Poverty & Wealth

This Is What Happened When I Took the MTA Bus to Pick Up Food Stamps

A response to a much-chattered-about article by an upper-middle-class white woman who was appalled to find herself judged when she applied for food stamps.

5 Towns Jewish times
M r. Brown folded his large hands and gleamed at me with a placid smile. Then, suddenly, he said, “You have to work!“ His tone was that of a father scolding an errant teenager. “If we give you money, you have to work!” I managed the seething anger brought on by this exchange, and compounded by the hunger I felt after having waited a few hours for my turn at this encounter, not to mention the set of events that led up to me applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). “I have a job,” I managed to say, “it’s part-time and I’m actively looking for a full time job.” I pointed to the printed e-mails of interview appointments, job applications and cover letters. He waved away my evidence and continued down his checklist. I could tell that he gave this speech regularly and had no interest in a rebuttal. I slumped down in the chair, defeated, feeling solidarity with the woman who was escorted out of the...

Minimum Wage For Tipped Workers Hasn’t Increased Since the Fall of the Soviet Union

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute shows the ravages of an artificially depressed wage on food servers and other workers.

Newscast Limited via AP Images
This article originally appeared at the website of the Moyers & Company television program. I n 1991, the US invaded Iraq for the first time. That year, the Soviet Union would dissolve into 15 independent states. Emma Roberts was born. Dances with Wolves won the Oscar for Best Picture, and Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” topped Billboard’s chart as the year’s top hit. It also marked the last time that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers was increased—by a whopping four cents, from $2.09 per hour to $2.13. At the time, the minimum for tipped workers was half of the overall floor of $4.25. Today, it stands at just 29 percent of the regular minimum wage (which, at $7.25 per hour, is already well below its real peak value of $10.71 in 1968). On Thursday, Sylvia Allegretto and David Cooper released a report for the Economic Policy Institute detailing who these workers are, how many of them are struggling to make ends meet, and debunking a few common myths about...

Justice Samuel Alito's Deep Roots in the American Right

He's the most pro-corporate jurist on the Supreme Court. So decisions that grant companies religious rights or take aim at labor unions come quite naturally to him.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr., delivers his remarks during a Federalist Society dinner gathering, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006, in Washington. This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post . S upreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ended this Supreme Court session with a bang, writing the majority opinion in two cases that gave for-profit corporations the right to make religious liberty claims to evade government regulation, and set the stage for the fulfillment of a central goal of the right-wing political movement: the destruction of public employee unions. Neither of the decisions was particularly surprising. Samuel Alito is the single most pro-corporate Justice on the most pro-business Court since the New Deal. Still, Alito's one-two punch was another extraordinary milestone for the strategists who have been working for the past 40 years to put business firmly in the driver's seat of American politics. Many would suggest that...

Corporate Tax Behavior So Bad Even Fortune Magazine Can’t Stomach It

These are companies that even a top cheerleader for the corporate class can’t bring itself to defend.

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
AP Photo/Tony Dejak Eaton Corp. Chairman and CEO Alexander Cutler at the company headquarters at Eaton Center Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005 in Cleveland. Joint ventures or acquisitions in China are also a key part of a global growth strategy. This article originally appeared at the website of the Campaign for America's Future . F ortune magazine is out with its list of “Top American corporate tax avoiders,” members of the S&P 500 that “sure seem American—except when it comes to paying taxes.” These are companies that even a top cheerleader for the corporate class can’t bring itself to defend. What’s more, the list is accompanied by a blistering article by columnist Allan Sloan that makes the progressive case against corporate tax evasion as forcefully as anything Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren might say on the Senate floor. There is “a new kind of American corporate exceptionalism,” he writes: “companies that have decided to desert our country to avoid paying taxes but expect...

Without Economic and Educational Justice, There Is No Racial Justice

A half-century after Freedom Summer, African Americans continue to face severe barriers not just to voting, but also to economic security.

PRNewsFoto/Newseum, Ted Polumbaum via AP Images
PRNewsFoto/Newseum, Ted Polumbaum via AP Student civil rights activists join hands and sing as they prepare to leave Ohio to register black voters in Mississippi. The 1964 voter registration campaign was known as Freedom Summer. O n a hot, dusty June day fifty years ago, during what became known as Freedom Summer, college students began to arrive in Mississippi—then the most closed society in America—to help register black residents to vote. Three civil rights workers were brutally murdered, a trauma that pierced the heart of our nation and thrust into the open the racist oppression of black political rights by Mississippi’s leaders. Since that momentous summer, our country has made great strides to extend civil and political rights to all Americans regardless of race. Still, African Americans today face obstacles just as real as poll taxes and segregated restrooms; the difference is that these obstacles are now embedded in our institutions and social structures instead of being...

