Reader’s Forum: Bronx Community College Students react to $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

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Dr. Rafael Mendez is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Psychology at Bronx Community College.  He is on the faculty at the Eastside Institute for Short-term and Group Therapy and is a senior clinician of the Social Therapy Group. He is also a founding and national board member of the All Stars Project, Inc.

Dr. Mendez invited his students to participate in Politics for the People, to read a chapter or two from $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America and to share their thoughts with us here and then join our conference call on Sunday, December 3rd.

In today’s Reader’s Forum, we have comments from 13 students

 

Tiffany Guzman is currently taking Abnormal Psychology at Bronx Community College. She read Chapter Three: A Room of One’s Own

My thoughts on this chapter is that we as a society are not doing enough to help those who are living in poverty. Many people in America cannot afford housing leaving them to to do their best to try to get into a shelter that is usually at full capacity, move in with family members or friends and some might have no choice but to live in the streets. Society has been going through a crisis of housing instability for well over a decade and it does not seem to be getting any better. The causes for this crisis is that the cost of housing is at an all-time high and wages are too low to pay one’s rent. Society has tried to help those who have lost their home but it’s very difficult to get housing assistance due to the wait lists being incredible long for housing and section 8, section 8 is also closed as a result of the high volume of applicants, and there are also not enough units available. The effects of this crisis are abominable it can lead to these vulnerable people to experience physical, verbal, and sexual abuse, also stress, and sickness due to living in uninhabitable condition all because they have no home. I believe that we have to do more and provide more public assistance program to help find all those in need housing because everyone deserves to have a roof over their head. Society should guarantee housing to all its citizens because it helps support their basic need.

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Delmary Ortiz, who is taking “Life Span Development” shared the following post:

My thoughts on the readings made me look deeply into the situations that hit close to home with either friends, family even neighbors going through similar situations. As a parent as Jennifer is to Kaitlin and Cole, her biggest concern was safety which is to most parents. It saddens me to find out that a family member had molested Kaitlin. You would think your kids would be safe around people you call family but it is not always the case. I’m currently taking Human Service to become a social worker soon. I would love to assist families in finding services that can better assist their situations.

I am a NYCHA resident and have been for the past 3 years. You can say after readings these stories that I was lucky only being on the waiting list for 3 years. When I applied for housing, section 8 was currently opened but I was not informed of what that was. We live in a world that is every man for themselves. For this reason, I want to become a social worker to help the community develop a strong stable hub so, that they can be knowledgeable in what is offered for the situations they might be facing. You get discourage to even get help because the people helping you have such a discouraging attitude.

My question to you is how can we move forward, when the systems that are built to help you sustain stability are failing?

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Kauri Moronta is taking the Psychology of Infancy and Childhood.

We see people living in poverty all around the country.  In the book “$2 a Day, Living on Almost Nothing” it states that low-income families are “eating up” far more than they can afford. We need money to eat, for clothing and other necessities.   It says that 30 percent of income is spent on housing which is a “cost burden”.  I can apply this theory to myself and my family.  The rent in my house is about one third of my mother’s income, therefore we need government support.  This is the case in households living in poverty.

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Kristiana Brooks shares,

I thought the stories in this chapter were extremely sad but it was not surprising to me. These type of stories have become the norms in today’s society and culture. It continues to be an ongoing cycle of struggling families trying to make ends meet, bending backwards to try and make it to the top but the system is not made for them to succeed. Sadly, the children in these families have a high percentage of being in the same position as their parents and are vulnerable growing up in abusive situations because of the lifestyle they are forced to live. How can society just be “okay” with knowing that there are families suffering day to day trying to get through? With no food, water, heat and the list goes on and on. Everyone is so focused on trying to make their own life better that we do not even think to wonder how others are doing. We automatically assume “if I can do it, they can do it”. But that is far from the truth. Families like the ones told in the story will most likely never make it out.

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I am Nicole Diaz. I am studying psychology in Bronx Community College. I am student of Rafael Mendez in his class Child Development. I work in Grey Stone Learning Center and I active in my church 7 Seven Day Adventist which I teach bible study to kids.

Nicole read Chapter 2: “Perilous Work” and Chapter 3: “A Room of One’s Own”.

