Archive for the ‘Poverty’ Category

By JC

I was waiting for my comment to escape the censors moderating queue at Pogie and PW’s place earlier today (sure, it was from having three links in the comment, uh huh), and was looking at the significance of a few of the piece’s elements.

First off, James Conner hits a home run with his analysis of Pogie’s piece:

“Saying this is one of your best posts probably is being stingy with praise.”

Of course, my comment was all about enticing democrats that have a hard time thinking outside the box, particularly when they are down and out, to cast their policy nets a bit wider. When I looked at the photo accompanying the post — of a beggar boy holding his bowl out for morsels — I first thought that this is how the dem faithful go about asking their politicians for attention to their pet issues. Of course, a closer look showed it to be a reconstruction of some Dickens novel character or another.

It’s not that I’m not supportive of raising the minimum wage, I am all for doing whatever it takes to address poverty in America (our band performed at a benefit concert this weekend for a women’s shelter in Kalispell, for instance, at our own expense). But when Dems reduce themselves to begging for table scraps at a time when the political response of an “opposition” party demands to be more than just maintaining the status quo (with “tweaks”), I get a bit skranky.

But what do I expect from a political party that is beaten down so far it can’t even look to the past, is to see how democrats once used to respond to things like depression, poverty and wealth inequality. I merely pointed Pogie to an article (an article written by an AFL-CIO ExCon member) that did nothing more than talk about how FDR used a wage ceiling (by Executive Order no less) to limit executive pay while the nation was trying to recover from the Great Depression.

“The idea is not unprecedented. In a time of massive domestic and economic distress, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued an executive order during World War II limiting corporate salaries to no more than $25,000 per year after taxes. The president believed that if middle class fathers, brothers, and sons were putting their lives on the line for just $60 per month, the rich should be required to make some sacrifice too.

FDR’s maximum wage proposal was bold and brilliant. Believing that all citizens should help out with the mobilization effort, he refused to be bullied by the rich, and never lost sight of the fact that fair compensation and a thriving middle class are essential elements of a healthy economy — particularly during a national emergency.

A maximum wage law would actually ensure that “a rising tide [would lift] all boats,” and encourage competition while improving lives at every level of society.

The minimum wage certainly must be raised. It’s also time to start a national discussion about creating a maximum wage law.”

Of course, Pogie responded vociferously with his usual ad hominem, which is his preferred method when the left points out simple facts and alternatives to liberal dems’ tepid calls for some kind of action or the other. How dare I attack liberal dems!!!

“And the truth is that simply braying for radical change and condemning the current system isn’t an alternative. It’s intellectual onanism, empty and only satisfying for the person doing it.”

Sheesh, I never realized that asking today’s liberal dems to act more like liberal dems of the past is “braying for radical change.” Just thought a bit of a roadmap of where a party had been might help to guide them today. But I thank Pogie for the opportunity to look up “onanism.” I didn’t realize that Pogie thought that policies like FDR’s were just the masturbatory fantasies of crazed presidents (or those writing about FDR’s ideas). I guess I could just refer to his piece as nothing more than “thumb capping”, but I doubt he’d get the reference without talking to some of his school boys.

Don then proceeds on his temper tantrum spouting about a bunch of stuff I never even mentioned — insinuations of how I live my life, and what I do that have no bearing in reality. Anything to take the spotlight off how dems have forgotten how to ask for what they believe in — to espouse their values —  in the desire to get a few scraps for the masses, and a feather in their cap (and maybe the favor of a special campaign contributor or two).

Of course, he then has the audacity to throw out this unbearable bit of progressive hope:

“Policies matter. Let’s work to pass the ones we desperately need today, which will matter for millions of people, while dreaming of an even more just, more equitable future.”

Well, yes policies matter. I just happen to believe that people should not just dream about their values and offer policies that are so pre-compromised so as to ensure that the resulting legislation is a mere table scrap, compared to what could come out of putting your dreams into concrete policy statements, like FDR did. 

