Archive for Poverty


What’s fair is fair

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Dick DeVos, Jr. residence on Michigan's Lake Macatawa.

Dick DeVos, Jr. residence on Michigan’s Lake Macatawa.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) of Milwaukee plans to introduce a bill this week requiring drug testing for anyone claiming large tax deductions in a given year. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to require drug screenings for those receiving public assistance? Fine, says Moore.

Think Progress:

Her “Top 1% Accountability Act” would require anyone claiming itemized tax deductions of over $150,000 in a given year to submit a clean drug test. If a filer doesn’t submit a clean test within three months of filing, he won’t be able to take advantage of tax deductions like the mortgage interest deduction or health insurance tax breaks. Instead he would have to make use of the standard deduction.

A spokesman for Moore told Atlantic, “We don’t drug test wealthy CEOs who receive federal subsidies for their private jets, nor do we force judges or public officials to prove their sobriety to earn their paychecks. Attaching special demands to government aid exclusively targets our country’s most vulnerable individuals and families.” Alana Semuels writes:
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Categories : Democrats, National, Poverty
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The quality of mercy

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King Midas with his daughter - Walter Crane [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

King Midas with his daughter – Walter Crane
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

David Atkins comments on a piece from the National Review that displays the nihilist greed of the Midas Cult in the ghastliest terms I have yet seen. Atkins writes:

The establishment Republican ideology prioritizes capital above all else. For them, the market does not exist to serve people: people exist to serve the market. Unregulated capitalism can never fail; it can only be failed by those too lazy, useless and unproductive to serve and profit by it. It is a totalizing ideology as impractical as state communism but lacking the silver lining of its species-being idealism; as impervious to reason as any cult religion, but lacking the promise of community, salvation or utopia; as brutal as any dictatorship, but without the advantage of order and security. Worst of all, it blames its victims for its failure to provide solutions to their needs.

Too strong, you think? Consider this excerpt from the NRO piece in which Kevin Williamson condemns Trump’s supporters as apostates from the one, true faith — his (emphasis mine):

It is immoral because it perpetuates a lie: that the white working class that finds itself attracted to Trump has been victimized by outside forces. It hasn’t. … They failed themselves.

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Dying from despair

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Downtown Appalachia, VA. Photo by pfly from Pugetopolis [CC BY-SA 2.0

Downtown Appalachia, VA. Photo by pfly from Pugetopolis [CC BY-SA 2.0

Michael Cooper, Jr. sends a message from Donald Trump’s America, meaning, the last places and people in America the casino and real estate magnate would care to visit. You know, “losers”:

I live in Trump’s America, where working-class whites are dying from despair. They’re dying from alcoholism, drug addiction and suicide, trying to take away the pain of a half century’s economic and cultural decline. In the foothills of Appalachia, Wilkes County, North Carolina, is second in the nation in income lost this century, where the number of manufacturing jobs decreased from 8,548 in the year 2000 to about 4,000 today, according to Stateline.

If the color coding on the Stateline map of income decline appears less dire for Appalachia proper, it is because once at the bottom there is no further down to go. Near-ghost-towns dot southwest Virginia and West Virginia. Small but once prosperous from logging or coal, they hug hillsides along what are barely

secondary roads. And that’s what their people feel like: secondary. Voters have been forgotten in towns where over 20 percent live in poverty and a quarter never finished high school, Cooper explains:

They lost their influence, their dignity and their shot at the American Dream, and now they’re angry. They’re angry at Washington and Wall Street, at big corporations and big government. And they’re voting now for Donald Trump.

My Republican friends are for Trump. My state representative is for Trump. People who haven’t voted in years are for Trump. He’ll win the primary here on March 15 and he will carry this county in the general.

His supporters realize he’s a joke. They do not care. They know he’s authoritarian, nationalist, almost un-American, and they love him anyway, because he disrupts a broken political process and beats establishment candidates who’ve long ignored their interests.

This is the America where the unemployed and underemployed still line up for free health care each year at the fairgrounds in Wise, Virginia and in smaller places. They are “poorer, less educated citizens who are fiscally liberal and socially conservative,” Cooper believes, and both parties have ignored them for years. In part, because they tend not to vote. But they are voting now, now that Trump has given voice to their grievances.

Thousands receive free medical care at the Remote Area Medical clinic each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

Thousands receive free medical care at the Remote Area Medical clinic each year in Wise, VA. The greatest need is dental care.

