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The Abstraction of Poverty Is Making Our Policies Poor

Why is the stunning increase in the levels of poverty so muted during this campaign season? Why are the solutions coming out of either party so hard to find?

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The abstraction of poverty breeds inequality. It keeps us separate. It keeps us vulnerable to the influence of shallow partisan punditry. And it distracts us from the real issue—that as advocate and author Eric Liu says, “We are all better off when we are all better off.”

We would add, we are all better off when we are all actually in relationship, not purporting to know what’s best for one another based on social theories and cacophonous debates. When those of us running for office, architecting policies, and producing media no longer consider poor people a demographic category, but our friends, family, and neighbors, real progress will be possible. 

Via the Op-Ed Project'sPublic Voices Fellowship Program at Princeton University.

Courtney E. Martin is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists and the Founding Director of the Solutions Journalism Network. Follow her on Twitter at @courtwrites.

Noliwe Rooks is the associate director of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University and the founding coordinator of the Center's urban education reform initiative. Follow her on Twitter at @nrookie.

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