Give a Listen—Kathy Edin joins P4P to discuss $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

On Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, Politics for the People spent an hour in conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin, one of the co-authors of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.

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You can listen to the whole conversation at the end of this post or take a look at the highlights below.

Dr. Edin is one of the country’s leading researchers focused on understanding poverty in America.  She is a qualitative and mixed-method researcher who has studied welfare, the working poor, family life and the social context of poverty to provide new insights into the lives of the poor in America. She is the author of several books.

In $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Kathy and her co-author H. Luke Shaefer uncover the growing phenomenon of Americans living with virtually no cash, on $2.00 a day or less.

I think Kathy’s body of work is critically important in demystifying poverty and busting through some of the anti-poor, misguided and commonly held beliefs about poverty in America and the impact those beliefs have on public policy.

Give a listen to my introduction of Dr. Edin and our opening conversation where Kathy lays out how she uncovered the growing numbers of Americans living on $2.00 a day.  I asked how she picked $2.00 a day as the marker for extreme poverty.  She shared with us that they wanted to “…choose a number that would have some resonance with the way we measure extreme poverty in other countries….$2.00 is one of the rubrics the World Bank uses to measure extreme poverty in developing nations.”

Dr. Edin shares with us her approach of spending time in four different parts of the country: Chicago, Cleveland, Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta to meet Americans struggling to survive on $2.00 a day and to answer four questions: Was this real? How do people end up here? What’s it like? What are the consequences?

 

In our next clip, two Politics for the People members ask Dr. Edin their questions. Dr. Jessie Fields asks, “In your extensive look at poverty why do you think America, the most financially advanced country, has so profoundly failed to address poverty? ”  Kathy talks about her time in the Mississippi Delta and how it changed her.  Speaking of her time with Tabitha Hicks, she says, “…I’d never met anyone so hungry….At one point I screwed up the courage to ask her, what does it feel like to be this hungry and she said,

Well, it feels like you want to be dead, because it’s peaceful being dead.”

Dr. Edin goes on to say that it is “…the kind of separation we see in the United States that blinds us to the poor.”

Catana Barnes shares a personal experience in trying to access the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program in Nevada, and asks Dr. Edin how many families are actually able to receive meaningful assistance there.

You can listen below or by clicking this link:

 

Harry Kresky asks in the next section, “Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders campaign raised the issue of income inequality.  From a policy, political and moral point of view, what is the relationship between that approach and ending poverty?” Check out what Kathy Edin has to say including her comments, “Is society so unequal that the poor can’t participate? Is society so unequal that the poor are are no longer assigned a valuable place in society?”

Nicole Diaz, a psychology student at Bronx Community College asks Dr. Edin why she decided to write a book about the problems poor people are dealing with and what she felt as she was writing and doing her research.  Kathy powerfully shares her experiences and says, “It’s been the greatest privilege really of my career to write about and represent these families.”  Give a listen:

 

Our final question of the evening came from Tiani Coleman who spoke about her own experiences with family members going through poverty and how difficult it was. She asked Dr. Edin to talk about how she is able to enter people’s lives and earn their trust.  Give a listen to their conversation:

 

You can listen to the full recording of the Politics for the People conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin below:

 

STAY TUNED 

OUR NEXT

POLITICS for THE PEOPLE
BOOK CLUB SELCTION

 WILL BE ANNOUNCED SOON

 

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To My Pen Pal About Poverty in America

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To My Pen Pal About Poverty in America

By Frank Fear

A Review of $2.00 a Day:

Living on Almost Nothing In America

By Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

My critiques of America are misguided, so my pen pal tells me. I underestimate America’s greatness and overplay its challenges. He is dedicated to helping me “understand.”

Yet another of his missives arrived a few weeks ago. It came at a time when I was reading, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (by Kathryn J. Edin and H. 836ad-2-a-dayLuke Shaefer. Boston: Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).

It made me think about an omission in our discourse. My pen pal has never brought up the topic of poverty in America, not even once. Perhaps he thinks we’ve solved it. Maybe it’s not a priority for keeping America great.

