May 17, 2010

Two Perspectives on Root Causes

Justin Katz

The two perspectives on what constitutes the root causes of poverty and, therefore, how to resolve them, emerged when the six gubernatorial candidates met with the Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition. On one side:

Republican John Robitaille, Governor Carcieri's former communications director, said the large number of single-parent families in poor communities is a key factor contributing to childhood poverty. He said the state needs to streamline access to its social service programs and adopt "targeted and measurable" ways to deal with the root causes of poverty, he said.

And on the other:

Rabbi Alan Flam, a senior fellow at Brown University's Swearer Center for Public Service, urged attendees to do more than write checks and organize food drives.

While such charitable acts are helpful, they don't address the roots of poverty — or the ways to end it. Solutions require action in town halls and at the State House, he said. "We must act with a resolve and a belief that we can be a catalyst for change."

One can fairly infer that Robitaille would decrease government incentives for the behavior that constitutes the root causes, while Flam, in attempting to leverage the government as his "catalyst for change," would increase them. It's an old debate, but I'd suggest that if we perpetuate the sense that the indigent have a civil right to government solutions, we'll perpetuate the adolescent dependency that is primary among the roots.

We do have a moral obligation to assist those who need help, but that assistance must be seen as voluntary charity on our part, not as something that is owed to the recipients.

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" Solutions require action in town halls and at the State House, he said"

... yes, the creation of a better business environment in the state to bring more and better paying jobs here.

Posted by: Monique at May 17, 2010 1:05 PM

Flam is the a##hole who carries water for illegal aliens and calls the Governor and anyone who supports the Executive order a racist.He is beneath contempt.Oh,yeah,he lives in Barrington-none of those pesky Brown people around HIS neighborhood.BTW,his neighbors are Charlie Bakst and Steven Brown-bunch of f***kin'hypocrites.

Posted by: joe bernstein at May 18, 2010 6:49 AM

Read the book "Nickled and Dimed" and you will get a good idea of how poverty is difficult to leave - even for a relatively happy and healthy hard worker.

Every situation is different, but the book chronicles what it is like for a lot of people, who are only one paycheck, one disease or one broken down car from complete ruin.

Posted by: Stuart at May 18, 2010 11:47 AM
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