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Working Poor, Working Homeless
10 years ago
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I'll just start this topic off with a bunch of resource links. Inequality.org http://www.inequality.org Poor News Network http://www.poormagazine.org/ Working Poor Become the New Homeless http://www.therationalradical.com/dsep/1201/working-poor.htm Do a search on google using the phrase (in quotes) "one paycheck away", for over 1,650 links and articles on the subject of working poverty, financial insecurity, and homelessness: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=%22one+paycheck+away%22&btnG=Google+Search
More Homeless Working, Survey Finds
10 years ago
Article: "More homeless working, survey finds But forty-five percent of the county's homeless say their jobs don't pay a liveable wage. Sarasota FL Herald-Tribune March 26, 2004 By PATTY ALLEN-JONES patty.allen-jones@heraldtribune.com SARASOTA COUNTY -- Peter Szeles earns $10 an hour building fences in the Southwest Florida sun, but even working a solid 40-hour week he can't make enough to rent a house or an apartment for his family. Szeles, his wife, Tammi, and their toddler son moved into the Salvation Army's homeless shelter before Christmas last year. They'd lived with a relative in Bradenton for three weeks, then in a hotel, cooking on a hot plate, after the family arrangement didn't work out. "We were living paycheck to paycheck," said Tammi Szeles, 24. "Our credit was not that bad, but it was bad enough to keep us from getting in an apartment." Their plight illustrates what advocates for the homeless say is a shift in what causes people not to have a permanent place to stay in Sarasota County. In the latest survey of homelessness, released this week, 45 percent of those in shelters or on the streets said they're working, but can't make enough money to meet basic needs of food, clothing and housing. That reason surpassed others that traditionally have been cited as the chief causes of homelessness in Sarasota County: unemployment, loss of welfare benefits and medical problems, among others. "People are working and getting an income, but they can't afford to live here," said Sandy Baar, executive director of the Sarasota County Coalition for the Homeless. "That is kind of sad. We need to start thinking livable wage." (rest of article on link): http://www.homelessnesscouncil.org/26mar04.htm ====================================== This experience is not unique to Sarasota alone- but is representative of a nation wide problem- Harmony
The Homeless: Working and Still Living on the Streets
10 years ago
Article: The Homeless: Working and Still Living on the Streets http://www.123helpme.com/assets/13097.html clip from article: "Not being able to afford housing does not mean that the person is completely without a source of income. Almost one in five homeless persons are employed. The connection between impoverished workers and the homeless can be seen in homeless shelters, many of which house significant numbers of full-time wage earners. In a booming economy, job stability and job security have deteriorated. The share of workers in "long-term jobs" (those lasting at least ten years) fell sharply between 1979 and 1996, with the worst deteriorating taking place since the end of the 1980s ("Homeless"). Displaced workers face difficulty finding new employment. When they do find work, their new jobs pay, on average, thirteen percent less than the job they lost. Also, more than one-fourth of those who had health insurance at their old jobs don't have it at their new ones. This makes it almost impossible to stay above the poverty line when a medical illness strikes the family."
Free voice mail helps the homeless get jobs
10 years ago

Free voice mail helps the homeless get jobs (subscription- need to register to read, but registration is free): Friday, September 10, 2004 By BOBBY ROSS JR. Associated Press writer DALLAS — After 18 months sleeping on sidewalks and in shelters, Mel Cornelison has a job, and soon might have a place of his own. And he owes it all to voice mail. Cornelison landed his job through free voice mail that is being offered to homeless people and others without phones in cities around the country. The nonprofit Community Voice Mail project provides homeless people with a way for potential employers, social-service agencies and relatives to contact them. It also enables them to apply for a job without having to tell a prospective employer they are living on the streets. Dallas — along with Denver — last month joined a growing list of cities where homeless shelters, soup kitchens and other agencies are offering the service. The program started in 1991 in Seattle and has grown to 37 cities in 19 states, helping more than 47,000 people find jobs and housing last year, according to Community Voice Mail. Agencies in Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Philadelphia, Detroit and New York are already taking part. “The intangible that Community Voice Mail provides is hope,” said national spokeswoman Patricia Bonnell. “Without a phone number on your résumé, you can’t get a job.” Hilary Terlouw, a 45-year-old woman from Bellingham, Wash., said she was living in an abandoned trailer with no electricity when she learned about Community Voice Mail three summers ago. She lives in subsidized low-income housing and has a service dog and even a computer, she said. “It just saved my life,” said Terlouw, who battles mental illnesses and physical disabilities. “It really did. If I didn’t have a telephone number to have doctors’ offices or clinics call me back, I don’t know what I would have done. I was truly at the end of my rope at that time.” Before getting voice mail, Cornelison used to put The Stewpot — a soup kitchen and ministry of the First Presbyterian Church of Dallas — on his applications. But the last thing an employer wants to do is call a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen, say advocates of voice mail for the homeless. “A lot of shelters have a pay phone that’s in the community area,” said Shannon Stewart, executive director of The Employment Project, which offers voice mail to the homeless in Chicago. “When you ask if John Doe is available, you hear the phone being thrown down and the screaming down the hallway.” Community Voice Mail gives each homeless person a phone number and each records a message. The numbers cannot be used for outgoing calls, but people can check their messages from any regular or pay phone. The service costs the soup kitchen or homeless shelter as little as $7 per number per month. (read next post for more)
Free voice mail helps the homeless get jobs, Part 2
10 years ago

“It just makes people feel a lot better about themselves,” said Larry Sykes, Community Voice Mail director at The Stewpot, which hopes to offer more than 2,500 voice mail lines in Dallas within three years. “Unless they tell somebody they’re eating at The Stewpot or sleeping under a bridge, nobody knows it.” In Cornelison’s case, Goodwill Industries was aware of his plight when it used the voice mail system to contact him and offer him a job at one of its warehouses at $5.68 an hour. For now, the 40-year-old Dallas man still lives on the street. “But once I start getting paydays, I’ll be able to not do that anymore,” said Cornelison, who hopes to move into a motel, if not a more permanent home. His hiring has inspired others who frequent The Stewpot. “I think that it is like a domino,” said Pamela Nelson, an art teacher at the downtown ministry. “I mean, that uplifted everybody here.” On the Net: Community Voice Mail ========================== Fair Use Notice This message may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not specifically been authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, religious, spiritual, and social justice issues. We believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for nonprofit educational and research purposes, and in the hope that more people will awaken and begin to think for themselves, as is so sorely needed in these times. For more information on fair use, please go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes of your own which go beyond "fair use," we suggest that you obtain permission from the copyright owner." ** ===================================
Most Homeless in County Are Working Poor
10 years ago
SOURCE: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A407-2005Feb5.html Most Homeless in County Are Working Poor By Nikita Stewart Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, February 6, 2005; Page PW08 Homelessness is hidden in Prince William County. It's out of sight in the woods behind strip malls, where men and women struggling with mental health problems and addiction have set up shantytown-like communities with makeshift tents and propane heaters. It is also concealed in the smiles of the clerks working in the department stores and shops at those strip malls. The majority of the homeless in Prince William are the working poor, trapped in a county where jobs are plentiful but pay is low. The county's annual count of the homeless last year showed that 530 people were homeless. Of the single adults, 54 percent were employed, as were 47 percent of the adults with families. Prince William had the biggest job growth of large counties in the country, with an 8 percent jump in the number of jobs for the 12-month period ending in March. Meanwhile income grew just 2.2 percent, to $637 a week, in that same period. "In Prince William, there are a lot of jobs, but the jobs don't support living here," said Stephen Burek, 35 and newly homeless. "If you move somewhere else, the cost of living goes down, but your chance of finding a job goes down." The pay can barely cover the rent. In November 2003, 3,600 households were on the county's waiting list for rental assistance. The county was providing help to about 1,980 families who were paying an average monthly rent of $1,042. According to the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, the average price of a single-family house in Prince William was $339,565 in December, while the average for condominiums was $203,101. Sitting recently in the television room of the Hilda Barg Homeless Prevention Center in Woodbridge, which is operated by Volunteers of America Chesapeake, Burek said he had been homeless for about a week. "I wasn't able to pay my rent," he said. "I came close before [to being homeless], but I was always able to stay with a friend or a co-worker." Under the shelter's rules, Burek can stay there for 30 days. He could get a 21-day extension if he is waiting to get into transitional housing or into an apartment, said Gayle Sanders, the shelter's director. People staying in the shelter used to stay just more than 20 days. "Now, it's in the high 20s," Sanders said. "I believe it's because of the housing market. You have to save more money. You have to look harder." The 30-bed shelter, on Route 1 between Opitz and Dale boulevards, looks like a nursing home with its mauve doors and trim. In one room, there were two televisions, six dressers, two cribs, one toddler bed and three twin beds. Cribs, toddler beds and the play room with its books and Barbies are necessary because a third or more of the county's homeless are children, according to county records. The Prince William County Department of Social Services has given Volunteers of America a contract to operate the homeless shelter since 1990. The county also has a winter shelter for adults only that is mostly utilized by the homeless who otherwise live in campsites but seek warmth during cold months. There are other shelters operated by nonprofits that cater to families or battered women and their children. Churches also provide rental assistance and help with utilities and prescriptions, according to Prince William's SHARE/Homeless Intervention Program. When applying for federal funds to address homelessness and other issues, the county created a Consolidated Housing and Community Development Plan for fiscal 2005. In the plan, the county said it wants to increase the number of permanent emergency shelter beds from 100 to 148 and wants to create 290 affordable housing units. Dominic Villano, a 36-year-old homeless man who works at a Wawa gas station, said the county does not appear to do enough for its poor, working class. "This county, to me, seems to be for the rich and middle class people," Villano said. "If you don't have money, you can just leave. "People don't understand that they are a paycheck away from being homeless," he said.
Jobless and homeless, day laborers struggle to survive
10 years ago
SOURCE: http://www.thejournalnews.com/newsroom/020605/a0106tentcity.html By JORGE FITZ-GIBBON, LEAH RAE AND MARCELA ROJAS THE JOURNAL NEWS (Original publication: February 6, 2005) Emilio Salazar sat up in the bitter cold, his soiled mattress wedged between concrete slabs under one of Brewster's busiest roadways. A hooded sweatshirt and an old sleeping bag were his only escape from freezing temperatures. Work boots and a bag of leftovers from the local soup kitchen lay nearby. In warmer weather the 27–year-old Guatemalan immigrant would be up on Main Street, hoping to be hired for the day grooming lawns. But the jobs aren't there now. "I don't want to live this way," he said. "If you want to help me, help me. Please find me work." Homeless day laborers are practically invisible in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam, braving winter in slivers of suburban woodland and amid the steel and concrete of highway overpasses and old railroad trestles. Beneath a highway in Port Chester, men sleep virtually in the open, under piles of blankets. In the woods in Spring Valley a blue tarp has been rigged into a tent, the center of an encampment that includes a sitting area and a barbell for exercise. Under a bridge in Rockland, a row of shirts on hangers dangle from a steel beam. And by an icy stream in Brewster buckets, detergent and bleach are kept for scrubbing clothes. These scenes are repeated in Chicago, Los Angeles, Long Island and elsewhere, wherever immigrants fail to earn enough to afford a roof over their heads. But the demographic differs from the homeless of the 1980s, who could be described as "chronically homeless" — those who are on the street due to mental illness, alcoholism and other factors. Day laborers don't lack the will to work; just the jobs. Help has been slow to come. Local churches and service agencies are only recently addressing the laborers' plight in earnest. In Mount Kisco and Bedford, a coalition of churches-collected cots from the Red Cross for homeless laborers. In Rockland, a new community group called Helping Hands is sheltering them in houses of worship on a rotating basis. And in Putnam, the Community Action Program is forming a task force to offer assistance. But local government is limited in its ability to help — Rockland and Putnam do not have homeless shelters for single men. Westchester does, but no long-term spots are available for undocumented immigrants. "It's pretty cold–hearted for a community to say, 'We'd rather have you mow our lawns in the summertime, but risk freezing to death in the woods behind our house,'" said Shelly Nortz of the statewide Coalition for the Homeless. 'Ashamed' It is not unusual for outdoor encampments to sit within view of pricey single-family homes. Harrison police discovered one site on Jan. 2, just 100 yards from the tennis courts in Silver Lake Park. Under the roadway in Brewster, Salazar emerges every morning, and like dozens of other day laborers lines up hoping for a day's work. But winter offers few jobs, and competition is tough. Another man lives near him under the bridge, but found work as a painter. Salazar came from Guatemala nine years ago and lived in Mount Kisco before coming to Brewster. Lately, he hasn't had the $150 to rent space with friends. "My friends tell me, 'come,' " he said. "But it makes me ashamed to stay with them." It is common for homeless day laborers to feel shamed, said Jenny Conway, a nurse and volunteer at the Jornaleros Project at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Spring Valley. Having come to the United States to provide for their families back home, they are embarrassed that they have not made it. In Port Chester, Francisco Alvarez, 41, said he has lived under a highway overpass since October, when he lost a construction job. He said he left Honduras six years ago. Nearby, two other men lay beneath thick layers of blankets. The temperature that day felt like 3 degrees below zero with the wind chill. "I was left without a job, so I came here," Alvarez said. Luis Umangor has also been braving the cold. In Peekskill, the 40-year-old from El Salvador said warm weather brings work in landscaping and money to rent a room. This winter he's been forced to sleep outside near the railroad tracks with three others. He does not have a blanket, or even gloves. "I only sleep outside in the winter because there is no work," he said. "It's hard, but what can I do except bear the cold?" During the day he stays inside a laundromat, the only place he can keep warm from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. At closing, he starts looking for a place to sleep, often uncertain where that will be. "Sometimes I wake up and I can't feel my hands," said Umangor, who admits to a drinking problem. "So I just start walking." After 9/11 Finding year-round jobs has become increasingly difficult for day laborers. Heightened security measures since the Sept. 11 attacks has made them wary of traveling to warmer climes to work in winter, said Graciela Heymann, executive director of the Westchester Hispanic Coalition. It has also become harder for them to return home in winter. The pattern was to return in the spring, when construction and painting jobs are available and the landscaping industry booms. "The journeys are becoming more dangerous, they're becoming longer and the cost of making the journey has become more expensive," said Nikolas Theodore of the Urban Planning and Policy Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Meanwhile, the incidence of homelessness among day laborers has become more prevalent — with few solutions. (continued in next post)
Jobless and homeless, day laborers struggle to survive, part 2
10 years ago
"The problem with shelters is that most of them, because they receive federal funding, are unable to provide the service to the undocumented population," said Miguel Angel Patino of the Morristown, N.J., nonprofit group Wind of the Spirit. In a 2000 survey of 510 men and women in Chicago shelters, Theodore found that 75 percent had worked as day laborers. "The problem wasn't so much their will to work or their ability to work," he said. "The problem was that they were in jobs that were so precarious and poorly paying." During warm months, most laborers earned between $669 and $794 per month, while minimum expenses were $900, according to the survey. And some suggest that help has been too slow in coming, particularly from government. "I don't see much coming from the government," said the Rev. Tim Ploch of Port Chester's Holy Rosary Church, which runs the Don Bosco Center, where day laborers receive hot lunches and assistance. "I don't see anything, to tell you the truth." But undocumented immigrants cannot be offered taxpayer–funded services, said Prudence Sanfratello, housing coordinator for Rockland social services. Instead, her office finds beds with religious or independent community agencies. Putnam and Westchester provide only emergency placements for laborers. Putnam sends them to shelters in Poughkeepsie and Danbury, Conn; Westchester to one at the county airport. But there is a another hurdle. "Even when we have some kind of network set up, it's difficult to even get them to come in to avail themselves to it," said Sanfratello. "You know they're there. They just don't seek help." Helping hand The religious community has now placed itself at the forefront of local outreach efforts. St. Paul's Episcopal Church remains a haven in Spring Valley through its Jornaleros Project, for the Spanish word for day laborer. It's where workers can learn English, get supplies and eat. When a homeless man started sleeping behind bushes at St. Paul's, the Rev. Angela Boatright sought ways to reach out. She teamed with Raoul Cansino, who had led "midnight runs" into New York City to deliver food and clothes to the homeless. When they went out in Rockland, they found 30 people in one day living in the woods, under bridges and in the open. "We're all pretty much hidden," said Roy Castelonia, 33, a homeless man who served as a guide. "I'm doing whatever I can for the program. Not much I can do, because I have nothing myself." Helping Hands got started just before the "Blizzard of '05" last month. Up to 11 people have taken shelter for two-night stays in a local mosque, community center and the Salvation Army. Eight northern Westchester congregations have created a similar program. "They are hired in Mount Kisco, but they work in Bedford, they work in Pound Ridge, they work in North Salem," said the Rev. Paul Alcorn, pastor of Bedford Presbyterian Church. "They're in Mount Kisco because it's the one place that there is any housing at all, even if it's overcrowded housing. There's just not that kind of housing in other communities." Friction The problem frustrates some local residents. Joe Lambert stumbled across the campsite in Brewster during a walk near his house on New Year's Day. He saw a fire pit, broken bottles, food and clothing. Lambert said he contacted local authorities, who were trying to determine who owned the property. "No one wants to recognize it as a problem," he said. "We have to be proactive, not reactive." But even as a charitable enterprise, sheltering day laborers is a politically sensitive issue because of the controversy surrounding illegal immigration. "I do know that there are people who are going to say, 'Well, all you're going to be doing is attracting more people," said Mel Berger, chairman of the Mount Kisco Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Council. Friction between police and day laborers is also common. But when enforcing trespassing laws, police often have benevolent motives: Living outdoors in winter is hazardous. Hypothermia or severe frostbite are among the concerns. In late August, 20-year-old Alberto Agosto Ramirez burned to death inside a makeshift lean-to in a wooded area behind a Brewster parking lot. Police believe Ramirez had built the fire to keep himself warm inside the shelter. "We want to get them out of the cold," said Mount Kisco Police Lt. Patrick O'Reilly. "If they're breaking the law we charge them, but our main concern is for their safety and well-being." For the past several years, Mount Kisco police have enlisted the Westchester County Police Aviation Unit to search wooded areas in the village by helicopter. Although village police do random ground patrols in winter, the helicopter "lets us cover a lot of ground in a short period of time,'' O'Reilly said. "Drained" Israel Eustaquio, a Mexican immigrant who lives in Spring Valley, said he knows all too well what it's like to live out in the cold. "I went through that period where you're missing your family, being drained, relying on alcohol," he said. Eustaquio, 35, said he lived inside an abandoned school bus for nearly three months. His earnings went largely home to his two sons, who would receive $100 to $150 weekly. That left him little to rent an apartment and buy food. He never told his sons. Eustaquio credits St. Paul's Episcopal Church with helping provide blankets, food and even occasional work. Now he rents a room for $250 a month. But for others, shelter from the elements is still uncertain. Under the busy Brewster roadway, Salazar said he wanted to work, but there were no jobs. "If I had work I wouldn't be here," he said. The following week, Salazar was gone, but the old mattress and blankets remained.
sharing a piece of mail...
10 years ago
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A9447-2005Feb8.html


washingtonpost.com
Sick and Broke

By Elizabeth Warren

Wednesday, February 9, 2005; Page A23


Nobody's safe. That's the warning from the first large-scale study of medical bankruptcy.

Health insurance? That didn't protect 1 million Americans who were financially ruined by illness or medical bills last year.

A comfortable middle-class lifestyle? Good education? Decent job? No safeguards there. Most of the medically bankrupt were middle-class homeowners who had been to college and had responsible jobs -- until illness struck.

As part of a research study at
Harvard University, our researchers interviewed 1,771 Americans in bankruptcy courts across the country. To our surprise, half said that illness or medical bills drove them to bankruptcy. So each year, 2 million Americans -- those who file and their dependents -- face the double disaster of illness and bankruptcy.

But the bigger surprise was that three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance.

How did illness bankrupt middle-class Americans with health insurance? For some, high co-payments, deductibles, exclusions from coverage and other loopholes left them holding the bag for thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs when serious illness struck. But even families with Cadillac coverage were often bankrupted by medical problems.

Too sick to work, they suddenly lost their jobs. With the jobs went most of their income and their health insurance -- a quarter of all employers cancel coverage the day you leave work because of a disabling illness; another quarter do so in less than a year. Many of the medically bankrupt qualified for some disability payments (eventually), and had the right under the COBRA law to continue their health coverage -- if they paid for it themselves. But how many families can afford a $1,000 monthly premium for coverage under COBRA, especially after the breadwinner has lost his or her job?

Often, the medical bills arrived just as the insurance and the paycheck disappeared.

Bankrupt families lost more than just assets. One out of five went without food. A third had their utilities shut off, and nearly two-thirds skipped needed doctor or dentist visits. These families struggled to stay out of bankruptcy. They arrived at the bankruptcy courthouse exhausted and emotionally spent, brought low by a health care system that could offer physical cures but that left them financially devastated.

Many in Congress have a response to the problem of the growing number of medical bankruptcies: make it harder for families to file bankruptcy regardless of the reason for their financial troubles. Bankruptcy legislation -- widely known as the credit industry wish list -- has been introduced yet again to increase costs and decrease protection for every family that turns to the bankruptcy system for help. With the dramatic rise in medical bankruptcies now documented, this tired approach would be no different than a congressional demand to close hospitals in response to a flu epidemic. Making bankruptcy harder puts the fallout from a broken health care system back on families, leaving them with no escape.

The problem is not in the bankruptcy laws. The problem is in the health care finance system and in chronic debates about reforming it. The Harvard study shows:

• Health insurance isn't an on-off switch, giving full protection to everyone who has it. There is real coverage and there is faux coverage. Policies that can be canceled when you need them most are often useless. So is bare-bones coverage like the Utah Medicaid program pioneered by new Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt; it pays for primary care visits but not specialists or hospital care. We need to talk about quality, durable coverage, not just about how to get more names listed on nearly-useless insurance policies.

• The link between j
cont.
10 years ago

• The link between jobs and health insurance is strained beyond the breaking point. A harsh fact of life in America is that illness leads to job loss, and that can mean a double kick when people lose their insurance. Promising them high-priced coverage through COBRA is meaningless if they can't afford to pay. Comprehensive health insurance is the only real solution, not just for the poor but for middle-class Americans as well.

Without better coverage, millions more Americans will be hit by medical bankruptcy over the next decade. It will not be limited to the poorly educated, the barely employed or the uninsured. The people financially devastated by a serious illness are at the heart of the middle class.

Every 30 seconds in the
United States, someone files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of a serious health problem. Time is running out. A broken health care system is bankrupting families across this country.

The writer is a law professor at
Harvard University.



