Friday, February 23, 2007

"An Unusual Economic Expansion"

The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

. . . . . . .

The McClatchy analysis found that the number of severely poor Americans grew by 26 percent from 2000 to 2005. That's 56 percent faster than the overall poverty population grew in the same period. McClatchy's review also found statistically significant increases in the percentage of the population in severe poverty in 65 of 215 large U.S. counties, and similar increases in 28 states. The review also suggested that the rise in severely poor residents isn't confined to large urban counties but extends to suburban and rural areas.

The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.

These and other factors have helped push 43 percent of the nation's 37 million poor people into deep poverty - the highest rate since at least 1975.

The share of poor Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily over the last three decades. But since 2000, the number of severely poor has grown "more than any other segment of the population," according to a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Read the rest here

Sunday, February 18, 2007


From Community Voices Heard: "This report highlights the
findings from discussions with over 700 welfare recipients in HRA’s
Wellness, Comprehensive Assessment, Rehabilitation and Employment
(WeCARE) Program as well as in-depth focus groups, one-on-one interviews
and phone surveys with 100 of those participants. The report explores
how effective HRA’s newest program for individuals with mental and
physical barriers to employment has been in serving this population. It
also makes recommendations on how to improve the implementation of this

In 1996, President Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work
Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), creating the Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants and establishing time
limits and stricter work requirements as well as limiting education and
training options for public assistance recipients. Ten years later,
while welfare rolls have dropped nationwide, many people remain in
poverty and those still on welfare are struggling with physical, mental
health and substance abuse barriers which prevent them from working or
attaining full self-sufficiency.

In New York City, one in five people live in poverty and welfare agency
officials estimate that 55.7 percent of the welfare agency’s caseload is
partially or completely unable to work. In early 2005, the New York
City Human Resources Administration (HRA), the city agency that
administers welfare programs, implemented the WeCARE Program to
determine which public assistance recipients and applicants have
multiple and complex barriers to employment and provide them with
specialized services that were not available under HRA’s previous
support and workforce development programs. HRA allocated over $200
million over three years to serve an annual 45,600 public assistance
recipients with potential disabilities. This report is a study of how
the WeCARE Program is supposed to work and whether or not it is
providing the support and specialized services it is designed to deliver
to public assistance recipients with disabilities."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

From Bad to Better?

From City Limits:
Midway through an effort to find permanent housing for 100 homeless veterans in 100 days, the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) is on target to meet its goal. Working with the federal Veterans Administration and local advocates for the homeless, DHS launched the 100 Veterans in 100 Days initiative Dec. 21 as a kind of solution-oriented sprint. It’s part of the city’s broader goal of moving from managing homelessness with shelters to ending it through the expansion of affordable and supportive housing.

One in three homeless men are veterans, according to the Veterans Administration (VA), and the vast majority – 97 percent – of homeless veterans are single men. Those involved in the project for veterans say its key innovation is integrating the VA into the wide network of organizations involved in homeless services in a way it wasn’t previously.

A good article -- read the rest.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Don't Be Silly

Our healthcare system is just fine -- best in the world. From Agence France Presse:

A homeless paraplegic man wearing a soiled gown and a broken colostomy bag was found crawling in the street after being allegedly dumped on Los Angeles' skid row by a hospital, police said.

The incident, which took place in broad daylight on Thursday and was seen by several witnesses, was described by police as one of the worst cases of homeless dumping they had ever seen.

"I can't think of anything colder than that," Los Angeles Police Department detective Russ Long told the Los Angeles Times. "There was no mission around, no services. It's the worst area of skid row."

Witnesses noted the license plate of the medical van, and police later linked it to the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center.

Police are questioning officials from the hospital over what appears to be the latest case of "homeless dumping" in the city.

Kaylor Shemberger, executive vice president for Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, told The Times that, "if some of the facts are correct, it is clearly not in line with our policy of handling these types of patients."

In November, Los Angeles officials charged healthcare giant Kaiser for dumping a patient in the city's homeless district.

Kaiser stands accused of returning a 63-year-old woman to skid row in March after she received treatment at the healthcare provider's Bellflower hospital.

