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."

UPDATE:



UPDATE II:

"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 caf├ęs 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