Friday April 26th
United Steelworkers Local 105 Workers Memorial Day Service – A memorial service honoring all workers killed or injured on the job
TIME: Doors open at 4pm; service begins at 4:30 (refreshments served)
WHERE: USW 105 Hall — 880 Devils Glen Rd Bettendorf, Iowa
Saturday April 27th
Dick Fallow Celebration of Life Memorial Service
Time: Doors open at 2pm; service begins at 2:30. Luncheon immediately following service.
Where: Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 25 Hall — 4600 46th Ave Rock Island
Des Moines: 11 AM at Workforce Development Building, 1000 East Grand
For more info contact Mark Cooper at email@example.com
Sunday April 28
Cedar Rapids: 2 PM at the Machinists 831 Hall, 222 Prospect Place SW. For more Info contact Rick Moyle at firstname.lastname@example.org
Iowa City: 2 PM at the Iowa City Pedestrial Mall—Fountain Plaza, For more info contact Jesse Case at email@example.com
Sioux City: 7 PM. UFCW 222 Hall. Candle Light Vigil. For more info contact John Hamm at firstname.lastname@example.org
Waterloo: 2 PM at the Black Hawk Labor Temple, 1695 Burton Ave. For more info contact Cal Eckhoff at email@example.com
Monday April 29
Dubuque: 5 PM at the Labor Temple, 1610 Garfield Ave. For more info contact Mark Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dick Fallow may be a name unfamiliar to many reading this. But to those who knew Dick, he was one hell of a person. His love for the Labor movement and his knowledge of it were incredible.
My encounter with Dick came when he gave a speech on Labor issues in West Liberty. He talked about current issues and past, relating some of his personal memories. His passion in discussing labor and labor issues was quite apparent. We then had a little dinner where he continued with his stories. We were left with a new found understanding and appreciation for Labor issues.
That was about 10 years ago. I saw him at an occasional function when we would go to the Quad Cities. Last I saw him was about a year ago at a labor breakfast for candidates. He was taking pictures. But every candidate knew him well and made sure to pay respects.
I am so glad I had a chance to have met Dick. My life is richer for it. Our condolences to his family.
Richard “Dick” Fallow, 92, of Davenport died Saturday April 13. He was active in politics and the labor movement in the Quad City area. He was awarded the first ever, Lifetime Achievement Award from the East Central Iowa-Northwestern Illinois AFL-CIO Hall of Fame.
There will be celebration of life service at 2:30 Pm on Saturday April 27 at the Plumbers & Pipefitters Hall, 4600 46th Ave, Rock Island, IL.
Every day I hear some republican say “We are leaving our children a crushing debt.” This is simply hooey and bothers me a great deal on two levels:
1) it is not “we” that are leaving the debt, it is pure and simple the Republicans that grew this debt to what it is, with their tax cuts for the rich, two unfunded wars and the really bad Medicare drug program. Then they have cemented it with their obstruction to do anything that would grow the economy.
2) Much worse than the debt, Republican policy over the past 33 years - and especially the last 13 - have done everything they can to dismantle the economy. The country that our kids will inherit will be broken. And it will be broken in such a way that fixing it is next to impossible. Democrats that are trying to fix it now can tell you.
One of the standard beliefs of American mythology is that education is the key to an individual’s advancement as well as that of the country. But a quick look around shows that our public school system – once the pride of the world – is in the process of being broken and turned into a laughing stock. Teachers have been publicly pilloried, been accused of being lazy, worthless, and leaches at the public trough. They have been forced to teach to the test by misguided laws that place emphasis on standardized tests. Their dignity has been undercut by politicians more than willing to shut down public schools and replace them with various forms of private schools which sometimes operate on the edge with pseudo-science classes and teachers that may not be certified. Teachers unions have been high on the hit list for decades for Republican politicians who see any union as the enemy.
The parents of today’s students themselves are having a hard time making a living. Many have lost jobs and wages in the upheaval of the past decade. Only a few decades ago one parent could make enough money to allow the other parent to stay in the home. The job also had benefits that included medical care for the family, so that a childhood emergency could be attended to. In America today, both parents must work. Between them they can hardly afford food, shelter, transportation and clothing. Medical care is no longer a benefit, so if a child gets sick a family must make a choice between food and medical care.
Where once a family could get aid from the government quietly, that is no longer true. Often the family may be humiliated in public for taking government help. Where once some of the elders could help out, they no longer can as pensions have been stolen and investments have crashed. There are many, many cases now where three generations of a family live under one roof. They do so out of necessity, not because they want to. So there is little money for extras. In many cases the family may have lost their house in the mortgage bubble of 2007 and 2008. So their credit may be ruined on top of losing the house.