Either way, he’s not alone in looking elsewhere. Poverty has fallen off America’s radar screen. We hardly even use the word these days. We prefer talking about tax cuts or referring to “working Americans.”

What a difference from the days of my youth! In 1964, President Johnson Lyndon made his intent clear and expressed it directly. He declared “A War on Poverty.”

What changed? Starting in the 1970’s, Governor (later president) Reagan had a bee under his bonnet for the “evils of welfare.” He promulgated his angst visually with the image of “The Welfare Queen.” Later, President Clinton signed a bill ‘reforming’ the welfare system.

Well, America got reform. And it American changed … for the worse.

“How so?” my pen pan will certainly ask. I’ll respond by quoting $2.00 a Day (p. xxiii).

“America’s cash welfare program that caught people when they fell—was not merely replaced with the 1996 welfare reform (note: Clinton’s reform); it was very nearly destroyed. In its place arose a different kind of safety net, one that provides a powerful hand up to some—the working poor—but offers much less to others, that is, those who can’t manage to find or keep a job. This book is based on what happens when a government safety net is built on the assumption of full-time, stable employment at a living wage combines with a low-wage labor market that fails to deliver on any of the above. It is this toxic alchemy…that is spurring the increasing numbers of $2-a-day poor in America.” 

That’s why (I’ll tell my pen pal) it’s precisely the right time for poverty to re-emerge as a public policy priority. $2 a Day should be the rallying call for that movement. “There can be no exceptional America (an image that my friend believes in so thoroughly) if that circumstance remains a reality,” I’ll write.

Misguided public policies need to be corrected, I’ll continue. We need to name, and then proclaim, those policies for exactly what they are … heartless. What we need today, I’ll write, is for American patriots to step forward—just as Marian Wright Edelman did in 1995 when she chastised President Clinton in an “open letter” published in The Washington Post. In that letter, Edelman quoted Franklin D. Roosevelt’s powerful admonition: “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the constant omission of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.”

I’d then remind my pen pal of a conversation that I had with another colleague nearly thirty years ago. The colleague had been invited by then-President George H.W. Bush to serve on the commission to plan the Points of Light Foundation. “Points of Light?” I asked emphatically over dinner one night. “It sounds like a bait-and-switch, a flowery label used as a ploy – a ploy to reduce government support for those who need it most–to get people “off the government dole.”

My pen pal will bristle at that assertion, just as my other colleague did that night. But I’ll be prepared to bolster my argument by drawing on another passage from $2.00 a Day (p. 102).

“Private charity in America is often viewed as the little engine that could. It chugs along admirably, providing billions of dollars in aid to the poor each year…. Yet, even in America—and even for those who are adept at gleaning all that private charity has to offer—it can’t even begin to replicate, much less replace, what the government does. Private charity is a complement to government action, something that bolsters the government safety net.”

Charity is important. Self-help efforts are vital. But government support is the cornerstone. It’s not the cornerstone now – and that needs to change in a responsible, progressive way.

How so?” my pen pal will certainly ask. In response, I’ll offer three steps as proposed in $2.00 a Day (see Conclusion: Where, Then, From Here? Pp. 157-174).

The first step is to scrap the term, “reform.’ Welfare needs to be replaced. That’s not a new idea, I’ll tell my pen pal. It was the cornerstone of David Ellwood’s influential thinking from twenty years ago. It needs to be resurrected.

The second step is to ground a replacement strategy in four American values: 1) autonomy of the individual, 2) the virtue of work, 3) the primacy of the family, and 4) a desire for community. Basing policies on those pillars will go a long way toward integrating the poor in society, rather than separating them from society – the unfortunate reality that exists today.

The third step is to put in place policies that accomplish three outcomes: 1) provide opportunities for all to work, 2) enable parents to raise kids in a place of their own, and 3) strengthen the financial safety net so that people never go without.

I have faith in what Eden and Shaffer propose, I’ll say, because I believe it’s the foundation of good public policy.

He’ll scoff at that declaration! I know he will. Why do I think so? One reason is what I learned from reading a provocative article written recently by Kevin Quealy, published in The New York Times. Quealy talks about how political elites influence public opinion, especially with regard to topics that are complex, technical, or off-the-radar screen.

