Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Poor People's Lobby?

from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:
. . . . Anyway, Samuelson's argument in today's column is that poor people have powerful advocates just like rich people, and then suggests that the techno-wonks at the CBPP have the same kind of clout as, say, the Club for Growth. This is indeed laughable, but Larry Bartels tells us that it's even more laughable than you think:

I know of two systematic attempts to measure the relative influence of affluent, middle-class, and poor people on government policy. One is in the next-to-last chapter of Unequal Democracy, where senators’ roll call votes are moderately strongly affected by the preferences of high-income constituents, less strongly affected by the preferences of middle-income constituents, and totally unaffected by the preferences of low-income constituents. That’s the more optimistic view. My Princeton colleague Marty Gilens (in a 2005 article in Public Opinion Quarterly and a book-in-progress) has a parallel analysis focusing on aggregate poilcy shifts over two decades. He also finds no discernible impact of low-income preferences, but argues that middle-class people also get ignored when they happen to disagree with rich people.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein weighs in.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Beginning of Something Larger?

Workers resist:
The scene inside a long, low-slung factory on this city’s North Side this weekend offered a glimpse at how the nation’s loss of more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs in a year of recession is boiling over.

Workers laid off Friday from Republic Windows and Doors, who for years assembled vinyl windows and sliding doors here, said they would not leave, even after company officials announced that the factory was closing.

Some of the plant’s 250 workers stayed all night, all weekend, in what they were calling an occupation of the factory. Their sharpest criticisms were aimed at their former bosses, who they said gave them only three days’ notice of the closing, and the company’s creditors. But their anger stretched broadly to the government’s costly corporate bailout plans, which, they argued, had forgotten about regular workers.

“They want the poor person to stay down,” said Silvia Mazon, 47, a mother of two who worked as an assembler here for 13 years and said she had never before been the sort to march in protests or make a fuss. “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere until we get what’s fair and what’s ours. They thought they would get rid of us easily, but if we have to be here for Christmas, it doesn’t matter.”

The workers, members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, said they were owed vacation and severance pay and were not given the 60 days of notice generally required by federal law when companies make layoffs. Lisa Madigan, the attorney general of Illinois, said her office was investigating, and representatives from her office interviewed workers at the plant on Sunday.

At a news conference Sunday, President-elect Barack Obama said the company should follow through on its commitments to its workers.

“The workers who are asking for the benefits and payments that they have earned,” Mr. Obama said, “I think they’re absolutely right and understand that what’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.”

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Odetta, 1930-2008

From the NYT: (go watch/listen to their video, too):

Odetta sang at coffeehouses and at Carnegie Hall, made highly influential recordings of blues and ballads, and became one of the most widely known folk-music artists of the 1950s and ’60s. She was a formative influence on dozens of artists, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.

Her voice was an accompaniment to the black-and-white images of the freedom marchers who walked the roads of Alabama and Mississippi and the boulevards of Washington in the quest to end racial discrimination.

Rosa Parks, the woman who started the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., was once asked which songs meant the most to her. She replied, “All of the songs Odetta sings.”

Odetta sang at the march on Washington, a pivotal event in the civil rights movement, in August 1963. Her song that day was “O Freedom,” dating to slavery days: “O freedom, O freedom, O freedom over me, And before I’d be a slave, I’d be buried in my grave, And go home to my Lord and be free.”

Odetta Holmes was born in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 31, 1930, in the depths of the Depression. The music of that time and place — particularly prison songs and work songs recorded in the fields of the Deep South — shaped her life.

“They were liberation songs,” she said in a videotaped interview with The New York Times in 2007 for its online feature “The Last Word.” “You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat, every which way you turn you can’t get from under that foot. And you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die, or insist upon your life.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Prophetic Minority

An hour with Studs Terkel. On recent politics: "It's a burlesque show, but it's not funny."

"My life isn't so difficult if I don't dwell on it"

From the LAT:
I always sort of dread Thanksgiving, and not just because I am alone or because no one invites me to dinner. For me, the holiday marks the start of cold weather, and I know it will soon be uncomfortable to sleep outdoors.
The rest here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Poverty in America

Wurzweiler's own, well, me, talks with the editor of The Progressive magazine about poverty.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The More Things Change. . . .

The more they stay the same. "People are poor in America because they lacks values, morals and ethics. . . ." I guess the old arguments are the easiest ones.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Ongoing Financial Crisis

Chronic poverty and hunger: from Meteor Blades:

I was 6 years old and sitting next to my grandmother at the table where as many as 14 of our extended family members ate our evening meals. I quickly finished my small plate of rice and beans, and said, "But, grandma, I’m still hungry." Everyone went silent. My grandma, Simmalikee, smiled at me, took her plate and scraped off the several spoonfuls she had not yet eaten onto mine. No, I thought. Not your food, grandma. Some other food. I sobbed as she coaxed me to eat each bite. No matter how empty my belly felt, I never again said I was still hungry after a meal.

That was a long time ago, and my grandma has been dead more than 50 years, but I have never forgotten that terrible moment nor what it means to be poor. If there was meat or fish on the table then, it was possum, deer, catfish and the occasional wild hog. In those days, before food stamps, we received surplus government hand-outs every month: rice, beans, cornmeal, lard, cheese and powdered milk. It was never enough, and toward the end of each month, everybody’s portions got smaller.

Since the enactment of what might be called the Third New Deal – LBJ’s Great Society programs: the Food Stamp Act of 1964, Medicare, Head Start, housing assistance, education grants and various other programs – the ravages of widespread poverty in America have been greatly reduced. Ameliorated, but not removed from what the propagandists so regularly call the No. 1 country on the planet. And lately, it’s been getting worse. Not just the ragged poverty many Americans associate with the Great Depression, inner cities or Indian reservations, but also middle-class slippage.