Surveillance cameras recorded a taxi driver dropping off the woman, Carol Ann Reyes, who wandered around in a hospital gown and slippers before a volunteer from a nearby homeless shelter came to her aid.

Kaiser has been charged with false imprisonment and dependent adult endangerment in relation to the case, Los Angeles justice officials said.

The Bellflower is among 10 Los Angeles-area hospitals being investigated for whisking homeless patients back to skid row, city officials said.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Domestic Discretionary Spending?

Not so much:
The President’s budget calls for substantial reductions in a range of domestic discretionary programs. In many key domestic priority areas — including education, the environment, and state and local law enforcement — funding in fiscal year 2008 would fall below the expected fiscal year 2007 level, adjusted for inflation.

The cuts would then grow deeper in the years after 2008. The cuts would total $114 billion over five years, and would reach $34 billion in a single year by 2012, relative to the expected fiscal year 2007 funding levels adjusted for inflation.

At the same time that the budget proposes reductions in most domestic discretionary program areas, it proposes to make permanent virtually all of the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003. The budget’s priorities are clear: extending virtually every tax cut, including those that benefit the most affluent Americans, takes precedence over maintaining current levels of investment in education, biomedical research, and the environment; and over maintaining current levels of services and benefits in the low-income home energy assistance program upon which many poor seniors depend, in the Head Start and child care programs for low-income children, in programs that assist state and local governments in combating crime, and even in veterans’ health care programs.

The cost of extending the tax cuts would be $317 billion in 2012 alone. This is several times the amount that would be saved from the entire universe of cuts in domestic discretionary program cuts that the President proposes for that year. It also is several times larger than the total domestic program reductions the President is seeking on the mandatory and discretionary sides of the budget combined.
Read the full report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities HERE

Spring SGA Meetings

Thursday, February 08, 2007 5:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M. Stern College Cafeteria
Sunday, February 25, 2007 1:00 P.M. -2:00 P.M. Belfer Hall Rm. 918
Tuesday, April 17, 2007 5:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M. Belfer Hall Rm. 918
Thursday, May 3, 2007 5:00 P.M. – 6:00 P.M. Stern College Cafeteria

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Activism Online

From the Washington Post:
Finding ways to participate on the Internet isn't hard. You don't even need to turn to an established activist group to create an online campaign. Web sites such as allow anyone to create and manage a petition on the Web for free, and as their success stories suggest, online grass-roots politics can persuade powerful players to change their tune. Launched in 1999, the site has housed tens of thousands of petitions and collected more than 47 million signatures. . . . . . . .

. . . . . .Online activism dramatically reduces the time and money it takes to organize and participate in events. Consider how hard it is to organize a physical petition -- printing expenses, hiring petition gatherers to find good locations where there might be enough foot traffic to attract signers -- vs. posting a text on and advertising the link.

As some types of online activism allow people to take part quickly and easily , it opens the door for broader changes, shifting how regularly people take part in political actions. Such streamlined activism may lead to more frequent, and more committed, political engagement on the part of everyday citizens. And politicians seeking donations, votes and other kinds of support may look to tap into this new generation of self-selected, point-and-click activists. Much like the Web, these online petitions are an end in themselves as well as a gateway to new kinds of action. . . . . . . .

. . . . .The next generation of citizens is learning how to organize around issues they care about, and they're doing so in their own way.

Friday, February 02, 2007

More on Molly

From The Rude Pundit:
She said, often, that the sins of omission were the real crimes of contemporary journalism. Her columns so often filled that gap, talking about labor and working people and countries like the Congo and Indonesia. . . .

She was goddamned smart, so smart she didn't have to flaunt it. So smart that she could use the down to earth side to say what she meant so all of us could understand it. She didn't suffer bullies. She loved Texas like a parent loves her child even after that child has gone on a three-state killing spree. She was unfailingly polite. And she could eviscerate anyone who was failing all of us with just an image or two. Those guttings will be desperately missed. That sense and celebration of the decency of the average American will be missed even more.