When I read chapter 2 and 3 I was actually amazed because the writer portrays the real life of poor in the United stated in different aspect. She went to details in the economic, emotion and health that those poor women have to handle. In the economic aspect she points out the way that those programs of the government really work and the way that they are affecting the poor development. For example, in chapter 2 there was a part that was talking about stamp. I read something that is so true that if you work and you just gain a little bit of money they reduce your stamps with these make you not want to work harder because if you do, they just take more from you. Being able to read about all these situations that is actually happening makes me feel that there are people like the writer that is seeing what we poor people are going through. It is actually refreshing because it makes you see that you are not crazy. One of the things that the government actually do and the book portrays it so well is that they make you feel that what they are giving to you is the best and if you want more the system does not let you develop in anyways.

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Cindy Alvarez writes,

The title of the book is very catchy and makes you wonder who can live with just $2 dollars a day, but after reading chapter 3 I was informed that people in America live on that amount. Housing instability is unjust and unfair but still seems not to get attention from our government, which is disheartening and sheds light on the greedy 1% of people who are millionaires in America.  This makes me think about how gentrification is affecting New York City right now in 2017, how people of color are getting kicked out of their homes because the raise of rent and landlords doing things purposely to get people out. These people are getting kicked out because they don’t have enough money to pay for their rent and people take advantage of the poor as shown in this book.

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Raysa Polanco is taking “Life Span Development” with Dr. Mendez and submitted the following comment:

This story made me remember some things that happened  from the Decade of 1960 to 1990, a series of events that have profound effects on the indigent families in the United States. In  Kathryn J. Edín  and H. Lucas Shaefer “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.” Critics of the welfare repeatedly argued that the increase of single mothers was mainly due to the increase of the rates of welfare payments through aid to families with dependent children. Despite scientific evidence offers little support for this claim, the indignation of the public against the program, led by the stereotype of “welfare Queen” that Ronald Reagan said in his speech for the nomination for the Presidency in 1976, led to the requests for further modernization of the welfare system. According to the book “$2.00 a day”, the Narrator is describing the different risks that we face people with almost nothing in America. In addition, the author describes the abuses and obstacles that affect their lives. For a long time, I have had to live a difficult situation by being a single mother. Although I am getting help from the welfare program to raise my son and I continue studying, , this really is not enough when you’re living with a high cost of rent. At the same time, I identify with the case of Jennifer Hernández because I am a single mother and I have had many problems such as health, economic and emotional.  Finally, I would like to congratulate the authors of this book for expressing the reality that we live the people of poor here in America.

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Elizabeth Ogunloye is a student in Dr. Mendez’s Abnormal Psychology class.

Some believe that people become poor because they make bad decisions. That can be true, but not all poor people are poor because of their own bad judgment. For example, death could leave behind orphans and widows. Such ones could be affect emotionally which will limit them from performing necessary work, and in turn make them poor. Can people with influence and power change society to eliminate world poverty? Some suggested theories showed that socialism or communism could achieve an international classless society in which wealth was distributed fairly. But this didn’t have much positive effect in preventing poverty. What people fail to realize is that poverty is a result of society’s action to promote and protect self-interest. Another important thing is that, poverty has nothing to do with race. Anyone can be poor.

 

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And from Maria Collado:

The book $2 a Day is very interesting because Edin and Shaefer described the story of so many people who have lived their life based on $2 a Day. I cannot imagine what those people have been through living on $2 a day because it is a extremely low income to satisfy all the basic needs of a family such as clothing, food, hosing. It is as Lenora Fulani says on her speech about poverty who has the same opinion as Edin and Shaefer “ poverty has increased because it has been racialized” based on race or ethnicity and also based on the neighborhood people live in.

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Johnny Whiting:

After listening to the presentation by Kathryn Edin and reading the chapter in the book it just made me realize what I have believed all along. The state of poverty in America is man made it started with the unequal treatment of certain races of people and classes of people every since the beginning of time we have put other humans in categories or statuses. Poverty really hit hard in the inner cities were blacks and Latinos live and I believe this is because of prejudges and discrimination lack of the proper education or tool such as books computers etc.; to teach the children of the inner city on the same level as the more privileged kid in more well off neighborhoods. The reason drugs and crime are so prevalent in the inner cities I believe is that the lack of job which means no money so how do you eat how do you feed your children how do you meet your most basic need . I also believe that the powers that be believe that a permanent working class is needed or a permanent poor class as well that’s why the government aloud drugs into our country and flood the inner cities with them a form of oppression. I also believe that the government systems set into place to so call help us really are meant to keep us down, uneducated and dependent on the government welfare is ok but what about giving jobs and jobs that a person or family can live on. Job training, affordable housing how about livable housing get rid of the slum lords if people have a nice place to live and raise there children they would feel better about themselves.

