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Archive for the ‘poverty’ Category

The Real War on Poverty

Posted by Charles II on January 24, 2014

The Urban Institute and Brookings Institute have a discussion panel here on the role of tax policy in the War on Poverty.

Posted in our tax dollars at work, poverty | Comments Off

Boehner loses one

Posted by Charles II on June 20, 2013

Savage cuts to NSAP (Food Stamps) and international food aid in HR 1947 were voted down 234-195. You can see the vote here.

But they’ll be b-a-a-a-a-c-k.

If this happens enough times, maybe Republican leadership will figure out that being a–holes is not a good political strategy.

Democrats who chose to join forces with evil:

Barber, Barrow, Bera, Braley, Brownley, Bustos, Costa, Cuellar, Enyart, Farr, Garamendi, Garcia, Loebsack, McIntyre, McNerney, Murphy (FL), Owens, Peters, Peterson, Rahall, Schrader, Sinema, Vela, Walz.

I guess agribusiness is more important to them than the flood tide of hungry people.

Posted in Congress, poverty, Republicans acting badly, You're On Your Own-ership Society | 6 Comments »

Beating up on the disabled

Posted by Charles II on June 4, 2013

Neil DeMause of FAIR has a good piece about the revival of disabilityfrauditis among the apparatchiks of our quasi-democracy. This meme had its origins 20 years ago in darkest Arkansas:

In 1994, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (2/13/94) reported that some local residents were receiving tens of thousands of dollars a year in “crazy checks” for their mentally disabled kids. The story later spread to the front pages of the Washington Post (2/4/94) and Boston Globe (5/12/94). Eventually, ABC’s PrimeTime Live (10/13/94; Extra!, 3–4/95) declared children’s SSI to be “a government program gone haywire,” charging that children were “faking disabilities” after being coached by their parents.

Forbes Media Critic, in an article titled “A Media Crusade Gone Haywire” (9/95), soon revealed that four major studies of the SSI program—by the General Accounting Office, the Department of Health and Human Services, a congressional Disability Policy Panel, and the Social Security Administration—had all agreed that “there is no evidence of widespread fraud or abuse of the program.”

Well, this stupid meme is back, and who is pushing it but the usual suspects (deMause, continuing):

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (12/9/12) reported that poor families in Appalachian Kentucky were pulling their kids out of literacy classes. The reason: They feared that if their kids learned to read, it would disqualify them from receiving monthly $698 disability checks from the federal government’s Supplemental Security Income program.

It was all enough to earn Kristof a public chiding from Times public editor Margaret Sullivan (, 1/29/13) for making “assertions [that] were based on too little direct evidence” and using “statistical information that is, at the very least, open to interpretation.”

Yet Kristof’s column turned out to be just the opening salvo of a series of high-profile news reports exposing America’s alleged plague of skyrocketing disability benefits.

In a March series, NPR’s Planet Money [a repeat offender for peddling BS] revisited the world of SSI, this time for adults—and seemed to have learned few of the lessons of the Kristof mess. Calling the program “a hidden, increasingly expensive safety net” and “a de facto welfare program for people without a lot of education or job skills” (, 3/13), NPR’s Chana Joffe-Walt painted a picture of soaring disability rolls and nebulous diagnoses, where a “disability industrial complex” is pushing people willy-nilly onto the dole whether they need it or not (All Things Considered, 3/25/13).

the NPR series set off a flurry of copycat articles in the mainstream press that bemoaned disability as home of the new welfare cheats.

In the Washington Post (4/8/13), op-ed columnist Charles Lane decried SSI as a “drain [on] the Treasury” that discourages people from working. At (4/9/13), Joe Klein called Social Security Disability “an end-run around the [welfare] system” and a “scam” that “has no work requirement.” The next day, the Wall Street Journal (4/10/13) wrote that workers who’d “piled into the Social Security Administration’s disability program [threaten] to cost the economy tens of billions a year in lost wages and diminished tax revenues.”

And, of course, it’s all based on baloney: made-up statistics like the claim that 8% of children are on disability, conflation of SSI and SSDI, and so on. The recession and its aftermath have made more people poor enough–not to mention desperate enough– to become eligible for SSI benefits. In other words, there is no crisis, just a desperate longing of rich people for more and more and more and more.

These are really awful people who are trying to take bread from the mouths of the very most helpless. They deserve to be shunned. The world should sit shiva for people like Kristof and Klein and O’Reilly and Lane who are morally dead.

