Berg Column: A Simple Solution To End Poverty In America


Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks


Good evening, I’m Chris Berg, thanks for joining us. I want to start tonight with BREAKING NEWS. Roughly 90 minutes ago, the House and Senate Conference Committee announced a bipartisan agreement on a final Farm Bill. That is obvioulsy GREAT news for the Red River Valley and the nation. We will have more on this for you Wednesday night when Conference Committee member Sen John Hoeven joins us from Washington, DC.

Tonight’s Point of View topic: The SIMPLE solution to ending poverty in America. I had a mentor awhile back that had a motto that I appreciated. He would say, Simple Good, Complex Bad. When I look at all of the problems we face as a nation today, and all the news channels and social media it is very easy to get lost and confused in all that is going on today. It can be so overwhelming that we simply shut our brains off and watch Keeping up with the Kardashians just so we dont have to think. So with all the problems, I always find myself looking at the simplest ways to solve them, and that is what I want to visit with you about tonight.

Tomorrow night President Barack Obama will give his State of the Union address. One of the major issues he will address is the growing income equality in our nation. What do you think he will propose tomorrow night to solve this issue? Do you think he will talk about the power and value of marriage to lift people out of poverty or will he talk about raising the minimum wage? Now, let me ask you this, which one, marriage or raising the minimum wage, do you think would have the biggest impact on ending poverty in America? I am certain many of you are saying marriage, yet our President, our nation’s leader, will suggest tomorrow night it’s raising the minimum wage. Not because he believes it will truly solve the poverty problem but because he believes he can rally the low income voter in 2014 to gain House and Senate seats and salvage his Presidential legacy. Simply put, he is choosing politics over people.

Now some of you may be saying, c’mon Berg, lay off the President. I am not going after President Obama. I am simply going to share with you what is proven to work based on research. Because I guarantee you President Obama will not share with you tomorrow night the recent Harvard Study that I am about to show you.

Before I show you this study, I want to first thank and acknowledge all the hard working single parents out there. For those of you that are not aware, I was basically raised by single parents. I lived with my mom for awhile and then I moved in with my dad in high school. I understand and appreciate the challenges that single parents go through, and I am not blaming the parents for the poverty problem we face in America because tonight, I am going to show you how the Government, the system is set up to keep people single and in poverty.

Here is what the recent study out of Harvard found:

The study found the prevalence of single parents to be a much larger factor in determining social mobility than income inequality…
In fact, the study found that income inequality was not a statistically significant predictor of social mobility.

In other words, the single greatest factor in determining if you are going to increase or improve your social mobility or raise yourself out of poverty, is being raised in a home with married parents. Again, I am not demeaning the great things that single parents do. You will see in a moment how the system is set up to keep people in poverty.

For those of you that do not believe the impact marriage has on keeping people out of poverty, look at this. According to a 2010 study of the US Census Bureau.

% of households in poverty
Married Couples – 6.2%
Single-Parent – 27.3%
Single-Mom – 29.9%

That my friends are staggering statistics. And as we continue to hear about the record number of Americans living in poverty, the 47M Americans on food stamps, you have to start to ask yourself, what is going on? Well, here is something fascinating.

Back in 1963, 6% of the babies born in America were born out of wedlock. Today, it is almost 41%. So please take note of this graph, and let’s look at if there is a correlation between the rise in babies born out of wedlock and the rise in income equality?

When you look at this graph, which shows income gains since 1947 for the Top 1% and the Average American income.

I think you could make an argument that as the number of babies born out of wedlock grows, so does income inequality in America.

Now, I am not saying marriage is the only factor, and I am suggesting that it is the single BIGGEST lever to lift people out of poverty.

Also, keep this in mind. According to the book, The Millionaire Next Door by the way a great book that you should read if you haven’t already, over 90% of millionaires in America are married once and stay married.

So if all this research, shows that marriage can have this kind of impact on a family’s income, their net worth, their social mobility, and most importantly lifting people out of poverty, why aren’t more people doing it? Well, just like you and I have talked about many times on this show, compensation drives behavior. Our nation, the geniuses we elect to DC, have actually created policies that incentivize people to NOT get married. Even though it is the single GREATEST lever to launch people out of poverty, the people in DC have dis-incentivised low income people from benefitting and utilizing the SINGLE GREATEST tool they have to end poverty in their family.

Here is what I mean specifically. Let’s say you live in poverty, you are living off Government assistance, and you find out that if you get married you will lose, on average, 10-20% of your benefits, or your total income because of the welfare marriage penalty. That is absurd. You choose to get married and you lose a percentage of your benefits? Even though marriage is the single greatest factor in allowing you and your family to get off of Government assistance? I mean at times, you have to wonder if this was done on purpose to buy votes. The people in DC are using the poor for political power by creating policies that keep them in perpetual poverty. It is the only way you can explain it.

And this is why we need to get Government out of the institution of marriage.

And that’s tonight’s point of view…