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My name is Lucero Acevedo Lugo. I am studying at Bronx Community College hopefully graduating with an Associates in Psychology next semester 2018. My course is Psy 40 and my Professor is Rafael Mendez.

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It is incredible how well I was identify with the this amazing book the $2.00 a Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shafer in chapter 3. The story about Jennifer Hernandez and her children Kaitlin and Cole a story that is a real problem and situation that most of us needs to face. I can be identify with this lady and all the struggles that we face when we talk about trying to find a house or a place to live not that expensive. The housing today it’s very had to obtain it and harder to get an apartment of housing with to rooms. I can conclude that most of our income is going directly to our rent. Rent is too expensive and it takes most of our weekly salary. This chapter really explains the reality that most families struggles with.

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Destiny Perez is a student in Introduction to Psychology. She read Chapter 3 and writes:

 

I’ve always had an idea of the hardships low-income families go through. And although I’ve never experienced it to the extent of the families talked about throughout the chapter, I do believe no one should go through that. There are so many government and federal programs that we can’t access because there are too many restrictions. Even when you do qualify for these programs, the help is not guaranteed. Reading that there are thousands of families still on the waiting list to receive help is appalling. The thought that there are thousands of families in the same situations, if not worse than Rae and Jennifer is sickening.

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Astrid Perez writes:

Housing instability is a hallmark of life among $2:00 a Day poor. Children who experience $ 2 a day poverty are far more likely to move over the course of a year than other kids.This affects children severely, not being able to finish a school year and having to start over constantly. The instability is fueled by perilous double ups- that mark and speed the descent of those who are already suffering from the fallout from non sustaining work into the ranks of the desperately poor.
People often turn to family during rough times, especially when earnings have not been sufficient to maintain a place of their own. In some cases when living with relatives, it can end in sexual, physical, or verbal abuse. This trauma often leads to the precipitating factor in a family’s fall into $2 a day poverty.  The most obvious manifestation of the affordable housing crisis is in the rising rents. Rent has raised faster than inflation. People are not making enough money to pay for rent, sustain a home, provide food, the care of their children.

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Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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Steve Hough in the Reader’s Forum

 

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Steve Hough being presented with an Anti-Corruption Award by Stephanie Harris for the NYC Independence Clubs, October 2017

$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

By: Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

A Review by Steve Hough

When my parents separated in December 1967 (divorce papers followed), my mother moved her four kids to Florida with no marketable skills and no child support. Living with my grandparents was never intended to be a permanent solution, so we soon moved into a tiny two-bedroom home. It was actually a guest house or mother-in-law’s quarters in the back yard of the main residence. It was located across town in one of the poorest sections, just blocks from the paper mill. My grandfather loaned mom his car, so she could get to work and take us to school.

That first summer my mom got a job as a hostess/waitress at a restaurant on the beach. She was able to put two of us kids to work there as well. At fourteen, I was washing dishes by hand in a sweltering kitchen. At thirteen, my sister waited tables during the breakfast shift. Mom also secured a job for my older brother as a deckhand on one of the fishing boats at the marina where the restaurant was located. He was seventeen. Our baby sister was only three, and I do not recall what arrangements were made for her while we worked. We were all lucky to be working, but the jobs disappeared at the end of tourist season.

We went back to school and mom got a job as a waitress, in town, at one of those steak houses where you go through a line to order. The pay was minimal and tips were meager. Although we were living across town from my grandparents, we did not enroll in a new school. This housing arrangement was also temporary, as my mom had been on a waiting list for public housing.

We soon moved into “the projects” close to our schools and my mom’s job. My grandfather took his car back and we all walked to school and work for a short time until my grandfather bought my mom an old rusted-out Ford. It actually had huge rusted-out holes in the body and hood. It ran alright, but was embarrassing to be seen in it. We also began getting surplus commodities from the government. We were on “welfare”.

After working a short time on weekends at a downtown cafeteria, owned by the same man who operated the restaurant the previous summer on the beach, I got a job bussing tables and washing dishes at a Ramada Inn restaurant near my grandparents. I was moving up in the world, because this restaurant had an air conditioned kitchen and an automatic dishwasher. Things were looking up, but now that my mom had a car, she drove me back and forth to work. I hated being seen in that rust bucket, but it was better than walking.

