Charles Rehn - Democrat for President 2004

A Conversation With America
Questions That Must Be Answered
Web Edition (c) 2002, 2003 Charles Rehn All Rights Reserved







"It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God's will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But, if you want them to believe you - try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God's will yourself."

-- Thomas Merton "Seeds of Contemplation" 1949

60% of the world's population lives in poverty.

When people think of poverty, we think of hunger, and that's certainly a big part of the manifestations of poverty. We associate it with stupidity instead of illiteracy. Laziness or lacking in motivation instead of lacking education or training. We say that the poor have simply made bad choices, and must live with the results.

There are many myths associated with poverty, and until we acknowledge them, and deal with the core issues involved, our righteous judgements of  the poor will make no productive contributions.

It's not about throwing money away, it's about training, education, opportunity, and most importantly, human dignity.

Poverty is an endless cycle when left to itself. It's the same cycle that makes the Supreme Court rule that affirmative action, and consideration of race, is a compelling social issue because it speaks to repairing damage that was done long ago that started the cycle we're still struggling to end.

The cycle began with a disparity in rights and a diminution of human dignity. It was fueled by social isolation and a lack of education. Further, the same cycle of poverty produced a self-defeating attitude, low self esteem, and therefore, reduced the motivation to advance in life.

It's a proven fact that when parents have a higher education, children will too.

Of course, I'm describing a cycle of poverty that sounds like the American "black" experience. But the same cycle persists for any person, any culture, any family that comes from an impoverished background.

We often think of doing things for and with impoverished and homeless people in simple terms of economics. We think that assisting people is throwing money away, and that we should not be encouraging people to rely on a system. We're a proud people, and we take pride in the work ethic of our citizens, and rightly so.

But, the reduction of poverty doesn't just benefit the poor. It benefits us all, and, in the long run, it becomes less expensive. Certainly, there will always be a segment of the population in chronic need of assistance, but that segment is much smaller than you might imagine.

It benefits us because it prevents crime, it encourages people to make productive use of their time, it gives them hope. It gives them skills so that they can get jobs. And it provides higher education, so that they can set better examples for their children regarding the pursuit of higher education, which leads to greater earnings, and social equality. It breaks the cycle of poverty.

Equality and equal opportunity means more than simply having the right to exist. As a society, we need to be responsible as a whole for all of us.

Head Start is an example of  a program that is being reduced, and it's a shame. Research has shown that children in Head Start are better off not just because it orients them and makes them better students (a first step in breaking  the cycle of poverty), but because the meals program provides essential nutrition for children who might not otherwise be fed.

Research has shown that children who do not eat regularly, particularly breakfast, find it difficult to concentrate, they actually experience irreversible brain damage leading to learning disabilities. And yet, myopic policies would end these programs because of a "waste of taxpayer's money".

The Police Chiefs of America (in 1998) supported Head Start as a vital program that ultimately leads to lower crime rates and overall better citizenship.

Once again, when you consider the world we live in, and the world we'd prefer, and weigh that against the cost of committing to the end of abject poverty, it's not just about making  a better world or feeding the children whose faces we see on tv. 

In the end it's about creating a future for this country that is safer and more productive for the good of all people. When all is said and done, ending poverty will make your neighborhood a better place to live.

And if that's not a good enough reason, then remember:  it's cost-effective. Or, go without food for a couple of days.

The Walk-A-Mile Program

Black caucus to fight Head Start changes   Almost 70 percent of children enrolled are minorities, including about a third who are black. "We've got to keep pushing and pushing, over and over again, because our future is literally depending on it," said Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the chairman of the caucus.

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(C) 2002,2003-2009 Charles Rehn Jr IV  All rights reserved