Poverty and Policy Matters

Poverty and Policy Matters

We use tools to fix things. Just like you’d use literal tools to improve your house, we all use metaphorical tools to improve our lives.

Money is a tool. You would expect a fabulously wealthy technology executive turned venture capitalist to understand this. You might not expect said one-percenter to shout it from a media platform. That’s just what Chamath Palihapitiya has done, though, in this fascinating story about his journey from welfare to wealth.

Two pieces of this story fascinate me. First, Palihapitiya is explicit about the role that affordable health care and subsidized university tuition played in his ability to succeed. Without these tools, his family would have been worried about basic survival, not figuring out how to contribute to the technologies of the future.

The second piece is related: without these vital public investments, how would brilliant but disadvantaged individuals like Palihapitiya find their way to success? With the odds already stacked against them, how would today’s poor but bright future entrepreneurs make it happen?

“I’m acutely aware that there are many other people who grew up like me who are frankly, 1,000 times more talented then I am,” he said. “We should ask ourselves, ‘Can somebody like me grow up with the exact same problems and disadvantages and yet get to the equivalent place as me 20 years from now?'”

It’s in everyone’s best interests to get kids growing up today — many of whom with the same potential — access to economic security and a high quality education. Personally, I think that’s a human rights issue.

If you don’t, perhaps you will consider the issue of human capital: to have brilliant children with unlimited potential struggling even to survive, with limited access to any upward mobility, is a tragic waste of human capital.

As Steven Jay Gould once put it: “I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.”

Right now the next Einstein or the next Chamath Palihapitiya may be working in, to name one example, North Carolina’s tobacco fields. I would like to believe that we, as a community, will find a way to give that person some tools and a chance.

Because, really, that’s all that person would need.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Durham Public Schools (DPS) is expected to adopt a breakfast program at no cost to students and families, a recent Herald Sun articles reports. Under the program, all DPS students could eat breakfast at school at no cost, regardless of their family’s financial status.

In order to combat the stigma associated with receiving free or reduced breakfast, DPS plans to use a catchy slogan, “Breakfast is on us.”

By eliminating the stigma associated with the existing free and reduced meal programs offered only to students from low- and moderate-income families, students are more likely to participate in school meal programs, which can have a positive impact on their ability to succeed academically. The Herald Sun article notes that national data show that school districts that provide universal breakfast programs at no cost to students have higher test scores, fewer disciplinary problems and more focused students.

Many schools across North Carolina have the option to offer breakfast and lunch programs at no cost to students and families this upcoming school year. Nearly 300,000 students in high-poverty schools across North Carolina could potentially benefit from an initiative, known as Community Eligibility, which ensures every child in these schools receives two nutritious meals each day so that they are ready to learn all day. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Unless lawmakers reverse course, nearly one million North Carolina families will claim the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the last time this tax season—one year after Gov. McCrory signed a bill ending the tax credit, according to a new report from the NC Budget and Tax Center.

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers put an end to the state EITC, which helps low-wage workers keep more of their income so they can afford basic necessities, like child care, while pursuing deep tax cuts that primarily benefit wealthy individuals and profitable corporations. Combined with the income tax cuts that benefit the wealthy, the loss of the state EITC tilts the tax system even more out of balance. The state’s tax system already asked more from low- and middle-income families than it did from those earning the most, and this makes the disparity even worse. The resulting tax shift is neither true tax reform nor good for North Carolina’s economy. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

PlaceMattersBTC

 

 

 

 

This blog post is part of a series called Place Matters. The other posts can be accessed here and here

Imagine living in a community that includes the most undesirable and hazardous amenities a place has to offer such as a waste transfer station, a sewage treatment plant, and several landfills. Now, imagine being represented by county officials who decide to provide water and sewer services to an animal shelter but not to the residents—who happen to be more than three-quarters African American. And, these facilities primarily serve the majority-white residents in adjacent communities. Unfortunately, the residents of Royal Oak in Brunswick County don’t have to imagine this; they face this reality every day.

Majority-minority* and low-income Tar Heel communities face widespread environmental injustices—and environmental racism—that harm residents’ overall health and economic security. Such exclusion is exposed in a UNC Center for Civil Rights report, The State of Exclusion: An Empirical Analysis of the Legacy of Segregated Communities in North Carolina. Read More

NC Budget and Tax Center, Poverty and Policy Matters

Allan Freyer contributed to this blog post

The American Dream is continuing to slip out of reach for many North Carolinians. Far too often, working hard just isn’t enough to lift many of North Carolina’s low-income workers out of poverty, according to a new report from the NC Budget & Tax Center.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, the report finds that the persistence of economic hardship in North Carolina is largely due to a changing economy and the replacement of middle wage jobs in manufacturing with poverty wage jobs in the services sector. As a result, public investments in the safety net—such as food assistance and tax credits for working families—and economic development programs are often all that stand between low-wage workers and deep poverty. Far from failing, these are the programs that have lifted hundreds-of-thousands of Tarheel workers out of poverty while also helped those living just-above the poverty line too.

Specific findings include the following: Read More