Challenge 69: The urban crisis; #5 (Reel 2)
And if. Mr Linski is right that poverty is simply a lack of money. We could in fact end poverty in this country overnight not in 10 years as Mr Schryver once said in a glowing patriotic moment when he felt that by 1976 the 200 anniversary of the founding of this republic we could end poverty for all time. If poverty were just a question of not having enough money. With 11 billion dollars that's all. 11 billion dollars maybe a third of what we're spending on the certain other efforts which will be nameless here. We could indeed end poverty we could raise everybody up above this poverty line. The only difference is and the only difficulty is that next year we have to come up with 11 billion dollars more and 11 billion dollars more and 11 billion dollars more on that we know and do it. Because of course poverty is more. Than just not having money. Poverty is more than just not having the right kind of job.
Poverty is in fact an interlocking set of circumstances and deprivations that includes education that includes health that includes justice. That includes discrimination that includes the willingness of the rest of society to admit you into full membership of our society. And so this year we are spending about half of the total anti-poverty budget of almost 2 billion dollars on these various job programs which I have named and so it would seem that we have come up with the answer. If you have enough money and jobs and enough money and job training you can get everybody off poverty simply by putting him to work. And this will satisfy not only him because he will be doing something that he can be proud gainfully employed even as a washroom attendant he may be able to find dignity in that work. Or the man who says that the Piedmont Airlines plane is
two hours late. Please be patient this is a very important job in our society. Takes guts. And some skill. But hold on a moment. Is it really this simple. Are jobs really the only answer or the major answer to poverty. Well let's try to answer that statistically for a moment. In the first place about half of the people in America are classified as poor by that standard I mentioned having about $2 a day on which to live about half of these people are unable to work at all. So if there are 22 million poor in the country today there are 11 million of those poor who are unable to work whose poverty will not be alleviated by having jobs who are greedy as well many of them are children. Since 40 percent of the poor are children under 15 years of age many are in school some on mothers who have tiny children at home.
They cannot leave can't be left alone. Some are permanently or temporarily disabled and some are simply too old to perform work of any kind. Since about 35 percent of the poor in America are 55 years or over. So there are about 11 million hard core Americans who will be untouched by any job programs and who cannot be considered when we talk about either unemployment or under employment. In today's society. Second most of the remaining poor are who can work and who want to work. And most of the poor I believe sincerely and seriously want to work. I have never known in my short experience of four years in the anti-poverty program any poor people who say gee you know it's just our wonderful thing to be poor. It's character building.
You meet such interesting people. You've got to challenge yourself every day. Poor is a drug. Poor is a lousy poor is no good. And I believe that most of the poor do want to get out of poverty although perhaps they don't share our optimism and our own faith that if they only were doing beneficial work they would be able to get out of poverty. But most of these remaining poor or who want to work and who can work cannot get jobs at which they can earn a decent income for a variety of reasons therefore most of them if they are working at all and most of them are under employed. They are working for wages which do not bring them and their families above the poverty level a dishwasher working for a dollar 25 or a dollar 30 cents an hour cannot be said to be earning an income that is going to get them out of poverty is underemployed.
Why. Well for one thing they lack the basic education or the vocational skills. Very often they can't read or write or do arithmetic well enough to get a decent job. We found out that in the Job Corps 30 percent of all the kids are illiterate. They can't re-align. They're not just functionally illiterate or they're not just slow readers or late bloomers or whatever we call them these days they can't read. And if you cannot read. There are not many jobs you can get these days that are worth anything or that will get you out of poverty. In addition to this many people who are poor can't get jobs because they have a police record or because there's no transportation between their home and a potential job site. But because they're black. Or because they don't speak the language the language the English language because they speak something like Spanish perhaps. Or
because repeated rejections by employers have destroyed their motivation. The motivation of many of the unemployed or under-employed to look for work. Welfare is easier when hope is gone. You have just had too many rebuffs and going to the employment office and being told there's nothing today. And you all know for years we perpetuated this as part of the system. The United States employment service was for middle class people it was for people who are employable not for people who are unemployable like my sister in law when she had a slight explosion in her basement when the suit came up through the registers and covered the living room. And so she got some money from the insurance company and hired a cleaner to come in and five strapping men and beautiful white uniforms came in bearing huge commercial vacuum cleaners and they stood at the door and they looked in the room and they said on our lady we clean clean houses we don't clean dirty houses.
