The Good Economist May 2016 - Page 10

Poverty is one of Philadelphia's major industries. Tens of thousands of jobs-- public and private-- depend on managing poverty.

These material interests have created considerable inertia against ending poverty in Philadelphia. The major owners of the city's land and money forbid profound change that weakens their grip, even though Philadelphia has the nation's highest rates of deep poverty and incarceration; plus 350,000 unemployed, 250,000 uninsured, and 80,000 chronically hungry children; even though life expectancy in North Philly is 18 years less than in Queen Village.

Solutions to poverty are everywhere. Hundreds of neighborhood-based initiatives here could empower the poor to take direct control of their lives, gradually replacing welfare with well-being. But Philadelphia does to the poor everything but provide them the tools (land, home ownership, education, jobs, respect) with which to prove they’re the equal of everyone else.

For example, Philadelphians could build thousands of low-cost, energy-efficient "tiny houses" and "earthships" on vacant lots for our seniors, veterans, returning citizens, teachers, farmers, teachers, students, and homeless on land trusts that keep dwellings permanently affordable. Within them, the poor could become creative owners of green neighborhoods. But building and zoning codes resist such construction.

Meanwhile, neighborhood land trusts could stabilize housing prices and expand ownership. But the government protects land speculators waiting to cash in with condos and strip malls.

greenhouses and hundreds of orchards, were the Redevelopment Authority and Land Bank focused primarily on feeding local people rather than developers.

Further, dozens of neighborhood free clinics staffed by hundreds of doctors and dentists could serve health co-op members paying $150/year. But Pennsylvania insurance law protects corporate insurance monopolies.

Best of all, new neighborhood schools could make education exciting again by teaching students how to become powerful community managers and creators of jobs, as well as active co-op members, rather than obedient drones. But dull curriculums ensure that few can even imagine a better system. Our high school dropout rate is 42%. The School Board closes schools while prisons expand.

From the Frontlines:

Philadelphia's Poverty Industry

by Paul Glover


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SBN.