In the past few weeks, both from Republicans and Democrats, we’ve heard a great deal about the travails of Wall Street and the mythical Main Street in the acute economic crisis that has everyone who hasn’t already been downsized or foreclosed sitting on pins and needles. But far less – next to nothing, in fact – has been said about what’s going on elsewhere in America, in side streets and alleys where chronic structural economic problems dating back three decades continue to take a toll.

Today, about 20 percent of America’s children – 13.5 percent of all Americans – live in what is a very flawed federal measure of poverty whose parameters haven’t been changed in more than four decades.

Read the rest -- it's well worth your time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

On ACORN and Voting

A nice overview, via TPM. Short version = there is plenty of voter fraud in most American elections, and it is typically perpetrated against poor people of color, not by poor people of color.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Friday, October 03, 2008


from Miller-McCune:

Joanne Goldblum remembers Jackie, a mentally retarded mother with two children, as the first person she’d ever seen dry and reuse a disposable diaper. Instead of toilet paper, Jackie kept a communal towel by the toilet. Goldblum still cringes when she tells the story. As a social worker for the Yale Child Study Center, Goldblum worked with families who were chronically homeless, families like Jackie’s. “They were living in a way you couldn’t believe was happening in America,” Goldblum says.

Goldblum set out to teach Jackie about the importance of cleanliness in keeping a family healthy. But Jackie insisted that she could not afford toilet paper. “Honestly, I thought she didn’t understand,” Goldblum says. So the social worker checked to see if Jackie could use Food Stamps to get toilet paper, only to find that the Food Stamps program pays for nothing except food. Then she turned to the federal Women, Infants and Children program, which provides supplemental nutrition to babies and pregnant women, and received the same answer: food only. Food pantries received donations of toiletries on occasion but never enough to meet the needs of all their clients.

Jackie, it turns out, understood perfectly. No government program would help her buy the products she needed to keep her family clean. Living in New Haven, Conn., where the rent for a two-bedroom apartment approaches a minimum-wage worker’s monthly gross income, she could never spare the cash for diapers, toilet paper or soap. Jackie was not the only mother in Goldblum’s caseload with that problem. One apartment Goldblum visited was dotted with piles of garbage. There was no trash can because there was no money to buy it. Children wore foul-smelling clothes because there was no detergent to wash them with. And in family after family, disposable diapers were being reused. Mothers would dump out the solids and put the diapers back on the babies.

Goldblum spent the next two years learning that the cost of cleanliness was quicksand, pulling already poor families down into intractable poverty. Parents who could not keep their homes or children clean would lose their children to the foster system. Day care centers require families to provide disposable diapers, and without day care, parents cannot work. Goldblum learned about the problem and railed about it. A lot of that railing happened at dinnertime. One night her husband, David, looked across the table and said, “Your diaper thing: We could just do it.”

Read the rest.

Are You Registered to Vote?

Check HERE.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Just One Tent City

Watch CBS Videos Online

Voices Usually Ignored

From the NYT:

On a chair outside Johnson’s Barbecue on Tinton Avenue in the Bronx, Keith McLean had thoroughly considered the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.

“That’s for C.E.O.’s,” said Mr. McLean. “And I am a P-O-O-R.”

Mr. McLean, who helps out in the barbecue stand, lives in one of the poorest Congressional districts in the country, a half-hour subway ride to Wall Street. On Monday, José E. Serrano, the Democrat who represents the district, voted against the bailout package. He was the only member of Congress from the city to do so.

In a walk through parts of the district, it was easy to find people who, while indifferent to the outcome of the vote, were intensely interested in the machinations leading to the drama of closed banks and astronomical bailouts. For many, the financial package was another in a series of manufactured crises.

James Jacobs, who cuts hair at Six Corners Barbershop, said he felt that an atmosphere of paranoia had been deliberately cultivated, leading to the war in Iraq and now to the financial alarm.

“They scare people with bomb threats,” Mr. Jacobs said.

Edwin Mitchell, who works in a car dealership, was sitting alongside him. “We got stuck up,” he said.

“It’s corporate America doing what corporate America does,” Mr. Jacobs said.

“Organized crime,” Mr. McLean said.

“It’s the new organized crime,” Mr. Jacobs said.

“Ain’t nothing new about it,” Mr. McLean said.

“We’re not going to see none of that,” Mr. Jacobs said. “Not one red cent. Whichever way it goes. We ain’t going to see it, we ain’t going to feel it. If we do it feel it, its going to be negatively, and a few of us might lose a few jobs.”

Mr. McLean had tracked the news carefully. “Washington Mutual, he was on the job three weeks, he got $11 million,” he said.

Actually, it was more. Three weeks before Washington Mutual failed, it hired Alan H. Fishman as its chief executive officer, and paid him a signing bonus of $7.5 million. He is also eligible for $11.6 million in cash severance.

For the men in front of Johnson’s, there was plain symmetry between the Iraq war and the financial crisis: Young people shipped out to a trillion-dollar bloodbath in the Middle East, in pursuit of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction; and banks collapsing on top of mortgages handed out to people without enough money for a bag of groceries. And how, Mr. Mitchell wondered, could it be that Osama bin Laden had not been captured? “You can look down from outer space and see a dime on a city street, and you can’t find him?” he said.

From personal experience, he said, he knew that credit cards were another species of mirage.

“How does a person get credit that never had a regular job, no bank account, no sign of being a respectable person, and he winds up with three or four credit cards?” Mr. Mitchell asked. “I was out of work there for a couple of years, and I ended up with three credit cards. American Express. Visa. I forget the other one. And the banks give all these loans to people knowing they can’t pay, but they get a commission. Let them pay their commissions.”

If disgust, or horror, at the bailout was universal, there was not unanimity on what had to be done. The owner of the barbecue stand, Dwayne Johnson, 50, said he was outraged that many members of the Congressional black caucus had voted against the bailout.

“They voted no, they don’t have that right,” Mr. Johnson said. “The only way you can help the community is get it passed. If you’re the president and you can’t get 10 votes to pass it, then that’s bad. If you’re Obama, you can’t get 10 votes, that’s bad.”

