Rochester’s rate of poverty is unacceptable. We have done nothing to address this problem other than studies and cosmetic gestures. But we can do something concrete to make sure our children have a future.
The market will not lift people out of poverty. In fact, the success of capitalism relies on people at the bottom being stuck there. People stuck in generational poverty are too concerned about surviving to fight for fairness and equity. Until the demise of our capitalist system comes about (and it will happen), I am focused on the creation of “wealth” for those who do not have it while hastening the replacement of our current financial system.
As a step toward a society in which the basic necessities (food, clothing, shelter, health care, etc.) are seen as a human right, I propose that every child born in poverty in the City of Rochester be given a city-sponsored, interest-bearing savings account at a participating local credit union. These will be called Children's Saving's Accounts (CSA's). Each child will get $50.
The individual, other family members, and specific City employees who will run this program can make deposits into this account, but there cannot be a withdrawal until the child graduates from high school, and then the money can only be used for education, buying a house, or starting a business; three wealth-building activities.
Money to pay for this will be from the general budget (see the post called “How Can We Pay for Everything?”) as well as from grants and private donations.
Other stipulations will have to be set up in order to make this run smoothly and prevent fraud, but this is the framework of the concept. Such things that will be needed to be worked out will include:
- What happens to the money if a child moves out of Rochester?
- Can a person take money out before reaching 18 years old if they graduate from high school early?
- What happens to the money if the child dies?
- Making sure this savings is not included in calculations for other social services.
Both the Mayor and the County Executive have fancy, expensive galas in which people with money dress up and put their cash into campaign coffers. The City and volunteers should hold an annual Gala as well. In this case, people with money will dress up and give their money directly to children in poverty as the proceeds would be put directly into CSA's.
Of course, people with money don’t have to go to a gala. We could just put a poverty tax on every downtown condo with the proceeds going directly to these accounts. Or we could do both.
In theory, the use of Credit Unions would be temporary. At some point we should be using a newly created City-owned bank or a State bank, if Albany can figure out how much of a good idea this is. But even if we stay with Credit Unions, this should help Rochester as Credit Unions tend to loan people money in ways that commercial banks will not.
The interest on such accounts should be higher than a regular savings account; at least back to the 2% or so that they used to be before commercial banks became such a rip-off. Remember, one of the reasons Credit Unions are better than commercial banks is because their motives are not supposed to be profit-driven. They’re supposed to be helping their members and the community in which they live.
This idea of Child Savings Accounts is not my idea. It is being done all over the country. Click here to find out more.
How can we make this concept better? Let's discuss it in the comment section below.
UPDATE: A great idea came from Joe DiFiore during a Facebook Live chat. Incentives can be woven into the program to increase savings. For example, for every $100 saved, a $10 bonus is added to a child's account.