© 2005 The Washington Post Company

Dixie

Bush Tells Woman In Late 50s: Holding 3 Jobs Is Uniquely American
10 years ago
I received this from one of my lists and am passing this along with the comments beforehand- Harmony From: Judith Moriarty noahshouse@adelphia.net Thursday, February 10, 2005 Bush Tells Woman In Late 50s: Holding 3 Jobs Is Uniquely American This is a PERFECT example of arrogant-disdainful-mockery of the common man and their real life problems. Here you have a spoiled-playboy, who has literally cruised through life on the coat tails of his family name and fortunes---never having to work a day in his life or to be held accountable to the law in his various escapades. He has no inkling (like most of the pampered political elite in Foggy Bottom) of the hardships-weariness-and fears of those trying to exist not live in his Military Utopian world. Rest assured.Laura and the girls will never suffer the "Uniqueness" of having to work three jobs as we the taxpayers keep them in opulent living-no fuel worries here-and the best of fare. JM ============ Harmony: Agreed, Judith! And, adding to what you said- how much do inadequate wages contribute to this woman's needing to have THREE jobs???? ============ Bush: Holding Three Jobs 'Uniquely American' Drudge Report | February 9 2005 Last Friday when promoting social security reform with 'regular' citizens in Omaha, Nebraska, President Bush walked into an awkward unscripted moment in which he stated that carrying three jobs at a time is 'uniquely American.' While talking with audience participants, the president met Mary Mornin, a woman in her late fifties who told the president she was a divorced mother of three, including a 'mentally challenged' son. The President comforted Mornin on the security of social security stating that 'the promises made will be kept by the government.' But without prompting Mornin began to elaborate on her life circumstances. Begin transcript: MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute. THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs? MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes. THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.) =========== Harmony: Laughter and applause at the idea that a woman is getting no sleep???? And it's "fantastic" that she's having to do that?
On the road with homeless in the suburbs
10 years ago
The down-and-out struggle to get from shelter to shelter and, for some, to jobs By Crystal Yednak Tribune staff reporter March 20, 2005 Dennis Glover spreads out his pile of Metra schedules and Pace bus maps on a table in a homeless center in Wheaton. Finally, he has a lead on a job. But having lost his DuPage County home and car, Glover, 52, has to figure out how he would get to work each day. He also has to find a way to get from work to each night's shelter, which moves to a different suburban church--often to a different town--each night. After scribbling in a green pocket-sized notebook and studying the maps for an hour, he sets down his pen. "I think I can do it," he says. He'd have to leave shelters before 4 a.m. some days, trek through industrial parks and along dark highways with no sidewalks. But he would do anything to get his life back. In Chicago's suburbs, the infrastructure that supports some of the most expensive housing in the nation also presents challenges to the homeless trying to work their way back to a home. And even if they have a job--a regional homelessness survey suggests almost 45 percent of the homeless in Chicago's suburbs do--finding an affordable apartment is proving to be more difficult. In DuPage County, the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that a person needs to make $17.42 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent. In Lake County, a person earning minimum wage would have to work 107 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent, the coalition estimates. More people are turning to shelters. Mary Gajcak, homeless continuum coordinator with the Will County Center for Community Concerns, said their shelters are seeing all-time high numbers. McHenry County's shelters serve a few hundred, but homeless advocates say they saw a 60 percent increase last year. Advocates say they struggle for recognition of the problem because the homeless blend into the suburban landscape. "In Chicago, you can see it. You are confronted with it every day. Here, you miss the person sleeping in the car," said Jack Nichols, executive director of McHenry County Public Action to Deliver Shelter, or PADS. In DuPage County, an increasing number of people are trying to make themselves invisible in a land of Lincoln Navigators and upscale coffee shops--often for 12 hours a day, between the time they leave the PADS site in the morning and travel to the next site. Maps don't reveal everything. Here, among mazes of office parks, streets that aren't pedestrian-friendly and difficult public transportation options, Glover learns which restaurant owners will let him buy a 43-cent coffee and spend a couple hours drinking it to avoid the cold. He learns the definition of "public areas" and the hours of libraries and train stations. His feet feel the mileage between shelter sites, because bus and train tickets must be conserved. Churches and synagogues in suburban PADS networks take turns hosting shelters from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. most days. Last year, DuPage provided services 339 nights; this year the goal is to offer shelter every night, said Carol Simler, executive director of DuPage PADS. In some other counties, the shelters are open only during the winter; in the summers, the homeless camp. Glover, a millwright by trade, has been at PADS steadily since about August when "alcoholism got the best of me," he said. He now attends AA regularly and sees a counselor. "I'm like a new person now; I've just got to get a new life here," he said. On a recent day, he starts early at the Lombard shelter site, trudging along the cracked shoulder of Butterfield Road as cars whiz past him in the dark. Some other homeless people have left already, headed to work. It's 21 degrees outside, 10 if you count the windchill, and the bundled men and women at the bus stop definitely do as they wait half an hour for the bus. Most of the "PAD-ites," as they call themselves, are headed to downtown Wheaton, where a PADS day center is open to everyone until 1 p.m. Thursdays only. There they may use the laundry facility, phone and showers. Glover drops a bright blue bag on the floor. Weighing about 40 pounds,it holds his remaining belongings, except for his toolbox, which a relative keeps for him. He pours a cup of coffee and checks for messages. Around him, people are reading, attending employment sessions,watching the coffeepot for the next pot to brew. After mapping his route should he get that job, Glover starts thinking about where he can get a bus pass to get to work. Advocates say that navigating communities designed for cars is a big hurdle for the homeless. In McHenry County, PADS pays $1,600 a week for a van to transport the homeless from site to site and sometimes to job interviews, Nichols said. The people having to travel from shelter to shelter seem to divide into three groups--those who are mentally ill and can't access services they need, those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, and those here because of a layoff, divorce or unaffordable housing. (continued next post)
On the road with homeless in the suburbs, part 2
10 years ago
Suburban networks strained The housing and economic pressures have revealed cracks in suburban networks for the poor --cracks advocates and human services officials say they are desperately trying to fill. DuPage PADS staffers recently had to direct a woman with a newborn baby to a Chicago program because they couldn't find a place for her. A church in Glen Ellyn started opening its doors Sunday afternoons because there was no place in town for the homeless to warm themselves on Sundays. Advocates say they're seeing more families and pregnant women and have no space in existing programs for them. As many children have been in the DuPage shelters in the first six months of this fiscal year as all of last year, Simler said. "We need a safety net for the people who fall through our safety nets," said Candace King, executive director of the DuPage Federation on Human Services Reform. Those falling through include people like Jennifer Marcus, a 25-year-old mother who was 7 1/2 months pregnant last month. She had been working at a Walgreens, but after her husband went to jail and her car broke down, she didn't have a way to get to work. The buses didn't run late enough for her late-night shift, and she had to quit. With no subsidized housing available, she went to the homeless shelter with 2-year-old Rebecca. "It's not easy with children. It's hard to do things like potty-train and teach them right from wrong," she said. Marcus said she gets roughly $300 a month in public aid as well as food stamps, not enough to afford an apartment. She has been homeless since October. "I don't want pity; I don't want people looking at me and thinking I'm a bad mother," she said. In the last few weeks, she has been staying with friends while awaiting her baby's birth but occasionally has been back at PADS with her daughter. King said DuPage doesn't have as many chronically homeless as more urban areas, but "we do have a lot more episodically homeless people." `Second-degree homeless' Advocates also talk about "second-degree homeless people," or people who are crowding into apartments with relatives or paying more than an affordable rent. DuPage County volunteers mobilize quickly, said Mary Ellen Durbin of the People's Resource Center, which serves low-income residents. But the needs have grown so quickly, especially among those overburdened by rental or mortgage payments, she said. Philip, 45, who asked his last name not be used, has been homeless a month. A printing pressman, he lost his job in October. He emptied his savings but wasn't able to make his mortgage payment. He's working with the PADS staff on his resume. "Being here is hard. It's depressing," he said. Housing advocates say they have a plan to create more places for the homeless, but in the meantime, many "transitional" housing programs--temporary homes for people looking for work--are full. Waiting lists for subsidized housing are closed. fter a few hours at the DuPage day center, talk turns to how this group of homeless will get to the next shelter site. Today, the group is lucky--the doors to the Wheaton Metra station are open, and several head there for warmth as they wait four hours for their train. Rebecca sleeps in her stroller as her mother writes a letter nearby. Phil keeps an eye out for the police to avoid trespassing tickets. Another pregnant woman sleeps on a bench. G lover takes the train to West Chicago and sits in a restaurant sipping coffee for nearly an hour as he waits for the night's shelter to open. He walks up the dark road to the church. People who still have their cars, but not their homes, start pulling in. The line moves slowly, but finally Glover is inside. Finally, he doesn't need to pretend that he's invisible. Copyright (c) 2005, Chicago Tribune ============================== FAIR USE for education on issues of social and economic justice and homeless/human civil rights and liberties, etc.
Home costs squeeze workers
10 years ago
We only want people 55 (years old) and older. housing demand for the wealthy and the elderly is being met, but working families seeking moderate and low-priced homes continue to face few choices that they can afford. From Staff and Wire Reports Union Leader, Mar. 29, 2005 The town of Ossipee has "created a moat to keep out low-income households," a Strafford County Superior Court judge said last month in a ruling whose findings reflect those in a study released yesterday. The study found that moderate and median income people are being squeezed out of housing opportunities as their wages fail to keep pace with housing prices. "Housing New Hampshire's Workforce" was written by economist Lisa Shapiro with the Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell law firm. It estimated that New Hampshire is losing out on 2,800 jobs because some people can't find a place to live. Shapiro wrote the report for the New Hampshire Workforce Housing Council. One of the biggest factors causing the tight supply is local regulations — such as minimum lot sizes and building moratoriums — that make workforce housing uneconomical, Shapiro said. "Workforce housing" is a term with no standard definition, but the report defines it as housing for a household that falls between 60 and 120 percent of the median income. In 2003, that ranged from $32,000 to $65,000, Shapiro said. In a decision posted yesterday, Superior Court Judge Bruce Mohl faulted Ossipee for denying permits to Great Bridge Properties LLC, which wanted to build 24 workforce housing apartments in town. The town's ordinance limits multifamily housing to existing buildings and restricts it to four or fewer units per building. Mohl ordered the town to adopt interim ordinances to provide its share of affordable housing, which he defined to include low-income and workforce housing. "By making it economically infeasible for low-income households to live in the town and by acting zoning ordinances that preclude the development of affordable housing, the town has created a moat to keep out low-income households from both the county and other regions," Mohl wrote. "Such a scheme is clearly illegal." The Business and Industry Association, Bank of America and the council host a luncheon today to discuss the issue and how it affects businesses in this state. The event is at the Center of New Hampshire Radisson in Manchester. "Generally, housing demand for the wealthy and the elderly is being met," the report said. "But working families seeking moderate and low-priced homes continue to face few choices that they can afford." In the five communities used for case studies — Concord, Dover, Keene, Lebanon and Merrimack — the appreciation rate for lower- and moderate-priced housing was significantly greater than for moderately high or higher-priced housing, she said. Housing prices increased 10 times faster than the typical worker's income over the last four years, the study found. Shapiro acknowledged the rental market has softened up, but apartments with three and four bedrooms remain difficult to find. And the prices for houses continue to be strong. Many communities do not really want more children in their schools, said Claira Monier of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority. "We go out to many planning boards and we hear, 'We only want people 55 (years old) and older.' What will that do to the New Hampshire economy 10 to 15 years from now?" Monier said. David Juvet of the Business and Industry Association said businesses have felt the impact of the lack of housing for the last four years. One-third of the businesses surveyed offer employees some form of housing assistance, he said. Monier said Rockingham and Hillsborough counties have dealt with the issue for about a decade, but now the problem is spreading to Merrimack and Belknap counties, the Upper Valley and the Mount Washington Valley. New Hampshire loses between 1,300 to 2,800 jobs and $21 million to $33 million in state and local taxes annually because of the problem, the report said. Other human tolls include long commutes, lost wages and inadequate living conditions, the council said. Union Leader staff reporters Garry Rayno and Mark Hayward and The Associated Press contributed to this report. ================ FAIR USE
WOW!!
10 years ago
Thank you for all this useful info and the links.so many of the other groups are overly focused on stuff going on elsewhere.I have lashed out at a bunch of racists at care2.the real problem is at home,and what you have written proves it.thank you again!!PEACES,ET
Hi Edward!
10 years ago
You're welcome! (and thank you!) Glad this info is of help- and you're right- there is human need right in our own backyard which needs to be acknowledged and helped.
The New Slavery
10 years ago
From: Jolly Roger Date: 04/01/05 04:03:02 Subject: The New Slavery The average American in the year 2005 lives a fragile existence, in a struggle for survival that can be ended by missing a few paychecks. The carrot at the end of the stick which was formerly known as "the American dream" has been replaced by a whip that can best be described as the American nightmare of homelessness, and slow, early death. You no longer work to achieve a better life for yourselves and your children. You work to keep a roof over your head, and you pray that you dont lose it. You became a slave when fear replaced incentive as your motivation to work, but I still suggest that you work while you can, because if the company you work for cant send your job overseas, the U.S. government is allowing 2000 people per day to enter this country illegally, because theyre willing to do your job for less. It doesn't matter if youre a "white collar" or "blue collar" employee. If youre an American, youre too highly paid. There are billions of people who want your job, and your government is doing all they can to see that you lose it to them. You see, were not really Americans anymore. Now were just anonymous faces in the "global village," because our government has sold our nation to foreigners and international bankers, and the new bankruptcy law has doomed the American citizen to a life of debt slavery. Theyll insist that illegal immigrants are only doing jobs that Americans refuse to do, and youll probably believe it, because if youre watching the TV that shovels that crap, you probably still have your job. The illegal immigrants are doing jobs that Americans always did, and every unemployed American I talk to cant find a job anywhere. And just like the European immigrants that flooded this country before the economic depression of the 1930's, todays illegal immigrants also have no gripe with a government that has allowed them work for high wages in America, and send billions back to their homeland. Nor do they care very much about our constitution, bill of rights, or way of life. Theyre only here for what they can grab, and our government has welcomed them with open arms, because theyre grabbing it from you. Youre already working much longer, and much harder, to achieve a much lower standard of living than the previous generation, and 25 percent of working Americans no longer even get a vacation. The Social Security retirement age has been raised to match the life expectancy of American males, so apparently, youre also expected to work until youre dead. When you do finally get a vacation, they only trip youll be taking will be in a pine box, and thats only if youre one of the lucky ones. Most of us will only get the state-issued canvas bag that gets tossed into the pit with all the others. If you dont mind the fact that youll be working until youre dead, you might also want to consider the fact that youll get nothing for your labor, because this nations economy is about to crash like a freight train, and when it does, everything youve worked for will vanish. After the depression gets ugly, and your family has made the adjustment from three meals per day to three meals per week, the newspapers will blame your hunger on "the economy," as if it were some magical force that uncontrollably ruined a couple hundred million lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politicians and international bankers can manipulate national economies at will, much in the way the media manipulates your mind, and a decision has been made to impoverish Americans, because global government requires that everyone in the world have an equally low standard of living. Simply put, were being robbed of all weve worked for, because our government wants us to be poor, hungry, and docile, dependant upon them for our existence, and in fear of them for our lives. The government of the United States is intentionally destroying the economy of the United States, because the politicians and the international bankers they work for have decided that the American way of life, and catering to the demands of the American constitution, is simply too expensive. Regardless of how wealthy you think you are, you actually have no real money at all. The "federal reserve notes" that are in your wallet, and your bank account, arent really money, but are actually only paper on a debt that can never be paid, not even by combining all the assets and labor of every American alive today. Any loan-shark with a third grade education will tell you "the papers no good," and naturally, the foreign investors who allow us to float this debt, have come to the same conclusion. What is commonly known as the "U.S. dollar," represents a debt that is owed by the U.S. federal government, to the federal reserve bank. The federal reserve bank happens to be the privately owned entity that lent the money thats represented by the paper in your wallet. The federal reserve act signed away everything you own, and the fruit of your labor as collateral on this debt, and as foreign investors are becoming increasingly unwilling to invest the $2 billion per day needed to cover the interest, our creditors will want to collect it. About 90 percent of all Americans are mortgaged to the hilt, and would have little or no assets left if all debts and liabilities were to be paid.* Most Americans have taken advantage of low interest rates, and are now paying a mortgage on their homes. The booming real estate market has made every purchase profitable, because the price of a home always rises. The problem is that the price of a home today is incredibly over-inflated, and the real estate boom thats been keeping the American economy afloat, is about to bust. Interest rates are going to rise, and the price of your home is going to drop drastically, which will leave you stuck paying for a house that probably wouldnt pay the interest on your debt if you
The New Slavery, part 2
10 years ago
About 90 percent of all Americans are mortgaged to the hilt, and would have little or no assets left if all debts and liabilities were to be paid.* Most Americans have taken advantage of low interest rates, and are now paying a mortgage on their homes. The booming real estate market has made every purchase profitable, because the price of a home always rises. The problem is that the price of a home today is incredibly over-inflated, and the real estate boom thats been keeping the American economy afloat, is about to bust. Interest rates are going to rise, and the price of your home is going to drop drastically, which will leave you stuck paying for a house that probably wouldnt pay the interest on your debt if you sold it. If youre lucky enough to remain employed, inflation will shred your paycheck until you can no longer make mortgage payments. This is when you need to remember that when a nations economy collapses, the wealth of the nation doesnt disappear, it only changes hands. Millions of Americans are about to be tossed into the street, and because were a kinder and gentler America, from the street theyll be tossed into shelters. Once in the shelter, theyll be wards of the social service system, which will make sure they all have food, and a bed to sleep in. In exchange for that food and shelter, the "welfare reform" act will put them to work at jobs where they will collect no additional salary. I guess the idea of "welfare reform" is a lot more acceptable to Americans than "forced labor" but regardless of what you call it, many Americans will soon experience slavery once again, and the slaves are not just sweeping public streets. Under the welfare reform act, many Americans are being put to work for private companies for no wages other than the cost of their food and shelter, both of which constitute the bare minimum requirements of survival. By causing the economy to collapse, and then "saving" the poor, our government can legally force millions of Americans into slavery. The new slavery will be blamed on "the economy," and it will employ a much larger percentage of the population than it did before the civil war. To understand how theyre accomplishing this, we need to turn our thoughts back to our monetary system, because due to the fact that it is no longer based on the gold standard, our government is in control of the money supply, and that gives them the ability to cause rampant unemployment, which is exactly what theyre doing. The framers of the U.S. constitution protected us from this brand of tyranny, but because Americans were foolish enough to ignore and/or trust their government, they will become slaves, but most of them will blame themselves for their plight. Article 1, Section 10, of the U.S. constitution clearly states that "no state shall... make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts." The constitutions prohibition of "fiat money" (whats in your wallet) guarantees that the wealth of the nation remains in the hands of the people, which leaves the government incapable of stealing the populations wealth, as theyre doing today. You can collect all the dollars that you like. Our government decides what theyre worth, and by keeping the presses working overtime, theyre insuring that the dollar will soon be worthless. The U.S. department of labor has also changed the way it collects data regarding unemployment, which allows for the fraudulent unemployment figures that are printed in the newspapers, and allows working Americans to believe that things arent really that bad. Their new "household survey" system avoids counting most of the poor by basing unemployment figures on telephone surveys. A real estimate, based on population and payroll taxes, reveals that about 25 percent of the American workforce is presently unemployed, and that will eventually force them into the social service slavery system. Unless your mortgage and debts are completely paid off, and you can still pay your property taxes, theres a good chance youll soon be joining them. Welcome to the third world, and to an American world, where slavery is legal once again. What are you going to do when your government forces you into slavery? You cant avoid it, because if youre homeless, youll be rounded up and brought to a "shelter", where youll be fed, and probably medicated if youre not happy to be there. With so many people becoming homeless, it will be easy for them to find an apartment for you, and social services will pay your rent, and give you food stamps. Soon after that they will find you a job, but naturally, you wont be taking home a paycheck because youre in debt to the social service system. Theyll tell you that youre working your way back to independence, but since your salary will never be more than your expenses, youll work for free until youre dead. If you refuse to work, the government "assistance" will be cut off, youll be back out on the street, and youll probably do your next job with a shackle around your ankle. Im not asking that you waste the time or paper required to write your congressman, because they dont care what you think anyway. What I am asking you to do is to remember something. When the economy does crash, and youre forced into the street. I want you to remember that this isnt your fault, and its not the result of a "bad economy." Please remember that youre poor, hungry and homeless, because thats where our government wants you to be, and they intentionally destroyed the U.S. economy because they want you to suffer, and beg. And regardless of how bad things get, never sell your rifle. - ---- Jolly Roger "Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens
Recommended Link- workingpoor.org
10 years ago
Working Poor- workingpoor.org http://www.workingpoor.org/do/Home
From Working Poor
10 years ago
"Poverty is a huge problem in North America, particularly in the United States. According to the Current Population Survey from the US Census Bureau, in the last 3 years, poverty has increased from 31.6 million in the year 2000 to 35.9 million people in 2003. As of 2003, the income poverty threshold for a family of four was $18,810, for a family of three: $14,680, for a family of two: $12,015 and for individuals: $9,393. According to the US Department of Labor current population survey estimates of 2003, Bureau of Labor Statistics,1.6 million people were earning a wage below the federal wage of $5.15. Another 545,000 workers were only earning the minimum wage. The 2000 Urban Institute study reports that about 3.5 million people are homeless in any given year. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, a study found that from 1987 to 1997, in 9 communities and 3 states, the volume of homeless shelter capacity more than doubled. In 2 other communities and 2 states, this volume more than tripled. This indicates that the level of poverty did increase during that time period. In 1997, as much as three million low to moderate income working families spent more than ½ of their income on housing. By 2001, this number had jumped to 4.8 million – a 67% increase. With respect to health care, the US Bureau of Census reports that over 41 million Americans have no health care insurance. Nearly 1/3 of persons living in poverty have no health care at all. The National Priorities Project report of 1998 reveals that 46% of the jobs with the most growth between 1995 and 2005 pay less than $16000 per year. As much as 74% of these jobs pay below a livable wage. Today, there are as much as 28 million Americans who use more than 30% of their take home pay to pay rent. According to the US Department of Education 2000, the number of children and youths who are homeless increased from 841,700 in 1997 to 930,200 in 2000. They add that the biggest barrier these children experience is the lack of transportation to and from school. This indicates that financial hardships are a causing factor on why children are not able to make it to school. Poverty extends worldwide and is a problem of staggering proportions that needs to be immediately addressed. Here are some excerpts from the United Nations Development Program’s Sustainable Human Development web page: * As much as 800 million people do not get enough food to eat. There are about 500 million people are chronically malnourished. * In industrialized nations, more than 100 million people live below the poverty line while more than 5 million people are homeless and 37 million are unemployed. The United Nations Human Development Report of 2000 informs us that worldwide, more than 1.2 billion people are so poor that they live on less than $1 a day and more than 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation. According to Jubilee Research, close to 700 children die in Bangladesh everyday due to malnutrition related causes. And for those children that survive, half of them experience stunted growth. Can Poverty Be Solved and How? It’s a problem that will not be solved by food relief campaigns or donation campaigns alone. It may relieve the symptoms of poverty but the root causes of this terrible social problem will still exist, causing poverty to remain with us. Poverty destroys anything in its path and it permeates the areas of education, health care, water supplies, sanitation, transportation, roads, communications and markets. One of the most immediate causes of poverty is ignorance. Many of the poor lack the information and education needed in order to be confident enough in their abilities to launch and run their own businesses. Many do not have the know how to raise capital, implement bookkeeping and accounting procedures or initiates studies in order to improve production or customer service. Sometimes, to those why try, this lack of education may lead them to make poor business decisions that could result in financial disasters which in turn lead to poverty. Selfishness is another contributing factor to why a lot of the poor remain ignorant. There are some who do well in business but do not want to readily share their skills and expertise with others for fear of competition. To some who are ready to share information, they charge a cost or premium that it is often unaffordable and therefore, inaccessible to the poor. In the US, through the US Small Business Administration web portal, you can receive extensive training and education about starting a business as well as financing, managing, and marketing on the organization. Indeed, government leaders need to continue to push for free or low cost training programs that become practical solutions to the problem of poverty. If individuals were more educated, they would be more knowledgeable about diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis or substance abuse. Awareness of these diseases could prevent others from contracting them. If disease free, individuals will not experience financial loses directly related to sickness. This is one reason why we should all call on our representatives to make education affordable and accessible, particularly to the poor." rest on http://www.workingpoor.org/do/Home
Bush Social Security Plan Proves Tough Sell Among Working Poor
10 years ago
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A61356-2005Apr17.html?nav=rss_topnews nvestment Choice Has Limited Appeal, Studies Find By Jonathan Weisman Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A01 Brenda Ellis's day begins at 6:30 a.m., when she rousts her 11-year-old son, Imani, from bed, hustles him into the kitchen for breakfast and to the school bus by 7. Tianna, 13, and Dikia, 17, quickly follow. Then she's off, some days to a substitute-teaching job in Prince George's County, others to tax clinics for the working poor, where she is earning credit for a hoped-for career in accounting. If it's a school night for her, Ellis, 41, rushes home to her Landover apartment to quickly fix dinner before bolting out at 5:45 p.m. for the half-hour drive to Strayer University and an accounting class that ends at 9. If it's tax time, she may not leave the clinic until 10. She kisses the kids goodnight, checks their homework, does a little of her own, has dinner, then climbs into bed by midnight, to start over 6 1/2 hours later. Somewhere in this busy life stews roughly $13,000 in retirement savings from her 14 years at the U.S. Postal Service, in accounts that she doesn't really understand or monitor. "I don't know what's going on with it," she said one night at a tax clinic in Southeast D.C. "I just know I have these three accounts, so I just say, 'Let's hope and pray. Let's hope and pray it's not going into Enron. Let's hope and pray it's not going into Tyco.' It's just hard to absorb all I'm supposed to absorb." In his push to add individual investment accounts to Social Security, President Bush maintains that people like Ellis have the most to gain -- the working poor, living from paycheck to paycheck. With such accounts, they would have a nest egg they could invest in stocks and bonds and watch grow with the benefit of compounding interest. For the first time, they would have a sense of ownership and a stake in their nation's economy and financial markets. "I'm 1,000-percent convinced of this: The president cares the most about this $10-an-hour person," said Allan B. Hubbard, director of the White House National Economic Council. "And what he gets most irritated by is when it is suggested, 'Oh the $10-an-hour person isn't sophisticated enough to deal with a personal retirement account.' " But between work, day care and the endless battle to lift themselves up, some members of the president's would-be ownership society say they would just as soon not have another thing to worry about. At least that was the case for several who in recent weeks visited a Southeast D.C. tax clinic run by ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. "When you know you're entitled to Social Security, you know it's going to continue to come until you breathe your last breath," said Sondra Gilbert, a former D.C. government worker who had been jobless since 1999. "But if I start putting the few dollars he's going to let me put into an account, I could run out of that in a year or two, or whatever. Then I'm back on what? A homeless shelter?" "I like the old way," said Joan Singletary, 52, a custodian deployed to the Bureau of Printing and Engraving by Goodwill Industries. "I like receiving a check. That way, I wouldn't have to tamper with the money on my own." Behavioral economists say the White House should not be surprised by that attitude. Numerous studies of retirement savings programs such as 401(k) plans have found that choice may be the last thing people want. If employees must sign up for their 401(k) plans, they often don't. If enrollment is automatic unless they opt out, most stay in. If the default savings option is a conservative money market, that's where their money goes. If the default is a portfolio of stocks and bonds, they'll take that. "Having a stake in the economy or the financial markets, that's heavy rhetoric, but it's not clear it's worth much to most households," said David Laibson, a Harvard University economist who studies retirement savings behavior. Laibson examined the 401(k) contributions of the one group with nothing to lose from participating, workers over 59 who still qualify for matching contributions from their employers but can also withdraw money from their pension plans at any time with no penalty. They tend to be experienced and educated, yet 40 percent of such workers do not participate in 401(k)s. "That's just mind-boggling," he said. "That's money on the table that these households are just overlooking." Ellis worked for the Postal Service from 1984 to 1998, years when stock market indexes soared. But she never understood the federal retirement savings system until late in her years with the service. She wound up largely with a small employer match. That is not surprising, said Brigitte C. Madrian, a professor of business and public policy at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and the author of several papers on savings behavior. In a society of specialization, people would rather trust their investment and savings decisions to perceived experts, just as they trust their car repairs to mechanics and their legal problems to lawyers. "People are wary about taking control of their Social Security, just as I'm wary of fixing my own car," she said. That is especially true among the working poor, whose experience with choice may be particularly bad, Madrian said. They may not have access to the best doctors because so many physicians do not accept Medicaid. They've been nudged toward home ownership, but may have fallen victim to predatory lenders or insurance scams. And they are not likely to believe the government is going to give them the best investment options for the Social Security accounts. (continued next post)
Bush Social Security Plan Proves Tough Sell Among Working Poor, part 2
10 years ago
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted last month, support for private accounts rose with income level. Among households reporting income of $35,000 or less, 6 in 10 said they opposed the president's proposal on Social Security. In households with income of $75,000 or more, about half of those polled said they supported the proposal. Several interviews revealed skepticism. Among this city's poor, the litany of worries are endless: police shortages, mercury spills in dilapidated schools, a scarcity of teachers, closed pools and recreation centers. Bush, they say, has not tried to sell his Social Security plan to them. Rather, he travels to hand-picked Republican audiences that do not need their Social Security checks anyway, said Gregory Ligon, 56, of Hyattsville, who warehouses medical supplies at the Army's Walter Reed Medical Center. And even there, "he's not telling you everything," Ligon said. "There's a lot left out that you don't know about, so someone else down the line has to come in and say, 'You know, what he meant was . . .' " Those blanks tend to be filled in by ardent opponents of the Bush plan, they say. Hubbard conceded the issue: "We need to make these points" to the poor, he said. The one thing the working poor seem to have an abiding faith in is Social Security: "I'm job-hunting. I'm blind. I'm a widow by desertion. I live on Social Security," said the Rev. Gloria Swieringa, a Prince George's County activist who lives in Fort Washington. "You think I want Bush fooling with the one thing I can count on?" But perhaps above all, the working poor just don't have the time. At age 20, it's not like Samisha Taylor is dead-set against private accounts. When she heard them explained, she shrugged and suggested they may be a good idea. But she can be forgiven for not having thought about it much. Until this school year began, her day started at 5:30 a.m. At 7, Samisha and her infant daughter, Samiya, caught the X2 bus near her mother's 15th Street NE house, for an hour-long journey to the one day care center available and affordable, off Minnesota Avenue in Southeast D.C. Then it was back to the X2 for another hour-long ride, back to Northeast and her job as a pharmacy technician. If she could get off by 5, she'd make the journey again to pick up Samiya. If she were kept late, the bus ride was left to her mother. Either way, Taylor would be home around 7 to make dinner, read her pharmacy technician manuals, and get some sleep before the next 5:30 wake-up. Between day care and the financial help she was lending her mother, nothing was left of the $200 to $300 she earned weekly. "It was stressful," she said. As the crow flies, it is not far from Joan Singletary's Maryland Avenue apartment to the Bureau of Engraving, but as the bus travels it can be interminable, an X8 bus to the D6 Sibley Hospital line, to the 52. The journey starts a little after 1 in the afternoon for her evening shift. She's in bed again by 1 in the morning. The work brings in about $647 every two weeks, but rent swallows nearly half of that. She once had about $3,000 in retirement savings from better days and a job with the District's public school system, but that was before a nervous breakdown and a thyroid condition. Now she lives from paycheck to paycheck, while working with Providence Hospital on the medical bills that remain unpaid. Bush's Social Security proposal would let Singletary divert some of her payroll taxes -- 4 percent of her earnings -- into an account with her name on it. She could invest it in a mix of stocks and bonds, or plow it all into Treasury notes, just about the safest investment possible, then watch it grow. Singletary thought about it for a moment, then shook her head: "I still like the old routine," she said. "I like the check." Washington Post staff writers Richard Morin and Claudia Deane contributed to this report. photo caption: "I don't know what's going on with it," says Brenda Ellis, 41, of Forestville. "I just know I have these three accounts, so I just say, 'Let's hope and pray. Let's hope and pray it's not going into Enron. Let's hope and pray it's not going into Tyco.' It's just hard to absorb all I'm supposed to absorb." (Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post) ============ FAIR USE for learning about issues of social, economic injustice- human/homeless civil rights and civil liberties, etc. ============
Center for jobs to aid Hispanics
10 years ago
http://makeashorterlink.com/?Q13A23EEA Center for jobs to aid Hispanics The bilingual project in Deltona aims to help new Spanish-speaking residents find work. By Jeff Libby Sentinel Staff Writer April 21, 2005 DELTONA -- A job-placement center will open next week with a bilingual staff, easing the entry of Spanish speakers and others as they relocate to Volusia County's largest city. The job center should open Tuesday through a partnership between the Volusia County Hispanic Association and the Workforce Development Board of Flagler and Volusia Counties Inc. The center, which will open at the Hispanic Association's office at 766 Deltona Blvd., will be the second community-based center with bilingual staff to open in Volusia County with help from the development board since January. "We have a large number of people coming from Spanish-speaking countries, many from Puerto Rico," said Zenaida Denizac, president of the Volusia County Hispanic Association. "With the center, we won't have to say, 'Go here, go there.' We can say, 'Come here. We have people who speak Spanish who can help you.' " The center will be the sixth to open in partnership with the development board since last fall. The hope is that by bringing Internet services and resume-writing workshops closer to people's homes, more will use the services and find jobs, said Sharon Warriner, a spokeswoman for the development board. Typically, the development board supplies as many as four computers, at a cost of about $2,500, as well as the training to use them and continued technical support, Warriner said. "We're bringing services into the back yards of the people who need them," Warriner said. "It's all about improving access." The satellite offices in DeLand, Pierson, Oak Hill and Daytona Beach are operated in partnerships with a church, an agricultural resource center and a homeless-aid center. Most have opened in the past several months, Warriner said. The community-based centers complement three one-stop career centers in DeLand, Daytona Beach and Palm Coast that have served an average of 23,000 job-seekers each year since 2000. The Pierson satellite office started in January through a partnership between the development board and Project Achieve, a federally funded agricultural job center with bilingual staff. It has allowed the job center to add online job listings to its offerings of classes in nurse assistant training, citizenship and English as a second language. About five people use the new services each week, the development board said. Many are farm workers. "Before we had to call around to find out what was out there," said Robert Gayton, an administrator at Project Achieve. "Now they can come here and look online for any jobs in Volusia and Flagler instead of having to drive around." At the Homeless Assistance Center, which has been working with the development board since last fall, people are also finding jobs through the online job listings, said Del Hillman, program manager. In Deltona, the job center should provide a comfortable environment for people new to the area and the culture. Initially, the center will open three days a week. The phone number at the center is 386-860-1128. "The majority of people who come here want to work and do for themselves," Denizac said. "This will help them." Jeff Libby can be reached at jlibby@orlandosentinel.com or 386-253-2316. Copyright © 2005, Orlando Sentinel =========== Fair Use Notice This message may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not specifically been authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, religious, spiritual, and social justice issues. We believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for nonprofit educational and research purposes, and in the hope that more people will awaken and begin to think for themselves, as is so sorely needed in these times. For more information on fair use, please go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes of your own which go beyond "fair use," we suggest that you obtain permission from the copyright owner." ** ==============
The One-Sided Class War
10 years ago
