First Published 9-15-10
That was a great debate on the comments section yesterday. Now that’s the way it’s done. In reading the comments I saw many ideas and solutions being put forth by many intelligent individuals. The cream is beginning to rise.
Yesterday on MSNBC Live, host, Tamron Hall conducted an interview with Judy Levin-Epstein from the Center of Law and Social Policy. The piece was entitled “Poverty in America”. The following are excerpts from that interview.
Tamron: “Are we seeing one group or region hit more than others or is this across the board, and is it black, white? What are you seeing in the numbers?”
Judy: “First off, as you mentioned the official numbers are not yet out. What we have are projections based on the 2009 unemployment rate, which have been quite high due the great recession. In fact they averaged over 2009 9.3% which is up from 5.8% in 2008. Based on those high levels of unemployment experts are predicting the 14.7 or 15% rate of poverty you’ve just mentioned. We will see that those who were vulnerable once before continue to be vulnerable and that means often that it is our youngest children who are the poorest category. We also see some regional variations with the hardest hit communities from the recession where joblessness was higher. We also see individuals of color struggling against communities that have been distressed and schools that are dysfunctional. So we will see all of those numbers on Thursday and in a couple of weeks we will also have from census state level data that will help people understand what is happening at the state level as well.”
Tamron: “Judy, the federal government defines the rate of poverty $22,000 for a family of four. Obviously if you’re living in a city like New York that makes it even more difficult, but $22,000 for a family of four. We’re in a debate right now about the budget, the deficit, what needs to be cut. Do we have a war against poverty in your estimation is enough being done? When you look at one in seven now if those numbers are accurate…”
Judy: “Yes, one in seven of us are poor. Even before the great recession. So we had some structural issues we need to deal with, the fact that our jobs simply do not pay enough. Right now we’re in a scenario where we do not have enough jobs, but we need jobs to be created not only so the 15 million people who were looking for work last month can get a job, but so that they have wages that will be livable. As you said, its $22,000 roughly for a family of four to survive under poverty each year, that’s about less than $5000 per person per year. We need for a congress to work together to create and sustain jobs. In congress there is a bill pending to provide and continue for a TANIF emergency fund that has created nearly a quarter of a million jobs. Unless congress acts by the end of this month those jobs are going to go away. It just means we need to come together and do what’s right and create and sustain those jobs. They are subsidized jobs there are employers who want those jobs and there are communities that need those jobs.”
Well it would seem as if we exist again. People, programs like TANIF are not the answer and I do have a problem with the Americans Want to Work Act and it is this. Back in the early 1980s as many of you know, we were in a deep recession (depression). The same sorts of subsidies for businesses that are being proposed today were enacted back then. I was out of work and desperate. The subsidies that came to the area in which I live came in the form of the CETA Jobs Program. What this program did was allow businesses to write off their taxes half of the wages paid to employees hired through the CETA Program, for one year. It was supposed to provide the unemployed an opportunity for a new career.
I participated in the CETA Program. I went to an office that they had set up and underwent a series of dexterity tests. Low and behold at the very same time a group of businesses specializing in the manufacturing of circuit boards came to town. The minimum wage at that time was $3.65 per hour. I went through the CETA scam under the delusion that I would at least be making double the minimum wage.
Upon reporting to the company to begin training and work there was a meeting. The company spokesman said that we who were participating would be working for one year at minimum wage, which is to say the company only had to pay us half of minimum wage, as the other half would be returned to them through subsidies. He further stated that should we work that year and become proficient at our jobs, we would then be promoted and have a wage increase to $6.00 per hour. He said that those that stayed on would be training the next wave of workers coming into the company via the CETA program.
My trip to work and back was 60 miles. I was a half hour early every day, worked every over time hour offered, never missed one single day, and learned every job in the shop proficiently. At the end of the year, when the time came to be promoted, another meeting was held. The spokesman explained that the company wasn’t doing as well as expected and though they could not afford the raises they had promised, we could continue to work at minimum wage if we chose.
I am a very observant person. I had observed over the year that those who had come with the company from California had, gone from driving almost new vehicles to driving brand new vehicles. Also, as I made it my goal to learn every job, I noticed the massive increase in production which had occurred during that year. Many of us got in our old cars and drove away.
Note: those in the Silicon Valley doing the very same jobs that we were doing were making between $12 and $18 per hour. When we left the company they weren’t really all that sad to see us go, as they simply had another batch of suckers sent by CETA to fill our jobs, again getting the labor at 50% of minimum wage and having the other 50% subsidized via tax write offs.
By this time there were three of these companies operating in our area and none paid more than minimum wage. I worked at the other two for two more years at minimum wage and finally found a job running a service station for $1.35 an hour more, so much for my new career.
The present calls for tax incentives if enacted will be nothing more than a repeat of the fraud perpetrated via the CETA Program, a government jobs program that didn’t work. The CETA Program finally faded away from our area after I wrote of series of letters to the editor in our local newspaper exposing it for what it was: a subsidized minimum wage work bank set up for three good-ole-boy circuit board sweat shops operating in our area.
Okay people, TANIF is not the answer but in considering the aforementioned report from MSNBC I see the door is opened. It’s just a crack, but maybe enough to kick a foot into, and if we all push as one I believe we can open that door and force our so called representatives to up the ante to Tier 5.
On the comments page one gentleman asserted that we were not offering any answers in reference to affirmative action. I have to assume that he had not read the articles pertaining to “Pass the damned Tier 5 now!” and had not sent over 300 emails as my wife, my son, and I had. However I am convinced that enough of us did send the emails and made the calls as the story on MSNBC was the first real mention in reference to the jobless and the poor that I have seen in months.
Now to Step Two: If enough emails and calls went through, our so called representatives had to have taken notice. I believe they did. We have shown them that although we are in a thousand different places we are establishing a united force. Now let’s show them what that united force is capable of accomplishing against one or two of them. Let’s show them that our united force might just be turned into a voting bloc if necessary.
This is the next affirmative action we need to take. All of you start calling and emailing Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. We have to inundate them, shut down their switchboards, and make them hire additional staff to handle all the emails.
This is what you tell them, “I am a 99er and if the Tier 5 unemployment extension is not passed before you adjourn in October, I will make every effort via the internet and every other tactic I can think of to lobby voters in your state to make certain that you are not re-elected. However if it is passed I will lobby my fellow 99ers in your state to vote for you. If you get the legislation on the docket, I assure you the 99ers as one united force, will attack any and all who oppose it in reference to their re-election bids.”
99ers we must redouble our effort. Contact every site pertaining to 99ers in any way and spread the word. If you have to, go out in the streets and post flyers on telephone poles and under windshield wipers in the parking lots telling everyone to get on board. Do it. Do it now. Time grows short. If we fail it will not be a very merry Christmas, so we cannot fail.
Here are the toll free numbers for the main switch board at the Capitol. Call one of them and tell the operator you want to speak to the office of Nancy Pelosi then call back and tell the operator you want the office of Harry Reid. Do this at least once a day. If you do not have a phone, email them. If you do not have a computer the libraries and unemployment offices do.
U. S. Capitol Switchboard: 1-866-220-0044