Let me share a story about an individual that some of you may know. Born in Brooklyn to first generation parents, he lived over a plumbing store in a small apartment with his parents, a sister and his grandparents. His dad worked three jobs to make ends meet, never giving a single thought to any form of public assistance. After graduating high school, his plan was to get a job and buy a car. His father, however, had a different plan in mind — college!
Forced to get out the “college exam” prep books, he began by attending a community college and earned an Associate’s degree along with the new realization that an education would equip him for a better life. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree, attending school at night while working full time. Many nights, he would get home just before midnight. Over the years, he earned a high executive position with a major corporation.
Several times in his corporate career, he experienced discrimination. One situation stands out where he was told “your name ends in a vowel so your opportunities here are limited.” He never gave a second thought to the hard work, the long hours or the discrimination, but clawed ahead to achieve his goals and aspirations. Ultimately, he decided to fulfill a dream and set up his own business.
Today, he operates a thriving business that he built himself, without any government help.
The message here is that any individual with proper parental guidance can lift himself or herself up out of poverty.
Poverty and inequality are due to our own benign thoughts and the “dependent conditioning” that seems to be growing in our culture. Too many people do not see the world as it is; they see it as they are or as they have been conditioned to be. Unfortunately, today’s leaders are conditioning our young generation to be dependent with cradle-to-grave paternalism. Social safety nets are critical and important and should be made available to those who have real needs.
However, enabling people throughout their lifetime is improper use of available safety nets and is serving to destroy our social fabric.
The story of the young man portrays a model that would work to substantially reduce poverty and the “problem” of inequality. Parents must convince their children of the critical importance of education and must see to it that their children attend school, stay in school and at least graduate high school and, if possible, college.
Various studies over the years show that graduating high school, going to college, getting married and delaying having children substantially reduces the poverty rate. Only 8 percent of those who play by these simple rules turn out poor.
A social contract that gives out messages that “the government will be your keeper,” that “somebody else is going to do it for you,” that “somebody else is paying for the welfare checks or food stamps,” perpetuates the dependency evolution from generation to generation. Also, a social contract that redistributes income does nothing to advance the recipient. In fact, it deprives individuals of a chance to become self-reliant and successful.
Coupled with high out-of-wedlock births, and the absence of a family structure, we are destroying independence, the sense of purposefulness, self-esteem and life planning.
Our enabling culture is stifling the economic and social mobility of our young. Too many of our young are going down this road, where the seeds of inequality are sown.
Education is the foundation that will ultimately reduce the income gaps and bring equality to our next generations.