Lee Sustar: The One-Sided Class War http://www.counterpunch.com/sustar04222005.html Working Wages Slide, While Business Lines Its Pockets The One-Sided Class War By LEE SUSTAR Three years into an economic recovery, workers are losing ground--so much so that the mainstream media are finally having to take notice. Once inflation is taken into account, compensation for nonsupervisory workers in the private sector--about 80 percent of the workforce--dropped 0.4 percent in 2004. Analyses in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times blamed the usual suspects: globalization and the outsourcing of jobs overseas, a slack labor market and weak unionization rates. (Source: State of Working America, 2004-05) These developments are, in fact, symptoms of the underlying cause: a systematic shift of wealth from labor to capital through free-market policies--known internationally as “neoliberalism”--that began more than three decades ago. Today’s economic picture--in which profits are taking a greater share of the national income in an economic recovery than at any time since the Second World War--reflects the consolidation of the neoliberal economic order internationally. The economic reality for U.S. workers today bears increasing similarities to their counterparts in less developed countries: a small and shrinking sector of better-paid workers amid a sea of low-paid and often temporary labor, a country where unions are weak and any economic gains for workers are under constant threat, and where the state has abandoned almost all pretence of a social safety net. That, said Sylvia Allegretto of the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), is the real character of what George W. Bush calls “the ownership society.” Until the 1970s, “corporations provided health care and pensions, and the government was there when they failed,” she told me. “Today, fewer employers provide health care, and there is less of a government safety net. It is a huge shifting of risks from big business and the government onto workers’ backs. An ownership society? To own something, you have to be able to afford it.” Allegretto, a co-author of the EPI’s comprehensive book The State of Working America 2004/2005, pointed out that with workers’ wages stagnant, the three-year-old economic recovery from the 2001 recession has leaned heavily on mortgage refinancing and middle-class consumption. “One writer called it the Nieman Marcus recovery,” she said. “With interest rates rising, you will see the refinance boom continue to fall off, and you can’t get around the high cost of health care costs and the high oil and gas prices. If this continues, it will put a damper on the economy.” http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0801489628/counterpunchmaga The pattern of wage stagnation and decline has worsened the precarious situation of U.S. workers. While overall real pay last declined in the early 1990s, hourly wages either declined or stagnated throughout the period between 1973 and 1995. Beginning in the mid-1990s, tight labor markets finally pushed up pay, particularly among low-wage workers. Unions were able to reverse some of the downward trends--workers went on strike at UPS in 1997 and General Motors to win more full-time jobs; at Bell Atlantic/Verizon, workers struck twice to win better pay and benefits. But the recession of 2001 and the weak recovery since unraveled many of these gains. Although real wages continued to grow slowly during the recession, the economy shed large numbers of jobs, particularly in manufacturing, which saw 41 straight months of employment decline. At the same time, productivity gains that emerged in the late 1990s continued to accelerate, which meant that fewer workers could produce more. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 4.3 percent average annual increase in productivity for 2001 to 2004 was last matched in 1948 to 1951. This big spike in output per hour occurred despite the sharp drop in capital investment during the recession. Technology from Corporate America’s late 1990s spending spree undoubtedly played some role in the productivity increase, but old-fashioned speedup is also indisputably responsible. In other words, Corporate America has intensified its one-sided class war--and made major gains. The result is that while the U.S. economy in 2004 generated 2.2 million jobs, that total is 1.4 million less than expected, based on averages from previous economic recoveries. About 20 percent of the jobless today are among the long-term unemployed--people who have been 27 weeks without a job--“an unprecedented development in the post-[Second World War] period,” according to the EPI. This poor jobs picture persisted even as U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a brisk 4.3 percent. While this is less than half of China’s booming growth, it far outpaced Germany’s GDP increase of 1.6 percent and is ahead of Japan’s 4 percent gain. The numbers add up to this conclusion: The success of the U.S. economy has been decoupled from improvements in the lives of U.S. workers. The idea that increases in productivity will automatically lead to wage increases and improvements in living standards--the assumption of liberal Keynesian economists and union leaders alike--has been shattered. What matters is class struggle. As the socialist economist Michael Yates put it in a recent article on the U.S. working class in Monthly Review, “rebuilding the power of the U.S. working class is the only thing which can give workers any sense of hope that the future will be in any way better than the past 30 years.” (continued next post)
The One-Sided Class War, part 2
10 years ago
The challenges in doing this are profound. The lingering labor surplus, along with the productivity boom, gave employers a powerful weapon, even as the economy picked up steam. Unions at major corporate employers in the airline, steel and auto industries made big concessions on wages and benefits, adding to the economic downdraft. Capital’s dominant position in the balance of class forces, which provoked some resistance in the late 1990s, has been restored--and then some. The latest wage statistics underline the point: It’s no longer true--if it ever was--that a rising economic tide will lift all boats. It’s class war from above that’s allowed America’s rulers to accumulate their vast power--and it will require class war from below for workers to make any significant gains. Lee Sustar is a regular contributor to CounterPunch and the Socialist Worker. http://www.socialistworker.org/ He can be reached at: lsustar@ameritech.net =============== ** Fair Use Notice This message may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not specifically been authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, religious, spiritual, and social justice issues. We believe this constitutes a "fair use" of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for nonprofit educational and research purposes, and in the hope that more people will awaken and begin to think for themselves, as is so sorely needed in these times. For more information on fair use, please go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes of your own which go beyond "fair use," we suggest that you obtain permission from the copyright owner." ===============
Medicaid budgets undergo surgery
10 years ago
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002252119_medicuts25.html Monday, April 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m. Close-up Medicaid budgets undergo surgery By Stephanie Simon Los Angeles Times SIKESTON, Mo. — Hundreds of thousands of poor people across the nation will lose their state-subsidized health insurance in the coming months as legislators scramble to hold down the enormous and ever-escalating cost of Medicaid. Here in impoverished southeastern Missouri, nurses at a family health clinic stash drug samples for patients they know won't be able to afford their prescriptions after their coverage is eliminated this summer. Doctors try to comfort waitresses, sales clerks and others who soon will lose coverage for medical, dental and mental-health care. "I don't know what cure to offer them," Dr. Hameed Khaja said helplessly. Lawmakers say they feel for people who will lose coverage. But they say they have no alternative. Prenatal checkups, nursing-home care and other health services for the poor and disabled account for more than 25 percent of total spending in many states. Medicaid is often a state's single biggest budget item, more expensive even than K-12 education. And the price of services, especially prescription drugs and skilled nursing for the elderly, continues to soar. The federal government helps pay for Medicaid, but in the coming fiscal year, the federal contribution will drop by more than $1 billion due to changes in the cost-share formula. President Bush has warned of far deeper cuts to come; he aims to reduce federal spending on Medicaid by an estimated $40 billion over the next decade. Every state is looking for ways to cut its own Medicaid costs. In Tennessee, Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen plans to end coverage for more than 320,000 adults, many of them elderly. Minnesota might stop insuring 27,000 college students and adults without children. Washington state might require senior citizens to pay $3 for each prescription that Medicaid used to provide free. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both Republicans, have proposed privatizing Medicaid. Bush wants to give recipients vouchers so they can shop around for their own insurance plan. Sanford wants to set up Medicaid bank accounts; the state would deposit a fixed sum of money for each patient to spend on medical expenses. In Missouri, where nearly one in five residents is enrolled in Medicaid, Republican Gov. Matt Blunt is poised to sign the most drastic overhaul of all: a bill that will eliminate the program entirely in three years. Blunt expects that by then the state will have established an alternative mechanism for helping the poorest of the poor. But the legislation on his desk does not insist on it. It states only that Missouri Medicaid will cease on June 30, 2008. In the meantime, the bill severely cuts the existing program, ending coverage for an estimated 65,000 to 100,000 people. A single mother of two who earns $3,800 a year will be considered too wealthy to qualify for Missouri Medicaid under the legislation, which is due to take effect this summer. The woman's children will be eligible for free health care. But if she gets a better job and starts earning $23,000 a year, they, too, will be bumped off Medicaid — unless she's willing to pay as much as 5 percent of her income in monthly premiums. The state expects many parents at that income level would be unable or unwilling to pay the premiums, forcing about 24,000 children off the Medicaid rolls. Children who remain on Medicaid will continue to receive full benefits, but most adults will get a bare-bones package. The program no longer will pay for their dental care, hearing aids, eyeglasses, wheelchairs, hospital beds or even bedpans. State Rep. Trent Skaggs, a Democrat from Kansas City, considers the new rules cruel, especially at a time when more than 45 million Americans lack insurance. He worries parents will stop working so their income will drop low enough to qualify their family for free care. Rather than raise costs for minimum-wage clerks, Skaggs suggests raising insurance premiums for lawmakers who get health coverage through the state. He recently introduced a measure that would have cost the average politician $115 a month; the measure failed. "That made a complete mockery of the idea that leaders sacrifice first," Skaggs said. "Times are tough, but not so tough that we have to sacrifice?" The Republican lawmakers who have been leading the drive to change Medicaid say such criticism distorts their goals. The cuts are not just about balancing this year's budget, they say. They're about steering Medicaid back to its original purpose: to serve as a safety net for citizens too young, too old or too ill to help themselves. Turning Medicaid into a welfare program for poor but able-bodied adults risks jacking up the costs so high that the entire system could go bust, stranding those who most desperately need the state's help. The cost of Missouri Medicaid has doubled in the past six years, to $5 billion. It eats up more than 30 percent of the state budget. More than 1 million people are enrolled. Medicaid was enacted in 1965 as a joint federal-state program to provide basic care for poor children, pregnant women and people with disabilities. States administer the program and pay 20 percent to 50 percent of the total costs. The federal government funds the remainder. (The federal contribution varies from state to state, with the poorest states receiving the largest amounts.) States can opt out of Medicaid, but since 1982 every state has participated. By law, they must offer specific benefit packages to certain groups, including poor pregnant women and young children. They are also free to go beyond those minimum standards. (continued next post)
Medicaid budgets undergo surgery, part 2
10 years ago
Historically, lawmakers have considered it a bargain to go beyond because the federal government pays for so much of the program. So states from California to Maine have expanded Medicaid to cover working parents, lower-middle-class children and elderly citizens struggling to pay for the many services not funded by Medicare. Medicaid now covers 53 million Americans. The program pays the bills for nearly 60 percent of all nursing-home residents and finances 37 percent of all births. Because most states have added prescription-drug benefits, Medicaid covers the hefty pharmacy bills for many patients with AIDS, many transplant recipients and many seniors on dialysis or chemotherapy. The program also covers the more mundane medical expenses of low-income working families. Here in Sikeston, Dianna Dixon, 18, relies on Medicaid because her 30-hour-a-week job at Wal-Mart does not come with insurance. Her mother, Donna Sevic, uses Medicaid, too, now that arthritis has forced her to stop working after years in low-wage restaurant, sales and factory jobs. Waiting in the Southern Missouri Health Network's clinic recently to ask a doctor about Dixon's headaches, the women said they expect to lose their coverage this summer. Sevic, 50, said the loss would be devastating; she's not sure how she will afford her medications, much less any doctor visits. "If they take it away from me, I'll just go downhill," she said. "I won't be here much longer. It's that plain and simple." Eyes weary, she said she thinks she deserves better: "If you get out and try, really try to make a living, the government ought to step in and help you." That philosophy still resonates in some states. In Kansas, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed raising cigarette taxes to pay for expanding Medicaid to cover more poor working adults. In Illinois, an expansion is under way. In the past two years, Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich has added tens of thousands of children to the Medicaid rolls — and tens of thousands of parents, as well. "I can't think of anything more important to do," he said. "Healthy families are working families," said Barry Maram, who runs the Illinois Department of Public Aid. "This makes all the economic sense in the world." The Republicans who dominate the Legislature in neighboring Missouri offer a different definition of economic sense. "We're careening out of control," said state Sen. Michael Gibbons. "Taxpayers are not an endless supply of money." Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company =================== FAIR USE for studying homelessness and poverty-related issues =================== Harmony- MEANWHILE BACK AT REALITY RANCH, THE COSTS OF WAR QUIETLY SURPASS $300 BILLION!!!!!! there is PLENTY of money authorized for killing people abroad and NOT ENOUGH to care for the poor and homeless and veterans in the U.S. http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/12785625p-13636521c.html
Costs of war quietly surpass $300 billion
10 years ago
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/12785625p-13636521c.html Costs of war quietly surpass $300 billion Congress approves requests from the president and the Pentagon with little resistance and adds a few unrelated projects to boot. By Lawrence M. O'Rourke -- Bee Washington Bureau Published 2:15 am PDT Monday, April 25, 2005 WASHINGTON - The cost of war continues to climb, but despite growing unease, Congress is giving President Bush and the Pentagon whatever they say is needed. Besides, the legislation to pay for the war also gives some in Congress a chance to toss in a few items that are not linked to the combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the continued U.S. troop presence also is costing money. The $81 billion supplemental war spending bill passed Thursday by the Senate authorized $55 million for a wastewater treatment plant in DeSoto County, Miss., and $25 million for a fish hatchery in Montana, according to private budget analysts. The analysts said the items were approved by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and a key figure in winning approval of the legislation. Even without those items, the cost to the United States of waging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan soars past $300 billion with this bill, with at least $75 billion more to be added next year, and additional sums beyond. If the United States is forced to keep 40,000 troops in Iraq through 2010, as some Pentagon strategists anticipate, the cost could rise to $646 billion, said Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina, ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Costs are rising steadily, Spratt said in a report, "because the war is lasting longer, and is more intense, and the cost to keep troops in the theater of operations is proving to be much greater than anyone anticipated." The Pentagon and the White House Office of Management and Budget say the final price tag depends on factors not yet under control, such as the length of the U.S. stay and the speed of training an effective Iraqi security force. On Capitol Hill, the administration's request for extra war funding for the rest of this fiscal year barely raised a ripple, with members of Congress aware that any criticism could be viewed as exposing U.S. troops to harm. With barely a word of complaint, the Senate on Thursday approved the $81.3 billion supplemental spending bill that included $76.8 billion in war costs. That came on the heels of House approval last month of $74.8 billion for military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. Relatively minor differences in the two bills are likely to be ironed out in the next few weeks. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Reference Service, the new spending came on top of previous approval by Congress of $228 billion for the war. Gentle carping against the legislation centered on the method chosen to pay the war bill and the inclusion of some items that have little or nothing to do with war. In asking for the Iraq and Afghanistan money, the president classified the request as an emergency, a process traditionally used for unexpected spending. That leads to what Congress calls a supplemental spending bill. Traditionally, supplementals cover such emergencies as gearing up national security and dealing with the damage caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "But the justification for calling this emergency spending has worn thin," said Pete Sepp, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, a fiscally conservative watchdog group. "The administration's reliance on supplemental appropriations as the primary mechanism for covering the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is inappropriate," said Steven Kosiak, budget analyst at the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Kosiak said combat costs so far do not include $31 billion in so-called foreign affairs funding, which includes uncertain costs of rebuilding the Iraqi facilities destroyed by war and establishing a new government in Iraq. Sepp said that calling the war appropriations emergency spending gives the White House an excuse to underestimate the deficit. The deficit this year is expected to reach $427 billion, a record in dollar terms. Bush has said his goal is to cut it in half by 2009. One of the battles in Congress during the debate over the war spending bill was whether it should include $592 million to build a new embassy in Iraq, as proposed by the White House. The House refused to go along, cutting the item and rejecting the administration's argument that security in Baghdad is so precarious that construction of a high-security compound is urgently needed. Some members said the item should have been included in a regular State Department spending bill. In the Senate, Tom Coburn, R-Okla., made the same argument, but he lost. The Senate also added a provision that would require the Pentagon to maintain 12 aircraft carriers in the Navy's fleet rather than scrap one carrier to save money. In fashioning a final war costs bill, Senate and House negotiators also will have to contend with immigration measures inserted in the House version. They would create national standards for driver's licenses and give the Department of Homeland Security broad authority to finish construction of a fence along the U.S-Mexico border near San Diego. About writer: The Bee's Lawrence M. O'Rourke can be reached at (202) 383-0012 or lorourke@mcclatchydc.com. =========== FAIR USE for study of social injustice issues; also homelessness and poverty-related issues ===========
American Workers - Outsourced/Offshored To Death
10 years ago
http://www.rense.com/general64/out.htm By Terry Graham 5-2-5 Three Americans died in Colorado last week, victims of our government's failure to protect its employers' -- Citizens -- jobs and access to healthcare. The murder-suicide deaths of a Colorado Springs mother and her two young sons left a husband and father without a family. While depression is blamed, the fact is another American breadwinner lost his software engineering job and was forced to relocate to the East Coast to earn a living while his family stayed behind. When his wife lost her temp job and expressed growing despair, friends called local police who took her to a hospital for evaluation. Jobless, probably without medical insurance, her husband thousands of miles away and aware her children were too young to be alone, she checked herself out of the hospital, bought a handgun, and chose a permanent solution to a growing problem: foreigners taking jobs Americans need with the blessing of our so-called "representatives". This tragedy occurred as Colorado's Governor Bill Owens (governorowens@state.co.us), lobbyists and legislators killed a bill to bring home tax-funded, offshored jobs -- including programming jobs that might have saved this family. Senate Bill 05-023, the "Keep Jobs in America Act," would have required Colorado to use tax dollars to hire US workers, ending the State's practice of hiring foreigners. Introduced in January by State Senator Deanna Hanna (D), SB 05-023 prohibited Colorado from securing services from a contractor/subcontractor using "offshore" foreign-based workers. The Bill required prospective contractors to certify that all services would be performed in the United States when submitting a bid to a State agency. Contractors failing to comply with those terms risked contract termination, civil lawsuits, and stiff penalties including damages to the State agency equal to the amount that agency paid for work performed outside of the US, plus damages related to contract termination. Violators would be barred for three years from contacts with Colorado. SB 05-023 was the legislative outgrowth of a proposed Colorado ballot initiative, "Hire Americans First," which fell short of required signatures last summer. I personally collected 250 signatures, speaking with scores of frustrated, angry Coloradans sick of greedy globalist employment scams paid for with our tax dollars. Support for this populist initiative crossed political, social, economic, educational and racial lines. Many eager signers had lost jobs to foreign workers. (Last week, Microsoft's Bill Gates demanded the US government issue unlimited visas to foreign high-tech workers.) Young parents spoke of friends who had been laid off, worried they were next. Middle-aged signers described once-flourishing careers lost to foreigners whom they had been forced to train. Many lamented that their children could not pursue technical training because insourcing/offshoring left a dead end for Americans. Some expressed valid concerns about security/identity theft intrinsic to offshoring. Foreign workers often have easy, unregulated access to highly sensitive personal information including Social Security numbers, income/assets, bank account records, etc. (In April, police arrested 16 offshored call-center employees in India for allegedly cheating Citibank customers out of nearly $350,000.) One woman ushered a young boy into a store and returned to tell me that his father had lost his job and health insurance to a foreigner. That boy's dad died last year, unable to afford treatment for his heart condition. A few years back, these talented Americans would have been at the peak of their earning power, preparing for comfortable retirements. Today, many eke out a living, clinging to the thin veneer of our shrinking middle-class. As unpaid volunteers gathered signatures for "Hire Americans First," State of Colorado spokesholes insisted "we' need offshore workers in India and China because they can work when Coloradans sleep! (These bureaucratic bozos will get a 3% pay increase this year, even though inflation is one-tenth of one percent.) Hanna's SB 05-023 was a second chance to stop exporting good jobs created and funded by, and for, Colorado's Citizen-taxpayers. Originally deemed to have no fiscal impact upon the State's budget, the bill stalled when Gov. Owens' Dept. of Personnel and Administration announced it would cost the State $24 million to hire Americans rather than foreigners. Sen. Hanna calls the $24 million price tag "bogus," designed to ensure the bill would not survive. "No one has a clue how many [State] jobs are being offshored, what contracts have offshored jobs, or whether the products purchased have been delivered,"she says. In February, Republican Senator Ron May (ronmay@ronmay.org) , who runs a computer consulting firm, said that, "Considering that technical services for the State's IBM main processing unit is located in Asia, and two software packages utilized are made in London and Israel, 'potential increase' would become an assured reality..." Do tell, Sen. May, what information is stored in "Asian" computers run by "Asian" workers? Who has access to it? How much are we paying for this foreign operation? Are Coloradans -- your constituents and employers -- too stupid to handle our own high tech needs? May further claimed that SB 05-023 "will increase costs by depriving citizens of government services at the lowest possible price, decreasing competition among vendors and maintaining a monitoring system." (continued next post)
American Workers - Outsourced/Offshored To Death, part 2
10 years ago
What do May and others have to say about the State of Colorado's new software package -- designed to determine eligibility for Medicaid, Food Stamps and other services? The system, designed by EDS with an unknown number of "offshore" workers, crashed and burned, putting many vulnerable Citizens at risk while costing the State a bundle of our money. "The offensive part is that offshoring is touted as a way to save money on the backs of the American workers without jobs," says Hanna, who believes auditing offshored projects would reveal significant problems. "We are spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about tax incentives to bring good jobs to Colorado," she says. "Why should we use our tax dollars to send jobs out of Colorado?" Though SB 05-023 was approved by Colorado Senate's Business, Labor & Technology Committee, Hanna pulled the bill given Gov. Owens' threat to veto it. Deep-pocket globo-business groups also fought it. Still, Hanna promises to bring the bill back when more support is available. "The people of Colorado deserve no less," she says. Public servants are supposed to serve Citizens, protecting our health, safety and welfare. Contact your representatives, including Senator Hanna (deanna.hanna.senate@state.co.us), for steps you can take to make that happen. © 2005 Terry Graham. This article may be reproduced in full with no changes to the text and with proper attribution. Any other use constitutes a violation of copyright law. ============ FAIR USE ============
Caring for Mom, and those who care for her
10 years ago
http://www.startribune.com/stories/1519/5390100.html Last update: May 7, 2005 at 7:02 PM Caring for Mom, and those who care for her Rick Carter and Gayle Kvenvold May 8, 2005 CARTER0508 How should we honor the women caring for our mothers and grandmothers? As we celebrate the women who nurtured us through childhood, it seems appropriate to recognize the women who are now providing care to many of our aged mothers and grandmothers. Unfortunately, older adult services in Minnesota increasingly depend on working women in poverty to care for elderly women in poverty. Minnesota's tradition of providing outstanding care to older adults is dependent on women willing to work for wages at or below the poverty level. The median pay for a nursing assistant (most of whom are women) in a Minnesota nursing home is about $22,700, not much higher than the federal poverty guidelines for a family of four. Who receives care from these impoverished caregivers? Mostly, elderly women who have exhausted their life's savings. Nationally, more than two-thirds of patients with at least one stay at a nursing facility are women. Minnesota's situation is comparable. Decisions are being made at the Capitol that will determine the future of the state's older adult services. Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislators point to the aging population and the rapid increases in the state's health and human services budget as two of the state's most significant challenges -- and they're right. According to the U.S. Census, the number of Minnesotans over age 60 is expected to increase 70 percent by 2020, with the fastest growth in the over-85 age group. Unfortunately, Minnesota's policy choices in recent years have largely ignored this reality. The Minnesota Legislature has frozen the rates paid for care in nursing homes and for home- and community-based services. Fortunately, both the Senate and House have proposed a 2-percent cost-of-living reimbursement-rate increase in each of the next two years. It is crucial that this inflationary adjustment be approved, but it won't solve the problems that two years of rate freezes have caused during a time of skyrocketing expenses for food, energy, insurance and other necessities. First, we need to assure that those Minnesotans who are best served in a 24-hour skilled care setting have access to a nursing home. Closure looms for some facilities. In some areas of the state, that creates crisis. There are at least nine Minnesota counties with only one skilled nursing home, many near full occupancy. With a recent study showing that more than one-fourth of Minnesota's nursing homes face financial problems serious enough to force closure in the near future, this is a serious statewide problem. Second, we need to look beyond nursing homes for older adult services. Many older adults could live independently if community-based services were available and affordable. Others could be well served by assisted living facilities. Unfortunately, those affordable options aren't available to enough older adults. Third, individuals and families need to be more involved in funding older adult care. We need to make long-term care insurance more affordable through tax credits and other means. We need to educate people on the risks of not planning for long-term care. Some of these reforms will cost money, but they all offer long-term savings for the state. In the face of Minnesota's demographic challenges, we will pay sooner or later, in one way or another. If we don't make smart choices right now, the day is near when the cost will be measured in declining care for our mothers and grandmothers. Rick Carter is president and CEO of Care Providers of Minnesota. Gayle Kvenvold is president and CEO of the Minnesota Health and Housing Alliance. ============= FAIR USE for studying issues of poverty and homelessness, social and economic injustice, human and, in particular, homeless civil rights and civil liberties,etc. =============
re caring for mom and those who care for her
10 years ago
"Unfortunately, older adult services in Minnesota increasingly depend on working women in poverty to care for elderly women in poverty." Well, that describes my situation a few years ago perfectly. I was a working woman in poverty who became a homeless woman in poverty. Although in California.
Workers find it harder to make ends meet
10 years ago
http://www.dailydemocrat.com/Stories/0,1413,136%257E32724%257E2853709,00.html Thursday, May 05, 2005 - At Issue: Why the rich are getting richer. Our Opinion: Globalization and immigration may be contributing to the downward spiral of our wages. If you're finding it harder to pay the bills, you're not alone. Government statistics show that real wages for most workers fell last year, after accounting for inflation. This was the first such drop since the early 1990s. Meanwhile, the compensation for corporate chief executives continued to soar into the stratosphere. The CEOs of 179 large companies were paid, on average, $9.84 million last year, up 12 percent over the previous year, The New York Times reported. The rich are getting richer and the average Joe and Jane are losing ground. The conventional wisdom is that the great middle class was a singular accomplishment of the United States. It appears, however, that this accomplishment is eroding and has been for some time. That is important because a nation of haves and have-nots tends to be less stable politically, and less equitable generally. The reasons for the erosion of the middle class are not well understood, but a lot of folks have their suspicions. The golden years of rising U.S. living standards occurred between 1947 and 1973, when real wages climbed steadily higher. That was a time when the United States stood unscathed as the victor of World War II while much of the rest of the industrial world had to rebuild. Things got dicier for the American worker about 1973. From that time through 1996, real wages stagnated. The situation improved during the middle 1990s when wage growth stayed ahead of inflation. That continued until last year. Some economists think last year's slip was an anomaly. They note that the nation created 2.2 million new jobs, productivity grew and corporate profits were strong, but wages still fell. They think that if the price of oil comes down and health care costs can be controlled, wages will improve. But many workers and economists suspect that globalization places downward pressure on wages. That accounts for the bitter debate about immigration and free-trade agreements. The worker is left to wonder whether he is better off competing with immigrant labor at home or having his job exported. Not a happy choice. And what, pray tell, is the government doing about health care? Not much. Instead, the president and Congress cut taxes for the rich. Go figure. =============== FAIR USE ===============
The New American Slavery
9 years ago
http://www.rense.com/general63/newam.htm The New American Slavery By Jolly Roger slicingthroats@yahoo.com 4-2-5 The average American in the year 2005 lives a fragile existence, in a struggle for survival that can be ended by missing a few paychecks. The carrot at the end of the stick which was formerly known as "the American dream" has been replaced by a whip that can best be described as the American nightmare of homelessness, and slow, early death. You no longer work to achieve a better life for yourselves and your children. You work to keep a roof over your head, and you pray that you don't lose it. You became a slave when fear replaced incentive as your motivation to work, but I still suggest that you work while you can, because if the company you work for can't send your job overseas, the U.S. government is allowing 2000 people per day to enter this country illegally, because they're willing to do your job for less. It doesn't matter if you're a "white collar" or "blue collar" employee. If you're an American, you're too highly paid. There are billions of people who want your job, and your government is doing all they can to see that you lose it to them. You see, we're not really Americans anymore. Now we're just anonymous faces in the "global village," because our government has sold our nation to foreigners and international bankers, and the new bankruptcy law has doomed the American citizen to a life of debt slavery. They'll insist that illegal immigrants are only doing jobs that Americans refuse to do, and you'll probably believe it, because if you're watching the TV that shovels that crap, you probably still have your job. The illegal immigrants are doing jobs that Americans always did, and every unemployed American I talk to can't find a job anywhere. And just like the European immigrants that flooded this country before the economic depression of the 1930's, today's illegal immigrants also have no gripe with a government that has allowed them work for high wages in America, and send billions back to their homeland. Nor do they care very much about our constitution, bill of rights, or way of life. They're only here for what they can grab, and our government has welcomed them with open arms, because they're grabbing it from you. You're already working much longer, and much harder, to achieve a much lower standard of living than the previous generation, and 25 percent of working Americans no longer even get a vacation. The Social Security retirement age has been raised to match the life expectancy of American males, so apparently, you're also expected to work until you're dead. When you do finally get a vacation, they only trip you'll be taking will be in a pine box, and that's only if you're one of the lucky ones. Most of us will only get the state-issued canvas bag that gets tossed into the pit with all the others. If you don't mind the fact that you'll be working until you're dead, you might also want to consider the fact that you'll get nothing for your labor, because this nation's economy is about to crash like a freight train, and when it does, everything you've worked for will vanish. After the depression gets ugly, and your family has made the adjustment from three meals per day to three meals per week, the newspapers will blame your hunger on "the economy," as if it were some magical force that uncontrollably ruined a couple hundred million lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Politicians and international bankers can manipulate national economies at will, much in the way the media manipulates your mind, and a decision has been made to impoverish Americans, because global government requires that everyone in the world have an equally low standard of living. Simply put, we're being robbed of all we've worked for, because our government wants us to be poor, hungry, and docile, dependant upon them for our existence, and in fear of them for our lives. The government of the United States is intentionally destroying the economy of the United States, because the politicians and the international bankers they work for have decided that the American way of life, and catering to the demands of the American constitution, is simply too expensive. Regardless of how wealthy you think you are, you actually have no real money at all. The "federal reserve notes" that are in your wallet, and your bank account, aren't really money, but are actually only paper on a debt that can never be paid, not even by combining all the assets and labor of every American alive today. Any loan-shark with a third grade education will tell you "the paper's no good," and naturally, the foreign investors who allow us to float this debt, have come to the same conclusion. What is commonly known as the "U.S. dollar," represents a debt that is owed by the U.S. federal government, to the federal reserve bank. The federal reserve bank happens to be the privately owned entity that lent the money that's represented by the paper in your wallet. The federal reserve act signed away everything you own, and the fruit of your labor as collateral on this debt, and as foreign investors are becoming increasingly unwilling to invest the $2 billion per day needed to cover the interest, our creditors will want to collect it. (continued next post)
The New American Slavery,2
9 years ago
About 90 percent of all Americans are mortgaged to the hilt, and would have little or no assets left if all debts and liabilities were to be paid.* Most Americans have taken advantage of low interest rates, and are now paying a mortgage on their homes. The booming real estate market has made every purchase profitable, because the price of a home always rises. The problem is that the price of a home today is incredibly over-inflated, and the real estate boom that's been keeping the American economy afloat, is about to bust. Interest rates are going to rise, and the price of your home is going to drop drastically, which will leave you stuck paying for a house that probably wouldn't pay the interest on your debt if you sold it. If you're lucky enough to remain employed, inflation will shred your paycheck until you can no longer make mortgage payments. This is when you need to remember that when a nation's economy collapses, the wealth of the nation doesn't disappear, it only changes hands. Millions of Americans are about to be tossed into the street, and because we're a kinder and gentler America, from the street they'll be tossed into shelters. Once in the shelter, they'll be wards of the social service system, which will make sure they all have food, and a bed to sleep in. In exchange for that food and shelter, the "welfare reform" act will put them to work at jobs where they will collect no additional salary. I guess the idea of "welfare reform" is a lot more acceptable to Americans than "forced labor" but regardless of what you call it, many Americans will soon experience slavery once again, and the slaves are not just sweeping public streets. Under the welfare reform act, many Americans are being put to work for private companies for no wages other than the cost of their food and shelter, both of which constitute the bare minimum requirements of survival. By causing the economy to collapse, and then "saving" the poor, our government can legally force millions of Americans into slavery. The new slavery will be blamed on "the economy," and it will employ a much larger percentage of the population than it did before the civil war. To understand how they're accomplishing this, we need to turn our thoughts back to our monetary system, because due to the fact that it is no longer based on the gold standard, our government is in control of the money supply, and that gives them the ability to cause rampant unemployment, which is exactly what they're doing. The framers of the U.S. constitution protected us from this brand of tyranny, but because Americans were foolish enough to ignore and/or trust their government, they will become slaves, but most of them will blame themselves for their plight. Article 1, Section 10, of the U.S. constitution clearly states that "no state shall... make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts." The constitution's prohibition of "fiat money" (what's in your wallet) guarantees that the wealth of the nation remains in the hands of the people, which leaves the government incapable of stealing the population's wealth, as they're doing today. You can collect all the dollars that you like. Our government decides what they're worth, and by keeping the presses working overtime, they're insuring that the dollar will soon be worthless. The U.S. department of labor has also changed the way it collects data regarding unemployment, which allows for the fraudulent unemployment figures that are printed in the newspapers, and allows working Americans to believe that things aren't really that bad. Their new "household survey" system avoids counting most of the poor by basing unemployment figures on telephone surveys. A real estimate, based on population and payroll taxes, reveals that about 25 percent of the American workforce is presently unemployed, and that will eventually force them into the social service slavery system. Unless your mortgage and debts are completely paid off, and you can still pay your property taxes, there's a good chance you'll soon be joining them. Welcome to the third world, and to an American world, where slavery is legal once again. What are you going to do when your government forces you into slavery? You can't avoid it, because if you're homeless, you'll be rounded up and brought to a "shelter", where you'll be fed, and probably medicated if you're not happy to be there. With so many people becoming homeless, it will be easy for them to find an apartment for you, and social services will pay your rent, and give you food stamps. Soon after that they will find you a job, but naturally, you won't be taking home a paycheck because you're in debt to the social service system. They'll tell you that you're working your way back to independence, but since your salary will never be more than your expenses, you'll work for free until you're dead. If you refuse to work, the government "assistance" will be cut off, you'll be back out on the street, and you'll probably do your next job with a shackle around your ankle. I'm not asking that you waste the time or paper required to write your congressman, because they don't care what you think anyway. What I am asking you to do is to remember something. When the economy does crash, and you're forced into the street. I want you to remember that this isn't your fault, and it's not the result of a "bad economy." Please remember that you're poor, hungry and homeless, because that's where our government wants you to be, and they intentionally destroyed the U.S. economy because they want you to suffer, and beg. And regardless of how bad things get, never sell your rifle. -- Jolly Roger (continued next post)
The New American Slavery,3
9 years ago
"Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens..... Lenin was certainly right." - John Maynard Keynes* *90 percent of all Americans are mortgaged to the hilt, and would have little or no assets left if all debts and liabilities were to be paid. --- Rep. Traficant to U.S. Congress. **John Maynard Keynes is the economist for whom our present monetary system is named. Unlike this nation's wealth, anything written by Jolly Roger is the property of the American people, and the author hereby grants permission to anyone who so desires to post, copy, forward or distribute this letter as they see fit, and in fact, the author encourages you to do so. =========== FAIR USE for considering alternative theories to the trickle-down "piss on the peasant" economy; exploring avenues to social and economic justice (for once) and ways out of the quagmire of the vanishing middle class and the escalating class of the homeless family out on the street, etc. ===========
As the world's rich meet, India's poor struggle on
9 years ago
http://makeashorterlink.com/?V1A82256B By Terry Friel SILIGURI, India (Reuters) - Dipak Sarkar will almost certainly never see one of India's shining new shopping malls or ultramodern infotech centres, much less go inside one. But the three-year-old stonebreaker's work and sweat will go into many. As India joins the G8 table for the first time on Thursday, its racing economic growth, among the fastest in the world, often masks the almost unimaginable poverty that drives millions of children into slave labour, teenage girls to sell their bodies for $1, and kills countless numbers by starvation and disease. "There are up to 50 percent of Indians who are struggling to survive," said Sanjay Bapat, who runs an anti-poverty portal, www.indianngos.com from the financial capital of Bombay for aid agencies and companies who want to help the poor. "I see children who have more flies on their bodies than clothes. One meal a day is terrific. Two is unthinkable. But the sense of urgency to fight this is completely lacking." At an age when he should be learning to play with toys, Dipak, face locked in grim concentration and too busy to spare more than a few words, pounds river rocks into pebbles with a chunk of truck axle weighing almost a kilo. He works an hour a day, helping his parents fill a lorry with gravel destined for the building sites of India's economic boom. "I want to go to school," he says, stooping to pile another load of stones into his black singlet. It takes two or three grown men two weeks to fill a lorry, worth 800-1,000 rupees ($18-$22). Within sight of Dipak's pile of stones, a cheerful billboard with a perfect, smiling mother dressed in white promotes a new luxury resort - "A family entertainment zone". Dipak's mother taught him how to smash stones without smashing his fingers. In the wide beds of the Balason and other rivers around this town in eastern India, near Nepal, thousands of people, mainly children and old women, spend their days crushing rocks and dragging wicker baskets of heavy wet sand from the shallow water. Families live in one-room, dirt floor bamboo huts. Black plastic help keeps the monsoon out. About 30 percent of India's more than one billion people live below the official poverty line of 2,100-2,400 calories a day. MILLIONS STRUGGLING But by the global definition of earning a dollar a day, that figure jumps to about half the population -- more than 500 million, larger than the entire population of the European Union. And that is more than the poor in Africa, the focus of poverty talks at the summit in Scotland of the Group of Eight -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States -- where Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets leaders on Thursday. Not far from where Dipak works, 45-year-old grandmother Rani Shah sits in the stifling humidity surrounded by marigolds, waiting for one of her regulars to turn up at her brothel in Siliguri's Khalpara red light district, a squalid slum with excrement blackening the open drains. The roughly 1,000 girls here, brought by poverty and sometimes people trafficking and many looking younger than 18, earn $1-$2 a session, a bit more if they agree not to use a condom and risk becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. "I have to do this work for my family," Rani says, dressed in a red sari and smiling warmly. "I can't do anything else." Rani, who has lived in Khalpara most of her life, used to be a dancer like her mother, but she can't dance any more because of her heart condition, kidney stones and diabetes. She earns about 600-700 rupees ($14-$16) a week from her two or three regulars -- "all gentlemen" -- including her truckdriver "husband" when he can spare time from his regular family. Since India began opening its markets and liberalising its economy in 1991, growth has taken off. It averaged 7 percent a year over the past two years and foreign investment has poured in, though at smaller levels than in China. The middle class has exploded to more than 300 million, by some estimates, who send their children abroad for an education and are buying second family cars in a country where not so long ago the wait for even just a motor scooter was a few years. But the gains are unevenly shared and have largely bypassed the rural and urban poor. Resentment among the poor was a major factor in the surprise ousting of the Hindu nationalist government last year. "We are poor basically because we don't want to be rich," said Bapat. "If we want to be rich, we can be rich. The resources are there, it's just a matter of unlocking them." © Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved. ============ FAIR USE for looking at human rights issues, social and economic injustice, criminalization of poverty and social crimes against the poor and homeless,etc. ============
3 Year Old Boy working at breaking stones
9 years ago