This year’s primaries are like a real-life exercise in those old Verizon Wireless ads. America’s forgotten working class left behind and discarded by globalization, automation, and deindustrialization has found an unlikely voice in Donald Trump, if not really a champion. Independent Bernie Sanders too is finding traction there, as his Michigan win this week proved. In primary after primary, the American worker is asking party elites, “Can you hear me now?

It is not clear yet that they have.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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But for the grace of God

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Photo by Bernard Pollack, AFLCIO under Creative Commons license

Lauren Scott, a single mother and homeless, goes for a job interview:

Sixty-nine stops on a bus; a nine-minute train ride; an additional 49 stops on a bus; a quarter-mile walk.

Scott carries a spiral notebook with her “Plan of Action for the Week.” The Washington Post chronicles her struggle to find work in Atlanta. It would have taken 27 minutes in a car. It is a four-hour round trip on the bus. Getting to the interview is just one of the obstacles to climbing out of poverty. Rising prices in the city are driving low-income residents further from where the jobs are.

But even as their ranks have grown, the deeply impoverished in the Deep South have also increasingly found that they are on their own: They are less likely to receive the help of a spouse — or the government. Five of the six states with the highest proportion of single parents are in the Deep South. Meanwhile, policymakers have dismantled the cash assistance programs that used to provide critical support for the jobless with children. Those like Scott not only have less access to jobs, but also less of a safety net when they are unemployed.

It’s a good thing she doesn’t have to take a drug test before getting a bus pass. Scott had been self-sufficient, even if only hanging on. Her life was a Jenga game with too many pieces gone. Having a child brought it crashing down. There was no cushion left.

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Categories : National, Poverty
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At an event Saturday night in eastern Tennessee, an organizer brought up the meme that poor people tend to “vote against their best interests,” for Republicans who vote to slash safety net programs that keep them afloat. This complaint, as I have written, is an old pet peeve. First, because it’s a lefty dog whistle for saying those voters are stupid — which they hear clearly even if we cannot. And second, as liberals do we really want our neighbors to go into the voting booth to vote what’s best for No. 1 rather than for an America that aspires to something better? But Saturday night, the same organizer offered a new twist from a New York Timesarticle by ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

This is perhaps a manifestation of the “last place aversion” I wrote about in February. It is the need to have someone to look down on so you do not see yourself on the bottom rung of life’s ladder: Read More→


List of demands

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How far down the rabbit hole have we gone that Republican candidates for president think they are entitled to a list of demands from networks hosting debates (and I use that term reservedly) that would make rock bands blush? (Remember, no brown M&Ms.) The Washington Post obtained the list. Here are just a few:

  • Will there be questions from the audience or social media? How many? How will they be presented to the candidates? Will you acknowledge that you, as the sponsor, take responsibilities for all questions asked, even if not asked  by your personnel?
  • Will there be a gong/buzzer/bell when time is up? How will the moderator enforce the time limits?
  • Will you commit that you will not:
    • Ask the candidate to raise their hands to answer a question
    • Ask yes/no questions without time to provide a substantive answer
    • Allow candidate-to-candidate questioning
    • Allow props or pledges by the candidates
    • Have reaction shots of members of the audience or moderators during debates
    • Show an empty podium after a break (describe how far away the bathrooms are)
    • Use behind shots of the candidates showing their notes
    • Leave microphones on during the breaks
    • Allow members of the audience to wear political messages (shirts, buttons, signs, etc.). Who enforces?
  • What is the size of the audience? Who is receiving tickets in addition to the candidates? Who’s in charge of distributing those tickets and filling the seats?
  • What instructions will you provide the audience about cheering during the debate?
  • What are your plans for the lead-in to the debate (Pre-shot video? Announcer to moderator? Director to Moderator?) and how long is it?
  • What type of microphones (lavs or podium)?
  • Can you pledge that the temperature in the hall be kept below 67 degrees?

Dude, can I get on the “guest list” and a backstage pass to hang out with the band?

