Part Two: Maslow’s Theorem-The Great Society (Poverty in the USA)


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Following up with Maslow’s Theorem for the Great Society. I think it’s important to go over some basic economics, in reference to social services. Poverty in the United States represents a larger portion of the society. The following represents discussion board answers I provided for a social welfare course at ASU Fall 2011. These questions and answer, provide a vivid expose of what poverty is in the United States, and how Maslow’s Theory of hierarchy of needs can flourish a Great Society in the USA. Within this society self-sufficiency can be obtained, while business/economical growth procure.  The author of the text was Jacqueline Brux (Economic Issues and Policy (5th edition) and the instructor Mrs. Niles.

Paul D. Goree

SWU 194 (ASU Fall 2011)

DB# 6 Poverty

  1. Describe key micro economic forces that serve to support the continued existence of poverty in the United States?

The primary key micro economic  forces, that support the continued existence of poverty in the United States are, definition of poverty, feminization of poverty, lower wage service sector jobs, budget cuts and program time lines. I think it’s important that an accurate definition of poverty be understood. In chapter 6 of Jacqueline M. Brux’s text, Economic Issues and Policy, Brux’s  states that, “There are two ways to look at poverty. One is considering relative poverty-a situation in which people are poor in comparison to other people. The other is b y considering absolute poverty– a situation in which people experience actual hardship according to some objective criterion.”(Brux, 2008, pg. 132)

Between the two phrases, either one could be manipulated to include a portion of the society which is not actually in poverty, but because of the measure used to define, they are placed into poverty.  For example, if one was to use absolute poverty, and made the criterion be, ownership of a home. This would exclude all those who do make more than the poverty line, but due to their non-ownership of housing, they are now automatically considered in poverty. I think this manipulation of definition is used often by the media and political personalities in an attempt to push their agendas.

Another aspect to consider is the feminization of poverty. In chapter 1 of Karen Seccombe’s text, So You Think I Drive A Cadillac, Seccombe states that, “…women’s economic status is often more tentative than is the case for men. This is particularly true if a woman is not employed and is deriving her economic status through her partner…even when they are employed, women face unique challenges in the general workplace. Lower wages for work of comparable worth, occupational segregation, and unequal returns on education …” (Seccombe, 1999, pg.8)  Seeming that women represent the majority of AFDC/TANF cases loads, there is an entire realm of stigma, associating poverty with social welfare, and women. Obviously these associations are false, yet still contribute to support poverty in the United States. This is more apparent in Brux’s text, when it is suggested, “women bear the greatest burden of poverty…Historical reasons include growth in the number of female headed households, teen pregnancies, discrimination in the labor market and domestic violence towards women.”(Brux, pg.139)

Seeming discrimination in the labor market is a reality, then it should come to no surprise how the lower wage service sector supports poverty and assist in keeping women economic status low.

  1. Describe key macro economic forces that serve to support the continued existence of poverty in the United States?

The prevailing macro economic forces that serves to support poverty in  the United States is income distribution.  In chapter 6, Brux’s defines income distribution as follows, “The income distribution refers to the division of total income in the economy among different income groups…income distribution is based on…money income: that is, all household income received from working, interest, rent, dividends, or any other source before payment of taxes. Included…is any government income transfer…not counted…are in-kind transfers.” ( pg. 132) I find several problems with this method of income distribution. First it excludes in kind transfers (food stamps, section 8,  public health, TANF cash aid), thus these recipients do not have any money income, when being categorized. However the person working and receiving money income, use that income for food, housing and health care purposes. In addition these  persons with money income have the advantage of accumulating a savings.

