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Need to Know, June 29, 2012: Solving poverty in America

This week's host Maria Hinojosa

Need to Know examines a successful experimental program in Oakland, Calif., designed to help the working poor emerge from poverty. The Family Independence Initiative pays people in low income communities to meet regularly and help each other devise solutions to family and financial problems rather than rely on government assistance.

Anchor Maria Hinojosa interviews Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is a former advisor to President George W. Bush and an expert on welfare issues.

The “American Voices” essay is by Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York. He says charity is central to Christianity.

What’s on this week:

Taking the initiative

Need to Know examines this experimental program in Oakland, CA that pays people in low income communities to come up with solutions to government assistance.

Ron Haskins on entitlement cuts

Ron Haskins, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is a former advisor to President George W. Bush and an expert on welfare issues.

American Voices

This week’s essay is by Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.


  • Private Private

    The problem with the Family Innitiative program is that if 1 million people saved $1000 it would take 2 billion to match everyone 2:1. If the government took over a program like this it is more feasable. The problem is, as a man who makes $9/hr and works 40 hrs a week, is rasing a son, and going to school full-time, I am jealous that if I could find a way to save $1000, it is highly unlikely I would qualify for this program and could get $2000 to add to the savings. It certainly would help for school. But I make $1200 a month. I am barely above the poverty line. And there in lies the real problem.

    Its like a bus that will take you to New York City, but stops on the outskirts and makes you get off and find your own transportion for the rest of the way. Suddenly your in need of another ride. Too many programs assist you until you have barely risen above the poverty line. Then they all retreat in fear of helping someone “unnecessarily” and “wasting” money on a person who now “clearly has enough money.”

    The bar needs to be raised to allow people the ability to crawl out of poverty far enough from it’s edge to where they are not one unexpected financial situation away from falling right back into deep poverty.

    But the biggest thing that is increasing poverty and making hard for upperward mobility is the failure to raise minimum wage to a more realistic livable amount. If you work 40 hours a week, regardles of your job you should be able to make enough to atleast slowly save money to one day maybe open you own compnay or pursue your own goals and dreams without having to get government assistance to do so. Why are people working so much and still needing government assistance? There is not justification for it. I get the fancy economics rhetoric, but it all amounts to business what to model their companies growth on a model that exploits and underpays workers. Thy want a model that shows quick short terms growth rather than plan a long term solution that would have less yeild but would allow them to compensate hourly workers more. GREEEEEEED.

  • EM

    I’m so tired of men blaming women for poverty, like Haskins does. Welfare reform did nothing but force  more moms into low wage work where, obviously, they’re remaining poor. The reason married couples tend not to be as poor is due to the unpaid labor of the mom which allows the husband to be the ideal, striving, reliable, ambitious worker—one with no obligations such as laundry, food preparation or taking care of his own kids. If, however, the mother works and/or there is no breadwinner husband, the mother is doing the work of two people (see Hochschild’s Second Shift) and something’s got to give; if she’s upper middle class, she can retire from her paid job, like Slaughter details in her recent article in the Atlantic. If already in a low wage service sector job like most women are, she’ll just get fired for missing work because of, say, a child’s illness and churn into another low wage tenuous job, remaining poor. Welfare reform was an abject failure if its goal was to reduce child poverty; it was a smashing success if its goal was to provide armies of low wage workers.

  • Private Private

    I do not believe women are repsonsible for poverty; however, I believe in a womens right to choose. With that I also believe women hold a higher responsibility to protect their bodies and be responsible for their capacity to reproduce. When a women decides to be intimate with a man while not married or in a longstanding relationship, and subsequently gets pregnant, she does bare some responsibilty for putting herself in a position where she got pregnant.

    I am not sure the guest being interviewed was trying to blame women, but he was stating statistics that certain demographics are more likely to become impoverished. Single women with children statistically make up a large portion of the demographic that is in poverty. In the sense that women are masters of their bodies and risk becomeing pregnant before they have completed school or foound a better paying job or career, women in the single mother position are responsible to some degree for they decisions and why they are struggling. Just the same as I take responsibility as to why I am a father. It is just important for men and women to understand that having children outside of marraige or a longstanding relationship statistically increases their likelyhood to fall or remain in poverty.

  • david

    poverty wont go away in America? maybe its because we import poverty thru illegal immigration and 1 million legal immigrants a year 75% of whom dont have more than a high school education

  • Guest

    Another installment in the PBS’ (Propaganda Bush Series) “Pull Yourself Up By Your Own Bootystraps” programming. (Bush surrogates are also IiA (“Ideas” in Action), still claiming they can’t find qualified candidates for Silicon Valley computer jobs; while magna/summa/cum laude IM graduates go lacking for simple commencement list recruitment since at least 2004)!

  • One more view

    Amazing that PBS has been infiltrated by this right wing crap. Do you think these people would have had $1000 to save if they hadn’t been subsidized for providing their details on the internet?

  • Socialists oppose Capitalism

    ” Need to Know examines a successful experimental program in Oakland, Calif.,” – yes, people that are taught skills, rather than take my “help” have personal pride in themselves, and they should. This episode was refreshing, while the political programs were focused on “important issues” this program had some real helpful information. The political programs sometimes pander to the far left/the administration in power.

  • Socialists oppose Capitalism

    ” Another installment in the PBS’ (Propaganda Bush Series) “Pull Yourself
    Up By Your Own Bootystraps” programming. (Bush surrogates are also IiA
    (“Ideas” in Action),…” – evidently he did not watch this series, because the proof was shown that the programs did work.  He seems to think Socialism works, maybe so, but America is not presently governed by people that allow the citizens to make decisions – arrogant big gov. people, and worse are in charge of our children’s’ future; search how many socialists, and radicals are in the present administration.

  • Dcluff4u

     change our perception from welfare to social investing. we need to train these people and empower them to succeed not make it harder for their survival. If we invest in them they can become productive and pay taxes that pays back that investment. we need to look at them as an investment into economic society and match them with a productive outcome. if we just give them money or food stamps and not integrate them into the economy we are wasting our money and bringing down our society as a whole.

  • BSW

    Ron Haskins comments are retreads.  What about the wage structure in our society that pays women less than men.  What about the weak social policies that do not adequately provide services for working moms like most other advanced industrial societies have that would make being a single mom easier?  And why didn’t Maria Hinojosa challenge him on these issues.  This is the job of a journalist, not just to ask questions but to engage the guest in a debate about their ideas and the weaknesses or contradictions within their ideas.

  • stupid

    u r all dummys