I did not know what a minimum wage was but, apparently, it had increased while working at the Ramada. Seemingly, out of nowhere, my paystub had a deduction for meals, when I had never eaten a meal at the restaurant. When I asked the owner what the deal was, he told me I had better start eating something, because the deduction would continue. I wasn’t happy about it, but felt I had no recourse. I’m sure I told my mom about it, but she probably said the same thing the owner did. At least I started getting a decent meal when working.

The owner knew where I lived. He knew my grandfather, and he had seen my mom drop me off at work. This guy wasn’t going to go broke paying me an extra $0.25 per hour as required by law. While still working for him, a year later, my mother remarried and we moved to Texas. The restaurant owner had the audacity to ask why I couldn’t stay and live with my grandparents. Apparently, I was that good of a worker; just not good enough to pay me minimum wage.

The whole point of this story, and the stories detailed in the book, is that greed will always rear its ugly head on every level, ignoring the struggles and suffering of others. My boss refused to give me a raise when the minimum wage increased. Those buying SNAP benefits for cash take a 40-50% “service fee”. Variable interest rates on everything from credit cards to auto loans hit those with the least money hardest. Credit scores impact insurance rates and job prospects. Banks collect billions of dollars in overdraft fees. It appears to be harder than ever for people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when the deck is stacked against them.

Although the greed may not be relatively worse the higher people move up the income scale, the effects are more widely distributed and the impact is felt across society as a whole. The owners of capital (aka the 1%) appear to have no concern for workers beyond how much they can benefit from their labor. When they locate a cheaper source of labor, they move operations and simply forget about those left behind. Unemployment insurance is temporary, and token programs for retraining displaced workers often do not fit the needs of worker profiles in a given area.

The notion of equal opportunity is a myth. It leads many to believe that people in dire financial circumstances find themselves in such situations as the result of personal failings. In some case, that may be true but, in most, it is far from the truth. While the impact of my personal experiences, described above, shades my opinions to this day, if today’s income gaps are not due to individuals’ personal failings or unmitigated greed, what else could it be?

One might say it is merely a result of supply and demand (too many workers; not enough jobs), and I wouldn’t argue that point. However, I would ask if the glut of labor has occurred only by natural causes (increased birth rates). I would argue that it has occurred primarily in response to governmental policies (both directly and indirectly) enacted at the direction of the owners of capital. As such, I believe the government must act to correct deficiencies in economic policies that adversely affect the working class.

Raising the minimum wage is the most obvious first step. Despite the conservative mantra that raising the minimum wage will result in massive job losses (especially among unskilled low wage workers) studies have shown employers respond to a rise in the minimum wages in various ways, and the extra money in workers’ pockets does not stay there long. They spend the extra money which has a ripple effect in both the private and governmental sectors. Workers can afford to buy more products and services in the private sector, and the government pays out less for programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

For those not working, but desiring a job, a solution may be as easily stated as raising the minimum wage, but harder to implement. Everyone wanting a job, should be provided a job. Easier said than done.

While neglect of government-provided infrastructure over a long period will require additional spending, the related jobs are temporary and should not be viewed as a long-term solution. Even expanding full-time government employment is a bad idea long term. We may have already passed the point where the private sector will be able to continue fully funding promised benefits to public employees.

I would first suggest that radical reform of our tax code is required immediately. As part of such reform, I advocate eliminating the corporate income tax entirely. Revenue lost from corporate taxes could be recouped by taxing investment income as ordinary income and adjusting the top rate as necessary.

Secondly, I highly recommend adopting a universal single-payer healthcare system. This is another overhead item that adversely affects American competitiveness in the global marketplace. We will never have any hope of bringing a significant number of jobs back home without these two changes.

Finally, I believe we must overhaul our “welfare” system in such a way that it also addresses the needs of those with less cash than $2 per day per person. In a nutshell, repealing the EITC and other child credits should be part of a tax reform package. These benefits could be replaced with a monthly universal basic income, adjusted for earned income and SNAP benefits.

Obviously, such changes would involve complex coordination of input and effort between multiple agencies and both political parties. Discovering that there may actually be solutions to some of the collective problems we face as a country will require thinking outside existing partisan boxes. At what point will the political parties stop blaming one another and begin collaborating? When we get the big money out of politics? Perhaps.

Steve Hough is a lifelong independent and became an activist for political reform after retiring as an accountant. He is the director of Florida Fair and Open Primaries.

