A war is nearly impossible to win when you don’t know who you are fighting.

Jason Hardy and Arthur Lyons
of the Center for Economic Policy
Analysis in Chicago think hard about
the War on Poverty the real enemy, the real casualties

We claim to have been others) from leaving financial due to poor understanding, we
fighting a war on poverty in poverty by denying them fail to take this idea to its
the U.S. since 1964, but access to the tools they could reasonable conclusion: if some
poverty persists because those use to help themselves. people in a building are good,
fighting the war have never One particular brand of then more people are better,
been able to accurately iden-poor perception and under-because that will allow more
tify the real enemy. With the standing leads people to talk individual talents and abilities
wrong enemy in their sights, about the hardship of provid-to be put to use inside the
the generals in this war have ing accommodations for building’s walls. Improved
launched a series of misguided people with disabilities. The perception tells us that if
assaults, leaving the real excuses are constant and there was reason enough to
problems unharmed. familiar: it costs too much make an accommodation to
The prime mistake has money; we can’t give that let some people in, there must
been a too-narrow definition much “special” attention; also be reason to make it
of what poverty is; the war has “these people” don’t know possible for all people to enter
focused almost entirely on one what’s best for them. And so and join us.
brand of poverty, the financial some people are admitted into
kind. This type of poverty is society while others are locked
only a symptom of the real out. Until people over-
problem. The real enemy is Poverty of perception is come their poor perception,
the compulsion of people to blind to the fact that “accom-and for as long as many
see what is different as being modations” are a part of continue to believe that it is
wrong. It is a lack of under-everyday life. After all, put-too difficult and expensive to
standing that people live in ting a door in a building is an provide full access for all
thousands of different ways, accommodation, since the people, they force others into
and can choose their own building probably would be a state of financial poverty —
path, even if it’s different from cheaper and easier to build with no way out.
what millions of others without it. But we put the Since the current war on
choose. doors in as an accommodation poverty does not recognize
We could call the enemy to those of us unable to walk where the true problems lie, it
poverty of understanding or through walls. This accommo-also misplaces the blame for
poverty of perception. dation is based on a simple financial poverty. In the terms
These poverties often play principle: a building with of this war, financial poverty
a central role in keeping people inside it is more useful is the defining aspect of an
people with disabilities (and than an empty one. However, individual’s character. Never