Archive for Poverty

Low-budget retailing is growing:

Dollar Tree, a discount retailer known for selling everything for $1, said Monday it plans to buy Matthews-based Family Dollar for $8.5 billion, weeks after an activist investor started pushing the company to sell itself.

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did not think Family Dollar was profitable enough. Retail analyst Howard Davidowitz, an investment banker, told NPR’s Sonari Glinton why low-end retailing is expanding:

DAVIDOWITZ: The story is the growth of the sector and that mirrors where America is.

GLINTON: So what I’m curious about is, while the dollar stores are doing well, then there’s the Sears, the JC Penney.

DAVIDOWITZ: Are getting destroyed because they’re middle-class stores.

GLINTON: Put the dollar stores?

DAVIDOWITZ: The dollar stores are doing better because they have more and more customers who are trading down. If you look at the reality, you will see what’s happening in the economy. And it doesn’t look too pretty.

Bad economic news for America is good business for low-end retailers such as NC state budget director Art Pope, who owns Variety Retailers. He’s expanding into groceries.

Art Pope’s Variety Wholesalers has purchased the vacant Kroger store in Southeast Raleigh with plans to establish the company’s first standalone grocery in an area that badly needs one.

The company, which owns Roses, Maxway and other discount stores, bought the property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard last week for $2.57 million – well below its assessed tax value of $5.65 million.

Pope plans to split the store into a Roses and a separate grocery store. It’s a neighborhood where over half the families earn less than $35,000 per year, according to the News and Observer.

The NAACP has picketed one of Pope’s local Maxway stores “accusing Pope of using store profits to support conservative causes and candidates.”

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May
27

Can America Ever Be Whole?

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The Case for Reparations

A very sobering account of race relations from Ta-Nehisi Coates, a brilliant writer and a senior editor at The Atlantic. Highly recommended.

On a long drive in the last year or so, we were trading notes with a friend about where we were born, how long we had lived in North Carolina, and something about our family history. It was all pretty light conversation until our friend remarked that her knowledge of family history went back only as far as her great-grandparents in the Caribbean. She didn’t have to explain why. Because before that was Africa.

In white America many take pride or at least an interest in family history. We mostly take it for granted. I certainly did. What jerked us up short was realizing that our friend didn’t have one and why.

My people didn’t arrive on these shores until after the Civil War. It’s been easy to disclaim any taint from what happened here before their arrival. Ta-Nehisi Coates throws cold water on that notion with a disturbing accounting of what the war did not settle, or make right.

One cannot escape the question by hand-waving at the past, disavowing the acts of one’s ancestors, nor by citing a recent date of ancestral immigration. The last slaveholder has been dead for a very long time. The last soldier to endure Valley Forge has been dead much longer. To proudly claim the veteran and disown the slaveholder is patriotism à la carte.

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Coates explains, “I am not asking you as a white person to see yourself as an enslaver. I’m asking you as an American to see all of the freedoms that you enjoy and see how they are rooted in things that the country you belong to condoned or actively participated in the past.”

Categories : National, Poverty, Race
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Mar
05

Fox On SNAP: Quality and Class-Based Shame

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“What’s the right mixture of quality and class-based shame poor people should aim for in their meal planning?” the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart asked last night, slamming Fox News’ seeming obsession with SNAP recipients’ grocery shopping habits. Because the “Fox Hounds” have heard — and feel comfortable spreading — “these stories” about poor people and food stamps. Or as Stewart put it, “Fox News: We read the chain mails your grandma gets in her inbox out loud like they were true.”

Because don’t look at how you’re getting screwed by Wall Street, no. Look! Over there! A poor person buying food — to eat — with taxpayer assistance! Or as Lyndon Johnson said,

If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.

The Fox News business model, ladies and gentlemen.

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Feb
23

Hunger Next Door

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Several stories about hunger in America popped up this weekend, a couple online and another just down my street. Among people you wouldn’t identify as poor and struggling just by looking at them. PBS Newshour reported on women in Denver who fell into poverty, women who don’t fit popular stereotypes of people on SNAP.

CAROLINE POOLER: Any one of your fellow peers, colleagues or fellow parishioners may be hungry, but you don’t know that about them, because people don’t want to advertise that about themselves. There’s lots of people out there who do not have enough to eat until next payday. There’s a lot of working people who give their last five bucks to their kid for lunch and they go without. And so that’s kind of a different face of hunger than people are thinking of hunger.

Over at Crooks and Liars, Susie Madrak reposted Jenn’s story from Poor As Folk blog, “Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis”

That brings me to the hunger. The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger. It never goes away because you don’t know when you’re going to eat again…

As food stamp benefits continue to be cut and food pantries struggle to feed communities, that uncertainty will just continue. I hate to think of my children feeling the same way. They get first dibs on all food that comes through this house. There are many days when my kids get their three meals and I get half of one and my husband … well, I never see him because he is working all the time, but he barely eats, too.

A chance meeting my wife had this week brought the problem home. This is the story pretty much in her own words: Read More→

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Feb
21

Losing Ground? It’s No Accident.

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More from Robert Reich here.

Categories : Economy, Education, Labor, Poverty
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Feb
06

Three-Legged Stool

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Screenshot 2014-02-06 at 11.09.48 PMThat was the original title for this essay generously published in the Mountain Xpress this week. Click through to read the whole thing. Excerpts:

I’m proud to be a part of a city where people care about each other. One recent study cited Asheville as one of the most generous cities in America, whose residents volunteer lots of time and money to make the world a better place. This is a community that knows we’re all in it together, and that’s why we’re going to be able to rise to the challenges facing us today.

We love living here, but we’re acutely aware of the fact that Asheville has a very high cost of living and very low median household income. Helping us get that median wage up are Living Wage Certified businesses that have made human value and dignity central to their business models. Great businesses like New Belgium Brewing, Linamar and PLI are helping too. The sad fact, however, is that too many employers here pay low wages for an honest day’s work. No one who works a full-time job ought to live in poverty. The city, county, Economic Development Coalition and Chamber of Commerce are working hard and all rowing in the same direction: toward better paying jobs. Asheville is examining our economic-incentive policies to better support homegrown entrepreneurs who pay living wages.

[...]

Asheville aspires to be a city of equal opportunity for all. Increasing incomes and offering affordable transportation options are two parts of a three-pronged approach to ensure a thriving city for generations to come.

The third leg of that three-legged stool is affordable housing, defined as spending no more than 30 percent of your income on housing costs. We all want a vibrant city where economically mobile citizens can get a leg up, and where the elderly and disabled can live in dignity. We want an Asheville where residents can save money toward homeownership, business startups, tuition and increased opportunities for their children. Without affordable housing, a big part of our Asheville family struggles just to stay afloat.

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Compassion for America’s poor and the long-term unemployed is audibly absent among many of the well-to-do, their on-air groupies, and politicians who once upon a news cycle tried to rebrand themselves as compassionate conservatives. A caller to a progressive radio show this week asked when heartlessness became fashionable in America.

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Paul Krugman’s observations on the impact of urban sprawl reminded me of “Automania 2000,” the 1963 John Halas animated short the 1963 John Halas animated short I watched at Furman Univerity as part of the first Earth Day observance in 1970. (I was still in high school.) Krugman’s column on sprawl is sparked by a study by the Equality of Opportunity Project. Led by economists at Berkeley and Harvard, the study finds an inverse relationship between increased sprawl and decreased social mobility. Eventually, the jobs are literally out of reach. Opportunities are simply too far across town for too many families.

And in Atlanta poor and rich neighborhoods are far apart because, basically, everything is far apart; Atlanta is the Sultan of Sprawl, even more spread out than other major Sun Belt cities. This would make an effective public transportation system nearly impossible to operate even if politicians were willing to pay for it, which they aren’t. As a result, disadvantaged workers often find themselves stranded; there may be jobs available somewhere, but they literally can’t get there.

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Thousands receive free medical care each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is for dental care.

Thousands receive free medical care each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

Starting before sunup in the little town of Wise, Virginia this weekend (July 19-21), thousands of struggling Americans camped out in their cars at the fairgrounds will line up for free medical services provided by Remote Area Medical (RAM), a charity based in Knoxville, TN. (This is a re-post of a story I wrote for Huffington Post after visiting the RAM clinic in 2009.) For those who need it, Wise is about a two hour drive from Asheville.

For opponents of universal health care who advocate that churches and charities should such provide such services, not We the American People, this is what that looks like.

This weekend was the tenth anniversary of Remote Area Medical’s free health fair in Wise County, VA. Stan Brock founded Knoxville-based RAM in 1985 to insert mobile medical teams into remote areas of third-world countries. Now over 60 percent of RAM’s work is in rural areas of the United States.

More than one thousand people arrived before sunup this Friday or camped out in their vehicles for a chance at health care they cannot afford to buy. Most are the working poor and hail from Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and other surrounding states. Cars in the county fairgrounds parking lot held comforters and pillows, sleeping bags and sleeping people.

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Categories : Events, Health Care, Poverty
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Jun
02

Sunday Morning Music

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For some reason last night I was pondering the endless panoply of wingnut night terrors when a song from childhood TV popped into my head. When I looked up the lyrics and video, I was astonished. You will be too.

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