Gene Nichol on poverty: "They are invisible to us."

Should be required reading for all Democratic candidates:

Nichol builds his case by weaving together the ugly data points about income, education, jobs, and health care with personal anecdotes from hundreds of interviews with the people most affected. It adds up to a damning narrative about a large and growing underclass fostered by callous policy-making in Raleigh and Washington.

“Scarcely a word about poverty is uttered in the halls of the General Assembly,” he writes. “Recent North Carolina governors have almost never mentioned it, regardless of political party.”

In defending our small town's public transportation funding, I've spoken several times about our collective responsibility to do what we can to ameliorate some of aspects of poverty. And I get a lot of nods, and polite applause. I have no doubt most of those folks are genuinely concerned, but I also have no doubt most of them don't believe anything will work. They're willing to dedicate a small amount of resources to it, but that's more about "feeling good" than it is about actually bringing about change. The book is available on Amazon and other outlets, and at UNC Press:

These are the faces of poverty in North Carolina: scores of homeless men, women, and children take refuge in makeshift camps, barely hidden in the woods near some of our most affluent neighborhoods. Hundreds wait in lines hours long to receive basic health care at underfunded free clinics. In large cities and small towns, children--especially children of color--rely on meals at their schools to keep hunger at bay, while parents struggle in jobs that fail to pay living wages.

While many in the Tar Heel State enjoy unparalleled prosperity, those born into poverty have lower odds than ever of climbing the ladder of economic upward mobility. Today, more than 1.5 million North Carolinians live in poverty. More than one in five are children. Behind these sobering statistics are the faces of our fellow citizens. This book tells their stories.

Since 2012, Gene R. Nichol has traveled the length of North Carolina, conducting hundreds of interviews with poor people and those working to alleviate the worst of their circumstances. Here their voices challenge all of us to see what is too often invisible, to look past partisan divides and preconceived notions, and to seek change. Only with a full commitment as a society, Nichol argues, will we succeed in truly ending poverty, which he calls our greatest challenge.

Legislation passed in the General Assembly (and Congress) has ripple effects, and by the time those ripples reach the lowest of income categories, the effects can be catastrophic, if we're not careful. This factor should be foremost in consideration when creating and voting on policy issues, and not something we look at later in regret.

Tags: