Stock Market and Unemployment Numbers Improving: Revisiting Public Supports Beyond the Numbers

The state of the country has been rising in its popularity over the last few weeks. The stock market has shown signs of unexpected improvement and so has the unemployment rate with the third week of claims dropping. However, there are regions across the nation with predictions that are on course. They have shown little growth over a number of years and are not predicted to do so in a way that brings a reliable amount of economic self-sufficiency. These are communities with a history of persistent poverty. They are communities of the poor who are struggling to figure out how to make their lives better. Struggling is not an ill placed word within this context. Public supports provide for “some” things, but it does not meet the demand that families need to fully survive.

Survival takes on more meaning than accounting for the numbers. On a number of life livability scales, critical to the survival of any culture of people, is their ability to feel loved, wanted and are contributors to the health and wellness of their families and the communities in which they live.  A healthy outlook on life is the key ingredient that fuels individual performance. Believing you have a purpose and have, to some degree, been able to “see” that purpose, before its manifestation, is how America was built and why so many enjoy the benefits of what they believed to be possible.

In a life of poverty, over time there is an erosion of vision. At one time you wanted to be a teacher, a fireman, a police officer, an engineer, and now, in the confines of lack, vision sways and then, as Lorraine Hansberry captures this in an infamous Broadway play, A Raisin In the Sun, their dreams become like a raisin in the sun. All the life is vacuumed out of it, and they are left with a withering of a vision that was long ago healthy and whole. Langston Hughes expressed it poetically-What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? …  Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?  Today, the question is will these communities be left to “implode.” Will they collapse from abandonment by legislative axing by principals rather than understanding the data of poverty has to include the face of poverty?

Skills, gifts and talents are not the luxuries bequeathed to communities that flourish, but to all communities. Emerging markets is a sign this is a premise from which you can decide the worth of a community. The odd construct that is applied to the poor is “pull yourself up by your boot straps.” What if you have no boots? What if you lack the physical strength to do? What if you lack will to do? There are a number of factors that engage or misfire in applying singular notions about the ability of the poor that is concerning.  Assumptions position the interpretation of community well-being and the reason for it in tremendous jeopardy. This does not mean there are not those who take advantage of public supports, by no means. But, it does not mean that the remedy to poverty is the application of a single salve. Instead, it really means there are a number of approaches that must coexist that are authentic in its consideration.

Yes. If you are unemployed and have the responsibility of taking care of a family, it would be fundamentally characterized as neglect not to go after public supports.  However, public supports were never meant to be a permanent fixture. They were conceived as a need to ensure families, not as fortunate as others, had the basic economic support to thrive. As low lying fruit, as some would say, this public advocacy model, appropriates resources to help them “stay alive.” Many political pundits would argue that public supports should be removed altogether  as a means to “make” poor people go to work. Many would argue they need to restrain from behaviors that put them in the poverty mess they are in such as unwed parenting, dropping out of school, drugs, deviant behavior and eventual incarceration.

No one argues that public supports have to be revisited and so also must legislation that put at risk the common decency of survival. Living in a democracy does purport a standard much different from the rest of the world. Jobs and unemployment are the drivers of public supports. Equipping the poor with the supportive care they will need to “do better,” will require a lot more than a heated verbal exchange over who is right and who is wrong when it comes to public taxpayer financed public supports. It will also require more than a slash and cut approach to their needs. At some point, someone will have to grapple with the real issues of poverty and decide something. If they are not willing to really challenge poverty, then they must make amends and support it.

There are a number of agencies and organizations that are on the ground working on their behalf. They are self-lessly serving, understanding the human face behind the poverty and not a collage of numbers and investigative type “we gotcha” doing stuff with subsidy check’s reports. Unemployment numbers  should not be interpreted in a vacuum by number crunchers no matter how statistically sound. It’s not just about not having a job; its ill effect’s impact health and wellness, education outcomes, socialization skills, civic life, and the economic well-being of future generations.

It is impossible for the poor to pull themselves out of poverty with no help. They will need faithful stakeholders committed to a long-term process of discovery. For legislative might, looking to impress constituents and dole out a return on investment of publicly trusted dollars, hurriedly, then communities of poverty will never flourish, and they will continue to demand more supports in the weeks and months and years to come.