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Sat Feb 2, 2013, 09:38 AM

NYT solution to poverty: more hugs


Pontificating on solutions to poverty (best read in all-caps: SOLUTIONS TO POVERTY) is a familiar topic of the New York Times mélange of millionaire columnists. Perhaps none are as keen on seeing it alleviated through rigorous familial oversight than Nicholas Kristof. Kristof’s ideal unit is the nuclear, middle-to-upper class, two active-duty parental household. It is indirectly projected as a panacea, and families (specifically, poor mothers) that fall short of this utopian arrangement have to answer for it.

If the Fed is endowed with the ambiguous power of enacting national monetary policy, the low-income, low-resources family is tasked with issuing hugs. Lots of them, and over many years of effusive columns. For all his prescriptions downplaying, or more accurately, ignoring the structural and historic legacy of American poverty, the blithe repetition of those prescriptions can still surprise.

‘For Obama’s New Term, Start Here‘ – January 2013

Maybe that’s why some of the most cost-effective antipoverty programs are aimed at the earliest years. For example, the Nurse-Family Partnership has a home-visitation program that encourages new parents of at-risk children to amp up the hugging, talking and reading. It ends at age 2, yet randomized trials show that those children are less likely to be arrested as teenagers and the families require much less government assistance. [emphasis not in original]

If that reference seemed uncannily familiar it’s because it was employed exactly a year earlier.

‘A Poverty Solution That Starts With A Hug‘ – January 2012

One successful example of early intervention is home visitation by childcare experts, like those from the Nurse-Family Partnership. This organization sends nurses to visit poor, vulnerable women who are pregnant for the first time. The nurse warns against smoking and alcohol and drug abuse, and later encourages breast-feeding and good nutrition, while coaxing mothers to cuddle their children and read to them. This program continues until the child is 2. [emphasis not in original]

I don’t know much about that particular organization, though I know nurses and they rival saints in sainthood. What is at stake is where the mishap of poverty is affixed, over and over. The argument is not the efficacy of an organization—this particular one serves a constituency of reportedly 85 percent single mothers—in alleviating suffering: committed, skilled people (typically women) do under-recognized, grueling care work daily. As Elliott Prasse-Freeman has written, the issue is that the ‘political context into which this solution is placed actually—as with all Kristof “solutions”—militates against fixing the structural problems.’ Capitalism can piss off. I like the turn of phrase about a robust ‘anti-politics.’ In the case of the lives of the underclass, this is an anti-politics with hidden teeth, mixing the sentimental cue of feminine/maternal labor with a steely managerial approach to cost-cutting measures.


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Reply NYT solution to poverty: more hugs (Original post)
Enrique Feb 2013 OP
xchrom Feb 2013 #1

Response to Enrique (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 10:18 AM

1. du rec. nt

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