 

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

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Rakeen Dow and Harriet Hoffman–Reader’s Forum on $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

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On Two Dollars a Day is a journey, a dive of a thousand leagues into the abyss of poverty, a candid look at being poor in America.  In addition to giving a graphic illustration of what is to be at the bottom of the barrel of poverty, it shines an intense light on our political system and how it facilitates the opportunities for the powers that be to be able to implement policies that are oppressive and create further damage to the members of society who are most in need of the government’s assistance.

Rakeen Dow is an activist with the All Stars Project’s Committee for Independent Community Action, founded by Dr. Lenora Fulani. Rakeen is a co-founder of Live Poet’s Society NYC performance ensemble.

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When I began reading the introduction to this book my first reaction was Oh, no, I can’t handle another upsetting, depressing read.  My second reaction was one of fury.  Of course I must read it, so I can accumulate even more facts with which to fight against the moral outrage that is America’s treatment of the poor.  When I was a young mother, I couldn’t ever imagine not having food to give to my  children.  As an activist, I joined the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and we made some gains.  Later I worked in Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society antipoverty programs, where the gains were only temporary.  For many years I have been supporting the building of an independent political movement, and now I am part of the fightback against the New York City plan to privatize public housing where 600,000 mostly poor people live.  But back in the 1960’s and 70s I would not have anticipated that hunger in this country would emerge as yet another dire outcome of the extreme income inequality supported and tolerated over many years by the politicians of both political parties.  Unfortunately the lack of food and decent housing is not confined only to the communities and families described in this book.  In my neighborhood on the upper west side of Manhattan, homelessness is and has been evident for years, but widespread hunger is now everywhere.  Whatever our political differences, we are all humans in an ever growing more inhumane world and we must take on this fight.

Harriet Hoffman is a consultant specializing in grant writing and helping people maximize their Medicare and social security benefits.  She is the coordinator of the popular monthly independent volunteer gathering, Talkin’ Independence, a program of IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs. She is also active with the All Stars Project’s Committee for Independent Community Action.

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

Author with H. Luke Shaefer of

$2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

 

 

P4P Reader’s Forum–Al Bell writes about $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

 

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It is disconcerting in the extreme to acknowledge that America, the consummate success story in the historic struggle of nations, is at once a first, second, and third world country. We often see information about this bizarre paradox. Too often, sources filter the information in ways that leave us perplexed regarding what we can or should do about it, if anything. $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America conveys our reality with penetrating impact.

It doesn’t just tell the story through the lives of real people with whom the authors have shared real time—as boldly crafted as that part of the book is—it does so with breathtaking wisdom. Informative, insightful, authentic, and often moving as well. However, it is the wisdom of its conclusions and the pragmatic good sense of its guidance that distinguishes this book.

Absent insight about the lives of real people who live on the front lines of personal disaster day in and day out, most of us would probably find the exceptional action insights in the last chapter unhinged from reality. It is everything but unhinged. The focus of my commentary is on this part of the brutally honest confrontation with poverty revealed in the previous 156 pages.

A single sentence by the authors captures for me the essence of the book’s common sense. It says, “the primary reason to strive relentlessly for approaches that line up with what most Americans believe is moral and fair is that government programs that are out of synch with these values serve to separate the poor from the rest of society, not integrate them into society.” Yes. Stigma doesn’t work.

We often fail to see complex and unpleasant truths clearly. Why? Because we so often view them through filters instead of prisms. Filters block out light intentionally, just as ideological mind sets block out honest reality and coherent thinking. Prisms, on the other hand, reveal light in its myriad components, revealing clarity impossible to see unaided. This book is a prism.

Would that we could supply prisms to our Legislative and Executive branches (the Judicial is another story) as oaths of office are administered. At least on the issue of poverty in America, we now have a prism with which we can work.

The conventional wisdom is that the poor who barely subsist and often fall below even that miserable metric are a terrible burden to society. Though not directly stated, what I take away from $2.00 A Day is the exact opposite. They are an incredible untapped resource that, if provided with a common sense support system, could not only join society, but significantly enhance it as well. The reality is what it is. How we view it and what we do about it is a matter of choice. Edin and Shaefer offer far better choices than we have seen thus far.

If those who seek to understand the economic, social, and technological trajectory on which our society is now embarked are even in the ball park, how we choose to unfetter this vast human resource can lead the way to the much broader strategy required to head off the massive disconnects we face on a much larger scale. It was one thing to hack off the futures of horse shoers over a hundred years ago as the automobile age hit us full throttle. It is quite something else to contemplate huge swaths of workers across our enterprise sectors finding themselves economic and social salvage.

