EDITORIAL: Discuss effective tactics on war on poverty

2014-06-15T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Discuss effective tactics on war on povertyBy The Times Editorial Board nwitimes.com
June 15, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Last Sunday's extensive report on poverty in Northwest Indiana should be a springboard for discussion, not the final word, on efforts to address poverty.

Since the war on poverty was declared by President Lyndon Johnson a half-century ago, much has changed. Efforts to ease the effects of poverty have helped.

But the economy has changed as well. Many of the jobs being created don't pay as well as before, in terms of the ability to support a family, and the benefits are different, too. Just as an example, look at the shift from defined benefit pension plans to 401(k) and similar plans.

Traditional perceptions of poverty are outdated.

Look at the top 10 municipalities for poverty, and you might be surprised. Look at prosperous Valparaiso, and you'll find 16.2 percent of residents lived in poverty — the highest rate in the county — in 2012. In East Chicago, 40.4 percent of the households were on food stamps in 2012, compared to 34.1 percent in Gary.

Half of Lake County's schoolchildren received free lunches in 2013. In Lake County, 31.3 percent of children live in poverty.

The statistics are mind-numbing. 

You can read more of them at nwi.com/poverty, but take time to read about individuals' experiences to learn even more about poverty in the region. It's eye-opening.

It's not just people "over there," wherever "there" might be, but your neighbors, or maybe even you, as well. You might even know people who have suffered poverty without even realizing it.

We need to continue talking about how to address poverty, finding ways to deliver services that are smarter, targeted and effective — and providing suitable education and creating industries and jobs that pay so well that poverty is less of an issue.

The war on poverty has begun. It will never be over. 

Doing nothing would be morally reprehensible, and we have evidence that efforts so far are paying off.

But periodically we need to evaluate our progress and change tactics where and when appropriate.

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