We've lost one of our defenders.
The link to the rest is here, but be warned: for those of you unfamiliar with The Rude One, well, he really is, you know, awfully rude -- very very rough language is to be found in his commentaries, so avoid the link if that's likely to trouble you.

UPDATE: And there's this, from Lewis Lapham:
Molly's writing reminds us that dissent is what rescues the democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors, that republican self-government, properly understood, is an uproar and an argument, meant to be loud, raucous, disorderly and fierce.

You Should Know Better. . .

. . . .than to need to work two jobs. If I'm getting the quote right, it was Jane Addams who wrote: "Affluence, unless stimulated by a keen imagination, forms but the vaguest notion of poverty." Like THIS .

UPDATE: I didn't get it right. It was Edith Wharton, not Jane Addams, and she wrote this: “Affluence, unless stimulated by a keen imagination, forms but the vaguest notion of the practical strain of poverty."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Never Believe

That elections don't matter. From an E-Newsletter from the New York Nonprofit Press:

Governor’s Budget Draws Praise
from Human Service Providers

Governor Eliot Spitzer’s inaugural Executive Budget presented yesterday is drawing broadly favorable reviews from nonprofit human service providers and advocates. As widely reported, the $120 billion budget includes proposals to increase and revise formulas for school aid, broaden access to Child Health Plus enrollment and offer property tax savings for the middle class. In addition, Governor Spitzer has proposed a wide range of new or continued initiatives of particular interest to the human services sector.

“Putting aside the debate over reductions in health care reimbursement, this is a pro-child, pro-senior, pro-human service budget,” said Ron Soloway, Managing Director of Government and External Relations for UJA-Federation.

“Overall, we are very optimistic,” said Fatima Goldman, Executive Director/CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies. “This is a deeper investment in human service programs than we have seen for many years. It is heartening to see.”

“We are extremely excited that the Governor continued the COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments) that were started last year,” said Allison Sesso, Deputy Director of the Human Services Council of New York City. The budget includes more than $181 million for the second year of 2.5% COLAs in a range of program sectors including substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, mental health, mental retardation and developmental disabilities and child welfare. “It looks like the Governor recognizes that recruitment and retention are issues and he has created a budget that addresses those issues,” said Sesso.

Governor Spitzer also took it upon himself to add funding for several programs not included in Executive Budget submissions during the Pataki administration. “Unlike typical history, the Governor has put in almost all the legislative additions that were made last year,” said Soloway. Among the many programs baselined by the Governor were the Summer Youth Employment Program, funds for Naturally-Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS) and $3.2 million for the Communities of Color HIV/AIDS services initiatives. “We could go through a pretty extensive list,” said Soloway.

“We are thrilled that the Governor has incorporated many programs that the legislature has had to fund year after year,” said Susan Stamler of United Neighborhood Houses. “We are particularly thankful to receive full funding for the Summer Youth Employment Program well before the start of the program. These additional funds will support the increase in the minimum wage.”

“We are delighted,” said Joel Berg, Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, in response to a proposed 24% increase for the State Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) which supports charitable food pantries and soup kitchens. “Governor Spitzer is leading both with his head and his heart. We hope the Legislature provides at least as much funding as he proposed.”

For the first time, the Executive Budget includes funding for civil legal services -- $4.6 million in funding. “We commend the Governor for proposing an increased investment in access to justice, and for proposing that this access be a line item in the budget,” said Anne Erickson, President and CEO of the Empire Justice Center.

The Governor’s proposals to expand pre-kindergarten and broaden health care coverage for 400,000 children without insurance drew praise from the Winning Beginning NY coalition. "We thank the Governor for proposing these key steps forward," said Nancy Kolben, a Winning Beginning NY Co-Convener and Executive Director, Child Care, Inc. "We're hopeful the Governor's obvious commitment to children will translate into future full support for Winning Beginning NY's 'Best in the Nation' plan for early care and education." The Pre-K increase brings the state's annual prekindergarten expenditure to $395 million in FY 2007-8, with a commitment from the Governor to raise the annual Pre-K budget to $645 million by FY 2010-11.

