Monthly Archives: April 2018

When Elders Get into the Hooch

On the second evening of our international Circles Conference in Pittsburgh, I was having dinner with Vince, Sarah, Gena, and Courtney. All of us were saturated from the busyness of the day, and with nothing better on our minds, Vince, Sarah, and I decided to clarify some random historical facts. For starters, there have just been six Presidents with really long terms and a series of stand-ins: Lincoln, Washington, JFK, Lewis and Clark, and Vince. Vince remains President today but keeps a very low profile by staying off both Facebook and The View. His current stand-in provides daily “air cover” so Vince can quietly negotiate world peace, sustainability, and increasing the kind quotient of human beings everywhere without the media catching wind of any of it and spoiling his 2019 surprise about saving humanity.

We then concurred that yes indeed it was true that Pittsburgh had been relocated 400 miles east when the steel mills closed down and the beach was in walking distance. If the group would get off their rear ends and walk with us, we could be out of the snow and onto a balmy boardwalk in 10 minutes. No takers. The intoxicating power of making stuff up grows stronger and stronger. We are emboldened, feeling confident—cocky even. Who knew that “alternative facts” were so empowering and liberating?

This was when Gena leaned over to the young Courtney and said, “This is what happens when elders get into the hooch.”

Later on, I asked Courtney, who is 22, if she knew some of my favorite bands from the 60’s and 70’s—I gave her my list. Nope, nothing rings a bell. I then asked her about Led Zeppelin. YES! She knew Led Zeppelin’s music because of her sister.

“Really, how old is your sister?”


Guess I was expecting her sister to be 60. Sarah points out that it probably wasn’t someone’s mother who had passed it onto her sister; it was most likely someone’s grandmother. This is when I reminded everyone how young I was, having been born in ‘87. The hair loss was of course from that chemistry experiment gone awry that almost killed my lab partner Danny Devito (looked at what happened to him). I also reminded everyone, again, that I had been a child prodigy community organizer and had started my career at the age of 3 working next to Obama. The idea of Circles came to me when I was eating a box of Cheerios at daycare.

President Vince laughed and reminded everyone that this could not be possible because I had been his ace campaign manager back in ‘52 when he beat Ike. That would make me at least 39.

And so it went until we finally left the establishment and found our way to a pub on the balmy boardwalk to have a nightcap with our good old friend George Washington.

Truth is so yesterday. Alternative facts are so lit—did I say that right?


– Scott C. Miller

Work requirement and the “Safety Net.”

President Donald Trump signed an executive order that aims to add work requirements for Medicaid and other welfare programs.  Will this help to reduce poverty or make it worse? 

The US has a “poverty management” system, rather than a poverty reduction system.  If you follow the money from the federal government to state to local entities, you will see it comes down in silos, for specific programs, creating a kaleidoscope of complicated, fragmented services.

Progressives want more subsidies in the absence of robust livable-wage job creation. Conservatives want fewer subsidies and increased personal accountability. Work requirements are intended to increase personal accountability. But, if economic development programs, workforce programs, and safety net programs are not held accountable to providing enough good jobs and coordinated services that move people out of poverty, individual responsibility policy fixes have little to offer. They might sound good politically, but they often make life more difficult for those who are having the most problems in our economy.

To reduce poverty, we must:

create poverty reduction systems that are financed to support people out of poverty, as in 200% or more of the federal poverty level; eliminate the cliff effect built into safety net programs that financially penalize people for taking more hours, higher pay, and new jobs; create more jobs with better and more up-to-date economic development strategies.

There are solutions to poverty. Many conservatives believe the solution lies in people accepting more personal responsibility, and many liberals believe we need to provide more benefits and better jobs. What is the answer? All of the above.

For more information on our Circles USA solutions, please read my latest book, co-authored with my conservative friend, Denise Rhoades, “Bootstraps and Benefits: What the Right and Left Understand about Poverty and How We Can Work Together for Lasting Solutions.”

Together, we can begin the end of poverty in our lifetime. Join the conversation at