In my previous posting, “What Poverty Program,” I explained why the Republican presidential candidates policies would hurt the poor, which of course leaves the obvious question, what policies would help the poor.
For someone who is poor, the first priority is to ensure that food, clothing and shelter needs are met. In the U.S., there are 33 million adults and 17 million children who suffer from hunger. Homelessness affects 656,000 people on any given day.
The next basic need is health care. Health care costs are a tremendous burden on both the poor and middle-class. Medical expenses cause more than 60 percent of the bankruptcies in the United States.
Currently, there are about 50 million people without health insurance causing about 50,000 unnecessary deaths in this country. According to the Congressional Budget Office, even at its best, the Affordable Care Act will leave about 23 million uninsured causing about 23,000 unnecessary deaths.
The U.S. has the most expensive health care costs of any nation. Our costs are 45 percent higher as a function of GDP than any other nation, and our per capita expenses are almost 50 percent greater.
A single-payer health care system will resolve these problems and reduce costs. Every other industrialized nation that has a single-payer system covers everybody for less money. Bankruptcies due to health care costs are not a problem in these countries.
Education could use some changes. A good start would be to increase funding to levels before the recession so laid-off teachers could be hired back. Next commit to keeping classes sizes small, around 15 to 20 students.
More importantly, we could give the students the same benefits as prisoners, or as one superintendent in Michigan said:
Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?
The nation should also commit to providing free college education for any student accepted into an institution of higher learning. This would prevent students being saddled with a large debt when they graduate. This would free up money for more productive endeavors, such as purchasing products, investments, or entrepreneurship, rather than paying off student loans.
The school buildings themselves could use improvement. These buildings and the rest of our infrastructure need rebuilding. The American Society of Civil Engineers says our infrastructure is close to a failing state, and requires $2.2 trillion over five years to renovate. Rebuilding our infrastructure would create jobs, and could provide the impetus to invigorate the economy.
The above proposals would help the poor and everybody else. CNN’s Global Public Square host Fareed Zakaria summed it up this way when he said:
In other words, the big shift in the United States over the past two decades has not been a rise in regulations and taxation but rather a decline in investment, in physical and human capital. … [And] investment is the crucial locomotive of long-term growth.
That surge in investment [after World War II] by people and government produced a generation of growth after the war. If we want the next generation of growth, we need a similarly serious strategy of investment.
It is time to get serious about investing in our human capital and infrastructure to ensure the long-term economic growth of our country. Everybody would benefit from these investments.