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Let’s talk about the growing disparity around Seattle

Have you ever been on a “beans & rice” budget? I don’t know what other people call it, but that’s how I referred to my checkbook when I had to account for every penny. No treats, no Starbucks, and paying for gas with a pocket full of quarters.

I was reminded of my own beans and rice times today by a recently released study out of the University of Washington.

RELATED: UW study shows Seattle’s problem with ‘alligator economics’

In a nutshell, “The amount a family of four needs to scrape by in Seattle has risen 86 percent since 2001, and has increased at more than twice the rate of the Consumer Price Index,” according to FYI Guy Gene Balk.

In other words, it’s hard out there to get by.

For me, the most interesting things about the UW study are not even discussed. Mainly, what causes this disparity and what should we do about it?

For many people, they have a gut reaction something like this: “Living in this area is expensive. Nobody forced you to have two kids. If you want to make more money, you need to work harder. That’s what I did.”

While technically that is true, it ignores some of the cultural forces that add to this divide. The people who are barely scraping by have the lower paying jobs. They have the lower paying jobs because they have fewer skills. They have fewer skills because they went to bad schools. They went to bad schools because their parents were also poor. And the dominoes continue to fall.

My mind then snaps back to those two symbolic kids. How do they escape the gravitational pull of their situation? They did not choose their parents. They did not choose their station in life. How do we reach out to those kids and break the cycle?

Two weeks ago, we gave 600 kids their first bed with the money that our listeners gave. Some of the kids that I met are 7 or 8, even 10 years old. What are the chances those kids rise up unassisted? Not very good. Maybe that bed is the first domino falling back in the other direction. Maybe it creates some positive momentum that leads to an after school program or team sport. That leads to a passion to learn. Maybe that kid gets a Big Brother or Big Sister and everything breaks just right for them.

Maybe they escape the cycle of poverty and can afford to grab a Starbucks on the way to their well-paying job.

I’m rooting for those kids.​

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