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Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

Frances Kissling’s Thoughts on Social Change

In Great Recession, inequality, Politics, Poverty, Social Change, Worker's Rights on August 18, 2011 at 1:00 pm

I just listened to a fantastic interview with Frances Kissling on American Public Radio’s “On Being” program.  The interview concerned Kissling’s work as a pro-choice activist, and in particular her experiences sitting down at the table with those who think very differently than her about reproductive choice issues. Kissling’s viewpoint on this issue was a breath of fresh air. She talked about how it may not be possible for Catholic bishops and pro-choice feminists to find common ground, per se, but that does not mean we should not understand where the other is coming from.

Many moons ago I was a political organizer with NARAL Ohio, and while I’m familiar with the work of Catholics for Choice (which Kissling used to lead), I was not particularly familiar with Kissling. Needless to say, I was very impressed by her.

The interview is worth a listen if this is an issue you care about. While I won’t rehash it all here, I was struck by her response to the question posed about what she has learned over the years about working for social change. Kippling said there are two main lessons: Change begins at the margins, and you must see the good in the other.

I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been thinking a lot about social change in general, not just with reproductive choice issues. We cannot expect our leaders in the moderate-mushy-middle to suddenly wake up one day and say, “Wow this economy is really not working for most people; let’s stick it to the man!” We need to pressure our government to change, and that might start small and at the margins. But you gotta start somewhere, right?

Oh, and that part about seeing the good in the other? That part I have to work on. I will admit: I have a hard time seeing the good in Bachman or Perry. Patience, grasshopper. Maybe someday soon.

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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.

Even Ron Swanson Would Disapprove of Ohio Republicans

In Midwest, Politics, Poverty, Worker's Rights on June 30, 2011 at 10:45 am

If you are a fan of Parks and Recreation, then you are probably familiar with meat-eating-Libertarian Ron Swanson. As much as Ron Swanson and I might disagree about the role of government, I think he would agree that the Ohio Legislature is currently violating several of the cornerstones of the Pyramid of Greatness.

Why the Recovery Isn’t Working

In Great Recession, inequality, Poverty on June 3, 2011 at 11:45 am

I was fortunate enough to hear Harold Meyerson speak yesterday at the National Employment Law Project’s “Transforming Communities” conference in Flint, Michigan. For those not familiar with Meyerson, he is an Editor-at-Large for American Prospect and columnist for the Washington Post (more on his bio here). I was blown away by his speech and how eloquently he articulated why the economic recovery is failing and what we need to do fix it. I will write more on this later, but for a great summary of his major points and ideas, check out a fantastic piece he wrote for the American Prospect entitled Business is Booming. Of course, as he told the audience, he likes to kibbitz about the economy with friends at lunch and is constantly told he is too much gloom and doom. This article confirms that–no sunshine and rainbows here–but can really afford not to face the music?

Off to Flint, Michigan

In Poverty, Social Change on June 1, 2011 at 12:36 am

I’m headed to Flint, MI for theTransforming Communities; Creating Jobs and Restoring Opportunity  Transforming Communities Conference. Even though Flint might not be everyone’s favorite place to visit (see Flint’s recent appearance at the top of a stupid crummy FBI list), I happen to like the fact that I will be learning more about how to reinvent a community that has a lot of history for my mother’s family. Plus if I’m lucky I’ll get a coney too. 🙂

Sarah’s Stat of the Day, May 29, 2011

In inequality, Poverty, Sarah's Stat of the Day on May 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Equality makes us all feel good. Literally.

According to The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Wilkinson and Pickett, “comparisons of health in different groups of the population in more and less equal societies show that the benefits of greater equality are very widespread,” benefiting not just lower classes but the upper classes of society as well. One incredible statistic cited in this book: The lowest occupational class in Sweden has a lower death rate than the highest social class in England and Wales.  (D. Vagero and O. Lundberg, Health Inequalities in Britain and Sweden, 2 Lancet 35-36 (1989)).

Sarah’s Stat of the Day, May 26, 2011

In Poverty, Sarah's Stat of the Day on May 26, 2011 at 9:50 am

A record four out of every 10 Ohio children qualify for subsidized lunches.