A headline on today's washingtonpost.com stopped me in my tracks: "This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps." If you read only one thing today, make it this article.
"We didn’t deserve to be poor, any more than we deserved to be rich. Poverty is a circumstance, not a value judgment. I still have to remind myself sometimes that I was my harshest critic. That the judgment of the disadvantaged comes not just from conservative politicians and Internet trolls. It came from me, even as I was living it."
Honestly, I keep finding stories like these every day, and it depresses the hell out of me. The least I can do is to spread them more widely, to make people aware, because TV news sure as hell doesn't do it.
Today, let's start with the specter of homeless families in the shadow of Disney World:
Why the middle class is increasingly unable to afford rent:
The Huffington Post has a whole series on the working poor:
Here's the story of one guy who has a master's degree and still lives in a converted garage:
Remember the "War on Poverty"? Fifty years later, hardship hits back:
One "oldie but goodie" in terms of news stories: What do the jobless do when the benefits end?
Finally, how much the offshore tax havens cost each regular U.S. taxpayer:
Quick list, not enough time for formatting:
Suburbs try to hold onto young adults as exodus to cities appears to grow:
One of the many essays about the pampered millionaire who calls himself a “patriot” of a government he doesn’t believe exists (can you wrap your head around THAT hypocrisy?):
The economic culture war over the minimum wage:
And if you DO come up with an idea that could turn you into “a maker, not a taker,” does it belong to you or your employer?
Is the middle class even “normal”?
In fact, America has been KILLING its middle class:
Even after finding a new job, people who have been part of the long-term unemployed find that it’s a struggle to keep the next job:
What if the government GUARANTEED you an income?
Can liberals and conservatives come together to support families?
Speaking of families, this essay doesn’t have much to do with economics, but it’s a fascinating memoir of growing up in a cult:
The private lives of public bathrooms:
Finally, a nod to the capital of my home state:
And “finally finally,” a surrealist video just for fun:
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of Barack Obama's inauguration as president of the United States. Yes, it was a historic occasion, and one I had wanted to attend in person ... except that I had spent the previous three days sitting uncomfortably in an auto repair shop's waiting room, paying lots of money to get the engine running again, so I had no energy, mental or otherwise, left for hauling myself onto a packed Metrorail train in the bitter cold.
Ah, well, so what's up now?
Our capital F “Freedom” sets us apart from the rest of the world, as the political rhetoric has repeated ad nauseam, no matter the freedoms enjoyed by democracies on every continent. And yet our basic freedom, the freedom to succeed, America’s contractual promise, has been shrinking for thirty years.
Also, from Bill Moyers, an eloquent description of the great American class war, which pits plutocracy against democracy:
In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a moral compact embedded in a political contract or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.
Another blog says: The Republicanization of the United States has to stop, and we have to stop it.
One of AOL's bloggers wrote about his part in a meeting between the U.S. Labor Secretary and a group of the long-term unemployed. After the meeting, the Labor Department blogged about it too.
Bloomberg Businessweek (not exactly a communist rag) explains how killing unemployment benefits could also kill U.S. economic growth.
Finally, do you want to hear about the right wing's latest nutty plot to undermine our democracy? *shudder* Dudes, we were fighting over this 150 years ago, remember? Also, there's a reason why our Founders ditched the Articles of Confederation.
Enemies of the Poor, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Suddenly it’s O.K., even mandatory, for politicians with national ambitions to talk about helping the poor. This is easy for Democrats, who can go back to being the party of F.D.R. and L.B.J. It’s much more difficult for Republicans, who are having a hard time shaking their reputation for reverse Robin-Hoodism, for being the party that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.
And the reason that reputation is so hard to shake is that it’s justified. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that right now Republicans are doing all they can to hurt the poor, and they would have inflicted vast additional harm if they had won the 2012 election. Moreover, G.O.P. harshness toward the less fortunate isn’t just a matter of spite...; it’s deeply rooted in the party’s ideology...
Let’s start with the recent Republican track record.
I was just going to blog about this, but another blogger beat me to it. I definitely agree with Dr. Krugman.
A Ron Paul delegate in 2008 now calls himself a liberal. Interesting political journey, indeed.
Democrats turn to an increase in the minimum wage as one of their prime issues for 2014. I wonder, though, if this will fly with voters who still equate "minimum-wage job" with "people just starting out in the workforce."
Is inequality really the defining issue of our time? Or, as Ezra Klein writes, perhaps asking "whether inequality or joblessness or growth is the defining economic challenge of our time is like asking how many John Boehners can dance on the head of a pin."
Columnist Eugene Robinson REALLY goes after the Republicans on the end of long-term jobless benefits:
I wonder if these Ayn Rand ideologues have ever actually met a breadwinner who has gone without a job for more than six months. I wonder if they know that some jobless men and women — and I know this is hard to believe — don’t have well-to-do parents or even a trust fund to fall back on. I wonder if they understand that unemployment benefits don’t even cover basic expenses, much less bonbons.
