Unemployment and Poverty – Do We Really Care?


I care very deeply about the individual plight of every single person who is unemployed or who falls below what we laughably call ‘the poverty line.’ As if suddenly passing some invisible, virtual ‘line’ is like gaining a reward on Pokemon Go. We achieve instant nirvana.

I digress. I care about the individual people. But time has anesthetized me to the machinations of the politics that lie behind the possible resolution of these two longstanding, seeming immutable diseases of modern society.

Why the numbness?

Age maybe? Seen it all before? Pendulums swing one way, then another? But then, at another ungodly time this morning, a thought occurred to me. I researched it. And the answer I think is what lies behind my … what? … cynical resignation?

It is the fact that, when you sweep aside political difference and demagoguery (of left and right), fancy speech-making, social media, strutting vainglory and vain ambition. The solutions really shouldn’t be all that difficult to attain.

Being ridiculously oversimplistic, let’s look at the US. 7.8 million recorded unemployed. Let’s call it 8 million. Give ‘em, just give ‘em, $30,000 each. Equals $240,000,000,000. Or $240 billion. A year.

Some 45 million people below the US poverty line. Roughly 2.5 people per family. Equals 18 million families below the poverty line. Give each family $30,000. Equals $540,000,000,000. Or $540 billion. A year.

Now, of course, there is overlap here. Is it fair to say that all of the unemployed people are below the poverty line? So we fold one into the other? Equals $540 billion?

And that’s before we factor in human considerations. Like, give an unemployed/temporarily homeless person the funds and the platform effectively to find work, and he or she might become self-funding within a year or two?

Take into account funding for existing programs. Shifting around tax dollars, to re-prioritize. Maybe fly the idea of a little tax increase? Did you know that a 1% across every board federal tax increase would raise you about $200 billion? And let’s say we’re talking no more than, what, $300 billion a year?

Again. $300 billion a year. Just throwing money. $300 billion a year. And politicians of all parties seriously say we can’t resolve unemployment and poverty?

Maybe I’m punch drunk. But, when I put it to myself like that. I can’t help but think there’s a shedload of professional carpetbaggers making a cottage industry out of human misery.

I remember when I took much the same approach to alleviating poverty, on my radio show on my local community radio station (WCOM), back in 2005. Went to a series of well-established institutes, apparently funded to address issues of poverty. And said to them. Look, forget causes, underlying this, overarching that. Just tell me what it would cost to alleviate the symptoms of poverty. And the response from every last one was exactly the same: we don’t know; we don’t look at that.

That’s why I’m so disillusioned with the advocacy establishment. As far as I can tell, they exist primarily to serve themselves. Unemployment and poverty are social curses which are ridiculously soluble. It is not social and political will that stands in the way. It is social and political intent. On all sides of the political aisle.

Right. There. Said it. I’m going back to bed now. I’ll probably regret it when I’ve had a shower.

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