Category Archives: poverty

In so many ways . . .

. . . we are really two different countries and the similarities to Civil War era America abound.

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

And there’s this too  – the ten poorest States. I got it from a 2011 story at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze where commenters were not surprised, reasoning that that’s what Obama had done to us in just 20 months. The man worked fast!

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Tennessee
  4. West Virginia
  5. Louisiana
  6. Montana
  7. South CArolina
  8. Kentucky
  9. Alabama
  10. North Carolina

How about teen pregnancies? Below the mid point and dominating the list for ‘least teen pregnancies’, all of New England and most of the NorthEast. And what region dominates the list for ‘most teen pregnancies’? Lookee here:

STATES WITH MOST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
New Mexico – 93/1,000
Mississippi – 90/1,000
Texas – 85/1,000
Nevada – 84/1,000
Arkansas – 82/1,000
Arizona – 82/1,000
Delaware – 81/1,000
Louisiana – 80/1,000
Oklahoma – 80/1,000
Georgia – 78/1,000

STATES WITH FEWEST TEEN PREGNANCIES:
Iowa – 51/1,000
Nebraska – 50/1,000
Utah – 48/1,000
Wisconsin – 45/1,000
Maine – 43/1,000
Massachusetts – 42/1,000
North Dakota – 42/1,000
Minnesota – 42/1,000
Vermont – 38/1,000
New Hampshire – 33/1,000

How about high school dropouts by State? A pattern emerges.

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Oxfam says world’s rich could end poverty

POSTED BY ORHAN

From Al Jazeera:

The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.

The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.

The group has called on world leaders to commit to reducing inequality to the levels it was at in 1990, and to curb income extremes on both sides of the spectrum. […]

The group says that the world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process. Continue reading

I hope they’re grateful too . . .

I know I am very grateful that my enlightened government refuses to officially allow elderly and ill to be impoverished.

A factoid: where are the largest percentages of the Mr. Romney’s 47%? You already knew I’m sure. Remember also that those blue states are largely donor states, getting back less than a dollar for every dollar into the kitty and those red states are largely recipient states. Whoops, I meant ‘takers’.

So it makes perfect sense that they mostly voted for the guy who holds them in contempt. And says so.

Promoted from comments (my own actually)

Chatting with the Arborist in a post below, I noted something I’ve been meaning to write about, but I never got around to it.

On FOX News a few years ago in a conversation about those lazy masses dragging down good honest hard working ‘mericans, actor Craig Nelson famously said: “I’ve had hard times too. I’ve even been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me? No.”

Bill Moyers talks to smart people

M y brother was here last week. We talked a lot about many things. He’s a fine conversationalist he is. And I’m not bad, so we had a good time. But he’s got an edge on me with the depth and breadth of his knowledge. And personal experience wtih much of which he speaks.

He’s a PhD in Philosophy, a former priest who studied texts in Latin and Hebrew. He’s a father and a grandfather. He’s a sailor and a superb do-it-yourselfer (a longtime fantasy of mine is to have him prisoner for a week in my house with his tools and no books. That would be sweet.)

He’s a lecturer, a college professor, a prolific author and travels extensively to meetings and workshops here and in Europe and in Africa. I’ve no idea how he has time to do any of these things. It’s annoying.

One of the things we talked about was labor and labor unions. I said I thought that the union model, as practiced today, has failed. It was the right model for a long time but is the wrong model for these times and needs to be reinvented.

He disagreed. But here’s some evidence that, for maybe the first time ever, because some very smart people are saying the same thing, I was right and he was wrong.

The relevant discussion is the first 20 minutes or so here from yesterday’s Bill Moyers’ show. It’s fascinating.

Say hello to America’s debtors’ prisons. The 19th century is all the fashion, bitches!

Did you know about this? I didn’t. (Charles Dickens however was very familiar with this particular script.)