What was once the great escape from poverty vehicle – a college degree – is no longer the ticket it once was. Since state and federal governments no longer pick up much of the cost of college, the student must do so themselves. In many cases a student will graduate college with a debt the size of a mortgage and no real job skills to speak of. This is a choice that many students are or will be facing soon. Go deeply into debt to get an education on a bet that it will help you get a good job? But without a degree there is very little chance of earning a living wage? What about a technical degree?
Higher education for the young is also one of the great factors that drives our country. So when more and more of them decide they can’t afford the debt, our country as a whole will suffer greatly to the point of stagnating the economy. We especially need future scientists, but will students take on the debt to become a scientist when good paying jobs are not there today?
We are leaving our children a country where the balance of justice and the balance of law greatly favors the rich and corporations. The Citizens United decision greatly tipped the balance in elections to the wealthy. They have used that to elect state legislatures that have gerrymandered states as they have never been before. This in turn also tips the scales to the rich. Legislatures have also used this imbalance to pass laws restricting who can vote and to use proprietary voting machines. All this will also tip the balance in favor of the rich. In a slow steady onslaught the poor and middle class have seen their power at the polls diminished greatly. Trying to turn this around will be nearly impossible in the gerrymandered world of today.
One of the workingman’s greatest accomplishments was to unionize workplaces. This gave the worker some power in his job and some say in his pay, hours and safety. The unions have been smashed. The chances of their resurrection to their previous power is slim, especially in the political world described above.
All this and now a segment of our society believes that putting guns in the schools is a great idea. I think not. Too many bad things can happen with guns around. Better that they be limited in society.
And let us not forget a climate that surely will bake most human by the end of the century. And food that will be ever tougher to get and more costly, water that may also be hard to get.
If today’s child survives all that will they be able to save for old age? They better be, since Republicans will never quit in their quest to turn Social Security savings over to the Wall Street casino.
Republicans are right. “We” are leaving our children in bad shape.” But not the debt. If we could begin the chore of putting the economy back on track, that is a problem that could be dealt with. But as Republican policies continue to handcuff our and our children’s ability to deal with problems, the problems will only deepen and spread until they will be almost impossible to deal with.
Schedule of Events Monday, March 25th
A coalition of small business owners, health care providers, and citizen organizations on Monday will launch the Healthiest Iowa Initiative and call on Governor Branstad to accept the expansion of Medicaid in Iowa. Representatives from participating organizations will hold a press conference Monday morning at 8:30 a.m. at the State Historical Society to launch the Healthiest Iowa Initiative and the “Medicaid Madness” statewide press tour to be held on March 27th. More information about the Healthiest Iowa Initiative can be found at www.healthiestiowa.com. The “Medicaid Madness” tour will feature events in at least Mason City, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo
Press conference launching “Healthiest Iowa Initiative”
Location: State Historical Society, Heritage Room B (first floor), 600 East Locust, Des Moines
We will launch the initiative with the press, and call on the Governor to support Medicaid expansion. Justin Anderson, a resident of Clear Lake and a cancer survivor, will speak about how Medicaid expansion will benefit him. Sue Dinsdale, Executive Director Iowa Citizens Action Network; Jan Laue, President of Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans and MAtt Sinovic, Director for Progress Iowa.
Governor Branstad’s weekly press conference
Location: State Historical Society, 2nd floor, 600 East Locust, Des Moines
Details: After our press conference, we will encourage reporters to ask the Governor why he supports a plan that costs Iowa more, covers fewer Iowans, and has no guarantee of federal funding.
Planned rally in rotunda of the Capitol prior to Senate Debates.
The Senate Debates Medicaid expansion
Location: State Capitol
Details: Watch from the gallery as the Senate debates Medicaid expansion. We will want to be there to show our support!
There is an overflow room for this event – room 116.
Twitter on this issue at #medicaidmatters
Accepting Medicaid expansion would cover an additional 150,000 Iowans – uninsured young adults, veterans, the working poor, and mentally ill. Although he has objected to expansion because of a potential failure on the part of the federal government to honor its commitments, Governor Branstad’s alternative plan costs Iowa more and still relies on the federal government for funding.The 19 organizations participating in the Healthiest Iowa Initiative include Iowa Citizen Action Network, National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Upper Midwest Chapter, Iowa Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), Disability Rights Iowa, Passageway, Iowa Main Street Alliance, Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans, Iowa Human Needs Advocates, Iowa State Education Association, AFSCME Iowa Council 61, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa, Iowa Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, South Central Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, Hawkeye Labor Council, Working Families Win, Americans for Democratic Action, and Progress Iowa. “Governor Branstad claims he wants Iowa to be the healthiest state, but he’s sure not acting like it,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “The Healthiest Iowa Initiative will help to educate and empower Iowans to contact the Governor, and let him know the best way for a healthiest Iowa is to accept Medicaid expansion. The Governor has repeatedly refused to save the state money and provide health care security to struggling Iowa families, but we are hopeful that if he hears directly from his constituents – the people he’s supposed to serve – he will have a change of heart.”