The political elites to whom my friend pays attention don’t talk about poverty. They talk about cutting taxes, bolstering corporate America, reducing government regulations, managing budget deficits, correcting trade imbalances, curbing terrorism, bolstering defense … but never, ever about poverty.

Poverty has been handled. It’s being dealt with by non-profits, churches, and philanthropists. “We in America are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land. The poor-house is vanishing among us.” Herbert Hoover, August 11, 1928.

I’ll tell my friend that he’s misguided, that America needs to respond in a prudent, humane way. America can’t possibly be great if people are living on $2 a day.

Don’t you agree?

Frank A. Fear is professor emeritus, Michigan State University. Frank is a frequent contributor to the LA Progressive and also writes about issues that intersect sport and society. You can read him at The Sports Column at http://www.thesportscol.com/category/frank-fear/  He is a long time independent and active with Independent Voting.

***

A Letter from a Friend in Response

Hi Frank,

What can I say?

I think your article is brilliantly written in the most honest, clear and down to earth way. A humane and compelling format/conversation with “the other”. No demonization. No negating. Very intimate and political, touching and smart-a powerful personal/political organizing piece!

You locate poverty (the unspoken and criminally ignored white elephant in our country and in the world) structurally and not as a new phenomenon that we can just blame on one party – or the other – or on one leader or the other.  Poverty is institutionally located within a quagmire of ongoing unjust, inhumane policies that have and are destroying millions of lives, families, children, every day. And as you say, which must be thrown out and replaced-not reformed.

As a longtime political activist, I see the – up from the ground -National Independent Political Movement (IV.org) -working in concert with the many groups and individuals nationwide to build together to bring about this change!

Between your distribution networks and ours, I hope your piece reaches endless numbers of people hungry for a humane and sane direction to follow in this period.

Thank you Frank.

Kindest regards,

June

junehirsch solo

June Hirsh is an organizer with IndependentVoting.org. She lives in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

***

 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#

 

Michelle McCleary–Reader’s Forum on $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

 

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$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing In America

$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing In America:  by authors Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer is a simply written but powerful book.  The authors do a great job of humanizing and detailing the lives of the poorest of the poor, i.e. a segment of our population that Americans either don’t know exist or dismiss and critique.  I must admit that this was one of the hardest P4P submissions that I have ever written. It took more time than usual to finish.  While reading $2 a Day  I needed to take frequent breaks because I found the content so upsetting and infuriating. A few times while speaking to a client at work last week, I started to think about the book.  I am nearly embarrassed to admit that I started to cry!  I am sure that the clients could hear the tears in my voice, but mercifully didn’t say anything.   The authors do a thorough job of detailing the devastating effects and failure of ‘welfare reform.’  I found myself wanting to scream ‘who the eff do you think you are’ at President Bill Clinton and the other politicians who created this thoughtless disaster.  I, of course, already knew about what is referred to as the ‘welfare reform’ act of 1996, but authors Kathryn J. Edin and Luke Shaefer’s words had a profound impact on me.

“We must teach people to love the poor.” – Dr. Lenora Fulani.  I read Fulani’s quote in a Facebook post by Cathy Stewart, founder and creator of the Politics for the People book club.  I wholeheartedly agree with this statement because I believe with all of who I am that the only thing that will truly end poverty is to change our culture which currently blames and humiliates poor people to a culture that shows support and compassion.  I hope that the rest of my blog post contributes to conveying this love.

