Monica Potts

Monica Potts is a senior writer for The American Prospect and a fellow with the New America Foundation Asset Building Program. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate. She also blogs at PostBourgie.

Recent Articles

Paying Too Well?

ProPublica shouldn't pay so well. At least, that's the argument it sounds like Felix Salmon is trying to make over at Reuters today regarding a ProPublica advertisement for an intern to make $700 per week. He extrapolates that salary rate for the 12-week internship into what it would mean annually, about $36,000. The problem with his post is manifold. Salmon uses census data from 1999 to pin the New York City per-capita income at $22,402. It's weird to use per-capita income, since it includes children and non-workers. It tells you a lot about the standard of living for the population as a whole, but it doesn't tell you a lot about whether $700 a week is a fair wage. If the intern has a child, then they're doing a little worse than that. If they have an employed partner, it depends on how much the partner is making. Secondly, it's unclear why he would use the data in the first place. It may be the last official census number available, but it's so old it's useless for a comparison...

Feeding the Poor.

The number of people on food stamps has been increasing nationwide, reports The New York Times . The growth comes not just through increased need but also through government outreach and promotion of the nutrition program on behalf of states. And the trend began way before the recent downturn: The revival began a decade ago, after tough welfare laws chased millions of people from the cash rolls, many into low-wage jobs as fast-food workers, maids, and nursing aides. Newly sympathetic officials saw food stamps as a way to help them. For states, the program had another appeal: the benefits are federally paid. But support also turned on chance developments, including natural disasters (which showed the program’s value in emergencies) and the rise of plastic benefit cards (which eased stigma and fraud). The program has commercial allies, in farmers and grocery stores, and it got an unexpected boost from President George W. Bush , whose food stamp administrator, Eric Bost , proved an...

Being Poor in the Suburbs.

Last month, Brookings released a report that showed poverty on the rise in suburbs, especially in the Midwest -- now, suburbs have the largest share of the nation's poor. Suburbs often don't have the same same level of services that many cities do, and the absence of things like good public transportation alongside the collapse of boom-era housing are compounding the problem, reports the Christian Science Monitor . Because the suburbs have not been accustomed to helping the poor, they lack the services to cope with issues such as homelessness. Emergency and social services, for instance, are traditionally concentrated in urban centers. That's made things worse, says Brookings's Ms. (Elizabeth) Kneebone . Now that the suburbs have more poor people than the cities, she says, it's likely that "the safety net hasn't changed to catch up with these trends. So that is a concern – that there are gaps as needs grow in these communities." At the same time, service agencies are already stretched...

Labor's Loss.

The same day that congressional leaders met in an effort to find bipartisan accord and Obama urged Congress to get beyond "petty politics," petty politics reigned. Republicans, and a few Democrats, successfully blocked the appointment of Craig Becker , a union lawyer, to the National Labor Relations Board. The scuffle over Becker is part of a more heated conflict between business groups and unions over the Employee Free Choice Act or "card check" bill that would deny companies the right to demand an employee representation election before they have to recognize a union as a collective bargaining agent. Becker, a lawyer for the AFL-CIO and the Service Employees International Union, has spoken favorably on card check. Some of his legal writings suggest that its goals could be accomplished by the NLRB without Congress having to pass the legislation. Those writings upset the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent $1 million trying to get Scott Brown elected in Massachusetts as part of its...

Tackling Childhood Health Problems.

President Obama created a task force today that will be part of First Lady Michelle Obama's effort to address childhood obesity: Members of the task force include: the Secretary of the Interior; the Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Health and Human Services; Secretary of Education; Director of the Office of Management and Budget; Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady; Assistant to the President for Economic Policy; and heads of other executive departments, agencies, or offices as the Chair may designate. Arguments over whether to do things like tax soda or ban junk food in schools usually break down when someone tries to argue that it means the government is telling you what to do. But it seems absurd to expand that argument to what children eat and whether they exercise, since children spend much of their time at schools and many do the bulk of their eating there. What they're given to eat and whether they're taught to be active can have a big...

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