Be the Easter Bunny this year

Easter comes early this year, but for many children in Berrien County, the Easter Bunny probably won’t be stopping by.

A recent report from the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) — a non-partisan economic think tank — found that while Berrien County enjoys an unemployment rate of only 4.8 percent, the poverty rate for the county’s families is 26.2 percent, and there is nothing to celebrate about that. Because of these findings, the MLPP ranked Berrien County in 54th place in child well-being among the state’s 83 counties.

Speaking from experience after serving for 15 years as the vice president of another economic think tank — the National Center for Policy Analysis — the MLPP facts and figures stand true and cannot be manipulated. I am also acquainted with many of the MLPP’s board members and they are good people covering the political spectrum.

If you are not familiar with the Michigan League of Public Policy, let me assure you that this is one of the best public policy research organizations in the state.

But there is something that needs further review. Wouldn’t you think that with a relatively low unemployment rate of only 4.8 percent we would have a much lower poverty rate than 26.2 percent?

While there are many families where both parents work — sometimes with multiple jobs to make ends meet — their jobs don’t pay them enough and they cannot work additional hours without jeopardizing the time they can spend with their children.

On the other hand, we all know or hear of people who simply do not work because if they do, they will lose their government-subsidized benefits. Food stamps, disability payments and unemployment compensation are among the culprits of enticing people to stay in poverty. There are many unemployed workers who have no choice, but by analyzing the correlation between local poverty rates and unemployment rates as the MLPP has done, child well-being is being crushed by the perverse incentives our government has created.

Our society is trying to respond by offering assistance to children of poverty by offering free breakfasts and lunches in our schools. Our teachers will confirm that a hungry child cannot learn or pay attention in class. Many local children dread the weekend because they know they will go hungry for a day or two. Some families even need to resort to feeding one child on Saturday and another on Sunday because there is simply not enough for everyone to eat.

Locally, the Salvation Army has been stretched to its limits and faces shortages all the time because of the demands made upon them by indigent families who need their services simply to survive.

We can argue and criticize the government-created economic problems that the poor face today, but while we are carping about it, we still need to do all we can to help out those agencies providing badly needed services — like food and clothing — for needy kids.

Be the Easter Bunny this year and give generously to the Salvation Army and other agencies that provide for our impoverished families.

 

A native of Niles, Jack Strayer moved back home in 2009 after living and working in Washington DC since 1976. Strayer has served as a congressional staffer, state legislative press secretary, federal registered lobbyist and Vice President of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is a nationally recognized expert on federal health policy reform and led the fight for the enactment of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

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