Three-year-old Dipak Sarkar breaks stones on the banks of the Mahananda in Siliguri July 1, 2005. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan- fair use for humanitarian purposes
Working poor often pass up hefty tax break
9 years ago
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/216691_refundingthepoor19.html Saturday, March 19, 2005 Working poor often pass up hefty tax break Credit can pay as much as $4,300, but many don't claim it By PAUL NYHAN SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER Would you turn down an extra $1,000? Tens of thousands of Washington taxpayers pass up that kind of cash each year when they fail to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. They miss out on the federal government's largest chunk of aid for the working poor -- it handed out more than $37 billion last year alone. Despite the tax break's size, 25 percent of eligible taxpayers typically don't claim it. The 30-year-old program is designed to help those who have jobs but are still stuck in poverty. The number of people claiming the credit jumped from 7.4 million in 1983 to 19.3 million in 2003, according to The Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. But the federal government wants more people to take advantage of the credit. Too many taxpayers either don't know about or can't figure out the complicated but lucrative tax break, one of the most effective tools in pushing working families above the federal poverty level, according to a study by the liberal-leaning Brookings Institution. Carrie Amos plans to use some of her $3,324 payment to repair her credit, one of her first steps toward buying a house. Amos, 35, earned $19,947 last year, but bills backed up as she cared for her two kids and several foster children. "I definitely will use it to catch up on my water bill," Amos said after leaving a free tax clinic at the downtown Seattle Public Library. "For those who live paycheck to paycheck, income tax is a big day." She may not get all $3,324, though. Amos owes back taxes and potentially faces penalties, though she can use the Earned Income Tax Credit money to cover that bill. Amos received more than many, but the tax payments are often not chump change. They averaged $1,784 in 2003. Even so, more taxpayers in Washington state tuned out than in many others. Only 65 percent of eligible taxpayers actually claimed their money in 2002, according to an Internal Revenue Service report. While tax cuts often divide the two political parties, the Earned Income Tax Credit has been popular with both Republicans and Democrats since its creation under Republican President Ford. Congress has repeatedly expanded the program. "Since the EITC is not available to those without a job, it provides an unambiguous incentive to work," the Employment Policies Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit, said in a statement on the program. The concept is simple: Reward the poor who work up to a maximum of $4,300. The execution, though, is far more complicated, with much of the confusion centered on who qualifies for the credit, experts say. That's because struggling households don't always fit easily into federal definitions of what makes a family, points out Max Sawicky, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, who tracks tax issues. Kids may not live in a house all year, for example, or biological parents may be absent, according to Sawicky. "Just the rules alone can turn people off," said David Williams, who runs the Earned Income Tax Credit program for the IRS. Another barrier is a misperception that taxpayers without kids don't qualify -- they do, for smaller checks worth up to $390. Yet another is the English language, since some low-income filers are not native speakers, Williams said. The confusion likely contributes to mistakes. The program reported errors in 27 percent to 32 percent of its returns in 1999, though Williams says the IRS made plenty of changes in recent years to lower that rate. Taxpayers should be wary of sketchy preparers who encourage people to boost income or claim kids who don't exist, the IRS warns. How can you tell whether you qualify? As a starting point, if you made less than $34,458 last year, or if you're filing a joint return as a married couple and made less than $35,458, and you have at least two kids, you may well qualify. If you are single with no kids and earned less than $11,490, or $12,490 if you're married and filing jointly, you also could qualify. Check with the IRS for a complete list of guidelines. The biggest paybacks are reserved for working parents with kids -- and that makes sense to Bonnie Beerman, a trained volunteer who helps poor and elderly taxpayers file returns at the West Seattle Senior Center. "You just can't get enough money these days when you have children," Beerman said. HELPFUL TOOLS ON THE WEB The Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently launched the ongoing series "Hard work, hard times: The plight of Puget Sound's working poor." Nearly 300,000 people in King and Snohomish counties live in poverty even though at least one family member works full time. Today we focus on the Earned Income Tax Credit, an underused credit thousands of eligible low-wage earners in Washington fail to claim. To read other stories in this series, go to: www.seattlepi.com/specials/ workingpoor # Want to see if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and, if so, for how much? Go to: www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=130102,00.html. # For basic information, go to: www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html. # For free tax help and hours, go to: www.uwkc.org/ourcommunity/eitc/where.asp. www.wa.gov/esd/taxcredit.htm Or call the state's toll-free EITC hot line: 800-755-5317. Staff members can answer questions about the EITC and the Child Tax Credit, which can save families up to $1,000 per child. They also can direct callers to free tax assistance sites. If you think you were eligible for the EITC in the past, you can still file an amended tax return for 2003, 2002 or 2001. But hurry -- the deadline to file a 2001 return is April 15. (next post)
Working poor often pass up hefty tax break,2
9 years ago
# Other helpful numbers: # AARP Tax Aide: 888-227-7669 (Assistance for taxpayers of all ages.) # Main Internal Revenue Service toll-free number: 800-829-1040 P-I reporter Paul Nyhan can be reached at 206-448-8145 or paulnyhan@seattlepi.com ============== FAIR USE for homelessness-related issues,etc. ==============
hmmm...
9 years ago