Here’s the story at Naked Capitalism from 2010. It’s not only still going on, it’s far worse today. And in the new American way, we’ve invited private companies to handle the matter, with enough profits to – ahem – make a few campaign contributions to their favorite pols. It’s a whole new growth industry. (Because Elvis-forbid that States should add public sector jobs! If it’s jobbed out, and thus off the State payroll, and even though it’s more costly (in more ways than one), our elected officials then can’t be accused of adding government jobs when they run for re-election. Sweet.

The practice is spreading because it’s such a good economic model – spend State money to imprison debtors, then close them off from any avenue by which they could repay that debt. And in most cases, add a few fees and let them compound. Brilliant, yes?  And it’s so rightous. And godly.

Here’s a  CBS News story from April of this year: 

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans. In parts of Illinois, debt collectors commonly use publicly funded courts, sheriff’s deputies, and country jails to pressure people who owe even small amounts to pay up, according to the AP.

I especially liked this part:

Some states also apply “poverty penalties,” including late fees, payment plan fees, and interest when people are unable to pay all their debts at once, according to a report by the New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, for instance, while Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. Some Florida counties also use so-called collection courts, where debtors can be jailed but have no right to a public defender.

Let the fittest survive . . . and get rich. USA! USA! USA!

An interesting graph from a column in the venerable Journal of the America Medical Association (JAMA) : it details who is covered by Medicaid, the program Paul Ryan described as “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”.

The largest group covered by Medicaid by far is children. The second biggest group, adults, contains large numbers of pregnant women. Medicaid covers about 40% of births in the United States. The third largest group includes people who are blind or disabled. That leaves what are known as dual eligibles. Those are elderly people who are so poor that they receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits.

If I’m reading this chart correctly, while children constitute the largest constituency, the blind/disabled receive the most dollars.

(link is from a Paul Krugman column)

What YOU Can Do on May Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

May Day is an international day of celebration to honor the labor movement. This year the Occupy movement has made a call for mass action—the May First General Strike (#M1GS): a day without the 99%. Over 115 US cities have organized in solidarity with this call to action.

A general strike is a way to build and demonstrate the power of the people. It’s a way to show this is a system that only exists because we allow it to. If we can withdraw from the system for one day we can use that day to build community and mutual aid. We can find inspiration and faith—not in any leaders or bosses but in each other and in ourselves.

If you are inspired by the day of action but don’t live near any organized events you can still take part. If you can’t strike, take the first step. We can work to shift the balance of power back into the hands of the people little by little in our everyday lives.

Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  1. Move Your Money: If you haven’t already, May Day is as good as any to move your money out of a national, corporate bank into a local bank or credit union. Support your local community and break up the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that threaten our economic system. Learn more about moving your money here: www.moveyourmoneyproject.org
  2. Have a Potluck: Share a meal with others and and talk about subsidized agriculture and factory farming or make a meal with friends to serve to local homeless people a la Food Not Bombs.
  3. Start a Personal/Community Garden: On May Day, start or pledge to start a personal or community garden. Growing our own food means independence from corporate farms. This is one more way to take your self out of a system bent on keeping us complacent.
  4. Have a Free Store/FairGet together and share your unwanted items with others. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. You could be helping someone who was about to go out and buy a (fill in your item here) anyway.
  5. Ride your bike to work/carpool with friends: Ride your bike or arrange a carpool to work. When you do this you are lessening our country’s dependency on outdated, unclean energies.
  6. Screen a Movie: Invite your friends or neighbors over to watch a documentary. After, have a discussion about how it relates to your values or the ideas of Occupy. You can watch political documentaries online at the following links for free:
    http://http://crimethinc.com/movies/

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/category/politics/

    http://www.documentarytube.com/category/political-documentaries
    http://freedocumentaries.org/
  7. Have a Skill Share: Give a free class to share your skills and knowledge. This could be as simple as giving a knitting demonstration or as complex as teaching someone a new language.

We have the power in our hands to change the course of our day to day realities if we are willing to participate and reach out to our neighbors and communities. In the words of Steven Biko, ”the greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Big business should not be in control of us, we are the many and they are the few.

