TO HELP OR NOT TO HELP



Non-Governmental Programs

To fill gaps in government efforts to wipe out poverty, private, non-governmental organizations and individuals have stepped up to help in different ways.  For example, for many years the founders of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream shared corporate wealth with employees by maintaining a 7 to 1 ratio between top executives and entry level employees pay.  They also created a foundation to further their efforts to do good in many areas.

In 1983 Muhammad Yunus founded the Grameen Bank for making sure the poor had access to small loans for enterprise, education, housing, life insurance, and retirement.  As individuals paid back the loans new ones were made to others in need.  Other countries began copying this approach and micro-credit institutions sprung up. 

Potential of Promise Neighborhoods (modeled after the successful Harlem Children's Zone in New York City) attempt to tackle the generational cycles of poverty in bounded neighborhoods.  To be successful, however, requires sustained long term leadership and a range of ongoing services to support education of children at all levels: mentoring, tutoring, nutrition, career training, college preparation, and child safety, health and productivity.

Individuals or families waiting for evaluation and approval to enter the government welfare system in America may obtain temporary assistance from non-profit organizations or religious groups such as The Salvation Army, a church, synagogue, or temple.  This support may be in the form of temporary shelter especially in winter months or soup kitchens for meals and clothing closets for free or nominally priced garments.  In some instances individuals may not be eligible for government assistance and religious support may be their only hope.  Organizations such as The Salvation Army and Goodwill have provided employment opportunities to aid individuals in getting better jobs and eventually escaping poverty.

Local food pantries take advantage of unused but still good food from restaurants and businesses as well as donations and make these available to families in need.  

Other projects such as New Hope Project serve as models for helping the working poor rise above poverty lines.  This project provides income supplements, subsidized health care and child care and a job when unable to find one under a social contract.  Read details in the book, Higher Ground.


Reducing Poverty

Sources of Poverty

​There are many individualized reasons someone is poor and these begin with being born into a family that is poor.  Having role models who are uneducated, unskilled, and dependent on others for income contribute to the cycle of poverty.  Other contributors include:

  • Life styles of substance abuse or crime and delinquency add to the numbers who are poor.  
  • Individuals not born into poverty may lose a steady source of income or be in a serious accident with too little health insurance and unexpectedly join the ranks of the poor.  
  • Then there are the risk takers whose latest risk did not pay off and instead robbed them of their incomes.  
  • Natural and man-made disasters (e.g., fires, floods, hurricanes, wars) often make large groups of citizens poor suddenly especially when there are delays in accessing insurance and bank accounts.
  • Societal sources of poverty exist too.  Minorities, especially if perceived as threats to the majority, have faced prejudice and discrimination in the workplace making it difficult to get and keep jobs that supply adequate incomes to support one's family.  
  • That same discrimination for too long limited where minority members could live increasing distances required to travel to jobs.  
  • The educational systems have also not always provided equality of educational resources and environments in which to learn.  
  • In some countries political oppression has also kept down individuals and groups who have attempted to get ahead in life.  

​Poverty is a global problem

In every nation there are individuals with insufficient resources to meet their basic needs for nutritious food, clean water, adequate shelter, adequate clothing, and protection from predators.  In most nations there are also individuals with wealth sufficient to enjoy the best material goods that life has to offer.  In the United States of America efforts have been made by governmental and non-governmental organizations to reduce poverty and close gaps between rich and poor.  Before reviewing these, consider sources of wealth and poverty.​


Government and Poverty

In America the government collects taxes to pay for public services available to all its citizens. Income tax rates vary according to tax brackets with the wealthiest expected to pay the most.  American laws require all working citizens to pay into its social insurance programs (i.e.,Unemployment, Social Security, and Medicare).  The government also makes laws and sets policies to assist with income equity such as minimum wage, student loans, and children's health insurance.  Through its states, government provides welfare assistance and work incentives to families living below the poverty line as well as rehabilitation assistance for persons with disabilities.

Sources of Wealth

​There are several ways that an individual or group become wealthy: an inheritance, results of a successful innovation, measurable and leveraged earnings,  taking risks, and long term savings. Inherited wealth is passed down from one generation to the next in the form of land, mines, slaves, or cattle as well as money, stocks, bonds, or other assets. The Kennedy family is one example of inherited wealth. 

Bill Gates illustrates innovative wealth by developing Microsoft, a software product still in use years later.

Individuals who produce something measurable that has leverage illustrate a form of earned wealth. Musical and film stars, athletes, salesmen, and Chief Executive Officers help produce income for themselves and others in measurable terms such as gold label sales, theater or sports events attendance, or inclusion in the top 500 companies status.   Well known examples include Madonna, Michael Jordan, and Oprah Winfrey. 

Meanwhile there are those whose wealth comes from taking major risks.  They get lucky gambling on Wall Street, at the race tracks or casinos, in the lottery or contests. 

A very few individuals become millionaires by doing without useful or luxury items for many years and socking a way that portion of their income for distant future needs.