It seems inarguable to state that poverty creates desperation. Through casual observation, one can come to understand this statement as a self-evident truth. For instance, in the most innocent of circumstances, a single mother working two full-time jobs at, or near, the minimum wage standard for both occupations is unlikely to pursue these professions out of passion, or because she believes this will ultimately prove to be lucrative. Contrarily, she is honorably striving to provide for her family and make ends meet to the best of her ability.
In more dire situations, those who live in impoverished circumstances are more likely to turn to criminal activity in an attempt to address financial short comings. Algis Sileika and Jurgita Bekeryte (2012) discuss this correlation in the Journal of Security and Sustainability Issues. The authors note a correlation between high poverty rates and a growth in criminal activity, while also observing the negative side effects poverty produces on an individual’s physical and mental health.
So, what does poverty look like for individuals and families long term? Well, in the first scenario, it not only looks like an exhausted mother trying to provide for and raise her children, but the effects of poverty-based desperation are paid forward to the child. Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs notes that children who do not receive consistent responses from their parents are more likely to be, “aggressive, defiant, and hyperactive as adults” (Huber, 2014). Furthermore, Huber (2014) notes that children who do not create strong bonds with their “mothers or fathers,” through having basic emotional and physical needs met regularly, will likely enter kindergarten with deficient language and behavioral skills. While an impoverished mother and/or father are desperately trying to meet the basic necessities for survival, their child is already developing a pattern that is likely to conclude with poverty in their own adulthood.
Poverty begets desperation which begets continued poverty.
While I do not intend to over simplify the problem or the solution, a few observations regarding modern responses are relevant to this discussion. First, our well-intentioned policy makers who would self-identify as left or left-leaning often seek to ensure a more equal outcome between those who are currently in poverty with those who are currently experiencing greater affluence.
Public housing plans, social welfare policies, and minimum wage mandates are often points of discussion in this debate.
While I can choose to trust that the intention of these policy makers is to provide families and individuals with the necessary breathing room to more appropriately care for their children and better themselves, I fear the conclusion to these principles results in well-intentioned harm. These programs are often, I believe, unsustainable. Moreover, it can lead to a type of practical slavery experienced by sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South.
Sadly, however, many policies to address this situation from well-intentioned policy makers who would self-identify as right or right-leaning, often offer responses that do not recognize or satisfy the urgency of the situation. Tax cuts, while necessary and helpful, take years to move a family from one socio-economic environment to another. Additionally, school choice – which will be addressed momentarily – is a non-immediate benefit experienced by the next generation. When considering the plight of the economically depressed, policies need to be both sustainable and as immediate as possible.
Algis Sileika and Jurgita Bekeryte (2012) identify, among other variables, a lack of education and sustainable employment opportunities as two great factors that contribute to poverty. To address the shortfalls of education, I believe school choice needs to be the cornerstone of public policy regarding academic advancement. This conclusion is both practical and principled.
Why should the government be permitted to dictate where free men and women educate their children?
Why is it that the government – which is an organization constituted by nothing more than fellow citizens – can mandate where my children go to school and my only response to benefit from this publicly funded option is to say, “yes, master”?
How does this design benefit our most vulnerable and impoverished citizens? Public schools are primarily funded through property taxes, and impoverished communities generate less revenue which leads to underfunded and less effective schools.
The prevailing laws of the day encourage a cycle where poverty propagates poor education, and public policy forces impoverished students to learn in ineffective institutions. The conclusion of this system results in a student that is less prepared to compete for well-paying jobs where upward professional mobility is also a possibility. And yet again, poverty begets poverty, which begets greater desperation, which begets further poverty.
However, school choice cannot be the only answer. Rather, if the point of education is to prepare for a career, why not foster a greater bond between professionalism and education? I believe a greater partnership between tradesmen (e.g., welders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, contractors, etc.) and public education institutions would benefit individuals, communities, schools, and businesses. This is not to be confused with a current system where career and technical education are options in the existing curriculum.
I believe a partnership between companies that specialize in a particular trade will practically enhance the principles, curriculum, and opportunities of technical education.
Tradecraft education could permit a company to assist in the development of a curriculum, ranging from one to four years for completion, where they are able to teach the “tricks of the trade” and possibly help students prepare for initial certification(s); this would make the student immediately marketable upon graduation, and just as quickly lift them – and potentially their family – out of poverty in a sustainable fashion. Internships for upperclassmen could also be offered, much like a professional version of dual-enrollment courses, allowing graduates to have work experience and academic success on their initial résumé.
Finally, schools should be able to choose which companies they want to participate in this program from a pre-approved list of interested businesses. As I said earlier, this program must be a consensual partnership between a school and a company participating by their own volition. Of note, within the framework of school choice, schools would be even more likely to participate in this program, as this would enhance the product/service they’re bringing to market by appealing to a wider array of consumers.
This idea, of course, cannot be forced upon companies. However, I believe there are a number of benefits companies could derive from the structure of this program, which would be both naturally and legislatively achieved.