At least James Connor got it right. Pogie’s article was the best blogging he could do, so I should just leave it at that. It’s ok to go to the powers that be with our bowls outstretched asking for a pittance, because we know that if we ask for what we really believe in, we are doing nothing more than engaging in “smug ‘progressive’ cynicism.”  When will dems learn that if they want a bump in the minimum wage, they need to ask for a maximum wage, or a wage ceiling? Since when has politics descended into a unilateral disarmament of solid policy ideas? When did good old fashioned political compromise beginning with a set of competing beliefs and values go the way of the dodo?

Well, I put my progressive hat up long ago, realizing that for today’s liberal dems, progressivism no longer means what it once did. Today, to be a progressive is to beg, and leave one’s dreams for another day. If today’s liberals wanted to have an engaged dialog with the masses, they are going to need more than a bump in the minimum wage to get people excited. As with Max Baucus’ “it’s off the table” proclamation about not allowing the healthcare debate to begin with a full range of alternatives like single payer, it’s obvious that Montana dems don’t want to start the discussion about the minimum wage by talking about FDR’s maximum wage, or France’s current policy of pay rations for government workers (factor of 20, highest to lowest paid state worker).

And I guess asking that dems like “I do indeed support the idea of a maximum wage” Don Pogreba might have a discussion about wage ceilings and income caps, as many people are starting to do across the United States is also taboo (or “smug self-righteousness)”. We might have a discussion like the following about wage ceilings:

This idea has always existed in the United States. During the Revolutionary Era, Philadelphia’s citizens wanted Pennsylvania’s new constitution to declare that “an enormous Proportion of Property vested in a few Individuals is dangerous to the Rights, and destructive of the Common Happiness of Mankind; and therefore any free State hath a Right by its Laws to discourage the Possession of such Property.”

This is because rich people corrupt democracy. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” It seems this choice has been made from the backseat of splendid limos as they cruise through neighborhoods of boarded-up houses.

Instead of living in a country where anybody can get rich, we should live in a country where nobody can be poor. To achieve this, we need income caps, not income gaps.”

It would have been far too easy to give Pogie a pat on the back and an “atta-boy” for his post on the minimum wage. I prefer to challenge his sensibilities and get him riled up to find out what he and other dems really think. And I guess it is that they would rather attack the left for not going along with the program, than to engage in any sort of policy debate and historical analysis that might result in a better policy resolution. But then again, many mainstream dems’ hatred for any who might criticize from the left seems to always get in the way of any form of introspection about the state of policy development in the dem party.

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by Pete Talbot

Montana’s governor isn’t Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker.  And there aren’t quite the same union-busting laws being advanced by either the executive or legislative branch here in Montana.  But there’s potential for a Wisconsin-like rally on Friday, April Fool’s Day, in Helena.

This is very apropos, considering the many foolish bills, radical cuts and a special session offered up by the Republican majority during this legislature.

The rally is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. at the Capitol.  Here’s some background from the Havre Daily News.

One of the organizers of the event, Molly Moody, said the rally represents union members, community leaders, neighbors, teachers, firefighters, nurses, snowplow drivers, health workers, business owners, conservationists, cowboys, police officers …

No one is sure what the turnout will be yet.  Buses are being chartered in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Havre, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula, so I’m betting it’s larger the March 3 Tea Party rally. I know I’m going.

Continue Reading »

by Pete Talbot

General Electric makes a $5.1 billion profit in the U.S. and pays nothing in taxes.  It actually gets a $3.2 billion tax credit.

Is this the Republican tax policy?

Man, things are definitely askew.  Not enough money for education, the poor, kids and seniors.  Gosh, I wonder why.

Here’s the story in the NY Times.

by Pete Talbot

Five middle school suicides in the past year. Twenty attempted suicides. In a town of less than a thousand. In a school of fewer than 160.

This is criminal negligence.

It happened in Poplar, Montana, and the story is in today’s paper. The gist of the piece was about a principal who singled out kids at a student assembly for getting Fs. If true, well, that’s pretty sad.

But that’s not really the story. Kids as young as ten are taking their own lives out of desperation. It’s an unbroken cycle of poverty and hopelessness; while the rest of us turn a blind eye.

Here’s the best link I could find at the Great Falls Tribune but the suicides are buried in the story. The online Lee Newspapers have no mention of the suicides. (It was reported in the print edition of the Missoulian.) That’s unconscionable. It should have been the lead story on every newscast and in every newspaper across the state … and it should have happened months ago.

