Archive for May 2010

HUD For Sale

May 28, 2010

I have just read a couple of articles about a plan that is being made by the federal government to privatize public housing. I was pretty amazed to learn that the federally subsidized housing that millions of low-income Americans live in is now in the cross-hairs of the federal government-corporate America privatizers.

You can read about this plan to further reduce the size of government while, at the same time, increase the bottom-line of big business in the articles below.

The first is entitled HUD Is Trying To Privatize and Mortgage Off All of America’s Public Housing by George Lakoff. The article was posted on the Huffington Post blog on May 21 and can be read here.

The second “article” is actually a blog by the title of Lacehh’s Blog. The blog’s subtitle is “Ending Homelessness Through Grassroots Action and Advocacy.” This blog contains a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan that is very informative. There is also a tremendous fact sheet that will equip you with talking points when taking a stand for HUD and the people who live in HUD housing. You can find Lacehh’s Blog here.

As both the article and blog posts point out, this effort to privatize HUD housing is another move by the federal government to reduce its responsibility to provide public services to the people of America who need such housing and place those services in the hands of corporate profiteers. Such a move would highly jeopardize the sense of living  and financial security of the majority of the people and families who live in and depend on HUD housing for their residential needs.

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The Working Poor Quotes, Pt.1

May 18, 2010

A couple of posts ago I shared with you that I had recently started reading The Working Poor by David Shipler. I am slowly progressing through his book about those who live, work, and exist in the “perilous zone of low-wage work.”

What I would like to do over the course of several posts is share some quotes from the book that have caught my attention, appealed to my interests, or just simply put into words my own emotions and sympathies with respect to and for those who are counted among the working poor.

In this post the quotes come from the introduction, “At The Edge Of Poverty,” and chapters 1 and 2, “Money and Its Opposite” and “Work Doesn’t Work,” respectively.

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“Tired of wishes, Empty of dreams.” (Carl Sandburg) (p.3)

“While the United States has enjoyed unprecedented affluence, low-wage employees have been testing the American doctrine that hard work cures poverty.” (p.4)

“By global or historical standard, much of what American consider poverty is luxury.” (p.8)

“When the poor or newly poor are asked to define poverty, however, they talk not only about what’s in the wallet but what’s in the mind or the heart.” (p.10)

 “We don’t feel poor very poor. We feel poor when we can’t go to the doctor or fix the car.’ ” (p.10)

With respect to the quote immediately above, my family and I feel the same way. And it’s not only when we have the medical, vehicle, and home repair needs represented in the quote, it is also when full-time employed, financially comfortable friends talk about vacations, pay raises, and the things that they are able to do for their children. (We are glad for those friends and their families, but when they talk about these things, we are reminded of all of the things that we can not do as a family or provide for our children.)

“You know, Mom, being poor is very expensive.” (Sandy Brash, at age twelve) (p.13)

“In the 1990s … lenders ‘relaxed the old standards of sound lending by luring customers into debt waters well over their head, but they didn’t relax the old strict standards of loan repayment. The result: Easy-money lenders point fingers at the subprime class they helped create, then punish those borrowers with significantly higher interest rates and fees.’ ” (p.24)

“So slight are the margins between government assistance and outright destitution that small lies take on large significance in the search for survival.” (p.42)

” … unless employers can and will pay a good deal more for society’s essential labor, those working hard at the edge of poverty will stay there. And America’s rapturous hymn to work will sound a sour note.” (p.46)

“Working at the edge of poverty means working on the coldest side of corporate America.” (p.62)

Shipler asked a Wal-Mart manager if his store made enough profit to absorb a pay increase from $6.25 to $8.oo an hour for the store’s hourly wage earners. The answer was, “There would be.”

When asked if the wage increases would have any effect on the store, the manager replied

” ‘We’d have to cut corners on other things like, you know, we may not be able to put all the pretty balloons up all over the store. The non-necessities we’d have to cut back on.’ Three days later Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., announced a net income of $5.58 billion for 1996, up 26 percent from the previous year.” (p.65)

“Wages are set by the marketplace, and you cannot expect magnanimity from the market-place. It is the final arbiter from which there is no appeal.” (p.71)

“In the house of the poor … the walls are thin and fragile, and troubles seep into one another.” (p.76)

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More quotes from The Working Poor to come.