(Source)

Don’t forget to look for actions in your area here or here.

May Day 2012: a real Labor Day

POSTED BY ORHAN

ImageSpring is in the air, and you know what that means–that’s right, Occupy Wall Street is back, bigger and better than ever! Although actions have been ongoing for several weeks, the first major action will be the worldwide General Strike called for May 1st. From OccupyWallSt.org:

May 1st, also known as International Workers’ Day, is the annual commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when Chicago police fired on workers during a General Strike for the eight-hour workday. In many countries, May 1st is observed as a holiday. But in the United States, despite the eventual success of the eight-hour-workday campaign, the holiday is not officially recognized.

Now, in response to call-outs from Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Oakland, and other General Assemblies and affinity groups, the Occupy Movement is preparing to mobilize a General Strike this May 1st in solidarity with struggles already underway to defend the rights of workers, immigrants, and other communities who are resisting oppression. Dozens of Occupations in cities and towns throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia have already endorsed May Day.

To quote the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, who recently called for a national General Strike in Spain on March 29th to protest labor reforms:

For the CNT, the strike on March 29 must be only the beginning of a growing and sustained process of mobilization, one which includes the entire working class and the sectors that are most disadvantaged and affected by the capitalist crisis. This mobilization must put the brakes on the dynamic of constant assaults on our rights, while laying the bases for the recovery and conquest of new social rights with the goal of a deep social transformation.

I’ll be at the NYC action; hope to see you there! I’ll post links and updates as they become available.

When Bruce speaks, a lotta people listen

Haven’t been paying much attention in recent years to popular music. I do notice when something happens (RIP Clarence et al) but don’t generally pay a lot of attention when soemthing new is published.

Here’s what The Guardian has to say about Bruce Springstein’s new album, Wrecking Ball.

Indeed, [the album] is as angry a cry from the belly of a wounded America as has been heard since the dustbowl and Woody Guthrie, a thundering blow of New Jersey pig iron down on the heads of Wall Street and all who have sold his country down the swanny. Springsteen has gone to the great American canon for ammunition, borrowing from folk, civil war anthems, Irish rebel songs and gospel. The result is a howl of pain and disbelief as visceral as anything he has ever produced, that segues into a search for redemption: “Hold tight to your anger/ And don’t fall to your fears … Bring on your wrecking ball.”

Springsteen plunges into darker, richer musical landscapes in a sequence of breath-taking protest songs – Easy Money, Shackled and Drawn, Jack of All Trades, the scarily bellicose Death to My Hometown and This Depression with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine – before the album turns on Wrecking Ball in search of some spiritual path out of the mess the US is in.

I may have to borrow a dime for this one. Here’s a cut.

Say no more . . . our shame is complete

This is what it’s come to – child labor laws bad, suffering good.

How is this healthy for a nation? It isn’t. It’s destructive.

We need to fix this or it’ll ruin us.

WASHINGTON — The top 1 percent of earners more than doubled their share of the nation’s income over the last three decades, the Congressional Budget Office said Tuesday . . .

In this report, the budget office found that from 1979 to 2007, average inflation-adjusted after-tax income grew by 275 percent for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income. For others in the top 20 percent of the population, average real after-tax household income grew by 65 percent.

By contrast, the budget office said, for the poorest fifth of the population, average real after-tax household income rose 18 percent.

And for the three-fifths of people in the middle of the income scale, the growth in such household income was just under 40 percent.

You gotta have a lot of prisoners to save money this way

A special state indeed. Texas is going to cut costs in its prison system by:

  • Texas ended the decades-old practice of serving last meals to inmates about to be executed after one man ordered an elaborate feast of hamburgers, pizza and chicken-fried steaks that he did not eat. (Well, that alone must have saved hundreds of dollars!)
  • Most states serve their inmates milk in cartons, but Texas prison officials said switching to powdered milk would save them an estimated $3.5 million annually.
  • Thousands of other inmates in the Texas prison system have been eating fewer meals since April after officials stopped serving lunch on the weekends in some prisons as a way to cut food-service costs.

