Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

One of the Most Intriguing Women in U.S. History That You Have (Probably) Never Heard of

In Social Change, Uncategorized on July 25, 2011 at 3:09 pm
Update: This post is now featured on Blogher–join the conversation!

Her name is Frances Perkins.

If you are like me, the name probably doesn’t ring a bell. However, it should considering all of her achievements. Child labor lawsunemployment insurancesocial security? You have Ms. Perkins to thank for those programs. First woman appointed to a cabinet Secretary position? Frances holds that title as well, serving as the Secretary of Labor under FDR.woman behind the new deal

I learned all of this from a new book I just started reading, “The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR’s Secretary of Labor and Moral Conscience” by Kirsten Downey. I’m only fifty pages in and I’m already riveted.

Perkins went to college when women didn’t really do that. She worked as a social worker investigating sex slave trafficking of immigrant women, and it is safe to say women of that time definitely did not usually do that work. (Heck, most women today would not have the guts for that job!)  Intelligent and ambitious, Frances studied at Wharton School of Business and went on to do a fellowship at Columbia. Visionary, passionate, and fearless are a few words that come to mind, and did I mention I’m only at page 50 or so?

As Publisher’s Weekly writes, “No individual—not even Eleanor Roosevelt—exerted more influence over the formulation of FDR’s New Deal or did more to implement the programs than Frances Perkins (1880–1965).”
The timing of this book’s release couldn’t be better, as our country again grapples with how to respond to a great recession. I personally hope that as I continue reading I will gain insight (and perhaps a dose of inspiration) on how Perkins was able to advance such a bold agenda. You will likely hear more from me as I dive in deeper and learn even more about this fascinating historical figure.

Have you read this book, or were you already familiar with Perkins as a historical figure? Share your thoughts, and let me know if you pick up the book as well.


Victory for Ohio Workers!

In Midwest, Worker's Rights on July 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Ohio Secretary of State has now certified the SB 5 petition signatures, meaning that voters will have the chance to repeal the anti-union legislation this fall! This is great news. I am so impressed by the work of the organizers, who not only got enough signatures, but broke the record by obtaining 915,456 valid signatures.  Further proof that the Ohio people do not support Governor Kasich’s extreme far-right policies.

I am signed up to volunteer to help spread the word about the ballot initiative and encourage you to do the same! Just check out Stand Up for Ohio’s website and sign up online to take action!

Kudos to Kasich: Governor Gets it Right in Vetoing Water Bill

In Midwest, Politics on July 20, 2011 at 10:16 am

While I am not a huge fan of Kasich (understatement?) I applaud him for taking the bold step of vetoing  House Bill 231, which would have dramatically increased industrial access to Lake Erie water, without any safeguards such as permits or scientific review.

Seems that Kasich has angered his friends. But perhaps their loyalties are to their pocketbooks–rather than to the people’s lake. In today’s Columbus Dispatch, an editorial states:

“[bill] sponsor Lynn R. Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, [] sniped at Kasich, “I think he’s tired of getting beat up and thought he’d screw the business community and look popular.” Consider also that Wachtmann is president of a bottled-water company, an obvious conflict that should loom large whenever he talks about what’s best for Lake Erie.” (Columbus Dispatch)

President of a bottled-water company?! You can’t make this stuff up.

(Of course, Wachtmann’s name might sound familiar; he is one of the sponsor’s of Ohio’s horrific “heartbeat bill” which would ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected.  Lovely eh?)

Again, kudos to the Governor to standing up to special interests who have dollar signs in their eyes rather than a desire to protect our valuable natural resources.

Youth Continue to Fight For Their Future | The Nation

In Great Recession, Social Change on July 19, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I really enjoyed this article, Youth Continue to Fight For Their Future, in the latest issue of The Nation. First of all, it is rare for magazines to cover voices of young people, and The Nation consistently makes an effort to include those voices. But I also like how thoughtful the article is; I find that older activists are quick to say “the youth don’t care!” but seldom do they dig beneath the surface to find out why.  There is usually a reason why young people’s voices are not heard, and I find that it often has nothing to do with complacency. The Nation agrees:

When we take these things into consideration—cost of tuition, cost of living, in addition to possible at-home issues like helping their family with cost of living arrangements, health care payments, insurance—suddenly, it becomes clear that we shouldn’t be disappointed that American youth are “lazy” but rather amazed that so many students continue to fight for a better future despite having the deck stacked overwhelmingly against them.

read the full article here.

Cut spending to 18 percent of GDP = time travel to 1966

In Debt Ceiling, Politics on July 18, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I love this chart from Center for American Progress:

charticle graphic

Still Wanted: Left-of-Obama Voice on Budget

In Politics on July 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Brookings said it so well I had to re-post:

Help Wanted: A Left-of-Obama Voice on the Federal Budget

Isabel V. Sawhill, Senior Fellow, Economic Studies
The Brookings Institution

President Obama has a habit of arriving at an event a little bit late in the game. Whether on health care reform, Deepwater Horizon, Libya, the Bowles-Simpson plan, or the government shutdown, his style is to hang back, position himself above the fray, and then be the Great Compromiser. Now he has just done it again, finally responding to the Republicans 2012 budget plan with one of his own. But it’s not only a little late; it’s also so middle-of-the road that it risks a compromise that is well to the right-of-center.

Read more.

Ohio’s Aggressive Recruitment of Out-of-State Students–Due to Population, or Price?

