Quote of the day

The “Report Abstract” for the “Growth in the Residential Segregation of Families by Income, 1970-2009” study tells that:

As overall income inequality grew in the last four decades, high- and low-income families have become increasingly less likely to live near one another. Mixed income neighborhoods have grown rarer, while affluent and poor neighborhoods have grown much more common. In fact, the share of the population in large and moderate-sized metropolitan areas who live in the poorest and most affluent neighborhoods has more than doubled since 1970, while the share of families living in middle-income neighborhoods dropped from 65 percent to 44 percent. The residential isolation of the both poor and affluent families has grown over the last four decades, though affluent families have been generally more residentially isolated than poor families during this period. Income segregation among African Americans and Hispanics grew more rapidly than among non-Hispanic whites, especially since 2000. These trends are consequential because people are affected by the character of the local areas in which they live. The increasing concentration of income and wealth (and therefore of resources such as schools, parks, and public services) in a small number of neighborhoods results in greater disadvantages for the remaining neighborhoods where low- and middle-income families live.

Quote of the day

Joseph Grosso wonders about a viciously cold America:

What is it about the even barely noticed presence of poverty that sends so much of American politics and culture into attack mode? Harsh treatment of the poor of course has a long history in the work houses, debtors’ prisons, and chimney-sweepers, as any reader of Blake, Dickens, Hugo, and Zola can recognize. Yet in the present-day one would be hard-pressed to find a society more intolerant than the present United States. By now the facts have been so rehashed as to become strangely easier to ignore: the highest rate of poverty in the Western world, highest child poverty, highest permanent poverty, highest income inequality, highest rate of incarceration, highest health-care costs, it can go on and on. On top of it all one will probably the only society where one will find more, or at least as many, protests against improving any of this as for; where else in the world are there pro-austerity marches?

America — a place where everyone must have a job but also a place which shows neither a living wage nor a full employment platform for either legacy party.

A God fearing land?

Poverty in America — the almost official estimate

The situation today is worse than we believed it to be, especially among the elderly, according to the new Census Bureau estimate (h/t David Dayen):

A record number of Americans — 49.1 million — are poor, based on a new census measure that for the first time takes into account rising medical costs and other expenses.

The numbers released Monday are part of a first-ever supplemental poverty measure aimed at providing a fuller picture of poverty. Although considered experimental, they promise to stir fresh debate over Social Security, Medicare and programs to help the poor as a congressional supercommittee nears a Nov. 23 deadline to make more than $1 trillion in cuts to the federal budget.

Based on the revised formula, the number of poor people exceeds the record 46.2 million, or 15.1 percent, that was officially reported in September.

Broken down by group, Americans 65 or older sustained the largest increases in poverty under the revised formula — nearly doubling to 15.9 percent, or 1 in 6 — because of medical expenses that are not accounted for in the official rate. Those include rising Medicare premiums, deductibles and expenses for prescription drugs. [emphases added]

Life will become even direr for America’s senior citizens and low-income wage earners when the Federal government finally and completely commits itself to imposing an austerity regime on the country.

Quote of the day

Writing for TomDispatch, The inimitable Francis Fox Piven points to a few of the political achievements rightly attributable to the Occupy Movement:

We’ve been at war for decades now — not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but right here at home. Domestically, it’s been a war against the poor, but if you hadn’t noticed, that’s not surprising. You wouldn’t often have found the casualty figures from this particular conflict in your local newspaper or on the nightly TV news. Devastating as it’s been, the war against the poor has gone largely unnoticed — until now.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has already made the concentration of wealth at the top of this society a central issue in American politics. Now, it promises to do something similar when it comes to the realities of poverty in this country.

By making Wall Street its symbolic target, and branding itself as a movement of the 99%, OWS has redirected public attention to the issue of extreme inequality, which it has recast as, essentially, a moral problem. Only a short time ago, the “morals” issue in politics meant the propriety of sexual preferences, reproductive behavior, or the personal behavior of presidents. Economic policy, including tax cuts for the rich, subsidies and government protection for insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and financial deregulation, was shrouded in clouds of propaganda or simply considered too complex for ordinary Americans to grasp.

Now, in what seems like no time at all, the fog has lifted and the topic on the table everywhere seems to be the morality of contemporary financial capitalism. The protestors have accomplished this mainly through the symbolic power of their actions: by naming Wall Street, the heartland of financial capitalism, as the enemy, and by welcoming the homeless and the down-and-out to their occupation sites. And of course, the slogan “We are the 99%” reiterated the message that almost all of us are suffering from the reckless profiteering of a tiny handful. (In fact, they aren’t far off: the increase in income of the top 1% over the past three decades about equals the losses of the bottom 80%.)

The movement’s moral call is reminiscent of earlier historical moments when popular uprisings invoked ideas of a “moral economy” to justify demands for bread or grain or wages — for, that is, a measure of economic justice. Historians usually attribute popular ideas of a moral economy to custom and tradition, as when the British historian E.P. Thompson traced the idea of a “just price” for basic foodstuffs invoked by eighteenth century English food rioters to then already centuries-old Elizabethan statutes.
But the rebellious poor have never simply been traditionalists. In the face of violations of what they considered to be their customary rights, they did not wait for the magistrates to act, but often took it upon themselves to enforce what they considered to be the foundation of a just moral economy.

One way to criminalize poverty

As Barbara Ehrenreich pointed out:

What the Occupy Wall Streeters are beginning to discover, and homeless people have known all along, is that most ordinary, biologically necessary activities are illegal when performed in American streets — not just peeing, but sitting, lying down, and sleeping. While the laws vary from city to city, one of the harshest is in Sarasota, Florida, which passed an ordinance in 2005 that makes it illegal to “engage in digging or earth-breaking activities” — that is, to build a latrine — cook, make a fire, or be asleep and “when awakened state that he or she has no other place to live.”

It is illegal, in other words, to be homeless or live outdoors for any other reason. It should be noted, though, that there are no laws requiring cities to provide food, shelter or restrooms for their indigent citizens.

Homelessness: A living death

A sensible question to ask

ThinkProgress tweets:

Why didn’t the GOP even hold a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment when they controlled the WH, House and Senate under Bush?

One feasible answer: The GOP needed a willing Democratic president to gut the many social programs on which Americans now or will need.

Barack Obama — the man who liberated the GOP!

America’s shame before the world

According to a Think Progress report:

James Richard Verone spent his whole life playing by the rules and staying out of trouble. Having worked as a delivery man for Coca Cola for 17 years, Verone was known as a hard worker and honest man.

Yet when he was laid off from Coca Cola three years ago, Verone was desperate to find work. He eventually found work as a convenience clerk, yet he began to notice a protrusion in his chest. He developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and soon the pain became too much for him to bear. He filed for disability, but he was denied any sort of coverage by the federal government.

So earlier this month, Verone drove to a local RBC Bank and told the teller he was robbing them for a dollar. He said he wanted to rob the bank in order to go to jail and get medical coverage….”