I consider myself one of those lucky (perhaps even truly blessed) people who believes I can do anything I set my mind to... and trust me - it was never easy. I grew up on food stamps, was dealt a hand that most people would run away from.... and I still became a successful CEO.
In many corners we hear the same old exhortation that the way to fix poverty and anything else that ails Americans is for us to become a nation of Good Samaritans. But has giving a beggar a coin ever been as effective as creating an economy that provides him or her a good education and a job?
When employers deny workers a living wage, everyone suffers. Each year, New York's taxpayers spend at least $3.3 billion on SNAP (Food Stamps), Medicaid, and welfare for families who work but still qualify for these entitlements.
Yes, by all means, let's talk about inequality of opportunity for our kids because that's where it all starts. But let's also remember that those kids grow up, and when they do, it doesn't get easier. The scars of childhood last a lifetime.
Some states make the needy jump through hoops. For their own good, of course...
"Held captive." It was how one 13-year-old described the feeling of growing up poor in our wealthy nation, and for more and more Americans living in poverty, this feeling isn't just a metaphor.
I'm not here to bring up Gwyneth Paltrow's latest food stamp challenge... That is so yesterday's news. Instead, I'm going to go even further back and discuss something that is so a year ago's news. You guessed it: I am bringing "conscious uncoupling" back!
The reality is, we all have times of need. We all have moments when we have to reach out for help. At that time in my life I was thankful for the food bank. Their services helped feed my mind and body so that I could continue with my education.
I am not exaggerating. The GOP voted to eliminate the estate tax. But the estate tax only applies to estates larger than $5.4 million for an individual and $10.9 million for couples. Eliminating the estate tax would benefit only 5,500 families in America (.02 percent of the population).
In a nation where millions of working families still can't earn enough to pay rent, pay the bills, and put food on the table at the same time -- and where in fiscal year 2013 there were 4.9 million households with no income but SNAP, including 1.3 million households with children -- relying on the charity of PB and J Day is not a substitute for justice.
I don't believe any single week of living on a cramped budget alone gives any more than the briefest of glimpses into the reality of poverty, for Gwyneth, or any of the rest of us. Poverty is more than a number on a receipt or a row of vegetables in a photo.
This country does not need another celebrity to tell us how life is for "these people." These people are all around us and they are hungry. We need to have some compassion, stop hating the poor and try to understand them.
There is a saying about how expensive it is to be poor. Ironically, the less money you have, the more it costs you to manage and move it. Unbanked and underbanked families rely heavily on alternative financial services such as check cashers and payday loans.
The questions that get me, the ones that I turn over and over in my mind searching for better answers to are the ones that come from kids.
I wonder why this Congress wants to go after single mothers with children who are on limited income. Why do they also want to go after the elderly, who also are on fixed incomes, and are worried about shelter, utility expenses, and getting appropriate food and medicine?
Cuts to effective programs that ensure children start life on a positive path, such as WIC and home visiting, and those that help families meet their basic needs, like SNAP, rental assistance and Medicaid, could prove costly in the long run.