Monica Potts

Monica Potts is an Arkansas-based writer, currently writing a book about the women of her rural hometown.

Recent Articles

How Much Should a Government Employee Make?

Sen. Scott Brown is the latest to mount an attack on "lavish" federal wages. It's yet another version of the conservative attack on government.

The Wethersfield, Connecticut, Department of Motor Vehicles. (AP Photo/Bob Child)
On his inaugural spin on the Sunday talk show circuit, Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts called for a freeze on federal-employee pay, which he said was twice that of private-sector counterparts. It was an issue he campaigned on as a way to bring government spending under control. "Lavish pay and benefit packages have unfortunately become a way of life for public employees," he said at an event in January. "It's time to bring fiscal sanity to Washington. I support a temporary freeze on federal wages until the Congress devises a plan to control spending and debt." The obsession with government-employee pay is surfacing at the state and city levels as well. Colorado Springs is cutting services in the face of mounting budget deficits. Tax increases can only be approved by referendum, and residents recently voted one down. In November, a city councilman proposed reducing employee pay. A local business leader named Stephen Bartolin has criticized a city employee pay and benefits package...

Funding Teacher Training.

Teach for America is poised to lose its dedicated $18 million grant from the federal government and will instead have to compete for a bigger pool of money with other organizations that train teachers, reports the Washington Post today. The Department of Education presents the proposal as a good thing for the nonprofit, since they could receive more money. But, of course, the agency spokesperson says losing the guaranteed level of funding for the risk of competition is hard. It's difficult to think of many teacher-training programs on the scale of Teach for America, which placed 4,100 teachers in schools around the country last fall, according to the Post . In New York, the city government pays for new teachers to earn their master's degrees if they teach for public schools through the New York City Teaching Fellows program, and before heading D.C. public schools Michelle Rhee , a TFA alum, founded the New Teacher Project to help career changers make the transition into teaching. But...

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...

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