The present monetary system is not worthy of the name John Maynard Keynes. Along with other pressures and people, Keynes influenced governments like that of the U.K. (in early post-war years) to spend plenty on welfare, didn't he? Quite different to Reaganites, Thatcherites and other "neo-liberals" and "economic rationalists"...

Yes... I read a figure of one in six children in the U.S. growing up in poverty (from the Christian Science Monitor)... And what an unjust healthcare and welfare system!

Far better to live in Australia like I do! There is a fairly decent healthcare/welfare system here. And the healthcare system in Canada is fairly decent, too, according to Michael Moore... Sweden is even better than them in all kinds of welfare, I hear... and Cuba and Chile are not that bad in this regard, for third world nations... while Venezuela is improving for the poor....

So much for the USA leading the world

Simon, well-said!
9 years ago
I'm a U.S. citizen who's lived abroad in Norway since 1999 (married to a Norwegian)- after working in the U.S. and experiencing that "system" as a poor person, there is no way I can or will argue with you. I agree with you. Canada has a better system, Australia, Sweden, Norway- you name it- the citizenry of these countries are more thoroughly protected than those of the United States. Reaganomics? Ah, yes- that was supposed to be the highly-touted "trickle-down" theory of economics- from first-hand experience I learned to call it "Piss on the Poor"...
Working...And Poor
9 years ago
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_22/b3885001_mz001.htm MAY 31, 2004 In today's cutthroat job market, the bottom rung is as high as most workers will ever get. But the political will to help them seems a long way off Katrina Gill, a 36-year-old certified nursing aide, worked in one of the premiere long-term care facilities near Portland, Ore. From 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., she was on duty alone, performing three rounds on the dementia ward, where she took care of up to 28 patients a night for $9.32 an hour. She monitored vitals, turned for bedsores, and changed adult diapers. There were the constant vigils over patients like the one who would sneak into other rooms, mistaking female patients for his deceased wife. Worse was the resident she called "the hitter" who once lunged at her, ripping a muscle in her back and laying her flat for four days. Last month, Gill quit and took another job for 68 cents an hour more, bringing her salary to $14,400 a year. But like so many health-care workers, she has no health-care benefits from her job. So she and her garage mechanic husband pay $640 monthly for a policy and have racked up $160,000 in medical debts from their youngest son Brandyn's cancer care. In New York City, Joseph Schiraldi, 41, guards one of the biggest terrorist targets in the world: the Empire State Building. For eight hours a day, he X-rays packages, checks visitors' IDs, and patrols the concourse. But on $7.50 an hour in the priciest city in the U.S., he's a security officer without security -- no pension, no health care, and no paid sick days, typical for a nonunion guard. Bellingham (Wash.) day-care teacher Mandy Smith can't afford child care for her 6-year-old son, Jordan, on her take-home pay of $60 a day. Neither can commercial cleaner Theresa Fabre on her $8.50 an hour job. So her son, Christian, 9, waits for her after school in a crumbling upper Manhattan library where the kids line up five-deep to use one of two computers. The librarian doubles as a de facto babysitter for 40 or so other kids of the working poor. Over the past year, the loss of lucrative white-collar work offshore has dominated news headlines, provoking economic anxiety among middle-class families who fear they may be next. But there's an equally troubling yet more often overlooked problem among the nation's working poor -- for whom the raises come in dimes, the sick days go unpaid, and the benefits are out of reach. Today more than 28 million people, about a quarter of the workforce between the ages of 18 and 64, earn less than $9.04 an hour, which translates into a full-time salary of $18,800 a year -- the income that marks the federal poverty line for a family of four (table). Any definition of the working poor, of course, involves some blurry lines. Some, like Gill, who make just above the $9.04 wage, often bounce around the threshold with their chaotic hours, slippery job security, and tumultuous lives. There's also the fact that about one-third work only part-time, and more than a third are 18- to 25-year-olds, who may still live at home but may eventually work their way up the ladder. Some perhaps moonlight with a second job. And others may have spouses whose incomes lift their families up. But most poor workers tend to marry people with similar backgrounds, leaving both to juggle jobs as janitors, health aides, and retail workers that don't raise them into the middle class. Overall, 63% of U.S. families below the federal poverty line have one or more workers, according to the Census Bureau. They're not just minorities, either; nearly 60% are white. About a fifth of the working poor are foreign-born, mostly from Mexico. And the majority possess high school diplomas and even some college -- which 30 years ago would virtually have assured them a shot at the middle class. TOIL AND TROUBLE Now, though, most labor in a netherworld of maximum insecurity, where one missed bus, one stalled engine, one sick kid means the difference between keeping a job and getting fired, between subsistence and setting off the financial tremors of turned-off telephones and $1,000 emergency-room bills that can bury them in a mountain of subprime debt. At any moment, a boss pressured to pump profits can slash hours, shortchanging a family's grocery budget -- or conversely, force employees to work off the clock, wreaking havoc on child-care plans. Often, as they get close to putting in enough time to qualify for benefits, many see their schedules cut back. The time it takes to don uniforms, go to the bathroom, or take breaks routinely goes unpaid. Complain, and there is always someone younger, cheaper, and newer to the U.S. willing to do the work for less. Pittsburgh native Edward Plesniak, 36, lost his $10.68-an-hour union job as a janitor when the contractor fired all the union workers to make way for cheaper, nonunion labor. So far, Plesniak has been able to dredge up work only as a part-time floor waxer. The pay: $6.00 an hour, with no benefits. "I feel like I'm in a nightmare," says the married father of three. "And I can't wake up." (continued next post)
Working...And Poor.2
9 years ago
What's happening in the world's richest, most powerful country when so many families seem to be struggling? And what can be done? There's no question that robust growth is a potent remedy: Recall that the full-employment economy of the late 1990s reduced the ranks of the working poor. Five years of a 4% jobless rate bid up wages across the board. That brought a healthy cumulative 14% pay hike, after inflation, to those in the bottom fifth between 1995 and 2003, when they averaged $8.46 an hour, according to an analysis of Census data by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a liberal Washington research group. The share of the workforce earning subpoverty pay actually shrank eight percentage points, to 24% last year, or 5 million fewer than in 1995. That's real progress, certainly. But it still leaves many workers earning less than what it takes to lift a family above the poverty line. In other words, the boom didn't last long enough to bring more people into better circumstances. Now, in the current recovery, there has been brisk growth again, as well as high productivity and job creation. But so far, wages at the low end haven't budged much. Many of today's economic gains are flowing to profits and efficiency improvements, and the job market isn't tight enough yet to lift pay for average workers, much less for those on the bottom. Of course, if the recovery continues apace, a strong labor market could bump wages up. Perplexing, too, are signs that many jobs the working poor hold won't, over time, lead them out of their straits. Five of the 10 fastest-growing occupations over the next decade will be of the menial, dead-end variety, including retail clerks, janitors, and cashiers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What's more, while full employment in the 1990s may have brought higher pay for people like health aides and maids, the ladder up into the middle class has gotten longer, and they are more likely than in other periods to remain a health aide or a maid. A 2003 study of 1990s mobility by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found that the chances that poor Americans would stay stuck in their strata had increased vs. the 1970s. Given the economy's strong showing in the '90s, that's a concern. "If current trends persist, a greater and greater share of wealth will keep going into the hands of the few, which will destroy initiative," worries James D. Sinegal, CEO of Costco Wholesale Corp., which offers above-average pay and benefits in the retail sector. "We'll no longer have a motivated working class." So although a fast-growing economy and full employment are necessary for powering wages at the bottom, they may not be enough in today's economy. To survive in waves of increasing global competition, U.S. companies have relentlessly cut costs and sought maximum productivity. That has put steady downward pressure particularly on the lowest rungs of the labor force, while rewarding the growing ranks of educated knowledge workers. In this increasingly bifurcated job market, workers who lack skills and training have seen their bargaining power crumble relative to those higher up the scale. For one thing, globalization has thrown the least-skilled into head-on competition with people willing to work for pennies on the dollar. And a torrent of immigration, mainly poor rural Mexicans, has further swelled the low-end labor pool. Together, these trends have shoved many hourly wage occupations into a worldwide, discount labor store stocked with cheap temps, hungry part-timers, and dollar-a-day labor in India, Mexico, and China, all willing to sell their services to the lowest bidder. Against such headwinds, full employment offers only partial protection. What's more, other traditional buffers don't help low-end workers as much anymore. While labor unions were largely responsible for creating the broad middle class after World War II, bringing decent wages and benefits to even low-skilled employees such as hotel and garment workers, that's not the case today. Most U.S. employers fiercely resist unionization, which, along with other factors, has helped slash union membership to just 13% of the workforce, vs. a midcentury peak of more than 35%. GRAVITATIONAL PRESSURE The federal minimum wage, too, long served as a bulwark against low pay by putting a floor under the bottom as the rest of the workforce gained ground. At $5.15 an hour, it remains 30% less than it was in 1968, after inflation adjustments. It hasn't moved in nearly seven years, victim of a divided political Establishment in which programs for a relatively powerless group often get jammed up in bipartisan gridlock. Add to all this the fact that a college degree, the time-tested passport to success, is today less available to those without family resources. The cost of college has exploded, leaving fewer than 5% of students from bottom-earning families able to get that all-important diploma. The result: The pattern of low skills crosses the generations. Columbus Harris, 50, a $6.75-an-hour driver for the elderly in Pine Bluff, Ark., couldn't help his kids with college. So his middle son Christopher joined the Army to get an education. "I worry about the fact that a lot of the gains in educational attainment are concentrated among the youngsters from rich and upper-middle-class families," says Gary Burtless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. (continued next post)
Working...And Poor,3
9 years ago
There are no easy policy prescriptions for improving the working poor's prospects. Measures with any real impact are almost always costly and ignite political fights over priorities. Lifting the minimum wage by $1.50 an hour, for example, would boost the incomes of more than 10 million workers. A majority of the gains would flow to adult women over age 20, mostly nonunionized workers in retail, according to an analysis by the EPI. To support the wage floor over the long term, the minimum would need to be linked to some measure of national living standards, such as inflation or average wages, to keep many families from simply slipping back into working poverty after a few years. Yet trying to hike the minimum wage always sparks a monumental battle in Washington. That's just what's happening now, after Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D.-Mass.) proposed to lift it to $7.00 an hour. Writing some new rules for globalization would shore up low-end workers, too. Some Democrats advocate linking trade pacts to labor rights, by, for example, requiring countries that want favored trade status to allow workers to form unions. The idea isn't to eliminate low-wage competition -- an impossibility, in any case -- but simply to blunt its sharpest blows, particularly on less-skilled, predominantly male factory workers. Many economists calculate that globalization has been responsible for about one-fifth of the decline in blue-collar pay since 1973. But just think back to the fight over NAFTA a decade ago to see how far such proposals might go in Congress. Curbing the flood of unskilled immigrants, assuming it could even be done, also would ease some of the gravitational pressure on low-end pay. Slowing the pace of entry, or shifting the flow toward higher-skilled workers, would mitigate the stiff wage competition among everyone from janitors to sales clerks. Yet if anything, political momentum seems to be moving in the opposite direction, such as President Bush's proposals earlier this year to set up a temporary worker program. A hike in unionization would also give the working poor some leverage over wages. The rule of thumb used to be that union workers earn about one-third more than nonunion ones. But the differential has ballooned with the collapse of pay scales at the bottom. Today, blue-collar workers in a union make 54% more than unorganized ones and are more than twice as likely to have health insurance and pensions, according to an EPI analysis. Because unions boost workers' bargaining power and help them win a greater share of productivity gains, any resurgence would give low-wage workers more clout to deal with the effects of factors such as globalization, immigration, and technology. Still, the U.S. isn't likely to alter the laws governing unionization any time soon. Employers have body-blocked such attempts since the late 1970s, arguing that profits and economic growth would suffer. Today, labor law reform still goes nowhere, snagged in the broader political deadlock that grips the U.S. America's divisions surface only sporadically as a pressing issue. Senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) put them at the core of his Presidential campaign, castigating the "two Americas" divided into rich and poor. This prompted John Kerry to adopt a populist tone for a while. Some Democrats urged him to target policies perceived as unfair to both low- and middle-income workers, from trade pacts to tax cuts for the wealthy. Kerry still mentions these issues, but they're hardly a central plank of his platform. Of course, that could change if Edwards ends up joining the ticket. A recent poll found that 78% of voters care more about fighting poverty than they do about gay marriage. "The issue is sitting out there for a candidate to seize on, but voters want to hear new solutions," says Democratic political consultant Tom Freedman. WHERE HOPE LIES Still, historically, class-based appeals have had scant resonance in U.S. politics. In addition, there's little sustained outcry from the working poor themselves, who often are overwhelmed by their personal difficulties and politically disengaged. Only about 40% of them vote, vs. 74% of the investor class, according to the Russell Sage Foundation. "If you look at families in the bottom 20%, they are dropping out of the political system like flies," says foundation President Eric Wanner. A few initiatives, though, have broad enough appeal to win support from both sides of the divide. Lawmakers from both political parties are struggling to devise ways to help the uninsured get health coverage. While they're split on this subject, too, nearly everyone agrees that something should be done. The Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers poor kids, was established by Democrats and Republicans alike, though a lot of children remain uncovered. Any expansion, or a broader solution that involves expanding Medicaid, would help many working poor adults, among the most likely to need coverage. Similarly, the 1996 welfare reform effort has brought a rough consensus today that Congress should help welfare moms with child care so they can work. Washington could broaden eligibility for child-care help to include more working-poor families, too. Richer educational loan programs would also help. Given the country's soaring deficits, though, Congress isn't inclined to devote big resources to such projects. One place to look for money might be in the tax code, but in an election year, the high-profile investor class and the organized elderly are likelier to get any new largesse than the working poor. (continued next post)
Working...And Poor,4
9 years ago
Government may be stalled, but some employers are stepping up, at least in small ways. A number of leading companies, including Bank of America Corp. and Marriott International Inc., have programs to aid their low-wage workers -- they offer small emergency loans or grants to employees who face sudden crises, help them with child care, or find creative ways to make their workdays more flexible. "Assuming employers have answered the question as to whether they're paying market-based wages and benefits, there are still a lot of other things they can do, some of them relatively low cost," says Donna Klein, president of Corporate Voices for Working Families, a business group in Washington that sponsored a recent study on programs for low-wage workers. Still, even those who push above a poverty-level wage can fall into a trap. Between $7 to $10 an hour, they make just enough to start losing what little safety net there is, says Ron Haskins, a former Republican staffer who helped spearhead the 1996 welfare reform, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. They often become ineligible for food stamps or child-care assistance, and the earned income tax credit starts phasing out for a single parent at $13,730. "For them, Horatio Alger does not apply," says Haskins. Women, especially single ones, have the most difficulty. Often, their wages barely cover the cost of child care. Low-income women's pay is actually up since 1973, but they still average just $7.94 an hour, much less than their male counterparts. That's one reason the U.S. has the highest child-poverty rate in the industrialized world. "Our low-income mothers work twice as hard as those in any other industrial country -- but their kids are the worst off," says Syracuse University public policy professor Timothy M. Smeeding. THE WAL-MART EFFECT Lately, there's a new name for the downward pressure on wages: the so-called Wal-Martization of the economy. Most recently, the dynamic played out starkly in the five-month Southern California supermarket strike that ended in February. The three chains involved, Safeway (SWY ), Albertson's (ABS ), and Kroger (KR ), said they had no choice but to cut pay and benefits drastically now that 40 Wal-Mart Stores (WMT ) supercenters would be opening up in the area. The reason: Wal-Mart pays its full-time hourly workers an average of $9.64, about a third of the level of the union chains. It also shoulders much less of its workers' annual health insurance costs than rivals, leaving 53% of its 1.2 million employees uncovered by the company plan. Now, after the strike, new hires will have lower wages and bear a much higher share of health costs than current union members, making health insurance too pricey for many of them, too. Eventually, many grocery jobs could wind up paying poverty-level wages, just like Wal-Mart's. "I used to load workers into my truck to take them down to United Way," says Jon Lehman, a former manager of a Louisville Wal-Mart who now works for the United Food & Commercial Workers Union. In his 17 years with Wal-Mart, he kept a Rolodex with numbers for homeless shelters, food banks, and soup kitchens. "They couldn't make it on their paychecks." It's a prospect that deeply worries workers like Sherry Kovas. Over 26 years, she worked her way up to $17.90 an hour as a cashier at Ralph's Grocery Co. (KR ) store in the posh California enclave of Indian Wells. To Kovas, the Medici-like lifestyles of her customers -- the personal chefs, the necklaces that would pay her yearly salary -- never seemed so much an emblem of inequality as a symbol of what was possible. Now, though, after the banks foreclosed on some strikers' homes and the repo men hauled away their cars, there's already talk of grocery store closings in the area because of the new Wal-Mart supercenter up the road. "They say Wal-Mart's going to kill us," says Kovas, who fears losing the three-bedroom modular home that she, her five-year-old son, husband, and mother-in-law share. "But I'm 44 years old. I'm too old to start over." The U.S. has long tolerated wider disparities in income than other industrialized countries, mostly out of a belief that anyone with enough moxie and hustle could lift themselves up in America's vibrant economy. Sadly, it seems that path is becoming an ever steeper climb. Strong recovery and vigorous growth will again get wages growing. But as a new phase of prosperity begins, it may be time for some added advantages for those struggling in a brutal global economy. Otherwise, the outcome could be more polarization and inequality. The farther down that road the country goes, the harder it will be to change course. Corrections and Clarifications "Working and poor" (Cover Story, May 31) should have described the average hourly pay at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. ($9.64) as one-third less than the union chains' (not one-third of their level). ========== FAIR USE for looking at poverty and homelessness-related issues,etc. ==========
NH families needing fuel assistance may be out in cold
9 years ago
http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_showa.html?article=59759 NH families needing fuel assistance may be out in cold By GARRY RAYNO Union Leader Staff Telephone Credit Union MANCHESTER — Higher heating oil and natural gas prices are expected to strain fuel assistance programs this winter, with many people expected to apply for help paying their fuel bills. While fuel prices have increased about 30 to 40 percent — heating oil is about $2.20 a gallon — the amount of assistance has not increased. That has social service agencies and organizations concerned. “People will be faced with either trying to live with much lower temperatures in their homes or give up something else to pay for the fuel, or both,” said Gale Hennessy, executive director of Southern New Hampshire Services, a Community Action Program serving Hillsborough County. “Something has got to give,” he said. “We expect a huge demand and the benefit stays the same. People will run out of their benefit more rapidly.” “It’s going to be really tough year,” said Terry Smith, director of the Division of Family Assistance in the state Department of Health and Human Services. The major fuel assistance program in New Hampshire is the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, administered by the regional Community Action Program under state guidelines that determine how the federal money will be distributed. The application period for the elderly, disabled and families with small children has already begun and opens to the general, low-income public Thursday. The program begins distributing grants Dec. 1. Last year, the program had 35,992 applications for help, with grants going to 30,140 individuals and families. The 30,140 cases was the highest ever for New Hampshire and represents an 8.5 percent increase over the year before. The state received $14.7 million in base funding last year; contingency funds brought the total to $18.26 million, of which $17.2 million was spent in grants. Grants range from $120 to $975 and average about $550 per household, said Celeste Lovett, fuel assistance program manager for the Office of Energy and Planning. She said the state expects to receive about the same amount of money it received for the base grant last year, but the federal government might not include any contingency money this year. “We won’t know precisely what we will receive until Congress passes the federal budget,” Lovett said. Eligibility and benefits are determined by gross household income, number of household members and vulnerability to heating costs. The maximum gross household income for a single person is $17,224, a two-person household is $23,107, up to $58,405 for an eight-member household. Lovett encouraged people to apply now before the weather turns cold. Kathleen McCosh, director of the fuel assistance program for Tri-County Community Action, which serves Coos, Carroll and Grafton counties, said yesterday: “We’re getting a lot of calls, as you can imagine. We’re getting more calls due to the increased cost of fuels.” Brother Paul Crawford, the outreach coordinator for Catholic Charities, said his organization has been talking with other agencies about what resources are available. “We’re hoping there will be more funding available from the federal government for the fuel assistance program,” he said. Ann Dancy, director of refugee services at Lutheran Social Services of New England, said during the resettlement period for refugees her agency makes sure everybody signs up for the Fuel Assistance Program. “Anyone with a minimum-wage or entry-level job is going to be struggling with heating costs,” she said. “It’s about poverty in the United States,” she said. If people want to help, they can give private donations earmarked for certain things like fuel assistance, she said. “We’re always willing to be a conduit to pass money along.” Deborah Gosselin, program operations director for Southern New Hampshire Services, said while the Fuel Assistance Program is the largest aid program, there are other, smaller programs such as Neighbor to Neighbor and St. Mary’s Bank’s low-interest loan program. She said the utility companies have programs and there is an elderly fuel assistance program for those who do not qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. “It’s really important, even if someone thinks they may not qualify, to apply for fuel assistance,” she said. “If they are in trouble and need help, it’s important to come in and see us even if their application is denied. We don’t know about them if they don’t come and make the application,” Gosselin said. ============ FAIR USE for studying homelessness and/or poverty-related issues,etc. ============
Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs
9 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/bx6lr October 26, 2005 Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs By STEVEN GREENHOUSE and MICHAEL BARBARO An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart. In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive. To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)." The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefit costs because critics had attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Ms.Chambers acknowledged that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid. Wal-Mart executives said the memo was part of an effort to rein in benefit costs, which to Wall Street's dismay have soared by 15 percent a year on average since 2002. Like much of corporate America,Wal-Mart has been squeezed by soaring health costs. The proposed plan, if approved, would save the company more than $1 billion a year by 2011. In an interview, Ms. Chambers said she was focusing not on cutting costs, but on serving employees better by giving them more choices on their benefits. "We are investing in our benefits that will take even better care of our associates," she said. "Our benefit plan is known today as being generous." Ms. Chambers also said that she made her recommendations after surveying employees about how they felt about the benefits plan. "This is not about cutting," she said. "This is about redirecting savings to another part of their benefit plans." One proposal would reduce the amount of time, from two years to one, that part-time employees would have to wait before qualifying for health insurance. Another would put health clinics in stores, in part to reduce expensive employee visits to emergency rooms. Wal-Mart's benefit costs jumped to $4.2 billion last year, from $2.8 billion three years earlier, causing concern within the company because benefits represented an increasing share of sales. Last year,Wal-Mart earned $10.5 billion on sales of $285 billion. A draft memo to Wal-Mart's board was obtained from Wal-Mart Watch, a nonprofit group, allied with labor unions, that asserts that Wal-Mart's pay and benefits are too low. Tracy Sefl, a pokeswoman for Wal-Mart Watch, said someone mailed the document anonymously to her group last month. When asked about the memo, Wal-Mart officials made available the updated copy that actually went to the board. Under fire because less than 45 percent of its workers receive company health insurance, Wal-Mart announced a new plan on Monday that seeks to increase participation by allowing some employees to pay just $11 a month in premiums. Some health experts praised the plan for making coverage more affordable, but others criticized it, noting that full-time Wal-Mart employees, who earn on average around $17,500 a year, could face out-of-pocket expenses of $2,500 a year or more. Eager to burnish Wal-Mart's image as it faces opposition in trying to expand into New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, Wal-Mart's chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., also announced on Monday a sweeping plan to conserve energy. He also said that Wal-Mart supported raising the minimum wage to help Wal-Mart's customers. The theme throughout the memo was how to slow the increase in benefit costs without giving more ammunition to critics who contend that Wal-Mart's wages and benefits are dragging down those of other American workers. Ms. Chambers proposed that employees pay more for their spouses' health insurance. She called for cutting 401(k) contributions to 3 percent of wages from 4 percent and cutting company-paid life insurance policies to $12,000 from the current level, equal to an employee's annual earnings. Life insurance, she said, was "a high-satisfaction,low-importance benefit, which suggests an opportunity to trim the offering without substantial impact on associate satisfaction." Wal-Mart refers to its employees as associates. Acknowledging that Wal-Mart has image problems, Ms.Chambers wrote: "Wal-Mart's critics can easily exploit some aspects of our benefits offering to make their case; in other words, our critics are correct in some of their observations. Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance." (continued next post)
Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs,2
9 years ago
Her memo stated that 5 percent of Wal-Mart's workers were on Medicaid, compared with 4 percent for other national employers. She said that Wal-Mart spent $1.5 billion a year on health insurance, which amounts to $2,660 per insured worker. The memo, prepared with the help of McKinsey &Company, said the board was to consider the recommendations in November. But the memo said that three top Wal-Mart officials - its chief financial officer, its top human relations executive and its executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs - had "received the recommendations enthusiastically." Ms. Chambers's memo voiced concern that workers were staying with the company longer, pushing up wage costs, although she stopped short of calling for efforts to push out more senior workers. She wrote that "the cost of an associate with seven years of tenure is almost 55 percent more than the cost of an associate with one year of tenure, yet there is no difference in his or her productivity.Moreover, because we pay an associate more in salary and benefits as his or her tenure increases, we are pricing that associate out of the labor market,increasing the likelihood that he or she will stay with Wal-Mart." The memo noted that Wal-Mart workers "are getting sicker than the national population, particularly in obesity-related diseases," including diabetes and coronary artery disease. The memo said Wal-Mart workers tended to overuse emergency rooms and underuse prescriptions and doctor visits, perhaps from previous experience with Medicaid. The memo noted, "The least healthy, least productive associates are more satisfied with their benefits than other segments and are interested in longer careers with Wal-Mart." The memo proposed incorporating physical activity in all jobs and promoting health savings accounts. Such accounts are financed with pretax dollars and allow workers to divert their contributions into retirement savings if they are not all spent on health care. Health experts say these accounts will be more attractive to younger, healthier workers. "It will be far easier to attract and retain a healthier work force than it will be to change behavior in an existing one," the memo said. "These moves would also dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work at Wal-Mart." Ron Pollack, executive director of Families U.S.A., a health care consumer-advocacy group, criticized the memo for recommending that more workers move into health plans with high deductibles. "Their people are paying a very substantial portion of their earnings out of pocket for health care," he said. "These plans will cause these workers and their families to defer or refrain from getting needed care." The memo noted that 38 percent of Wal-Mart workers spent more than one-sixth of their Wal-Mart income on health care last year. By reducing the amount of time part-timers must work to qualify for health insurance, Wal-Mart is hoping to allay some of its critics. One proposal under consideration would offer new employees "limited funding" so they could "gain access to the private insurance market" after 30 days of employment while waiting to join Wal-Mart's plan. Such assistance, the memo stated, "would give us a powerful set of messages to use in combating critics. (For instance, 'Wal-Mart offers associates access to health insurance after they've worked with us for just 30 days.')" Steven Greenhouse reported from New York for thisarticle, and Michael Barbaro from Bentonville, Ark. *fair use*
Low-Income Working Families: Facts and Figures
9 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/8u8xb Author(s): The Urban Institute http://www.urban.org/ Other Availability: PDF http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/900832.pdf | Printer-Friendly Version http://www.urban.org/urlprint.cfm?ID=9391 Published: August 25, 2005 Citation URL: http://www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=900832 The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF). http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/900832.pdf The vast majority of low-income parents today are working but still struggling to make ends meet: struggling to find and keep a toehold in a changing labor market, to keep up with their bills, to pay the spiraling costs of essentials like health care and housing, and to raise children with a chance of future success. These families have much in common with other American families as they seek to balance work and family life, yet parents and children in low-income families are more financially vulnerable than those in higher-income families. * One-quarter of America's children live in low-income families with a working parent. In 2001, almost 19 million children lived with parents who worked regularly in families that remained low-income (income below twice the official poverty threshold, or about $38,000 for a family of four). Of all low-income families with children, 6 in 10 have at least one parent who worked full-time all year, and another 1 in 10 have a parent who worked at least half-time all year [figure 1]. * Low hourly wages explain why these working families have low incomes. The vast majority of a low-income family's income comes from earnings (89 percent for a low-income family with at least one full-time, full-year worker). Yet, the median hourly wage for the primary worker in these families is about $9. If these workers see their real wages grow 4 percent per year, it will take 11 years to reach the $14 average hourly wage for middle-income families (income between two and three times the poverty threshold). * Low-income working families receive fewer job benefits than middle-income families. Low-income families with at least one full-time worker are much less likely than middle-income families to receive health insurance through an employer (49 versus 77 percent). Almost one in ten of these "high-work" low-income families report postponing needed medical care during a 12-month period for lack of health insurance or money. And, low-income working families are less likely to have paid vacation or sick leave than higher-income families, making it more difficult to juggle work, family health, and well-being [figures 2 and 3]. * Low-income working families face greater food and housing hardships. Over one-quarter of low-income families with a full-time worker experience hardships related to food and housing [figure 4]. Forty percent of moderate-work, low-income families (those without a full-time worker but still working a substantial number of hours) report food and housing hardship. * Child care can be a large expense for low-income working families in which the mother works. Sixty-nine percent of children under age 5 with low-income working mothers are cared for regularly by someone other than a parent. Thirty-nine percent of these children are in care for at least 35 hours a week. High-work, low-income families that pay for child care spend $3,135 per year on average, or 12 percent of income. * While the heads of low-income working families are likely to be younger and less educated than those of middle-income families, the large majority is over age 30 and has at least a high school education. Of the heads of high-work, low-income families, 72 percent have at least a high school education and 76 percent are over age 30. * Compared to middle-income working families, low-income working families are disproportionately nonwhite and immigrant, although most are headed by native-born, white, and non-Hispanic adults. High-work, low-income families are less likely than their middle-income counterparts to be headed by a U.S.-born citizen (69 versus 85 percent). And high-work, low-income families are almost three times more likely than middle-income families to have noncitizen heads (27 versus 8 percent). # Health problems are more prevalent among low-income working families. Sixteen percent of full-time workers heading low-income families report fair or poor health, compared with 7 percent of workers in middle-income families. Low-income adults working a moderate amount are even more likely to have health problems, with 25 percent reporting fair or poor health. Health problems may be contributing to their limited hours of work. Low-income families are also more likely than middle-income families to have a child in poor health. # On average, children in low-income households fare worse than children in higher-income households on a host of indicators. Low-income children are more likely than higher-income children to live in stressful home environments and with parents reporting symptoms of poor mental health. Among school-age children and adolescents, those living in low-income families are less likely to be highly engaged in school activities and more likely to exhibit high levels of emotional and behavioral problems. (continued)
Low-Income Working Families: Facts and Figures,2
9 years ago
* With the job-market downturn, families are working less and have lower incomes.a Labor markets have slacked considerably since early 2001. Between 2000 and 2003, the number of people in low-income families with children increased from 30 to 32 percent of the population, and the proportion of all households with a full-time, full-year worker fell from 88 to 85 percent. Single-parent households were hit especially hard; they bore 37 percent of the loss in full-time, full-year employment while receiving only 8 percent of the increase in unemployment insurance benefits. * Few low-income working families receive welfare benefits; half receive help with a parent's or child's health insurance. Only 5 percent of all low-income families with a full-time, full-year worker receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Fifty-two percent of these families have public health insurance coverage, reflecting a decline in employer-sponsored coverage, the creation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and many states' decisions to expand Medicaid eligibility. Additional information on low-income working families and the challenges they face will be featured in a forthcoming Low-Income Working Families publications series. The series was developed in response to the Working Families' Policy Agenda Roundtable, convened by the Urban Institute in May 2005. Data presented here are for the most part from Working to Make Ends Meet: Understanding the Income and Expenses of America's Low-Income Families by Gregory Acs and Austin Nichols (forthcoming); "Toward a New Child Care Policy" by Dave Edie (forthcoming); Who Are Low-Income Working Families? by Gregory Acs and Pamela Loprest (forthcoming); "How Have Households with Children Fared in the Job Market Downturn?" by Gregory Acs, Harry J. Holzer, and Austin Nichols (2005); "Children in Low-Income Families Are Less Likely to be in Center-Based Child Care" by Jeffrey Capizzano and Gina Adams (2003); and "Many Young Children Spend Long Hours in Child Care" by Jeffrey Capizzano and Regan Main (2003). The views are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Urban Institute, its board of trustees, or its sponsors. The Assessing the New Federalism project is supported by The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Ford Foundation. *fair use*
Gulf Coast Slaves: Using Illegal Labor to clean up after Katrina
9 years ago
SPIEGEL ONLINE - November 15, 2005, 01:39 PM URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,385044,00.html Using Illegal Labor to Clean Up after Katrina Gulf Coast Slaves By Roberto Lovato in New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss. Halliburton and its subcontractors hired hundreds of undocumented Latino workers to clean up after Katrina -- only to mistreat them and throw them out without pay. Did a subsidiary of Halliburton employ illegal workers to help clean up New Orleans? REUTERS Did a subsidiary of Halliburton employ illegal workers to help clean up New Orleans? Arnulfo Martinez recalls seeing lots of hombres del ejercito standing at attention. Though he was living on the Belle Chasse Naval Base near New Orleans when President Bush spoke there on Oct. 11, he didn't understand anything the ruddy man in the rolled-up sleeves was saying to the troops. Martinez, 16, speaks no English; his mother tongue is Zapotec. He had left the cornfields of Oaxaca, Mexico, four weeks earlier for the promise that he would make $8 an hour, plus room and board, while working for a subcontractor of KBR, a wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton that was awarded a major contract by the Bush administration for disaster relief work. The job was helping to clean up a Gulf Coast naval base in the region devastated by Hurricane Katrina. "I was cleaning up the base, picking up branches and doing other work," Martinez said, speaking to me in broken Spanish. Even if the Oaxacan teenager had understood Bush when he urged Americans that day to "help somebody find shelter or help somebody find food," he couldn't have known that he'd soon need similar help himself. But three weeks after arriving at the naval base from Texas, Martinez's boss, Karen Tovar, a job broker from North Carolina who hired workers for a KBR subcontractor called United Disaster Relief, booted him from the base and left him homeless, hungry and without money. "They gave us two meals a day and sometimes only one," Martinez said. He says that Tovar "kicked us off the base," forcing him and other cleanup workers -- many of them Mexican and undocumented -- to sleep on the streets of New Orleans. According to Martinez, they were not paid for three weeks of work. An immigrant rights group recently filed complaints with the Department of Labor on behalf of Martinez and 73 other workers allegedly owed more than $56,000 by Tovar. Tovar claims that she let the workers go because she was not paid by her own bosses at United Disaster Relief. In turn, UDR manager Zachary Johnson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told the Washington Post on Nov. 4 that his company had not been paid by KBR for two months. Wherever the buck may stop along the chain of subcontractors, Martinez is stuck at the short end of it -- and his situation is typical among many workers hired by subcontractors of KBR (formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root) to clean and rebuild Belle Chasse and other Gulf Coast military bases. Immigrants rights groups and activists like Bill Chandler, president of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, estimate that hundreds of undocumented workers are on the Gulf Coast military bases, a claim that the military and Halliburton/KBR deny -- even after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency turned up undocumented workers in a raid of the Belle Chasse facility last month. Visits to the naval bases and dozens of interviews by Salon confirm that undocumented workers are in the facilities. Still, tracing the line from unpaid undocumented workers to their multibillion-dollar employers is a daunting task. A shadowy labyrinth of contractors, subcontractors and job brokers, overseen by no single agency, have created a no man's land where nobody seems to be accountable for the hiring -- and abuse -- of these workers. Right after Katrina barreled through the Gulf Coast, the Bush administration relaxed labor standards, creating conditions for rampant abuse, according to union leaders and civil rights advocates. Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires employers to pay "prevailing wages" for labor used to fulfill government contracts. The administration also waived the requirement for contractors rebuilding the Gulf Coast to provide valid I-9 employment eligibility forms completed by their workers. These moves allowed Halliburton/KBR and its subcontractors to hire undocumented workers and pay them meager wages (regardless of what wages the workers may have otherwise been promised). The two policies have recently been reversed in the face of sharp political pressure: Bush reinstated the Davis-Bacon Act on Nov. 3, while the Department of Homeland Security reinstated the I-9 requirements in late October, noting that it would once again "exercise prosecutorial discretion" of employers in violation "on a case-by-case basis." But critics say Bush's policies have already allowed extensive profiteering beneath layers of legal and political cover. (continued)
Gulf Coast Slaves: Using Illegal Labor to clean up after Katrina,2
9 years ago
Halliburton/KBR, which enjoys an array of federal contracts in the United States, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has long drawn criticism for its proximity to Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly Halliburton's CEO. Halliburton/KBR spokesperson Melissa Norcross declined to respond directly to allegations about undocumented workers in the Gulf. "In performing work for the U.S. government, KBR uses its government-approved procurement system to source and retain qualified subcontractors," she said in an e-mail. "KBR's subcontractors are required to comply with all applicable labor laws and provisions when performing this work." Victoria Cintra is the Gulf Coast outreach organizer for Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, which recently partnered with relief agency Oxfam America to help immigrant workers displaced by Katrina. She says KBR is exposing undocumented workers like Martinez to unethical and illegal treatment, even though they are supposed to be paid with federal Katrina-recovery dollars to clean and rebuild high-security facilities like the one President Bush recently visited. Cintra is one of several people fighting to recover the wages owed the workers: She drives her beat-up, chocolate-colored car across the swamps, damaged roads and broken bridges of the Gulf Coast to track down contractors and subcontractors. With yellow legal pad in hand, she and other advocates document abuses taking place at Belle Chasse, the Naval Construction Battalion Center at the Seabee naval base in Gulfport, Miss., and other military installations. I was with Cintra when she received phone calls from several Latino workers who complained they were denied, under threat of deportation, the right to leave the base at Belle Chasse. Cintra also took me along on visits to squalid trailer parks -- like the one at Arlington Heights in Gulfport -- where up to 19 unpaid, unfed and undocumented KBR site workers inhabited a single trailer for $70 per person, per week. Workers there and on the bases complained of suffering from diarrhea, sprained ankles, cuts and bruises, and other injuries sustained on the KBR sites -- where they received no medical assistance, despite being close to medical facilities on the same bases they were cleaning and helping rebuild. Cintra and other critics say there's been no accountability from the corporate leaders who signed on the dotted line when they were awarded multimillion-dollar Department of Defense contracts. "The workers may be hired by the subcontractors," Cintra says, "but KBR is ultimately responsible." "Latino workers are being invited to New Orleans and the South without the proper conditions to protect them," adds Cintra, who recently provided tents to Martinez and several other unpaid Mexican workers who fled Belle Chasse for Gulfport after being dismissed by Tovar. Cintra, a Cuban exile and born-again Christian, has since seen a small tent city of homeless immigrants spring up in the yard of her church, Pass Road Baptist, in Gulfport. "This is evil on top of evil on top of evil," she says. "The Bush administration and Halliburton have opened up a Pandora's box that's not going to close now." Halliburton/KBR is the general contractor with overarching responsibility for the federal cleanup contracts covering Katrina-damaged naval bases. Even so, there is an utter lack of transparency with the process -- and that invites malfeasance, says James Hale, a vice president of the Laborers' International Union of North America. "To my knowledge, not one member of Congress has been able to get their hands on a copy of a contract that was handed out to Halliburton or others," Hale says. "There is no central registry of Katrina contracts available. No data on the jobs or scope of the work." Hale says that his union's legislative staff has pressed members of Congress for more information; apparently the legislators were told that they could not get copies of the contracts because of "national security" concerns. "If the contracts handed out to these primary contractors are opaque, then the contracts being let to the subcontractors are just plain invisible," Hale says. "There is simply no ability to ascertain or monitor the contractor-subcontractor relationships. This is an open invitation for exploitation, fraud and abuse." Congress has heard a number of complaints recently about Halliburton/KBR's hiring practices, including the alleged exploitation of Filipino, Sri Lankan, Nepalese and other immigrant workers paid low wages on military installations in Iraq. And KBR subcontractor BE&K was a focus of Senate hearings in October, for the firing of 75 local Belle Chasse workers who said that they were replaced by "unskilled, out-of-state, out-of-country" workers earning $8 to $14 for work that typically paid $22 an hour. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has been an outspoken critic of the use of undocumented workers at Belle Chasse and on other Katrina cleanup jobs, said in a recent statement, "It is a downright shame that any contractor would use this tragedy as an opportunity to line its pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force." (continued)
Gulf Coast Slaves: Using Illegal Labor to clean up after Katrina,3
9 years ago
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is also against the practice, citing its "serious social ramifications." As he told Salon, it devastates "local workers who have been hit twice, because they lost their homes." Seventeen-year-old Simitrio Martinez (no relation to Arnulfo) is another one of the dozens of workers originally hired by Tovar, the North Carolina job broker working under KBR. "They were going to pay seven dollars an hour, and the food was going to be free, and rent, but they gave us nothing," says the thin Zapotec teenager. Simitrio spent nearly a month at the Seabee base. "They weren't feeding us. We ate cookies for five days. Cookies, nothing else," he says. Simitrio, his co-workers, and the dozens of KBR subcontractors that employ them operate under public-private agreements like federal Task Order 0017, which defines the scope of work to be fulfilled under the contracts. Under the multimillion-dollar Department of Defense contract, KBR is supposed to provide services for "Hurricane Katrina stabilization and recovery at Naval Air Station Pascagoula, Naval Air Station Gulfport, Stennis Space Center and other Navy installations in the Southeast Region," according to a Defense Department press release. The Ninth Ward in New Orleans was heavily damaged by Katrina flood waters. AFP The Ninth Ward in New Orleans was heavily damaged by Katrina flood waters. But the details of the agreements remain murky. "Not only is it very difficult to see the actual signed DoD contracts, but it is nearly impossible to see the actual task orders, which assign the goods or services the government is buying," says Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight in Washington. The military can ask for goods and services on an as-needed basis, he says, which means that the contracts, which add up to tens of millions of dollars, can remain open ended. According to DoD press statements, the contracts call for considerable manual labor, including "re-roofing of most buildings, barracks, debris removal from the entire base, water mitigation, mold mitigation, interior and exterior repairs to most buildings, waste treatment plants, and all incidental related work." Simitrio and any other workers on the high-security military bases must get permission before entering the guarded gates, where they get patted down by M-16-wielding military police. Responsibility for getting private-sector construction and cleanup workers on the bases rests with the general contractor -- in KBR's case, security chief Kevin Flynn. One of Flynn's responsibilities is to negotiate passes and entry for KBR subcontractors -- and their hires -- to do the work stipulated by the task order. Yet, following several complaints by Landrieu, and just a few days after President Bush visited the Belle Chasse base, agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raided the facility and detained 10 workers who ICE spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback said had "questionable" documentation. Representatives of Halliburton/KBR do not acknowledge the existence of undocumented workers providing labor for their operations on the Gulf Coast bases. Flynn suggested speaking to the U.S. military, who he said "has real strict control" and would know whether there were undocumented workers. "We have workers from all ethnic groups on the base," Flynn said. "To the best of my knowledge, there are no undocumented workers." Steve Romano, head of housing on the Belle Chasse base, said, "We have no relationship with [KBR] at all. I have no idea what that's about." A similar response was given by an official at the base's health facility when asked about undocumented workers who complained about health issues and injuries sustained on the KBR sites. The only military person to acknowledge seeing Latino workers was a watch commander who greeted me at an entry to the base. The commander estimated there were 100 such workers there. Meanwhile, representatives with the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance say they received calls from undocumented workers at Belle Chasse who estimated there were more than 500, or "about eight busloads" of immigrant workers on-site. Texas-based DRS Cosmotech is another subcontractor that provided cleanup crews to Halliburton/KBR in the Gulf. Roy Lee Donaldson, CEO of the company, refused to respond to accusations of non-payment and exploitation leveled at his company by several workers, including 55-year-old Felipe Reyes of Linares, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. (Donaldson hung up the phone when I identified myself as a reporter.) "Mr. Donaldson promised us we'd live in a hotel or a house. We lived in tents and only had hot water that smelled like petroleum," Reyes said. The city of Belle Chasse has been identified in recent years as one of the most toxically polluted areas in the entire region, with several major energy companies operating there. A wide range of advocacy groups have warned about serious health risks facing Katrina cleanup workers. "They didn't want to pay us for two weeks of work. So we stopped working. We started a huelga [strike] on the base" added Reyes, who along with other workers, says he was later paid $1,100 -- only part of what he says he was owed. (continued)
Gulf Coast Slaves: Using Illegal Labor to clean up after Katrina,4
9 years ago
Another KBR subcontractor, Alabama-based BE&K, says it is not responsible for keeping track of the workers. BE&K spokesperson Susan Wasley said, "I can't say that we require our subcontractors' employees to produce documentation for us, because that's what our subcontractor as employer has to do. That's his responsibility." At the bottom of the KBR subcontracting pyramid are job brokers like Tovar and Gregorio Gonzalez, who helped hire laborers for Florida-based On Site Services, another subcontractor that reportedly failed to pay wages owed to workers in the Gulf Coast. The job brokers find workers by placing ads in Spanish-language newspapers like La Subasta and El Dia in Houston; the ads typically promise room, board and pay in the range of $1,200 a week. Job brokers also run television ads on Spanish-language stations like Univision. And they attend job fairs in places like Fresno, Calif. Katrina caused billions of dollars in damage across the Gulf Coast. REUTERS Katrina caused billions of dollars in damage across the Gulf Coast. Not all subcontractors refuse to discuss their links to KBR. Luis Sevilla is pretty open about it if you can get to the crowded hangar on the restricted premises of the Seabee naval base where he and his crew sleep and work. Sevilla put together crews for KBR subcontractors to remove asbestos and do other construction work; his workers told me they are paid and treated well. Asked about the people who own the R.V. with a "KBR" logo outside the hangar where his workers crowd into small tents, Sevilla says, "They contract with many, many companies." Interviews with members of Sevilla's crew revealed a number of undocumented workers. Despite the evidence of undocumented workers cleaning up after Katrina, Halliburton/KBR maintains that it runs its operations within the bounds of the law. "KBR operates under a rigorous Code of Business Conduct that outlines legal and ethical behaviors that all employees and subcontractors are expected to follow in every aspect of their work," spokesperson Norcross said by e-mail. (She did not respond to several requests for a phone interview.) "We do not tolerate any exceptions to this Code at any level of our company." Standing in spitting distance of the KBR-branded R.V., which is parked as if it were guarding the hangar, Jose Ruiz of Nicaragua knows that his role in the Katrina cleanup is anonymous at best. "I don't have any papers, kind of like in that song by Sting -- 'I'm an illegal alien,'" says Ruiz, who lived in the United States for many years before arriving to work for Sevilla at the Seabee base. "That's the way it is." *fair use* PHOTO GALLERY: CLEANING UP AFTER KATRINA (9 photos) http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/0,5538,PB64-SUQ9MTE1MjImbnI9MQ_3_3,00.html
Kentucky- Working, but still homeless
8 years ago
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060608/NEWS01/606080396 Thursday, June 8, 2006 Working, but still homeless Number needing help on the rise in Louisville, new report finds By Marcus Green magreen@courier-journal.com The Courier-Journal It wasn't long ago that Jenifer Haysley was a methamphetamine addict who slept wherever she could find a place to crash, with friends and family and strangers -- even living out of an ex-boyfriend's car when she had nowhere else to turn. Now the 25-year-old former exotic dancer works full time as a cook for Bristol Catering and heads home each day to a two-bedroom apartment as part of a Society of St. Vincent de Paul program that offers transitional housing for the homeless. Haysley is among the more than 3,000 people who last year made up Louisville's working homeless, a growing segment of the estimated 11,251 men, women and children who received homeless services in 2005. "I don't like being a statistic," said Haysley, who hopes someday to buy a house and attend college. "It doesn't make me feel great. But at the same time, you know, I do what I can do -- and I got myself in this situation." It's a situation that more people find themselves in around Louisville. The number of people using homeless services such as shelters and soup kitchens grew 2 percent last year and is up 8 percent since 2002, according to the latest census of the city's homeless. The annual report, to be released this morning by the Coalition for the Homeless, suggests that Louisville's homeless population is rising slower than the national average, but it contains an increasing number of high school graduates and workers. The coalition, an umbrella agency that coordinates 27 service providers and other members, says the 2005 report indicates that more people in the city's shelters and programs are employed -- but working for low wages. "A lot of them work but they work minimum wage, so as long as we pay just $5.15 an hour, they're going to be homeless the rest of their life," said Sister Mary Kathleen Sheehan, director of the St. John Center on Muhammad Ali Boulevard, which serves 160 to 200 men each day. More than one-quarter of the homeless surveyed said they were working part- or full-time jobs, up slightly from the year before, the report says. One-third of those workers earned less than $10 an hour. That's less than the $10.83 an hour a worker needs to rent an average two-bedroom apartment in metro Louisville, according to the coalition. It's likely that Louisville's total homeless count is much higher than the census shows because those who didn't seek services or who were turned away because shelters were full weren't counted -- nor were about 1,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees who received homeless services. Also, said coalition spokeswoman Rachel Hurst, the number of people younger than 17 who live on their own was more accurately reflected than in the past. The homeless census showed more single men and women who used services last year, but fewer children in families. More people with high school degrees used homeless services -- about 30 percent, compared with 21 percent in 2004. There also was a nearly 2 percent rise in homeless people who identified themselves as veterans. Marlene Gordon, the coalition's executive director, said she's particularly concerned about the rise of women military veterans. That group rose to 40 in 2005 from the just one the year before. "That's a tremendous increase," she said. Veteran Joan "Jackie" Miller, 59, became homeless last year after her mother died and she suffered a bout of depression. Miller, who said she served in the Army, now works a third-shift job repairing cell phones and receives counseling services. She lives in a tidy apartment as part of a transitional housing program for women veterans managed by Interlink Counseling Services. "This," she said, "is almost a prayer answered." Those surveyed said they became homeless for many reasons, but often because of drug or alcohol problems or job losses. Others cited mental illness, domestic violence or divorce. City and agency officials have tried to target chronic homelessness in part by pushing for more affordable housing. That push has been aided by recent federal grants and a local grass-roots campaign to create a housing fund. In December, Louisville's homeless programs were awarded a record $5.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. About $1.7 million will finance permanent housing. Housing advocates also are lobbying the Metro Council to establish an affordable housing trust fund. "It certainly would help us with resources that we need," Gordon said. "Cities that have made big strides in ending and reducing homelessness are places with dedicated funding." Reporter Marcus Green can be reached at (502) 582-4675. *fair use* Related Link/s: St.John Center for the Homeless http://www.stjohncenter.org/ Contact Information Telephone: 502-568-6758 FAX: 502-568-9457 Address: 700 E. Muhammad Ali Blvd., Louisville, KY 40202 , USA Electronic mail General Information: info@StJohnCenter.org Volunteer Coordinator: ks@StJohnCenter.org Development Office: tlv@StJohnCenter.org The Society of St Vincent de Paul- assisting homeless http://www.svdplou.org/index.html http://www.svdplou.org/programs/index.html 1015-C S. Preston St. Louisville, KY 40203 Phone: (502) 584-2480 Fax: (502) 587-1977 e-mail: sjones@svdplou.org
Working but still homeless (continued) Jenifer Haysley
8 years ago


