Archive for category Poverty

1 Percenters Celebrate Anniversary of Clinton’s ‘Welfare Reform’

Via The Intercept: 20 Years Later, Poverty Is Up, But Architects of “Welfare Reform” Have No Regrets

A gathering Monday in Washington, D.C., featured a bipartisan group of former government officials agreeing on the benefits of slashing the nation’s safety net.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of “welfare reform,” the 1996 law passed by Congress and administered by President Bill Clinton that strictly limited the amount of federal cash assistance that the poorest Americans can receive — transforming the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program into the more restrictive Temporary Aid for Needy Families.

One of the main impacts of the law was to help double the number of American households living in extreme poverty in America – defined as living on less than $2 a day.

The Capitol Hill event, hosted by the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and the Progressive Policy Institute, which has been referred to as President Bill Clinton’s “idea mill,” celebrated the 20th anniversary of the law. Its architects said they had no regrets about its passage.

Former Michigan Republican governor John Engler, who pioneered state-level welfare cutbacks and who today serves as the head of the corporate lobbying group the Business Roundtable, recounted how Bill Clinton’s support helped make national welfare reform possible.

“It was pretty stunning in 1992 to have a Democratic candidate for president, albeit a 12-year veteran in the governor’s office talking about ending ‘welfare as we know it,’” he said. “That was a pretty decisive moment.” …

…At the conclusion of the event, the speakers and audience were treated to a reception featuring alcoholic drinks, cheesecake squares, specialty meats, and gourmet cheese.

The U.S. poverty rate has been increasing since 2000. The 2015 Census Bureau statistics have not been released yet, but in 2014 46.7 million Americans (14.8 percent) were in poverty. Only 4.1 million receive assistance from TANF.

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‘Hard work, and I don’t got a lot of money to show for it’

The 2016 election is different. Donald Trump is running as a Tea-GOP populist, and he has a lot of support from large numbers of Americans that elite politicians do their best to ignore in favor of the rich.

Via The Guardian:

Over the past 35 years the working class has been devalued, the result of an economic version of the Hunger Games. It has pitted everyone against each other, regardless of where they started…

…In Ohatchee, Alabama, Larry, taking a day off work to take his son fishing, is gracious but frustrated: “I have worked in foundries all my life, since I was 15. Hard work, and I don’t got a lot of money to show for it.”

The frustration isn’t just misplaced nostalgia – the economic statistics show the same thing.

Over the past 35 years, except for the very wealthy, incomes have stagnated, with more people looking for fewer jobs. Jobs for those who work with their hands, manufacturing employment, has been the hardest hit, falling from 18m in the late 1980s to 12m now.

The economic devaluation has been made more painful by the fraying of the social safety net, and more visceral by the vast increase at the top.

Earlier this month MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (who I often disagree with) offered this simple explanation for Trump’s groundswell of support:

“The problem with the Republican Party over the past 30 years is they haven’t — and I’ll say, we haven’t — developed a message that appeals to the working class Americans economically in a way that Donald Trump’s does,” the former Republican lawmaker explained. “We talk about cutting capital gains taxes that the 10,000 people that in the crowd cheering for Donald Trump, they are never going to get a capital gains cut because it doesn’t apply.”

“We talk about getting rid of the death tax,” he continued. “The death tax is not going to impact the 10,000 people in the crowd for Donald Trump. We talk about how great free trade deals are. Those free trade deals never trickle down to those 10,000 people in Donald Trump’s rallies.”

“You sound like Bernie Sanders,” NBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out.

“But herein lies the problem with the Republican Party,” Scarborough complained. “It never trickles down! Those people in Trump’s crowds, those are all the ones that lost the jobs when they get moved to Mexico and elsewhere. The Republican donor class are the ones that got rich off of it because their capital moved overseas and they made higher profits.”

There it is. Bernie Sanders is leading a “political revolution” from the left. Trump is leading another revolution in the Tea-GOP.

More info:
Mocked and forgotten: who will speak for the American white working class?
Joe Scarborough gives up the game: After 30 years, the GOP base realized ‘it never trickles down’

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Faux News Blames The Victims – Again

Via Media Matters.

In an open letter to the Yelp CEO last week, a 25-year-old woman who identified herself as Talia Jane explained that she could not afford groceries and rent on her minimum wage pay at Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery network in San Francisco. Most of her co-workers were living with their parents, and one guy was apparently homeless. The whole thing is worth reading.

I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you’ve got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we’re not allowed to take any of that home because it’s for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?

…I got paid yesterday ($733.24, bi-weekly) but I have to save as much of that as possible to pay my rent ($1245) for my apartment that’s 30 miles away from work because it was the cheapest place I could find that had access to the train, which costs me $5.65 one way to get to work. That’s $11.30 a day, by the way. I make $8.15 an hour after taxes. I also have to pay my gas and electric bill. Last month it was $120. According to the infograph on PG&E’s website, that cost was because I used my heater. I’ve since stopped using my heater. Have you ever slept fully clothed under several blankets just so you don’t get a cold and have to miss work? Have you ever drank a liter of water before going to bed so you could fall asleep without waking up a few hours later with stomach pains because the last time you ate was at work? I woke up today with stomach pains. I made myself a bowl of rice.