Well it's the same with the United States employment service they find jobs for people who can get jobs. Who qualify for jobs not people who find it hard to get jobs and for years the employment service was down in the governmental complex in the middle class section of town if you were a poor man and lived in a slum by the time you got to the employment service you were worn out and then some clerk who'd been in the bureaucracy for 20 years look you over and saw the patches on your knees in the dirt under your fingernails and said I won. We hire clean people we don't hire dirty people. You can't get a job in the enlightened city of hyper Connecticut where I lived for years. If you were a Puerto Rican. The minute you walk through the employment service office you were classified as a farm laborer because traditionally the tobacco companies. We do have tobacco in Connecticut I want you to know. Not very good tobacco but it's tobacco nonetheless it used cigars. That's the lethal kind of smoking part in these sacred precincts.
But in any case if you were a Puerto Rican and you walked in you were automatically classified farm labor. And if you said in your halting English. Excuse me sir but I have a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of San Juan. They said nonetheless. But we can farm labor if you are black. Why do they say to you. In most of the employment services in most of the cities in our country. Sorry don't call us we'll call you nothing today. So despite the brave words of the bureaucrats or the claims of the employers that millions of jobs exist just waiting to be taken we can't take their words or their claims for granted. Most of the available jobs call for skills that the poor cannot possibly at this stage in their lives aspire to or they are the lowest entry level menial positions floor sweepers dishwashers stock jockeys paying a marginal wage just at or below the
poverty line. So why work. Why work to be poor when you're already poor. As I say doing your own thing why be exploited doing someone else's thing and still be poor. Well today through the National Alliance of businessman 100000 job openings have been pledged this year in private enterprise and if you've been reading your magazines this week you will have seen large double page spreads in all the leading magazines saying the jobs program works 100000 job pledges have been met and made available. Well this is wonderful and it's about time that private enterprise really won out and got people to come to work for them and didn't just open the doors and say we are equal opportunity employers. Our doors are open come in if you dare. Come in with your dirty fingernails and your patchwork pants and your lack of skills and your
non-English and your black skin. Come and sit in our gleaming new employment office where everybody's looking down his nose at you. Take our fine psychological examination which separates the men from the boys and the white from the black. And the haves and the have nots try to get through eyes see if you will. And if you manage to slip through little fish will put you to work in a little fishbowl and there you will stay swimming around looking at the rest of us. No that's not enough. The National Alliance of business men knows this and this is a tremendously constructive and creative thing that they understand that if you want to get. People who don't have jobs in Iraq and employable and who are the hard core of the poor. And if you want to train them go out and get them because they're not going to come to you for a variety of reasons. One of them being that they don't know how to come to you. They don't know how to dress. They don't have a code they don't have the lingo. They don't know how to take your examination they don't know how to say what they can do. When you sit across the desk from that.
Beady Eye of employment counselor and he says What is your experience then how do you tell me. Mister I've survived. I've survived for 25 or 30 years there's not enough man. Either way if you try to live the way I've lived I've survived I could do anything in your place because I can do. And I've had the experiences that you have founder had. When he came over to this country with his white skin and his centuries of business heritage and founded this plant he survived. I've survived. I can do it. So when the jobs program the job opportunities in the business sector the federal government is sharing and paying help helping to pay training costs which average about thirty five hundred dollars a year for each of the people getting these jobs in the slots are being filled. But even that's not the answer. Turnover is great. Many of the jobs themselves are entry level skilled jobs without a possibility of
advancement. And besides who says. That a job on an assembly line in a factory in our industrialized society is the greatest of all liberating forces from poverty. Many of you have seen that old Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times in which Mr. Chaplin characterized the whole of our industrial society by the man who stood on the assembly line all day going. For the benefit the radio audience I am making motions with my hands as if I have a ranch turning to nuts with each hand and even after he got out of the factory it took him a while to decelerate and threw on Bandit to get back into life and he just was doing this as he walked down the street. Who says that this is the greatest of all liberating forces from my life the richer life that's being lived in our communities today because even after the guy has been on the assembly line all day and takes his paycheck home and when he stops twitching and when he settles down there's
still the same substandard housing to come back to. There's still the same terrible substandard education for his children. There was still the same problem of no transportation from the ghetto and there was still the same lack of decent facilities for health or justice or remedial education or family planning or anything else that this person needs to make him not poor. The job is only a fraction of it and all too often the job itself is either dead end or it will soon be automated out of existence and the hard core job holder is again holding nothing but the bag. And it's not even his bag that he's holding. One of the most promising solutions I think to the problem of unemployment and underemployment of the poor is a movement called new careers which had its legislative beginnings in 1066 as part of the Economic Opportunity Act. With a program introduced by Congressman Scheuer James Scheuer of New York.
