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June 29, 2007

Small Group Discussion at LBJ Library

What strategies would you support to aid low-income families in improving themselves financially? What factors are important to you in supporting a strategy?

At the beginning of the discussion, the group had great difficulty selecting a question from the several placed on the table. The questions seemed to be related but different. Ten minutes to address an issue as fundamental as these is not sufficient time.

The question selected was, “What strategies would you support to aid low-income families in improving themselves financially? What factors are important to you in supporting a strategy?” The question was too complex for the people to get their minds around.

The group started off on an issue not related to the fundamental aspect of the question. The conversation started with consideration of low income people have gotten in debt.

“Not getting them off the hook, but teaching them personal responsibility”, suggested one participant.

“No it’s not responsibility”, responded another. “It’s financial literacy. Responsibility is an emotional issue. It implies that the poor have no responsibility.”

“Poor that do not exhibit responsibility get locked up. I believe that responsibility goes up as wealth goes up. Financial planning is not necessarily the solution.”

“Financial literacy is different than planning. Without literacy you can’t plan. No money is no money. You can’t pay debts without resources.”

Another voice chimed in. “I see it differently. We have an ethic in the country now: we purchase things we can’t afford.”

“Y and if you have some money you can get credit. It’s not just the poor that get into debt. How many people with college education have gotten themselves into debt?”

“Unfortunately in this culture you are measured by what you have not who you are.”

“The ethic should be: If you can’t afford it, you can’t buy it.”

A quiet moment.

“What do you do if you need the basics?”

A suggestion, “Low interest loans at the lower end of the scale.”

“No, responsibility is not the right way to go.”

Another voice, “It’s important to differentiate between responsibility and literacy.”

One of the participants linked back to an earlier thread, “There is tremendous pressure to buy. Our whole purpose is to be consumers.”

Another jump to an earlier thread. “We give low interest loans to foreign countries. Why not give low interest loans to back the development of the poor.”

“Yes. Skills. Education.”

“Make that a low or non interest loan.”

“You know not just the poor need financial literacy”, suggested one. “It should be part of school. You know, basic financial concepts. The people who are in poverty don’t have basics. What we’ve been talking about is way above poverty.”

“For the poor, they are asked: Why are you poor? Why do you stay poor?”

“The people in poverty must learn that ‘It’s not your fault that you are poor’. We have to Change our view about poverty. We have to shift to how get every body employed – housing – health care etc.’

“Maybe it’s basic education…”

Posted by Paul Schumann at June 29, 2007 9:40 AM


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