Poverty is one of
Philadelphia's major industries. Tens of thousands of jobs-- public and
private-- depend on managing poverty. The poor, 400,000 here, are raw
material to control (evaluate, certify, monitor, police), punish
(courts, fines, evictions, prison), and exploit (small pay, big rent,
predatory mortgages, payday loans).
is essentially against the law to end poverty in
Philadelphia. The major owners of the city's land and money forbid
profound change that weakens their grip, even though Philadelphia has
the nation's highest rates of deep poverty
plus 200,000 unemployed, 135,000 uninsured, 250,000 "food insecure"
with 60,000 chronically hungry
; even though life expectancy in North Philly is 20 years less
than in Queen Village.
Complete solutions to
poverty are everywhere. Hundreds of neighborhood-based
here could empower the poor to take direct
control of their
lives, gradually replacing welfare with well-being. But Philadelphia
does to the poor everything but provide them the tools
ownership, education, jobs, respect) with which to prove they're the
equal of everyone else.
Philadelphians could build thousands of low-cost,
energy-efficient "tiny houses
" and "earthships
on vacant lots, for our
seniors, veterans, returning citizens, teachers, farmers, teachers,
students, and homeless on land trusts that keep dwellings permanently
affordable. Within them, the poor could become creative owners of green
. But building and zoning codes resist such
Council could change current laws to prioritize economic
justice. This benefits everyone. Philly's middle class will
by joining forces with the traditionally poor, to rebuild
toward balance with nature. This would employ
the next ten generations
of construction workers, engineers, and the rest of us.
Rather than merely
servicing and controlling suffering people, we
gradually transfer economic power and land to them, and ourselves,
through mutual aid systems
By embracing this new idea of success the middle class can, in fact,
become something better-- the Mutual
. They can reduce their own
costs of living, and costs of government, by investing in poor
While there may always be need for government safety nets, taxpayers
would increasingly escape the taxes that currently subsidize housing,
heating and electric, Medicaid and Food Stamps. And there will be more
taxpayers to share the load.
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At the same time, the rich and powerful would be freed to use their
authority is to serve humanity, not gluttony. Employers would invest in
workers as assets (even as friends) rather than as costs. This process
requires neither bloodthirsty capitalism nor bleeding-heart socialism.
Call it Mutual Enterprise-- the collaboration of mutual aid groups and
businesses dedicated to community.
To summarize, it is an unusual revolution which benefits liberals and
conservatives, which lowers taxes and living costs, expands enterprise,
reduces crime, cleans the environment, and ends poverty. Philadelphia
will get ahead by getting together.