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Want To Know How To Solve Poverty? Ask Someone Who Experiences It

A mother who has struggled with poverty and homelessness makes the obvious point that legislators rarely look to those most affected when making decisions on poverty or social safety nets.

There is more truth in this seven minute segment of the Melissa Harris-Perry show than you will see in the eleven hours of Sunday morning news shows programming and highlights a few of my personal bugaboos about the dishonesty of the state of American media.

There are legitimate issues that affect this country. In the wealthiest nation in the world, there is no reason that we should see the level of poverty that we see. And poverty touches on so many other areas as well: the cost of health care, food insecurity, social development, social safety nets, jobs, housing, etc.

And yet who do we see discussing poverty and solutions? Nominally, it's Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan, who sneer and smear those living in poverty, employing the well-trod myths of the welfare queen and the lazy looking for a hand out. It's the same people, week after week, framing the debate.

But you know who never gets a seat at the table? Actual people living in poverty. People who have struggled with homelessness, food insecurity, health care affordability and the rest of the struggles that come with poverty.

Meet Tiana Gaines-Turner, a mother of three children and member of the advocacy group Witnesses to Hunger. Twice homeless, Tiana now points out that these lawmakers (and Democratic politicians are not immune to this, either, their silence is complicity) are making judgments and laws without knowing the real world impact:

“Invite me to the table, invite my brothers and sisters to the table,” she said. “Don’t assume you know what it’s like.”[..]

People who have waited for years for Section 8 housing, who have used government food benefits, Gaines-Turner told Harris-Perry, “know the solutions” and act as “mythbusters,” who can counter assumptions many people have about who lives in poverty.

“Until we can all sit at more tables like this, nothing is going to happen,” Gaines-Turner said.

The entire show was an amazing and sadly rare intelligent and honest discussion. If you missed MHP, you can watch segments via the MSNBC homepage.

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