In this program and if you haven't heard of it before you'll be hearing a lot more of it as you go along. In life. Poor people are getting jobs and job training largely in the public social welfare human services sector. Like education health recreation municipal governments offshore where great shortages exist. This is where most of the new careerists are getting jobs. First of all they are getting entry level jobs they are coming in at the bottom that's true but the new careerist approach says that even before you come into the entry level job there has got to be a career ladder. Clearly established. So that if you come into a headstart agency as a teacher's aide in which you are going to be putting on childrens galoshes and opening and closing their zippers at various times of the day and that doesn't demand much skill if you're a mother you can do that.
Even if you're a father you can do that. That you can't go in there and expect that two years from now you're going to be opening and closing those same zippers on different children and putting on those same galoshes you have got to have. First of all a training program for the next rung on the ladder. Second of all you've got to have released time from your job so that you can work for if you desire that credential which is so important to qualify you ultimately as a professional. So the new careerist is a sub professional who can ultimately aspire to become a professional. The career ladder concept the opportunity ladder concept is what ultimately is going to get people out of poverty. And our unions our private sector are increasingly going to follow suit. Not just taking a man on and thinking you're going to make an on poor by giving them a job cleaning up oil soaked rags in a factory but showing him how ultimately he can aspire
to to run the machinery or even to become a foreman to make this possible. There was got to be on the job training and most important as I said there's got to be released time for educational work leading towards a degree or the equivalent credential. And also increasingly implicit in the new careers movement is community participation Community Action maximum feasible participation in their own destiny of the poor people themselves and above all a redefining of the professional roles to give these paraprofessionals more voice and more power and more to do. As a matter of fact a test case is being enacted right now in New York's Lincoln mental health center where the paraprofessionals have taken over the buildings where they are taking over the services where they have bodily thrown out the staff. And where they are insisting that if the program of mental health distribution of services in the ghetto was going to go forward the community itself has got to do it. We've got to let the community do their
thing they say. And the issue is still in doubt whether in this way they're going to be able to beat the system. The new administration the Nixon administration is now talking about a jobs program. J Oh P.S. another acronym which stands for jobs opportunities in the public sector. And these jobs will greatly amplify the impact of the outreach of new careers. And meanwhile back at the ranch the old ranch the embattled Job Corps is training about 35000 of the hardest core young poor dropout youth and important efforts like Upward Bound and Neighborhood Youth Corps. I try to motivate kids to stay in school. You're right. Relatively short period of time historically speaking the institutions of our democratic society have become stale and rigid and I need serious restructuring. This is what I believe
stripped of the meaningless violence and the idiotic empty rhetoric. The college uprisings in the ghetto riots are all about. We are all imprisoned by the system caught in a trap in it like flies in amber. The high school diploma for example is a rigid credential for a job. It says nothing about capacity. Will Spirit loyalty motivation. But it's there you've got to have it if you don't have a high school diploma don't bother me kid. Go off and do something else. A college diploma is a necessary credential for higher pay and a respectable white collar work entitling you to live in a nice Mr Clean type suburb. Forget the other skills that you have the experience you had. Your survival record your other qualities show up with that piece of paper which now becomes transmuter into parchment because it. Lets you aspire to a higher form of life. And if you don't have it get out.