Look, I’ll make you a deal. You don’t have to pay my phone bill. I’ll just disconnect my phone. And I’ll disconnect my home internet, too, even though it’s the only way I can do work for my freelance gig that I haven’t been able to do since I moved here because I’m constantly too stressed to focus on anything but going to sleep as soon as I’m not at work…

Let’s make sure I have the facts in order, here. When this young woman took a new job she was under the impression that she wouldn’t have to get a second job to cover basic expenses like food, rent, and utilities. We now live in a low-wage economy where entry-level employees are expected to work overtime and weekends without proper compensation. And by the way, Talia Jane’s letter concludes with an update that says she was fired the same day she wrote to the CEO.

Instead of expressing sympathy, most people commenting on the letter criticized Talia Jane for whining and feeling “entitled.” Faux News Channel just piled on, basically claiming that employees have no right to expect any kind of living wage – especially not in San Francisco. Faux News host Sandra Smith is a wealthy former hedge-funder. Stefanie Williams is just clueless.

The MM story got picked up by Raw Story, and here is a choice comment:

Wow … a 29 year old who still lives at home with her parents and works as a bartender lecturing a 25 year old college graduate who is living on her own about entitlements and bootstraps and personal responsibility…

More info:

Talia Jane: Yelp employee speaks after being ‘fired for posting open letter about living wage to CEO’

Two hours after the letter was posted online, she was fired. The company said her termination was not related to the letter, however Ms Jane claimed that she was told by Yelp’s HR department that her letter violated company terms of conduct.

Business Insider: Competent, hardworking millennials are getting shafted by older employees who feel they deserve bigger salaries

Bashing millennials and shaming those who claim to be struggling financially has grown in popularity, seemingly in response to public attention on income inequality.

UPDATE:
Tell Me More About How Much You Hate Millennials, You Old Fart

I have a shiny degree with my name on it, lots of knowledge about things I’m passionate about, and a whole lot of debt.

…When some people see things like Talia Jane’s piece about Yelp, they basically orgasm with self-righteousness. It gives them an excuse to hate on millennials and talk about what hard workers they are and how lazy everyone else is.

4 Comments

A Day Late And A Dollar Short

My favorite song turned 45 yesterday:

Darn Muslims!

Look here.

5 Comments

VIDEO: Watch Three Former U.S. Treasury Secretaries Laugh About Income Inequality

Robert Rubin, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner yuck it about income inequality…
Thanks to Sam Seder and AlterNet.

2 Comments

‘Extreme Poverty’ – Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Didn’t Work

Money is for rich people

This is part of the Clinton administration’s legacy. In a new book, Kathryn J. Edin concludes the number of Americans living on $2 a day or less has “more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million households and 3 million children in this desperate economic situation.”

$2 per person per day, or $2,920 per year for a family of four. is an income category that the World Bank refers to as “extreme poverty.”

1996 is an important marker, because that’s the year the Clinton administration, working alongside Republicans in Congress, eliminated the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program, which provided a guaranteed safety net for the poor. In its place they created Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), a much more meager and temporary safety net.

…In 2012, only one-quarter of poor families received TANF benefits, down from more than two-thirds in 1996, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to $2.00 a Day, the welfare program reached more than 14.2 million Americans in 1994, but by 2014 only 3.8 million Americans were aided by TANF.

The failure of TANF, like the decline of the American middle class, is barely mentioned in the media. Nobody is asking presidential candidates about this. Instead we get Donald Trump’s daily insult-fest and the great gefilte fish e-mail flap.

More info:
Could You Survive on $2 a Day?

9 Comments

45 Million Americans Still Stuck Below Poverty Line

Poverty

Via Mark Gongloff, HuffPo.

More than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the Census Bureau reported on Tuesday. The percentage of Americans in poverty fell from 15 percent in 2012, the biggest such decline since the year 2000. But the level of poverty is still higher than 12.3 percent in 2006, before the recession began.

The percentage of Americans in poverty went up sharply from 1989 to 1992. Then it went down from 1993 to 2000. Then it went up again from 2001 to 2010. Then it started trending downward, slowly. Does anyone see a connection to politics?

UPDATE:
DSWright: Poverty Unchanged By Wall Street Recovery

Trickle-down economics has consistently failed everywhere and every time it has been tried. The theory is simply wrong.

44 Comments

Facts About The Low-Wage Economy

The high cost of low wages

According to the National Employment Law Project (PDF), low-wage jobs made up 22 percent of job losses from Bush’s Great Recession, but accounted for 44 percent of employment growth after the recession. Today, lower-wage industries employ 1.85 million more workers than at the start of the recession.