In Midwest on July 15, 2011 at 11:10 am

Ohio's Report Card: "F" in affordability

Today’s Dayton Daily News has an article on how Ohio colleges are recruiting more out-of-state students. The article explains that universities are pursuing this strategy due to a predicted drop in home grown high school graduates (a 9.3 percent decline) during the next ten years.  I don’t doubt that a reduction in population definitely plays a part in this decision. But I would be curious to hear how much of this push is driven by economics. The article briefly notes that non-native students bring in higher tuition, but otherwise does not explore the issue of cost.

What the Dayton Daily News fails to note is that according to the 2008 National Report Card on Higher Education (the most recent report card), Ohio receives an “F” for affordability of in-state colleges and universities.

Ohio families on average contribute 39 % of annual income for in-state tuition

In fact, Ohio families pay more for higher education than the most states, and “[p]oor and working-class families must devote 57% of their income, even after aid, to pay for costs at public four-year colleges.

Seriously, think about that. More than half of your income to support your child going to college. Unbelievable.

I have nothing against Ohio universities recruiting out-of-state students. But I think they should be entirely honest about their motives. It is unfortunate that administrators are not taking this opportunity to educate the public about how our state’s policies are hurting higher education.  They might note, for example,  that in 1978 over 17 percent of the share of the Ohio budget went toward higher education, while in 2005 it was only 11.7 percent.2  

Slashing revenues has consequences. And you have to wonder if perhaps maybe the decline in population would not be so large if the state invested in institutions that families value–and want to be able to afford–such as higher education.

1The National Report Card on Higher Education, Measuring Up 2008: Ohio (last visited July 15, 2011).

2Policy Matters Ohio, Wendy Patton and Kiel Albrecht, College Bound at 1, August 2005, available at

Ohio is Broke…So Why are We Forfeiting $176.3 Million in Federal Funds?

In Great Recession, Politics on July 14, 2011 at 10:03 am

From (full disclosure: my employer) Policy Matters Ohio:

Ohio now has less than two months to take steps to modernize its unemployment compensation system, or it will forfeit $176.3 million in federal funds.

Call me crazy, but it seems kind of irresponsible for lawmakers to forfeit this money at a time when the state is so broke.

update: the issue is featured on the Columbus Dispatch.

Out of Touch

In Debt Ceiling, Great Recession, inequality, Politics, Poverty, Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 4:09 pm
Update (7/26/11): I posted this July 8th and Congress still has not reached a deal. For the record, still angry.

I am angry. So angry that I spent the entire evening furiously weeding the garden and muttering under my breath.

Letter to FDR asking for his support of "old age pension"

Why am I so upset?

I’m angry because Washington is seriously out of touch. No, not the normal “hey we’re a bunch of millionaires, but we’ll still throw you a bone” out-of-touch.  More like the, “Hey, let’s punch people while they are down! Whee isn’t this fun!”out-of-touch.

Of course I’m referring to the reports that Obama is putting Social Security and Medicare on the table for negotiations regarding this deficit bruhaha. Ok, before you’re all like, “Hey Sarah, get off your liberal high horse and admit these programs are broken/bloated/unsustainable and can afford to be trimmed a bit” you need to know that I probably (somewhat) agreed with you two months ago.  I’ve heard the reports about how unsustainable social security is. I’ve seen the news coverage about Medicare waste and fraud.

But I’ve also spent time at my summer job researching and writing on a report about our country’s safety net programs. While I am no expert by any means, I have done a ton of reading about social security, Medicare, etc. What I’ve learned is that these programs have already been cut beyond belief and are all that stand between someone just getting by and someone living in poverty.

Would you believe me if I told you that without social security, nearly fifty percent of the elderly would be living in poverty? (Last time poverty was that bad among the elderly was  in 1935, before the Social Security was enacted.)

Know what else? These social programs are not the source of our troubles. All that fuss about how the “sky is falling” with social security?  Entitlement programs are not in a dire crisis. To quote Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

“Social Security can pay full benefits through 2037 without any changes, and relatively modest changes would place the program on a sound financial footing for 75 years and beyond.” (CBPP)

I am old enough to know better than to expect politicians to do the right thing just for the heck of it. However, I was under the mistaken belief that the Democrat party was wise enough to understand that a) the public (presumably the Democrat’s base + moderates + swing voters–basically everyone but tea party) overwhelmingly support Medicare and Social Security and b) many of them rely upon it, especially during the Great Recession. (Currently One in six Ohioans receive some form of Social Security benefit.)

Politically, Democrats are fools to ignore these facts.  But more than that, what exactly is it that you are standing up for when you throw low and moderate income folks under the bus? Does our government simply exist to channel the people’s funds to benefit for-profit companies, or does it exist to promote the public good and provide for the safety and well-being of it citizens?

Washington, it is time you wake up. The rest of us non-millionaires are not surprised by June’s employment numbers.  If you stepped outside of the beltway, you might realize that a lot of people are barely getting by, and even then mostly on crumbs.  And you want to take those crumbs away, so you can keep your corporate jet tax loopholes?

That is a disgrace.

New Report Quantifies Paid Sick Days’ Value to Working Families

In Social Change, Worker's Rights on July 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm

New Report Quantifies Paid Sick Days’ Value to Working Families, including:

Nearly 40 million private-sector workers do not have
paid sick time.
• Employees without paid sick time are likely to go to
work sick, where they will have reduced productivity,
at a significant cost both to their employer and to their
possibility for professional advancement.
• Without paid sick leave, parents are forced to send
sick children to school, which could potentially impact
their long-term health and educational performance.