""I don't like being a statistic. It doesn't make me feel great." JENIFER HAYSLEY, who works full time for Bristol Catering and lives in an apartment as part of a program that offers transitional housing for the homeless. (By Arza Barnett, The Courier-Journal)"- fair use for humanitarian purposes http://tinyurl.com/l69wq


Church calls for helping the poor among us
8 years ago
http://www.caledoncitizen.com/news/2006/0719/community/011.html July 19, 2006 Church calls for helping the poor among us Poverty is real in the Town of Caledon. If you have not seen poverty and homelessness in Bolton, you may not be looking. When these issues came to the attention of the Outreach Committee at Christ Church Anglican, they set out to learn more. They checked areas of Bolton and talked with Susan Cameron, who was the executive director of Caledon Community Services at the time. Cameron said that some of the working poor are among the local homeless and that they are almost invisible amid the general affluence of the Town of Caledon. Working for minimum wage and with no savings, the working poor are one paycheque away from disaster. With every penny of that small pay going to pay for food, clothing, rent, utilities and transportation to and from work, what happens when a sick child needs a dose of expensive antibiotics, or the car has to have an unexpected repair? What happens is that the rent falls behind, and if those rent payments cannot be made up, eviction follows. After eviction, Cameron said, people "couch surf" for a time with family or friends until even the most sympathetic supporters ask them to leave, and one more local family is on the street. The Diocese of Toronto recently encouraged Anglicans across the diocese to meet with local MPPs to advocate on behalf of the homeless. Members of Christ Church Bolton, along with other local Anglicans, met with our MPP, the Hon. John Tory April 3 to discuss ways of helping the poor among us. He was both receptive and well prepared. The group urged Tory to: * Use his position to hold the provincial government to its promises of provincial funding for affordable housing. * Facilitate an end to the growing problem of child poverty by supporting legislation to stop the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement for low income families. * Work to raise the minimum wage to help the working poor. Tory listened attentively, acknowledging that poverty was a problem not only in the Town of Caledon, but also across the riding and the province. He did point out that, compared to issues such as health care or education, he was not receiving emails or phone calls about the issues of poverty and homelessness. Some of us think that homelessness and poverty are important issues, and issues which should be addressed by our politicians. If you agree, one way to request change is to contact Tory and express your concern. You can e-mail him at john.tory@pc.ola.org. *fair use*
google search: working poor
8 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/zhua8 Help 'working poor' get housing, municipalities ask Alberta CBC.ca, Canada - 7 hours ago http://tinyurl.com/k7wrt Alberta's boom is pushing the cost of housing up so fast that the province is developing "a class of working poor" — people who have jobs but can't afford a ... State insurance plans cover working poor Syracuse Post Standard, NY - Aug 21, 2006 http://tinyurl.com/gd8b3 ... The other option is Healthy New York, a streamlined package of health benefits provided at reduced cost to certain working, uninsured individuals. ... Catholic teaching seen supporting living-wage hike for working ... Catholic Online, CA - Aug 21, 2006 http://tinyurl.com/z98fy ... Churches were seeing an increase in the use of soup kitchens and pantries by the working poor. Low-wage workers were often turning ... Washington Post Law May Force Some Working Poor Back to the Support of Welfare ... Washington Post, United States - Aug 18, 2006 http://tinyurl.com/gxg2h ... To those who assist the working poor, it is a cruel irony: For working parents to be able to find affordable child care, many might have to go back on welfare ... It's criminal what Congress has done to the working poor San Francisco Bay Guardian, CA - Aug 15, 2006 http://tinyurl.com/jpgad ... They've raised congressional pay in every session since 1997, while doing nothing for the working poor. That's added more than $31,000 ... For the poor, the struggle to make a living continues Kansas City Star, MO - 15 hours ago http://tinyurl.com/hxaae ... since 2000, demand is up for food stamps, subsidized health and medical care, and other social services — by both the unemployed and the working poor. ... WELFARE REFORM: PROGRESS, PAIN San Jose Mercury News Catholic Charities USA Urges Greater Flexibility in Restrictive ... U.S. Newswire (press release) 10 years of welfare reform Columbus Dispatch all 10 related » Double Duty: Program http://tinyurl.com/h7ky6 Serves Working Poor, Alumni Seeking to Go ... NY Lawyer, NY - Aug 18, 2006 ... Fred Rooney, the network's director, said the program targets "the working poor, although more and more it's affecting the middle class. ... The working poor as political playthings http://tinyurl.com/gc3nt Albany Times Union, NY - Aug 8, 2006 ... It has been nine years since the working poor have had a raise. ... The GOP leadership used the working poor as human shields and political cannon fodder. ... NC's working poor need help Charlotte Observer, NC - Aug 14, 2006 http://tinyurl.com/qac3w ... Poor past decisions increased the odds that an economic downturn would batter low-income working families, which was exactly what happened. ... MARC H. MORIAL: Working Poor Beware: Read the Fine Print in ... http://tinyurl.com/mmx7w Chicago Defender, United States - Aug 6, 2006 ... There's no doubt that a raise to $7.25 an hour will lift some of the working poor out of poverty. An employee currently earning ...
Alternet: Bush Dismantles Child Care
8 years ago
http://www.alternet.org/stories/42507/ By Ruth Rosen, TomPaine.com Posted on October 5, 2006, Printed on October 5, 2006 http://www.alternet.org/story/42507/ What kind of society have we become? Before members of Congress departed for recess, they gave President George W. Bush -- hardly known for his wisdom or compassion -- the right to define what constitutes torture and to suspend the constitutional right of habeas corpus. But our elected representatives couldn't find time to pass the Labor, Health and Human Service appropriations bill which, among things, funds child care. The "Child Care Crisis" -- the absence of anyone to care for America's children, elderly and disabled -- has turned into the new millennium's version of the "Problem That Has No Name," It is the 800-pound elephant that sits in Congress, our homes and offices -- gigantic, but ignored. And, it keeps getting worse. According to a new 50-state report on child care policies just released by the National Women's Law Center, the Bush administration has successful dismantled government services for children. State funds for child care assistance have fallen for the fifth year in a row. The problem will soon become catastrophic when large numbers of single mothers bump up against their five-year life limit on welfare. The report portrays a bleak picture of our national child care deficit. Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of NWLC, says that: "The new federal welfare work requirement [passed this year] creates more demand for child care assistance without providing enough funding to meet that demand." No big surprise here. Many of us always knew that the elimination of guaranteed welfare -- replaced by Temporary Assistance to Need Families -- was designed to reduce the number of women on the welfare rolls, not to reduce poverty. The report also finds that states are failing to adequately compensate providers. Helen Blank, NWLC director of leadership and public policy, describes the consequences of paying child care workers such poor wages: Low-income children are denied critical early learning experiences. Parents find it difficult to access the child care they need to work. And providers, who are often low-income women themselves, face earning less or going out of business. Poor working mothers face other barriers as well. Two-thirds of the states have raised the income eligibility and copayments for child care and 18 states have long waiting lists. All of these barriers to adequate childcare make it extremely difficult for women to work, feel confident that their children are safe and to get off welfare. But do either Democrats or Republicans think this constitutes a threat to the national security of our society? No. In fact, more than three decades after Congress passed -- and President Richard Nixon vetoed -- the 1971 comprehensive child care legislation, child care has all but dropped off the national political agenda. And, with each passing year, the child care crisis only grows larger, burdening the lives of working mothers. But it never reaches our nation's political agenda. Anti-feminists naturally blame the women's movement for abandoning their children for the impossible ideal of "having it all." But it was journalists and popular writers, not women's rights activists, who created the myth of the "superwoman." Feminists of the 1960s and 1970s always knew that women couldn't do it alone. In fact, they insisted that men share the housework and child rearing and that government and business should provide and subsidize child care. Single mothers naturally suffer the most from the child care crisis, but even with two parents, there is not much time for family life. Parents become overwhelmed, children feel cranky, workers quietly seethe and gulp antacids and sleeping pills, and volunteering in community life gradually vanishes. Overworked American families, whose time spent at work has increased three extra weeks between 1986 and 1997, suffer from what sociologist Arlie Hochschild has called a "time bind." But both social conservatives and the Religious Right, who glorify "family values," refuse to support any national effort to help working families regain a sense of stability and balance. Conventional wisdom also reinforces the widespread myth that child care is not a problem, that American women have gained equality, entered a new post-feminist era and that it's time for disgruntled feminists "to move on." This is hardly new. Ever since 1970, the mainstream media has been pronouncing the death of feminism and reporting that women have returned home to care for their children. The early 21st century version of this journalistic narrative describes -- with a certain celebratory tone -- how elite, wealthy and predominantly white women are "choosing" to ditch their educational credentials and "opting out" in favor of home and children. What's missing in all these stories is the fact that the vast majority of ordinary middle-class and low-income working mothers have to work. They have no choice. Such stories also obscure the reality that an absence of quality, affordable, and accessible child care and flexible working hours greatly contributes to a woman's so-called "choice" to stay at home. Poverty -- like the child care crisis -- remains invisible to mainstream America and largely outside the national political discourse. Yet, in 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that poverty rates in U.S. had increased for the fourth straight year and had jumped from 31.6 million people in 2000 to 37 million, including 13 million children. Rather expanding Head Start, the government issues vouchers that all too often result in inadequate child care. And many mothers who can't get subsidized child care assistance reluctantly leave their children with irresponsible relatives or babysitters they have good reasons not to trust. (MORE)
Alternet: Bush Dismantles Child Care, continued
8 years ago
While the media celebrates the highly-educated career woman who quits her job to become a stay-at-home mom, the government requires single mothers on TANF to leave their children somewhere, anywhere, so that they can fulfill their requirement to work and get off welfare. Congress's indifference to child care, however, is merely one example of this country's failure to address poverty and the growing child care crisis. It's easier to sacrifice cherished civil liberties in the name of fighting "the war on terror" than to address the need for superior education, universal health coverage, climate change, subsidized child care, mass transit, and affordable housing, all of which constitutes real national security for families and their children. Look into the mirror. What are your values? Is your sense of security only tied to a national security program that has resulted in two failed wars and an unprecedented assault on our democratic rights? That is the question that all Americans should ask themselves before they cast their votes in November. Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute. A new edition of her most recent book, The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America (Penguin, 2001), will be published with an updated epilogue in 2007. © 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/42507/ *fair use*
Just Neighbors
8 years ago
Here's a site I found with the help of your Google search link http://www.justneighbors.net/

paula
Sweatshops, made in the good, old U.S. A.
8 years ago
http://www.sptimes.com/2006/10/29/Opinion/Sweatshops__made_in_t.shtml How an official who tried to help exploited workers ran afoul of powerful Republicans. By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist Published October 29, 2006 If you're one of those independent-minded voters who drifted in recent years to the Republican camp and may be thinking twice about that allegiance come November, there is one more reason to do so: Allen Stayman. You've probably never heard of Stayman, but indicted former lobbyist and Republican insider Jack Abramoff knew him well. Abramoff and his lobbying team went to great lengths to oust Stayman from his State Department post, even dubbing the expulsion the "Stayman Project." Why? Because years earlier as an official in the Interior Department, Stayman led an effort to help exploited workers toiling in Chinese-owned sweatshops in a U.S. commonwealth. Since the 1980s, the tiny Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific and particularly the main island of Saipan have attracted numerous Chinese garment manufacturers. The Chinese loved this arrangement because it allowed their clothes to carry the label "Made in the U.S.A.," and shipments from the islands didn't face the import quotas or duties that existed at the time. Conscientious consumers assumed that the garments were made on the U.S. mainland in conformance with our labor laws. To maintain the ruse and keep workers in penury, the islands' government doled out $7.9-million over six years to Abramoff. Wendy Doromal, who taught school in the Marianas before becoming a human rights activist, told NPR's Weekend Edition in June that the guest workers, primarily from China, were treated as disposable flotsam. "The barbed wire around the factories face inward so that the mostly women couldn't get out." Many of the workers were minors who were kept in barracks at night in what was described by our government as "labor camps." The workers were charged by recruiters thousands of dollars for "jobs in the U.S." Then they landed on an island 8,000 miles away. Doromal said the women had quotas that were impossible to reach within a normal workday and they wouldn't be paid for the overtime. Pam Brown, former federal ombudsman for the Northern Marianas, recently told Moyers On America that workers there were forced to sign contracts agreeing that "if they got pregnant they'd have an abortion." In the late 1990s, Congress almost put a stop to the worst abuses by forcing the Marianas to adopt U.S. minimum wage and immigration laws. A bill passed the Senate unanimously. But former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whom Abramoff brought to the Marianas over the 1998 New Year, blocked the effort in the House. DeLay was taped during that trip telling officials and business leaders: "You are a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party and you represent everything good about what we're trying to do in America, in leading the world in the free market system." So what about Allen Stayman? Stayman was opposed by Abramoff due to his work leading the Interior Department's Office of Insular Affairs. In accordance with a congressional dictate, Stayman tried to negotiate with the Marianas to bring the country into line with American labor and immigration standards. According to Stayman, for Abramoff and DeLay, it was "an inconvenient truth that businessmen were horribly abusing workers." They didn't want to know it and they didn't want it known. The dozens of mostly Republican congressional members and staff flown to the Marianas for golf outings and resort stays were given a quick tour through a model factory. Newly released e-mails suggest that with the election of George W. Bush, Abramoff saw his opportunity to punish Stayman, who had since moved to the State Department and was no longer dealing with the Marianas. Ken Mehlman, now the chairman of the Republican National Committee but who was then the White House political director, was allegedly intricately involved. "Mehlman said he would get him fired," read one e-mail from an Abramoff associate. Within months of Bush's inauguration, Stayman was denied renewal of his State Department job even though his supervisors had sought to retain him. Mehlman has said he doesn't remember the case. A report by the House Government Reform Committee documented more than 400 contacts between the White House and members of Abramoff's lobbying team, many apparently with Mehlman. And while Abramoff and DeLay are facing legal troubles for their unethical and corrupt dealings, Mehlman is still a Republican power broker. In the world of today's Republican leadership, if enough money changes hands, then young women being held in a form of indentured servitude, cheated out of pay and forced to live in miserable conditions while the U.S. flag flies outside the factory door is not a problem. It's a model of free market capitalism. Just something else to consider come November. *fair use*
Warmth a challenge for working poor, homeless
8 years ago
Wednesday February 07, 2007
Warmth a challenge for working poor, homeless
Chasity Locke, who said his nickname on the streets is “Warlock,” finished lunch at St. John’s Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston before heading back out into the 7-degree weather.
Chasity Locke eats a hot lunch

daily at Manna Meal, but it is only a temporary reprieve from the harsh conditions outdoors.

The past couple of days have presented extremely difficult circumstances for the most vulnerable members of society. Tuesday brought the coldest readings statewide since Feb. 5, 1996, when several all-time records were set or tied for February, the National Weather Service said.

And today brought three to six inches of snow throughout the state, authorities said.

Every cold winter night brings with it a challenge to Locke as he struggles to stay warm, but he does the best he can.

Some nights he sleeps on a bench bundled in blankets. Other nights he stays with friends throughout Charleston.

Every day he is on the lookout for a place to spend the night.

"To be stranded out one night is normal, but you need a dependable place to go to," he said. "You need a place inside to stay warm. You can be negligent and lose the place you have."

(MORE)

Warmth a challenge for working poor, homeless- continued
8 years ago
While Locke can stand to sleep under the stars and moon one night, he said multiple nights of exposure to the weather is hard. "If you're sleeping outside, the weather is freezing around you," he said. "The spot you are in is warm, but then the materials that cover you get as cold as the air outside. You can stay warm one night in one spot." Locke does not usually stay in homeless shelters, even though he can stay warm there, because he considers it "bumming or a charity offer." This is actually quite common in the homeless community, said William Farris, a volunteer at Manna Meal. "A lot of them don't want any help," he said. Farris himself used to be homeless and began to volunteer at Manna Meal three and a half years ago. He said he began helping because he felt he needed to earn the food he was given. He continued serving food even after he was no longer on the streets for a completely different reason, though. "It gives you something to do. It makes you feel good," he said. No matter if it is hot outside or cold, Sandy Perrine, executive director of Manna Meal, said the soup kitchen constantly stays busy serving about 200 to 300 people lunch and breakfast every day. One homeless man, who refused to give his name, visits Manna Meal frequently for lunch. Food the cooks provide keeps him from getting too hungry, but the kitchen provides one extra perk during the cold winter months -- it is a place of warmth. "It's tough (to stay warm). The winter's the worst," he said while hunched over his plate eating some corn and green beans. He will occasionally stay in a shelter, but he is not always allowed in. On those nights he sleeps on a cold bench. "If I'm drunk, they throw me out. You gotta be drunk to stay warm, though," he said. Another woman, who also visits the soup kitchen regularly and who refused to give her name, lives in a trailer, but still struggles to survive from day to day. Last winter was especially hard for her because she only had a space heater to provide her with heat. "It (the space heater) would burn my legs, but the rest of me would freeze," she said. Her trailer was so cold and her arthritis bothered her so much in the past that she had to use crutches to move. Although this winter has been colder than last year's, the woman is warmer than she has been in a long time thanks to a furnace the weatherization program helped provide for her. "My arthritis is so much better. I don't know how I'd make it without that furnace," she said. The woman knows some homeless people who live in tents and campers through the winter. She said they use space and kerosene heaters or fires to stay warm. "Some of them are too unsociable to stay in shelters. They don't (stay warm) safely," she said. The woman is concerned about her neighbors just as much as she is worried about her homeless friends. "I walk in these trailers and I find two or three space heaters running at the same time. It's their main heat source, and it's still cold," she said. Perrine said a lot of people struggle throughout the winter to provide heat for their families. All year long parents worry about feeding their children. "There's just a lot of working poor. We just see a little bit of everybody. They're all good people," Perrine said. The shelter began 28 years ago with a few men making food in the kitchen. Now cooks bake food donated from some area restaurants and hospitals. They also cook food Manna Meal has purchased with donations. "We can always use donations. That way we can buy what we need," Perrine said. Contact writer Kelly Holleran at kellyh@dailymail.com or 348-4850. *fair use*
Union States Of America
8 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/37vnkk The House of Representatives probably hadn’t seen such a pro-labor lineup of speakers since the Kennedy administration. It wasn’t actually House business; it was a morning panel put on by the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute. But it filled the caucus room of the Cannon House Office Building with a determinedly union-boosting crowd. The leadoff hitter was probably the nation’s best-known progressive economist, New York Times columnist and Princeton professor Paul Krugman. He made two points that need to be instilled in every reader and TV news viewer, as well as every business reporter: 1. The United States is “pretty good at generating overall growth,” but that doesn’t translate into broad prosperity. 2. “We did not realize it until we lost unions how crucial they are to our well-being.” He was followed by Beth Shulman, author of The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families. Shulman noted that unions benefit far more workers than just their members, by forcing other employers to match union wages. She also made a point that seems to have been long forgotten: “Manufacturing jobs became good jobs through unionization.” Audience member Ann Hoffman, formerly of the garment workers union, noted that in the 1930s and early 1940s, garment workers earned higher wages than did auto workers, “because they’d had a 30-year head start in unionization.” All the speakers stressed that the public had the right, and duty, to regulate the rights and benefits of corporations. “We need,” Shulman said, “a new social contract. We must redefine the roles of government and corporations.” But she also said that unions themselves had to change as well, and noted that the labor movement includes associations, worker centers and community groups as well as declared unions. Tom Kochan, co-director of the Institute for Work and Employment Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, followed up by citing some familiar but essential facts: At least 20 percent of workers who try to organize their fellows wind up fired; that labor law in its current form is a disgrace; that at the moment, “it’s a risk, rather than a right, to join a labor union.” He also said that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act now in Congress, which would ease unionization, “is just a first step in encouraging productive labor-management cooperation.” Kochan also said that unions must change, “dramatically.” He proposed that union membership, like health care, should not be dependent on one particular job. Rather, he said, unions should organize men and women at the beginning of their careers and keep them as members for life. Presumably he meant voluntarily. The final speaker was Harley Shaiken, University of California at Berkeley professor of geography specializing in unions, trade and Latin America. Shaiken is one of America’s leading academic experts on the auto industry. He called the present time one of a Great Disconnect, with rising wealth and stagnant wages, with “most people becoming observers in our economy.” Shaiken reminded people that when the United Auto Workers struck and bargained with General Motors in 1944, the union wanted something more than just higher wages for its members. The UAW wanted a 30 percent raise, but no increase in the price of automobiles. After a 106-day strike GM conceded the general principle that wages and benefits had to fit into a broader plan for the social good. We’ve come a long way down from there, said Shaiken, and car makers don’t think in terms of societal good any more. He said that Toyota plants in the U.S. were paying slightly above the wages negotiated by the UAW in American plants, but now that the domestic auto makers are escaping from their contracts, Toyota has a new strategy. Despite being an extremely profitable enterprise, Toyota circulated a memo, leaked to Shaiken, saying that since they don’t have to contend with a vigorous UAW, they intend to “cut wages dramatically.” Nevertheless, Shaiken said that six of the 10 most efficient auto plants in the U.S are union shops—including the joint GM-Toyota plant in Fremont, California. “Competitiveness,” he said, “goes beyond just cost, and cutting wages can cut productivity.” “Labor,” he said in closing, “creates a more vibrant coalition of democracy.” Now, if only the words spoken today in the caucus room would take root in the offices of the members and leaders of Congress. But that, all the speakers said, will take work. --Alec Dubro | Thursday, February 22, 2007 5:25 PM *fair use*
The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families
8 years ago
The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families http://tinyurl.com/2j3ug2 The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families (Hardcover) by Beth Shulman (Author) Editorial Reviews From Publishers Weekly One out of four U.S. workers earns less than $8.70 an hour. So begins Shulman's fact-filled look at the lives of America's working poor, and their struggles to survive without adequate health benefits, child care and job security. A former v-p of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Washington, D.C., Shulman doesn't hide the fact that she is addressing the same issues as Barbara Ehrenreich did in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, the bestselling 2001 book based on the author's own experiences in the low-wage workforce. But Shulman's book lacks the verve and wow factor of Nickel and Dimed, despite her efforts to include personal stories of poultry processors, janitors, child-care workers and others who earn poverty-level wages. The anecdotes often come across as overly broad and pandering. ("It can get very busy at the pharmacy counter, especially during flu season," she writes about the life of a pharmacy technical assistant.) Even the more compelling stories lose impact because of their failure to present more than a superficial point of view of the employers. The book is at its strongest when citing labor statistics and challenging long-held beliefs that low-wage work is synonymous with a lack of skills or that most low-wage employees will graduate into better positions. Still, many of the examples (working conditions are unsafe; employers of immigrants exploit wage laws) will come as no surprise to anyone who regularly picks up a newspaper. The book is useful as a reference tool for policy wonks and conscientious employers, but anyone looking for further insight into the reality and pervasiveness of the working poor will probably be disappointed. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. E. J. Dionne, Jr. An impassioned and well-documented book. See all Editorial Reviews Product Details * Hardcover: 255 pages * Publisher: New Press (September 2, 2003) * Language: English * ISBN-10: 1565847334 * ISBN-13: 978-1565847330 (MORE on this book)
Downward Mobility- Q and A with Beth Shulman
8 years ago
http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/wagesqanda.html Q and A with Beth Shulman We asked Beth Shulman, author of THE BETRAYAL OF WORK: HOW LOW-WAGE JOBS FAIL 30 MILLION AMERICAS to answer some questions about the economic challenges facing many workers. Ms. Shulman is a lawyer and consultant on work-related issues and the former vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. What are common misconceptions about low-wage work and workers in America? A common misconception is that low-wage jobs are only found in your neighborhood McDonalds. Yet, fast-food jobs constitute less than 5 percent of all low-wage jobs. Low-wage jobs are nurse's aides and home health aides, security guards, child care workers and educational assistants maids and porters, 1-800 call-center workers, bank tellers, data-entry keyers, cooks, food-preparation workers, waiters and waitresses, cashiers and pharmacy assistants, poultry, fish and meat processors, laundry and dry cleaning operators and agricultural workers. They are jobs in the mainstream of our economy and our lives. Another misconception about low-wage jobs is that they are low-skilled. Most economists, politicians and the media marry the two terms as if they were inseparable. Yet, taking care of a sick parent or educating a child is anything but low-skilled. And there is a misconception about who the 30 million Americans are who work in low-wage jobs. Many presume they are teenagers, illegal immigrants, or high-school dropouts. Yet contrary to these stereotypes, America's low-wage workers are mostly white, female, high school educated, and with family responsibilities. Another misconception about low-wage work is that it is merely a stepping stone to a better job. Low-wage job mobility has decreased over the last decade. In a recent study following U.S. adults through their working careers, economics professors Peter Gottschalk of Boston College and Sheldon Danziger of the University of Michigan found that about half of those whose earnings ranked in the bottom 20 percent in 1968 were still in the same group in 1991. Of those who had moved up, nearly two-thirds remained below the median income. And finally there is the misconception that low-wage jobs are merely the result of an efficient market, that the economy is a force of nature, and we as a society have little control over whatever difficulties it creates. The reality is that our economic world is the result of our creation, not natural law and we have the ability to make choices that would improve low-wage jobs. What is the projected future of low-wage work in the U.S.? Is it growing? What industries/areas are most affected? Low-wage work that today constitutes one out of every four jobs in the United States is expected to grow in the next decade. Five of the ten occupations anticipated to have the largest real job growth between 2000 and 2010 are in the lowest pay occupations: food preparation and service workers, retail sales person, cashiers, security guards, and waiters and waitresses. And of the next twenty occupations with the largest predicted job growth, more than half are in low-wage service jobs: janitors, home health aides, nursing aides, laborers, landscapers, teachers' assistants, receptionists and information clerks, child-care workers, packagers, medical assistants, and personal and home-care aides. What role does gender play in the world of low-wage work? First, 60 percent of all low-wage workers are women. And women occupy the lower rungs within the low-wage sector. Women still have lower incomes and are more likely to work in low-wage jobs than men with similar qualifications. Within the low-wage sector, women are still concentrated in a number of low-status, low-paying jobs that are generally typecast as "female" jobs that provide less training and fewer advancement opportunities than male dominated occupations. Many of the skills of these "female" jobs, nurturing, caring and communicating with people, have historically been trivialized and denigrated as they are today. Women with children face even greater barriers to getting better jobs. Despite the dramatic increase in the number of working mothers, the structure of America's workplaces and the family support systems in place since the 1950s have barely changed. We still lack family-supportive policies in most workplaces. And women, who continue to bear the primary responsibility for childcare and elder care and are more likely to be custodial single parents, are forced to reduce their work hours, take breaks from employment or avoid jobs that are likely to require work schedules that would clash with their family responsibilities. This leaves many women with no choice but to take low-wage jobs that provide part-time schedules. Yet, in doing so, they sacrifice decent wages, benefits and flexibility to care for their family. Does the idea of the American dream affect our conception of work and opportunity? According to the American dream, if you work hard, apply yourself and play by the rules, you will be able to earn a decent living for yourself and your family. That was the promise of America. Yet today, one in four workers, 30 million Americans earn less than $8.70 an hour, in jobs that provide few basic benefits such as health care, sick pay, disability pay, paid vacation and retirement. These jobs leave little flexibility to care for a sick child or deal with an emergency at school. And these workplaces are often physically damaging and emotionally degrading. If America believes in work, we must honor it. Whether we give basic rights to these workers and ensure that work provides "family-supporting" wages and benefits says a great deal about what kind of society and communities we want to live in. (MORE)
Downward Mobility- Q and A with Beth Shulman, continued
8 years ago
What role are unions playing in today's low-wage work world? Unions are playing a role similar to what they did in manufacturing in the mid part of the twentieth century. They are taking jobs that were low-paid, no-benefit, and difficult jobs and turning them into family-sustaining good jobs. The Service Employee International Union's health care organizing campaign in California changed home health care jobs in the San Francisco area that in 1995 paid $4.25 an hour with few if any benefits into $10.00 an hour jobs with employer-provided medical, dental and vision coverage, and paid time off through a vacation fund. A strong union presence in the hotel industry is also changing formerly low paid, no-benefit jobs into good jobs. Maria Sanchez, a Las Vegas guest-room attendant at a casino hotel, can now support her family. She earns $10.50 an hour, with employer-provided health benefits, sick leave, and a pension. She receives free training to move into better jobs within the hotel industry. In Reno, Nevada, a town with a comparable living standard, her counterpart without a union earns only $7.48 an hour with few benefits. The same kind of transformation of jobs from low-wage jobs to good jobs is happening in other industries where unions have been able to achieve a high union density. Will these jobs just pack up and leave if wages and benefits are raised? Globalization has been used as an excuse for not raising wages and benefits. But most low-wage jobs are not in globally competitive industries. Checking out groceries, waiting on tables, caring for children, cleaning offices and hotel rooms, servicing office equipment and tending the sick cannot be done from overseas. Not only does globalization fail to apply to most of America's low-wage jobs, other industrialized countries facing the same global competition have chosen differently: They provide social safety nets, notably including guaranteed health care and child care. What do you see as the achievable solutions to the problem of those living on low wages? In my book THE BETRAYAL OF WORK: HOW LOW-WAGE JOBS FAIL 30 MILLION AMERICANS, I outline a Compact with Working Americans that has a simple and clear purpose: workers should be assured that if they work hard they will be treated fairly and have the resources to provide for themselves and their families. The minimum wage, that is currently $5.15 an hour or around $10,000 a year working full-time, should be raised to the "official" poverty line of $8.70 an hour and indexed. Government inaction over the past generation has meant a nearly $2.00 cut in the real value of the minimum wage today. Improvement in the Earned Income Tax Credit, that would allow workers to earn higher incomes before losing the credit, would also help. And requiring businesses that benefit from public monies in the form of government contracts, subsidies and tax assistance, to provide quality jobs in order to qualify for those monies would give incentives to businesses to provide livable incomes and basic benefits to their workers. America needs to provide access to affordable health care to all workers. And Americans who work should have the needed flexibility and support to care for their families while at work. Additional Information: "Exploding Myths About the Poor: Interview with Beth Shulman," FORTUNE, Sept. 16, 2003; Peter Gottschalk; Sheldon Danziger, "Family Income Mobility — How Much Is There and Has It Changed?" ; "Shaping the Future of Work," by Thomas Kochan, MITSloan Institute for Management; "Welfare, Where Do We Go From Here? A Roundtable Discussion," THINK TANK: Will There Be a Labor Shortage?; "Who is Paid the Minimum Wage and Who Would Be Affected by a $1,50 per Hour Increase," The Heritage Foundation; Budgets, Tax Cuts and The Economy, Townhall.com *fair use*
SCHIP: Health care for 60,000 Mississippi children of working poor threatened
7 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/2sxs8q SCHIP: Health care for 60,000 Mississippi children of working poor threatened Summer may prove hazardous to the health of the children of more than 60,000 Mississippi working families - because this summer they could lose their public health insurance. In February, the threat to Mississippi's State Children's Health Insurance Program was serious enough to move Gov. Haley Barbour to join forces both with fellow Republicans and with some of his more liberal Democratic counterparts in Massachusetts and Wisconsin. SCHIP is a partnership between the federal government and the states to fund and provide health insurance for children in mostly working families whose incomes are too high to qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage but too low to afford private insurance. During the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington on Feb. 24, Barbour joined a bipartisan group of 13 governors who signed a written appeal to congressional leaders and the Bush administration for immediate assistance in keeping the program from running out of money in their states. The letter from the governors to congressional leaders in both parties said that "health insurance for some of our states' most vulnerable citizens is in jeopardy." "Without quick congressional action," the governors argued, "our states, all facing federal shortfalls, will be forced to make harsh decisions affecting the lives of thousands of families." As chairman of the group, Barbour and vice chairman Democratic West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III sent another letter to the congressional leadership on behalf of the Southern Governors Association on April 30 asking them to expedite $650 million in emergency funding to offset SCHIP shortfalls in the affected states and to change the program's funding formula. For Mississippi - where SCHIP enrollment has fluctuated from 68,080 in Fiscal Year 2005 to 63,547 in FY 2006 to a current 60,000 in FY 2007 - the stakes are particularly high. Longtime state Rep. Alyce G. Clarke, a 22-year veteran of the House Public Health and Human Services Committee, said that it would be "inhumane not to try to come up with a means to continue or expand the SCHIP coverage for our children." Clarke said that "if this Legislature and Gov. Barbour can find hundreds of millions for economic incentives for private corporations, we can find sufficient money to pay the state portion of SCHIP coverage for working families in our state." State Division of Medicaid spokesman Francis Rullan said Wednesday that Mississippi's SCHIP would run out of money this summer "at the end of the current fiscal year." "If Congress does not pass the bill currently stalled to provide emergency appropriations, we have enough money to get to June 30," said Rullan. "After that, it's looking at a $12 milllion to $15 million shortfall." Rullan said that during the period from April, 2005, through December, 2006, Mississippi's SCHIP enrollment declined by 9,726 children after the Barbour administration began a recertification process for all recipients. Mississippi set the maximum SCHIP eligibility level at 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which generally means children under age 19 in a family of four with an income of up to $40,000 a year may qualify. Using the 200 percent FPL benchmark, the Mississippi Economic Policy Center identified 129,547 Mississippi low-income families with 256,177 children. State public health advocates point to those numbers as evidence of how many children may be falling through the cracks of SCHIP eligibility and coverage - and some believe the recertification program excluded eligible children from the program. But Rullan said records quantified the declining SCHIP enrollment after recertification as follows: # 38 percent left the program because their verified family income was too great to qualify. # 25 percent left because they "aged out" or attained their 19th birthday and no longer qualified. # 14 percent left because the children were covered by private insurance. # 11 percent failed to submit required verifications or were "no-shows" for their recertifications. # 5 percent left by request without giving a reason. # Less than 2 percent died. # The balance shifted to coverage by other federal programs like traditional Medicaid, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income benefits. SCHIP was designed as a federal block grant program whereby states receive a fixed federal contribution each year. State allotments are based on a formula that includes the number of low-income, uninsured children and the cost of health care in the state. Each state can access its annual allotment for three years. After the 3-year period, any unused SCHIP funds are subject to redistribution to states that have exhausted their allotments. Mississippi's SCHIP has been a beneficiary of those redistributions from other states, but fewer states now have excess SCHIP funds, Rullan said. "Mississippi has been spending considerably more than originally allocated under the statutory funding formula," said Therese Hanna, executive director of the non-profit Center for Mississippi Health Policy. "Flaws in the formula have resulted in an inequitable distributions of funds, as evidenced by the fact that Mississippi's allotments are considerably below those of states with similar or lower enrollments." In March, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House both passed budget resolutions laying the groundwork for a 5-year, $75 billion reauthorization of SCHIP. Both resolutions add $50 billion over five years to the existing $25 billion in SCHIP funding. But President Bush and many Republicans in Congress say they are attempting to refocus SCHIP on low-income children by proposing a $30 billion, 5-year reauthorization. (more)
SCHIP: Health care for 60,000 Mississippi children, ct'd
7 years ago
In March, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House both passed budget resolutions laying the groundwork for a 5-year, $75 billion reauthorization of SCHIP. Both resolutions add $50 billion over five years to the existing $25 billion in SCHIP funding. But President Bush and many Republicans in Congress say they are attempting to refocus SCHIP on low-income children by proposing a $30 billion, 5-year reauthorization. Buddy Bynum, Barbour's communications director, said there's a reason for declining SCHIP enrollment. "There's been a net gain of 37,700 jobs during this administration and personal income has grown 15 percent, both of which may have resulted in some children falling off the rolls due to family income growing beyond 200 percent of poverty," said Bynum. "That is a desirable thing." Bynum also said some states are allowing childless adults into their programs. "The governor believes that siphons money away from states like ours that are playing by the rules," he said. *fair use*
SCHIP: Health care for 60,000 Mississippi children, ct'd
7 years ago
Working and Homeless
7 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/2cb8r6 By Nina wu nwu@starbulletin.com » FIRST http://tinyurl.com/yusfm2 | SECOND http://tinyurl.com/yrzysn | THIRD OF THREE PARTS http://tinyurl.com/2cb8r6 SATOSY SANTA, 63, has a dream. He moved to Honolulu, seeking health care and following in the steps of his grown daughter, hoping to one day work full-time here and to be able to rent a home to provide for his family. A native of Chuuk in Micronesia, Santa worked for 15 years in the fire and police department there, rising as high as second in command, but hasn't been able to transfer those skills into a law-enforcement job in Hawaii. He now works part-time as a security guard for American Guard in Honolulu, and lives full-time at the Next Door homeless shelter in Kakaako. He's been there pretty much since the day the shelter opened a year ago. "I'd like to find a job in the fire or police department," he said. "This is what I know, and this is what I like, to combat crime." Last year, more than a quarter of the homeless living in state shelters were employed, 11 percent part-time and 17 percent full-time, according to the 2006 Homeless Service Utilization Report by the University of Hawaii's Center on the Family. On neighbor islands, the percentage of working homeless was even higher. Despite having the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, Hawaii has the fourth-highest rate of homelessness per capita, according to a recent study. Homeless service providers say this is not surprising, given that the bulk of available jobs are minimum wage, and do not provide enough for rents averaging above $1,000 a month, compounded by the high cost of living in Hawaii. While many homeless people here are unemployed because of disability, mental illness or other social issues, there are others who rise each morning from their shelter beds, beach tents or parks to go to work. A total of 74 out of 215 adults at Next Step -- or more than 30 percent of the residents -- are employed, according to data from the Affordable Housing and Homeless Alliance, the lead agency running the shelter. Next Door shelter manager Utu Langi said residents there work a gamut of jobs, from driving commercial trucks to busing tables in restaurants, and doing yard work for landscaping companies. "Unfortunately, they work the kind of jobs that can only pay so much," said Langi. "But it helps some of the folks begin to save to get their own housing." Many shelter residents prefer not to disclose their homeless status to their employers because of the stigma attached. Langi said skills training for higher-paying jobs is key. "That is, to me, one of the pieces of the puzzle," he said. "If we're going to solve homelessness, we need to train these guys in skills so they can go out and get a job and be self-sustainable." He said non-profit groups have brought job assistance programs to the shelter. The state offers job assistance programs, as well, ranging from First-to-Work to SEE Hawaii Work. "What's happening more and more is you have a family where they both work," said Darlene Hein, program coordinator for the Waikiki Health Center Care-A-Van. "They have six kids and live in a one-bedroom apartment." Then -- as the scenario typically unfolds -- they get notice that their rent is increasing beyond their budget, and a desperate hunt for another apartment comes up empty. The number of affordable rentals is still inadequate, said Hein, and shrinking as many developers convert to condominiums or time-shares. Hein said many of the homeless work odd jobs in the underground economy rather than in the regular 9-to-5 world, and it's even tougher when you're on the streets. Michael Ullman, a homeless services consultant who worked on the 2006 utilization report said an increasing number of Micronesians, such as Santa, are now living in shelters. Many times, they will have a home with more than three families under the roof, and some of the members will go to a shelter in order to get on an affordable housing waiting list. In Santa's case, his daughter's studio is simply too small to share, along with her young children. Santa's nephew, Kerk, also stays at the shelter, with his wife and three young children. He works full-time as a runner and prep cook at California Pizza Kitchen. Many Micronesians come to Hawaii seeking health care, provided by the U.S. government under the Compact of Free Association. Ullman himself does not believe that building more shelters is the solution. "A lot of cities like Chicago don't build shelters because they realize it's a failed solution," he said. "Move them directly into housing and provide them with support. Either give them some assistance for rent, or a tax break to pay for rent. Building shelters only creates more homelessness." But Santa says he's grateful for the Next Step shelter. "Because I have no place else to go," he said. *fair use*
Working and Homeless, continued
7 years ago
art4FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Satosy Santa inside his cubicle at the Next Step homeless shelter in Kakaako. He works part-time as a security guard but still lives in the shelter, unable to afford Hawaii's high cost of housing.
Working and Homeless, continued
7 years ago
Michigan school districts impose job, wage and benefits cuts
7 years ago
http://www.wsws.org/articles/2007/may2007/mich-m26.shtml Michigan school districts impose job, wage and benefits cuts By Debra Watson 26 May 2007 Michigan Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm ordered new funding cuts May 25 in the wake of reports that the state’s budget deficit has doubled since January. The order includes the elimination of the Department of Civil Service and the consolidation of its functions with other departments. Earlier this month, Granholm threatened to cut $122 for each K-12 student from the state’s school fund base grant and to cut 6 percent of payments to doctors and hospitals treating Medicaid recipients unless the governor and the legislature work out a budget agreement by the end of May. These cutbacks come on top of two decades of cuts in public and social services in the state and numerous rounds of cuts in public education. Over the course of her previous term, Granholm cut $4 billion in state expenditures, more than any previous governor. Particularly hard hit were primary and secondary education as well as healthcare. On May 18, Michigan economists announced the state’s budget deficit for the current fiscal year ending September 30 will exceed $800 million—nearly $400 million more than projected just a few months ago, when state officials began crafting a new round of budget cuts for state government programs. Granholm and Republicans and Democrats in the state legislature have already agreed to far-reaching cuts totaling more than $300 million this year. Granholm is demanding further cuts and new taxes that will take into account an even larger budget deficit, $1.6 billion, looming for next year due to the elimination of the Single Business Tax (SBT). The governor wants Republicans to agree to help close part of this year’s deficit by imposing a 2 percent sales tax on services and other fees that will hit working people the hardest. Also under consideration is a plan to raise the state’s regressive flat income tax. Further, the governor is seeking agreement on the establishment of a new business tax to replace the SBT, which expires December 31, 2007. The deficits are the product of a combination of factors. The Michigan economy is in a tailspin. The state’s unemployment rate, already the second highest in the US, showed a further rise in April, jumping to 7.1 percent, up from 6.5 percent in March. From January to December 2006, about 53,300 jobs were eliminated statewide, 38,000 of them in manufacturing. The state is expected to lose an additional 46,000 jobs in 2007 and 32,000 more the following year. The loss of jobs is largely due to the collapse of manufacturing, especially in the auto sector, where all three major US-based carmakers are in the midst of carrying out huge layoffs. As a result, revenues from state sales and income taxes are down and the state is losing tens of millions of dollars in lottery revenue. In addition, revenue from land sales tax is down precipitously, a result of the slumping housing market. This is under conditions in which the state’s finances had already been eroded through years of tax cuts for businesses and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile, due to the slumping economy, costs for entitlements such as welfare and Medicaid have increased beyond those projected earlier this year by a staggering $170 million. This includes $20 million in cost increases for Michigan’s prisons. Schools cutting programs School districts across the state are already cutting vital programs. In district after district, costs have outstripped income from the anemic base grant revenue stream from the state. Michigan is the only state in the country where local districts must pay all the costs of pensions and healthcare for employees. This system was set up in 1994 as part of the now-infamous Proposal A. In Michigan each school district gets a base grant—presently valued at around $7,000—for each public student enrolled. The state has kept this base grant low, and wealthy districts have been allowed to add supplementary funding from local property taxes. In the state’s largest school district, Detroit, dozens of schools are to be closed to solve the district’s current and future budget shortfall. After months of protests by parents and students, the city is poised to close 35 schools. The total could go even higher, as the original proposal was to shut 51 schools over two years. This is the first round of a plan by the city school board to close more than 100 schools. According to its “Preliminary Facilities Realignment Plan,” the school district plans to have only eight high schools five years from now, a fraction of the current 26. A 2005 state-mandated deficit elimination plan projects the shutdown of 110 of the district’s 232 schools by 2010. Last fall, Detroit teachers conducted a 16-day strike against demands for concessions, defying a court injunction ordering a return to work. The leadership of the Detroit Federation of Teachers lined up with top Democratic Party leaders, including Governor Granholm and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, to isolate the strike, which had wide public support, and force a return to work. Detroit has a particularly high percentage of children below the poverty level, but school districts are cutting vital programs and jobs across the state, in every type of neighborhood. * In Birmingham, a relatively prosperous Detroit suburb, the school district faces a deficit of $3.9 million, without taking into account the threatened $122 per child reduction in this year’s base grant. (more)
Michigan school districts impose job, wage and benefits cuts,2
7 years ago
A total of 49 full-time equivalent jobs are being eliminated, including seven teachers. As part of the deficit reduction plan, all of the 16 paraprofessionals who work in Kindergarten classes will be eliminated. Just a few years ago, the schools eliminated teachers’ aides in First Grade. The Birmingham school district has cut a total of $13.5 million over the past five years. * Brighton Area Schools, located west of Detroit in Livingston County, have about 7,200 students in K-12 public schools. The district projects a $2.1 million deficit for next year. If the district tried to eliminate a deficit of this size with teacher layoffs alone, 35 teachers would lose their jobs. * Pellston Public Schools, in the state’s northern lower peninsula, have eliminated four teaching positions and increased high school class periods from six to seven. Littlefield School district must come up with $400,000 to cover its deficit, and has already laid-off teachers. The two Emmet County school districts have a total enrollment of about 730 and 380 students, respectively. * The Meridian Board of Education approved $735,889 in budget cuts for the 2007-2008 school year at last Monday’s regular meeting, eliminating seven-and-a-half teaching positions, and other cuts, to be rescinded if enough teachers accept an incentive to retire. There are about 1,500 students in this Midland County school district. * The Charlevoix district, with about 1,300 students, reports a $1.1 million deficit, with rising personnel, retirement and healthcare costs and a decline in enrollment of 60 students for next year. * Jackson County school district, with nearly 2,500 students, faces a predicted $1.4 million budget deficit next year. Northwest High School may lose up to 15 teachers. Even the few school districts with some savings are expecting no help in the coming years, and are attempting to impose drastic cuts on workers, pointing to Granholm’s threat. In the South Redford school district near Detroit, for example, officials are planning to reduce spending to cover a projected deficit of $1.4 million for next year. A new contract with custodians, transportation workers and maintenance staff reduces their pay next year by up to $3 an hour and adds health insurance premiums, saving the district $400,000. School officials are subcontracting substitute teachers and raising pay-to-play fees for student athletes. Other money will come from the district’s rainy day fund of $3.6 million. See Also: Michigan Democrats prepare to slash social spending [12 May 2007] *fair use*
Systems set up to Fail
7 years ago