First, I believe companies could be incentivized to participate through tax legislation.
For example, the state could provide tax credits of a set amount to participating companies; or they could treat every hour of an employee’s time spent on this program as a charitable contribution from the company, by multiplying the hours spent by the average revenue generated by an employee, and reducing the corporation’s taxable revenue by the total of that amount.
Additionally, to further incentivize business, you could apply a tax credit for every former student a company employs out of this program. However, the tax credit for this action would need to be relatively minor, or you create a market for hiring poor employees – which would, in all likelihood, result in termination of employment for an individual, a potential return to poverty, and a greater budget deficit for the state government. Rather, this particular credit would need to be an added bonus, which responds to corporate hiring patterns that would have likely happened with or without the credit, based on the merit of the former student and prospective employee.
To this end, there are natural benefits a corporation has to participating in this program, one of which is the ability to establish a pipeline of prospective employees. By participating in this program, companies would be able to become very familiar with the character, skills, and qualifications of a potential employee. Instead of making hiring determinations based solely on a résumé and short interview(s), the company could now establish a channel of prospective employees who they personally know have the necessary qualifications, skills, and work ethic to grow the business and represent the company well.
Governing at any level is not a simple task. It often requires officials to engage in complex challenges while making difficult choices from a myriad of options, none of which promise success and all of which carry risk.
Rather than viewing the primary role of government as a means to progress society, I believe the primary role of government is to protect individual liberty.
Secondary to that principle, government does have a responsibility to promote the general welfare through careful investments, striving for equal opportunity within its jurisdiction, and removing obstacles to success not resulting from personal choice. I believe the framework of this plan champions both liberty and sustainable socio-economic advancement by recognizing that an individual’s freedom is both inalienable and necessary if an individual is to seize control of their own destiny, and that taxes are both essential for society and an obstacle to wealth generation.
As the debate regarding police reform grows in intensity, we must consider the legislation Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) are being asked to enforce.
More importantly, what is the governing philosophy to which the legislators must hold LEOs and citizens accountable?
I recently became aware of an individual in Los Angeles, California who was allegedly unarmed at the time of being shot by local law enforcement; while I do not wish to take the tragedy of a life lost and turn it into a mere political discussion, further reflection may – in fact – save lives. Furthermore, it is worth noting that all of the information about the Dijon Kizzee case has likely not been made public, and this discussion must be tempered with the understanding that more information could, in fact, nullify or modulate aspects of my opinion. Nonetheless, I believe it is important to examine why law enforcement began interacting with Mr. Kizzee.
What law was Mr. Kizzee breaking which initiated LEO contact?
According to the article, Mr. Kizzee was stopped while riding his bicycle for vehicle code violations. Permit me, for a moment, to frame the criminal activity like this: Mr. Kizzee was engaged by LEOs for operating the same instrument of transportation that my two year-old son is currently learning to master. Should we now pause and consider what principles of government would lend itself to such legislation, and require armed officials to police such behavior?
To answer this question, I would submit that there are two fundamental philosophies of government in modern American politics.
One philosophy, as evidenced by a tweet from U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), suggests that the function of government is to create laws that would progress society toward a better future – according to the government’s relative understanding of betterment at the time – and the popular election is the primary source of justification needed for subsequent legislation. The other philosophy would espouse a view concluding that the primary role of government is to protect the individual liberty of citizens. In the case of Dijon Kizzee, Eric Gardner, and others, these two perspectives proved immeasurably consequential.
As ambiguity has no friendship with good intentions, I will clearly state that it is my belief that a governing body, no matter how well-intentioned, will often subject the governed to unforeseen and unintended consequences of laws which go beyond the intent of protecting individuals to an encroachment on their civil rights and personal liberties.
The most obvious reform I hope to see is a mandate for all uniformed officers to have body cameras, in addition to dashboard cameras for all law enforcement vehicles.
I believe this will serve a variety of parties. First, it will help serve the citizens, as the knowledge that their engagement with law enforcement is being recorded should help provide peace of mind. Second, it will help protect our law enforcement officers from fraudulent claims of civil disobedience and conduct unbecoming of an officer. Finally, these recorded interactions can, and should, be used for training purposes. Having academy students watch real interactions will help them see how to appropriately respond to challenging situations.
I also believe there is wisdom in removing qualified immunity for law enforcement officials. This is not because most officers abuse their authority, but because the principle of checks and balances in government have served us well.
Officers who cannot be easily held accountable could abuse authority and create a sense of micro-tyranny for communities.
Furthermore, before an experienced law enforcement officer is hired into another department or jurisdiction, I believe state law should require the professional file of that individual be sent from their old office to their new one, prior to hire. Officers who are commonly and formally rebuked should not be hired by another department.
Finally, I believe it would benefit officers to receive training on how traumatic experiences can affect an individual’s brain. When officers enter potentially dangerous situations, they often interact with traumatized individuals, many of whom have had early and/or frequent exposure to violence, drug use, etc. The late Karyn Purvis conducted remarkable research on the effects of trauma on the brain, how it governs an individual’s actions, and most importantly, how to appropriately address it. Admittedly, her research is geared for foster and adopted parents, which is not the responsibility of the police; however, the principle of knowing how a traumatized individual may behave, and how to counteract the potential for escalation, is noteworthy.
