POINT OF VIEW Enlist computers to wage 21st-century War on Poverty


Kemberly Bush’s Feb. 28 Point of View letter on the “cliff effect” raises an issue that has plagued programs designed to assist the poverty stricken in this country for generations.

As a college student in the late 1960s, I listened to many residents of Cabrini Green, a notorious public housing project on Chicago’s South Side, complain that they couldn’t work because they would lose their benefits and they could never support their families on the salary of any job open to them at the time. They loathed the idea that their children didn’t see them going to work each day and would probably grow up thinking that people lived by a check arriving in the mail once a month, but they had no other way to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

The idea of a sliding scale for benefits was thought to be unworkable then because tracking all the moving parts needed to monitor such a program wasn’t possible; it would take too many social workers too much time, and therefore could never be cost-effective

Enter the computer age. Today, the lack of change in providing creative ways to boost people out of poverty remain because lawmakers and our society lack the political will to create laws and systems to change. All too many people still believe in the hatefully false image of “welfare queens” propagated by the far right.

At this point, the only way to mount a battle to change the system and the public’s mind is to privately fund “sliding-scale assistance” programs in several locations — urban, suburban and rural — across the country as an academically based pilot project. Gather and broadly publish the findings through professional journals and, most of all, through the media in all its various forms. Once and for all, explode the myths of a vast swath of people gaming the system.

Perhaps the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation or another socially aware Silicon Valley billionaire couple would fund such an idea as “sliding-scale social assistance.” It has the potential to successfully wage a new War on Poverty, instead of the present situation that translates into a war against the poor.

It is senseless to push people over the cliff. We should get the data to change the laws and put people on a firm footing out of poverty. It appears logical that “sliding scale social assistance” should prove highly cost-efficient and -effective in the long run. We can find out by generating the data.

JOE PICARDI, DELRAY BEACH



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