[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Menendez on Poverty

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Menendez on Poverty

Ana Menendez, champion of the disadvantaged, addresses the latest Herald scandal involving the Empowerment Trust in her latest column.

Menendez laments the lack of support for programs to help the poor:

Nicholas Lemann, in a prescient 1994 cover story for The New York Times Magazine, outlined the case against the Clinton program at a time when few people even knew what empowerment zones were.

''For three decades, Administration after Administration has pondered the ghettos and then settled on the idea of trying to revitalize them economically -- even though there is almost no evidence that this can work,'' he wrote. 'The old cliché about ghetto life is that it's `a cycle of despair.'

Actually, it's ghetto policymaking that's a cycle of despair.''The most obvious way to help the poor, Lemann suggested, was ``simply to provide for poor people's material needs, through cash grants, vouchers like food stamps and services like Medicaid.''

Those programs have proved effective, but many voters mistrust them. So politicians flee them.

Examples like the corruption with the Empowerment Trust is what turns people off. It's also the idea that our hard-earned money is being wasted by government. What a shocker!

More from Ana:

The reticence has something to do with the idea Americans have of themselves: self-sufficient, up-by-the-bootstraps folks. Vouchers and cash grants smack of charity. Economic ''empowerment'' speaks to the myth of the self-made man.

But the causes of poverty are too complex to be solved by a single ambitious program. What good is a biotech park in the middle of the inner city if schools are so bad and training so scarce that no one can get hired there?

Effectiveprograms work with the living reality of inner-city life: poor housing, poor schools, racism and crime. Those need to be addressed before the cure-all of ''business activity'' can take hold.

Vouchers and cash grants don't smack of charity, they unfortunately smack of government handouts. Speaking of charity, a good chunk of wealthy people already willfully give their money and time to charity and other causes for the poor. All government involvement seems to do is invite corruption and fraud. When will we learn?

Yes, programs dealing with reality need to be explored. But in this day of political correctness, the issues addressed will likely once again deal with blacks being portrayed as the victims to white racism, while ignoring self-inflicted wounds. That's what impeding real progress in the inner city, in my view.


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