Friday, January 10, 2014

An Obama initiative (plan) to help the poor

Once I was at a party and a guy who worked as a lawyer said, "Isn't America wonderful!  If you go to a country like India, you see people starving to death in the streets.  But in America, even our poor people have televisions and microwave ovens!" (starving means dying because a person hasn't had enough food)

Frankly, I thought the guy was an idiot.  It's true that in America you don't see people starving in the streets, but there are many people (especially people of color - black, Latino) who are born into violent neighborhoods, or they are born into such poverty that they will never have good life opportunities even with free public education. (poverty means a lack of money, not having enough money to live well - 'poorness' or 'being poor')

I was so happy to see that New York City now has a mayor who seems to care about helping poor people (after 12 years of a mayor who just didn't care) and now I found a story about a program President Obama has initiated (started) to help the poor in America. It's a small program, but if it works, it can be spread around the country.

This year is, by the way, the 50th anniversary of another program that another president started to help poor people.  In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson started a program he called his "War on Poverty."  Unfortunately, in that year, Johnson also created the Vietnam War.  So while he was claiming to help poor people in the USA, he was dropping bombs on poor people in Vietnam.  Basically, both of his wars were failures. Lyndon Johnson was one of America's most corrupt (dishonest) presidents.  Let's hope Obama's program is more effective.

An article about Obama's program:

Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

a zone - this is an area.  It's called a 'promise' zone because promise can also mean 'potential' or 'an ability to improve.'  If you say, "That athlete has a lot of promise!"  you are saying he can be a great athlete some day.

to launch a program - to start a program. A program is some type of plan to get something done.

an initiative - basically this is a plan to get something done.  So an initiative and a program are basically the same thing.

lifting poor communities - helping people make money and improve their lives

blighted - if something is blighted, it is weak and cannot grow. It is actually a term that was first applied to plants that had a certain type of disease.  But a blighted neighborhood is an area in a city that is very poor and has not been doing well financially.

slated to receive - planned to received; if you 'slate' something, you put it on a schedule and plan to do it at a specific time

boosting - raising

slices - so if you cut up a pizza you get slices of pizza; he is talking about little areas of the country

a decade - 10 years

pledged - promised, vowed

echoes - follows

revitalize - bring back to life, energize

ailing - hurting

empowerment - to make powerful

honing in on - focusing on

well-tried - it has been done a lot

the results are not conclusive - the results have not proved such programs work

consensus - a general agreement

meticulous - super detailed

unveiled - revealed, shown

to articulate - this usually means to say something, but in this case it means to develop or establish

rekindle - it means to start a fire a second time; let's say you loved someone and got married to the person, but then got bored with the person, but he/she tried to rekindle your love for him/her...

a pressing problem - a real problem, a problem that is still in need of attention

a declaration - a statement that something will happen

rural - in the country-side

retain - keep

special designation - these areas have been designated or called 'promise zones' and they will be called this for 10 years

tax credits - they won't have to pay as much in taxes as others

to tackle social problems - to deal with or try to solve social problems.

high school drop-out rates - many American students leave high school before graduating

the aim - the goal

to cultivate - to develop; if you plant a seed you try to cultivate the flower that grows - you provide it with water and sunlight

a zip-code - this is a number that is put on a piece of mail to indicate the general area in which a person lives

impacts - affects

her odds - her chances, her possibilities.  If I am at a horse race and one horse is really great and one horse is not that great, the great horse has greater odds of winning, the less-great horse has lower odds of winning.

bludgeoning - if someone bludgeons someone sle, he hits the person with a big object several times.  If an area has been bludgeoned by some type of circumstance or situation, it has suffered from this situation.

an incentive - this is something meant to motivate someone to do something.  So if you have a child and tell the child that you will take her to Disney World if she gets good grades, going to Disney World is an incentive.

cash-strapped- not having much cash. i.e. Would you like to go out tonight with us?  I can't, I'm a little cash-strapped these days.

floundering - suffering, dying, struggling

a neighborhood - this is an area where people live.  I live in a neighborhood called Woodside.  Psy, the K-pop performer, sang about a neighborhood called Gangnam.

the measure - the plan for his program.  Congress would not approve it.

distressed - suffering

urban - city

designated - if something is designated as something, it is called something

anonymously - we do not know his/her name

a new twist - they are trying something slightly different

in hindsight - looking back

evaluation research is not in agreement - the research does not support or prove what everyone wants to believe. The research doesn't show that these programs work.

underwhelmingly successful - he is joking. He is saying the program was a failure.  If something is really really successful, it can be called overwhelmingly successful.

feedback - information about how something is doing

wages - money earned at a job

few mechanisms - ways to measure success or failure

assessing - measuring

to tie these changes definitively - so changes occurred, but they might not have occurred because of the government program

disparities - differences

sheer complexity - the basic complexity

a caveat - a warning

poised for takeoff - ready for success; if you are poised for something, you are ready for something

Analysts have also express concern - should be: Analysts have also expressed concern...

a tax credit - this means a person does not have to pay as much in taxes

penalize - harm other communities.  If one poor neighborhood starts doing well, this could, ironically, harm the poor neighborhood next to it.

incorporated into the initiative - a part of the initiative

shifting the problem around - instead of solving the problem, the problem just moves to a new area

explicit - obvious, clear

optimistic - if you feel something will succeed, you are optimistic about it.

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