Since 2001 growing number can't afford food

1 in 6 families in the Greater Cincinnati Area were unable to afford regular meals in the last 12 months according to new study.
"Nationally, the estimate of families who can't afford to keep their cupboards stocked has been increasing since 2001, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

"People got big utility bills, then we had the increase in gas costs. It really is killing people." rticle?AID=/20060801/NEWS01/608010377/10 77

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Ten Years After Welfare Reform, Nine Without a Minimum Wage Hike

An American worker who works at the current federal minimum wage - $5.15/ hour - for forty hours a week for fifty-two weeks, without interruption, would make $10,712.

The 2006 federal poverty line for the continental United States for a two-person family is $13,200 a year.

That means a family of one child and one parent who works full-time at the federal minimum wage is living at least $2,500 below the poverty line.

The reality faced by the working poor in America is somewhat different.  People struggle to find consistent full-time work.  People take multiple jobs adding up to well over forty hours without receiving the benefits of full-time work from any of them.  People get sick.

A decade ago, conservatives in Congress - with a good many ostensible liberals in tow - inflicted a harsh revision of the American social contract, tearing away the safety net from those who utilized its support for more than three or five years of their lives - even if they were using that time to gain the skills for a better shot at living-wage work.  

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the Right has no solution to poverty (shocking!)

Interesting story in the Washington Post Thursday about Bush and that brief moment he declared a war on poverty. Interviewing the insiders on why Bush and the conservative run congress haven't done more to fight poverty an "expert" says:

"I think it has been very difficult for them to move those kinds of things in Congress, so they haven't tried very hard," said Douglas J. Besharov, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "The truth is that all analysts, even liberal analysts, looked in the cupboard for ideas to push after Katrina, and the cupboard was bare. I don't think it was an accident that we haven't gotten a big set of proposals."

Wow. So finally conservatives admit that they are out of ideas to on how to fight poverty. Heck if the esteemed American Enterprise Institute, the sort of place where Dick Cheney was once a fellow is out of ideas than it's clearly time to just give up the fight, right? cough. gag.

The Washington Post reporter writing the article in question, "Bush's Poverty Talk is Now All But Silent" actually lists some great ideas that progressives have proposed to fight poverty. Proven solutions like raising the minimum wage, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and expanding access to higher education are all listed in the article and progressives in congress have even introduced bills proposing those solutions. Somehow these bills never seem to  make it to the floor, or they are voted down.

Given all the ideas out there the only conclusion I can draw is that Besharovdoesn't want to know what works when it comes to fighting poverty, and neither does Bush. Ok, so no-one's jaw is hitting the carpet on this but I think it is very telling that a man billed as a public policy expert doesn't seem to be aware of all the proven solutions to poverty that have been proposed-- both before and after Katrina. Maybe he doesn't read the blogs. But regardless, I know you've all read about poverty solutions here and elsewhere, so maybe its time we send Besharov some fresh ideas. (post your ideas here and I can pull a follow up together)

For ideas, Besharov could start by listening to DMI Fellow Maureen Lane. She thinks that people on welfare should be able to get more education so they can qualify for better paying jobs and you know, move out of poverty. And by golly the stats support her thesis. But when the Bush administration released new rules on who will qualify for welfare they made it even harder for people on welfare to access education.

If the Right really believed in self-empowerment they would support creating access to education for people on welfare. They would support access to higher education period- instead of making college less affordable for everyone.

So how did the Right's stab at fixing poverty go back when they were paying attention (around 1996)?
As the Post article points out welfare rolls dropped by 60% but did those people move out of poverty and into stability? Well, a 2003 Urban Institute study of people who had left welfare between 1997 and 2002 revealed that less than half had found jobs, a quarter had returned to a welfare program, and nearly one in seven had no source of income at all. Of those who worked, a third had only part-time jobs and two out of three had no health insurance.

That is not a success.

Meanwhile, in other tragic/comic news in advance of Bush's speach at the NAACP Tony Snow said that instead of discussing poverty Bush will "focus on opportunities available to everyone." And then what did Bush proceed to talk about? The Estate Tax! Something that 0.27% of Americans pay. Um getting out of paying the dynasty tax isn't an opportunity available to me because there's just no way in heck I'd ever qualify to pay that tax in the first place. Someone is out of touch.

Well, its been a very informative day for me. Maybe those people funding the American Enterprise Institute to solve the problems of the day will consider giving DMI money instead now that Besharov's well of wisdom has dried up.  A girl can dream dear readers. Dream for a day when funders and leaders care what works and what doesn't.
(hat tip to Think Progress for the NAACP speech coverage)

(and this is crossposted at the DMIblog )

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Why Organizing Matters

The difference between campaigning and organizing is a critical one, and it’s time for the left to refocus on organizing over campaigning. Organizing requires that relationships between people with the same values and interests be developed over time, in the context of leadership development, political education and community building. Campaigning simply calls for messages that either generate immediate action from a targeted demographic or that call on the already converted to act. Organizing is done by outreach, community building, and political education. In place of one-shot calls for action, effective organizing starts with an entry point and requires years of consistent follow-up and engagement.

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Baltimore: Freedom from Poverty Vigil & March

The United Workers is a human rights organization based in Maryland of low-wage workers working to create the political conditions for poverty’s end. This weekend the cleaners at Camden Yards and other day laborers organized an all-night vigil in front of the Orioles owner’s offices in downtown Baltimore. Workers also held a prayer breakfast and marched with supporters to draw attention to poverty’s wrongs and to how the publicly owned Camden Yards exploits low-wages workers for Peter Angelos’s private interests. Workers aired out Angelos's dirty laundry of profiting from poverty and using Camden Yards for his private gain at great cost to the community. Shirts we dirtied with poverty's ills and carried on a clothes line throughout the vigil and march.

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