Richmond should not denigrate an officer’s ability for self-preservation.
We trust law enforcement officers to be wise stewards of lethal weapons, so how would legislation be consistent if it took away options and tactics that may lead to the prevention of lethal force? Rather, Richmond should seek to give officers as many non-lethal options as possible to avoid chaos and protect innocent life. Furthermore, officers should retain the ability to serve no-knock warrants; knocking on the door of an alleged weapons trafficker places a tactical disadvantage on law enforcement, benefits the alleged criminal, and unnecessarily increases risk.
In this debate, police officers are not adversaries, nor are concerned citizens antagonists.
May the passions of the day give way to temperance, and perhaps subsequent legislation will further protect the citizenry without sacrificing protections for law enforcement.
On Friday, April 7, 2017, my wife and I received a call from the Department of Family Services in Virginia informing us that there were three children – ages 5, 7, and 9 – who needed a safe home. We were visiting family when we received the call, but knew God desired us to head back to Northern Virginia to show His love to these children. In an instant, Christ led us from being DINKs (“Double Income No Kids”) to a single income family with three youngsters. One week later, we found out my wife, Lauren, was one month pregnant – taking us from zero to four children in eight months.
This is the story of my relationship with Jesus Christ and how the power of prayer brought us through it all.
I was blessed to grow up with a mother and a father who would come to be defined by their love for God, their love for each other, and their love for my sister and me. In many ways, our family could accurately be described as a 1990’s version of the 1950’s sitcom, Leave it to Beaver. Church was a staple of our family, as was prayer, Bible study, and Christian music. Unfortunately, as the years went by, Christianity began to feel like a mirage. Rather than experiencing a deep and peaceful relationship with the Creator and Savior – a relationship others seemed to enjoy – I could only watch and wonder. Week after week, knowing something wasn’t right, I was determined to try harder. I was convinced, if I rededicated myself to the Christian ethic, and became more disciplined in my study of the Bible, I could finally experience the love and security of a right relationship with God. This effort was just a feeble attempt to drink the waters of the mirage, and left me as unsatisfied as a mouthful of sand in the desert.
Finally, when I was 13 years old, I realized that I did not understand Biblical Christianity when I previously had asked Jesus into my heart. My definition of Christianity was an expressed attempt to deflect the punishment for my imperfections, while still maintaining control of my life. I had misinterpreted that Christianity was a relationship with God, through Jesus alone, where the teachings of Jesus took full control of your life.
Christianity, I learned since then, is a relationship between a child and their father. The child, formerly orphaned, now lovingly submits to their Father; while the Father adopts the child and exercises perfect love, authority, and forgiveness. As this truth became evident to me, I not only recognized my need for forgiveness of sin, but became overwhelmed by my desire for a relationship with God, bound by the covenant of perfect and eternal affection. Upon experiencing this relationship, and maturing over the years of following Christ, I began to read the Bible and pray with greater frequency and passion – akin to a child longing to spend time with their dad.
Eventually, God brought along Lauren, a brilliant, compassionate, and beautiful woman who would later give me the honor of calling her my bride. As we began spending time together, dedicating ourselves to prayer and the instruction of our Father, we grew to have a heavy heart for children who were in need of loving parents (James 1:27). For months, we prayed together while meditating on scripture, and eventually God made it clear to us that He wanted us to follow Him into foster care.
This led to the most joyful, difficult, and heart-wrenching times in our marriage.
Prayer has been the lifeline of our journey following Christ, but most especially when we got the call from the Department of Family Services. Immediately, we prayed for God’s direction and providence. In many ways, we were ill-equipped to be parents (aren’t we all?). We were less than half way through our foster parent training, and still needed to purchase basic necessities, such as clothes, beds, toiletries, dressers, toys, etc. Nevertheless, God gave us direction, and we told the county we’d be there as soon as possible. During our drive home from Williamsburg, we prayed and tried to make others aware of our situation. Although both of our families lived over 10 hours away, God supplied all of our material needs through our local church; when we arrived home, the first floor of our town home was covered with the necessities to begin our journey as parents.
Throughout the following years, we experienced some of the most difficult days of our lives, and when we felt that we had nothing left of ourselves, we found God’s strength to be sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Today, we are the proud parents of five beautiful children.
We finalized the adoption of our oldest three in November 2019 and Lauren gave birth to our fifth on February 18, 2020. Time and discretion will not permit me to explain how God has answered our prayers and miraculously healed our oldest children, allowing them to make sense of the injustices they’ve experienced; nor will it allow me to express how God proved Himself to be the perfect and faithful Father He always promised us He would be. Therefore, let it prove sufficient to conclude, my relationship with Christ and experience with prayer is best summarized by this declaration: God, my Father, makes many promises – and He keeps them all!