one really wanted to be there.
A great piece. Yet I wonder if everyone who experienced your beginnings and came as far as you did would think like you do. It might be a character thing too. Some would rather forget all their past and pretend they were never poor. Denial is a great enemy. ~r
I have always been optimistic about my ability to work myself out of poverty. I was always willing to do whatever work that was offered, tried to be indispensable by consistently delivering quality work, whether it was cleaning other people's toilets or talking people through their computer problems on the phone. Since 2006, I have had two jobs that let me go. Living in a 'right to work' state, they don't even have to have cause. Now, as I approach my 55th birthday, I fear my opportunities for employment are shrinking, and I am looking EVERYWHERE. I fear becoming old and sick, and forced into homelessness. Still I persevere. Surely there is someone out there that will see value in employing me. But fear is my constant companion.
Great post! I too have been on both sides of the coin. I grew up in poverty, embarrassed to even go to school. I went into the army, came out and made money with my hands, and brains. I had a few businesses such as Home Improvement and a Fire Restoration business where I made good money. But, the coin spun again and my health went to hell. If you ever get to thinking "I got it made", get it out of your head. I layed on my back three years and lost everything. From there it got worse to where I live on a disablity check that pays the basics. People who have never been poor can never know whats it's like, even the guy who "played poor" knew he could always leave. The real poor have nowhere to go!
Duane - excellent, intelligent post!
rated
Duane, one of the best posts I've ever read here. Thouroughly thought provoking and with a level of merit not found elsewhere. In America's land of plenty and opportunity it's appalling that there is such a mindset as you describe. And yet, as you advocate, if we address this mindset them maybe we can start to make some real headway.
Thanks
Duane, what a moving piece, and thank you. I have a recent experience with an emotionally unstable grandson who experienced a period of on-foot homelessness, but I was always aware that he was different from the long-term poor because he didn't feel like he belonged there, because he was young and once he could face how his own choices brought him there, he could find his way out (The US Army, hopefully - fingers crossed - he will submit to Army discipline better than parental discipline) and deep down, he knew that his family would never let him actually starve.

I really appreciate the insights you have added for me to a state of being I have thought deeply about how to impact, but never personally experienced.

How do you propose approaching helping people to change the way of thinking you describe?
Breaking the cycle of poverty isn't impossible, though it is very difficult when there is no incentive to leave what amounts to a setting in which the impoverished somehow give up on themselves.

I was born with the societal stigma of poverty like a branding on a steer. She's poor and uneducated because she's stupid or lazy. Neither are true and yet I'm a paycheck away from being poor and I doubt my socieo-eco status/education will keep me from earning a paycheck.
Excellent! So you followed-through with the West Point education, I presume? If so, how did you like it there? That would be a good essay, in of itself.

Having grown up very poor myself I totally connect with you and this essay on a fundamental level. You are absolutely correct about every observation/point you made above!

rated
As long as we have more faith in money than human life, there can be no answer. Poverty is a byproduct of other (poor) choices that no one wants to change.
Thank providence for that teacher who saw your potential and all the others like him or her. Education is the key but when one is ashamed because he doesn't have decent clothes and shoes and school supplies, it seems fruitless. A life of the mind is to be valued above everything and you have that.
Illuminating. Last night on MSNBC, Laurence O'Donnell was crowing about how they'd raised $750,000 for school desks for African schools. Surely that's terrific, but I kept wondering: What about our schools? Sure, we have desks, we just don't have teachers, and the ones we do have don't get paid enough. I'd like to see more charity headed our way.
This is an excellent piece, Duane. It touches home for me too, having grown up poor myself. I'm often aghast at how ignorant, or just uncaring, others are about the poor and their condition. You're correct, it's a mindset, really another world from which it's hard to see the bigger world and its possibilities. Doubtless it's difficult to grasp this if you haven't actually lived through it. Thus it's not without good reason that the epithet "limousine liberal" is one commonly used by poor and working-class folk to describe those claiming to operate on their behalf.