Shifting Tactics, Moral Monday Movement Launches a New Freedom Summer

Fifty years after the murders of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, North Carolina activists move from civil disobedience to big voter mobilization push.

©Jenny Warburg
Photos by Jenny Warburg for The American Prospect ©Jenny Warburg The North Carolina NAACP’s Moral Freedom Summer organizers, shown here at a Raleigh protest, fanned out across the state to register and educate voters in advance of the November 2014 elections. “ I normally wear cuff links,” the Rev. William Barber II told the 75 activists, black and white, who filled the pews at Davie Street Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh Monday night. “But it’s time to roll up our sleeves.” With those words, the president of the North Carolina NAACP launched the next phase of the Moral Monday movement, the broad faith-based response to the state’s recent sharp-right policy turn. The movement, founded by Barber in 2013 and backed by dozens of church and advocacy groups, is temporarily shifting its attention away from the civil-disobedience protests that yielded more than 1,000 arrests. Between now and Election Day in November, Moral Monday leaders plan to concentrate on local communities and a...

Supreme Court Rules Disadvantaged Workers Should Be Disadvantaged Some More

DVA.gov
DVA.gov The United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. T he conservative majority on the Supreme Court today took up the case of some of America’s most disadvantaged workers, and ruled that they should be disadvantaged some more. The five-to-four ruling in Harris v. Quinn goes a long way to crippling the efforts that unions have made to help these workers get out of poverty. The case concerned some 28,000 home care aides in Illinois whose paychecks come from Medicaid. Before the state agreed in 2003 that they could form a union, they made the minimum wage. (It’s the state that sets their wage rate, since their pay comes entirely from Medicaid.) Currently, as a result of their union contract, they make $11.85 an hour rather than the minimum of $7.25. Tomorrow, by the terms of their contract, their hourly rate is raised to $12.25, and on December 1 st to $13. The right to hire and fire these workers remains solely, of course, that of their home-bound patients and their...

What Americans Think of the Poor

Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center has released one of their periodic Political Typology studies , and as usual it contains a wealth of fascinating data on what people think about a whole range of issues. One of the most useful things about it is that instead of just asking people whether they consider themselves liberals or conservatives, it constructs a typology based on a series of questions, enabling them to divide people in a more fine-grained way that doesn't rely solely on self-identification (they divide Americans into two strongly conservative groups, one mostly conservative group, one mostly liberal group, and three more strongly liberal groups). When I went through the survey, one question jumped out at me, the one represented here: Those of you who read my writing regularly know that I make an effort to understand where people who disagree with me are coming from. That doesn't mean I'm any less likely to disagree with them, or even that I don't use barbed language sometimes in...

What President Obama Could Do Today to Help Working Families

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day, in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014. This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post . O n Monday, the White House held a summit on working families. The summit is intended to call attention to the fact that President Barack Obama wants to raise wages and job opportunities for working Americans, especially for working women. This is a welcome initiative, though there is a great deal that the president could do by executive order without waiting for a deadlocked Congress to act. The grotesque income inequality in our economy has at last some in for some overdue attention. For the vast majority of working Americans, there is only one source of income -- wages and salaries. Since the late 1970s, earnings for most working people have been flat, while the economy's productivity and the pay of...

Dear Thom Tillis: How Long Does It Take For a Black Person to Become a Traditional North Carolinian?

An open letter to the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, who is currently running for U.S. Senate, is prompted by his comments about the Republican Party's demographics.

AP Photo/Chuck Burton
AP Photo/Chuck Burton In this May 6, 2014, photo Thom Tillis speaks to supporters at a election night rally in Charlotte, N.C., after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate Tuesday, May 6, 2014. D ear Thom: I hope I can call you Thom; you may certainly call me Cynthia. Given the circumstances—given how far the policies you've supported since becoming Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives have reached into my home and even my vagina —I feel we are on intimate terms that make surnames superfluous. In your 2012 comments to Carolina Business Review , unearthed by TPM last week, you talked about how Republicans need to reach out to communities of color, the type of GOP hand-wringing we've heard since Mitt Romney went down in flames. I believe your specific comment was this: The traditional population of North Carolina and the United States is more or less stable. It’s not growing. The African American population is roughly growing but the Hispanic population...

