Monday, January 20, 2014

The pretty inspirational Ms. Tanden(s)

I dont know how you react to leaders of think tanks and other policy makers talking about issues of poverty, when you have a feeling, which might be based in reality or on the ever-reliable gut, that the person might not have had a brush with poverty at any stage of his or her life. Actually, I know that feeling is wrong for many of the commentators and even politicians - many, surely, have had pretty tough childhoods. Still, it is easy to see why the "elitist" label can easily stick to them.

Though I have always been impressed by Neera Tanden when I've heard her talk, there is always that nagging question at the back of my head: does she know what she is talking about when she talks about minimum wage and poverty and so on. At the same time, I dont think that you need to have been on minimum wage yourself to appreciate the problems faced by those on minimum wage. If that were the criterion we placed on policy makers, we'd have a tough time making policy at all.

Coming back to Neera Tanden. Her childhood story is pretty inspirational. She recounted her childhood roots at an Atlantic Live event on women and poverty. Her parents migrated to America most likely in the 1960s. They lived in the town of Bedford, Massachusetts. I think her father worked (place of work unknown) and her mother was a homemaker then. After a few years after Neera was born, their parents got divorced and her father left them for good. Given a choice between returning to India, and facing the stigma of being a divorced woman, and living in the US and going on welfare, she chose the latter. She went on a succession of jobs (travel agent, etc), and with the aid of government support, earned enough to even purchase a house in the same neighborhood. Given where Neera is now, she must've, obviously, done an awesome job. In any case, Neera Tanden gives a much better account of her story here. Please read through it and you will understand her position on issues much better.

Clearly, it is not just Neera Tanden's story that is inspirational. Her mother's is far more.

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