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The news that a full seven out of 10 children in Robeson County were living in poverty in 2016 is distressing, mitigated mildly in that it was down a couple of percentage points from the year before.
That is according to N.C. Child, a statewide advocacy group that works to promote legislation it believes will benefit our children across the state, especially those who are most vulnerable. We believe, however, the cure must be found here, and not in Raleigh, which can only provide a tourniquet.
These children are suffering in poverty not because of their own decisions, but because of a myriad of circumstances that have conspired against them, and bad parental choices surely will be near or at the top of the list. The news paints a depressing picture of the county’s future, because this nation’s history speaks loudly and without doubt, telling us that poverty is like quicksand, and hard to escape.
This country has transferred trillions of dollars over the past half century from the top to the bottom, and the poverty rate now is essentially what is has always been. And so it is with Robeson County, where welfare is one of our most important industries, but has done little to reduce the number of those living in poverty, and some would even argue has worked against their escape, robbing them of incentive to get educated and to find work.
While the ability of the government to lift people from poverty is worthy of debate, that has been done plenty of times before, and we see no need to rehash tired arguments. But what should be stipulated is that no one possesses greater power to lift someone from poverty than that person himself or herself, and that can only be done by making positive life choices.
John Hood, the chairman of the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank, recently wrote about this very thing in a column published by this newspaper. Hood outlined what he called the Success Sequence, which is a simple road map that might not lead inevitably to riches, but if followed, should lead away from a life in rags.
The formula is to finish high school at the minimum, work full-time, and then delay marriage and having children until some degree of economic stability has been achieved.
We would add establishing and protecting credit as a fourth branch.
We said it was a simple road map, but we know it isn’t a simple road for all to completely travel. Depending on the randomness of life, some people have a much longer road to travel; while that is unfair, it is never going to change, so let’s dispense with the notion of a level playing field.
In this county, the Success Sequence has not been well traveled. Our school system’s graduation rate, should it be believed, is on par with those across the state, but after that our children are not getting a job and working full-time, they are not delaying marriage, and they are going ahead and having children before they have achieved financial stability.
If these things were not true, then 70 percent of our children would not be living in poverty.
The good news is, the Success Sequence is attainable for those who are willing to make the good decisions. It will take more and more of them for this county to reduce in any meaningful the way the unforgivable number of our children who live harder lives of less than their friends across this state and nation.
The decision really is each of ours.