Brux’s states that, “Most people, economists included, argue that some degree of income inequality is essential to preserve incentives.”(pg.133) Although I agree with this, when considering “support of continued existence of poverty in the United States”, I tend to find incentives a cruel deceptive word. This is because when a person has no money income (and is classified as such by income distribution), the ladder to some upper ward economical security is diminished. I think it becomes non-realistic to vision prosperity, when you are homeless and in poverty. The ideal of incentives, seems to lapse these two segments of the society. Brux’s points out, “Poverty also results in poor health and nutrition, which may sap energy and harm labor productivity.” (pg.133) As long as poor health and nutrition exist in the United States, industry markets can be created to attend to the need. Thus the continued existence of poverty under the term of income distribution is beneficial to the creators of these attentive industry markets.

Another aspect I like to consider is unemployment. In chapter 14 of Brux’s text, to understand unemployment, Brux’s suggest one must understand the labor force. “The labor force refers to all people age 16 and older who are working for pay plus all people in this age range who are actively seeking employment.” (pg. 324)  When these two forces decrease, the number of people entering poverty will increase. This can be beneficial to some employers, because it give justification to the Tertiary Job Sector.  In chapter 8 of Seccombe’s text, Seccombe defines the tertiary sector as, “The tertiary sector, or service sector, is the fastest growing sector of our economy and focuses on providing a wide variety of services.” (pg.198) It is suggested that these tertiary jobs contribute to poverty, because they pay less, offer few benefits, are primarily part time employment and are without union protections. All of these factors lead to an increase in poverty, using the absolute poverty model.

  1. Discuss poverty as an issue related to social justice?

When I think of social justice and poverty, I think of government and non-governmental organizations that assist to decrease the burden many face in their day to day functioning. Social Justice implies, that all citizens are entitled to a respectable level of existence. In chapter 6 of Brux’s text,  Brux provides an excellent explanation regarding social justice and poverty. “Because discrimination plays a role in poverty, it is important that our nation strives to provide equal opportunities to all people in the area of education, housing and employment…Several government programs are designed to help the poor.” (pg. 144-145) A few of these programs include, Section 8 for affordable housing, Medicaid for healthcare, SSI for income after retirement, WIC for supplemental nutrition for children and women, Food Stamps for nutritional needs, TANF Cash for emergency cash assistants.

In chapter 7 of Seccombe’s text, testimonials are provided, detailing the social justice of poverty from the recipient perspective. Seccombe states, “Few women had quick or enthusiastic answers to my query about the positive aspects of welfare…Three themes emerged in our discussion. First, a number of women commented that welfare provides an important floor for poor families, albeit a marginal one. Without welfare, several women told me that they would have no recourse other than to be living out on the streets, in a homeless shelter, or remain married to a physically or emotionally abusive spouse…Second, several specific programs were mentioned repeatedly as being particularly helpful. Medicaid was mentioned most often…The third strength noted was the welfare system is the favorable review given to several reform efforts. In particular, voluntary programs designed to assist women’s transition off welfare…The most comprehensive of these programs, the Family Transition Program (FTP), was a two year “human-capital-investment” program that included numerous features designed to assist participants towards self-sufficiency…” (pg.162-163)

Although economic conservatives will endlessly debate these programs are spillover  cost             passed on to tax payers, without these valuable programs, much worst events would unfold                 within this nation.

4.) Discuss poverty as an issue related to economic justice or  injustice?

When I think of economic justice/injustice and poverty, I immediately look towards our elected officials to remedy any faults. To me, economic injustice is preventing opportunity to segments of the population. For example, I cannot find justification for the use of regressive taxes in the United States. Why would the society want to tax the greater amount from the lowest income, than from the higher income.  It seems completely backwards, and place duress and burdens upon the lowest income workers. In chapter 16 of Brux’s text, she seems to agree, when she states, “A regressive tax is one that takes a larger percent of income from low-income households than from high-income ones. Most of the taxes in our country are regressive. Does this surprise you? Our regressive taxes include sales taxes, most excise taxes, property taxes and the Social Security tax. Because some of these taxes are not levied directly on incomes, seeing why they are regressive is sometimes difficult.” (pg. 385)

Brux is correct, regressive taxation should not surprise anyone, which is why our nation is experiencing its 11th week of Occupy America. The goal is to make Americans aware of their true economical status in this nation, which is 99%. And why is it that 99% of the population is expected to carry 100% of the national debit, when such essentials: as employment is a huge barrier. It’s time for the 1% to redistribute their wealth in order for there to be economical justices.

