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Growing Up in Poverty Means Growing Up in Shame

June 28, 2019 Comments off

Parenting in Poverty”, a NYTimes article by Bobbi Dempsey that appeared last week, poignantly describes what it feels like to be a child whose parents rely on food stamps and how frustrating it is to operate as a parent under the guidelines set forth for EBT cards. Ms. Dempsey writes about the feelings she experienced as a child:

I am far too familiar with the seemingly endless array of indignities and flavors of shame that come with living in poverty. You get dirty glances for looking poor — but are also judged if you look “too rich,” by wearing something an observer deems too nice for someone on public assistance. Everything you buy or eat in view of others is up for public scrutiny and unwanted commentary…

During the course of my childhood, I had more embarrassing encounters at the grocery store checkout than I could count…

I’ve overheard snide comments in the lines at grocery stores about the attire of someone using an EBT card or the cars they parked outside of a convenience store where they used a card to buy milk. I’ve also heard faculty room gossip about profligacy of parents who used food stamps back in the 70s when I worked as a high school administrator and read endless articles about the so-called “Welfare Queens” who abused the systems in place. But this article reminded me of the impact that kind of judgment has on a child, especially one who experiences it day-in-and-day-out throughout their entire childhood. And the indignities are not limited to the grocery store:

I never went to birthday parties as a kid because I couldn’t afford to buy a gift. I would “get sick” and have to stay home on field trip days because I couldn’t afford the cost of the trip itself, let alone bring spending money for any souvenirs or food. Joining any activity that involved dues to pay or uniforms to buy would have been inconceivable.

Ms. Dempsey describes how today’s EBT cards draw less attention from those in line than the food stamps her mother used, but the strictures imposed on parents and observed by children still sting:

While the new plastic card may spare those families some shame, it can be difficult to reconcile that buying non-luxuries like toilet paper, tampons or a supermarket rotisserie chicken may be just as wild a fantasy as getting a child a pony.

The brief profile at the end of the article describes Ms. Dempsey with this single sentence:

Bobbi Dempsey is a freelance writer and a communications fellow at Community Change who is writing a memoir about moving 70 times before age 18.

I doubt that her mother was all that concerned about Ms. Dempsey’s test scores or how those scores might effect whatever school she was attending at the time… Until we can provide affordable housing and food security for all children in the country we cannot expect to close the widening gap between the rich and poor.

The Poor People’s Campaign Prepares a “Moral Budget” That Asks the Right Questions

June 27, 2019 Comments off

Common Dreams Valerie Vande Penne’s post describes a report prepared by the Poor People’s Campaign along with the Institute for Policy Studies released a “Moral Budget”:

Poor People’s Moral Budget: Everybody Has the Right to Live,” details how we can extract ourselves from harmful systems, and invest in rebuilding our failing infrastructure, create jobs, provide health care and housing, and alleviate poverty—simply by making some basic moral choices on how we distribute the federal budget.

Her post, which describes the work done by the Poor People’s Campaign leaders Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, describes what Rev. Barber calls the “five interlocking injustices” that create poverty:

  1. Systemic racism, which includes systemic poverty and voter suppression, oppression of people of color and Native Americans, mass incarceration and the re-segregation of public schools.
  2. Systemic economic inequality.
  3. Ecological devastation and the refusal to properly use our resources.
  4. War economy and militarism.
  5. The distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.

Barber says these injustices are all connected, so when looking to solutions, they all need to be addressed together. Rev. Barber stresses that poverty affects people of all races in this country, a fact that is often overlooked:

…the Poor People’s Campaign isn’t divisive on race lines. Rather, he says, “This movement is made up of people from every corner of this country… We’ve met people from eastern Kentucky to the Carolinas… Massachusetts to the lowlands of Alabama.” There are poor people everywhere in this country. With 140 million poor people in the United States, there are likely poor people where you live.

Ms. Vande Penne describes the steps required to address the interlocking injustices, emphasizing that the funds are available, they are just being mis-allocated.

“We’ve found $350 billion in military budget cuts,” says report author Lindsay Koshgarian. “Half the Pentagon budget goes to corporate contractors. It’s a sign of corruption in our democracy.”

“We’ve looked at a wide range of economic research,” she says, calling for “Fair taxes on the wealthy corporations and Wall Street.”

It is possible to meet the demands of the 140 million poor people in the United States, says report author Shailly Gupta Barnes. “But it’s only possible when you do it all together. There is enough for everything, because we’re looking at the whole system.”

“So often the response is to pity the poor and believe poverty is the fault of the poor,” she continues. “When we follow the direction that poor people are revealing—we need housing, food, and water—we can make things better for the whole country.”

“We believe in bottom-up organizing,” says Barber. “It is critical we build from the bottom up.”

The Poor People’s Campaign will embark on a nine-month nationwide campaign of raising awareness and voter registration beginning in September and culminating with a June 2020 Moral March on Washington.

Near the end of the post, Ms. Vande Penne writes:

The group has also made a plea to the media, asking them to do more in-depth stories about poverty. Rather, noted one speaker at the report’s press event, “You’re covering the circus on Capitol Hill.”

I will be on the lookout for reports on this “Moral Budget” and the “nine-month nationwide campaign of raising awareness and voter registration” in the mainstream media… but expect if I find it at all it will be buried in the middle of the newspaper while our POTUS’s tweets and misbehavior continue to dominate our national discourse. As long as the circus is in town and the news cycle must be fed entertainment will displace conversations about morality.

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WOW! Forbes Reports US Spent TEN TIMES MORE on Fossil Fuel Subsidies Than it Spent on Education

June 26, 2019 Comments off

Forbes magazine, hardly a liberal media outlet, offered an astonishing article by James Ellsmore that provided an overview of a recent report by the International Monetary Fund indicating that the US spent TEN TIMES more on subsidies for fossil fuels than it spent on education! In what can only be characterized as an understatement, Mr. Ellsmore offered this quote:

IMF leader Christine Lagarde has noted that the investments made into fossil fuels could be better spent elsewhere, and could have far reaching positive impacts: “There would be more public spending available to build hospitals, to build roads, to build schools and to support education and health for the people. We believe that removing fossil fuel subsidies is the right way to go.”

Readers of this blog know that while I would very happy to have more money available for public education, I would prefer that money not flow through Washington where the neoliberal and/or free market theories of Mr. Duncan and Ms. DeVos would siphon the funds to profiteers and/or religious schools… but subsidizing costly fossil fuels at the expense of increasingly cheaper renewables is insanity:

Simon Buckle, the head of climate change, biodiversity and water division at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development explains: “Subsidies tend to stay in the system and they can become very costly as the cost of new technologies falls. Cost reductions like this were not envisageable even 10 years ago. They have transformed the situation and many renewables are now cost competitive in different locations with coal.”

Buckle’s analysis of the inefficiency of fossil fuel subsidies is illustrated best by the United States’ own expenditure: the $649 billion the US spent on these subsidies in 2015 is more than the country’s defense budget and 10 times the federal spending for education . When read in conjunction with a recent study showing that up to 80% of the United States could in principle be powered by renewables, the amount spent on fossil fuel subsidies seems even more indefensible.

Global warming is the major issue facing our nation… more important than education funding. While having an additional $649 to spend on schools would be wonderful, having to spend that money to relocate schools from low lying areas seems wasteful. It strikes me that a better policy would be to subsidize renewables at the federal level and encourage states and local governments to consider raising more funds for schools through carbon taxes.

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