The Role Of Society In Poverty Alleviation
Date: Poverty and society
1. The Relations of Social Structure to Poverty
Poverty in America is caused by its social structure (Seccombe, 2007). In contrast, those against the welfare system question the role of individual responsibility on poverty. Although poverty has no single causal factor, the role of social structures cannot be ignored. Individuals are not responsible for their position in the economic hierarchy. This is because the amount of resources of the families they are born into determines the tools they can use to develop themselves. The American society is capitalistic, meaning that it is based on competition. Society is the way of life created by a group of people. A competitive society can only exist if there are winners and losers. Capitalism needs unemployment to function (Itteilag, 2012). This places a collective moral responsibility on society to take care of the less fortunate among them. If parents cannot afford to support their children, society is obligated to help through the government, which is the voice of a society. Juvenile delinquency is more prevalent among poor children as compared to their wealthier counterparts. The costs of crime to society are more than the costs of poverty alleviation programs like welfare.
If the resources in society were equitably distributed, there would be enough for everybody. Society can afford to support the poor by building structures that result in better resource distribution. This can be done through fair taxation, which ensures those benefiting the most from society’s resources pay more. The bigger part of society is willing to find ways of ending poverty as it costs more to ignore it. The rate of juvenile delinquency is often higher among poorer children. It makes better economic sense to prevent crime than deal with its aftermath.
2. Principles of Plenitude
Plenitude is the state of transition of the American economy from an economic crisis to an improved and sustainable economic culture (Schor, 2011). The growth of the economy is jeopardized by Business As Usual (BAU) policy development, which is primarily profit driven. Although these policies worked in the industrial economy, they are no longer relevant today.
Plenitude is based on four principles. The first is a time allocation system that makes an allowance for increased leisure. This will enable the economy to benefit from stress free workers. The second is self- provisioning which encourages Americans to engage in activities leading to self-sufficiency like growing their own vegetables. The role of specialization and trade in the economy is not eradicated though it is diminished.
The third principle is an environment friendly consumption system. This is vital given the adverse effects of the technology revolution on the environment. Economic systems causing ecological imbalance are unsustainable. Finally, plenitude advocates for the reconstruction of the American social capital or sense of charity. It is the movement towards a caring society.
My observations are aligned to these views. The average American has only two weeks of vacation per year in contrast to the average European with five. A relaxed society is highly productive. The increasingly high food and energy prices are caused by limited environmental resources. This calls for an ecologically aware economy and self-provision. Today, American’s prefer to do formally social activities alone. This indicates an increasingly self-centered society, which in turn creates self-centered economic policies.
3. Nickel and Dimed
Nickel and Dimed is a social commentary on the lives of American blue-collar workers in the 1990s. Reforms in the welfare proof insight that contrary to popular ideas on poverty, low wageworkers are the main “philanthropists of our society” (Ehrenreich, 2001). They sacrifice basic needs to shoulder the resource rich in the food chain by working for low wages. The problem is magnified when these workers have children to support, as the minimum wage is similar to that of single workers. Given their contribution, the government, which represents the wishes of society, could alleviate this situation through childcare and housing subsidies.
The living wage is the money individuals need to earn per hour to live decently. In Garland, Dallas County, Texas the living wage per adult is $9.29. The poverty wage is $5.29 while the minimum wage is $ 7.25. Personally, this living wage is practical as the hourly rates for most professions in this city are way above the living wage if you are single. In comparison, the living wage for Queens, New York is $12.75 per single adult. The poverty wage is $5.21, and the minimum wage is $7.25. Living here is more expensive although most professions pay more than in Garland. It is thus practical for me to live in Queens provided I am not in a minimum wage job, which pays the same as in Garland.
Personally, I have never held low wage jobs. My views on blue collar Americans have not changed much since reading Nickel and Dimed as I have always respected other people. However, I got insight into their lifestyle. Getting out of poverty is hard for blue-collar Americans who work long hours to meet basic expenses (Ehrenreich, 2001). The resource distribution system of our society means they lack resources to develop themselves hence the poverty cycle. Waiters, house cleaners and salespeople should be treated respectfully. I personally believe in tipping them, as it requires a lot of effort for them to do a decent job.
Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Metropolitan Books
Itteilag, R. E. (2012). Holy capitalism: origins, workings and energy catalyst. S. I. : Authorhouse
Schor, J. B. (2011). True wealth: How and why millions of Americans are creating a time rich, ecologically light, small scale, high satisfaction economy. New York, N. Y. : Penguin books
Seccombe, K. (2007). Families in poverty. New York: Allyn & Bacon.