Midaglia Rodriguez, 60, said that she worried that a new Depression was just over the horizon, and that she believed the bailout was necessary. “It should go through, to fix the situation,” she said.

Regardless of the outcome of votes in Congress, Mr. Mitchell said, he would still face the daily struggle to make a living and keep a roof over his head.

“I love this country, the best country on the planet. I love this city, best city in the world,” he said. “I don’t see a change that is going to affect me. I’m going to do what I always did. Survive. The best way I could.”

A Timely Flashback

Adam Cohen on FDR, with audio of the First Inaugural.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Too Good Not to Share

This version from here.









Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Defining Homelessness

"Which category of people are you going to leave unhelped?"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ceremonial Violence

A lovely review, from, of Prof. Fast's new book.

Twenty Questions: Social Justice Quiz 2008

(Answers Below)

by Prof. Bill Quigley, human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans.

1. How many deaths are there world-wide each year due to acts of terrorism?

2. How many deaths are there world-wide each day due to poverty and malnutrition?

3. 1n 1965, CEOs in major companies made 24 times more than the average worker. In 1980, CEOs made 40 times more than the average worker. In 2007, CEOs earned how many times more than the average worker?

4. In how many of the over 3000 cities and counties in the US can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment?

5. In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.65 per hour. How much would the minimum wage be today if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968?

6. True or false? People in the United States spend nearly twice as much on pet food as the US government spends on aid to help foreign countries.

7. How many people in the world live on $2 a day or less?

8. How many people in the world do not have electricity?

9. People in the US consume 42 kilograms of meat per person per year. How much meat and grain do people in India and China eat?

10. How many cars does China have for every 1000 drivers? India? The U.S.?

11. How much grain is needed to fill a SUV tank with ethanol?

12. According to the Wall Street Journal, the richest 1% of Americans earns what percent of the nation’s adjusted gross income? 5%? 10%? 15%? 20%?

13. How many people does our government say are homeless in the US on any given day?

14. What percentage of people in homeless shelters are children?

15. How many veterans are homeless on any given night?

16. The military budget of the United States in 2008 is the largest in the world at $623 billion per year. How much larger is the US military budget than that of China, the second largest in the world?

17. The US military budget is larger than how many of the countries of the rest of the world combined?

18. Over the 28 year history of the Berlin Wall, 287 people perished trying to cross it. How many people have died in the last 4 years trying to cross the border between Arizona and Mexico?

19. India is ranked second in the world in gun ownership with 4 guns per 100 people. China is third with 3 firearms per 100 people. Which country is first and how many guns do they own?

20. What country leads the world in the incarceration of its citizens?

Answers to Social Justice Quiz 2008

1. 22,000. The U.S. State Department reported there were more than 22,000 deaths from terrorism last year. Over half of those killed or injured were Muslims. Source: Voice of America, May 2, 2008. “Terrorism Deaths Rose in 2007.”

2. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. – Hunger and World Poverty. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes – one child every five seconds. Bread for the World. Hunger Facts: International.

3. Today’s average CEO from a Fortune 500 company makes 364 times an average worker’s pay and over 70 times the pay of a four-star Army general. Executive Excess 2007, page 7, jointly published by Institute for Policy Studies and United for Fair Economy, August 29, 2007. 1965 numbers from State of Working America 2004-2005, Economic Policy Institute.

4. In no city or county in the entire USA can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford even a one bedroom rental. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urges renters not to pay more than 30% of their income in rent. HUD also reports the fair market rent for each of the counties and cities in the US. Nationally, in order to rent a 2 bedroom apartment, one full-time worker in 2008 must earn $17.32 per hour. In fact, 81% of renters live in cities where the Fair Market Rent for a two bedroom rental is not even affordable with two minimum wage jobs. Source: Out of Reach 2007-2008, April 7, 2008, National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

5. Calculated in real (inflation adjusted) dollars, the 1968 minimum wage would have been worth $9.83 in 2007 dollars. Andrew Tobias, January 16, 2008. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008 and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

6. True. The USA spends $43.4 billion on pet food annually. Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. The USA spent $23.5 billion in official foreign aid in 2006. The government of the USA gave the most of any country in the world in actual dollars. As a percentage of gross national income, the USA came in second to last among OECD donor countries and ranked number 20 at 0.18 percent behind Sweden at 1.02 percent and other countries such as Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and others. This does not count private donations which, if included, may move the USA up as high as 6th. The Index of Global Philanthropy 2008, page 15, 19.

7. The World Bank reported in August 2008 that 2.6 billion people consume less than $2 a day.

8. World-wide, 1.6 billion people do not have electricity. 2.5 billion people use wood, charcoal or animal dung for cooking. United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, pages 44-45.

9. People in the US lead the world in meat consumption at 42 kg per person per year compared to 1.6 kg in India and 5.9 kg in China. People in the US consume five times the grain (wheat, rice, rye, barley, etc.) as people in India, three times as much as people in China, and twice as much as people in Europe. “THE BLAME GAME: Who is behind the world food price crisis,” Oakland Institute, July 2008.

10. China has 9 cars for every 1000 drivers. India has 11 cars for every 1000 drivers. The US has 1114 cars for every 1000 drivers. Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future (2007).

11. The grain needed to fill up a SUV tank with ethanol could feed a hungry person for a year. Lester Brown,, August 16, 2006

12. “According to the figures, the richest 1% reported 22% of the nation's total adjusted gross income in 2006. That is up from 21.2% a year earlier, and is the highest in the 19 years that the IRS has kept strictly comparable figures. The 1988 level was 15.2%. Earlier IRS data show the last year the share of income belonging to the top 1% was at such a high level as it was in 2006 was in 1929, but changes in measuring income make a precise comparison difficult.” Jesse Drucker, “Richest Americans See Their Income Share Grow,” Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2008, page A3.

13. 754,000 are homeless. About 338,000 homeless people are not in shelters (live on the streets, in cars, or in abandoned buildings) and 415,000 are in shelters on any given night. 2007 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Report to Congress, page iii and 23. The population of San Francisco is about 739,000.

