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By Stuart Reid
Utah State Senator, District 18
Originally published in the Deseret News on 9/19/2014.
Intergenerational poverty the result of misdiagnosis
Recently, there has been much talk from Republicans about poverty and reforming the welfare system. On the national level, the discussion has been initiated primarily by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. Both are sincere in their exploration for better ways to tackle the problem of poverty. They should be congratulated for caring about the poor.
Unlike Ryan and Lee, most Republicans are satisfied to just criticize welfare policies and programs. Republicans should try to do more than that. They should try to recover the nation from the intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency epidemic.
Since welfare began, government welfare policies have misdiagnosed the poverty problem, resulting in misapplied welfare treatments. This misdiagnoses continues today and unfortunately is not repaired by suggested treatments coming from Ryan or Lee. They, too, have misdiagnosed poverty.
Governmental misdiagnosis is as follows:
1) Poverty is incurable and, therefore, it can only be managed — albeit managed by over 20 uncoordinated, congressional committees and trillions of dollars sustaining large federal and state bureaucracies.
2) Poverty is an adult malady and therefore welfare policies and programs should primarily focus on adults with the expectation they will be responsible to heal their own children out of poverty and welfare dependency, while all along they remain dependent upon taxpayer aid, absent any accountability for their children’s progress.
3) All poverty is the same and therefore it should be treated the same by the federal government, mandating universal and uniform welfare cures to be applied by the states.
The negative results from governmental misdiagnosis and subsequent misguided treatments to cure poverty are prolific. The worst of all is tens of millions of children have been debilitated by intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency that most often is accompanied with higher rates of education failure, drug and alcohol use, crime, teen pregnancy, depression and suicide. The costs of these consequences are incalculable for children but well-known by taxpayers.
If Republicans want the nation to be healed, they need to properly diagnose the two kinds of poverty — situational and intergenerational — each requiring differentiated welfare treatments. Without the correct diagnosis, it will ensure that situational poverty is undertreated and the malady of intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency will continue to spread to successive generations of children.
Situational poverty results from mostly the unexpected, such as catastrophic health conditions, death, divorce, job loss, etc. These situations usually can be assisted on a limited and temporary basis if treatments are applied to prevent them from metastasizing into intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency.
Welfare policies and programs treating intergenerational poverty should be adjusted to primarily save the rising generation of children from the intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency cycle. Children must be triaged first and foremost. Adults should be assisted in a way necessary to hold them accountable for rescuing their own children out of the intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency cycle.
Admittedly, when successive generations of children growing into adulthood have been exposed by their often-unwitting parents to the contagion of the intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency cycle, it is difficult for them to recover their own children without aid. Republicans owe it to the rising generation of children and the taxpayers to intervene and perform surgery on this contagion made ever more septic by governmental malpractice.
Assessing the differences between situational and intergenerational poverty in each state will help state and federal governments accurately diagnose poverty and more effectively apply welfare treatments. Since the welfare system began, with the recent exception of Utah, this assessment has never been done properly.
Ancient healers have foretold that poverty will always be among us. This is true for situational poverty. In a prosperous and just society, with very few exceptions, it should never be true for intergenerational poverty. Children should be saved from the pestilence of intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency. If Republicans will do more than just criticize, it can happen.
*Photo from Chepko Danil, Getty Images/iStockphoto
More on Intergenerational Poverty:
– Utah’s Third Annual Report on Intergenerational Poverty, Welfare Dependency and the Use of Public Assistance, 2014 from the Department of Workforce Services
– Saving the American Indian Legacy, by Stuart Reid on 12/29/13.
– Charity Care: Taking Care of Utah’s Poor, by Allen Christensen on 3/7/2014.
– Two Types of Poverty, by Stuart Reid on 10/25/2012.
– Welfare Reform: Eight Points of Action, by Stuart Reid on 10/18/2012.
– Let’s end multigenerational poverty, by Stuart Reid on 9/10/2012.
– Centering priorities and resources on children, by Stuart Reid on 11/29/2011.