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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Letter to the Editor of the New York Times: Ending Poverty

To the editor:

I am currently a student at Salt Lake Community College studying U.S. Government. I have done extensive research on some of the issues that American citizens face every day. According to one of the top ten national issues that remains the most concerned amongst the American people is poverty (Cook). While there might not be a one size fits all answer to ending poverty there are different approaches we can take to minimizing it. We can do this by debunking inefficient solutions, taking control over how we manage government assistance programs, and work to change the mind sets of Americans in poverty.

Every year we spend billions of dollars on programs to assist the poor. A recent survey by the Office of Budget and Management estimated this number to be equivalent to 49 percent of the federal tax dollars spent (Policy Basics). According to the Census Bureau in a 2015 report, 13.5 percent of the total U.S. population was considered as being below the poverty threshold. In comparison to that number, 2.4 percent were in poverty that worked full time (Proctor 13). What these numbers suggest is that the percentage of individuals that make up the below poverty threshold aren’t below the threshold due to low salaries, but rather due to not working or only working a part time job. Although raising the minimum wage may have great effects, it is unlikely that it would provide a good solution for poverty itself. This could also influence employers to hire less full time employees and hire more part time employees, avoiding the need to provide costly health insurance benefits. Unless we can find a workable alternative to address these contradicting solutions, poverty will remain a problem in our nation.

Often in the past we have drawn upon providing government assistance within programs to subsidize for those who need help. The one problem that seems to stand out the most is that people are becoming increasingly tolerant to the idea of free money. There isn’t any obligations or lack of freedom that comes along with this money. It truly is free money. If these individuals were given the opportunity to work for the wages received in assistance would they choose to do so? Through socialization of families in poverty, an increasing reliance on federal aid could be devastating for our future generations to come. What we need is some form of acquired responsibility in relation to receiving government assistance. We need a contribution that can help give back to the communities, set good examples to the youth, and help those in need develop work ethics and skills. In doing so we won’t just be throwing away our tax dollars, but rather investing them on future returns. One suggestion to this is by substituting welfare programs with work assistance programs where the recipient would be able to not only give back to the community but can also build a resume by acquiring work experience. These jobs could range from call center jobs, service jobs, or jobs normally done by volunteer services. Even though there are individuals who are incapable of specific kinds of work, the assignment of work could be tailored to suite the capabilities of the recipients.

The next step we could take to address poverty is by taking more control of regulations within federal assistance programs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 17 percent of unemployed individuals had a substance abuse problem versus the 9 percent who did have full time jobs (Kurtz). What this study suggests is that the less individuals work the more likely they are to be abusers of alcohol or drugs. Even though there are already regulations in place that require federal assistant recipients to be drug free, there isn’t much monitoring this where the government makes verifications. One way we could manage this is by requiring mandatory drug testing in all states for individuals who are receiving government assistance. Receiving federal aid from the government should be no different than receiving money from an employer where you have to follow specific guidelines by taking random uranalysis’s. According to Vision Launch by requiring welfare recipients to be drug tested could save taxpayers money, lower drug use, provide fairness amongst those getting drug tested at work, and encourage employment (Lombardo).

With the high concern of poverty currently within the United States we are in need of a different approach. If we can challenge some of the procedures already in place, take better control of our government assistance programs, and work to change the mindsets of the Americans in poverty then maybe we can make a difference with a lasting impact.

Works Cited

Cook, Lindsey. “What Will Be the Biggest Issues in 2016?” US News, 3 Jan. 2016: n.p. Web. 8 Nov. 2016. <>.

Kurtz, Annalyn. “1 in 6 unemployed are substance abusers” CNN Money, 26 Nov. 2013: n.p. Web. 8 Nov. 2016. <>.

Lombardo, Crystal. “Pros and Cons of Drug Testing Welfare Recipients” Vision Launch, 10 Dec. 2014: n.p. Web. 8 Nov. 2016. <>.

“Policy Basics: Where Do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 4 Mar. 2016: n.p. Web. 8 Nov. 2016. <>.

Proctor, Bernadette, et al. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015” United States Census    Bureau, Sep. 2016: pg. 13. Web. 9 Nov. 2016 <>.


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