Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Millions Using Food Stamps—The Functions Of Social Welfare Programs

The New York Times reports that 36 million Americans are using food stamp programs. Here is a portion of the what the story on this subject says—-

“It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs….Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare….While the numbers have soared during the recession, the path was cleared in better times when the Bush administration led a campaign to erase the program’s stigma, calling food stamps “nutritional aid” instead of welfare, and made it easier to apply. That bipartisan effort capped an extraordinary reversal from the 1990s, when some conservatives tried to abolish the program, Congress enacted large cuts and bureaucratic hurdles chased many needy people away.”

Here is the full story.

I made a point to use the part of the story that talks about the role former President George W. Bush and Republicans played in making the program more available. I was not aware of this and it was not what I expected to read.

I don’t have any illusions that President Bush and the Republicans who ran Congress for much of his time in office were very nice folks, but sometimes in life you get surprised.

Of course, you never know what people’s motives are.

A book I read some years ago about the history of public benefits for people in need was Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare by Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward.

Below is an assessment of this book by an Alice Chang. Ms. Chang is an activist and author in Oakland.

I believe that Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward’s Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare, first released in 1971, is perhaps one of the most important books to read for anyone trying to understand the relationships between welfare policy, poverty and coerced labor. Piven and Cloward expose how welfare policy not only does not give poor people “relief” from poverty, but forces them to accept low-wage, exploitative, dead-end jobs. In fact, Piven and Cloward suggest, poverty policy and practice have historically been coupled with labor practice to accommodate local employers’ demands for cheap labor, particularly in service work and in agriculture. Poverty policy is designed and implemented to serve two basic functions. In times of economic downturn, welfare can be expanded to prevent or quell uprising by unemployed masses. Or, in times of relative economic and political stability, welfare can be contracted to expel people from the rolls, thus ensuring their availability to do low-wage work for local employers. Piven and Cloward describe this second function of welfare policy as ‘enforcing’ low-wage work, and the term is just as useful today in describing the use of so-called ‘welfare-to-work’ policies to coerce working poor people into ever more exploitative low- and no-wage jobs.”

The paragraph above is from the web home of the AFL-CIO. It is from a page on the website called–Books, Films, Plays, and Lessons that Change Lives.

36 million people in a lot of folks. And that is not all the people who would qualify for this program under full enrollment.

I hope President Obama soon takes a more active role in addressing the economic concerns of Americans.

It would be good to hear the President speak about how he thinks Americans will find work in a time when technology is helping employers shed jobs, working people have little money to spend to help fuel the economy, and other nations in the world are entering the global economic mainstream.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans Have High Unemployment Rates

USA Today reports that 11.2% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are currently unemployed

From the article—

“The economic downturn is hitting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans harder than other workers — one in nine are now out of work — and may be encouraging some troops to remain in the service, according to Labor Department records and military officials.

The 11.2% jobless rate for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and who are 18 and older rose 4 percentage points in the past year. That’s significantly higher than the corresponding 8.8% rate for non-veterans in the same age group, says Labor Department economist Jim Walker.”

This high unemployment is the thanks we offer as a nation for the service these veterans have offered.

Whether it be children, old folks, or veterans, the widespread expression of public sentiment in our society for any group of people is often the kiss of death. 

We often despise people who remind us of our potential weakness as individuals and who remind us of our obligations to others.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Reading About The Panic Of 1873 In Front Of The Enron Building

This video is called Reading About The Panic of 1873 While In Front Of The Former Enron Building. It is the second video on the blog. This video is about three minutes long.

Please click here to see the first video on this blog.

I view the ability for average person to make a video as an updated kind of folk art. Here are various definitions of folk art. One idea of folk art is people without any artistic training creating something with the tools they have at hand.

All people are able to express themselves in some creative way.

Here is information about the impact of the Panic of 1873 in New York. This article discusses what the 1873 crisis had in common with the current economic distress. 

There were issues of banks and credit and greedy speculation.  

Here is a good essay about the impact of the Panic of 1873 in Illinois.    

Here is the Panic of 1873 for kids from PBS.

The book I read from in the video is The Age of Lincoln by Orville Burton. 

Here is a chronology of Enron events from USA Today

Here are a series of articles about Enron from the Houston Chronicle.

Here is a history of Enron from the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

In the video, the sun is partially on my big head while the other portion of my head is in shadow. This makes my head somewhat like this drawing of the Earth—Part light and part dark. Here is an explanation of daylight.  Here is an explanation of night time on the Earth.

Thanks for reading Texas Liberal. Please feel free to offer a comment. If you like the blog, please forward the link. A blog grows one reader at a time.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Blogging, Books, History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Recession Is Like A Hurricane That Goes On For Months And Has No Evacuation Route

More jobs cuts today. It seems that big  job cuts take place every day.