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The Poors: Leaded and unleaded

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Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Once again, our vigilant T-party politicians are on the alert for the theoretical possibility of crimes by the Poors. Courtesy of Charlie Pierce comes the next wave of imaginary dirty tricks perpetrated by the Poors on honest, decent Americans. Landlords, in this case:

Holt is Maryland’s secretary of housing, community and development, and he is wise to the ways of America’s crafty poor people. Holt is seeking to “relax” Maryland’s lead-poisoning law in order to take the jackboot of regulation off the necks of the state’s landlords. And nothing gets by Kenneth Holt.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Kenneth C. Holt, secretary of Housing, Community and Development, told an audience at the Maryland Association of Counties summer convention here that a mother could just put a lead fishing weight in her child’s mouth, then take the child in for testing and a landlord would be liable for providing the child with housing until the age of 18.

Pressed afterward, Holt said he had no evidence of this happening but said a developer had told him it was possible. “This is an anecdotal story that was described to me as something that could possibly happen,” Holt said.

Thank heavens these public servants are always on high alert for the possibility of widespread voter fraud (or was it the widespread possibility?) and other dangers for which they never seem to produce evidence. Bigfoot might steal their Wheat Thins. The Poors might counterfeit the governor’s power bill.
Prisoners might hide tiny revolvers in their beards. “Just because we haven’t found the example doesn’t mean they aren’t there” was good enough to argue last year before the Supreme Court.

Pierce continues:

Republican audiences are perfectly willing to buy the notion that clever moms are having their children suck on lead weights to stick it to their landlords and get something for nothing. Within the Republican Party, there is a relentless search for solutions to problems that do not exist, and an equally relentless search for suckers in the general public.

Monorail. Monorail. Monorail.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Poverty
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Georgetown Panel On Poverty

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Worth your time:

Categories : National, Poverty
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Behold, the relativist wasteland

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A number of people have taken shots at David Brooks this week for his essential cluelessness about people who are not David Brooks. Over at Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi calls Brooks’ “The Cost of Relativism” his “10 thousandth odious article about how rich people are better parents than the poor.” Taibbi writes:

Brooks then goes on to relate some of the horrific case studies from the book – more on those in a moment – before coming to his inevitable conclusion, which is that poor people need to get off the couch, stop giving in to every self-indulgent whim, and discipline their wild offspring before they end up leaving their own illegitimate babies on our lawns:

Next it will require holding people responsible. People born into the most chaotic situations can still be asked the same questions: Are you living for short-term pleasure or long-term good? Are you living for yourself or for your children? Do you have the freedom of self-control or are you in bondage to your desires?

Yes, improving your station is a simple matter self-discipline and of pulling yourself up by those bootstraps, if you have the boots. Can’t find a job? Pull together some investors and start your own business. Personal responsibility … yadda, yadda, yadda … achieve the American Dream.

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Inequality for dummies

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Corey Robin considers the irony of how white children learn about Martin Luther King while attending schools that have essentially re-seregated since the Nixon years. He casts a jaundiced eye on the effort for Salon:

In the United States, we often try to solve political and economic questions through our schools rather than in society. Instead of confronting social inequality with mass political action and state redistribution, we prefer to educate poor children to wealth. Education can involve some redistribution: making sure, for example, that black, Latino and working-class students have comparable resources, facilities and teachers as white or wealthy students. But one need only compare the facilities at the Park Slope school my daughter attends with those of an elementary school in East New York—or take a walk around James Hall at Brooklyn College, where I teach political science, and then take a walk around the halls at Yale, where I studied political science—to see we’re a long way from even that minimal redistribution.

Sometimes, our self-deception can be downright funny. Two weekends ago, the New York Times profiled a group of fancy private schools in New York City where wealthy, white and privileged students learn that they are … wealthy, white and privileged. There’s even an annual “White Privilege Conference,” which is being held this year at Dalton School (tuition: $41,350). More and more private schools, according to the Times, “select students to attend” that conference. These students are so select (and these schools so selective) that they have to be selected to attend a conference on their selectedness.

No amount of talking about class advantage this way will change it, Robin believes. He’s right. It’s not the kind of learning that comes from classroom exercises or a book.

But still, as children of advantage, doesn’t talking about structural inequality feel right in a truthiness kind of way? To talk about inequality and believe you’re actually doing something about inequality, the way clicktivism feels like activism. Season the lessons with terms like “micro-aggressions,” have students create and discuss “identity cards,” and such conversations become buzzword bingo. Corey Robin calls this kind of education “the quintessential American hustle.”

“Bingo, sir.”

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)

Categories : Poverty, Race
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