According to the latest census data released last week, about one in five people living in metro Tucson are poor.
That’s roughly 200,000 people trying to get by on meager incomes. According to the income thresholds used by the Census Bureau, for a single person living alone, it means they earn less than $220 a week. For a family of four, it means they’re trying to get by on no more than $440 a week.
Of course, those incomes are augmented by a slew of government programs, most notably subsidized food, health care and housing. But even so, it’s still a meager living fraught with challenges that tear at the social fabric of a family, creating high rates of divorce, domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse. And those issues tear at the social fabric of the larger community, requiring high numbers of police and numerous government-funded resource and response programs. Moreover, it creates a demand for donations to large numbers of charitable organizations that seek to support the lives of the impoverished.
So one way or another, we all pay for poverty.
What should we do about it?
Boiling down the policies of the current liberal leadership of the two largest local governments to reductio ad absurdum arguments, the way to deal with poverty is to make sure everyone has a cheap bus pass and the opportunity to work for a union. Boiling down the conservative opposition’s arguments, we can help those poor blighters by putting our faith in Jesus and making sure there is little taxation or business regulation.
Many organizations outside of the local governments have talked and planned and planned and talked about how to make Tucson better. The latest incarnation is Imagine Greater Tucson, which replaces Tucson Regional Town Hall. The latter spent a couple of years surveying Tucsonans about what they think the region should be and how to accomplish it. Imagine Greater Tucson has spent the past two years surveying Tucsonans about what the region should be and how to accomplish it.
If surveying, planning and talking were actual progress, all Tucsonans would be in the clover.
Most everyone knows the solutions to improving Tucson’s economy and thereby the potential prosperity of its metro citizens. It’s to make what we already have better. That means capitalizing on our world-class research university, especially the optical and bio sciences, expanding aerospace manufacturing, improving our transportation infrastructure to become a regional transportation hub for increased border commerce, and improving our convention and visitor infrastructure to capitalize on our desirous weather and natural resources.
And at the core of that, we need to make sure we’re properly educating our children to give them opportunities to get jobs in these industries we’re trying to foster.
All of that comes with a price. None of it happens by magic or the elimination of government. It takes hard work and investment (which is code for taxes).
Unless we’re willing to convert our plans into action and money we will remain a stagnant, impoverished community that is really good at talking and planning and planning and talking.
And the poor will stay poor and those who aren’t will continue to pay for that poverty.
One way or another.