Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bill Crawford asks how can we break the Iron Circle of Poverty

As legislators gather in their working groups to study programs and budgets, they should also take note of long-term phenomena with significant impacts.
One of these is a downward spiral that can cripple communities. It’s named “The Iron Circle of Poverty.” It’s called the “iron circle” because it is extremely hard to break. Few communities have the talented leadership and sense of common purpose needed to do so. Without help from state leadership and resources, many will not.
Big events or a number of small sustained events can trigger the downward spiral. Loss of major employers and natural disasters are big events that can kick-off the spiral. Population declines, loss of locally owned businesses, lack of new capital investment, aging housing stock, escalating property taxes, an aging and unskilled workforce, middle to upper class residential flight (usually white), growing criminal activity, and declining schools are examples of trends that can aggregate over time and launch the spiral.
Once started, the downward spiral gains momentum as interconnected facets of the community weaken each other, e.g. the local economy slows, quality of life begins to decline, housing stock and infrastructure age without repair, schools deteriorate and qualified teachers leave, the workforce degrades, capital investment slows, job openings dry up, the economy slows further…. Around and around it goes, spiraling downward. Along the way, poverty and crime surge.
What is the state’s plan, its policies, and its resources that communities caught in the iron circle can access? Oh, there are pieces and parts, but no comprehensive help for downward spiraling communities. Some legislative working group should look into this.
Another long-term phenomenon of great impact is the escalation of violence and gang activity among at-risk youth. Too many are becoming disconnected from traditional pathways that lead to success as adults. They become easy prey for gangs and fall into behaviors that leave them even more disconnected. Community leaders tend to look to the juvenile part of our criminal justice system to rectify the problem. But often, the problem is too widespread and deep rooted for the juvenile system to handle, much less resolve.
Research shows that communities wanting to interrupt gang recruitment and cycles of violence for youth must institute a range of complementary programs. Early childhood education is one key component, but not the end all. After-school programs, summer youth programs, youth employment programs, and safe places and counseling for abused children are examples of other programs that together with early childhood education can have impact. But, the programs must reach most at-risk children, not just a small percentage, and must be sustained over time.
State leaders tend to look at early childhood education, juvenile justice, mental health, law enforcement, and youth programs as stand-alone programs. They need to be considered as complementary components of a vital system if we are to effectively deal with our growing disconnected youth problem.
Budgets and taxes are important topics for working groups, but so too are long-term phenomena that destroy communities and youth.
Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (


Anonymous said...

The govt. is the major cause of the circle of poverty. Politicians like to be re elected. They are very willing to pay tax payers money to increase the likelihood. The easiest way to do that is to give things to people so they will vote for you. They give just enough to keep the lazy people from working for a living. These people have more babies than the average and the kids are taught how to get things without working. They do not need an education as they do not plan on working. They do not need a home as the govt. will provide one for them. The govt. will also provide food for their family.

As long as people are lazy and politicians crooked the circle of poverty will roll along.

Anonymous said...

Here's how you break the circle. Enact laws that play to your base to keep their minds off what's happening. Good ones are guns in church and anything gay related. Next, cut taxes for the rich. Let your infrastructure go to hell and blame it on prior parties in power. Refuse to bring in billions of dollars that would improve the health care of your poorest citizens and keep rural hospitals from closing. Keep any symbols of past racism in the forefront and argue that it's really about heritage and not hate. Put only your buddies in charge whether they're competent or not. Refuse to listen to ideas other than those of your party. Close that mind and hum loudly! Be content with the education system and that your community/state is on the bottom of every list.
I can go on but I can already sense that there'll be hoards who'll respond to this that it's all the Dems fault or that everything is just peachy in Mississippi. As they say on John Boy and Billy, "Our minds are closed but our doors are wide open". We're a stubborn bunch and that's our main problem. You can't tell us what to do!

Anonymous said...

As Mr. Crawford states, the problems that evolve from poverty are many. But for a government, social services and individuals committed to
Improving the lives of those living in poverty, one must first have an understanding of poverty whether it be situational poverty or generational poverty. Without first understanding how poverty affects individuals, families and communities, we are apt to failure in addressing the problems.

Anonymous said...

At one time the State had a economic development that was working. Help the non-productive people that can't or will not work move to another part of the country there more opportunity. California is a great play to relocate; everything is free.

Anonymous said...

Sort of hard to find a politician who can understand poverty when they have never experienced it. We elect rich people. They become even more wealthy when in office. Then we reelect them. They become more wealthy.
Anyone see a pattern here?

When you have a problem with your car do you take it to a person who buys a new car every year?

Anonymous said...

On the flip side, leaders have to know when to stop wasting resources on hopeless causes.

With the exception of a relative handful of regional, national, and global centers, cities and towns come and go. It's hard to accept for people living there, but the reality is that about half the municipalities that ever existed in the U.S. no longer exist. And we're a very young country.

Today, there is no reason for many Mississippi towns to exist. Many sprang up to meet demands that no longer are there. So, to put it another way, there is no reason to use public funds to try to alter the natural trajectory of these towns' growth and decline.

OTOH, we have some communities that, in different ways, are modeling success. Madison, Oxford, Starkville, Tupelo, Clinton, etc. are all different, but all have fundamentals that make them work. We'd be better off putting state resources behind them and encouraging people with the desire to do better (and businesses) to go where the opportunity is, rather than trying to subsidize areas that ultimately are going to die no matter what.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:08: what an intelligent post. Thank you. You are correct.

Anonymous said...


We sense your discomfort. You may have acid-reflux.

Anonymous said...

It would help if the government will quit subsidizing poverty.
We do not need any more poor people. Stop benefits when a woman becomes pregnant the second time. Stop bringing in people from other countries. The U.S. can breed their own free loaders.
The U.S. does not need more people, we have too many right now. We do not have jobs for the people we already have.

Anonymous said...

There are so many things to point out!? Of course you have the typical posters on here - "everybody wants something free, its those damn leepers keeping us from receiving our change from the almighty rich above"

But needless to say, trickle down economics are not working. Instead of the rich increasing wages to American workers, they are hording the money and reinvesting in themselves and relocating their companies to foreign nations that will allow them to pay even low wages, while receiving corporate tax breaks and government subsidies. But yet we have people getting mad at someone receiving $300 in food stamps!? At least that person will take the food stamps and reinvest it back into the American economy while the wealthy person is taking their money and placing it in foreign tax shelters and havens.

Our economy is rather simple - when the middle class can upsize home, purchase vehicles, take vacations, buy clothes, eat out at restaurants, buy electronics, buy furniture and pay their bills at the same time in a timely fashion - then our economy thrives - because demand is high. However, how many homes can a rich person buy? How many outfits can a rich person have? There's only so many pairs of Khaki's Bill Gates is going to buy? Look at Steve Jobs - black mock t-shirt, a pair of jeans and some dusty New Balance walking shoes and he was content.

Discretionary income makes a difference. When more people can buy - the demand increases - opportunity increases. When Mississippi legislators say they want to shrink government - then they are eliminating jobs as well - good jobs that help our state run and keeps private citizens at ease. Those state employees are grounded in Mississippi and help the states economy through the goods they purchase. They are a solid source for Mississippi's economy, while doing it at cost. Not saying the Government should be the primary source of employment for any state or municipality, (but it is reasonable to see public servants account for 15 to 20% of a given labor force) - it is a solid resource for employment - maintaining our civilization should be something we all give a damn about.

There are many things that affect poverty and continue the cycle. But those are some fiscal issues that sway the cycle either way.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

There is a book reviewed in today's Wall Street Journal.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

Looks relevant to the problem. Chris McDaniel and Melanie Sojourner supporters to the ramparts!

Anonymous said...

The whole damn economy is built on credit. If people only bought what they could afford the economy would collapse. The people, just like the country, has to spend money they do not have to keep the economy going. They have to borrow from everyone they can. The people, just like the country, will never be able to pay their bills.
We are a country of deadbeats.

Anonymous said...

Speak for yourself, doofus. I don't owe anyone a nickel and haven't in years. My house and cars are paid for.

Anonymous said...

5:11, I was not talking about myself. I don't owe anyone a single cent. Haven't in so long I can't remember it. All my cars are paid for. All my land and home is paid for. Not a single penny on a credit card, do not even have one.
The economy of the U.S. would fail if more people were like us. Average credit card balance is $17,000. Many people have never paid for a car. Some don't even own a home and most have not paid for the one they have. Some actually lease a car.

Anonymous said...

@ July 28, 2016 at 8:30 PM

You hit it dead on the head when you said - "The economy of the U.S. would fail if more people were like us." - if we are not spending - our machine doesn't work. Well said

Anonymous said...


