June 6th, 2014
01:16 PM ET

What I'm reading: How to tackle poverty

By Fareed Zakaria

“Debates over what kind of social welfare system the United States ought to have are always polarizing, from the creation of the Great Society in the 1960s to the Clinton welfare reforms of the 1990s to the Paul Ryan budgets of this era. Conservatives tend to attribute the persistence of poverty, even amid economic growth, to the perverse incentives that a welfare state creates against working,” writes Neil Irwin in the New York Times.

“But the reality is that low-income workers are putting in more hours on the job than they did a generation ago – and the financial rewards for doing so just haven’t increased. That’s the real lesson of the data: If you want to address poverty in the United States, it’s not enough to say that you need to create better incentives for lower-income people to work. You also have to devise strategies that make the benefits of a stronger economy show up in the wages of the people on the edge of poverty, who need it most desperately.”


“Fusion power, they say, is 30 years away…and always will be. Scientists figured out long ago that duplicating the power of the sun would provide us with almost limitless energy. But again and again, we’ve thrown our best brains at the problem and they’ve bounced off it like ping pong balls,” writes Noah Smith for Bloomberg.

“Macroeconomics is a little like fusion power. When the Great Depression hit, economists finally started taking booms and busts seriously. There’s no denying that something weird happens when a country slips into recession – all the same factories and offices and people and ideas are there, but suddenly people aren’t producing as much stuff. Why? John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek and Irving Fisher wrestled with this question in the 1930s, and their work kicked off a decades-long quest to understand what we now call the business cycle. But almost a century later, despite sending some of our best brains up against the problem, we’ve made frustratingly little progress.”


“The European Union has always been an elitist project. That didn’t matter very much when the union was little more than a western European trade club. But now that it has taken on many of the trappings of a sovereign state – with its own currency, border police, and power to tinker with national budgets – its policies will affect the lives of its citizens much more,” writes Gareth Harding in Foreign Affairs. “Without their support and involvement, the union will wilt like a plant starved of water. To prevent this, the EU needs to be less intrusive and more democratic. But above all it has to show how it changes people’s lives for the better.”




soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Portlandtony

    If the World attacked the Fusion problem in the same way the US approached the Manhattan Project, we'd have fusion power in five years....Problem is "What do we do with all our carbon based fuels and the companies that produce them?

    June 6, 2014 at 2:13 pm |
  2. Matthew Slater

    Poverty wouldn't be a problem if the rich weren't stealing from the poor continuously. Tackling poverty is language that conceals those crimes by framing the poor as the problem.

    June 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm |
  3. Ferhat Balkan

    Nearly half of the world's wealth is owned by 1% of the population which amounts to about $120 trillion. That's about 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the population. That huge gap that we have and the distribution of wealth is the biggest problem that we face when it comes to poverty.

    June 6, 2014 at 7:31 pm |
  4. chri§§y

    Amen @ Mathew and @ Ferhat! And THEIR philosophy is the poor just want freebies! They couldnt be more wrong! And im damned sure all our unemployed and homeless veterans ARENT expecting freebies! But if thats what it takes for the 1% to be able to sleep at night then more power too em! God dont like ugly!

    June 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I do think that welfare creates incentives against working, so I must be a conservative.
    Why, then, did I not vote for Paul Ryan?
    At least, every USA citizen and resident needs to comprehend ATLAS SHRUGGED, whether he believes that Ryan agreed completely with Ayn Rand or not.
    I, by the way, do almost completely agree with Ayn Rand.
    Poverty is not based on a single model. Each person's poverty must be addressed separately, by the poor person, to solve that problem successfully.
    Some, but certainly not all, poverty reflects a person's own preference.

    June 7, 2014 at 8:48 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      "But what about the guy," I expect to be asked, "who doesn't have the education, or maybe the genetic talent for mentation, to address his own poverty intelligently? What about him, huh?"
      Well, for that poor guy, we consult the Bible, where we are reminded that the poor we always have with us.
      Then will a social activist say, "then God help us!"
      Then, I shall shrug.

      June 7, 2014 at 9:00 am |
  6. chri§§y

    Lol what that proves is that you are a 1%er more than a conservative.

    June 7, 2014 at 9:58 am |
  7. chri§§y

    Or maybe both! Most likely both because you have the insane notion that poor people either 1 – want to be poor or 2 – are poor because they are lazy!

    June 7, 2014 at 10:02 am |
  8. equote

    "We can safely abandon the doctrine of the eighties (1980s), namely that the rich were not working because they had too little money, the poor because they had much."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

    June 7, 2014 at 7:34 pm |
  9. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    My strongest empathy with poor USA citizens is with educated, intelligent, and experienced persons who anxiously seek any work available, regardless of remuneration or length of employment period.
    One NYC couple, about a generation younger than I and good friends, do the best they can, but cannot afford proper health care even with the recent reforms, and with help from social workers.
    My friends would have better health care under Medicaid if they did no work at all. They don't give up, because they still have hope of returning to a better lifestyle.
    Their jobs did not go overseas: our economy collapsed for many reasons.
    Somebody will ask why I don't help them. I do, and I help others too, mostly my students.
    Those still willing to struggle on the lower edge of employment, the gutsy ones, need more help than the government offers them.

    June 8, 2014 at 3:04 pm |
  10. chri§§y

    Well said @ Joey! And another problem im sure your friends have encountered is their age right? Thats the general problem that my friends have run into and its disheartening at best! Especially since most of them are veterans also!

    June 8, 2014 at 9:57 pm |
  11. The Entire GOP Platform In A Single Paragraph

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...With your loving kindness, help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance and compassion, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowledge to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. God...Give us the strength during our speeches to repeatedly yell........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!
    In your name we prey (purposely misspelled, or is it?)........Amen

    June 9, 2014 at 10:17 am |
  12. Aaron Natho

    Safer ingredients for your health and the environment.

    January 4, 2021 at 3:06 am |

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