14. HUD reports nearly 1 in 4 people in homeless shelters are children 17 or younger. Page iv – 2007 HUD Annual Homeless Report to Congress.

15. Over 100,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. About 18 percent of the adult homeless population is veterans. Page 32, 2007 HUD Homeless Report. This is about the same population as Green Bay Wisconsin.

16. Ten times. China’s military budget is $65 billion. The US military budget is nearly 10 times larger than the second leading military spender.

17. The US military budget of $623 billion is larger than the budgets of all the countries in the rest of the world put together. The total global military budget of the rest of the world is $500 billion. Russia’s military budget is $50 billion, South Korea’s is $21 billion, and Iran’s is $4.3 billion.

18. 1268. At least 1268 people have died along the border of Arizona and Mexico since 2004. The Arizona Daily Star keeps track of the reported deaths along the state border and reports 214 died in 2004, 241 in 2005, 216 in 2006, 237 in 2007, and 116 as of July 31, 2008. These numbers do not include the deaths along the California or Texas border. The Border Patrol reported that 400 people died in fiscal 2206-2007, 453 died in 2004-2005, and 494 died in 2004-2005. Source Associated Press, November 8, 2007.

19. The US is first in gun ownership world-wide with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Laura MacInnis, “US most armed country with 90 guns per 100 people.” Reuters, August 28, 2007.

20. The US jails 751 inmates per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the world. Russia is second with 627 per 100,000. England’s rate is 151, Germany is 88, and Japan is 63. The US has 2.3 million people behind bars, more than any country in the world. Adam Liptak, “Inmate Count in US Dwarfs Other Nations’” NYT, April 23, 2008.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Good Discussion

on the mortgage/financial crisis:

Friday, September 05, 2008

Nine Percent

From the AP:
More than 4 million American homeowners with a mortgage, a record 9 percent, were either behind on their payments or in foreclosure at the end of June, as damage from the housing crisis worsened, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Friday.
Nine percent.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

"In Defense of Community Organizers"

via Washington Monthly.

MORE: "Mocking Service".

UPDATE: The NASW weighs in.
The social work profession takes great pride in its community organizing roots and lauds the contributions of its members, and other professionals, who commit their careers to helping residents of different communities organize their resources and take social action to improve life for themselves and their families. Small town reformers and urban community organizers have much in common.

The concepts of community organizing, community building and community development undergird the premise of American democracy. As a result of these efforts, institutions and officials often deliver more effective economic growth strategies, as well as mental health, health, and family services for people of all ages.

Community organizing is also the foundation of most successful political campaigns. Meeting fellow Americans in their communities and working with them to find solutions to problems that limit their potential is valuable and necessary work—with significant responsibilities.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Affirmative Action

A lovely piece of investigative reporting and analysis from PBS/NOW.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If a Picture's Worth

a thousand words, what's a graph worth? Via economist Brad De Long.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New "Official" Poverty Measures

via City Limits

Cartoon Watch

Number 31

Cool Tool

Thanks to WORDLE, a visual representation of the words in my new book. Try it out for yourself -- it will work with nearly any text, web site, or blog.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Child Welfare Watch

From the New School and Center for an Urban Future (PDF)

Child Welfare Watch, Vol. 16, “Homes Away from Home: Foster parents for a new generation,” finds that foster parenting is harder than ever, as fewer foster teens—especially younger teenagers—are placed in institutions and a fast-growing percentage are moving in with families.

The city’s foster care system has made significant headway helping create family homes for young people who once would have spent months or even years in group homes and residential treatment centers. But city officials and nonprofit leaders face tremendous challenges in creating effective support systems, crisis teams and training programs that can help foster parents care for these children.

The report documents how foster parents are adjusting to their increasingly demanding role, and how the system is struggling to meet their needs. Highlights include:

Foster parents today are taking care of more than 1,000 children who, if they entered foster care a few years ago, would likely have been placed in group homes or residential treatment centers. (See “Greater Expectations: Foster parents confront new needs—and new demands.”)
While the city strives to place far fewer teens in group homes and residential treatment, so far the greatest success has been with younger teens. Older teens are just as likely to be placed in institutional, non-family programs as they were four years ago. (See “The Changing Face of Foster Care: The end of an era of institutionalized foster care for teens?”)

Although studies show between 50 and 70 percent of children in foster care have emotional and mental health problems, access to counseling and mental health care remains a severe gap in services, especially for teens in foster homes.

Today, most pregnant and parenting foster teens live with families, yet there are no citywide standards for how foster parents should be trained to help young mothers, nor does the city’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) systematically measure whether pregnant teens are getting basics such as prenatal care. (See “High-Risk, Low Priority: The needs of teen parents in foster homes are often unmet.”)

The percentage of children placed in foster boarding homes in their neighborhoods has dropped to 11 percent, a level not seen since the late 1990s. This runs counter to a target of 75 percent of community-based placement set by ACS in 2001. The vast majority of children who enter foster care are sent to live in unfamiliar neighborhoods, even as nearby foster homes are filled by children from other communities. (See “Hide and Seek: The rate of children in foster care living near their families and communities is plummeting.”)

The 16th issue of Child Welfare Watch also reports on new efforts to recruit foster homes and create bonds between parents and foster parents. And the report features daily diaries of three city foster care moms who share the unvarnished hazards and happiness of their lives with children.

The report also contains policy recommendations drafted by the Child Welfare Watch advisory board aimed at helping policymakers better support foster families and the children they shelter.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Fifth of July

Frederick Douglass, 1852

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.-The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fa thers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Working Poor

An extended series. Or, try to balance the books on $2,124/month. . .

Friday, June 27, 2008

Third World America?

From the LA Times:

Despite plummeting mortality rates for most infectious diseases over the last century, a group of largely overlooked bacterial, viral and parasitic infections is still plaguing the nation's poor, according to a report released this week.

