Maverick, Violet and How Trickle Down Economics Fails to #ActOnPoverty
Maverick Bishop says he and his mom have stayed in every homeless shelter there is in San Francisco. When there wasn’t room in the shelters, they slept in hospital lobbies, along with other, even-less-desirable locations. Today, due in large part to a mentoring program Maverick was enrolled in, and the help he got finding an afterschool job, he has graduated high school, has a job, and is on his way to becoming a carpenter. He is also sharing his story with members of Congress to try to protect and expand programs that helped him and his mom, and shed light on the need for more resources for programs to help others escape poverty.
He shared his story at a hearing yesterday, held by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, on what works – and what doesn’t – to lift people out of poverty. Twenty-three members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, attended the hearing, titled “The Failure of Trickle Down Economics in the War on Poverty.”
Sitting next to Maverick was Violet Henderson, who after having been forced into sex trafficking, got her GED and took college courses while serving a prison sentence. Determined to stay away from criminal activity after that, she joined a union and found construction work. Thanks to the Clean Slate program that helps people with criminal convictions clear up their record, she now has a good job that doesn’t tax her 61-year-old body like her previous laborer job did, is a homeowner, and is looking into transferring from a community college to UC Berkeley. She’s doing well now, but she still doesn’t feel economically secure. She struggles at times to hold on to her condo and worries about her retirement years and her children.
Maverick and Violet were joined by Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profits in the American City, who called on the need for investments in low-income housing. Dr. Lanre Falusi with the American Academy of Pediatrics highlighted the need for early childhood intervention in the areas of nutrition, education and health care. Kathryn Edin, co-author of $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, reminded the members of Congress present that we must learn from the mistakes made when TANF (the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program) was turned into a block grant, noting that its funding has been cut so much that it’s no longer the safety net nor hand-up to a job that it once was.
Safety net programs have kept millions out of poverty – as Rep. Rosa DeLauro noted in her remarks, child poverty has fallen 35 percent because of the social safety net – and have allowed people like Violet and Maverick to climb out of poverty. But there is more work to do, and we can’t afford to go backwards. We can’t afford to slash funding for critical low-income programs or turn them into block grants, as some in Congress are calling for. As Dr. Falusi said so eloquently said, “Poverty is expensive.”
Violet’s call to Congress was simple: “My plea today is that you work for policies that reward all the hardworking people in America. Give them a fair chance to support their families…I am an example of what is possible when we support people through smart and fair entry and economic programs.”