A Dutch reporter thinks the best way to end poverty might simply be to give poor people money and let them decide how best to spend it. Good point, but I have a hard time believing this would ever pass in the United States. Non-poor voters have a hard enough time believing they are even in the same species as the poor, for crying out loud.
First up, the Washington Post Wonkblog presents seven things you should know about the expiration of unemployment benefits. Long-term unemployment is at its highest level since World War II -- that's getting close to 70 years -- and it is turning into a permanent drag on the economy.
The Post also graphically points out where the 1.3 million people who just lost their unemployment insurance live. You might be thinking about the red-state versus blue-state divide, but there are some surprises.
The Christian Science Monitor takes a typically even-handed approach in explaining the effects of the cutbacks and asking whether unemployment benefits should be extended again.
An AP story in the Houston Chronicle looks at individual jobless folks and what they are going through. A PBS NewsHour interview ties the unemployment-insurance issue to the growing lack of mobility within our society.
From the other side of the pond, the Telegraph (UK) previews the change of leadership in New York City:
In the home of Wall Street, the de Blasio campaign focused relentlessly on the yawning income gap between most New Yorkers and the very rich. And he emerged from recent White House meeting between President Barack Obama as a new national voice for liberal causes.
“There’s a progressive movement in this country that’s having a real effect,” Mr de Blasio said. “It’s clear that something is happening around this country and that the inequalities we’re facing are becoming just fundamentally unacceptable.”
I'm more of a Howard Zinn type than a Noam Chomsky type, but I thoughtfully read a recent Chomsky interview in which he says that we're no longer a functioning democracy, but a plutocracy. Good point.
Wow ... it's been three years. I'm still "unemployed," though I can get pretty busy with freelance work sometimes. My unemployment benefits ended this time last year, so I know what these people are going through. I'm uninsured; I want to sign up through the Affordable Care Act (I live in a state with its own "exchange"), but I'm still getting some paperwork in order (please don't ask further).
As a freelance writer, I've had my ups and downs. When it's been good, it's been reasonably decent; when it's been bad, it was awful. One of my low points, perhaps my lowest, was in February and March of this year, when most of my freelance writing had dried up, I had promising job interviews that led to rejections, and I was so worried about my finances that I couldn't think of any good story ideas to pitch to editors. Fortunately, I landed a short-term gig that ran from mid-March through August 1 and ended up providing almost half of my 2013 income. So I dodged a financial bullet there, so to speak. I still have a roof over my head, and I still have my aging car (which required $322 worth of brake work just before Christmas). And I still have my health, as far as I can tell.
One of the reasons why I haven't felt terribly motivated to restart this blog is that reading too much about income inequality, age discrimination, discrimination against the long-term unemployed, and similar topics often makes me feel down in the dumps -- and then it's harder to get things done, when in truth I need to be pushing myself forward in order to survive.
Lately, though, I find myself forwarding articles on such socioeconomic-political topics to my friends on Facebook and saving them on Evernote for future reference. So I might as well blog about them. Anything I can do in some small way to keep these vitally important issues in front of my fellow Americans, instead of "Duck Dynasty" and the Kardashians and the other trivia du jour, can only help the cause.
So, if you read only one of the links I am about to post, make it this one: 50 Is the New 65: Older Americans Are Getting Booted from Their Jobs -- and Denied New Opportunities. The struggles of laid-off boomers is not exactly "new" news, but this article lays it out in stark, compelling detail:
We live in an era of planned obsolescence, in which designers deliberately make a thing limited in its useful life. Now this planned obsolescence includes human beings. Is it really an efficient use of our human capital to turn experienced workers into Walmart greeters?
Planned obsolescence of HUMAN BEINGS? Think about that.
Today Paul Krugman also wrote a great piece about "The Fear Economy." Workers have lost a lot of their power, so they have become afraid to ask for raises and benefits lest they lose their jobs, and so the cycle goes:
Too many Americans currently live in a climate of economic fear. There are many steps that we can take to end that state of affairs, but the most important is to put jobs back on the agenda.
Just in the short time I've been working on this entry, I've found a couple of sites I want to examine in more depth: the Institute for Career Transitions, a project at MIT, and Next New Deal, the Roosevelt Institute's blog, which closely aligns itself with a lot of the things I'm interested in.
A few more links without major commentary...
Gee, even the Harvard Business Review noticed: The American way of hiring is making long-term unemployment worse. Ya think??!?
News flash: "Preretirees" expect to retire at a later age than retirees actually do. Well, yeah, if the choice is between financial ruin and "early retirement," guess what some older workers pick.
Is service work in 2013 worse than being a household servant in 1913? Read it and decide for yourself whether you'd like to time-travel back to the Edwardian era.
"We are creating Walmarts of higher education" -- as if Walmarts of retail weren't enough.