Many of the diseases are typically associated with tropical developing countries but are surprisingly common in poor regions of the United States, according to the analysis, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

On its list of 24 "neglected infections of poverty" are schistosomiasis, a parasitic infection common in Africa; brucellosis, a bacterial infection from unsanitary dairy products; and dengue fever, a viral infection common in tropical Asia and South America.

Many of the diseases have become significant public health problems in the United States. In the Los Angeles area, a pork tapeworm infection called cysticercosis which spreads in crowded, unsanitary conditions, accounts for 10% of seizures resulting in emergency room visits, according to the report. Worm cysts in the brain cause the seizures and can lead to permanent epilepsy.

The 24 diseases afflict at least 300,000 Americans, and possibly millions, according to study author Dr. Peter Hotez, chairman of George Washington University's department of microbiology, immunology and tropical disease.

"These are right now below everybody's radar," Hotez said.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"We Do Not Need Magic to Transform our World"

An address by J.K. Rowling (h/t Ezra Klein).

Growth in Child Poverty

Colorado takes the lead.

The most pronounced rates of child poverty were found in urban centers like Denver and in southern rural areas like Alamosa and Costilla Counties.

Minority children were particularly affected. The number of the state’s American Indian children living in poverty increased by 473 percent, the report said, and the number of impoverished black children grew by 116 percent. In contrast, the number of impoverished white children grew by 57 percent, and for Asian children, it declined by 10 percent.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. called the statistics “awful” and said that “they clearly demonstrate that we have a responsibility to people who live on the margins.”

“It’s intolerable that 180,000 children are living in poverty in this state,” said Mr. Ritter, a Democrat who took office last year.

In a supplemental document, the Colorado Children’s Campaign said the state spent less per capita on its residents than its neighbors to the north and south, Wyoming and New Mexico. Those states experienced a decrease in child poverty during the same six years as the study.

Colorado ranks 44th in per capita spending, according to the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, a research and advocacy group that focuses on tax and budget issues.

“This report and this finding validate a lot of what we largely know, in that Colorado continues to lag behind in key areas of public investment,” an institute spokesman, Scott Downes, said. “That prevents us from creating the kind of future that we want for our communities, our children and generations to come.”

Mr. Downes attributed the situation in part to a “knot of fiscal restraints” like a 1992 constitutional amendment, the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights, that was intended to restrain state spending.

Colorado remained slightly below the national rate of child poverty of about 18 percent. “But the concern is the rate at which we’re growing,” Ms. Ferland said.

The rest is here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Well, This isn't Good

Although perhaps not surprising:

How Many Are Underinsured? Trends Among
U.S. Adults, 2003 And 2007

Growing numbers of adults with insurance find that they are not
adequately protected from the rising cost of health care.

by Cathy Schoen, Sara R. Collins, Jennifer L. Kriss, and Michelle M. Doty

ABSTRACT: With health insurance moving toward greater patient cost sharing, this study finds a sharp increase in the number of underinsured people. Based on indicators of cost exposure relative to income, as of 2007 an estimated twenty-five million insured people ages 19–64 were underinsured—a 60 percent increase since 2003. The rate of increase was steepest among those with incomes above 200 percent of poverty, where underinsurance rates nearly tripled. In total, 42 percent of U.S. adults were underinsured or uninsured. The underinsured report high levels of access problems and financial stress. The findings underscore the need for policy attention to benefit design, to assure care and affordability.

Full article here

Monday, June 09, 2008

Perhaps of Interest:New Research

Center Voices Presents Findings from the Hunter College Poll
of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals:
New Discoveries about Identity, Political Attitudes,
and Civic Engagement

presented by

Patrick J. Egan, New York University
Murray S. Edelman, Rutgers University
Kenneth Sherrill, Hunter College‐CUNY

What do lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) think and believe about
politics and public affairs? What are their priorities for the lesbian,
gay, bisexual, and trangender movement? And how distinct are their
political values from those of Americans as a whole? Egan, Edelman
and Sherrill will address these questions in their discussion of the
path breaking study of the political attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of
LGB Americans they conducted in November 2007.

The complete study may be found here:

Date and Time: Wednesday, June 18 2008, 7:00pm
Location: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center
208 W. 13th Street, NYC

Admission is free and open to the public
for more information: email

The presenters acknowledge the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for its
generous financial support of this study through a grant to Hunter College. The
investigators are solely responsible for the design and analysis of the study and the
work in no way reflects the views of the study’s sponsors.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happiness is. . . . .

From the new mag, Miller-McCune:
What was once an internal monologue has broadened far beyond Kasser's research subjects and daily affairs. He has haltingly begun to wonder aloud about what kinds of laws, and even what kinds of political systems, might make people happiest, venturing outside the laboratory and classroom to assume a role that once made him very uncomfortable: political activist.

Kasser is among the loudest in a growing chorus of academics who are boldly — and, some say, prematurely — asking governments to transform the conclusions of the maturing body of happiness science into real-world public policies. They're pushing targeted regulations like limits on advertising to children. They want welfare programs to emphasize mental health. More generally, they hope governments will begin to make decisions with an eye toward citizens' life satisfaction. Governments in Europe and elsewhere have already put these concepts into practice, but even as Americans embrace the research personally by scooping up self-help books, happiness-oriented government in the United States remains far from a reality.

. . . . . .

Sometime around 1991, Kasser ran the regression that changed his life. Kasser, then a master's candidate in psychology at the University of Rochester in upstate New York, was studying people's goals, using a primitive tool he'd dubbed the "aspiration index." It asked subjects about their future lives and how important it was for them to be, for example, financially successful or involved in an intimate relationship.

After he'd collected the data, Kasser sat in front of the computer, searching for associations within the numbers. Several questions related to material goods, and a few asked subjects how they felt. Wow, Kasser wondered, wouldn't it be cool if people who cared about money were less happy? He assembled an equation, hit return and then waited. The result: a significantly negative correlation. After taking into account all of a subject's aspiration scores, the more materialistic the person, the less likely he was to be happy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

WSSW Student in the NYT

Wurzweiler School of Social Work PhD candidate Alison Link talks about her work in the New York Times
Q. Why should we care about our relationship to leisure?