Billionaires Behind the Attack on Public Education in California Tenure Suit

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Welch founded the anti-tenure organization Students Matter. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. L ast week, something happened in a Los Angeles courtroom that rocked the education policy world. A judge declared due process rights for teachers—commonly known as "tenure" unconstitutional in the state of California in the case Vergara v. California , so named for one of the...

Photo Essay: Moral Mondays' Potent Symbols and Creative Actions

So far in the 2014 North Carolina legislative session, lawmakers have witnessed weekly actions: a silent protest, a sit-in in the Speaker's office, and prayerful bread-breaking by the activists of the Moral Monday movement, chronicled here in a photo essay.

©Jenny Warburg
N orth Carolina’s 2014 legislative session, which began May 14, is now in full swing. So is the Moral Monday movement, the NAACP-led, faith-based opposition to the state’s recent dismantling of voting rights, civil liberties, and the social safety net. The movement, now in its second year, has built a solid foundation of support from a wide array of churches and issue-based organizations, including labor, immigrant, and women’s groups. This spring, as legislators have tried to limit protests and sometimes even avoid the building on Mondays, organizers have grown adept at surprising lawmakers with unannounced, targeted, and sometimes colorful actions. These photographs by Jenny Warburg chronicle the action in and around the state legislative building. --Barry Yeoman Click here to read Barry Yeoman's full account of this year's Moral Monday protests. Yeoman also built the slideshow of Warburg's photographs and wrote the captions. North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement Holding Ground in...

Meet the Billionaire Brothers You Never Heard of Who Fund the Religious Right

The Wilks brothers, whose fortune comes from fracking, give tens of millions to right-wing groups and anti-choice "pregnancy centers," anti-LGBT groups, and organizations affiliated with ALEC.

Cisco Chamber of Commerce
Cisco Chamber of Commerce Farris and Dan Wilks, principals in Frac Tech and listed among the world's richest people by Forbes, flank their father, Voy Wilks, at the 2007 awards banquet of the Cisco Chamber of Commerce. This article was produced by and originally published by Right Wing Watch , the blog of People for the American Way. L ast June, presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz traveled to Iowa for an event convened by David Lane, a political operative who uses pastors to mobilize conservative Christian voters. Lane is a Christian-nation extremist who believes the Bible should be a primary textbook in America’s public schools, and that any politician who disagrees should be voted out. Lane’s events are usually closed to the media, but he has given special access to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s sympathetic David Brody. Brody’s coverage of the Iowa event included short video clips of comments by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who were identified only as members of...

Four Fundamental Econ Facts Missed By Economist Cantor-Slayer David Brat

AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch
AP Photo, P. Kevin Morley/Richmond Times-Dispatch Dave Brat speaks to hundreds of supporters after beating Republican Congressman Eric Cantor in Tuesday's Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District in Virginia, June 10, 2014. O n MSNBC Wednesday morning, Chuck Todd asked David Brat, the Eric-Cantor-slayer, Ayn Rand acolyte, and chairman of the economics department at Randolph-Macon College, about his viewpoint on the minimum wage. Here’s their exchange: TODD: S hould there be a minimum wage in your opinion? BRAT: I don't have a well-crafted response on that one. All I know is if you take the long-run graph over 200 years of the wage rate, it cannot differ from your nation's productivity. Right? So you can't make up wage rates. Right? I would love for everyone in sub-Saharan Africa, for example— children of God—to make $100 an hour. I would love to just assert that that would be the case. But you can't assert that unless you raise their productivity, and then the wage...

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Rethinking 'Zero Tolerance'

A new approach to discipline seeks to keep kids in school and, ultimately, out of prison. In one high school, the number of serious incidents of misbehavior plummeted 60 percent, after the start of a "restorative justice" program.

Photo illustration by Jesse Lenz
Photo illustration by Jesse Lenz B efore 2006, when Debora Borges-Carrera became the principal at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School (KCAPA) in north Philadelphia, the school was the scene of pandemonium. Not a day seemed to go by without a fight in the concrete stairwell. Kids sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class roamed the hallways. During one visit from the superintendent, a riot broke out in the cafeteria, with students climbing on tables and chucking their meal trays across the room. In Borges-Carrera’s first year on the job, the school—where about 90 percent of students are Latino or black and 100 percent are below the poverty line—reported 76 incidents of student misbehavior, more than four times the state average, including 13 aggravated assaults on staff members. Under KCAPA’s “zero tolerance” policy—since the late 1990s, the prevailing approach to discipline in schools across the country—the typical response to student misbehavior was harsh...

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