A great deal is at stake here. This little book vastly outweighs it modest size with the power of its content. So much so, in fact, that I am sending a copy to our two Senators in Arizona, urging them to use their (increasingly) distinctive voices in our current governance wilderness to shape the dialogue on the poverty of our nation in more productive directions.

I cannot end this commentary without expressing my deepest appreciation to Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer for providing such a sorely needed breath of fresh air on a subject suffering so long under stifling ambiguity and distortion. They have given us a tool worth picking up.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

Reader’s Forum–Dr. Jessie Fields

 

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Dr. Jessie Fields (center) with Carrie Sackett, Alvaader Frazier, David Belmont and Nardo Reyes–  New York City Independence Club Activists in Harlem doing street outreach.

Comments from reading $2:00 A Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer

The book $2.00 A Day, Living on Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer shines a spotlight on the consequences of government policies on the lives of individuals and families caught in deepening poverty in the years since the welfare reform legislation of 1996 and after the 2008 financial crisis. Living on two dollars a day is ”one of the World Bank’s metrics of global poverty in the developing world” but Edin and Shaefer document this level of extreme poverty in America. $2:00 A Day details the lives of people who want to work but cannot find decent jobs and families with children in desperate circumstances.

Chapter 1, “Welfare is Dead” documents how welfare reform policies were formed, highlighting partisan compromises during the Clinton presidency. “Just 27 percent of poor families with children” get aid from the current cash welfare program. 

The main welfare program Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), was a New Deal program which grew exponentially in the 1960’s and 70’s. In 1996 under President Bill Clinton’s signature welfare reform eliminated this 60 year old program and replaced it with state block grants through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) which has lifetime limits on aid and mandatory work requirements. In contrast to relying on work requirements and lifetime limits on aid, the work of scholars such as David Elwood, who served in the Clinton administration, called for efforts to integrate the poor into the overall society with high quality education and training. Welfare reform ignored the causes of poverty and narrowed Elwood’s recommendations to cut aid to the poor.

Poverty in America is not new but it is worsening and a greater percentage of the American people are now living in poverty. The overall unemployment rate including those who are unable to find full time work and those who are no longer actively looking for work is over 10 %. The domestic American economy has never given equal opportunity to all segments of the country with the highest unemployment rates among people of color. 

In the concluding chapter of the book, in the sections on work and “All Deserve the Opportunity to Work” the importance of work and ensuring income is discussed. “Everything we’ve learned about the $2.00 a day poor suggests that it is the opportunity to work that is lacking, not the will, and that ensuring work opportunity would do no end of good.”

Dr. King spoke about the need to integrate the poor into the economic mainstream of America, and he understood the barriers and challenges to the poor making that transition. Speaking at a convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967 he said “We must create full employment or we must create incomes. People must be made consumers by one method or the other.” There are so many ways in which poor people are excluded, shut out and humiliated. “Without cash, they can’t meaningfully participate in society”,  ” ..research shows that the intrusive treatment people typically receive at the welfare office can undermine their confidence in government and erode political participation.

For America to grow all of its people must grow. Helping the poor is not a moral imperative alone, it is not separate from the hard day to day economic and social consequences of underdevelopment and rising inequality.  

Dr. Lenora Fulani writing about the All Stars Project in her paper The Development Line, Helping the Poor to Grow: A Special Report on Solving the Poverty Crisis in America addresses this question, “The vision of the All Stars Project programs instead operates with the politic and on the assumption that in order to mount an actual and successful “War on Poverty,” the poor Black and Latino communities must be supported to connect with the mainstream of American life and be exposed to the very best approaches to education and human development.” Solving the poverty crisis requires social transformation and a fundamental broadening of our democracy that includes leadership from the poor. The All Stars approach involves everyone from poor to affluent in the transformations necessary to bring forward such innovative and developmental approaches.

Dr. Jessie Fields is a physician practising in Harlem, a leader in the New York City Independence Clubs, and a board member of the All Stars Project and Open Primaries.

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

 

Reader’s Forum: Lou Hinman

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Lou Hinman on $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

I love Kathryn Edin’s book $2.00 a Day. It gives a clear, concise account of the welfare reforms that were produced by the Clinton administration. It shows how the work of academics are used by politicians.

It also gives us a vivid, unforgettable narrative that exposes the human consequences of these reforms.  Poverty has long been hidden in America.  But $2.00 a Day shows us how poverty has become deeper and even more hidden .  Along with the super-rich, along with the growing gap between haves and have-nots, along with the destruction of families and wealth by the bank-fraud of the sub-prime mortgage disaster, there has grown an under-underclass of the super-poor — the destitute who try to survive in the wealthiest country in the history of the world on almost no money at all.