“Governor Eliot Spitzer’s first Executive Budget proposal has provided mental health advocates with a number of reasons to celebrate…and a number of initiatives to vigorously promote with the legislature and the public,” said Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS). Among the budget’s highlights for NYAPRS are funding for 1,000 new supported housing and 1,000 new SRO opportunities; new funding for prison mental health services; and proposed “rightsizing” of the State’s mental health hospitals.

“This is very impressive,” said Michael Polenberg of the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies. “The Governor has honored prior year funding commitments and he has made a sizeable, really remarkable investment in mental health housing.”

“It looks like a good budget for OMRDD programs and services,” said Forest Cotten, Director of Legislative Services for the New York State Association of Community & Residential Agencies. “It maintains or expands funding for many successful programs and initiatives including NYS-CARES and NYS OPTS.”

“It is a good overall budget for children and families in need, and it demonstrates the Governor’s commitment to changing the way the process works in Albany,” said Jim Purcell, Executive Director of COFCCA. “We’re very gratified to see the inclusion of several child welfare appropriations that were added in the past by the Legislature. We look forward to working with the Spitzer administration on all child welfare issues.”

“No AIDS programs were reduced or eliminated, a practice that was common under previous Governor George Pataki (with the exception of his last year in office),” the New York AIDS Coalition reported. “Beyond that, a few AIDS initiatives received new money.”

Hospital and nursing home providers were less enthusiastic about the budget proposal. "We recognize the Governor's budget as an earnest attempt to begin restructuring the health care system by seeking to expand coverage for children, increase primary care, and better coordinate care for the elderly and chronically ill-each of these elements is essential to achieving real reform. We are concerned, however, that other proposals within the budget will adversely impact our hospitals' and nursing homes' ability to provide care,” said Daniel Sisto, President of the Healthcare Association of New York State. "Of particular concern is the reduction of the Medicaid trend factor, which is an indexed cost-of-living adjustment essential for hospitals to keep pace with the ever-increasing costs of pharmaceuticals, labor, energy, and a multitude of other costs that increase every year. Hospitals and nursing homes will be extremely hard-pressed to meet those increases if this proposal stands.”

Advocates were continuing to sift through the 1,000-plus pages of budget material on individual line item appropriations and looking for more. “We don’t have a lot of the detail yet,” said HSC’s Sesso. “That will come out in the next week or so.”

Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted

From John Nichols' remembrance of Molly Ivins, now gone:
The warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements, Ivins understood that change came only when some citizen in some off-the-map town passed a petition, called a Congressman or cast an angry vote to throw the bums out. The nation's mostly widely syndicated progressive columnist, who died January 31 at age 62 after a long battle with what she referred to as a "scorching case of cancer," adored the activists she celebrated from the time in the late 1960s when she created her own "Movements for Social Change" beat at the old Minneapolis Tribune and started making heroes of "militant blacks, angry Indians, radical students, uppity women and a motley assortment of other misfits and troublemakers."

"Troublemaker" might be a term of derision in the lexicon of some journalists--particularly the on-bended-knee White House press pack that Ivins studiously refused to run with--but to Molly it was a term of endearment. If anyone anywhere was picking a fight with the powerful, she was writing them up with the same passionate language she employed when her friend the great Texas liberal Billie Carr passed on in 2002. Ivins recalled Carr "was there for the workers and the unions, she was there for the African-Americans, she was there for the Hispanics, she was there for the women, she was there for the gays. And this wasn't all high-minded, oh, we-should-all-be-kinder-to-one-another. This was tough, down, gritty, political trench warfare; money against people. She bullied her way to the table of power, and then she used that place to get everybody else there, too. If you ain't ready to sweat, and you ain't smart enough to deal, you can't play in her league."

. . . . . . .

Speaking truth to power is the best job in any democracy, she explained. It took her to towns across this great yet battered land to say: "So keep fightin' for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't you forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin' ass and celebratin' the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was."
Seems like pretty good advice. She'll be missed.

Grant Says Maybe Take a Look

So, you know, do