On FDL today, Peter Van Buren points out some facts about the low-wage economy:

  • One in four U.S. employees are low-wage workers. That is 20 percent higher than in the United Kingdom, and the highest percentage among industrialized nations.
  • The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.
  • In 1968 the federal minimum was $1.60 per hour, approximately $10.70 in 2013 dollars
  • 88 percent of minimum-wage workers are adults, with more than a third over age 40.
  • The percentage of low-wage workers with at least some college education spiked 71 percent since 1979, to 43.2 percent today.
  • The way you functionally subsidize companies paying low-wages to workers– ponying up the difference between what McDonald’s and others pay and what those workers need to live via taxpayer-paid SNAP (food stamps) and other benefits– is a hidden cost in plain sight.
  • If the nation’s largest private employer Wal-Mart increased wages to $12 per hour it would cost the company only about one percent, so that made-in-China $10 item would run you all of $10.01.
  • A Paychex/IHS survey, which looks at employment in small businesses, found that the state with the highest percentage of annual job growth was Washington, which also has the highest statewide minimum wage.
  • Nationwide, even a small hike to $10.10 an hour would put some $24 billion a year into workers’ hands to spend and lift 4.6 million Americans out of poverty. Consumer spending drives 70 percent of our economy.
  • Two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are not employed by small businesses. Better yet, one survey shows three out of five small business owners favor raising the minimum wage; their profits depend on a strong local economy, which requires more money in local consumers’ hands.

64 Comments

‘We’re moving toward a winner-take-all economy’

Dead End One Way

Reportedly 18% of workers in the U.S. now can’t afford to retire.

Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet interviews journalist Jessica Bruder, who gives a bleak picture of the many older Americans who are forced to work past retirement age, and concludes:

The social contract is falling apart. With the death of pensions and the increase of short-term, temporary jobs bearing no benefits, we’re moving toward a winner-take-all economy with no safety net to help people weather hard times.

Lance Roberts looked at employment statistics and found:

With 24% of “baby boomers” postponing retirement, due to an inability to retire, it is not surprising that the employment level of individuals OVER the age of 65, as a percent of the working age population 16 and over, has risen sharply in recent years.

More info:
Can’t find a job? Blame grandma

8 Comments

Paul Ryan Poverty Plan: Punish Poor Americans for Being Poor

Blame the victims

Via Media Matters

Failed 2012 Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is back again with a so-called “poverty plan” that blames the victims. In reality, poverty is the result of systemic inequality of opportunity – not a lack of individual initiative.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s poverty proposal, which would in part punish impoverished Americans for not getting themselves out of poverty on a specific timeline, is based on the conservative myth pushed by right-wing media that blames poverty on individuals’ “spirit” and personal life choices.

…The “discussion draft” submitted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to the House Budget Committee on potential solutions to poverty in America includes the proposal that low-income Americans would have to sign “contracts” in order to remain eligible for social safety net benefits, such as food stamps, or SNAP. The contract would include: benchmarks, such as finding a job, enrolling in employment training, or even meeting “new acquaintances outside circle of poverty”; a “timeline” in which individuals are contractually-obligated to meet those benchmarks; bonuses for meeting benchmarks early; and “sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract”

…Annie Lowrey of New York magazine explained that Ryan’s proposal is based on the assumption “that the poor somehow want to be poor.”

Ryan’s poverty-shaming plan is nothing more than a vehicle for right-wing propaganda.

Here’s a better alternative than the Tea-GOP is offering: a $15 per hour minimum wage.


More Info:

The Worst Part Of Paul Ryan’s Poverty Plan Is Based On A Media Myth
Seattle raises minimum wage to $15 an hour
Fast food workers vow civil disobedience

24 Comments

Everybody Should See This Film

According to the description on this YouTube post, Michael Moore didn’t make any money off this film, even though it’s another masterpiece by the worlds best documentary artist who has a knack for making people laugh at tragedies which must be fixed.

I hope I’m not helping to deprive Mr. Moore of any earnings, but he is known for not trying to squeeze every last penny from his works, and just wants to help America break free from the capitalist’s embarrassing stranglehold on the citizens who worked really hard to get them where they are.

You should buy the film on Blue-ray to get the extras, which add greatly to the film and offer solutions by American businesses and leaders who want to do things to bring capitalism back into a workable sphere.

Enjoy:

7 Comments

In case you forgot,

…GOP economics is as bunk as everything else they do.

Despite the constant claims that paying people enough to actually live will destroy jobs, on average the states that raised the minimum wage are seeing higher than average job growth.

This could very well be due to other factors, and not because of the minimum wage, but certainly the minimum wage isn’t killing jobs.

Actually, turns out there is more evidence, and when we add that we start to see actual trends. As the Washington Post points out, raising the minimum seems to create jobs.

Naturally facts won’t change the arguments from the right. But I already wrote about that.

12 Comments

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