I agree with almost everything you said. I call BS on your not having a credit card, unless you never have to make hotel reservations, book airline tickets, rent a car, etc... Even my long deceased father (who only borrowed money to build his house in 1950) had to get a credit card in the early 1980's just to be able to do some well deserved traveling. If you never leave the four walls of your house then I stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

The lack of reading any book by an economist is rather telling in quite a few comments.
The fact is than in any society there will be people who are unemployable for one reason or another. A percentage of the population is uneducable. A percentage of the population are dysfunctional.
The poor pay MORE for less quality. The poor buy cheap because they can't afford quality but by the time they replace the cheap products they can afford, they have actually paid more than a quality product would cost. Their homes are more poorly built and thus more expensive to maintain. The poor will pay more overtime for pressboard that has to be replaced than I will pay for solid wood that won't. And, for the middle class, the cheap furniture that looks good will in time crack because the wood wasn't dried.

The interest rates paid by the poor would make the loan sharks of the past envious.
Some of the rich ,however, can borrow money for a car loan or mortgage with little to no interest simply by moving their money to that bank. Welch got his 5th Avenue apartment owned by GE, free and clear as a bonus when he retired. The rich get tax breaks that are impossible for the middle to upper middle classes. You have to be rather well off to , for example, take advantage of trust funds. Those who own a business can write off many expenses the rest of us think of as a "personal expense" as long as the profits are large enough to do so.
So, you can pretend that all the poor are poor just because they are lazy if you like. You can pretend that there is nothing that can be done to improve upward mobility if you like. But, if you bothered to read economic history, you'd know that your rationalizations are ridiculous. Societies have and are doing better and we can do and have done better.

Anonymous said...

There is quite a bit that can be done to improve upward mobility. Sadly it all starts with the person. They have to show some interest in becoming more than they are. Many do not think that far ahead. It is much easier to demand others give to you something that you are not willing to work for.0 Some even take by force things that they will not work for.

Anonymous said...

101:09, I do not have a credit card. I have heard all of the excuses people can think of just to justify having a credit card filled to the max.
I did quite a bit of traveling when I was young. There isn't much I want to see that I haven't already seen. If you have money you can walk into many hotels and get a room. Why would I rent a car when I own several?
People make up excuses to borrow money. They usually waste most of the borrowed money. They keep moving the balance around on their credit cards to try to save a little. They could have saved a lot by not putting things on a credit card in the first place.
I stopped at a fast food place the other day. Now people can pay for a hamburger with a credit card without even getting out of their car. Here is a hint. If you do not have the money to pay for a hamburger you should not be buying one.

Anonymous said...

@11:03 - don't judge everyone with a credit card as being in debt. I put over $40,000.00 on credit cards annually, practically everything I buy. I pay the balance every month and earn over $1000.00 in reward cash annually. I pay the bill online so it doesn't even cost me a stamp or a check. And my credit score is 820.

Anonymous said...

9:02, where on Earth are you posting from? I feel DESICCATED, whenever I read one of your posts. Are you on a farm, in some remote part of Iowa? In a small town, somewhere in the Rust Belt? Are you a displaced Midwesterner, living in Jackson? Are you institutionalized (having not been out in the world, for decades)? Home-bound?

Why are you under the impression that MIDDLE CLASS people are unable to afford furniture made from kiln-dried wood? I have to wonder whether you understand the socioeconomic parameters of the Middle Class.

My first after-college job was selling furniture, in a department store, in the 'Fabulous New Metrocenter Mall!', when it first opened. Virtually all my customers were Middle Class (mostly Lower-middle, but also Middle-of-the-middle, and some Upper-middle: the few Upper Class shoppers only bought bedding, because I had NO furniture for people of their class). My low-end lines were brands like Broyhill. My upper-end lines were brands like Baker. ALL that I had to sell, was calibrated for MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS. Four decades later, I see furniture from that era, still in good condition. Aside from a few novelty accessory pieces, ALL the wood was kiln-dried. The mid-level collections were engineered-to-the hilt, and were virtually indestructible (assuming reasonable wear-and-tear). Even the finishes were designed to be durable, and have endured ridiculously well. Yes, the furniture was mostly ugly, and, aside from upwardly-mobile young attorneys from humble backgrounds, collecting 'Baker Williamsburg', nobody wants it, today. It may be out-of-style, but decades-old furniture, made for the Middle Class, is holding up pretty well.

I have to wonder where you used to shop. Rent-to-own stores? You do realize, don't you, that such places catered to a LOWER CLASS clientele. You may be mistaking Lower Class people with discretionary income, for Middle Class people.

Today, Miskelly's (who dominate the market, in Central Mississippi, across the entire Middle Class spectrum) sells basically the same product that I sold at the Mall. Their offerings are much more stylish (American consumers are more sophisticated, today), but basically, Middle Class furniture is still made to last.

Anonymous said...

The best way to stop the iron circle of poverty is to get up off your ass and get a job.

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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