Sometimes there isn’t a quick fix. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to fix a problem.
There is a lot of boo-hooing about the impoverished being a drain on the taxpayers and how benefits need to be cut and ridiculous amounts of money needs to be spent drug testing benefit recipients, even though it’s been repeatedly proven to be an absolute waste of resources and time (Time, 2014)
Taxpayers-good, benefit recipients-bad. Therefore, what we ought to do is turn the benefit recipients into taxpayers. It requires no humanity on anyone’s part, but people are going to have to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get to work. I’m not talking about the people in need, I’m talking about the people who are in a position to make changes. Again, this does allow the movers and shakers to remain completely selfish. No one is being required to do anything out of goodwill towards their fellow human beings; it is just to bring them to a position of feeding the economy. Poverty is a powerful cycle that tends to perpetuate through generations and disproportionately affects the black and Latino communities (NPR, 2012). Girl gets pregnant, drops out of high school, father of child disappears or isn’t helpful, girl goes on welfare, is required to work as a requirement of receiving benefits and can only get minimum wage work, she is paying very little in taxes and receiving government support. She doesn’t get enough time with her son because she’s trying to get her GED. Her son begins to develop behavioral problems and having difficulty at school (National Institute of Health 2010). His teacher has thirty-five other students and many of them have similar problems. His teacher must manage these children while trying to prepare the students for standardized testing. The teacher is not able to teach the entire curriculum and the childrens’ failure to meet benchmarks reflects poorly in a statistical sense on both the teacher and the school. So this boy moves from grade to grade with worse and worse performance. School becomes harder and harder and he attends less and less; eventually, he drops out. His mother is still struggling financially, her attempts to stop being a single mother have resulted in another child with an absent father. Her son did not receive enough guidance in his early years to develop sound decision-making skills. He is sexually careless and involves himself in criminal activity. He himself is an absentee father. Eventually, his repeat offenses land him in prison. He is now costing the taxpayers about $30,000 a year (CBS 2012) and unable to pay child support. While he’s in the overcrowded prison he receives very little social rehabilitation and will inevitably return. He never becomes a taxpayer, his mother never becomes a taxpayer, his children never become taxpayers.
There are many points at which an intervention in this situation would have benefitted the taxpayers. 1. Why did she get pregnant in the first place? Probably poor sex education for her AND HER PARTNER. Inadequate education about contraception, coupled with inadequate role models are a recipe for disaster. (SIECUS 2004) 2.Why did she drop out of high school when she did get pregnant? No or limited social supports in place to help her finish. (Social Work Today 2012) 3. Why didn’t she just give her son up for adoption? First of all, no one “just” gives up their child for adoption, second there is an adoption tax credit of nearly $14,000 in taxpayer money (Creating a Family 2017) 3. Why wasn’t the father held accountable? Even if the father is found and penalized, that will often spell out to jail time, during which time he will further fail to pay child support and taxes. He will cost the taxpayers over $30,000 a year. He was unaware of these consequences and because of his own life experience, he had never really acquired the thought process to do the “right” thing in these situations (New York Times 2015) 4. Why didn’t she get a better paying job? The only jobs available for her educational level and skill set only pay minimum wage, which is not usually a living wage. It is really corporations taking those tax dollars as much as the employees. They can pay a low wage, not provide health insurance and sometimes benefit directly from the payments made to the employees (Forbes 2014) 5. Why wasn’t her son removed from her custody? He was fed and clothed and showed no signs of abuse. Being in such a struggle that you don’t have time to help your child with their homework is not abuse. The foster care system can cause as many problems as it solves and isn’t in itself inexpensive. A caseworker can’t be sent out after every kid with poor school performance, at the taxpayers’ expense. (CGA 2005). 6. Why didn’t the teacher do a better job? In poorly funded schools, the teacher to child ratio is often too high. In elementary schools, a smaller ratio is considered ideal. (NCES 1999, CPE 2002 ). Were he a minority it is unlikely that he would have had a teacher who is a minority, even less likely a male teacher who is a minority. This is important. Children need to be able identify with their teacher. They may develop the prejudice that “people like me don’t become teachers”. Most teachers in impoverished schools are young white females who are not properly supported or mentored early in their career and burn out after a few years. Very few teachers in these schools are able to stay in long enough to gain enough meaningful experience as an educator to handle the overwhelming situations that they are handed. (PBS 2016) 7. Why did she get pregnant again? As previously considered, she didn’t receive adequate sex education as a teenager, and due to the common social stigma of single motherhood, it would not be unreasonable for her to date. 8. Why did her son choose to engage in reckless behavior? Teenagers do not have a fully developed frontal cortex. They are physically set up to make impetuous decisions and not consider the consequences (AACAP 2016). When that fact is combined with poor adult guidance and lack of meaningful attention, it should not surprise anyone that the teenager runs into trouble.
