LETTER: Is poverty pushing the lines?

Dear Editor:

I wanted to respond to the letter from Richard Jackson CEO of ECKAN. As a former board member for that organization I can attest to the worthwhile services they provide to the community. Where I take issue is the insistence that poverty is rising.

The line in the sand for poverty is a moving target that is continually being raised, primarily by those organizations that benefit directly from providing goods and services to the needy. If that were not so then organizations like ECKAN would soon work themselves out of existence, since reduction of poverty leads to reduction of money allocated to the needy.

No poverty, no reason for organizations like ECKAN that survive on government grants and entitlement programs. I am not saying that we are in a good spot economically, what I am stating is a simple truth that programs like ECKAN can only survive if they continuously push the boundaries of what constitutes poverty.

Where the legislature and Mr. Jackson should expend energy is in the promotion of sound state economics. A families earnings are commensurate with the skills, knowledge, and abilities the workers in the group bring to the work force. It should be ludicrous to pay someone flipping burgers the same as a licensed plumber, yet there seems to be a push to do exactly that. Raising the minimum wage has not gotten anyone out of poverty, just raised the costs of goods and services to accommodate the cost increase of providing them.

Economic prosperity can not be achieved by adding more taxes to hard working Kansans either. It is not possible to tax ourselves into prosperity. The only way to raise the income level of Kansans is to improve the business climate in Kansas for everyone. While some like Mr. Jackson may want to point a finger at the wealthy for benefiting from tax cuts, it is the business owners and executives that provide the capital and initiative to expand business and employ people.

I am not a recipient of any great tax breaks and I know I have paid more in federal taxes in a single year than some people earn, yet I was paid by the hour like most people. What Mr. Jackson is missing is not if people are working hard, I’ll stipulate we all work hard, it is what skills and abilities are we being paid for, what we know, or what we do.

What we know pays far greater than the what we do. A surgeon isn’t paid for being able to slice meat, a butcher can do that, what he is paid for is knowing what to cut, how to do it, and how to get the best result based on training and experience. The same could be said for a butcher, but should we expect to pay a butcher the same as surgeons?

Most of the hard working poor in Kansas are not being under paid for what they do, it is what the market gets. If anyone wants to get a better paying job the jobs have to be available, which infers a better business climate for job creation.

So poverty boils down to what amount of income is possible from what people know for the jobs that exist. Education alone does not guarantee financial independence or prosperity. Education coupled with hard work, initiative and drive will tend to improve the odds of financial independence, but no one is guaranteed anything.

So it may be time to get off the poverty entitlement bandwagon and instead look to what can we do to help businesses that employ Kansans thrive so more Kansans have an opportunity to move up. That might mean we buy local, look for Kansas made, and keep our dollars in Kansas.

J. Lee Gorman
Former ECKAN board member

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