When my alarm clock rings at 4:15am on work days, I groan and wonder out loud for the 500th time if I am insane for working at a job that requires waking up at this hour.  After I manage to drag myself out of bed, have a shower and drink a strong cup of green tea, I usually start to feel happy.  I am thrilled that I will get to spend another day with my co-workers who are some of the most interesting and lovely people I have ever met.  Working with my colleagues is like living in Harlem, NY: you are never alone.  People smile at each other and say hello just because. One of the many things that I have always loved about Black people is our courage: we face our pain head on.   My primarily Black co-workers are very honest about who they are. Most of them have lived and continue to live in environments and in situations that are daunting. It is not unusual to speak to a co-worker who survived crack and heroin addiction, homelessness, time in prison or long periods of their lives trying to survive on meager government assistance.  About six months ago, I met a co-worker who I will call ‘Joyce.’  During one of our conversations, Joyce shared with me that she was living in a ‘half way house i.e. she was allowed to work while she finished her prison sentence.  I think Joyce thought I would judge her, but I just said “it’s all good, we all make mistakes.”  Joyce flashed me her beautiful, nearly toothless smile.  When I shared with Joyce, that I am a vegan/vegetarian, Joyce promised to try to smuggle some veggie burgers out of the prison cafeteria for me. Ha!! A very pregnant, 21 year old young woman who grew up in foster care and now lives in a shelter has inherited countless ‘mothers’ at work.  I love to see her smile as we heap more love and support on her than she has likely ever received in her life.

In 2009, I graduated from business school with a Master of Business Administration degree (M.B.A). Unfortunately I was greeted by the worst job market in 100 years as America struggled through the Great Recession.  When I finally found employment, I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with ‘vulnerable’ youth i.e. young adults who lived in homeless shelters, foster care placements or who were court involved.  It was tough getting through what I will call ‘our honeymoon period’ with a twist – these young people were tough and mean. After I let them know, nicely of course (ha!) that I couldn’t be bullied by them, they began to show me how loving they could be to me and to each other. When my father died in 2012, my students presented me with hand-written cards to show how sorry they were for my loss.  I even received a hand-made flower! When I started to cry in front of the class, they surrounded me in a huge group hug.   My students were particularly kind to me when I was suffering from horrible pain due to fibroid tumors.  Although I was on painkillers, some break through pain made it nearly impossible to stand or walk around. It was not unusual for a student – usually one of the young men – to push me around the space in a chair that had wheels on it.  These devastated and poor young adults taught this ‘woman of a certain age’ how to text, gently corrected me when I referred to tweets as twits (ha!) and tried hard not to laugh when I took my extremely out of style flip phone (remember those) out of my purse.

In his work with Barack Obama, David Axelrod once wrote that one of his first tasks was to humanize Barack Obama to white America.  Unfortunately race still plays a big role in our culture and black people, even those who are as educated and privileged as a Barack Obama, are rarely seen as human.  I believe that in teaching people to love the poor we must first help to humanize the poor.  In giving our own love for a segment of the population who both need and deserve so much love, we will provide tremendous leadership to America and the world.

Michelle McCleary is a life-long independent and the President of the New York Black MBA Association.

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–Howard Edelbaum, Jessica Marta, Richard Ronner and Sheryl Williams

14947948_10209598211565790_78427255916291282_n    HOWARD EDELBAUM

As someone who grew up poor in the West Brighton Projects on Staten Island remember public housing as being a place we were proud to live. The grounds were clean, the elevator was never broken, there was always heat when needed and our apartment was big and perfectly accommodated all of us with three bedrooms. My parents did not have money, but we were able to get what we needed to lead a decent life.

In reading $2 A Day by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer I was appalled at the lack of concern and viciousness towards the poorest populations. The book describes horrific situations such as people selling their plasma twice weekly, over 20 people sleeping and surviving in one small location and selling SNAP benefits, going hungry while facing possible fines of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The authors document incredible stories of determination, entrepreneurship and hard work but due to bureaucracy and political circumstance people living on $2 a day have no support to harness such skills to have what they need to live their lives.

The US Government develops programs and tax breaks that help many constituencies if they have political power. The authors show how both major parties use the issue of poverty as a political football  to garner votes and actually at times make the situation worse.

The book lays out some viable solutions and hopefully will open up the conversation to make the issue of poverty the priority it should be.

Howard Edelbaum is active with the New York City Independence Clubs and is an Accounting Consultant.

***

Marta     JESSICA MARTA

In Two Dollars a Day, the poor can never catch a break.  Each story has a common theme: As soon as someone gets close to finding their way our of poverty something happens to drag them back.  The book opened my eyes to the extreme poverty that exists right here in the USA.  From living without running water, to selling plasma ten times a month, survival is a full-time job. Mothers care for children, and families struggle to provide food and shelter.