Solutions to this chain of events need to be thought of as an investment. Removing people from the cycle of poverty with proper education and meaningful job training will cost money upfront but save so much in the future. 1. Comprehensive sex education has statistically been shown to drastically reduce teen pregnancies. (Washington School of Public Health 2007). It is often said that sex ed should be taught by parents. A lot of parents aren’t doing it and it’s a disaster. Give concerned parents the option to opt out, instead of starting off with it.Fewer teen pregnancies is fewer people relying on the government, more people finishing high school and fewer people being incarcerated which as previously stated, costs taxpayers billions. (CDC 2010) 2. Increase minimum wage. Based on GDP and adjusted for inflation, it should be well over $10. This will not raise prices, this will have people spending more money and paying more sales tax. If employers consider replacing people with technology, there will be a gradual decline of people buying their products. (PBS 2015) 3. start dumping buckets and buckets of money into public schools
I will at this time remind you that my tax dollars paid for the F-35 fighter jet. Look it up, keep it on your mind whenever you think about where your money goes.
Anyway, fund the hell out of public schools. Increase the starting salary for teachers (and forgive their student loans), make sure that new teachers have all of the support and training that they need so they’ll stick around long enough to become old teachers. Make sure that buildings and grounds are in good condition, make sure that the textbooks are current. Make sure that even low income high schools can have sports teams. Student athletes are much less likely to drop out of high school and to go to college (The Atlantic 2014). Make sure that lower income schools have music programs. Students who play an instrument are much more likely to finish high school and go on to college (NAME). Students who participate in sports/ music have better attendance. They associate themselves with athletes and musicians. They have a vested interest in the success of their school. Allow for schools to be better able to have early intervention services. Let schools afford resources for teen parents and keep them in school. Generously fund trade school programs so that students who don’t choose to go to college come out of high school ready to be a taxpayer.
Again, F35 fighters
We need more minority and male teachers. They will have to stay in school to do that and have a positive relationship with academia. More little boys need to look at their teacher and say “that’s who I want to be when I grow up” Do whatever needs to be done to make this happen.
Connect the dots, now most people are making good money far fewer people need assistance. They are taxpayers.
Okay, that’s the kids’ portion, what about middle-aged welfare queens?
Find out why they’re on welfare and fix it.
Poor employment prospects? Provide legitimate job training instead of forcing them to work or “look for” some minimum wage job. If they choose college, have a GPA and progress requirement. If they choose college, make sure that they are properly supported. Provide job placement services.
Drug problem? Rehab. If they are not able to get a job because of addiction, their life is unmanageable and they need help.
Disability? Some people are disabled and just can’t work, some people can probably get back to work with some encouragement and support.
Get as many people as possible into the workforce. They will become taxpayers. They will be consumers. Everybody wins. It would be a slow process, to repair inherited poverty…what we have right now isn’t really working for anyone.
I know I’m right, so I’m turning off comments.
F35 fighter jet
copyright Jenny Grattan 2017