mind what wealth people have in other areas (a wealth of talents, a wealth of ideas, a wealth of life); if they don’t have money, they have done something seriously wrong. And they are not to be trusted.
Even when the current war spends money to help people in financial poverty, that money comes with miles of strings attached, making it clear how little trust is given to the financially poor.
People who already have resources make the real decisions, and can put restrictions on where financially poor people live, what jobs they have, who their friends are, and more, always more. After all, the thinking goes, if they were able to make these decisions themselves, they wouldn’t be poor, would they?
That kind of thinking is poverty of perception and understanding run rampant.
It forces people living in financial poverty to forfeit power to those who helped push them into financial poverty in the first place. Unsurprisingly, this solves nothing.
A real war on poverty would recognize poverty of perception and understanding as the real enemies. It would focus on how these deficiencies have limited human opportunity, and make it clear that accommodations and self-determination are not luxuries but necessities. Such a war would recognize that people poor in money can be rich in other ways, and would allow them the opportunity to use their existing wealth, of whatever kind, to build financial wealth.
In order to target the right enemy, we need to understand the full wealth of gifts that people offer. Some people, for example, offer the gift of time, giving us a chance to change the pace of our everyday life and be more reflective.
People who are sick or even dying may seem to have no value (with the disastrous exception of those who lobby for assisted suicide to hasten their death), but they can give others in the community an intimation of their own mortality.
All these gifts, when recognized, have value. People who offer them should be valued as well. When we recognize such gifts, we will also recognize the harm caused when we construct a society without doors for all, keeping people with a variety of gifts from accessing community, culture, and jobs. The harm we do is not limited to people who cannot get inside, but touches all of us. When we are deprived of the contributions of anyone, we as a society are poorer. But if we correctly identify our enemies, and open every door, the war on poverty can make us all richer rather than poorer.
The Center for Economic Policy Analysis, perhaps best known for its study of poverty spending in Cook County, Illinois, researches other issues as well, such as how states spend their disability funding.
You can reach the authors at 312-786-1825.
Since the building probably would be cheaper to build without it, a door is an accommodation for people unable to walk through walls.