Poverty Can Be Solved. Just Trust Poor People.

Jan 22, 2020, 11:00 AM

Our current poverty alleviation programs just aren’t working the way they should. Is there a better way?

If you’ve never been poor, you don’t know how soul-crushingly hard it is to always be struggling to make ends meet. The grinding challenge of not knowing how you are gonna pay for this bill or that fee takes a real toll. 

But on top of that, our current poverty alleviation programs—things like food stamps, welfare payments, disability assistance—they all come with some real strings attached. We make people experiencing poverty jump through more hoops to get this measly assistance than people who haven’t experienced poverty can even fathom. And the dirty secret of all that busywork we set up for people struggling to make ends meet? Our poverty alleviation programs just aren’t working in the way they should.

A big part of why they don’t work is because the people who create and run programs and services don’t trust poor people. Instead of trust, they devise hurdles people must navigate to prove they are worthy of support. 

The truth is that self-determination—our ability and desire to make choices about what our lives look like—is restricted when it comes to poor people—and this is to our collective detriment. Whether a person might become a powerful agent for social change or seek out their dreams as an artist, it does no one any good when we hold people back by not providing more equitable access to resources. Thankfully, there’s a better way, and it begins with trusting poor people to make the best decisions about how to shape their own lives.

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Show Notes

More Than Enough was developed by Next River Productions. Created and hosted by Mia Birdsong. Audio engineering and music by Nino Moschella. Script development and production by Allison Cook. The content of this podcast was informed by the stories of hundreds of people across the country, only some of whom you heard from. Thank you to everyone who took the time to speak with me and share their story.

Support for the production of More Than Enough was provided by a few generous folks and the Economic Security Project, an organization advancing cash-based interventions in the United States and reigning in corporate monopolies.

More Than Enough is a project of The Nation Magazine.