Friday, January 29, 2010

And I didn't get you anything. . . . .

I've just learned that it's National EITC Awareness Day! It is, in fact, among the most effective of American anti-poverty programs, which may be damning with faint praise, but still. . . . . .

More info from our friends at the IRS here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Spending Freeze?

Sullivan has a nice summary of reactions here. I'd add Robert Farley: "As a policy/PR stunt, the spending freeze seems geared entirely around satisfaction of the Washington Post editorial page."


Friday, January 22, 2010

The Execrable Charles Murray

Charming, as always:
Although the government distributed billions of these food coupons, or food stamps, over the last half-century, only a small number have survived since they were replaced by a debit-card-like system. Now this coupon — and the master dye used to make the plate that created it — will be enshrined in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which on Thursday announced that it has acquired a large trove of materials related to the food-stamp program.

The materials, long housed at the Agriculture Department, which runs the program, were headed for disposal until last summer, when two museum volunteers alerted curators and helped arrange for the most significant items — nearly 200 in all — to be transferred and preserved. The items include food coupons, booklets, proof sheets, early artists’ designs and printer’s plates.

“What we did, effectively, was go over and cherry-pick the collection,” Richard Doty, senior curator of the National Numismatic Collection at the museum, said on Thursday. “We wanted to tell a story with it.”

The museum’s director, Brent D. Glass, said the acquisition was “especially significant considering the current economic hardships facing Americans today.”

A record number of people — 38 million, or nearly one in eight Americans — are now using food stamps, and nearly half of food stamp users are children. Some six million people report that food stamps are their only form of income.

Michael B. Katz, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and an authority on welfare and social policy, applauded the acquisition. “It shows an attention to the history of social policy, which is an important part of the history of this country that is relatively neglected by that museum,” he said.

Others took a dimmer view. “A roomful of material relating to food stamps is another example of why museums aren’t much fun anymore,” said Charles Murray, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who believes that welfare programs promote dependency. “I get chills when I go to a great museum and see Jefferson’s writing desk or the coat Nelson was wearing at Trafalgar,” he added, whereas an acquisition like this amounts to little more than political correctness. (“It’s spinach, and it’s good for us,” Mr. Murray said. “I say to hell with it.”)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Other King

From the Center for American Progress:

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. shifted his focus in the dwindling years of his life to an audacious, but achievable goal: ending poverty in the United States.

In his book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, King argued that the United States must change its attitude and approach toward the treatment of its poor citizens. He reasoned that since poverty knew no racial boundaries, he couldn’t limit his call for congressional action to assist only black Americans.

“In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out,” King wrote in 1967. “There are twice as many white poor as [black] poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and [black] alike.”

This was a radical—and unpopular—change for the preacher who is best known for pushing voting, employment, housing, and other civil rights for black Americans. At this point in his career, during what would become the final months of his life, he was widening his field of vision to seek an end to poverty among all Americans.

It’s appropriate as we pause to celebrate this year’s national holiday in memory of King’s 81st birthday to recall the relevance of his final struggle to the contemporary fight against poverty.

Read the Rest here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Via Reuters:

The latest budget plan from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would force 200,000 children off low-cost medical insurance, end in-home care for 350,000 infirm and elderly citizens and slash income assistance to hundreds of thousands more.

And that's the best-case scenario under Schwarzenegger's prescription for filling the state's $19.9 billion deficit.

Refusing to consider broad tax hikes, he is relying mostly on $8.5 billion in reduced expenditures including drastic cuts to health and social spending that has long made California one of the leading U.S. states in providing help to the needy.

Schwarzenegger also is counting on the U.S. government contributing nearly $7 billion that he says is due California because of various federal mandates.

If federal money fails to materialize, the governor's plan would trigger deeper cuts that would dismantle entire programs, including the state's welfare-to-work system, CalWorks.

. . . .

"You're blowing entire holes in the safety net," said Kelly Brooks, an analyst for the California State Association of Counties, which lobbies on behalf of county governments that stand to bear much of the added burden from such cuts.

No one understands better than Anthony Arias, 25, who sought assistance from CalWorks in 2008 after he was laid off from his warehouse job in the midst of the recession.

Unable to find steady work, and sharing custody of his 3-year-old son, Arias had to drop out of community college east of Los Angeles as he slipped into a financial tailspin.

"It was getting bad to the point where there were days when I didn't have food," he recalled.

But with a monthly CalWorks check that helps pay his rent, and state-subsidized child support, Arias has since managed to complete training to become a barber -- a more gainful vocation with flexible hours that will enable him to return to school to earn a degree as a paralegal assistant.

"There's no way I would have been able to survive without the help of CalWorks," he said.

Arias is just one of 1.3 million CalWorks beneficiaries -- most of them children -- who will see their monthly assistance checks cut by 16 percent under Schwarzenegger's proposal, even if federal dollars sought by the governor arrive.

. . . .

Others programs on the chopping block include transitional housing for foster youth; low-cost Healthy Families medical insurance for needy children, the Medi-Cal healthcare plan for the poor, and a network of subsidized in-home care for the elderly and disabled.

At least 200,000 children are slated to lose eligibility for Healthy Families, with that number growing to 900,000 if the program is gutted entirely.

Nearly 90 percent of the 400,000 recipients of In-Home Support Services stand to lose care under Schwarzenegger's best-case scenario, and state reimbursements to providers of those who remain would be slashed to minimum-wage levels. Otherwise, the program would be abolished, throwing 350,000 caregivers out of work.

. . . . . .

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Tattered Safety Net

The state of anti-poverty policy, such as it is. A panel discussion from the Woodrow Wilson Center, with Peter Edelman, Barbara Ehrenreich, Maria Foscarinis, Alice O'Connor, and Margaret Simms. Go -- watch.

UPDATE: Follow along at home: