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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Addressing Poverty: 'A Better Way'

OK Program
by U.S. Rep. French Hill: President Lyndon Johnson introduced the War on Poverty to the nation 52 years ago. Designed as a comprehensive social welfare initiative, the program initially included funding for food stamps, school districts, and Medicare and Medicaid. Although many of these programs have been useful, it would be hard to make a legitimate case that their efficiency matches the total investment by the taxpayers.

The Census Bureau estimates that the poverty rate has fallen from 19 percent in 1964 to 15 percent in 2014 — a tragic disappointment when you consider the estimated $22 trillion spent on these programs. When the data indicates little to no achievement, it’s time for us to move past antiquated ideas and begin implementing innovative and effective strategies to combat poverty in America.

Fortunately, this isn’t just a case of knowing what doesn’t work; we also know what does work. I’m pleased to join Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and our fellow Republicans in Congress in announcing a new strategy for addressing poverty as part of A Better Way, our comprehensive plan for creating an America that works better for its citizens.

The solutions we’re advocating for are tried and tested alternatives to the stale, one-size-fits-all federal programs taxpayers are forced to fund year after year. Some of these solutions are already underway in central Arkansas, serving thousands of individuals and families who need a helping hand. Initiatives like Our House, which provides housing and training to Central Arkansas families, and the OK Program, established by Donald Northcross in 1990 to mentor young African American men, exemplify the community-based solutions that have been demonstrated to break the cycle of poverty.

For example, each year, Our House provides housing and employment training for more than one thousand families, supplying them with the help and skills they need to succeed. Likewise, the mentors at the OK Program serve our low income and under-served communities by making a positive impact on the children they work with and increasing twofold the likelihood that they will one day be enrolled in college. As these programs demonstrate, the critical element in this fight isn’t interference from Washington, but strong, community-based efforts that provide education, promote employment and personal responsibility, and lend a helping hand when needed.

Last year, I began the Community Empowerment Initiative to study the programs in Central Arkansas that are succeeding in lifting people out of poverty. Non-profit organizations like Our House and the OK Program are essential to providing opportunities for our children and taking care of our neediest families.

There’s also an important role for active, engaged efforts from our local governments and public officials, like the Greenbrier Public Schools in Faulkner County. This publicly funded school system provides in-school training for skilled jobs and allows students at Greenbrier High School to earn up to two years of college credit through a partnership with UALR.

I’m committed not only to finding out what already works in the Second District, but also to bringing in the most innovative ideas from elsewhere. For example, Washington State sponsors a program by State Rep. Hans Zeiger that promotes partnerships between school districts and housing authorities to keep the most vulnerable students off the streets and in school.

Republicans and Democrats alike are all too often reluctant to engage in an honest discussion about poverty that includes not only the role of individuals in determining their own destinies, but also the role that government can effectively play. Since President Johnson rolled out the War on Poverty initiatives, we’ve continuously treated welfare programs as a panacea for ending poverty, even though the data has shown no discernable decrease in the number of Americans living in poverty.

This narrow approach has left us where we are today: with too many Americans still struggling to get by. It’s time to broaden our outlook. We need to get away from a myopic concern about specific types of welfare reform and provide effective solutions that address the underlying causes of the poverty that afflicts so many of our families and ensnares them in its endless cycle.

We know that children who grow up in stable homes, safe neighborhoods, and good schools have a better chance at success. Building on this understanding is crucial to helping the next generation rise out of poverty.

Ordinary citizens, elected officials, local leaders, and non-profits can work together in our communities to effectively ease the burden that poverty places on families across America. House Republicans are offering A Better Way, and I am excited for the opportunity to promote the successes in central Arkansas as a means to reduce the poverty rate in our state, while giving the rest of America a blueprint to effectively combat poverty.
---------------
French Hill is a Republican U.S. Representative for Arkansas’s 2nd congressional district. He was elected in the 2014 election and took office on January 3, 2015. Article provide to the ARRA News Service by his staff for publication.

Tags: French Hill, U.S. Representative, AR-02, addressing poverty, A Better Way, Our House, OK Program To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
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