Della Wells
Op Ed

I Agree With Ben Carson

The “mindset” of people does contribute to poverty.

By , Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service - Jul 22nd, 2017 02:37 pm
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I agree with Ben Carson, one's "Mind-set" does affect how one looks at poverty.

I agree with Ben Carson, one’s “Mind-set” does affect how one looks at poverty.

Throughout the American landscape, social and economic myths help promote stereotypes in which many view the poor in America. And too often these stereotypes are used by lawmakers, political pundits and others to provide political scapegoats to deflect from the real problems and issues.

The poor are easy targets. They are viewed as having no political or economic clout. Thus, the promotion of the negative image of the poor provides a political narrative to maintain the political and economic power of a few.

Recently, Ben Carson, the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and noted neurosurgeon, came under fire for implying that it is one’s mindset that determines if one is poor or not. Carson, who himself came from an impoverished background, oversimplifies what it would take to break the bonds of poverty.

However, I do agree with Carson that it is one’s “mindset” that contributes to poverty. It is the “mindset” of politicians like Paul Ryan, the leaders of some corporations and others who shape the political, economic, cultural and social narratives, structures and institutions in America. And often, these people do not have a clue or care how their decisions affects everyday Americans.

And we should shoulder some of the blame ourselves. Often, this means that some workers may have to take low-wage jobs so we may get the benefit of low prices. But it does not have to be that way. Often, it would cost consumers a few cents more to pay a worker a living wage. And CEOs and other executives may want to consider taking a smaller compensation package to provide better wages.

The poor, regardless if they live in urban or rural communities, or their ethnicity, race or gender are often the hardest-working Americans. They do not fit the stereotype of being lazy, unmotivated or having given up. Some of them are working two or three jobs to make ends meet. All are working low-wage jobs. These are people who work in retail or restaurants, are our caregivers or work in other service industries. And they want the same dream for themselves and their children — to obtain the American Dream.

Ben Carson’s mother wanted the American Dream for him and he achieved it. Americans who are poor are no different than any other Americans. They are not lazy. They are not looking for a handout. They are like anyone else; they want to be paid a living wage. They are not all black or brown. They all do not live in urban areas but also live in rural areas and suburbs.

And we need to recognize and remember that our nation was built on the backs of the poor and exploited — the slaves, Native Americans, Chinese labor, child labor, immigrants, prison labor and other free- or low-wage labor. This is the “mindset” that we need to break if we want to end poverty.

Della Wellsan artist and community activist, writes that she agrees with Ben Carson that one’s mindset “does affect how one looks at poverty.”

This story was originally published by Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service, where you can find other stories reporting on eighteen city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.

9 thoughts on “Op Ed: I Agree With Ben Carson”

  1. Mary Kay Wagner says:

    Well said. The “personal responsibility” argument cuts both ways, though we only ever want to apply it to the poor, those different from “us.” How often do we take responsibility for our negative attitudes that sap the strength out of those who struggle. How often do we turn a blinds eye to actions and policies that make it difficult or impossible for those living in poverty to work their way out? How often do we demand comforts that result in the poor paying for our comfort with polluted air and drinking water? How many times do we justify the unhealthy conditions the poor must deal with because we say that’s the way they like it? We also bare personal responsibility.

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    I thought about the personal responsibility talking point when reading in the JS about those siblings in Mexico. The comments were predictable but depressing. Right-wingers who when it comes to people of color always go on and on about personal responsibility on every issue under the sun blamed everyone and everything but the rich white kids. They blamed the resort or the Mexican government or the Mexican healthcare system or bar employees or nefarious conspiracies. None said it wasn’t wise to drink 5-6 shots in an hour by a pool.

  3. AG says:

    So Vincent, you’re complaining that an article in the JS that talks about low quality alcohol that potentially contains methanol that causes severe reactions to people who do not expect it and/or possibly containing illicit drugs, is full of people blaming the people who serve and distribute that alcohol?

    Regarding the article itself… it is interesting to note that the poor in our country have, in general, a much higher standard of living compared to people I’ve encountered in Nepal, Haiti, Dominican Republic, and many other countries… not to mention refugees I’ve met from numerous poor countries. However, studies have shown that people from those countries are far happier than both the poor and better off in our country. I think that supports the idea that poverty really is a mindset.

  4. Vincent Hanna says:

    No that isn’t what I am saying at all. Please don’t put words in my mouth. I am responding to the initial article about the two people in their 20s, not the followup that ran yesterday. I made that clear in my post. The initial story does not detail the low quality alcohol, the followup does. Please read and respond more carefully AG.

    “I think that supports the idea that poverty really is a mindset.”

    Have you ever lived in poverty?

  5. Barbara Richards says:

    AG might perhaps explore the work based on the “Economics of Happiness”:

    http://www.localfutures.org/programs/the-economics-of-happiness/

    Poverty in America is created by living in an industrial consumer society. It is created by the choices we have made in creating this society. Poverty in third world countries is linked to the economies of those places. Those economics are rooted in the non-industrial societies that were linked sustainably to the local place.

    As consumerism encroaches on these traditionally based societies the “happiness” indicator drops. As growth is the only option in consumer societies “happiness” becomes a dog chasing its own tail.

    The solution is to realize that consumerism and growth are not pathways to happiness. Recreating our industrial society so that human values become the bottom line has the possibility of creating more just and fulfilling roles as producers rather than consumers.

  6. AG says:

    Hi Barbara, I’m familiar with the concept and that was basically where I was headed. Poverty or success is not just about a roof over the head, food on the plate, and a doctor to take care of you when you’re sick anymore. These days we seem to focus so much on things that really don’t matter and we can’t take with us when we leave this place. Not only does this cause many to be unhappy as they compare what they have with others but it also influences a lot of bad decisions (at all levels of society) because of how we feel about our station in life.

  7. AG says:

    Vincent, I am lucky enough to say that I have no lived in poverty… even in my first job out of college when I made the equivalent of less than $10/hr working for a non-profit. But that wasn’t really point… I also have never been rich. Would you have the same issue if I stated that being rich is a mindset?

  8. dk mke says:

    It’s probably true that in places like Haiti or Dominican Republic, where the poor basically have zero thoughts of ever changing their lot in life, are happier than the poor in this country where they are constantly told it’s their fault they are poor.

  9. Jason Troll says:

    African Americans that go to college use less drugs and booze than there white counterparts that attend college. FACT. On another note, programs like Badgercare help and hurt lower income people of all stripes. Badgercare is a cadillac plan for lower income people. I have witnessed a few times in my jobs younger kids offered promotions and then decline the offer due to losing benefits. It is unfortunate that individuals do not want to follow opportunities.

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