By Drew Ferguson
The American dream is our nation’s most enduring promise. But, too many people are struggling to turn the American dream into a reality.
After my hometown and the surrounding area lost its manufacturing jobs, I watched family, friends and neighbors live through this scenario. Many came back from that, but others in the Third District of Georgia still live a different story. For the first time in generations, more people in the area moved into poverty than into the middle class.
As this persists in some areas, failing schools, broken neighborhoods and loss of hope take hold. The dignity of work is replaced by the indignity of dependence. The once tightly woven fabric of the community is slowly ripped apart, and people begin to look for someone or something to blame. As this happens around the nation, our national fabric is torn and feels a lot like a tattered Old Glory flapping in the ever-changing breeze.
Well I think it’s time to change our mindset. Instead of casting blame for our struggles, let us set a pathway forward. Let us make sure that the promises we made can be kept. Let us have the courage to have honest conversations and commit to fixing what is broken.
At the heart of this conversation is our broken welfare system. This system perpetuates the cycle of generational poverty and tells millions of Americans that self-sufficiency will always be just out of reach.
The dignity of work is an essential part of the American experience. Our nation was built by generations of doers, but our current welfare system is robbing our fellow citizens of their ability to contribute to society. This is morally wrong. Together, I want to build a safety net that empowers people to create better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.
I want to be clear. This does not mean pulling the rug out from under people. It means giving them the tools they need to succeed in our modern economy.
This conversation begins with you. This year, I will hold events to hear from local leaders and everyday Georgians about how the federal government can reform welfare programs to end the cycle of generational poverty rather than perpetuate it.
I firmly believe that every issue we face as a nation can be resolved. Together, communities can find a way forward. Americans are hungry for meaningful work and the opportunity to unleash their limitless human potential. It is time to recognize there are no quick fixes, no silver bullets and that we must have the courage to be honest with one another about what it takes to allow every citizen the opportunity to thrive.
We have big problems and real issues to solve. But just as demoralizing the loss of hope is, the restoration of hope is ever more powerful. We have the tools and willpower to restore faith in the American dream, and it’s time for us to get to work.
This commentary was written by Drew Ferguson, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s Third Congressional District, a dentist by profession and former mayor of West Point, Ga. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is an independent, nonprofit think tank that proposes market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the view of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the U.S. Congress or the Georgia Legislature.
© Georgia Public Policy Foundation (February 6, 2018). Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and his affiliations are cited.
The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity. (At the signing of the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform bill.)