Posted in abuse of power, greed, mediawhores, poverty | Comments Off

The words of a prophet

Posted by Charles II on June 3, 2013

This is from a 2010, DemocracyNow interview of Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist who won the right livelihood award. I call him a prophet, because he was denouncing austerity in 2010:

MANFRED MAX-NEEF: …I understood poverty because I was there. I lived with them. I ate with them. I slept with them, you know, etc. And then you begin to learn that in that environment there are different values, different principles …

And you learn extraordinary things. The first thing you learn, that people who want to work in order to overcome poverty and don’t know, is that in poverty there is an enormous creativity. You cannot be an idiot if you want to survive. Every minute, you have to be thinking, what next? What do I know? What trick can I do here? What’s this and that, that, that, that? And so, your creativity is constant. In addition, I mean, that it’s combined, you know, with networks of cooperation, mutual aid, you know, and all sort of extraordinary things which you’ll no longer find in our dominant society, which is individualistic, greedy, egoistical, etc. It’s just the opposite of what you find there. And it’s sometimes so shocking that you may find people much happier in poverty than what you would find, you know, in your own environment, which also means, you know, that poverty is not just a question of money. It’s a much more complex thing.

I think most of the unhappiness associated with wealth is that you think you ought to do such-and-such or have such-and-such. If one can get over that and take the losses and disappointments when they inevitably come, it’s possible to be happier.

But the creativity of poverty is an interesting point, too. As any artist can testify, creativity has a powerful effect on mood. When one can’t create, it’s miserable, whereas the moments of creativity are as beautiful as deep love. If one constantly has to work at creativity, it can be elevating. But there’s also the situation in which, despite all of one’s creativity, the situation is so bad that success is not possible. Poverty in the U.S. has elements of the liabilities of wealth–that is, poor people see so many people succeeding and imagine that they are failures–and, for many, success is impossible. It is, for example, essentially impossible for a felon to become a successful businessman at any legal enterprise, even a small one. It’s almost impossible to get a job except at construction or restaurant work. And now the Senate is going to deprive them of Food Stamps.

Posted in poverty | 8 Comments »

Papal roundup, 3/16/13

Posted by Charles II on March 16, 2013

In a previous thread, there has been fascinating discussion on Pope Francis, with our commenters bringing in terrific links. As I see it, there are five strands to the thread:

1. Did Father Bergoglio collaborate with the Argentine Junta during the Dirty War?
* Journalist Horacio Verbitzky has a document from the Argentine Foreign Ministry which states that Father Bergoglio accused one of the priests of subversion years after this priest and another were seized by the Junta, and tortured. Verbitzky obtained statements from the priests to the effect that they were denied the protection of the Church from the Junta by Father Bergoglio.
* Brother John in comments mentions the statement by human rights champion Adolfo Pérez Esquivel that Bergoglio had no connection at all to the dictatorship.

2. Did Bishop/Archbishop/Cardinal Bergoglio participate in the cover-up and stonewalling of the investigation of the crimes of the Dirty War?
* Verbitzky states that Cardinal Bergoglio lied in court about the forced surrender of children for adoption [In English, as noted by commenter Ji, here. This is presumably in regard to the child of Elena De La Cuadra.
* He also states that cardinal Bergoglio denied that the church archives contained any information about the disappeared/detained, whereas there was a document in which bishops Raúl Primatesta, Juan Aramburu y Vicente Zazpe talked frankly with the dictator (Videla) about whether to tell families whether their loved ones were alive or not.
* Via Jim, in comments, Fr. Christian von Wernich has not been defrocked despite having been convicted of being an accomplice in the murders of seven people, and additional cases of torture and false imprisonment. Commenter Rich Grabner of Mex Files says that it’s normal for prisoners to ply their trades, so as long as von Wernich hasn’t been defrocked, it’s not surprising he would say Mass.
* Cardinal Bergoglio refused to testify in court in two cases involving torture and murder. When he did testify, he was evasive.
* Commenter Jim points to two photos (one and two) which may indicate that Father Bergoglio gave communion to dictator Jorge Rafael Videla soon after Videla’s release from prison (the priest’s face is not shown, so it might be a misidentification).
* Bergoglio helped Verbitzky unravel a case involving the hiding of prisoners held by the Junta from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

3. Is there any connection between the corruption scandal that engulfed the Italian branch of Communion and Liberation and then-Cardinal Bergoglio?
* On this, there is no evidence whatsoever. What is known is that the Italian branch of Communion and Liberation is up to its eyeballs in a corruption scandal. Cardinal Angelo Scola has not been tied in, but the scandal probably cost him the papacy.