Those of us who have never missed a meal cannot know what this is like the way that the super-poor know it.  But Kathryn Edin makes us look at it.  She makes us look at fellow Americans whose main source of cash is selling their own plasma.  At mothers of children who are forced into prostitution the pay the electrical bill.   At teenagers who submit to sexual abuse to get something to eat.  At young children who say they want to be dead.

What are we going to do about this?  More of the Clintons (or the next generation of Democratic Party triangulators) will not fix this.  The Democratic Party is not reformable.  To  address poverty, super-poverty, the destruction of the middle class, and the future of our children and our children’s children, there must be structural reform of our political process so that all our voices can be heard.

Lou Hinman lives in New York City and is an activist with IndependentVoting.org and the New York City Independence Clubs.

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

Kathyrn Edin Speaks at All Stars Project

On October 28th, I attended the All Stars Project President’s Roundtable hosted by Gabrielle Kurlander.  Kathryn Edin, one of the authors of our current selection, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America was the the guest speaker for “A New Conversation About Poverty” with discussants Dr. Lenora Fulani and Dr. Bonny Gildin.

President's Roundtable

Bonny Gildin, Kathryn Edin, Cathy Stewart, Lenora Fulani and Gabrielle Kurlander at ASP President’s Roundtable.

Dr. Edin gave an opening presentation on her ongoing research in Baltimore, following the young people of families that were given the opportunity to move from the highest poverty neighborhood to an average neighborhood in the city.  She has been interviewing and visiting with these young people over many years.  She outlines the “developmental effect” — when young people were given a broader exposure to a range of opportunities…  She commented that as a poverty researcher, she had been “blind to the role and importance” of the arts to kids lives until this project.

Dr. Edin’s presentation was followed by a very rich conversation amongst the panelists and audience.  Kathryn spoke about how we have moralized poverty and see it as a moral failing.  Our public policy, Edin says relates to the poor “in the meanest possible way.”  She talked about the work of the All Stars Project as bringing dignity and a voice to the poor and how she is working to establish the power of the “dignity effect” in her research.

At the end of the conversation, Dr. Lenora Fulani shared her view that we have to teach people to love the poor. I could not agree more!

You can watch Dr. Edin’s opening presentation at the All Stars Project President’s Roundtable here or below:

 

Please Join the Politics for the People Conference Call

With Kathyrn Edin

We will be discussing:

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call In and Join the Conversation

641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#

New Selection–Chosen by You

Thanks for voting and selecting our next book club selection.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | INDIEBOUND | APPLE | KOBO | SONY

Written by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

 

From the $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America website:

“Jessica Compton’s family of four would have no income if she didn’t donate plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna, in Chicago, have gone for days with nothing to eat other than spoiled milk.

After two decades of groundbreaking research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen before — households surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin, whose deep examination of her subjects’ lives has “turned sociology upside down” (Mother Jones), teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on surveys of the incomes of the poor. The two made a surprising discovery: the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children.

But the fuller story remained to be told. Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? What do they do to survive? In search of answers, Edin and Shaefer traveled across the country to speak with families living in this extreme poverty. Through the book’s many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor. Not just a powerful exposé, $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.”

You can get your copy at Amazon, your local bookseller or library.

The book is riveting and paints the disturbing picture of growing poverty in American post the “welfare reforms” that started in the Clinton era.

Join in our conversation on line…

And join us when we welcome Kathryn Edin

To our Politics for the People Conference Call       

Sunday, December 3rd at 7 pm EST

Image result for kathryn edin johns hopkins

Kathryn J. Edin

 

Vote for our Next Selection

LET’S CHOOSE OUR NEXT BOOK TOGETHER!

 
READ ABOUT THE BOOKS BELOW 
 
THEN VOTE ON WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO READ AS OUR NEXT SELECTION!*
 
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THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration

By Ali Noorani

This compelling approach to the immigration debate takes the reader behind the blaring headlines and into communities grappling with the reality of new immigrants and the changing nature of American identity.

Ali Noorani, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, interviews nearly fifty local and national leaders from law enforcement, business, immigrant, and faith communities to illustrate the challenges and opportunities they face. From high school principals to church pastors to sheriffs, the author reveals that most people are working to advance society’s interests, not exploiting a crisis at the expense of one community. As he shows, some cities and regions have reached a happy conclusion, while others struggle to find balance.