A. Too often, leisure time that is not used in a satisfying way turns into idle time, or is used to do a single thing to excess (like overeating, or getting into family quarrels). It can even turn negative, which is what happens often in the cases substance use, delinquency and criminal activity. Also, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t define ourselves by our work? It should be just as valid to define ourselves by our leisure.

Q. A lot of your academic and field work focuses on at-risk, incarcerated and post-incarcerated populations. Why is leisure so significant for these populations?

A. Many people in at-risk populations have a lot of stress, pressures, risk-taking behavior, boredom and/or idle time. They may have, or perceive that they have, limited options or resources.

There is an opportunity to use leisure in a negative way while living on the street but also while in prison. Approximately 95 percent of people who are incarcerated in the United States are released and return to society at some point. This transition from incarceration to a life free from both crime and incarceration is a challenge for the more than 10 million people in the United States returning to society each year. Out of the more than 650,000 people returning from prison annually into the community, two-thirds are rearrested and half are reincarcerated. This affects not only these individuals’ lives but also those of their families, children, communities and society.
Read the rest. . . .More here. . . 

Monday, May 05, 2008

Sixty-One Percent

From the APA:
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) today released a study conducted by Harris Interactive® that shows stigma may still play a significant role in preventing many military members and military spouses from obtaining the mental health care they need. The survey shows that six in ten military members (61%) think that seeking help for mental health concerns would have at least some negative impact on their career. In addition, about half of military members (53%) believe that others will think less of them if they seek help for mental health concerns.

A unique characteristic of this survey is that military spouses are given a voice, and share their perceptions of mental health issues, understanding, and treatment. “It’s important to remember that the mental health trials that service members experience can have a ripple effect throughout their immediate family while they are serving and upon their return home,” said Carolyn B. Robinowitz, M.D., president of the American Psychiatric Association.

While respondents generally rated their overall mental health as good or excellent (including 71% of military members and 75% of military spouses), many report regularly experiencing common symptoms of mental illness. This includes nearly half (48%) that report difficulty sleeping at least twice a week and about a third (34%) that report a lack of interest in daily activities at least twice a week. The majority of spouses also reported a lot or a little stress from handling domestic issues alone (60%) and single parenting (54%).

In addition, respondents reported low levels of knowledge when it comes to common warning signs of, and treatment options for, mental health issues that may result from being deployed to or serving in support of a war zone. The survey showed that about half of military members (49%) and military spouses (53%) say they are somewhat or not at all knowledgeable about the warning signs of mental health concerns from such service and about 6 in 10 military members (59%) and two thirds of military spouses (66%) say they know little or nothing at all about effective treatments that exist for mental health concerns that may arise from serving in a war zone.

“Of particular concern is the fact that over a quarter of military members (26%) and about a fifth of military spouses (18%) say they know nothing at all about effective mental health treatments for issues that may arise from their service in a war zone,” said Dr. Robinowitz.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

More on Worldwide Food Crisis

A good set of links thanks to Poverty Law Prof.  Worth a look.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"Fresh Thinking and Small-Scale Tinkering"

City Limits evaluates Bloomberg's anti-poverty "fight"

Food Rationing in the US?

From the New York Sun:
Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks.
Read the rest.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Long Way to Go

Yes, it's Fox.  But even so, wow -- ugly, ignorant, hateful:

Johnnie Tillmon

Welfare warrior, and a leader of the National Welfare Rights Organization, which helped expand the food stamp program, forced tens of millions of dollars in relief money to be put into the hands of poor women, helped bring landmark welfare rights cases before the US Supreme Court, mobilized opposition to Richard Nixon’s Family Assistance Plan, and helped bring poor black women into politics as actors and agents of change.

From her obituary, today in the Times:

Johnnie Tillmon Blackston, who encountered one officious welfare inspector too many and used her anger to help change the system, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Los Angeles. She was 69.

Her family said the cause was diabetes.

Mrs. Blackston turned her rage over the indignities of a belittling system into a grass-roots movement that won widespread changes and helped make the plight of welfare mothers a feminist issue. And if she did nothing else, she proved that a single mother on welfare can be a woman to be reckoned with.

Click the link and read the rest. Her most famous statement, just as powerful today:

I'm a woman. I'm a black woman. I'm a poor woman. I'm a fat woman. I'm a middle-aged woman. And I'm on welfare.

In this country, if you're any one of those things you count less as a human being. If you're all those things, you don't count at all. Except as a statistic.

I am 45 years old. I have raised six children. There are millions of statistics like me. Some on welfare. Some not. And some, really poor, who don't even know they're entitled to welfare. Not all of them are black. Not at all. In fact, the majority-about two-thirds-of all the poor families in the country are white.

Welfare's like a traffic accident. It can happen to anybody, but especially it happens to women.

And that's why welfare is a women's issue. For a lot of middle-class women in this country, Women's Liberation is a matter of concern. For women on welfare it's a matter of survival.

Survival. That's why we had to go on welfare. And that's why we can't get off welfare now. Not us women. Not until we do something about liberating poor women in this country.

Because up until now we've been raised to expect to work, all our lives, for nothing. Because we are the worst educated, the least-skilled, and the lowest-paid people there are. Because we have to be almost totally responsible for our children. Because we are regarded by everybody as dependents. That's why we are on welfare. And that's why we stay on it.

Welfare is the most prejudiced institution in this country, even more than marriage, which it tries to imitate. Let me explain that a little.

Ninety-nine percent of welfare families are headed by women. There is no man around. In half the states there can't be men around because A.F.D.C. (Aid to Families With Dependent Children) says if there is an "able-bodied" man around, then you can't be on welfare. If the kids are going to eat, and the man can't get a job, then he's got to go.

