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How to Turn Anti-Poverty Work Into an Anti-Poverty Movement

How to Turn Anti-Poverty Work Into an Anti-Poverty Movement

Greg Kaufmann

About a month ago, I had the opportunity to spend a weekend at Harvard with a group of about 20 scholars and reporters. Many of them have worked for decades examining poverty-related issues—from hiring discrimination to segregation in housing and education, criminal justice reform to immigration, deep poverty to homelessness.

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“There are signs of a nascent anti-poverty movement—from Occupy Wall Street to the Fight for $15; from the Dreamers to Black Lives Matter; from Bernie Sanders’ rise as a viable presidential candidate, to the spread of Moral Mondays, to Climate Justice.”

All economic, racial and environmental movements seem to have one thing in common: They are all derived from wealth inequality. We the people have not been able to fix problems using politicians so we’ll have to do it.

We the people can start an Anti-Poverty Movement that removes all obstacles to frequent voter initiatives and referendums. These would give everyone the ability to make laws that fix wealth inequality. Why hire “Citizens United” politicians to make our laws when the we the people can do it ourselves with the help of modern technology?

Direct Grassroots Democracy

How to turn the work into a movement is to not see yourself standing outside the people you hope to “empower,” gosh-little-meing about your scuffed loafers and being just as stereotypical about Harvard as anyone is about poverty. Sorry, but it’s about grasping the power, not bestowing it, if not quite as @natureboy envisions. I suggest that, instead of scholars and reporters, you talk to the folks walking the walk, such as in faith communities. There’s quite a lot of poverty advocacy going on in the mainline denominations, and well beyond direct “band-aid” assistance (though that counts too).

Why not? Because we have such a web of laws in place already, with checks and balances that certainly function imperfectly, but do function. Just to toss out the US Constitution, let alone the extremely various state constitutions, would require enormous coordination from somewhere. And who’s going to write the algorithms? Who’s going to assure equal access and deal with those who hide behind pseudonyms and avatars? Sorry, I can’t begin to buy your proposition until you really go “natural.”

This may help understand what I’m talking about:

The National Citizens Initiative for Democracy

There is no will to legitimately address US poverty. Liberals dumped the issue 20 years ago, and recently redefined “the poor” as no one worse off than a minimum wage worker. We’re stuck with a generation who believe that our deregulated corporate state is now so successful that everyone is able to work, there are jobs for all, therefore no need for poverty relief. To liberals (media), there is no hunger, no homelessness, no real poverty in the US today.

Anti-poverty? Dems have waged a war on the poor, not on poverty. Dems in Congress kicked off 2015 alone with voting to virtually end food stamps to the elderly poor and the disabled (cut from $115 per month, down to $10). That’s just the latest hit.

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Because our “middle class masses” have approved of the very agenda that brought us to this point, from Reagan’s deregulation mania onward. And they’re the only ones who have a voice when it comes to “grassroots” efforts.

you must not be familiar with my work. My focus is talking to people who are living in poverty AND doing the work (who are often one and the same). That’s exactly why I wrote a weekly column at The Nation called “This Week in Poverty” for 2 years. in 2014, I started TalkPoverty.org so that people in poverty and people doing the work didn’t have to wait for reporters to talk to them, they could write for themselves. So… I hear you, but would appreciate you taking the time to look at the work of an author. I’d probably take the “little old me” graph back if I could–sometimes we write better than other times.

Thanks for replying, and for your editorial note; I can certainly identify. And you’re right, this is the first time I’ve met your work. But that should be enough. And I’m sorry, but talking isn’t quite enough. And I shouldn’t be scolded for having an opinion.

I just want to add my 2-cents to your comment.

Firstly, I agree there are faith-based organizations and individuals working diligently against poverty in their realm of influence and presence.

Secondly, it is my belief that many of the efforts of these organizations are covertly coercive since, in many cases, those receiving assistance from the faith-based sources are subjected to the dogma (prayers, sermons, literature, etc.) of the faith-based organization or individual.

In my opinion, if these organizations were actually concerned about the lives and well-being of those they are providing assistance to (instead of working to earn points for heavenly treasures,) they would provide the assistance without coercion. The assistance would be a freely-given gift out of concern for humanity and the well-being of the individual.

bkswrites, you have every right to proclaim your faith and your opinion of its validity. I understand that your faith requires you to “spread the gospel.”

That being said, I have an equal right to dispel the fantasy and the false pretenses that support the fantasy.

Disclaimer: I was brought up under the control and domination of “mainline denominations” … Quaker, Baptist, Nazarene, Church of God (Anderson). Eventually, I chose freedom.

You have every right to your own disbelief, but do not tar all from your limited experience. “Belief” and “many” are flags that you really have no evidence. I am Presbyterian (PCUSA) and would be happy for you to observe how my denomination goes about antipoverty work. And of the denominations you listed, I can’t imagine one less coercive than the Quakers. Jeez, they don’t even coerce each other! Some of your other experience is in denominations that have basically congregational structures; there are many flavors of Baptist, from the very conservative to the quite liberal.

I come here under no false pretenses. Please start at pcusa.org or afsc.org and get back to me.

No thanks … enough of my life was wasted on the falsehood of God.

And by the way, your response was quite typical. You believe that your “brand” of faith is the only true one and all others are inherently fallible or heresy.

“I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made.”

Emma Goldman

Never said any such thing. I said my denomination, and others I know well, do excellent antipoverty work entirely without proselytizing. If CD allowed photos of any size worth seeing, I’d show you a bunch of northeastern-NJ Presbyterians building a Habitat “house in a box” to be sent to post-Katrina NOLA, for one. Or some more building in our own area, or …, or …, or … Don’t rely on the “typical.” Get to the specific.