The State of the U.S Poor, Poverty Eradication and Wealth Building
By: Juliette Adams
Did you know there is a historic event occurring in over 30 states in the US in addition to the District of Columbia that is calling for a moral revival of the nation? It is called the Poor People's Campaign co-chaired by Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis. The duration is a six-week campaign which began May 12, 2018, to address the issue of poverty and implement solutions. The Federal Poverty level is determined by family size. In 2017 the yearly income for a family of 1 was $12,060. The ultimate objective of the Poor People's Campaign is to complete the Poor People's movement that Martin Luther King Jr. started. Poverty does not discriminate and there has to be collective action for a solution.
The World Bank a multilateral development institution with 189-member countries headquartered in Washington D.C, has an ambitious mission of eradication of extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity by the year 2030. Extreme poverty is defined as an individual living below $1.90 dollars a day. Historically, the US has always been a very influential member, as all the presidents of the "Bank" have been Americans. Additionally, the US is the only country to have veto power over decisions made by the executive board.
From its involvement in the World Bank it seems that the US should have a major focus of poverty eradication and shared prosperity. However is that the case? According to the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate estimate in the US in 2016 was 12.7% (43.1 million). Are the present systems viable and working to address these deficiencies? Ironically even though the poverty rate of African Americans is 22% (9.2 million), the 8.8% percentage for White Americans equates to 17.3 million people due to their larger overall share in the population.
Would the revival of true racial integration in the US South assist in lifting individuals out of poverty at this point in history? The question now is why this particular issue of poverty is important in this time and place? It is because of a recent unprecedented event in the history of the US. A billionaire businessman became the US president and his defining votes came from the poor. A quarter of the way into his term certain high-stake decisions have been implemented that have yielded success where other leaders have failed due to lack of political will. These decisions include massive tax cuts and the move of Israel's embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A question that needs to be answered is whether the American poor's socio-economic situation has improved. Has their overall standard of living improved? Has he economically delivered to his base for the benefit all?
The major difference between the 1968 and 2018 Poor People's Campaign is the internet. The internet has opened the opportunity and possibility for anyone to start their business and generate an income. Frederick Douglass would have referred to it as assisting in the building of the self- made man. Entrepreneurship with its character building, innovation, creative thinking and self- accountability is a clear way out of poverty. The challenge today is how does one get that collective message out with the excess of books on entrepreneurship, especially as new businesses have a failure rate of 20% in the first year and only 4% make a $1 million or more.
There are individuals in the US society who refused to wait on the government and have made it their mission to address the issue of individual wealth building, including self-made millionaires Robert Kiyosaki, Robert Allen and Mark V. Hansen. Their actions include teaching the nuts of bolts of financial independence and wealth creation through their many books and seminars such as "Rich Dad Poor Dad", "The One Minute Millionaire", and later "Cash in a Flash". However, it is still an enormous challenge for individuals who have been voiceless and previously neglected by society to rise to the challenge of becoming economically self-independent. It is like teaching someone with a first grade education at a 12th grade level and expecting them to achieve A's or even B's.
So what would be an enhanced approach to assist the poor with becoming the self-made man? A Poor People's Campaign supplemented by an entrepreneurship-economic empowerment initiative. The internet has significantly leveled the playing field from the time Dr. King started the campaign in 1968. Even the face of the American poor has changed to the citizen living from "paycheck to paycheck".
What will it take to motivate and push America into that economic wealth creative mode? Possibly citizens and business professionals willing to act on the concept that true economic power and wealth building in the 21st century has arrived. Also possibly through a Hollywood movie like "Black Panther", thus enacting the Founder's vision in the Declaration of Independence - "All men are created equal with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
Do you think the US needs to adopt goals of poverty eradication and shared prosperity by 2020 as one of the richest nations? Is a Hollywood wealth building movie like Black Panther a possible solution?
Juliette Adams is the co-founder of The Frederick Press. She is also a Project Management Consultant specializing in community development initiatives and the author of the Gifted and Magical 95 percent mini-book series. She obtained her Bachelor in Business Administration from Howard University and Master in Security Policy/Law and Society from American University.