Hello, I am new, just finding out how to connect with others thru Care2.

The topic of homelessness and poverty is close to my heart for many reasons.  The bottom line is - it's simply gone too far.  Everywhere, every city and town in North America is impacted.  Here in Canada our governments set up elaborate systems to supposedly help the poor, but there are so many defeatist aspects to it, it really is a system set up to fail, to keep people stuck in poverty and homelessness.  It's NOT WORKING!!  My sister who lives in Calgary AB is a street nurse who works with the mentally ill homeless.  Every day she sees first hand the injustice of our govt's shortsightedness.  I am in Kelowna BC, and have worked for non-profits and other agencies close to these issues.  People are being punished for being poor!

I currently have a mild disability and am in the process of re-entering the workforce, and I am astonished at the oppressive barriers our govt puts on its own people - its own human resources - the value of human lives!  Without help from family and friends, I would have starved or ended up insane or homeless or both FOR SURE.  - All because I got physically sick and had to leave the regular workforce for a couple years!  How the govt expects people to live on the peanuts it provides is a sick joke.  Children are eating crap-food which starves their immune systems because there's just not enough money to pay rent, and eat, much less buy clothing or see a dentist!  Then the govt wonders why our health care system is so strained and inadequate!  Anyway we all know the many stories and reasons this has to stop.  I dont think it's much different between Canada and the States.  Except your population is so much bigger, so there are more affected. 

Thank you for letting me vent... My next entry will be solution-focused, I promise!

sincerely, Jaine

Hi Jane, and welcome!
7 years ago
Well-said! We do, indeed, have systems set up to fail. Systems which grant people help below that which they need to get up out of the poverty hole; systems which force them to choose between rent and food, rent and toilet paper, rent and health care. One of the solutions I would love to pursue is how to educate the public so that it quits criminalizing poverty. We need more affordable housing, better wages and benefits, better health care! Bravo to your sister for providing so much needed care! I used to be a Hospice Home Health Aide when I was still in the United States. Please vent at any time! Your venting, brainstorming, and ideas are fully welcome here.
Why I’m Leaving the Los Angeles Times
7 years ago
http://www.freepress.net/news/23454 Here’s one idea: Instead of hiring a “celebrity justice reporter,” now being sought for the Times website, why not develop a beat on economic justice? It might interest some of the millions of workers who draw hourly wages and are being squeezed… From Huffington Post, May 28, 2007 By Nancy Cleeland After 10 years, hundreds of bylines and some of the best experiences of my professional life, I’m leaving the Los Angeles Times at the end of this month, along with 56 newsroom colleagues. We each have our reasons for taking the latest buyout offer from Chicago-based Tribune Company. In my case, the decision grew out of frustration with the paper’s coverage of working people and organized labor, and a sad realization that the situation won’t change anytime soon. It’s awkward to criticize an old friend, which I still consider the Times to be, but I think the question of how mainstream journalists deal with the working class is important and deserves debate. There may be no better setting in which to examine the issue: The Los Angeles region is defined by gaping income disparities and an enormous pool of low-wage immigrant workers, many of whom are pulled north by lousy, unstable jobs. It’s also home to one of the most active and creative labor federations in the country. But you wouldn’t know any of that from reading a typical issue of the L.A. Times, in print or online. Increasingly anti-union in its editorial policy, and celebrity — and crime-focused in its news coverage, it ignores the economic discontent that is clearly reflected in ethnic publications such as La Opinion. Of course, I realize that revenues are plummeting and newsroom staffs are being cut across the country. But even in these tough financial times, it’s possible to shift priorities to make Southern California’s largest newspaper more relevant to the bulk of people who live here. Here’s one idea: Instead of hiring a “celebrity justice reporter,” now being sought for the Times website, why not develop a beat on economic justice? It might interest some of the millions of workers who draw hourly wages and are being squeezed by soaring rents, health care costs and debt loads. In Los Angeles, the underground economy is growing faster than the legitimate one, which means more exploited workers, greater economic polarization, and a diminishing quality of life for everyone who lives here. True, it’s harder to capture those kinds of stories than to scan divorce files and lawsuits. But over time, solid reporting on the economic life of Los Angeles could bring distinction and credibility to the Times. It also holds tremendous potential for interacting with readers. And, above all, it’s important. In a way, the Times created my obsession for economic and class issues by sending me into low-wage Los Angeles as part of a 1998 initiative to increase coverage of Latinos. I was a seasoned journalist with lots of experience in Third World countries. Still, the level of exploitation I saw shocked me. Illegal immigrants, in particular, had no rights. In a range of industries, including manufacturing and retail, they were routinely underpaid and fired after any attempt to assert rights or ask for higher wages. That disregard for workers spread up the chain of regional jobs, just as a crash in subprime home loans eventually lowers the entire real estate market. The same is happening to various degrees across the country. Rather than reverse those troubling trends, recent political leaders have done just the opposite. Enabled by a Milton Friedman-inspired belief in free markets and the idea that poverty is proof of personal failure, not systemic failure, federal trade and regulatory policies have consistently undermined workers. The inequities worsened under President George W. Bush, who wears his antipathy toward labor on his sleeve. But few alarms were sounded by the mainstream press, including the Los Angeles Times. In the easy vernacular of modern journalism, the Times and other newspapers routinely cast business and labor as powerful competitors whose rivalries occasionally flare up in strikes and organizing campaigns. What I saw was that workers almost always lose. Eventually I left the labor beat and wrote about education and housing. Even there, however, I noted a lack of enthusiasm for anything having to do with the region’s working poor. Why? The senior editors are not bad people. Like most journalists, they are in the business for the noblest of reasons. But in a region of increasing polarization, where six figure incomes put them in the top tier of the economy, they may not see the inequities in their own backyard. I couldn’t stop seeing them. I remembered the workers who killed chickens, made bagged salads, packed frozen seafood, installed closet organizers, picked through recycled garbage, and manufactured foam cups and containers. They were injured from working too fast, fired for speaking up, powerless, invisible. I saw that their impact on all of us who live in the region is huge. Now, like hundreds of other mid-career journalists who are walking away from media institutions across the country, I’m looking for other ways to tell the stories I care about. At the same time, the world of online news is maturing, looking for depth and context. I think the timing couldn’t be better. (more)
Why I’m Leaving the Los Angeles Times, continued
7 years ago
With the Los Angeles Economic Roundtable, a source of economic research for 15 years, I’m exploring the development of a nonprofit online site to chronicle the regional economy from a full range of perspectives. We want to tap into the wealth of economic research being generated by academic institutions, business groups, labor unions and others, as well as the vast experience of ordinary Angelenos. After all, the economy is nothing more than how we live, work and consume, all drawn together. Leaving a newspaper that was once my journalistic ideal is harder than I’d expected. It feels, I suppose, like walking out of a long marriage that was once filled with love and hope, but grew stale. There is nostalgia and regret, along with relief and new energy. I know it’s time to let go of the old dreams and move on to new ones. Already, the Los Angeles Times is becoming part of my past. This article is from Huffington Post. If you found it informative and valuable, we strongly encourage you to visit their Web site and register an account, if necessary, to view all their articles on the Web. Support quality journalism. * del.icio.us http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ *fair use*
The working poor - so ripe for plunder
7 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/2w2rtm Why is ripping off the low-income masses considered acceptable by reputable businesses? asks FROMA HARROP 12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, June 9, 2007 The working poor make great victims. They are often trusting and financially unsophisticated, and with wages stagnant, they're desperate for cash. These folks hold jobs, so they have a money stream and possibly equity in their homes – all ripe for plunder. Corporate America has decided there's gold in draining the low-income masses of what little they have. Loan sharks and con artists once dominated this territory, but big businesses have moved in and are proving to be far smoother than the mugs who break legs. Their legal fine print can trap the uneducated in outrageous debt contracts without rousing the authorities. Take J.D. Byrider, a used-car chain with a jaunty jingle. In 2005, Roxanne Tsosie, a home health care aide in Albuquerque, N.M., bought a Saturn there with 103,000 miles for $7,922. She borrowed the entire amount at an interest rate of nearly 25 percent. The Navajo mother of four thought her $150 installments were to be made on the usual monthly basis, but the contract actually demanded payments every two weeks. After three months, she gave up. No problem for Byrider. It took the car back to sell to the next chump and kept Ms. Tsosie's $900. This story comes from BusinessWeek's splendid report, "The Poverty Business." Byrider doesn't post prices on the windshields. Instead, the salespeople figure out the maximum they can squeeze from the working-class buyer, then charge it – financing courtesy of Bank of America. The practice is called "opportunity pricing." As BusinessWeek notes, the thing being sold doesn't matter. It's just the "bait" to saddle someone with punishing loan terms. Companies can now assess the financial wherewithal of potential victims with special software called Automated Risk Evaluator. Payday lenders offer workers cash advances on their next paycheck. Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp have entered this booming business, charging annual interest rates of 120 percent. Five payday lending chains are trading on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ. Jackson Hewitt is a tax-prep service that gloms onto low-income neighborhoods. Its specialty is lending money to low-income workers in anticipation of their IRS refund – while siphoning off more than 10 percent of it. The refunds usually involve the Earned-Income Tax Credit (aimed at the working poor), prompting some to dub Jackson Hewitt and its ilk "the new welfare office." Milking America's poor is now a global opportunity. Subprime mortgages, which charge high rates and fat fees to people of modest means, are packaged into securities. Investors currently hold more than $1 billion in subprime loans from 22 ZIP codes in Detroit alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some readers may say: "Tough. If they're too lazy to study the terms, they deserve to get soaked." So here's a question for you: What is Libor? Libor stands for the London interbank offered rate (recently 5.42 percent). It is the short-term rate on top of which subprime lenders in Detroit were adding another 9.125 percentage points. True, the borrowers weren't careful, but how many people have ever heard of Libor? Already deep in debt, Luisa and Rose Ajuria were surprised and pleased to be offered a Tribute MasterCard, the Chicago sisters told BusinessWeek. The card charged a 28 percent interest rate, a $150 annual fee and a separate $6 monthly fee. Its pusher is CompuCredit, a giant Atlanta corporation that specializes in poor credit risks. The Ajurias may soon lose their home. Dump a few of these loans on the working poor and see them spiral downward. Preying on vulnerable people is a disgusting business model. Does anyone in Washington have a conscience? Froma Harrop is a columnist for The Providence Journal, a Belo newspaper. Her e-mail address is fharrop@projo.com. *fair use*
Working Poor Deserve Something Better - Minimium Wage vs Living Wage
7 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/2wmttx Jeff Bevelheimer June 6, 2007 Living on minimum wage is as close to living without a real income as one can get without being unemployed. Over the last few years more and more people are talking about a living wage. But will a living wage be any different then an increase in minimum wage and with either really do anything to insure that fewer families are at or below poverty? Currently here in Michigan the minimum wage is set at $6.95 an hour with an increase to $7.15 or $7.25 an hour in July. The problem is that by the time that increase takes effect gas prices will have, yet again, rise to over half the hourly rate of pay for minimum wage employees. As of today, May 23, 2007, Michigan gas prices are at or around $3.65 per gallon. Is a living wage really different then a minimum wage? Also if it is suppose to be as good as some claim, then why haven’t more people been fighting to get a living wage for all workers? First let’s look at what the differences are between the two. Federal minimum wage is the minimum that a worker can be paid an hour (currently $6.95 in Michigan) and applies to almost all workers. Like Michigan, all states may set a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum. Living wage is a term commonly used by advocates to refer to the minimum hourly wage needed for a person to achieve some specific standard of living. In developed countries such as the United Kingdom or Switzerland, this standard generally means that a person working forty hours a week, with no additional income, should be able to afford a specified quality of housing, food, utilities, transport, health care, and recreation. This concept differs from the minimum wage in that minimum wage is set by law and may fail to meet the requirements of a living wage. Living wages commonly refer to wages set by local ordinances that cover a specific set of workers, usually government workers or workers hired by businesses that have received a government contract or subsidy. The biggest problem some people have about a “living wage” is that like so many other things in America, a living wage only helps a limited few. At least with a minimum wage most workers know that their employer can’t legally pay them less then that amount. Minimum wage at least covers all but a few workers within the United States. So why do we need a living wage ordinances? Living wage ordinances prevent city and county governments from encouraging creating jobs that pay wages so low that workers live in poverty. Without living wage laws, governments could contribute to the creation of poverty-level jobs by hiring low-paying sub-contractors or giving businesses tax breaks or subsidies to create jobs without any guarantee that the new jobs will pay a decent wage. A living wage insures that a contract worker will make at least over average wages while working on a government contract job. It stands to reason that the better the pay the less turn over and higher efficiency. This would also decrease training cost and recruitment cost. These statements are further supported when reviewing the Economic Policy Institute or EPI's evaluation of Baltimore's living wage ordinance. This study found no job loss as a result of the ordinance (Niedt et al. 1999). Most workers interviewed for the study reported no changes in their hours they worked after the ordinance went into effect. Employers interviewed for another study stated that although wages increased, these costs were absorbed by improvements in efficiency; raising wages decreased employee turnover, which decreased recruitment and training costs. Critics argue that basic economic theory suggests a mandated minimum price for labor, a "living wage," can be harmful to low-wage workers and will increase unemployment. Artificially fixing a price for labor above the market price causes a decrease in the overall demand for labor. Critics claim this will lead to increased unemployment and a deadweight loss. Workers who lose their jobs would not receive the living wage. Critics also claim that living wage increases can cause inflation, increasing the cost of living and decreasing the relative buying power of the living wage, which leaves the minimum wage earner no better off. Critics of living wage ordinances assert that the government should not intervene in the marketplace because even well intentioned interventions are usually detrimental to the economy as a whole. Living wage advocates respond that governments intervene in the market to help businesses through subsidies, tax breaks, and other assistance. True as it may be, those who oppose federal intervention in the marketplace would also oppose government subsidies, tax breaks, and other assistance to business as one bad economic policy should not be used to justify a second bad economic policy. Many critics will argue that extending the Earned Income Tax Credit or a negative income tax is for greater way of helping low income workers. They claim also that these tax credits don't have the large unemployment and deadweight loss effects of a living wage law. Some research has shown that living wage laws are vastly inefficient when compared to localized Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs. No matter what side of the argument you stand on we can all most all agree that something needs to be done. The widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, coupled with the increasing out-sourcing and unemployment rates with the United States is alarming. Doing nothing will only assure that those how are living in poverty will remain there. As larger portions of the population fall victim to low wages, many cities and states will likely see increases in other – less attractive areas of our society develop – crime, drugs, and other forms of illegal activity. (more)
Working Poor Deserve Something Better, continued
7 years ago
It may stand to reason that the largest form of illegal activity is coming from within our own governments that fail to agree on solutions – and further contribute to the widening gap of the poor from the wealthy. Jeff Bevelheimer Have spent most of the last 25 years working in the food service industry - in all levels of management. Currently am a freelance writer, editor and Co-Owner of http://www.inspiredwordart.com Inspiredwordart.com is a full service PLR and SEO company offering quality work and great rates. author's email masterwait@yahoo.com author's web site http://www.inspiredwordart.com/ view author's other articles http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewByAuthor.asp?authorID=1404 *fair use*
Desperation as business model
7 years ago

By Rob Horning | Dealing with contemporary consumerism, capitalism, and the life it permits.

