Jack Kemp And Bob Woodson: Great Ideas!

A while back there was a gentleman who played profession football. He was a quarterback for NFL teams San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. He was the AFL’s Most Valuable player in 1965, and led the Bills to a couple of championships.

Eventually Kemp went into politics and served nine terms as a Congressman for Western New York and Housing Secretary under George H.W. Bush. He was very successful and well liked, and he considered himself an economic conservative. Although he advocated Supply-Side economics, he did have some pretty good ideas about how to combat poverty.

About thirty years ago Kemp telephoned a gentleman named Bob Woodson. Bob Woodson is an African-American who has espoused the idea that “low-income individuals and neighborhood organizations must play the central role in fixing their communities, and that these efforts benefit from free-market concepts like competition, entrepreneurship, efficiency, and metrics.” Reading about Woodson has been very interesting, especially in light of what the Eastlake Foundation did in Georgia.

Woodson is a “veteran of the civil rights fight,” but “became disenchanted with the left’s devotion to failed government poverty programs.” I wrote about the amount of money that has been spent over the last 50 years with mixed results. $20 Trillion is a lot of money no matter how you spend it. Woodson started an organization, The Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, “which transforms low-income areas from the inside out.” I enjoyed reading about this man and his great work. As a result, I have written down some thoughts.

I think we first and foremost need government policies that don’t create continued dependency on handouts. Mr. Woodson believes the government “has created a poverty-industrial-complex, in which most federal dollars go to those providing the services – the social workers, the drug counselors. That entire structure is hostile to helping the poor, because these folks have their own financial interests.”

I also think Woodson makes sense in how he deals with poverty. He uses local resources, and a process tailored to the community, while using volunteers to get as much money to the needy that they possibly can.

The article I read that brought this to my attention was discussing the need to get this kind of information to the public to create better public awareness of what Republicans are doing to alleviate poverty. I really don’t resonate with that statement, but I really like the process Woodson uses.

A great example of this is what Starbucks has chosen to do. “Starbucks said Thursday it’s opening stores in 15 poor and middle class locations across the United States, including one in Ferguson, MO., as part of its bid to integrate more disadvantaged youths into the workforce.” They plan on opening stores in Queens, South Chicago, and Milwaukee, Wis. Starbucks will be hiring 10,000 youths “who are neither employed nor at school and are at risk of never achieving economic self-sufficiency.” They plan on employing local youth, and will dedicate space to training these young people.

This is also a part of a larger move by several companies to hire or train 100,000 at-risk youths. It seems to me this is the way to attack poverty. I have often wondered why Indigenous Reservations have such a hard time with poverty, gangs, and drugs. One of the answers that I have come up with is what kind of of opportunities do the people who live on the Rez have?

I think the Rez is just like our inner cities. And for a war on poverty to be successful, we can’t fight it from a central position in Washington, D.C., we need to fight it where it is actually happening. And we need to start doing this when people are young enough to break the cycle of poverty. Creating job opportunities that pay a livable wage is the way to do it. There is power in business to create positive social change.

And that is my thought for the day!


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