Rated.
The essence of our culture's failure to successfully address this issue is our inability to see the world from another's most valuable perspective--I agree completely. There are so many ways of being in the world that those we elect to represent us cannot comprehend. Fortunately, there are many at other levels who are willing and able to make a difference, like those who saw your potential. And shame on that library for throwing you out.
I know only too well the mindset you describe. It is so unfortunate that the common "step up" that might, on rare occasion be available, and believable, is into renting oneself out as a wage slave. The other "step" up is offering oneself as cannon fodder. Both of these are seen as "good" choices. They aren't.

Seldom does either of those apparent choices really involve any "choice" and even less often do they offer any sort of self actualization. In both one can, and does, find oneself being directed by those whom one would never willingly allow to do so. To tolerate this requires that one hold the mind-set of a sheeple - a slave. Someone who is incompetent to direct his own life and requires a master/boss/higher-rank to tell him what to do.

In such circumstances a man can only adopt one of two attitudes; he can accept that the person who gives him his orders is indeed competent and qualified to do so (easier in the military) or he can just "lock in" to the attitude that he just has to "put up with it".

Both situations require that the individual warp his mind to fit the mold of the position. The man is of no value. He is to be used at the whim of some "higher authority".

To exacerbate the problem, those of higher rank also have adopted this mind set. This holds true right up to the richest of the rich. Often have I seen people rail at the rich for their lack of understanding and cold uncaring attitude towards those not as wealthy as they.

They too cannot change their attitude. It is programmed into them from birth by parents, friends, and their whole society. They can no more change their locked in mind-set than the poor man can.

Just as those not poor cannot ever feel the feelings of the poor, so too can the not-rich understand the feelings and attitudes of the rich. We, of this split society, desperately need to find a means of initiating a dialogue between those two parts of our population. Those in-between need to be part of this also. It is time that we brought this horrible split to an end. It is no longer acceptable that our citizens be divided like this. Each "knowing" that the other is "evil". Each determined to use the other to his own ends.
"What changed for me was that some grammar school teacher discovered . . ."

I think you summed up brilliantly what it would take to solve the poverty issue. It would take a very powerful argument to convince me that education is not the solution. Where would you be now were it not for that very astute teacher?
Great post.

But I am going to be the unpopular voice here and say that my one experience of poverty, which was indelible, did not leave me optimistic. I was a Big Sister for about 18 months to a then 13 yr old girl, living in a small, crowded, dirty home filled with people who shouted all the time. Her mother -- a decade younger than I -- had disappeared (and showed up right after we were matched; that helped, not) for years. The grandmother was manipulative and I believe lied to me, as I suspect the child did as well.

I tried with all my might to help her escape the shithole but the day she was to have spent at a shmancy local prep school (that might have given her a full ride, that I arranged by pulling strings, including a 5 page single space letter on her behalf) she never showed up. No one from her family ever called, nor did anyone from the Big Sisters organization. I was appalled at the whole thing.

I went into that relationship naive; compassion worn out quickly by the deception and system-gaming I saw from people who had govt $$, several social workers -- and who seemed determined not only to stay stuck but to make sure that young girl stayed there with them all as well.

Learned helplessness means stuck can stay stuck. I wonder how that girl is today but it has left me wary of naive, wide-eyed idealism in trying to "help."
Caitlin: I have seen that as well in my own personal experiences. Many on the left think your story is an example of Bourgeois judgmentalism. I disagree. I think it is very true and happens more than most people realize.