Where else should the blame lie? Our state and national governments, for sure. Our disparate education system. Society as a whole. The list goes on.

Can you imagine the outcry if this had happened at Washington Middle School in Missoula? No expense would be spared. Every expert in the region, every anti-suicide program that’s ever been conceived, would be employed to prevent this from happening.

But it happened in Poplar on the Fort Peck Reservation where, apparently, kids aren’t quite as valuable.

We should all be ashamed and make sure this doesn’t happen again on this reservation or any other school, anywhere.

By Duganz

Kill a person and you’ll go to jail for life. Kill an entire town and, well, it’s a different story. Today is the anniversary of just such a crime.

Thirty years ago oil conglomerate Atlantic Richfield Company drove a knife into the side of Anaconda, Montana–my hometown. I wasn’t alive to see the looks on people’s faces that day, but the look has never fully left. Twelve-hundred people lost their jobs, and the town lost a lifeline.

That’s not something that goes away, maybe ever.

In my mind Anaconda hearkens back to a different America, one that fueled an industrial boom and a daunting suburban sprawl––company people in a company town. You see it everywhere: Flint, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey. The cookie-cutter homes lining the cookie-cutter streets, now slowly decaying as those better days recede further into the past. These were places where guys who couldn’t turn out court briefs, but could turn a wrenches, were welcome; a place where collars were bluer than any nearby water. Conjure to mind your favorite Norman Rockwell… that was Anaconda. It is a perfect representation of the 1950s Pop Culture zeitgeist.

After the Washoe Smelter closed there came a mass exodus of desperate people who took to the road looking for a future in a crumbling American economy (sound familiar?), and a changing world they were no longer meant for. Conjure if you will another stark American image: The Grapes of Wrath.

Those who stayed behind gobbled up what jobs they could to keep themselves going, holding out hope for more jobs that never have returned in quite the fashion everyone was hoping for.

Deer Lodge County lost 66 percent of it’s tax base in 1980, and recovery has been long and hard, and not entire. I remember when my Dad, who until recently worked as a CNA at Montana State Hospital, got a pay raise in 1994 and announced that he was finally making what he did when he worked on the Smelter in 1978. That’s a tough show to watch, and a tough reality to grow up in.

If prosperity was trickling down during the 80s and 90s, Anaconda was nowhere near the faucet. Makes one wonder what Reagan was thinking when he proclaimed it Morning in America back in 1984. Maybe it was morning somewhere – like on Michael Eisner’s yacht – but in Anaconda, Montana it was night, and a cloudy one at that.

*** Continue Reading »

A Truly Great Depression Among the Nation’s Low Income Workers Amidst Full Employment Among the Most Affluent

by JC

This graph pretty well speaks for itself:

unemployment

This is taken from a study just released by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston:

At the end of calendar year 2009, as the national economy was recovering from the recession of 2007-2009, workers in different segments of the income distribution clearly found themselves in radically different labor market conditions. A true labor market depression faced those in the bottom two deciles of the income distribution, a deep labor market recession prevailed among those in the middle of the distribution, and close to a full employment environment prevailed at the top. There was no labor market recession for America’s affluent.

In testifying before a Congressional committee in the late 1960s on the need for a sub-employment index to capture the high variations in labor market conditions in different neighborhoods and local labor markets, Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz was asked how workers were doing on “on average”. He reportedly replied, “When you have your head in the freezer and your feet in the oven, on average you are doing Ok.” Similar remarks apply to the state of American labor markets today. Who will tell the people? Does anybody care?

When .01% = 6%

by JC

trickle up

“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometric progression as they rise” — Thomas Jefferson

Update: The HufPo has a writeup today about Saez’s study:

Income inequality in the United States is at an all-time high, surpassing even levels seen during the Great Depression…

Beginning in the economic expansion of the early 1990s, Saez argues, the economy began to favor the top tiers American earners, but much of the country missed was left behind. “The top 1 percent incomes captured half of the overall economic growth over the period 1993-2007,” Saes writes.

Despite a rising stock market, largely growing employment and a historic housing boom things were not nearly so rosy for the rest of U.S. workers. This trend, according to Saez, only accelerated during George W. Bush’s tenure as President




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