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Archive for the ‘Social Change’ Category

Time to Pass Jobs Bill!

In Great Recession, inequality, Politics, Social Change, Worker's Rights on September 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

I just had a conversation with a young African American man* that illuminates why we need bold action on jobs, and now! The man asked me for bus fare, and we started chatting. He asked if I was in school and I said yes, law school. Turns out he at one point was pursuing a degree in criminal justice with hopes of becoming a policeman or attorney. He couldn’t afford to finish his degree.** Today he had the unpleasant job of having to ask a stranger for a few quarters so he could ride a bus.

Our country can do better.

*I highlight his race because our country is failing black males the most. Of all racial groups, they face highest rates of unemployment as well as highest incarceration rates.

**I never used to understand why people could not afford college. You can get loans, right? Turns out financial aid policies hurt low income students in disproportionate ways. I will write a post soon about why this is and how we might better support those who don’t have the means to attend college.

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.

Two Reasons Why the Bush Tax Cuts Should Expire

In Great Recession, inequality, Politics, Social Change on August 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Photo courtesy flickr user Great Beyond

Two Reasons Why the Bush Tax Cuts Should Expire:

  1. The ultra-rich can afford to send their children to summer camp–aboard private jets.
  2. The ultra-rich can afford quarter-million-dollar houses–playhouses for their children, that is.

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.

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.

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.

Faith Community Steps Up

In Great Recession, Midwest, Social Change on June 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

I am currently doing some research on the decline of the social contract and how we can improve America’s safety net. It doesn’t take long to discover that faith communities are increasingly the ones filling the gaps for families in need, often stepping up to provide vital services for those whose unemployment has run out or are not eligible for other social programs.

I often think of faith communities as kindly social service providers. What I forget is that they can also be agents of social change. What would the civil rights era have been without churches and faith leaders?

Enter the Greater Cleveland Congregations, an interfaith coalition working for change in the Cleveland community. I am blown away by their vision. Just take a look at their mission statement, which includes the word POWER!

According to the organizers,

The mission of GCC is to work together to build power for social justice. GCC unites people across lines of race, class, religion and geography to promote public, private and civic-sector actions that we believe will strengthen and improve the quality of life of our neighborhoods.

Maybe the Great Recession will create the catalyst needed to mobilize our communities. Research seems to back up this idea; according to a study released by UC-Riverside, the economic crisis has inspired or revived campaigns for economic justice among consumers, homeowners, and unemployed workers, as well as among a variety of public sector workers and their clients.”

Our elected officials act as though they are powerless to solve the problems of the day. It is easy to feel powerless just watching them drone on and on about deficits and budget cuts while ignoring the economic suffering going on across this country. This coalition reminds us that we are not powerless. It is time people to reclaim their power, roll up their sleeves, and get to work.

Points of Agreement

In Debt Ceiling, Politics, Social Change on June 6, 2011 at 12:36 pm

My in-laws visited this weekend and we had lively debates about all things political.  My Father-in-law in particular loves to discuss the merits of conservative-ism, and even said he hopes that one day ‘we wake up and decide to become a republican’ (though I’m not sure he should hold his breath on that one)! I was surprised, however, to discover our many points of agreement, one being that we both support closing corporate tax loop-holes. This only confirms what I read today on the Spotlight for Poverty and Opportunity’s blog. Their blog post discussed the results of an effort to discover how six different groups would tackle the budget deficit problem. The findings are fascinating:

As expected, the recently released plans differed substantially. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “The big takeaway is this: The debate over how to reduce the deficit is truly a philosophical one about the size of government.”

Yet the real surprise was the areas of significant agreement. According to the Journal, “All six would curb tax income-tax breaks, loopholes, deductions and credits, a.k.a. ‘tax expenditures’ or ‘spending through the tax code’ because Congress uses them as alternatives to explicit spending.” In addition, all six plans took aim at farm subsidies.

–Excerpt from Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity Blog

At a time in our country when corporations are making record profits, while ordinary Americans are suffering tremendously, President Obama and Congress would be wise to stop giving corporations a break and start making them pay their fare share.

If Joe and I can agree, then there is certainly the public support for such an effort.

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. 🙂