We see this in that movie, "Precious."
Good post, and you point out something that I learned when I was out of work and rolling pennies to eat - it costs more to be poor. Large corporations and small businesses alike feel just fine about taking advantage of people who can barely afford the product, much less the surcharge or penalty. In that situation, no one is trustworthy, including the government. My sister, finally getting on disability, abruptly loses her qualification to get food stamps because her income is too high. $300 a month - Right. No, I think animal instincts take over when you are cheated and abused continually, which gives the Scrooges of this world the self-satisfied viewpoint that the poor deserve to be poor.
Mindset yes, but not just the mindset of the person in poverty. We need a change of heart and mindset for society. I agree with everyone who said education is the key. Educating children all over the world that they are noble, beautiful beings (in a way they can internalize this truth). My head may be in the clouds but I don't see any other way to create lasting prosperity for anyone. Because, like this post and Bonnie made clear, it's not about money.
Good post. Your final paragraph gets at the heart of the matter:

"To truly understand how to combat poverty, it is necessary to understand how someone born into this lifestyle sees life. It is usually day-to-day living, which rarely does anything to combat poverty. To truly defeat poverty, it is necessary to defeat that
concept of thinking, which is difficult, at best"

Difficult indeed, and Caitlin's experience is a common one for any person who witnesses poverty at first-hand. The thing to remember here though is that the attitudes she encountered are not a causal agent of poverty, but are rather a symptom of it. It is easy, while standing on the outside looking in, to say "Poor people sure are ignorant" but such a statement misses the fact that our society has many mechanisms which lock in that ignorance, making it something which persists from one generation to the next. In other words, if you are from a background of poverty and its associated conditions such as ignorance, the odds are you are going to remain that way; this will be so as long as our culture values money more than it values people.
This post touched me ... but it didn´t make me remember my days as a poor kid with sadness... your post made me feel proud... I got lucky once too... while walking the streets homeless and hungry I met someone who gave me the chance of my life... I have degrees and developed skills that can place me in a very good job ... but right now here in Colombia jobs for journalists are very bad paid and there are not that many anymore... companies are cutting short their payroll... anyways... I was born into poverty... I got my lucky chance when I was 15 and lost it all when I turned 35... I´m not poor again.. my family is not poor.. but the feelings of not having anything to your name are coming back to hunt me... I feel the same as I did when I was 15 walking the streets homeless...
Thank you for this Duane...
Rated and liked it
FusunA: I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that my experience has definitely given me unique perspectives.

irish colleen: That worries me as well. When I was younger, I figured getting work was just a matter of looking for it. Now that I'm getting old, I get pretty scared by those same processes as well. Age discrimination is definitely a huge factor is why a lot of people are suffering, and there's little one can do about it because no one really cares.

scanner: There's an interesting book called Poor People's Movements that was designed to show what happens when the poor actually band together and try to get their problems solved through collective action. They do really well in the beginning and then it falls apart because they all expect it will keep working without them working for it. It's a really interesting rationalization that I wonder why no one has ever taken it further, knowing how the rational actor works in this paradigm.

Kate: Thank you.

Walter: I think the problem stems from the locality of the person who understands the mindset. It seems that once someone reaches a position to do something about the mindset, that person no longer feels the need to do anything about it because he or she is no longer suffering. I think that has a lot to do with it as well. Meanwhile, the people who probably always care keep stabbing at it with the same blunt tools.
Very thought provoking. I've no idea how to change the mindset, but two things jump out at me that society could change: pay teachers more, so that more kids can have the type of support that saved you and figure out a way to regulate businesses that prey on low-income consumers. It does cost a lot more to be poor, and that's counter-productive.
It's impossible to find a solution to poverty within a system that structures it into existence. If you don't believe me, then listen to Bill Clinton, who said recently that the biggest trouble facing global capitalism today is structural unemployment, the 10 to 15% of unemployed in the developing world (higher in many of the already exhausted "economic development zones," an intensive form of exploitation that tends to leave behind much higher rates of unemployment than existed prior to such development), and the likelihood of permanent 10% unemployment in the so called "rich countries." It's not about attitude or outlook, Duane. And it's not about wanting to work hard enough. The jobs simply don't exist. Companies find it harder and harder to employ the needed skills sets in each of their sectors due to falling rates of profit (not stock value, but something they can actually reinvest)--and many multi-business firms also find that they're competing with themselves. Global capital just doesn't work.

