Poverty is not a necessity

To the Editor:

In response to the editorial in last week's paper regarding the editor's out-of-context quote by Greg MacDonald and characterization of him as a Marxist who believes that we need more poor people to support our capitalist system, let me share with you the full transcript of that part of his statement. Greg was on the June panel at Catamount Arts, a Courageous Conversation on Poverty. In his own personal and passionate way, Greg articulated his beliefs about poverty and the broken capitalist system that, by its very nature, traps some people into a world of low income subsistence: " My role is to give (poor people) tools to assist them in getting out of poverty in any way they can. I am a believer that people can change if they're given tools, assistance, opportunities, people who can help facilitate that change. My position around poverty has evolved. I believe people are left in poverty because of the economic system we have. It's the bastion of (unbridled) capitalism. In order for (this kind of) capitalism to survive, you need people in poverty. (Lack of) health care, not having livable wage jobs, a public school system that is falling apart, people struggling on low incomes, having to choose between heat and medication or food.."

This is hardly the statement of a man who believes poverty is necessary. The extremes of poverty in this country are a by-product of an out-of-control economic system that favors huge banks, the wealthy and large corporations that frequently outsource the very jobs we need. Enormous profits are made on the backs of those who have to accept low wages just in order to have a job. Any job. We all know where the profits go while our communities struggle just to balance their budgets. Meanwhile, local services get cut, jobs disappear and the future begins to dim. People who live in generational poverty are even lower on the economic ladder with few options for getting out.

While the Caledonian is quite right to point out that our community has a number of wonderful small businesses and several larger, corporate enterprises that hire locally, they are not the problem, nor are they the only solution. The problem of poverty cuts across all sectors of our community and speaks to the very nature of who we are as a town.

I say, welcome to the Courageous Conversation on Poverty. Let's see where we can go with a positive sense of engagement and problem solving, beginning with some hard and honest talk about social values, how we govern our local schools and support families and young people. How will we explore opportunities for more local small businesses and affordable shopping? How do we direct our town management and examine our attitudes towards all our neighbors? Can we bring political pressure on our legislators to support a more equitable society. It's not easy, but both Greg MacDonald and our low-income neighbors believe it's necessary.

Libby Hillhouse

Ryegate, Vt.


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