Right. You want to be a computer operator and you don't have your college degree. Go away don't bother me. Back into the men's washroom getting out of town. And the advanced degree is a necessary credential for the professional with a capital P.. The doctor the lawyer the professor never mind that the actual service rendered doesn't require one tenth of the learnings and the activity is in the seminars and the term papers and the baloney subsumed under that document. But you need it or you are a professional. I go home every night and I look at my record of my Ph.D. I can barely read it anymore in Latin. But it tells me that even though I've been away for teaching for 20 years I'm still a professional and therefore respectable in mine own eyes and the eyes of my children. We know that most of us. I hope we know that most of us can do most of what needs to be done in our society. If we only put our minds and
I hands to what I firmly believe this. We read over and over again of imposters with less than a high school education we have been practicing medicine in a town for 20 years curing the sick. Healing the injured in body and spirit performing operations with two tables bones a little manual dexterity and a can of ether and a fake degree on the wall. Suddenly they're found out and their clientele for almost 20 years rallied around and said I never felt so good as when Dr X was curing me. While I am not trying to claim that. We should all submit to the scalpel of the fake when we have brain surgery to be done. Not at all what I'm saying is that much if not most of the professional does could be done by the well trained on professional. We all know about literate prisoners. Maybe even illiterate prisoners who teach themselves to read. Go to the law books in the prison. Make a startling defense of their
case and get sprung. All by themselves. We all know of humble parents. Humble people who had no experience at all. No diploma in having children. Who found the conception easy and therefore did it again and again and again with no prior experience or no credentials whatsoever but who managed to raise pretty good families and pretty good kids who managed to stay off the psychiatrist's couch even the couches of impostors who are pretending to be psychiatrists. I am not suggesting that every poor person has the skill to be a brain surgeon or a great lawyer like Melvin Bella or Percy Foreman. I mean don't put me under his scalpel. But I am saying that it is the system the system of degree of credentials of traditional institutional structure which keep many of the poor out of the system rather than permitting them to become a part of it and which in effect
keep all of us who are cowed and awed by the structure who keep most of us under employed employed under our potential for a life simply because we've been told. If you ain't got the piece of paper you ain't got it. Period. Well confronted by the system which is so packed. So white so middle aged so complicated in its jargon so rigid in its requirements. Is it any wonder that poor people black people American Indians Mexican Americans Puerto Ricans turn off and give up. Or is it any wonder that they get excited and exasperated unto violence itself when they find themselves perpetually doing the dirty work. Of our nice clean white society the oppressiveness of the system is what creates apathy and despair. The feeling of the poor a voiceless powerless caught in a machine they can't comprehend. All of
us can share and providing ladders. So a poor. And indeed all of us who are poor in so many ways and lift ourselves out of our poverty be it monetary or mental or spiritual. We have the responsibility of helping to provide ladders of opportunity ladders of health ladders of education ladders of new careers ladders of political power ladders of justice. We are all worrying about violence on our streets and riots and crime and the explosion of bitterness that seems to take place in this country once a year. But let me tell you that apathy is worse than violence. Under-employment is worse than unemployment because it leads to apathy and despair. T.S. Eliot in his poem The Hollow Man ends by saying this is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends not with a bang but a whimper.
All of us are afraid of a bang. And are arming to protect ourselves from the ultimate catastrophe. But I will say to you that if it all ends in a whimper in the final crushing victim. Victimization and victory of the system that will be even more to our everlasting shame and to our sorrow. Thank you very much. Thank you I was. Just heard an address by Dr. Herbert crane. Senior Consultant to the Office of Economic Opportunity speaking on the topic. The crisis of under-employment Dr. Kramer spoke at the Wake Forest University symposium on contemporary American affairs challenge 69. The theme of this year's symposium was the urban crisis the student's response. Next week Dr. Harvey Cox author of the Secular City will speak on the role of the
- Episode Number
- #5 (Reel 2)
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- No description available
- Social Issues
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-30-5 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- APA: Challenge 69: The urban crisis; #5 (Reel 2). Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-3j393x2b