In the US, two million people are in state prisons alone. In 2010, 225,000 of them were in Texas, or 1 in 100 residents. They built 174 new state prisons between 1979 and 2000, a 706% increase. (Texas has cut its prisoner growth rate in the last few years, but still holds the lead.)

Wonder how many of those prisons are private for-profit?

Something our Civil War didn’t change . . .

In the 1860’s, the South had largely ignored the Industrial Revolution – they didn’t need all those fancy new machine things because they (the ruling class and aristocracy) owned many people to do the work. (And those poor whites? They were invisible.)

Then the slaves were freed – and the South found it was dirt poor. That was 150 years ago. But look . . .

Percentage of people in poverty in last 12 months

 

We Are the 1 Percent

POSTED BY ORHAN

Tens of thousands marched through the streets of lower Manhattan Wednesday in support of Occupy Wall Street and to protest the actions of the financial elite that has devastated the lives of so many. The current issue of Orion magazine includes an article by Christopher Ketcham that  draws the connection between the demonstrators and the city they marched in:

Of the twenty-five largest cities, New York is the most unequal city in the United States for income distribution. If it were a nation, it would come in as the fifteenth worst among 134 countries ranked by extremes of wealth and poverty—a banana republic without the death squads.

It is the showcase for the top 1 percent of households, which in New York have an average annual income of $3.7 million. The One Percenters took for themselves close to 44 percent of all income in New York during 2007 (the last year for which data is available).

New York’s wealth concentration is almost twice the record-high levels among the top 1 percent nationwide, who claimed 23.5 percent of all national income in 2007, a number not seen since the eve of the Great Depression.

The number of homeless in the city rose to an all-time high last year with a record 113,000 men, women, and children, many of them comprising whole families, retreating night after night to municipal shelters.

Average workers have been the consistent losers since 1990. The real hourly median wage in New York between 1990 and 2007 fell by almost 9 percent. Young men and women aged twenty-five to thirty-four with a bachelor’s degree and a year-round job in New York saw their earnings drop 6 percent. Middle-income New Yorkers—defined broadly by the FPI as those drawing incomes between approximately $29,000 and $167,000—experienced a 19 percent decrease in earnings.

Almost 11 percent of the population, about 900,000 people, live in what the federal government describes as “deep poverty,” which for a four-person family means an income of $10,500 (the average One Percenter household in New York makes about that same amount every day).

About 50 percent of the households in the city have incomes below $30,000; their incomes have also been steadily declining since 1990. During the boom of 2002–07, the trend was unaltered: the average income in the bottom 95 percent of New York City households declined.

The wealth of the One Percenters derives almost entirely from the operations of the sector known as “financial services,” whose preoccupation is “financial innovation.” The One Percenters draw the top salaries at commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, credit card companies, insurance companies, stock brokerages.

The largest twenty financial institutions in the U.S., almost all of them headquartered in New York, now control upward of 70 percent of the country’s financial assets, roughly double what they controlled in the 1990s.

According to the article, financial innovation is a “socially useless activity”, with “little or no long-term value”, whose purpose is to “merely shift money around” without designing, building, or selling “a single tangible thing.” Financial services once allocated capital for socially useful projects that also created jobs. The goal now is to maximize short-term profit by generating and bursting asset bubbles, hedging carefully to come out ahead no matter the cost to society. Having created a wave of gentrification that devastated manufacturing and made the city unaffordable for most workers, including writers, artists, and musicians, the One Percenter sits atop a cuturally sterile world that “that offers nothing but mass consumption as a prospect for our youth,” that trumpets “contempt for the least powerful in society,” that offers only “outrageous competition of all against all.”

Real Americans

POSTED BY ORHAN

There are now over 130 #Occupying groups nationally. There’s a site to find one nearby or start your own.