It’s also the story of Welfare “Reform.”  Welfare was a hot-button issue for Bill Clinton’s campaign,  Dismantling welfare got him elected.

Two dollars a day tells of so many who fall through the cracks and never get out.  I look forward to our discussion.

Jessica Marta is an independent activist with Independent Voting and the New York City Independence Clubs.  She lives in Manhattan is an Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

***

RRonner    RICHARD RONNER

This is a rather remarkable little book, evoking a range of strong emotional responses. Kathryn Eden and H. Luke Shaefer help the reader understand the current phenomenon of extreme poverty by describing, throughout the book, the history of government assistance to the poor, starting with some state programs following the Civil War to the federal programs of the Great Depression in the 1940s, to the “War on Poverty” of the 60s and 70s, to efforts to diminish this aid by Reagan, and finally to the “Welfare Reform” of the 90’s under Bill Clinton, who proclaimed the “end of welfare as we know it.”

The meat of the book, though, is the painfully intimate immersion in the day-to-day lives of 8 families struggling to deal with life on $2.00 a day per person poverty in America. It’s a heart-breaking struggle, that alternately made me cry at its impact on the human spirit, or to scream in rage at the heartlessness and inhumanity of our society and government. At a time when I find myself consciously reducing my exposure to daily newscasts or newspapers due to the unremitting barrage of horror and tragedy, not to mention farce, I found it hard at first to get into this book; it is not an easy read. But it is worth it.

It’s the third part of the book that brings to the foreground hope, a way forward. Titled “Conclusion: Where, then, from here?, it reminds me of something my political mentor Fred Newman used to say: the solutions to the world’s problems are not that complex. Looking at the specific actions of our government that precipitated the growth of dire poverty, and taking cues from programs implemented, often poorly or underfunded, or policy proposals overlooked or rejected, Edin proposes a way forward that seems sensible and do-able, humanistic and humane. While it’s only decent to have a safety net program of cash assistance for extreme circumstances, what the poor overwhelmingly want is to be a part of this society, to have the opportunity to be productive of needed goods or services, in jobs with dignity, that relate to them as the deserving human beings they are.

Richard Ronner is a nurse practitioner and a long time independent activist. Richard is from Queens.

***

IMG_20171125_084439    SHERYL WILLIAMS

I’m so glad that this book is our Politics for the People book club selection. I was lucky enough to have been in the room when Dr. Kathryn Edin spoke at the All Stars Project President’s Roundtable event. The event was hosted by Gabrielle Kurlander, President of the All Stars Project and Dr. Lenora Fulani. I knew then that I would be reading her books and learning more about what Dr. Edin had to say as a poverty researcher.

From that event and from reading the book, I also understand that there is a very real relationship between changing public policy and ordinary people being able to see what the problem is in this case, poverty in order to be able to do something about it. As Americans, we have been taught to only see, believe in, and discuss prosperity and success even when that’s not our life experience.

Edin’s book gives us a vivid up close and personal look at the lives of people living in the dire circumstance of abject poverty. This book teaches some very important history lessons of the welfare system in America. As a young person in my 20s during much of Reagan presidency, I remember hearing without understanding about some of the changes that were being enacted in the welfare system.  Being able to read the detail of what was happening then as an adult now really clarifies some things for me including the extent to which we have a system that if one is deemed eligible for relief, that relief is not dispensed without kicking people while they are already down.

I believe as Dr. King said in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize address, that we have the resources to get rid of poverty. And now with Dr. Edin’s powerful book in hand have a new tool to help build and shape the political will that this country has never had to create a new standard of decency where it no longer acceptable to allow millions of Americans to live their whole lives languishing in poverty.

Sheryl Williams is a long time independent activist and works at the All Stars Project.

***

As we head towards our call with Kathryn Edin, one of the co-authors of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, I wanted to share an interview Dr. Edin did with Hari Sreenivasan on the PBS Newshour from October 10, 2015.

 

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#

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: 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#

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