June 8, 2007 Desperation as business model

A few days ago, Amanda Marcotte wrote an astute entry regarding this BusinessWeek story about subprime lending and other poverty exploiting rackets. The general gist of the article is that the poor are often in tenuous and desperate situations that make them easy to exploit with usurious interest rates, rent-to-own ripoffs, exorbitant mark-ups and other opportunistic schemes. Just go into a ghetto “grocery store” or check the storefronts in a rundown shopping center on the wrong side of town and you’ll get the picture. Paycheck loans, rent-to-own outfits, dollar stores, Chinese takeout, etc—businesses that set high margins on small-ticket transactions. As Marcotte points out, desperation is an opportunity, as long as you lack the requisite scruples. You can take advantage of the lack of social capital in poor neighborhoods and present your exploitative behavior as a service. Without social capital, without the education to understand complex financial transactions, without legal protections being enforced for them or the political clout to see their interests protected, without the potentially powerful word-of-mouth networks or plain old money to smooth over life’s frictions, the poor have no leverage over the businesses that deign to serve them, and the result is they are served only on vulturous terms. (One of the many ways disparate power among participants distorts the workings of the market, one of the heterodox views of the economists Chris Hayes considers in this Nation story.)

Insecurity in general is the basis of a lot of retail business, which is why so many ads are designed to generate feelings of insecurity and inadequacy. The poor, of course, don’t need ads to make them feel insecure, which makes them a cost-effective target —though ads are part of the discourse that establishes what is culturally normal, defining what it means to be impoverished. The bogus premise of equal opportunity is widely enough held in America that the poor must keep up appearances lest it seem that their poverty is their own personal fault. Of course, to keep up, they must take on risks and terms that sink them in debt traps and assure their continued failure to achieve the bourgeoisdom the signals normalcy—that allows you to feel that you are the target of so much of the media’s messages. The added bonus is that the working poor assume responsibility for their poverty as a kind of personal, moral failure—this is what The Hidden Injuries of Class, by Sennett and Cobb, is all about.

We can fault business for following their incentives to profit at the expense of those with little defense and no social safety net, but it seems the counterveiling power of government is more likely to correct the problem then a sudden and complete change of heart among competitive firms. But politicians rely on business contributions to finance their campaigns, which leads to legislation that rewards business (the recent bankruptcy bill exemplifies this). So without any institutional power, the working poor has no reason not to seize the only form of power left to them. From Marcotte’s entry:

Charles H. Green points out that this untenable exploitation of the working poor has become such a morally troubling issue that up-and-coming capitalists are beginning to turn on the system.

“One healthy sign: my 30th reunion at Harvard Business School last fall. The most heavily attended lecture was by Professor Bruce Scott, who spoke about the global trend toward concentration of wealth. We’re moving toward looking like Rio de Janeiro—armed gated communities surrounded by violent gangs. Scott’s lecture got a standing ovation—both in his lecture room, and in the audio-connected overflow room, hastily put together to accommodate the crowd. This from the old school crowd at HBS—the West Point of capitalism. There is hope.”

It’s an interesting dilemma, from the capitalist point of view. Keeping the poor living from paycheck to paycheck and in constant debt serves two purposes. From the article, you can see that it’s actually quite profitable, especially in a deregulated era like ours. Second of all, desperation breeds complacency, to a degree. Workers who are constantly treading water and robbing Peter to pay Paul are likely to suffer all sorts of indignities to keep their jobs, including taking lower pay than they’re really worth if it means securing the jobs that much more quickly. But it has to be controlled desperation—there’s a tipping point where the poor are so much in debt to the rich that they simply can’t pay it all back and the system could collapse on itself. It’s happened before in history, many times, and it can happen again. Opposition to usury isn’t just about morals, but protecting a system that ultimately benefits the rich by keeping a check on the excesses that threaten the entire situation.

Very depressing, that, and the classic dilemma of all ameliorating, incrementalist approaches to social change: You end up perpetuating systems of oppression, making them more tolerable for the oppressed. But then you consider how much misery, chaos, and evil the typical revolution unleashes, and it’s hard to think of any course of action worth advocating.

—Rob Horning 3:02 pm
Relief for working poor
7 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/2xlc4b A Register-Guard Editorial Published: Monday, June 4, 2007 Oregon should join the growing majority of states that no longer assess income taxes on working families living in poverty. A bipartisan proposal introduced last week in the House Revenue Committee would accomplish that worthy goal by more than doubling the value of Oregon's earned-income tax credit, a tax break designed to help low-income families with child- ren. House Bill 2966 would increase the state's earned-income tax credit from the current 5 percent of the federal credit to 12 percent. That would deliver an additional $30 million a year to working families below the poverty line and ensure that they would no longer have to pay state income taxes. That would provide significant relief for low-income families. The Oregon Center for Public Policy estimates that a typical Oregon family of four earning $20,600 paid $319 in state income taxes in 2006 - the fifth highest amount in the country. Under HB 2966, the same family would pay nothing and could use that money to help pay rent, put food on the table or buy medicine. If the value of the credit exceeded the amount of the taxes it has paid, the families might also receive a modest check from the state. That's because of a "refundability" provision that lawmakers added to Oregon's tax code in 2005. The cost of the plan would be covered by reducing the per-person tax credit for families with incomes above $200,000 and eliminating entirely the $160-a-person tax credit for couples with incomes above $250,000 or individuals with incomes above $125,000. Few, if any, of the families that would pay higher taxes under this plan will feel the pinch. But the benefits for low-income working parents with children would be both noticeable and welcome. If lawmakers need further justification to support this proposal, they should consider that it would make Oregon's income tax system moderately more progressive at a time of increasing income inequality in this state. From 1980 to 2005, the 2.4 percent of Oregon households with the highest incomes nearly tripled their adjusted gross incomes, even after adjusting for inflation. During the same period, the adjusted gross incomes of the 20 percent of Oregon taxpayers with the lowest incomes grew a paltry 6 percent after adjusting for inflation. That income gap has widened as a result of tax cuts for the state's wealthiest citizens. The OCPP estimates that from 1989 to 2002, taxes paid by the lowest-income fifth of Oregon families grew by 2.2 percent of income, while taxes paid by the highest income 5 percent actually declined by 0.2 percent of income. Because HB 2966 is revenue neutral - it would raise taxes on the rich while lowering taxes on the poor by a similar amount - it requires approval by a simple legislative majority instead of the three-fifths vote required for tax in- creases. The bill was created by Rep. Tom Butler, the Ontario Republican who is his party's top tax expert in the Legislature; Rep. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland; and others. It has strong backing from the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, Ecumenical Ministries and other advocates for the poor. Even though this bill did not surface until late in the legislative session, the simple-majority requirement and the measure's bipartisan support offer reason to hope this sensible, progressive upgrade of Oregon's earned-income tax credit will win the approval it deserves. *fair use*
Fuel Costs Force Hard Choices For Working Poor
7 years ago
http://www.wlwt.com/news/13438804/detail.html Fuel Costs Force Hard Choices For Working Poor POSTED: 1:37 pm EDT June 4, 2007 UPDATED: 1:45 pm EDT June 4, 2007 COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There aren't any hybrids parked outside the Franklin County South Opportunity Center. The welfare office lot is full of the aging and the midsized, and not many have fuel gauges pointed to F. Eleven years ago, any kind of car – even an old gas-guzzler – was likely to be seen as a welcome companion on the journey toward independence and employment as mandated by the 1996 welfare-reform act. Now, the family friend is part foe. “Doubling the amount of money you spend on gas changes everything," said Laura Holton of Department of Job and Family Services in neighboring Fairfield County. Worried that razor-thin budgets are collapsing for millions of Ohio's working poor, county agencies are trying to find additional ways to help at the pump. In Toledo, Lucas County is offering low-income families a shot at $200 gas cards. In Lancaster, Fairfield County is giving out up to $60 a month in gasoline vouchers to qualifying families through this month. "It's something that we're going to look into as well," said Lee Ann Whaley, spokeswoman for the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. Agencies already have the ability to provide transportation assistance, whether for car repairs, medical appointments or stipends that can be used for gasoline and bus passes. But with gas prices easily more than $3 a gallon , the old guidelines barely apply. "Things are critical," said Robert Gallagher of the Ross County Department of Job and Family Services. "It's the difference between paying utility bills and paying your rent. It really is putting a lot of pressure on families." For 22-year-old Paula Bolender, a single mother of two young children, being able to put gas in her 1995 Chevy Lumina meant giving up telephone service. "I have no land line, no cell phone, nothing," she said. "It takes $50 to fill the tank. That was the trade-off." A former welfare recipient, Bolender now works full-time at the South Opportunity Center and is proud to be earning enough to support her children without cash assistance or food stamps. Most months, they just squeak by. "You should have seen me this morning -- I was counting change at the gas station," she said, her face blushing at the memory. "I came up with $4. One gallon." Bolender walks to the grocery store, occasionally borrows from a relative and tries to use the bus as much as possible. But to make it from her home to the day-care center and on to work, she has to invest almost three hours and three bus transfers. Tameka McCreary has all but given up on driving. "I can't go anywhere," she said. A 21-year-old mother of two, McCreary works 20 hours a week through a job-training program at the Opportunity Center. She gets $410 a month, and fully half of that would go to gasoline if she were to fill up once a week. Rochelle Twining, director of the Columbus/Franklin County Community Action Agency, said the gas-price spike complicates the welfare-reform mission, especially in areas without extensive public-transit systems. "We made a promise as a country that we would help provide child care and transportation so that people could work," she said. "This is really narrowing the margins." The agency doesn't give out gas vouchers, but it does have an emergency rent-assistance program, "and we're swamped," she said. "People are having to make decisions: Do I pay my electric bill or my rent, or do I put gas in my car?" In her seven years as a Franklin County Job and Family Services caseworker, Jaime Roberts has read thousands of applications and listened to just as many requests for short-term assistance. The reasons used to be more varied, she said. "Now just about everyone who comes in says the same thing: Gas prices." Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. *fair use, as described on the front page of this group*
What recovery? Working poor struggle to pay bills
7 years ago
http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2004-06-08-low-wage-working-poor_x.htm

Cathy Gardner faces difficult choices. With barely enough money to cover her bills and the rent on the home she shares with her brother, she sometimes can't afford to buy food. Other times, she goes without the prescription drugs she takes for her depression.
Latwanda Manson takes a break from cooking in her Bronx, N.Y. apartment. "I struggle constantly," the single mother says. Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY

It's a constant struggle, even though Gardner holds a full-time job as a hospital food service worker, dishing up trays of pizza, pot roast and beef stroganoff for patients.

"There's a manufactured home selling for $7,500, and I can't even afford that," says Gardner, 54, of Salem, Ore., who earns $1,200 a month. "I have a good job, but I have to choose between buying gas or getting food. It's very hard."

Food server. Home health care worker. Grocery clerk. These are the kind of bread-and-butter jobs that once sustained a family with decent benefits and solid wages. Today, these jobs are more likely to bring a life of poverty.

The ranks of the working poor are swelling as more families slip into poverty, health benefits are lost and low-wage employees bear the brunt of many corporate cutbacks. That means more employees — many of them in service jobs that are essential to the economy — are working full-time, only to find they can barely support their families.

They wait tables at restaurants where they can't afford to eat, wash cars but can only take the bus and care for children but don't make enough to hire a babysitter. About 35 million Americans lived in poverty in 2002, which is 1.7 million more people than in 2001, according to Census data. The federal poverty threshold for a family of four in 2002 was $18,392 in annual income.

Nearly 40% of working-age poor people were employed, and the percentage working full time all year increased 45% from 1978 to 2002.

"There is a systematic ratcheting down of jobs that once could support a family," says Greg Denier, a spokesman with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. "The real question is, what does this mean for the future of the American worker?"


A new class of poor
7 years ago

The fate of the working poor is becoming a major issue for politicians, union groups and activists who are now calling for reform. Unions are launching membership drives and protests — part of an effort to preserve benefits and boost pay for service-sector jobs in much the same way that union muscle helped raise the standard of living for manufacturing workers in the mid-20th century.

The rise in low-wage workers is also a catalyst for activists who are waging campaigns to pass living-wage ordinances, which are local laws that require some businesses to pay employees more than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. The grass-roots effort is having an impact. So far, more than 120 ordinances mandating living wages have been passed. In San Francisco, a citywide wage of $8.50 an hour went into effect in February.

New debate

The increase is shaping new public dialogue about poverty in America. Philip Coltoff, who is chief executive of the philanthropic Children's Aid Society, looks out of the window of his Park Avenue South office in New York. Bike messengers, taxi drivers and street vendors hawking hot dogs and ball caps populate the street. These people, he says, are the new faces of the working poor.

"This is a very interesting sociological change. We've created a new class of poor. There is this huge group of people who want to work, who are working, but it's a form of being indentured," Coltoff says. "America has always been built on the belief that you can do better, but we have shut down the ladder to the middle class."

Sherry Byrum, 48, feels there is no way up. The Spokane Valley, Wash., woman works full time at a day care, earning about $9 an hour, and earns $8.43 an hour providing home care for a disabled girl. The number of hours she works each week varies; health insurance costs $71 a week.

The work is emotionally fulfilling, she says.

"When a child gives you a hug or draws you a little scribble, it means everything in the world," Byrum says. "These are important jobs. You're dealing with people's lives."

But it's financially frustrating. Her husband just had open heart surgery and doesn't work, so she brings in the only income. They live in a 30-year-old mobile home and get their groceries at a local food bank. They also have medical costs because both are diabetic.

"Last week, we went several days without really eating. We've got to pay our bills," Byrum says. "I can't buy us the things we should eat because of the diabetes. There are some times I go to bed in tears thinking I just can't do it all."

Wages have eroded
7 years ago

There are a host of reasons why jobs that once paid decent wages today provide an impoverished lifestyle, economists say.

The value of the minimum wage, in real dollars, peaked in the late 1960s. That means workers today who earn minimum wage have less buying power than in years before. The inflation-adjusted value of the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage is at least 24% lower today than it was in 1979, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit Washington-based think tank. A full-time worker earning minimum wage would earn $10,712 a year, below the 2002 federal poverty line of $11,756 for a family of two.

"Wages have eroded and haven't risen with productivity," says Jared Bernstein, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute. "Many occupations that a decade ago afforded a living wage are now low wage."

In addition, global competition has intensified profit pressures, causing companies to squeeze wages to cut costs. Unions are not as pervasive as they used to be, which means workers have less clout. Some economists say immigration has added to the labor force supply, causing downward pressure on wages. Immigration has reduced the average annual earnings of male workers born in the USA by $1,700 over the last 20 years, according to new research by the Center for Immigration Studies. The research indicates that immigration increases the supply of labor, which reduces wages.

While welfare rolls have dropped by more than 50% since 1994, many of these former recipients have moved into jobs that pay low wages — compelled by welfare reform in the 1990s that required many of those who received welfare to work. These are employees who hold jobs as security guards, hotel workers, home health care aides, receptionists, food processors, data-entry clerks, call-center operators, telemarketers. Many are also in home health care or child care workers.

"Those are jobs that used to be unpaid labor done by women who stayed home. They took care of the children and the elderly," says Marnie Goodfriend, with the Service Employees International Union. "They have transferred to the marketplace, but people can't survive on those jobs."

Danielle DaSilva, 25, believes change is needed. She works part time as a restaurant hostess, earning $6.65 an hour, although she wants to work full time. She is also raising two daughters, Jade, 5, and Alana, 2. She owns her own home, but is struggling to make her monthly mortgage payments of $815. Her mother often watches her children while she works, and her children get health insurance through Medicaid.

"It's awful, it's really awful," says DaSilva, of Kissimmee, Fla. "I work very hard, nine-hour shifts a day. I'm not one of those people who wants to leech off the system. But my children have to live off macaroni and cheese and bologna. It's ridiculous. My kids suffer."

Many challenges

There are other challenges. For low-wage workers, many of the benefits available to higher earners are out of reach. Consider paid time off. More than half of poor workers, working welfare recipients and workers who recently left welfare are unable to take paid leave from their jobs because it's not offered, according to research by the Urban Institute.

Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Wash day:Latwanda's daughter, Timara Manson, 13, loads laundry at a neighborhood laundromat in the Bronx.

While lower interest rates have made homeownership more affordable for many, runaway prices have put homes out of reach for working poor. In the past 12 years, home prices have risen 30% faster than wages and salaries for low-to-moderate-income families, according to an April report by the Milken Institute.

While the economy has created nearly a million jobs since March, the pace of job creation has previously been slow — taking a toll on lower-wage workers who often lack college degrees.

"There's no way of rationalizing a CEO making millions of dollars when workers don't get enough to support themselves. Something seems wrong," says Beth Shulman, author of The Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and their Families. "Low-wage workers are subsidizing our lives. We can make better choices that really improve these jobs."

7 years ago

Latwanda Manson, 35, says change could bring her better and more affordable health insurance or wages — a lifestyle where she wouldn't have to live paycheck to paycheck anymore.

Manson, a secretary, earns $30,000. She is a single mother in New York raising her daughters, Taia Bell, 5, and Timara, 13. Health insurance for her family costs her $75 every two weeks.

"I struggle constantly," she says. "Your children come to you and want things, and you can't give it to them. That's hard. I have to say, 'Give Mommy another two weeks.'

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/2004-06-08-low-wage-working-poor_x.htm

*fair use*
HK's wealth gap widens since handover
7 years ago
http://tinyurl.com/2w9zky HK's wealth gap widens since handover Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:20AM EDT HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong's wealth gap has increased markedly over the past decade under Chinese rule, making the affluent city one of the most inequitable places in Asia, according to new government statistics released on Monday. Hong Kong's Gini coefficient -- a widely used measure of income disparity -- increased to 0.533 in 2006 from 0.525 in 2001, the last available figure. It showed that Hong Kong's working poor were getting poorer or had not broadly benefited from the city's overall economic recovery. In 1996, the figure stood at 0.518 on a scale where 0 represents perfect equality and 1 complete inequality. Taiwan, by comparison, had a figure of 0.326 in 2000. China's figure currently stood at 0.447, economists estimate. "The Gini coefficient in HK is comparable to Mexico and is much higher ... than China and Indonesia," said Wong Hung, a social work academic at Hong Kong's Chinese University. "In Hong Kong, we face the problem of the working poor and many people are now working in the low-wage and low-skilled sector and we don't have a minimum wage to protect those workers," he added. Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang said recently that the city's economy was in its best shape in 20 years, but he admitted in a recent interview with Hong Kong's Cable Television that income disparity was a growing concern. "My attitude toward the wealth gap, especially with regard to poverty, is something that we definitely have to work hard on, to improve it," Tsang told Cable TV. According to a study by Oxfam and Hong Kong's Chinese University, the number of "working poor", or those living on less than HK$5,000 ($640) per month, half of Hong Kong's median household income, had risen to around 350,000 -- 5 percent of the population -- in 2006. *fair use*
Just dusting off this topic- it deserves to be kept fresh
7 years ago
So many people are working very hard and living so close to the edge. Maybe they are holding down two or three jobs, yet all it would take to make them homeless is one accident or illness- or a car breaking down at the worst possible moment. This is the folder for how it is to be one of the working poor, and / or one of the working homeless.
Buy Some Stuff, Enslave Somebody
7 years ago
By Josh Rosenblatt, Texas Observer Posted on December 27, 2007, Printed on December 28, 2007 http://www.alternet.org/story/71173/ Years from now, when the story of our corporate age is told with the clarity of hindsight, I'm guessing one of the phrases scholars will keep coming back to is "plausible deniability." The tale will capture our era's wide disparities in wealth, and its almost universal indifference to the rampant mistreatment of workers from countries less fortunate than our own. After all, when we buy a product -- a piece of fruit, a new suit, an iPod -- how many of us really comprehend what was required to bring that product to our tables, our backs, or our pockets? The expanding global economy demands that corporations seek out the cheapest possible labor to maximize profit, and stimulate growth and innovation. With free trade has come an explosion of global inequality that has left more than 2.8 billion people living on less than $2 a day. We in the wealthy West, living and dining off the fruits of their labor, can honestly say we are unaware of the devil's bargain we bought into. Or that if we do know, the problem is simply too great to comprehend and beyond our means to do anything about, save changing our lifestyles entirely. Best, in other words, not to think about it. This kind of willful indifference, you might remember, is the line of defense Michael Jordan used to justify his sponsorship deal with Nike Inc. during the 1990s, when that corporation was coming under heavy fire from labor-rights groups for its use of underage, sweatshop labor in Indonesia. It's not my business, he argued; I just wear the shoes. Or take the case of fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, who agreed to create a line of affordable clothing for Target Corp. stores. Asked if he knew where his clothes were being manufactured, and by whom under what conditions, he responded, "I don't know. And I don't want to know." So it will probably come as no surprise that when Jonathan Blum, vice president for public relations of Yum! Brands Inc. (parent of Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut, among others), learned his company had been doing business for years with a farming subcontractor in Florida that grossly underpaid its largely illegal work force, he said, "My gosh, I'm sorry, but I don't think it has anything to do with us." The subcontractor's workers picked tomatoes in what one observer termed "sweatshop-like conditions," without the right to organize, without access to basic rights, protections, or benefits. If celebrities like Jordan and Mizrahi can stand in front of a camera and claim reasonable unaccountability, why shouldn't a corporate mouthpiece like Blum do the same? This is the world John Bowe stumbled into in 2001. Bowe, a regular contributor to The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and National Public Radio's "This American Life", was in North Carolina working on a book called Gig: Americans Talk About Their Jobs when he heard about a community group in South Florida that had uncovered a slavery ring in local orange groves. Fascinated, Bowe headed to the small town of Lake Placid, where rumors were spreading of a labor contractor in the orange-picking business named Ramiro Ramos. Nicknamed "El Diablo," Ramos had worked for some of the biggest names in the food-service industry, including Pepsico Inc.'s Tropicana, Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid, McDonald's Corp., Wendy's International Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. He had become notorious for illegally hiring migrant workers from Mexico and using manipulation, financial coercion, deportation threats, and even violence (up to and including murder) to maintain a work force of essentially unpaid and terrified slave labor that had little or no recourse to the American legal system. Shocked to learn that slavery still existed in the United States nearly 140 years after the ratification of the 13th Amendment, Bowe found himself staring at an enormous catalog of unanswered questions: How could this be happening in America? How common is it? How can people not know about it? Most sobering of all, "What did it mean that I was drinking someone else's misery for breakfast?" Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy is Bowe's answers. The book focuses on fruit pickers in South Florida; Indian welders in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Asian garment workers and sex slaves in the tiny U.S. commonwealth of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean. Employing a tone that's both journalistic and crusading -- heavy on facts and firsthand accounts but clear in its sense of moral indignation -- Bowe aims to make explicit the connection between the rise of the global market -- with its promises of cheap goods, high employment, and peace -- and the growing number of people throughout the world living in poverty, doomed to spend their lives providing goods and services for people born into wealthier circumstances. "I want to make it absolutely clear," he writes, "that everything in this book is a simple and patent metaphor for the dark potential of [globalization]." More than a demonstration of slavery's existence in the United Sates, Nobodies is an indictment of the new global economy and of everyone (himself included) who profits by it while conveniently forgetting those who don't. The new slavery, Bowe discovered, is not quite like the old slavery -- in some ways it's more sinister, more subtle, and harder to define. If, like Bowe, you wonder how slavery could persist in a country that prides itself on freedom, human dignity, and worker rights, the answer lies in the definition of the word itself. (more)
Buy Some Stuff, Enslave Somebody, continued
7 years ago
In Lake Placid, for example, workers Bowe met weren't chained to one another or locked into their rooms at night. They were never bought or sold; there were no official documents relegating them to second-class status. In theory at least, they were free to come and go as they chose. Those who were there had come of their own free will. Bowe had to wonder, are they really slaves? The answer, he concluded, is yes. In the new global economy, where borders have become negotiable and cheap foreign labor has become the foundation for corporate success, workers like the Mexicans in Florida were living under a new form of slavery. Instead of being whipped, the men were intimidated, taken to their bare, crowded lodgings far from civilization and guarded by men with guns. Instead of being beaten, the men -- already in debt to their bosses for the cost of transportation from Mexico to Arizona and then to Florida -- were threatened, told that if they tried to leave before paying off their debts, they would be sent back to their impoverished villages or slums. These modern-day slave owners didn't need whips or chains; they knew they could rely on their workers' fears of poverty and deportation to keep them in line. Nobodies is full of these horror stories. Bowe meets Indian welders brought to Oklahoma by a manufacturer of oil-refinery tanks. Having mortgaged their futures to make American wages, they find out the contracts they'd signed in India weren't binding, that they were starting their jobs already drowning in debt to their new employers, and that they would be earning far less than minimum wages. And they would be living in subhuman conditions while being intimidated by their supervisors. The supervisors, by the way, had the Indians' passports and visas, and could put them on a plane back to India, unpaid, whenever they saw fit. Meanwhile, life as a slave in Saipan -- with its inhuman working conditions, bleak urban surroundings, and high levels of rape, forced prostitution, and other violence -- makes life in Lake Placid or Tulsa sound like a dream. But that's Saipan. Most of us couldn't find it on a map of the Northern Mariana Islands, much less claim we know about its social and economic conditions or think Saipan has anything to do with us. It's that "plausible deniability" effect: We didn't know what was going on, and even if we did, what could we possibly do about it? In his rousing conclusion, Bowe argues that the thing to be done is admit that free-market globalization doesn't work for the 95 percent of the world's population living in destitution. The "invisible hand" of the market is neither a wise nor a moral agent, and it needs to be tempered with global labor standards -- worldwide minimum wages, 40-hour workweeks, guaranteed health care and education -- not so we can sleep at night knowing the wretched of the Earth aren't wretched because of us, but for a more pressing reason: Social injustice and economic inequality can go on only so long before the people on the bottom of the pyramid grow desperate enough to do something about their situations. Witness the rise of Islamic fundamentalism or the proliferation of prison gangs in Brazil: These ultraviolent groups thrive in areas of blatant disparity, and if the global market continues to ignore them, Bowe argues, these "social pandemics" will become as menacing as global warming. "The issue," he writes, "will then become one of self-preservation more than justice. Never mind the question, 'Are you fine with your comfort relying on the misery of billions?' The question would be, 'Do you want them to come kill you?'" Bowe does a remarkable job of combining his reporter's instincts with a deep sense of humanity and a social critic's eye for the relevant detail and the well-timed outburst. He writes with his mind and his heart. He could have come off as a scold, demanding that his readers accept his worldview, a view brought down from the mountaintop. On the other hand, Nobodies could have been a mere collection of facts, dates, and police reports. Instead it is heartbreaking and important, with the sense of humanity necessary to speak for those who've been denied the ability to speak for themselves. Josh Rosenblatt is a writer living in Austin. © 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/71173/ *fair use*
Economic Stimulus....
6 years ago

Hope it's okay to post this here - from my group, Oregon Homeless Community Aid. 

Economic stimulus plans addresse issues faced by all low income families and individuals.  And yes, this would affect the homeless or housing insecure as well.

Most of my homeless clients qualify for nothing but food stamps; most of those housed will be needing help with utility bills this winter.  For those on Section 8 or in public housing, losing utilities could mean losing their housing since it is typically part of the housing contract that utilities be on/maintained at all times.

So...read on:

 

Congressional Outlook: * Action on another economic stimulus
package could come in November during a Lame Duck session. The
Senate is set to reconvene November 17th; the House, which has not
ruled out reconvening in October, also is likely to meet in
November. Numerous House Committees are holding fall hearings
focused on aspects of the economic crisis and possible responses.

*Pending Economic Stimulus Nutrition Provisions:* House Democratic
leaders may seek additional action on economic recovery this fall or
early next year. If so, the package could be larger than that
passed in September (H.R. 7110). *H.R. 7110* provides $2.6 billion
for a temporary Food Stamp/SNAP benefit increase based on 105
percent of the Thrifty Food Plan; $50 million would support state
costs for administering those benefits. *S. 3604* was offered in
the Senate in September but could not garner the 60 votes to cut off
debate; it proposed $5 billon for a 10 percent increase in Food
Stamp/SNAP benefits through FY 2009; $450 million for the
Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
(WIC); $50 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program
(TEFAP); $30 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program
(CSFP); $60 million to help senior meals programs.

*Take Action:* Contact Members of Congress while home in the district this October.

Simply go to http://www.govspot.com/ then click on "Legislative Branch" in the left hand column.  Simple and quick!  Both Washington DC and local contact information should be available.



*Message: * Urge Members of Congress to push in October or in a
November Lame Duck session for approval of an economic recovery
package that includes: a temporary increase in SNAP/Food Stamp
benefits; SNAP/Food Stamp administrative support; increased funding
for WIC, CSFP, and TEFAP; state fiscal relief; Low Income Home
Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); Head Start; Child Support
Enforcement; Unemployment Insurance and other programs that support
families in need.

*Background:* For information on the human needs community's
priorities for action this fall, see "Towards a Shared Recovery:
Congress Must Do More to Reverse the Recession," posted at
http://www.chn.org/pdf/2008/stimulus8108.pdf
<http://org2.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=TkUzqEvHzniIDfzYYd9jCytvZRIieLoF
Five Billion Dollars Released Under LIHEAP
6 years ago

Subject: HHS RELEASE--LIHEAP FUNDS

Date: October 16, 2008
For Release: Immediately
Contact: ACF Press Office
(202) 401-9215

Headline: More Than Five Billion Dollars Released Under LIHEAP

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt today announced the release of $5.1 billion
from the federal government's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
(LIHEAP) under the Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Resolution. The funds
will assist states, territories, tribal areas and the District of
Columbia with addressing their energy needs, particularly for the
upcoming winter season.

"The release of these funds will help low-income families stay warm this
winter," Secretary Leavitt said. "These funds will also help reduce the
risk of health and safety problems exacerbated by exposure to extreme
temperatures."

LIHEAP funding is provided to states through the Office of Community
Services in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at HHS.
The funds will assist eligible low-income households in meeting their
heating and other energy needs.

"The funds released by the Bush Administration will help our most
vulnerable citizens, including the disabled, elderly and children," said
Josephine Robinson, director, Office of Community Services at ACF.

Under the language of the Continuing Resolution, $4.5 billion in block
grant funds and $590 million contingency funds must be released by Oct.
30, 2008. Block grant funds will be allocated to states under a formula
specified in the Continuing Resolution. Of the $590 million in
contingency funds, $100 million will assist states where large numbers
of eligible households use heating oil for heat: Alaska, Connecticut,
Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The
remaining $490 million will help individuals in all 50 states.

For a complete list of state allocations of the funds released today go
to:
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/news/press/2008/liheap_allocations_fy2009.htm.

Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance should contact
their local/state/LIHEAP agency. For more information, go to
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/liheap or
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/liheap/brochure.html.

###

Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are
available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.