Friday, February 20, 2009

What does economic security mean?

Often our conversations focus on poverty as moving a person “out of” poverty. Just what exactly does that mean? Are we even focusing on the right topic, that is, should we focus on moving people OUT of poverty or INTO a state of economic security? When thinking this through, I tried an old trick—I looked for definitions of the words—funny how that can help, especially when we think we know what a word means.

Dictionary .com defines poverty as “a state or condition of having little or no money, goods or means of support.” There was no definition of “economic security,” so I have created one based on the definitions of each word independently. Economic is defined as “pertaining to the production, distribution and use of income, wealth and commodities. Security is defined as the “freedom from danger or risk, from care, anxiety or doubt; well-founded confidence.” Putting it all together then, we get “freedom from danger or risk and from care, anxiety or doubt about and a well-founded confidence in the production, distribution and use of income, wealth and commodities.” We could probably finesse that just a bit, but it will do for now.

If we talk only about moving people “out of” poverty, we miss the chance to define and impact where we move them. Let’s focus our conversation on providing all individuals and families this freedom—the freedom from risk, the freedom from anxiety or doubt about the production and distribution of income, wealth and commodities in this country. Let’s talk about how we move families INTO a condition of being economically secure—a condition where the income they earn is not at risk, where the production of that income is open to all who possess the education, training or experience necessary and where the acquisition of that education or training is available and accessible for all—a real condition of opportunity for all.

It is possible.

Watch the freshman congressman from Colorado explain the need for gender equity in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in less than 60 seconds.

We can change the dialogue and lives, if only we will.