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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.

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.

Sarah’s Stat of the Day, May 25, 2011

In Sarah's Stat of the Day, Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Update, 5/26/11: Appears that TPM agrees with me! They too are showing off this awesome graph.

Republicans are yammerng on about dismantling what remains of America’s fraying social safety net, when in reality the Bush tax cuts + wars + economy seem to be what is driving the deficit:

Courtesy of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
Tax Cuts, Wars Account for Nearly Half of Public Debt by 2019

Timely Observations of a Election Day Volunteer (Or, why our voting system is broken, but not in the way Ohio Republicans think it is.)

In Midwest, Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm

I have finally decided to revive this blog, and the timing couldn’t be better. About six months ago I drafted a post based on my experience volunteering for the first time as a poll observer. Both parties in Ohio are entitled to send poll observers to monitor the elections and ensure that everything is running smoothly, the law is being followed, and voters rights’ are being protected. (Of course, one party which shall remain nameless tends to care more about voters’ rights than the other.)

The general impetus of my rant thoughtful post was that the United States is leaps and bounds away from having a fully functioning democracy. We fail at running elections.

While I had many, many criticisms about how Ohio runs its elections, I did *not* observe that we need fewer opportunities to vote by absentee ballot or that we should eliminates a requirement that poll workers direct voters in the wrong precinct to the correct one. Nope. Can’t say that those were the reforms I was thinking about.

Rather, these were the type of issues I walked away scratching my head over:

  • What, you couldn’t find us here in the voting location, back here behind the school bus maintenance building industrial entrance with no signs or flags?
  • Do you know your voting rights? It is likely that the election workers do not know your rights. Learn them and bring this handy card with you to the polls. Or consider volunteering as a poll observer. A big part of my job was educating the poll workers themselves about what was allowed under the law and correcting misinformation.
  • Why Tuesday? Seriously, why?!
  • Roving bands of republicans. Ew.
  • Yes, let’s take one of the most important jobs in a democracy–election day poll workers–and hire low-wage elderly folks and make them work a sixteen hour day (with a lunch break only). Sure, no mistakes will
  • Can someone please update the worker manual and correct those errors? Mmm thanks.
  • Identification madness. So. Much. Madness.
  • Law student fail: no clue who these judges are and which one I should vote for. Kinda doubt any of these other voters have a clue either.
  • Problems voting? I know, let’s just give you a provision ballot that will never be counted!
  • Who is in charge around here? And why am I (the volunteer) the one making sure you don’t run out of ballots?!
  • Oh, you move around frequently? You rent, you are a student, you got evicted and had to move in with relatives for some time? Oh Yeah, you are pretty much screwed because you can’t vote here anymore.
  • Why oh why can’t people just register on site?