Recently I came across an excellent essay in the New York Times regarding the past 50 years of the “War on Poverty.” It’s an insightful if not depressing read. Highlights include:
- The poverty rate has fallen only to 15 percent from 19 percent in two generations
- 46 million Americans live in households where the government considers their income scarcely adequate
- About 30 percent of single mothers live in poverty
What’s more, we seem to be lost in a spiraling debate over whether or not government–that is, democracy–has a substantial and direct role to play in addressing poverty. I, for one, have no interest in waiting for the private sector of capitalism to step up to the plate to address the issue. Solving poverty is not a priority or interest for capitalism. So if a democratic government won’t step in to address the problems then what entity will?
As James P. Ziliak of the University of Kentucky put it: “We need strong economic growth with gains widely distributed. If the private labor market won’t step up to the plate, we’re going to have to strengthen programs to help these people get by and survive.”