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Commentary: Thoughts on Pathways Out of Poverty

*Updated* (view *Update* added to third paragraph)

Last Monday (December 30, 2013)  Governor Peter Shumlin announced his newly established initiative to address matters of poverty within Vermont, which he dubbed "Pathways Out of Poverty" and includes a Council that will meet three times a year (membership list, here).

News coverage can be found, here (via WCAX - Channel 3 TV - News; includes video; 12/30/2013); here (via VPR News; 12/30/2013); here (via vtdigger; 12/31/2013); and, here (via Times Argus; 12/31/2013).

In addition, read the set of anti-poverty advocacy and service provider coalition priority recommendations submitted to Governor Shumlin (dated: September 23, 2013; via Vermont Public Radio), here. *Update*: View a digital copy of the official Executive Order for the formation of the POoP Council (via Google Drive; no sign in required), here.

Later in the same week as Governor's Shumlin's announcement, John Walters blogged about his doubts and concerns on Green Mountain Daily (GMD; Thursday, January 2, 2014), here.

Although Walters' blog post had included lots of the usual snark he is renowned for, including pointing out about how the acronym for the name of Governor Shumlin's initiative and newly appointed council spells POoP (something I had managed to miss), his blog post also raised several valid matters of concern, ones that ought not be so easily dismissed or ignored (as some had suggested within emails sent my way on the subject). Within the comments thread of his post Walters received both support as well as a certain amount of disagreement and heat.

Chris Curtis, an attorney with Vermont Legal Aid as well as one of the two co-chairs of the "Pathways Out of Poverty" Council, blogged an indirect rebuttal post to GMD yesterday (Saturday, January 4, 2014),here.

Later the same day, Walters blogged a follow-up post in order to express additional thoughts of his regarding these and related matters, here.

After some back and forth via email between myself and certain others about the blog posts as well as these and related matters, including sharing some of my own point of view about such, I finally got around to penning what had until then been quietly churning away within my mind. Those thoughts of mine are as follows:

Thoughts on Pathways Out of Poverty

What people living in poverty truly need most is real political power.

This means, as well as begins with, being allowed to speak for and represent themselves as well as have ample opportunities afforded in order to meaningfully participate in any policy making and other decisions made about them at various levels, whether political or otherwise, and, either as individuals or as a group.

What people living in poverty do not need any more of is having others speak and making decisions for them, most especially not those who have their own or an organization’s agenda and interests at stake.

Regrettably, Governor Peter Shumlin’s newly established “Pathways Out of Poverty” initiative falls seriously short of what is in fact required and, additionally, has all the appearances of merely being a new version of the same old thing and not much else.

This is yet another well-meaning initiative and council that, as usual, has more to do with funding programs as well as aiding certain political agendas and interests than it has to do with helping people most in need.

Rather than being “pathways out of poverty” as is purported, this will likely only lead to additional dead ends and could be just another setup for failure, ironically, of which the person living in poverty will typically be found to blame.

Unless and until people living in poverty have a real and meaningful say about any and all policy as well as programs intended to help them out of poverty, nothing will ever truly change, no matter how much funding is found and dedicated to the effort.

Only real political power in the hands of people living in poverty will ever make a difference and create lasting change.

Anything else is a poor substitute. Nothing else should be acceptable. Those in power and authority should know better. As those of my peers within the disAbility community are fond of saying: Nothing about us, without us! 

Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier, Vermont
Sunday, January 5, 2014 

For the sake of full disclosure: Morgan W. Brown is a newly appointed member of the Vermont Council on Homelessness, however the opinions expressed within the above commentary are solely his own and represent none other. 

Originally posted to Vermont Watch, here; commentary, on its own, since cross-posted to Green Mountain Dailyhere.

*Note*: Have since changed the link provided for the Vermont Council on Homelessness listed within the disclosure statement.


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10 spaces available on council

According to what I read, there are 10 slots still left on the council, and some hardly noticeable suggestions that people who live in poverty join the council. I think it is crucial that people who experience the problem become members, and would urge that ALL the remaining slots be filled with people who actually live the situation. And not just secretly handpicked people whose voices are already known and likely to conform to prevailing thought. I think there ought to be widespread publicity and encouragement for anyone interested to put their name forward for consideration. And there ought to be widespread demand among those who agree with this for our leaders to make sure this happens. Please contact the governor, members of the council, your legislators, etc. to do just that!