 

BELLEVUE

Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital

By David Oshinsky

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian comes a riveting history of New York’s iconic public hospital that charts the turbulent rise of American medicine.

David Oshinsky, whose last book, Polio: An American Story, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, chronicles the history of America’s oldest hospital and in so doing also charts the rise of New York to the nation’s preeminent city, the path of American medicine from butchery and quackery to a professional and scientific endeavor, and the growth of a civic institution. From its origins in 1738 as an almshouse and pesthouse, Bellevue today is a revered public hospital bringing first-class care to anyone in need. With its diverse, ailing, and unprotesting patient population, the hospital was a natural laboratory for the nation’s first clinical research. It treated tens of thousands of Civil War soldiers, launched the first civilian ambulance corps and the first nursing school for women, pioneered medical photography and psychiatric treatment, and spurred New York City to establish the country’s first official Board of Health.

$2.00 A DAY

Living on Almost Nothing in America

By Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer

After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen before – households surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million households, including about three million children.

Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? Through this book’s eye-opening analysis and many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge. $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE YOUR PICK!

* Scheduling dependent on vote outcome and author availability

P4P Conversation with David Daley, author of RATF**KED

rat fauked

On Sunday, June 4th, the Politics for the People book club spent an hour in conversation with David Daley, the author of RATF**KED: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy.  The book outlines the Republican Party campaign begun after the 2008 Presidential election, called REDMAP, to (rather inexpensively) win a sufficient number of state legislatures to control the redistricting process after the 2010 census (the redrawing of district lines is done state by state every 10 years, following each census).  It is a modern day whodunnit, and examines one of the myriad ways in which our political process is currently run by the political parties at the expense of the American people.

You can listen to the full recording of our conversation at the end of this post, or take a look at the highlights below.

Our first audio clip is my introduction of David Daley and includes an overview of the book and how the Republican Party took the dark art of gerrymandering to a whole new level.  He calls is the “…biggest heist in American electoral political history”.  I ask David if gerrymandering is fundamentally a controversy and fight about which party is going to win over the other.  If so, why should independents be concerned about leveling the playing field between Republicans and Democrats?  It is a rich exchange. Have a listen.

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Politics for the People book club members then joined the conversation with their questions. Tiani Coleman, the President of New Hampshire Independent Voters shared that in reading the book, “…we were able to see how gerrymandered safe districts have created a very partisan, polarized House, where many voters don’t have a real voice because their vote makes no difference, and where the outcome is not reflective of the majority will of the voters.  Do you agree with Larry Lessig that “equality” or lack thereof, is the flaw?  And do you think creating more competitive districts will fully provide that equality to all voters?”  Give a listen to their conversation where David shares his thoughts on open primaries and the importance of competition:

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PJ Steiner, a leader with the Utah League of Independent Voters, talked about efforts he is involved with to reform redistricting.  They discuss the issue of independent commissions.  You can hear their exchange here:

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Dr. Jessie Fields and David talk about how redistricting and gerrymandering impact the African American community, talking about the recent Supreme Court decision in NC.  Jessie expresses concern about the way the African American community is taken for granted by the Democratic Party.  She asks how can we give more power and weight to the voter?  Is the 14th Amendment relative to redistricting reform?  You can listen to their conversation here:

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Phil Leech, a member of Voters Not Politicians in Michigan talked about how fortunate he feels that they have the right to citizen initiative and referendum in Michigan where they are actively pursuing redistricting reform.  He asked David to speak about the prospects for fair redistricting on the national level given that so many states do not have an initiative process.  David shares that there is no easy answer even though “…voters of all stripes and parties” support reform.  Listen here:

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Julie Leek and David talked about Julie’s experience at a civics forum at her home church in NC and the hesitancy of a state Supreme Court Judge to address the issue.  You can hear their exchange here:

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Our final question came from Independent Voting’s general counsel, Harry Kresky.  Harry raised concerns with the Supreme Court’s ruling n the North Carolina case.  It seemed the court was evaluating whether the lines drawn went further than necessary to get the “desired outcome”.  At what point does the judiciary itself become implicated in gerrymandering if outcome is the standard?  Listen to Harry and David’s fascinating exchange here:

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You can listen to the entire Politics for the People book club conversation with David Daley:

 

Stay Tuned

we will announcing our next

Politics for the People

Book Club Selection Soon

 

 

 

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