Letter: To take America back, address poverty first

To the Editor:

I take issue with Carl Higbie’s assessment of welfare as “giving to people, most of which don’t want to work” in last week’s article, “Carl Higbie says it’s time to take America back.”

While I am sure there are people on welfare who don’t want to work, just as there are investment bankers who engage in insider trading, corporations who establish off-shore headquarters to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, and car manufacturers who ignore defects for the sake of profits, there are many people on welfare who want to work, but can’t find jobs that will provide them with a living wage.

Cheryl, the mother of the child I’ve mentored for the past five years, works at McDonald’s, making a little over $8 an hour. Although she’d like to work 40-50 hours a week, and might actually be able to cover her rent and food expenses if she did so, McDonald’s intentionally limits her hours to 20-25 hours a week to avoid paying her any benefits. In addition, McDonald’s will often send her home during the middle of her shift, if they are slow. She can’t afford the bus fare so if she’s sent home during an overnight shift, she’s walking two miles home through a bad neighborhood at 3 a.m.

Full disclosure, she had three children by the time she was 23, by three different men, and never graduated from high school. Because of this, she has always depended on welfare, Section-8 housing subsidies, SNAP benefits, and Husky health care (all government-funded programs) to survive.

If this country is serious about breaking the cycle of poverty and reducing spending on entitlement programs, we must first commit to:

1) Reduce the teenage pregnancy rates by supporting organizations like Planned Parenthood.

2) Improve the quality of the schools in disadvantaged communities like Bridgeport in order to provide all kids with a good education and encourage them to stay in school (the middle school my mentor child attends is ranked as one of the worst schools in Connecticut).

3) Ensure that all workers receive a living wage, because until this happens, the irony is that many people cannot afford to work.

If Mr. Higbie took the time to speak to “entitlement” recipients like Cheryl, he might have a more informed view of the issues that these people struggle with on a daily basis, and he might be more willing to address the roots of the problem rather than slapping lipstick on the proverbial pig.

He mentions the importance of an “open mind.” No better place to start than with his own.

Carey Field

Wilton, April 18