Amen! (updated)

The only items I would add is, firstly, that among those others potentially appointed to the council who is a person living in poverty be in addition to anyone already serving on the council in another capacity who might have formerly lived or might currently live in poverty.

Secondly, since there are at least 10 slots open, not only should they all go to persons living in poverty as described within the above comment post, there should a concerted effort made to ensure they go to persons living across the different areas of the state and not just the usual or more populated areas.

Thirdly, much along the same lines as someone mentioned within a comment post posted to the third blog post on the subject on Green Mountain Daily, people serving on the council who are not in a paid position should be eligible for a per dium for their time when attending council meetings as well as, when applicable, have their expenses reimbursed or otherwise provided for (if need be, the latter to be arranged or paid for in advance: e.g., daycare, transportation or mileage).



I wanted to say all that about expenses, etc., and just didn't for some reason.


Guaranteed income

This seems like a good place to re-suggest a guaranteed income for everyone. Switzerland has been toying with this idea. If everyone has a guaranteed income, we could put a serious dent in poverty.

Last time this came up. I think I suggested $2000 a month per person for everyone over 18, regardless of whether they were CEO's or unemployed.

It would give security. It would boost the economy. It would help people.


definitely worthy of consideration...

...in my opinion!

Also, should be combined with a REALISTIC personal exemption on tax returns -- at the very least, poverty level; I would suggest either a recalculation of poverty level that takes into account food, clothing, shelter, health care and transportation; and/or a little bit more than poverty level before we ask people to start chipping in to the income tax payments. The many other taxes we all pay do ensure that those of us with not a lot of money do help our commonweal.


Poor vs. Rich

You may have seen the sarcastic slogan: “To make the poor work harder, pay them less…To make the rich work harder, pay them more.”

This is actually quite effective, and is, in fact how the American “Free Market” system works.

The poor, by definition, do not have their basic needs met. Therefore, to make ends meet, they take on more work. (i.e., a second job, more overtime, a sideline, or even illegal activities.)

The rich, on the other hand, have no worries about their basic needs. They do not “Need” anything. However, there is no limit to “Wants”. Therefore, to achieve these wants, they increase their activities (i.e., investments, speculation, gambling, or even illegal activities.)

There’s no way to fulfill all the “Wants” of the rich, which can expand exponentially. Some will always want more. Sometimes ALL they want is “MORE”.

However, the basic needs of the poor are addressable. This is called a “social safety net”. It works (Finland is a good example).
Again however, the rich always fight the social safety net because it works against their achieving their wants. They don’t want to pay for it by paying their workers a living wage, or by paying more in taxes for the safety net.

Thus we have the rich, the corporations and the politicians representing them, fighting any increases in minimum wages or social services while giving themselves obscene bonuses and other perks.

BTW, when the poor break the law, a high percentage of them get incarcerated, sometimes for extremely long times. When the rich break the law, they usually get away with it (except when they rip off the rich à la Bernie Madoff).

It all boils down to this: The rich need the poor more than the poor need the rich.



icymi (in case you missed it), in related news, fyi:

Homeless people need a larger role in solving the crisis, advocates say (via vtdigger; 1/9/2014):

Vigil spotlights homelessness in Vt (via NECN; 1/9/2014; includes both video as well as text transcript):


Burlington Free Press

Homeless advocates bring needs to Statehouse:
Vigil stresses call for commitment in Montpelier (via Burlington Free Press; 1/11/2014):


vtdigger commentaries

Christopher Curtis: Resolved to fight poverty (via vtdigger; 1/9/2014):

Morgan Brown: Thoughts on ‘Pathways Out of Poverty (via vtdigger; 1/9/2014):


Tuesday at Noontime on VPR VT Edition ...

The War On Poverty In Vermont
(VPR VT Edition; Noontime & 7pm; Tuesday, 1/14/2014):

Note: VPR VT Edition call-in number (once episode broadcast begins, during noon hour only): 1-800-639-2211


Governor's Cabal on Poverty

Word is that the Governor’s Cabal on Poverty (aka Pathways From Poverty, formerly known as the Pathways Out of Poverty: POoP, Council) held a meeting, which was closed to the public, with Governor Peter Shumlin yesterday (Thursday, March 27th).

Nothing more in the way of details to report really, other than it was mentioned that apparently nothing in the nature of a state secret had been discussed during the meeting of the cabal.

(so much for transparency)


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