Opinion: HBCUs, libertarian alliance can help fight poverty


In 2015, as told on the Center for Advancing Opportunity website, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., then-president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, heard libertarian billionaire businessman Charles Koch, in a TV interview, discussing eliminating barriers to opportunity.

Taylor reached out to Koch, and the result was a Koch contribution of $25.6 million to the TMCF to establish the Center for Advancing Opportunity.

Although there is no shortage of research on the causes and challenges of poverty in America, CAO’s innovation is to study the problem by going into these communities, seeing how the locals think and devising local solutions. The Center, according to Koch, “brings together students and faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with community members to study and collect data about criminal justice, education, and entrepreneurship and formulate locally informed solutions to them.”

Now CAO has brought in another partner, Gallup, and has released its first major survey: “The State of Opportunity in America: Understanding Barriers & Identifying Solutions.”

The research examines “fragile” communities, defined as “areas with high proportions of residents who struggle financially in their daily lives and have limited opportunities for social mobility.”

Gallup combined in-depth surveys of four such fragile communities — Birmingham, Alabama; Cleveland, Ohio; Fresno, California; Chicago, Illinois — with a national survey.

Sixty-six percent of these communities are black or Hispanic, 58 percent earn less than $34,999, and 12 percent of the population have a bachelor’s degree or more.

Not so surprising is that individuals in these communities are struggling. Forty-four percent say that there were times during the past year that they were unable to afford food. Forty percent say that they are “finding it difficult” or “very difficult” to get by on their current income.

Thirty-eight percent work full time. Fifty-one percent believe crime in their community has increased “over the last few years.”

Only 32 percent strongly agree or agree that all children in their community have access to high-quality public schools.

But despite challenging life circumstances, individuals in these communities remain resilient and optimistic. This is the best and most encouraging news. Sixty-eight percent of the residents of these communities, compared to 79 percent of all Americans, agree that Americans “can get ahead” by “working hard.” Only 32 percent are pessimistic that everyone can “get ahead.”

Twenty-one percent indicate plans to move in next 12 months. Fifty-nine percent say they would like to move. Changing a residence requires optimism and initiative. These are healthy signs of vitality in these distressed communities.

What concerns me are the perceptions that residents of these fragile communities have regarding policies that they say they think will improve their situations. Raise the minimum wage, more funds to public schools, more government spending.

This demonstrates the great need for conservative thought leaders to spend quality time in these communities educating residents about ideas that have failed — in fact, the very ideas residents think work — and discussing innovative ideas that can bring the results they seek.

How can we change the tax and regulatory realities of these communities to attract business? How can school vouchers and tax credits create schools that can serve the special needs of these communities? How can housing vouchers provide the flexibility for these individuals to benefit from government housing assistance but still allow them to move and choose where they want to live?

The partnership between Koch and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund is an exciting and innovative development. The meeting of minds between the libertarian Kochs and the largely traditionally Democratic communities of HBCU’s can produce new understanding and insights to fight poverty.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Is Trump guilty, or does he just look guilty?

When absorbing news about the Mueller investigation, I can’t help thinking of Saddam Hussein. No, I’m not equating our president with the late Iraqi dictator. I’m thinking more about our assumptions regarding Saddam’s guilt. In the run-up to the Iraq War, the whole world was asking whether Saddam had a secret program for weapons...
POINT OF VIEW: We have to maintain our conservation lands

More conversation is needed on finding additional funds to support Palm Beach County’s Natural Areas Program. The Palm Beach Post did a wonderful and informative article, “County weighs price of conserving nature” (Jan. 8), that summarized how Palm Beach County was scheduled to run out of funding in 2019 for maintaining over 30,000...
Opinion: The content of the GOP’s character

Even those who have long since accepted the premise that Donald Trump is corrupt, self-centered and dishonest seem a bit shocked by his tirades over the Presidents Day weekend. Using the Parkland, Florida, massacre as an excuse to attack the FBI for investigating Russian election intervention on his behalf — while lying about his own past denials...
Editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon

CARTOON VIEW MIKE LUCKOVICH
Letters Violent images don’t seem to affect other countries

Violent images don’t harm other countries There is no doubt that there are far too many violent images today. The violence portrayed in my youth were Popeye beating some bad guy, and Vietnam. Today, it is assault weapons murdering innocent people. However, there remains one single fact that makes America stand out. Guns. The population in Great...
More Stories