I went to Zuccotti Park yesterday afternoon. The energy was different than a demonstration–the people were, well, occupying, not marching. The group was predominantly young, but people of all ages were participating. The area was mobbed with tourists, media (but not MSM), people who work in the area, some jeering, others curious or obviously sympathetic. My sense is that the energy changes from hour to hour.

There were lots of small groups, people working out tactics and strategy; if there’s anything like an organizational focus, the General Assembly is it; the emphasis is on leaderlessness, non-hierarchy, non-violence, consensus-building, giving everyone a voice.

There was a fairly heavy police presence, but the cops appeared laid back; they’re also learning–nothing energizes people like seeing college kids penned and pepper-sprayed.

Right now the people need sleeping bags, blankets, boots, food.

Sure, true things are true but . . .

I posted a few days ago about the singularly un-Christian tweet from’ America’s pastor’ Rick Warren, in which he transmitted yet again that stupid meme that 50% of Americans pay NO taxes!!  It is of course false on it’s face, since there is no way to avoid taxes.  What is true is that 50% of Americans pay no Federal Income taxes.

I just visited a site new to me, and one I look forward to visiting again, where Donald Marron takes a moment to tell us who those 50% are, and the reasons why they pay no federal income taxes..

The number one reason should come as no surprise. It’s because they have low incomes. As my colleague Bob Williams notes:

“A couple with two children earning less than $26,400 . . . their $11,600 standard deduction and four exemptions of $3,700 each reduce their taxable income to zero.”

Low incomes (or, if you prefer, the standard deduction and personal exemptions) account for fully half of the people who pay no federal income tax.

The second reason is that for many senior citizens, Social Security benefits are exempt from federal income taxes. That accounts for about 22% of the people who pay no federal income tax.

The third reason is that America uses the tax code to provide benefits to low-income families, particularly those with children. Taken together, the earned income tax credit, the child credit, and the childcare credit account for about 15% of the people who pay no federal income tax.

Taken together, those three factors — incomes that fall below the standard deduction and personal exemptions; the exemption for most Social Security benefits; and tax benefits aimed at low-income families and children — account for almost 90% of the Americans who pay no federal income tax.

Of course, they’re also probably lefty pinko lazy gay communist liberals.  Or so suggests ‘Pastor’ Warren.

 

A dime’s worth of difference?

POSTED BY ORHAN

So Obama offers a debt deal to the Republicans: he’ll cut Social Security and Medicare. In exchange, the Republicans will, maybe, allow the Bush tax cuts to expire. Or hike some other taxes; whatever.

Now the Republicans are saying no deal, they’ll only accept spending cuts; they’ll cut Social Security and Medicare, plus keep the Bush cuts, but deep-six the tax hikes.

So, let’s see, that means if Option 1, the Democratic plan, had been accepted, the rich would have been back to where they were under Clinton, and the poor and middle would have been worse off. But if Option 2, the Republican plan, is enacted, the rich will keep what they got from Bush, and the poor and middle will be worse off.

What can we say about America’s future from the horns of this little dilemma? If it plays out the way the health care farce did, we can make a few predictions:

The Tea Party will be left swinging in the breeze. The folks who screamed, “Keep your hands off my Medicare!” are about to have their Social Security and Medicare seriously FUBARed. Even the most hardcore non-rich Tea Partier will realize sooner or later there’s nothing here but, as the song says, the promise of an early death.

The Democratic base will be left swinging in the breeze, after having its veins opened, its throat slit, and a dagger slipped between its ribs. The new default “far left” bargaining position will start with Social Security and Medicare cuts. Obama will initiate his trademark “compromising” from there. Predicting which once-sacrosanct progressive program he’ll negotiate away next will be all the rage in DC.

Mainstream middle and working class Republicans will be left swinging in the breeze; it’ll just take them a while to figure it out. Sooner or later the most diehard trickle-down true believer will realize the upcoming corporate cash infusion (via “amnesty” or any other method) isn’t going to create any jobs for Americans, other than the corner-office and lobbying jobs for the politicians who sold us all down the river; but CEOs will no doubt receive some kickass bonuses over the next few years.

