Poverty for profit

One of the large takeaways this weekend for me was the economics of poverty, not from the side of the poor, but from the side of the 1%. I tweeted:

There is a lot of money to be made off poor people. Follow those economics to solve the issue. #checkcashing #charterschools #prison #uppers

And then I got to thinking about this a bit more and found myself trying to solve the systemic issue of poverty, but getting lost in the way all these systems are interconnected. One group thinks a good education is the answer, but that doesn’t solve the food quality issue. If you have another group working to solve the food quality issue, then you have issues of food deserts and distribution you have to work through. When you push on one thing, another pops up.

Instead of this being a problem with a linear solution, i.e., solve A, then, B, then, C, etc, it is more like a fish net with each node connected to another series of nodes. Even thinking about the issues of poverty can make one’s head spin.

So I started with a simple premise: the existence of poverty must be a good thing for some otherwise it would not exist. Who stands to benefit most from the existence of poverty? How do they make money off poverty?

The usual suspects reared their ugly heads: check cashing places, rent-to-own, buy-here-pay-here car lots, dollar stores, etc. I think this is a good start, but for the most part, these are small opportunists working on a local level (though there are some highly-organized like … well, I can’t name names, but you know who they are.) I wanted the deeper answer so I asked a deeper question:

Why is government not solving poverty?

I just ended up with another rabbit hole, but one which I think will get us closer to the issue. When uncovering who most benefits from the existence of poverty, follow those public services that private industry is most trying to convince government to privatize.

We start with one rock-solid business basic that can never be refuted: Companies need to make a profit.

So why is there a push for charter schools? For private prisons? For public sector union-busting? Why is there such resistance to a Medicare-For-All, Single-Payer plan? Saving our government money because private industry can do it more efficiently is crap as is saving the children from a poor education. Few people work hard this hard for morality; they work this hard for money.

Poverty is the dog. All this other stuff like poor education, crime, etc is the tail.

We’ve got to somehow find a way to stay on the issue of poverty beyond four hours on a weekend. “Fixing” education, hunger or healthcare is just putting a band-aid over a gaping wound. We solve poverty, we solve a lot of these other issues. Why do we not have the collective will?



3 thoughts on “Poverty for profit

  1. We could ask a slightly different question, too. What incentive does the political system have to respond to the needs of poor and low-income people? They can’t be counted on for campaign contributions, for what should be obvious reasons. But they can’t be counted on for the other thing politicians need: votes. All else equal (ahhh, the magic social science words!), less educated, low-income, people of color are the least likely to vote. So why should the system care about them? (Why they don’t vote is more complicated, but it ain’t apathy). Indeed, historically, those moments when the political system has responded in a major way to the needs of the dispossessed (think New Deal and Great Society) have been during periods of tumult, strife, and wide-spread movement activity. Marches, strikes, protests and, yes, riots in the streets. . . .

  2. Sadly, I know how the world works and I know that politicians only serve those who can do something for them. This is my fundamental problem with “service” and makes me want to heave every time I hear someone in government being thanked for their “service.” Elected pols should be solving problems of the entire society, not just those who can vote for them or fund their campaigns.

    Stepping off my pollyanna soapbox, I agree with you about the “social pressure-cooker” being needed for the political system to respond. As an example, they are now responding by containing protests like OWS using the NYPD as a security force to beat back citizens with some pretty legitimate concerns. When poor people have nothing left to lose but their lives — and that option is more attractive than living in poverty — that is when the scales will tip. Letting it get to that point is reckless and stupid. This new government environment shows they have the will to take it that far… #debtceilingcliff

  3. All of the answers and questions are valid, but if none of these actually live or visit people in poverty with the intention of helping them then I need them to move to the side. I grew up in poverty, but I did not know it until I got older, and people around you tell you that living in the projects were bad. No politicians ever came to my house or neighborhood to ask how we were doing unless it was election time. The only time I felt politicians really cared about us was in the 90’s with the Morial Administration due to after school programs, curfew for teenagers before nd after school plus summer school jobs. The crime rates were reduce dramatically from these efforts. The system as a whole needs to be fixed not just a bandage. The school system in NO is so screwed up it is a shame.

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