This recession is like hurricane that goes on day after day and month after month. There is no evacuation route. You can’t just stock up on food and water and wait for it to pass.

What will  be left after it passes? It is hard to imagine at this point that the damage will not be significant.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

In Support Of Loans For The American Auto Industry

I support the extension of loans by the United States government to help save the American auto industry. What the auto companies are looking for are loans and not handouts.

The United Auto Workers union has agreed to major concessions to help the big three car makers and to help gain approval in Congress to pass the loan package.

Republicans in Congress would love to see the UAW go away as payback for its support of Democratic candidates. Revenge is not a suitable justification for endangering the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people.

One poll suggests the American people are currently opposed to what is being termed–incorrectly–as a “bailout.”

One can understand the fatigue with government money for private concerns. But where are we going to work in this country? How are we going to live? Where are decent jobs going to be found?

I think most people understand–on some level they understand–that what is at issue in this current economic downturn is not simply “when will it end” or “how will I get by for the next few months.”

Rather, the issue is that when the recession has passed as determined by the so-called economic experts, will we as individuals, as families, as members of a community, have viable economic futures? What jobs will be left with salaries and benefits able to sustain us?

I’m not going to oppose this loan package because of private jets, or political calculations, or pointless resentment over what UAW workers are earning. Instead, I’m going to support the future well-being of American workers.

By advocating for other working people, we are advocating for ourselves. By supporting this temporary assistance to the American Auto industry, we are backing the long term economic prospects of all Americans.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Politics, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Robert Reich’s Views On The Economy & Income Inequailty

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently wrote an opinion column in the New York Times about the current recession. He said Americans have over the last three decades sent women into the work place, worked longer hours and borrowed against their homes to make up for an ongoing decline in wages and buying power.

Mr. Reich suggests that this has all finally caught up with us and that steps must be taken now to address permanent declines in wages and purchasing power.

Here is Mr. Reich’s home page.

Mr. Reich proposes changes in the tax code to assist moderate and low income Americans, stronger unions, and better education as possible solutions to these problems.

Here as some excerpts from the column. You can click the link at the top for the full piece—      

WE’RE sliding into recession… and Washington is turning to the normal remedies for economic downturns. But the normal remedies are not likely to work this time, because this isn’t a normal downturn.

The problem lies deeper. It is the culmination of three decades during which American consumers have spent beyond their means…. 

The only lasting remedy, other than for Americans to accept a lower standard of living…, is to give middle- and lower-income Americans more buying power…..

Much of the current debate is irrelevant. Even with more tax breaks for business… companies won’t invest in more factories or equipment when demand is dropping ….temporary fixes like a stimulus package that would give households a one-time cash infusion won’t get consumers back to the malls, because consumers know the assistance is temporary. The problems most consumers face are permanent…

The underlying problem has been building for decades. America’s median hourly wage is barely higher than it was 35 years ago, adjusted for inflation. … Most of what’s been earned in America since then has gone to the richest 5 percent.

The problem has been masked for years as middle- and lower-income Americans found ways to live beyond their paychecks. But now they have run out of ways.

The first way was to send more women into paid work. Most women streamed into the work force in the 1970s less because new professional opportunities opened up to them than because they had to prop up family incomes. 

So Americans turned to a second way of spending beyond their hourly wages. They worked more hours…

But there’s.. a limit to how many hours Americans can put into work, so Americans turned to a third way of spending beyond their wages. They began to borrow….they turned their homes into piggy banks by refinancing home mortgages and taking out home-equity loans…. .

The binge seems to be over. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth.

The only way to keep the economy going over the long run is to increase the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans. The answer is not to protect jobs through trade protection. That would only drive up the prices of everything purchased from abroad. Most routine jobs are being automated anyway.

A larger earned-income tax credit, financed by a higher marginal income tax on top earners, is required. The tax credit functions like a reverse income tax. Enlarging it would mean giving workers at the bottom a bigger wage supplement, as well as phasing it out at a higher wage. 

We also need stronger unions, especially in the local service sector that’s sheltered from global competition. Employees should be able to form a union without the current protracted certification process that gives employers too much opportunity to intimidate or coerce them.

Over the longer term, inequality can be reversed only through better schools for children in lower- and moderate-income communities. This will require, at the least, good preschools, fewer students per classroom and better pay for teachers in such schools, in order to attract the teaching talent these students need.

These measures are necessary to give Americans enough buying power to keep the American economy going. They are also needed to overcome widening inequality, and thereby keep America in one piece.

February 14, 2008 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments