Opinon: Responding to the NY Times: Is the safety-net expanding?

Feb 15 2012

Recently, The New York Times published a front-page feature entitled Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend on It. by Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff.

The piece has drawn several thoughtful responses by economists, discussing the state of social programs and the ability of such programs to assist in times of need.

No, NYT, there’s been no expansion of government benefits, no ‘entitlement society’
By Lawrence Mishel, Economic Policy Institute

"I want to strongly object to one part of the story that seems to support the notion that we’re becoming an “entitlement society.” The story claims that there’s been a major “expansion of government benefits,” which it says “has become an issue in the presidential campaign.” ... Many of the facts presented in the story do not support that conclusion and the ones that do seem to support it are misleading." Read more.

What Expanded Safety Net?
By James Kwak, The Baseline Scenario

"In general, I think Binyamin Appelbaum and Robert Gebeloff’s article on how the same people oppose government handouts and take government handouts is very good. But I think their framing buys into a piece of conventional wisdom that just isn’t true." Read more.

Opinion: A Proud, Angry Poor

Jan 25 2012

By Frances Fox Piven
From The Nation:
Occupy Wall Street has thrust the issue of extreme inequality into the spotlight. The movement has spread so quickly and alarmed politicians not because of its rather small encampments but because its message resonates. Most people know, or at least half-know, that our problem is growing inequality, and they also know that government is complicit in the financially driven capitalism that is in the driver’s seat. The slogan “We are the 99 percent” stresses our commonality and lays the basis for a movement ethic of democracy, inclusion and solidarity. This is a big and welcome step. After all, we need an ethic that goes beyond the incessant liberal (and union) talk of “the middle class.”
Still, the movement has to respond to the police sweeps of its encampments by becoming broader and more hard-hitting. It has to firmly include the vast number of people who have been marginalized by the rhetoric of American politics and by the realities of the American economy. In many places the homeless have joined the encampments. That is a beginning. But it’s not enough. To fully realize an ethic of inclusion, the poorest and most benighted Americans should become part of our protest movement. We need to increase their numbers at our demonstrations, and we need to undertake the protest actions that deal with their most urgent needs—including the attacks on the social safety net that hit them hardest.

Opinion: In Dr. King's America the Unemployed Deserve Simple Human Dignity

Jan 17 2012

By Rabbi Steve Gutow
From The Huffington Post:
As our Congress members return to Washington to resume the debate on helping the unemployed just weeks before that extension expires, I hope they find great inspiration from this week's holiday honoring Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Reverend King's legacy does not belong to just one epoch. Just as the lessons of Moses have taught the generations that followed, the teachings of Martin Luther King inspire us today as they did decades ago when he delivered his holy words. The striking monument only recently unveiled on the National Mall is lined with quotes that exhort us to be driven by justice, tireless and unwavering in pursuit of a better world. They remind us that King's calls for justice were universal, including economic justice. "I have the audacity to believe," reads one inscription, "that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits."

News: Jobless tell Murray of struggles getting by

Jan 12 2012

From The Seattle Times:

Every morning James Henry, 41, gets up and heads to the union hall, hoping for work.

The Seattle-area construction worker is looking for a job to support his wife, Tammy; buy diapers for the couple's infant daughter, Samantha; and pay his mortgage. He has one week of unemployment benefits left until he needs to apply for an extension. In the meantime, foreclosure is looming.

"I'm a responsible adult. I pay my bills, you know?" Henry told Sen. Patty Murray at a Seattle home Wednesday morning. "But when it comes to a choice between being able to pay for day care so that I can go look for a job and making my mortgage payment, I'm not paying my mortgage payment, and that's just the way it is."

When the Democratic senator asked email subscribers to contact her with stories about unemployment, Natalie Simmons, who lives with her husband on the 5500 block of Wilson Avenue South in Seward Park, invited Murray to their home.