5)  Discuss poverty as a life course risk?

I feel the best way I can answer this question, is from the testimonials provided by Karen Seccombe in her text, “So You Think I Drive A Cadillac?” These testimonials provide some real life poverty and the course risk involved.  At the beginning of each testimonial I will provided the course risk involved with each testimonial.

Nutrition:

In chapter 5, Seccombe details factors of living and surviving on food stamps. One of the respondents, Stephanie, a nursing student, stated the following. “No! I eat out very rarely, so I find that food stamps rarely last the month for me. I eat very little meat. But I try to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. I try to be very healthful in my diet. I eat a low fat diet. And unfortunately, those foods are expensive. When it comes to the end of the month, I sometimes have to pay $20 or $30 (cash) until the next time I can get food stamps. Some months are four weeks, and some are five. Like, right now, it’s tight. I only have one gallon of milk in the fridge, a half a loaf of bread, and some orange juice. I have to be real creative about what I make to eat. There haven’t been any fruits or veggies this past week. (pg. 112)

Un-Planned Adult Pregnancies:

In chapter 1, Seccombe details factors of un-planned adult pregnancy.  The respondent is Patrice. Seccombe asked “Do you think this happens to a lot of women?” Patrice states, “I really do. Well, it’s like this. Being a young lady, I think a lot of women date a guy for years. And then you get pregnant. You expect him not really to marry you, but to be there for you and the child, but they hump up and leave. I believe women get depressed because of the fact that you got to just totally give up your life. Like me, I was in nursing school, and I was doing great. I came pregnant, so I got depressed because the guy left after all those years. I had to resign in my eight month of pregnancy. But I was working then too, because I was trying to maintain my rent and my car, you know. I think a lot of women become discouraged and depressed because what you are expecting in life-all your dreams and fantasies become nightmares. The guy leaves you, and then you know you got to turn to welfare, which everybody thinks is bad because, you know its taxpayer money. People be criticizing you. Then you have to stand in these long lines to get stamps. Then you have to be criticized on a daily basis. And it’s just discouraging Then you have to go for your appointments, sometimes there for two or three hours before your worker calls you. They just blobber your business out loud in the lobby [laughter]. You got to be embarrassed. You look around, you know? Then you have to go into the health department and everybody looks pitiful…You be depressed. Then you be vulnerable to the situation. The first guy-well maybe not the first-but a guy promises you the world and you are weak to the situation. You don’t think your own situation is going to ever get any better, and then you end up in the same situation all over again if you don’t be smart. But after two mistakes-I won’t say mistakes because I love my children-but after two down falls, you know, with men, I’ve learned [laughter]. (pg. 4-5)

Lower Tier Employment: Consequences and Barriers:

In chapter 8, Seccombe details getting off of welfare, is it possible to become self sufficient? The is Eliza, a mother of 4. “That’s something I need is a job. I’ve been looking. I just can’t find the right one. I used to work at [fast food industry], but I wasn’t making much money. By the time I caught the city bus, went out there, by the time I got to my kids, I spent all the money that they gave me. I liked the job, but it was just that I had to pay .75 cent to get to work, and paid .75 cent to get back. If I missed the bus, I had to give somebody $3 or $4 to take me. And they wouldn’t give me enough hours. I told them when they gave me this jobs that I needed at least 30-40 hours a week. I just can’t afford to work less. But I was wasting my time going out there. I had to be at work by 11 o’clock, but they would send me home by 2 o’clock. I didn’t even get 20 hours a week. You hear what I’m saying? Ten or 12, maybe. I think what they was doing was hiring you for the busy hour, and once the busy hour passed, you was sent out of there. I had to quit because it was costing me too much to go way over there.

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