Why Are We In Afghanistan?

May 15, 2010

I recently received an email that contained a link to a provocative video documentary on the war in Afghanistan.

The video is simply entitled “Why Are We In Afghanistan?”

The introductory statement to the documentary, found on its website, says,

“U.S military action in Afghanistan originated in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. That was then. This is now. Reasons for the war have become more cloudy as other factors have developed.

This film looks at domestic pressures and geo-strategic interests that keep the U.S. in the region, and the long history of U.S. foreign interventions that forms the broader context for this war. We also see today peace movement continuing a long tradition – popular resistance to war.

Why We Are In Afghanistan? is an educational resource for communities, unions, veterans, active duty military, classes, and anyone who wonders why we are in Afghanistan, and what to do about it.”

This video commentary was written by Michael Zweig, economics professor, author, and political-economic activist. It was produced by the Center for Study of Working Class Life at Stony Brook University.

Click on the image above to view the video.

The Working Poor – Invisible In America

May 13, 2010

Several years ago I read a book that I had seen refered to in numerous articles and on different websites. It was about poverty in America in the late 1950’s and was written by Michael Harrington.

In the book, The Other America – Poverty in the United States (1962),Harrington brought the plight of America’s poor to the attention of the rest of the nation. In it he wrote about people – of all colors and ages, with different skills, abilities, and educational backgrounds, in different regions of the country – who struggled with poverty in the land of plenty and opportunity.

The Other America is said to have had great influence on the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and on America’s “War on Poverty.”

Another book that I have read that puts faces on poverty in America, especially those of working women, is Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickle and Dimed – On (Not) Getting By In America (2001). After I read Barbara’s book, whenever I would see women getting off of city busses to go to work as maids in local motels, or the ladies on the custodial staff at the school where I work who clean windows and wipe down cafeteria tables, or the waitresses at restaurants where we sometime go out to eat, I would think to myself, “These are the women that Barbara wrote about.”

I have just begun to read another book about poverty in America. It, too, puts faces on the poor and struggling among us. This book is The Working Poor – Invisible In America (2004) by David Shipler.

Shipler begins his book with these words in the Preface –

 … ‘working poor,’ should be an oxymoron. Nobody who works should be poor in America.” (p.ix)

As anyone who is reading this post knows, there are millions of Americans who live in poverty, and millions of them are hard working men and women with families. They are the citizens of “the other America … who live in the economic underworld of American life” (The Other America, p.2), the “forgotten America … (who) live in the shadow of prosperity, in the twilight between poverty and well-being.” (The Working Poor, p.3)

David’s book is about the citizens of this “Forgotten America” – the working poor – whether they are “climbing out of welfare, drug addiction, or homelessness,” or those who have “been trapped for life in a perilous zone of low-wage work.” (p.3)

The people in David’s book are real people. Their stories are true.  As you read about these men and women your heart will either be stirred with compassion for them or hardened with judgment.

But watch out. David also tells about the systems, exploiters, and users who take advantage of people who are poor and struggling to make a better life for themselves and their families. Those stories will also stir your heart with compassion for the exploited and revolt against those who prey on the needy and disadvantaged.

Although I have only read a couple of chapters of the book thus far, my thoughts have been turned toward a number of my personal friends, and many students enrolled in the public school where I work, who can be counted among the working poor.

My prayer is that as I read this book and think about my friends and students who are citizens of the “Forgotten America,” that I will become more sensitive and caring for them and their needs in life. And, that I will become more of an advocate for them, the poor, and working poor in my community and our country.

As I read through The Working Poor I intend to share quotes from the book that catch my attention, so check back with me every couple of days for some quotes and comments.

Also, please check out some of my earlier posts on poverty, homelessness, and labor that can be found by clicking on the categories list on the right-hand sidebar of this blog.

International Workers Day Posters

May 1, 2010

Happy May Day.

Thank you, workers, for your labor and contribution to our societies.

Here are several posters that celebrate May Day, or International Workers Day.