Of course Clinton's solution is to fix it. But it's unclear what that means besides subsidizing a larger and larger portion of the populace. Brazil pays people, China is heading in that direction--there's a proposal for a "citizens rent" restructuring device being floated right now in their government--and in the U.S. and Europe we're cutting back on similar measures. We've entered into another period of fantasy, and pop psychology doesn't really help the situation.
Rated.
Duane, fabulous post. Thanks for so eloquently sharing your perspective. I also agree that education is the key-- true here, true around the world.
I take a more econometric approach to this question.

You cannot combat poverty. It is an impossibility.

Poverty is a result of the unequal distribution of resources but, what happens if you distribute resources equally? If you could, you would discover that everyone would end up in a slightly higher level of poverty. Civilization would grind to a halt.

The concentration of resources is necessary for the continuation of this civilization. If resources are diffused too thinly, which is what happens when you try to redistribute resources, you end up with an unsustainable culture.

There is, however, an extent to which we cannot let the poor fall behind the wealthy, because that's when impoverishment becomes a self-sustaining, inter-generational phenomenon.

Anyone who thinks that poverty is absolute, and that the comparative basis is between the relative poverty of people living in different societies, is an idiot. Poverty is always relative to the society in which you live.

Poverty, like homelessness, is a mindset. There are people who have no money, but don't feel poor, and there are people who have a great deal of money who still feel poor because their standard of comparison is the super-wealthy.

A just society provides sufficient resources so that everyone can reach the bottom rung on the ladder. We have fallen way below that minimum expectation.

When that happens, the civilization fails because it doesn't produce enough trained workers to keep the civilization running....and that's precisely where we are right now.
Duane, I'm sure you're right that unless you've lived a life of real poverty, you're bound to have a diminished understanding of what's it's like and what might work to alleviate it.

I reckon that education is the best and most important remedy. I spent several years working in what we used to call Third World countries and the one think they invariably had in common was an education system that educated relatively few.

That alone isn't enough but I don't want to make this an essay. Very good post, thank you.
In my country we do not have, as you say, ze poor people. At least, we do not see them, no? We banish them to the suburbs, and house them in tall concrete buildings. From time to time, they do escape and burn and pillage and loot, but that iz, how you say, ze price we pay to live in a civilized place. Qui, qui!
Very insightful post, from both your personal and policy standpoints. You're right in that there is a strong institutional memory of povery. Thank goodness for the teacher who was able to see past your exterior and recognize your potential and nurture it. Just another reason why public education needs to be a priority...
Back in the mid 60's as a grade school kid I could swing a double bladed ax and split fire wood with the best of them. We didn't heat our house with wood, but my friend did who lived just a few houses away.

Nobody ever thought of them as poor. Not them, not us. They worked, they laughed, they played. They also hunted for a lot of their food. We would do odd jobs for money to go to the movies. On Saturday it was one price for all day and you could watch the film as many times as you wanted until the evening feature came on.

That changed in the later 60's. The government, with good intentions, came in and told them they were poor with the start of the Great Society. Instead of a hand up they got a hand out. The government was going to make things better for them so they could move on.

Now, many decades and how much money later, what have we gotten for it? While some see it as is was intended, as a bridge to help them get from point A to point B in their life, way to many see it as a way of life. Because it has now become inter generational, it is the only way of life some have ever seen. To them it's the norm and a right. It's like the clip that was played over and over on cable news with the two ladies who were at an event to get some "Obama Money". They thought that he would get it from his "stash". They had no clue.

So here is where I get yelled at.

I don't have a good fix for the problem. I don't know that one exists. What we are doing now isn't working, but what is better? I think we can all agree that there are people that the government, and society, needs to and will alway have to take care of. There are those around us who are sick and broken.

I'm not a farmer, but I do live on a place on a farm. Because of the large amount of open fields we have "field animals". Most of which I either don't want to have around or I want to have them for dinner.

To control the number of mice and snakes and such we have a large number of feral cats. To keep the cats at our place, so they don't go to your place, we feed them and make sure they have a good water source. Every now and again one will show their gratitude by bring us a half eaten mouse. We have become their social welfare system.

