For the past few weeks, rebroadcasts of Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West’s national television discussion, Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity, has been shown on PBS stations. Conversations from this series include a range of professionals with their solutions to poverty. They include personal-finance expert Suze Orman, filmmaker Michael Moore, poverty expert Jeffrey Sachs, urban-revitalization strategist Majora Carter, and others.
In response, Pat Gowens, Director Welfare Warriors, had this to say:
Dear Tavis Smiley,
Instead of inviting wealthy guests to explain poverty, please include the
experts on your show: people living in poverty and the people organizing to
end the war on the poor.
You asked, “Why do the poor stay poor?” For the same reasons the rich stay
rich. Intergenerational class mobility is US folklore. You asked “Are poor
Poor people keep this country (and all others) functioning, generation after
generation. Without poor people we would have no food and few children. Poor
farmworkers provide all of our food. Poor mothers reproduce and produce the
majority of children and poor women care for the children of all classes
whether in daycares or as nannies. Without poor people we would have no
restaurants, malls, fast-food industry, service industry, temporary worker
agencies, hotels, tanneries, and foundries.
Poor people work the sub-poverty wage jobs, the jobs with the most growth in
the US, the least benefits and the most danger.
Without poor people we would have no prison industrial complex, no massive
job creation for professional poverty pimps, few social service careers, and
far fewer wars.
But poverty is not just about bad wages. Poverty is also a result of the
majority of work generating no wages: unwaged motherworkers; unwaged
caregivers of the sick, the injured, the elders, the dying; and unwaged
caretakers of animals, crops, and communities. Doing the unwaged work leaves
few hours in a day to generate income. Unlike Europe, the US provides no
economic support to motherworkers and children. Nor does the US provide paid
sick leave or paid maternity leave to most workers.
Just as there are more sub-poverty jobs each decade, there are also more
people with disabilities who can not generate income. Disability also causes
Your wealthy panel of “experts” did not include even one token sub-poverty
worker, one unwaged worker, one disabled person, one anti-poverty activist.
And there was no mention of the violent war on the poor. Poverty after all
Ignoring the “elephant in the studio”– the motherworkers, farmworkers,
injured workers, children, disabled people, elders, and the sub-poverty wage
workers–smacks of prejudice against the poor. Excluding the activists
working to stop the war on the poor is incomprehensible.
Please consider becoming the vanguard, a leader in giving a voice to victims
of poverty and those who are fighting the war on the poor. Whether
harvesting food in the US or mining coltan in the Congo or doing the unwaged
caregiving for dependent people, victims of poverty are at the mercy of a
violent worldwide economic system that elevates its status and wealth by
standing on the backs of the poor. This must be changed.
Pat Gowens, Director Welfare Warriors
Editor, Mother Warriors Voice, a 25-year-old international
A FEW POVERTY EXPERTS:
Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Diana Spatz (LIFETIME), Pat Albright, Margaret
Prescott (Every Mother Is A Working Mother), Dotty Stevens (Survival News),
Marian Kramer (Michigan Welfare Rights), Charles King (Housing Now), Arturo
Rodriguez (United Farm Workers), Pat Gowens