Welfare is like a super-sexist marriage. You trade in a man for the man. But you can't divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you, of course, cut you off anytime he wants. But in that case, he keeps the kids, not you.The man runs everything. In ordinary marriage, sex is supposed to be for your husband. On A.F.D.C., you're not supposed to have any sex at all. You give up control of your own body. It's a condition of aid. You may even have to agree to get your tubes tied so you can never have more children just to avoid being cut off welfare.

The man, the welfare system, controls your money. He tells you what to buy, what not to buy, where to buy it, and how much things cost. If things-rent, for instance-really cost more than he says they do, it's just too bad for you. He's always right.

That's why Governor [Ronald] Reagan can get away with slandering welfare recipients, calling them "lazy parasites," "pigs at the trough," and such. We've been trained to believe that the only reason people are on welfare is because there's something wrong with their character. If people have "motivation," if people only want to work, they can, and they will be able to support themselves and their kids in decency.

The truth is a job doesn't necessarily mean an adequate income. There are some ten million jobs that now pay less than the minimum wage, and if you're a woman, you've got the best chance of getting one. Why would a 45-year-old woman work all day in a laundry ironing shirts at 90-some cents an hour? Because she knows there's some place lower she could be. She could be on welfare. Society needs women on welfare as "examples" to let every woman, factory workers and housewife workers alike, know what will happen if she lets up, if she's laid off, if she tries to go it alone without a man. So these ladies stay on their feet or on their knees all their lives instead of asking why they're only getting 90-some cents an hour, instead of daring to fight and complain.

Maybe we poor welfare women will really liberate women in this country. We've already started on our own welfare plan. Along with other welfare recipients, we have organized so we can have some voice. Our group is called the National Welfare Rights Organization (N.W.R.O.). We put together our own welfare plan, called Guaranteed Adequate Income (G.A.I.), which would eliminate sexism from welfare. There would be no "categories"-men, women, children, single, married, kids, no kids-just poor people who need aid. You'd get paid according to need and family size only and that would be upped as the cost of living goes up.

As far as I'm concerned, the ladies of N.W.R.O. are the front-line troops of women's freedom. Both because we have so few illusions and because our issues are so important to all women-the right to a living wage for women's work, the right to life itself.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Complained About the Price of Gas Lately?

From the Guardian:

Rocketing global food prices are causing acute problems of hunger and malnutrition in poor countries and have put back the fight against poverty by seven years, the World Bank said yesterday.

Robert Zoellick, the Bank's president, called on rich countries to commit an extra $500m (£250m) immediately to the World Food Programme, and sign up to what he called a "New Deal for global food policy".

Zoellick said: "In the US and Europe over the last year we have been focusing on the prices of gasoline at the pumps. While many worry about filling their gas tanks, many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs. And it's getting more and more difficult every day."

He said the price of wheat had risen by 120% in the past year, more than doubling the cost of a loaf of bread. Rice prices were up by 75% in just two months. On average, the Bank calculates that food prices have risen by 83% in the past three years.

"In Bangladesh a 2kg bag of rice now consumes almost half of the daily income of a poor family. With little margin for survival, rising prices too often means fewer meals," he said. Poor people in Yemen were now spending more than a quarter of their income on bread. "This is not just about meals forgone today, or about increasing social unrest, it is about lost learning potential for children and adults in the future, stunted intellectual and physical growth. Even more, we estimate that the effect of this food crisis on poverty reduction worldwide is in the order of seven lost years."



"The Unrealized American Dream"

Forty Years Later.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Another Housing Crisis

From, of course, the Onion:

Report: Nation's Gentrified Neighborhoods Threatened By Aristocratization

WASHINGTON—According to a report released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, the recent influx of exceedingly affluent powder-wigged aristocrats into the nation's gentrified urban areas is pushing out young white professionals, some of whom have lived in these neighborhoods for as many as seven years.

Maureen Kennedy, a housing policy expert and lead author of the report, said that the enormous treasure-based wealth of the aristocracy makes it impossible for those living on modest trust funds to hold onto their co-ops and converted factory loft spaces.

"When you have a bejeweled, buckle-shoed duke willing to pay 11 or 12 times the asking price for a block of renovated brownstones—and usually up front with satchels of solid gold guineas—hardworking white-collar people who only make a few hundred thousand dollars a year simply cannot compete," Kennedy said. "If this trend continues, these exclusive, vibrant communities with their sidewalk cafés and faux dive bars will soon be a thing of the past."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

Poverty Scorecard

Report From the Shriver Center, HERE. From their press release:
Members of Congress from states with high rates of poverty are less likely to support anti-poverty measures than other members of Congress, according to the only national analysis that ranks Members of Congress solely on their performance in fighting poverty, released today.

. . . . . .

The 2007 Poverty Scorecard: Rating Members of Congress assigns letter grades to each member of the United States Senate and House of Representatives according to their voting records on the most important poverty– related issues that came to a vote in 2007, including legislation on affordable housing, health care, education, labor, tax policy and immigrants’ rights. With the help of a national advisory board and other anti-poverty experts, the Shriver Center identified and analyzed fourteen critical Senate votes and fifteen critical House votes.

In general, states whose Congressional delegations generally opposed anti-poverty measures are clustered in the south and western part of the country. States whose delegations had the worst voting records and highest poverty rates were South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Arizona.

. . . .

While about 2/3 of the members got good grades on the Scorecard, their votes were not enough to pass most of the measures. Moreover, the votes recorded in the Scorecard would suggest that a significant number of legislators do not believe in taking aggressive action to address poverty. Given the high rates of poverty in many of their states, we are not convinced that they are paying attention to poverty, or that they have an effective, alternative strategy.

hat tip to Poverty Law Prof Blog

Monday, March 17, 2008

Go Read it All

C'mon, it's a cartoon, for pete's sake -- how long can it take?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

War on the War on Drugs

From the creators of The Wire:
"A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right," wrote Thomas Paine when he called for civil disobedience against monarchy — the flawed national policy of his day. In a similar spirit, we offer a small idea that is, perhaps, no small idea. It will not solve the drug problem, nor will it heal all civic wounds. It does not yet address questions of how the resources spent warring with our poor over drug use might be better spent on treatment or education or job training, or anything else that might begin to restore those places in America where the only economic engine remaining is the illegal drug economy. It doesn't resolve the myriad complexities that a retreat from war to sanity will require. All it does is open a range of intricate, paradoxical issues. But this is what we can do — and what we will do.