Life is about to get one hell of a lot harder for most Americans. Thanks to Democrats. And Republicans.

When A Country Goes Insane

One job for every five looking

That’s the headline on a recent article at Common Dreams, a website I visit when I need to refresh my inner liberal, the one who’s deeply offended by a wealthy country that let’s its children go to bed hungry. Where my Governor is bragging about the 65,000 new ‘jobs’ this year – which pay around $20K and replace the lost jobs that paid $40K.

Six million people have lost their jobs. Twenty five million are underemployed. Many will never work again. Eight trillion dollars of middle class wealth has been destroyed in the housing collapse. One out of four mortgage holders are under water, owing more on their home than it’s worth. Fifty million people are living in poverty. One out of eight Americans are on food stamps. One of every two children will be on food stamps at some point .

And meanwhile:

[The country] can’t tell truths from lies . . . Sleazy operators pass themselves off as statesmen . . . and the crowds, unable to distinguish sanctimony from sincerity, bravado from bullshit, lap it up.

Let’s just ignore:

. . . the Republicans’ response? The working and middle class need to pay. Never mind that it was Reagan and Bush I who quadrupled the national debt in only 12 years, and Bush II who doubled it again in only eight, all to grease the pockets of their wealthy base. It’s the working and middle class who need to be bled. They still have assets that can be milked from them. They can still be made more subservient, more docile.

Remember, it’s Obama’s economy. And what about the American people? The ones who aren’t the 1% who enjoyed all the economic gains of the last 30 years?

. . . they need to give up any expectation of security, or dignity. They need to give up any childish illusions that [government] is operated for any such quaint Madisonian ends as “the general welfare.” They need to put on their kneepads and accustom themselves to being grateful servants to their new feudal masters . .

And through it all:

The media genuflect before gibberish and idolize idiocy. They are the media-tors of a Gresham’s Law of public discourse where bad information drives out good. For their own slick whoring they become “players,” while everybody else is left with a debauched civic currency, a crushed economy, and a collective impotence that makes true democracy and true prosperity impossible.

God bless us every one.

Simple kindesses

Sometimes I find gentleness in unexpected places – like in this comment from Duane in a thread about the poor and homeless . It’s on his own blog, The Erstwhile Conservative, and is in response to a persistent ‘blame the victim’ series of comments. Here’s the thread and here’s Duane:

I hate to interrupt your discussion, but I must comment on at least one of the issues raised: putting money “in the hands of those with the placards asking for such.”

I almost never pass such people by without putting some money in their hands. Oh, I realize that some, or even most of the money, may go to booze or drugs or whatever. But I tell myself: So what? So what if a person in that situation uses the money to escape for a while from the plight he or she confronts? Recently I gave money to a woman who I knew—because I had met her before in a different part of Joplin—who was telling me a lie when she told me her “hard luck” story. She told me a complete lie when she was asking me for money. I knew it and told her just to ask me for money without the story. It was okay to just ask. Later the same day I saw her and her male companion, whom she had previously told me was too sick to go to work, in Wal-Mart. I said something to her to remind her that she didn’t have to lie.

But I still ask myself, What kind of life are these two living? Isn’t it worth a few bucks to keep them from otherwise starving to death? If you could have seen both of them you could easily see that there isn’t an employer in Joplin who would hire them. There is exactly no chance that either one of them could get a job. So what if they conspire to get a few bucks from a few strangers who have it to spare? What harm is done? These folks have figured out a way to keep their heads above water. And no matter if we think they “deserve” their fate, what a fate it is. And, in my opinion, it diminishes all of us, if we allow such people to simply starve and die, no matter why they are in the state they are in.

And if you want to look at it from a purely practical point of view, if they weren’t scheming to get a few bucks on Range Line road, they might be up at Snob Hill breaking into the house of a certain Joplin blogger.