We have created our own system of "feral people". The question is how do we get them to not depend on food and water being left out for them? How do we again make it a hand up and not a hand out? At the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs is food, water and shelter. These people are gravitating towards a place where they feel their basic needs are guaranteed. Human nature is to look out after oneself. You can't blame them for wanting to survive but do you just say to everybody don't worry we will make sure your basic needs are met, you don't have to do anything for them? If that's the case why should any of us work? Then how will the government meet those needs? If we are taking care of everybody how will we take care of those that are sick and broken that we have to take care of?

If I had the answers I wouldn't be a truck driver. I do know that our government isn't the answer. They have a system and the system feeds itself. My mother in law just became a widow. She needed to get away from where she was so she moved in with us. While changing her Social Security benefits, another story, the lady insisted she sign up for food stamps. She doesn't have to have them I feed her too, but the social worker insisted, so she did. It was not something she needed or something she ever thought about, but it was "the system" and the government was going to make sure she was in the system.

It doesn't matter how many rungs you have on the ladder somebody is always going to be on the bottom one. The poor think that they have to be on the bottom rung and our system of social safety nets is now making them think that is where they have to be, that is the only way to live, and there is nothing better for them.

The one thing I know for sure is when we over feed the cats, they quit hunting and lay on the porch all day.
In Eric Weiner's book, "The Geography of Bliss", he talks about Iceland where there is a high standard of life because no one feels that the safety net will be moved and they will fall all the way to the ground. My parents grew up the way you did. They lived their whole lives waiting for the next Great Depression, raising gardens and canning food that they could never eat in the rest of their lives, saving string, making my clothes out of chicken feed sacks, and saving their money, not for their longed for trip to Ireland, but for when everything goes bad. R
carnliar: "way to many see it as a way of life"

to = too = two

still hasn't gotten that DICKtionary, yet.


-R-
Unfortunately Duane, as you say, you were lucky. Lucky in the sense that you are intelligent and gifted in a way that allowed you to recieve and utilize your education.

Not everyone is so lucky. I grew up next door to a family that was worse off than my own in that they had no electric or heat and we had electric and a woodstove. We were not impoverished because we grew or hunted alot of our own food and had a roof, but luxuries like air conditioning were foriegn.
Anyway my best friend Scott used to sleep over in the winter because we had a woodstove and we were like brothers. He was not very intelligent and eventually droped out of school. He was always a hard worker though and he now works as a night janitor and as a worker in a warehouse during the day. But even working those two jobs, he can barely afford a meager apartment and a barely working car.

We need to remember the labor has value, and start paying those that break their backs while we push paper. It is sad enough to see poverty, but the working class is becoming an impoverished class, and that is its own tragedy.
Fabulous post. I also grew up in a house (not in the U.S.) with a leaky roof, no running water and with limited facilities. But I cannot remember a time when I didn't know, deep down, that I was bound for somewhere else. As many have posted here, education is that ticket out--if not toward sustained financial stability, then at least to a broader vision of the world and your place in it. I'll also go out on a limb here and offer that, based on my own observations and work in non-profits, we need to do a much, much better job at educating young women to think beyond the MTV version of boy-meets-girl. We need to offer and fund practical education around their own sexuality and the reproductive choices available to teens and young adults. From my observations, early and unplanned pregnancy often becomes that point of either entrapment or no-return. Given use-able practical education, we will at least give girls the chance to make smarter, more informed choices. Then, let's move on to reproductive and public health education for our young men. You're correct: When the never-poor set public policy for the poor, they rarely talk from a place of experience or true empathy. And they rarely address this touchy issue of haphazard and underfunded family planning. Case in point: Those who would not support a health reform bill that included publicly funded abortion counseling and resources. In a country where we have a (so-called) separation of church and state, few publicly funded childcare options for working parents, and where federal funding for early childhood education is constantly being challenged, this really is madness. I say make reproductive education and choices affordable and available. Then, let's see what young woman or man truly or knowingly chooses to lie awake at night frantic over how or who might feed their kids.