Bolsa Familia: It Works!


I agree with the Times’ assessment but less so with its conventions. Global models for addressing poverty are found in all corners, but two of the most successful, which now drive the conversation, are silent in the American discussion. One, the Bolsa Familia, began in Brasil, expanded in Mexico, is a simple but powerful formula for lifting families out of poverty. It breaks the cycle and prepares a new generation to enter the self-supporting middle class.

So effective, Brasil moved 31 million out of $2 a day poverty in a decade. Into a middle class defined as being able to own a car, rent or buy housing, and cover utility, food, and living costs. How is it done? In Brasil, it provides monthly cash payments to families, continued based on one criteria: the educational progress of the family’s children. Each year, for their family to be eligible, the children must advance in school.

This resets the family’s mission strengthens the family, and invests strongly in the future. The program teaches taking responsibility for outcomes, not handouts. It prepares young adults to enter the work force. It works!

Isn’t it time we discussed an approach with proven success, that will consolidate assistance in one package based on a criteria that breaks the poverty cycle and strengthens the value and skills of the next generation? [2/177/173]

II.

Adapt the idea for the middle class! Simply keep the principle. I point out the history and basic principle as a starting point to move forward.

Let’s use creative thinking for how services to the middle class can be extended–food, mortgage aid, etc. outside of the current income-based, product distribution models. Low or high, the model of separated services is being abandoned. World food aid is moving toward a debit card purchase model to stimulate local economies and solve long distance (and dangerous!) supply and distribution models which are woefully inefficient and ineffective.

Can the idea–the principle of tying aid not to income but to educational achievement–be adapted for middle class America–rather than the network of frustrating services we have now?

I think so. It’s time for a rethink. I don”t have the answers, but I call for the conversation: Should a revival of Great Depression programs be tied to educational achievement, to advance families and progress?

Can we set a range for children, rather than payment for each individual child? I’m sure Brasil and Mexico have a solution for this one!

In this space limit, I’m pointing out a model getting huge results and attention. We need to research the details and discussions of issues that have come up. Help, yes. But we need to get out of the sand and look beyond more of the same.

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About walterrhett

Walter Rhett is a New York Times verified commenter. He writes "Digging Deeper," a blog for Democrats for Progress and his blog, "Walter Rhett" appears in the San Francisco Examiner. The Oxford Dictionary follows him on twitter.
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