“The solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.”Martin Luther King Jr.
Thirty-eight million people live in poverty in the US, over half of whom are people of color. The persistence of poverty is by design. In 2017, we spent $357 billion (less than 10%) of our federal budget on programs to alleviate poverty, a percentage steadily decreasing in amount year after year, despite budget growth. Unfortunately, racial bias infects the implementation of our public assistance programs so that people of color see less and less of that support. Beyond poverty programs, we have an economy built with the assumption that some of us will remain unemployed, but those are also likely to be people of color. Lastly, our charitable systems are dedicated to curbing poverty, but rarely address the systemic, race-based factors that cause poverty.
Employment rates are increasing, but poverty persists. Despite growing productivity, Black, Latinx, Native American and Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders have not seen their incomes increase steadily enough to cover the costs of basic needs like food and housing. This is illustrated in increasing rates of food insecurity rising among Black, Latinx, and Native peoples.
Policies for Consideration
Guaranteed income for those who need it:
The idea of giving cash directly to people has historical supporters as diverse as the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King, Jr., and economist Milton Friedman. A guaranteed income is cash provided by the federal government on a regular basis. Guaranteed income should be targeted to those who are unable to meet their basic needs according to a place-based, self-sufficiency standard that includes childcare costs, food, transportation, and life expenses.