4. Since past money-laundering by the Church has involved CIA operations to overthrow left-wing governments, is Communion and Liberation part of such an effort to overthrow the Bolivarian governments of Central and South America?
* There is no direct evidence on this matter. For a review of Vatican financial scandals see Betty Clermont at DK
* Verbitzky states that he believes that the elevation of Bergoglio to Pope signals that the Church intends to undertake an operation similar to what it did in Poland with Solidarity in the 1980s: presumably meaning, to overthrow the Bolivarian governments.

5. More broadly, does Pope Francis intend to end financial and moral corruption in the Church and return it to its mission of spreading the gospel and helping the poor? Or will he lead the Church down the road of further politicization?
* Bergoglio has engaged in open politicking over the issue of marriage equality for gays, which he called a “Holy War.”
* Via Brother John,
liberation theologian Leonard Boff says that he believes that Pope Francis intends to create a “Church that is poor, simple, gospel-centered, and devoid of all power.”

I’m neutral. I hope the Church straightens out and flies right. It is too important to too many people to get itself tangled up in overthrowing governments, domestic politics, and financial corruption. Those are moral diseases that breed when the Church gets too close to the rich. The cure is for the Church to get close to the poor. I wish Francis all success if that is his aim, and I wish him all due justice if he is using the poor as a screen for another aim.

Posted in Latin America, Pope Francis, poverty, religion | 11 Comments »

The faces of addiction

Posted by Charles II on December 24, 2012

Chris Arnade visited Hunt’s Point, NY and got to know the street people. He produced a remarkable series titled Faces of Addiction, with photographs and brief stories of the people he met.

(Via Julie Turkewitz, The Atlantic)

Posted in poverty | Comments Off

Where does your state stand on income inequality?

Posted by Charles II on November 17, 2012

Center for Budget Policy and Priorities has the skinny.

Minnesota, for example.

Posted in poverty | 4 Comments »

About 100 years too late (UN investigates treatment of Native Americans)

Posted by Charles II on April 22, 2012

It is not widely appreciated, even in this country, that the US government haD an explicit policy of genocide toward Native Americans until the 1930s or that, after John Collier‘s service as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the policy reverted to one of erasing Native culture. A Native man of my acquaintance reported being kidnapped from his family and forced to attend a school hundreds of miles from his family–in the 1960s. And today, the reservations are, for the majority of Native Americans, places of hopelessness, deep poverty, drug trafficking, and violence.

Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian:

The UN is to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans, the first such mission in its history.

The human rights inquiry led by James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples, is scheduled to begin on Monday.

Many of the country’s estimated 2.7 million Native Americans live in federally recognised tribal areas which are plagued with unemployment, alcoholism, high suicide rates, incest and other social problems.

How this can go on in a nation which holds itself up as a beacon of liberty and justice is beyond me. That the UN has only gotten around to it at a time when the great nations, such as the Lakota and the Dene (Navajo) are at the edge of terminal decline is… well, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but only after thinking about it for a moment.

Posted in poverty, racism | 3 Comments »

Out of pocket in the Gopher State

Posted by Charles II on March 8, 2012

Paul Krugman linked a study by Laura Wheaton and Jamyang Tashi at The Urban Institute on poverty in America, with a focus on Minnesota.

The means by which poverty is measured by the US government are obsolete and inappropriate. The National Academy of Sciences developed a superior measure that includes in-kind income (like Food Stamps and school lunches) and adjusts for taxes, work-related costs, and medical expenses. For two adults and two children, poverty in Minnesota cities is income below $24,972. For urban areas, it is $20,593.

The good news, if that’s what one calls it, is that fewer children are in poverty than was thought. The bad news is that more elders are in poverty than was thought. It would cost about $1.5 B annually to end poverty in Minnesota. On the other hand, if benefits like Food Stamps and school lunches are cut back, the rise in desperate poverty (less than half of the poverty line) would rise considerably.

Posted in Minnesota, poverty | 4 Comments »

Red State Moochers

Posted by Charles II on February 14, 2012

Paul Krugman has reproduced an excellent chart from Aaron Carroll of the Incidental Economist (new, improved chart here), which shows how much more conservative states get from the federal government than they give in taxes (transfers/taxes). If you want it in bar chart form, Krugman has the inverse (taxes/transfers). But Carroll graphed it two dimensionally, with the x-axis being how conservative a state is, based on Gallup polling.

So no wonder conservatives think that “welfare” is a problem: they’re all a bunch of moochers!

Posted in poverty | Comments Off

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