If asked to serve on a jury deliberating a violation of state or federal drug laws, we will vote to acquit, regardless of the evidence presented. Save for a prosecution in which acts of violence or intended violence are alleged, we will — to borrow Justice Harry Blackmun's manifesto against the death penalty — no longer tinker with the machinery of the drug war. No longer can we collaborate with a government that uses nonviolent drug offenses to fill prisons with its poorest, most damaged and most desperate citizens.

Jury nullification is American dissent, as old and as heralded as the 1735 trial of John Peter Zenger, who was acquitted of seditious libel against the royal governor of New York, and absent a government capable of repairing injustices, it is legitimate protest. If some few episodes of a television entertainment have caused others to reflect on the war zones we have created in our cities and the human beings stranded there, we ask that those people might also consider their conscience. And when the lawyers or the judge or your fellow jurors seek explanation, think for a moment on Bubbles or Bodie or Wallace. And remember that the lives being held in the balance aren't fictional.

Read it all.

Mental Health Parity Goes National

For a couple of years running, we traveled to Albany with students to lobby on behalf of Timothy's Law, which obligates insurers to treat mental illness as they do physical illness. Read THIS for an update on national efforts to do the same.

Friday, February 29, 2008

1 in 100, 1 in 30, 1 in 9

From Pew:
For the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison—a fact that significantly impacts state budgets without delivering a clear return on public safety. According to a new report released today by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, at the start of 2008, 2,319,258 adults were held in American prisons or jails, or one in every 99.1 men and women, according to the study. During 2007, the prison population rose by more than 25,000 inmates. . . .

As prison populations expand, costs to states are on the rise. Last year alone, states spent more than $49 billion on corrections, up from $11 billion 20 years before. However, the national recidivism rate remains virtually unchanged, with about half of released inmates returning to jail or prison within three years. And while violent criminals and other serious offenders account for some of the growth, many inmates are low-level offenders or people who have violated the terms of their probation or parole.

“For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn’t been a clear and convincing return for public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project. “More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on taxpayers.”

. . . .

A close examination of the most recent U.S. Department of Justice data (2006) found that while one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, the figure is one in nine for black males in that age group. Men are still roughly 13 times more likely to be incarcerated, but the female population is expanding at a far brisker pace. For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the one-in-100 mark. In addition, one in every 53 adults in their 20s is behind bars; the rate for those over 55 is one in 837.

The report points out the necessity of locking up violent and repeat offenders, but notes that prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime, or a corresponding surge in the nation’s population at large. Instead, more people are behind bars principally because of a wave of policy choices that are sending more lawbreakers to prison and, through popular “three-strikes” measures and other sentencing laws, imposing longer prison stays on inmates.

As a result, states’ corrections costs have risen substantially. Twenty years ago, the states collectively spent $10.6 billion of their general funds—their primary discretionary dollars—on corrections. Last year, they spent more than $44 billion in general funds, a 315 percent jump, and more than $49 billion in total funds from all sources. Coupled with tightening state budgets, the greater prison expenditures may force states to make tough choices about where to spend their money. For example, Pew found that over the same 20-year period, inflation-adjusted general fund spending on corrections rose 127 percent while higher education expenditures rose just 21 percent.

Read the full report.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Weber, Goethe, and Nader

What is responsibility?

The Cluelessness of Power

via Atrios, from your tee vee today:
GEORGE WILL: It seems to me Obama’s problem is that you can only be a novelty once, and for a while. And he needs – he’s worked one pedal on the organ quite enough now; this stuff, I’d call it banal eloquence, where he says, ‘In the face of despair, we can still hope.’ I have news for him: Americans aren’t in despair. Look around you. Who’s despairing? We have mild problems.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tax Policy

I agree with Ezra -- THIS is pretty cool. Seriously.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Happiness Is. . . . .

From Crooks & Liars:

I admit to being completely biased to the appeal of Denmark, as my family is Danish and I travel to Denmark as frequently as I am able to see them. But a recent study has borne out what I’ve experienced myself for years: the people of Denmark are the happiest people on Earth. (study here-U.S. is #26)

But Danish happiness is one that most Americans don’t seem to grasp, because most Americans confuse well being with being well off. Danish happiness is derived from lower expectations, rather than having to be #1. The need to be superlative is supplanted with a contentment of where you are and not needing to keep up with the Joneses. It is also a contentment of not worrying about some basic necessities: healthcare, childcare, education, retirement and long term care. Republicans are quick to demonize the socialism as something akin to the scary Red notion of communism, and it’s true that in a socialist democracy like Denmark, the average person is taxed at about 50%, which is uncomfortably high to our American ears, but ask yourself how much of your paycheck goes to health insurance, childcare, college savings plans and retirement accounts. Few people in the US can say that less than 50% of their paychecks don’t go towards those needs already.
There's more. . . . . .

Once More Unto the Breach

Dr. Fast on the latest school rampage shooting.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Neo-Marxist Sock Puppets Explain

Is there anything the internet can't provide?

via many places, h/t Crooked Timber

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


New York Times edition -- Hackonomics!

More of Interest?

From The New Social Worker:
THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER has teamed up with the National Association of Social Workers and former AOL Social Work Forum host Susan Mankita to bring you! This site features an ongoing series of online live chats among social workers, students, and educators. Don’t miss the chat TONIGHT, February 12, on the topic of private practice, at 9 p.m. EST, at . Read more about this service below, under “Features”!

I also want to remind you to visit our Facebook page at – once you get there, log in to your Facebook account (or create one), and you will be able to register as a fan of our page. You will then be able to receive special notices and take part in discussions on the page.