Beyond Welfare

Google “social entrepreneur low-income” and what are your first results?

I guarantee you’ll see business after business that’s doing great work for low-income clients, ethnic minority clients, immigrant clients, disabled clients, etc. Great work for all manner of marginalized people.  I love this new wave of social entrepreneurs pursuing a double or triple bottom line.

But who is giving the marginalized population the opportunity to build their own business? To follow their own dream? To forge their own path out of poverty and into greater economic security and maybe even build actual wealth?

In an effort to avoid sounding like heartless advocates of bootstrapping oneself up from the trenches, many liberals spend most of our time advocating for support and protection for those on the brink. (Although if we’re honest, we must admit that we just barely manage that. Not to mention the insidious myths that motivate many to call for the dismantling of what little we do even now.)

When do we provide opportunities to truly turn things around? And when we do, how serious are we? Do we put our money where our mouth is?

Let me be clear: I believe in social welfare. I believe in the safety net.

When people are struggling or suffering, we should bolster them up. We should provide benefits to the disabled, ensure workers can survive a few months “between jobs,” protect underpaid, overworked families from going without heat in the winter, ensure all children are fed everyday, make it easier for single mothers to afford childcare while they go to work.

But I also believe in a society that does a little bit more. We owe it to ourselves to be a little more proactive.

If anyone doubts that this nation has the means or the innovation to create programs that provide opportunities to help marginalized people truly build better lives for themselves, close the wealth gap, close the education gap and close the opportunity gap, just take a look at the state of corporate welfare in the U.S. We can find all sorts of tax breaks and opportunities for so-called “job creators.”

When Wall Street’s elite saw an opportunity to get rich beyond their wildest dreams, they created a [highly destructive] lending market that helped risky borrowers buy their first homes in pursuit of the broken American Dream out of thin air.

Americans have got ideas. It’s just time to think about redirecting our efforts.

We need to commit to truly leveling the playing field.




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