In addition to learning about Medicaid expansion, Iowans will be encouraged to sign the following petition at www.healthiestiowa.com: Iowa has the opportunity to approve a Medicaid expansion as part of Obamacare. We call on Governor Branstad to take this opportunity to help thousands of Iowans rather than pursue a plan that costs more, covers fewer and has no guarantee of federal funding. There are no real reasons – only political rhetoric – for failing to support Medicaid expansion in Iowa.
Background/Quotes supporting Medicaid Expansion:
“[Medicaid Expansion] is a great deal for our state or any state, which is exactly why so many Republican governors are signing on.” – Senator Tom Harkin
“Because we believe the advantages to Medicaid expansion outweigh the potential for this one disadvantage, we urge Branstad to drop his opposition and agree to expansion of the program in our state.” – Sioux City Journal Editorial
“There is no reasonable excuse for Governor Branstad’s refusal to expand Medicaid.” – Sister Jeanie Hagedorn, CHM
“We would really like to see both (Legislative) houses working on this together and the governor’s office – just lay down the political banners on this and work to do what’s right for the patients of Iowa.” Iowa Health System Vice President Sabra Rosener.
“Medicaid expansion will reduce direct Medicaid costs to the state, and enable the state to draw down billions of dollars in additional federal funding that will support jobs and maintain the state’s health care infrastructure,” Report by George Washington University and Regional Economic Models, Inc.
Across-the-board budget cuts—called sequestration—went into effect March 1st when Congress failed to pass a budget. Called a “Poison Pill” at the time the Sequester Bill was passed last summer, it was designed by Congress to be so devastating, it would force Congress to negotiate a responsible budget.
However, that didn’t happen, and now we are starting the see the effects of sequestration cuts on our friends and neighbors. With a few exceptions for defense, food stamps and transportation, every federal agency will be forced to make severe cuts. Politico describes them this way,
“There would be a 9.4 percent cut to most defense programs — except those exempted in the sequestration law — and a 10 percent cut to a handful of other Pentagon accounts that are not subject to annual congressional appropriations. Medicare would get hit with a 2 percent cut, while domestic discretionary programs — such as scientific grants and Education Department programs — would be subject to 8.2 percent cuts. Most mandatory domestic programs — those that are funded based on eligibility — would be slashed by 7.6 percent.”
Despite voter opposition, congressional Republicans demand cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid benefits and tax breaks for Wall Street and the wealthiest 2%—and they keep manufacturing fiscal crises to gain “leverage” and get their way. Now they’re also threatening to shut down the government on March 27 and cause a government default after May 19.
Nationally, sequestration will cost more than 1 million jobs this year and many more jobs over the next decade. Totaling $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years will harm our battered economy even more.
The solution is to repeal sequestration—not replace it—so we can put these manufactured crises behind us and focus on the urgent problems of putting America back to work, raising wages and reducing economic inequality.
Congress created it and Congress can make it go away. The only way to put an end to these endless manufactured fiscal crises is to disarm the hostage takers, not give in to their ransom demands.
Call your members of Congress now at 888-659-9401!
Also ask your Congressperson to Protect Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare from Benefit Cuts. Republican leaders are using their “leverage” to demand benefit cuts, including Social Security COLA cuts; an increase in the Medicare eligibility age; higher Medicare premiums for beneficiaries with incomes as low as $47,000; higher out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare beneficiaries; and deep cuts to Medicaid that would shift costs to individuals and reduce access to care. They would rather cut these benefits than close the loophole that prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies ($230 billion over 10 years), or close tax loopholes for Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans.
Finally Congress needs to Close Loopholes for Wall Street and the Richest 2% of Americans. Republicans in Congress want to give more tax breaks to Wall Street and the richest 2% of Americans, but instead we should close the lavish tax loopholes they already have. Start by closing the tax break for sending jobs overseas ($583 billion over 10 years); collecting a millionaire’s surtax ($453 billion); collecting a tiny tax on Wall Street speculation ($350 billion); closing the tax loophole for Wall Street hedge fund managers ($21 billion); and closing the tax loophole for Wall Street derivatives traders ($3 billion). Jobs Not Cuts. The most important economic challenge facing America is the jobs crisis, and the best way to stabilize the debt over the long term is to fix the economy first. Our top priorities must be creating jobs by investing in infrastructure and education, raising wages, reducing inequality and increasing economic security for working people.
AFL-CIO March 20th Events:
Quad City Federation of Labor
Forum on Cuts
Community Health Care, Rock Island, IL 2750 11th Street
Speakers include representatives from Alliance for Retired Americans, Humility of Mary Housing, and Arsenal Workers
South Central Iowa Federation of Labor
State Capitol Building
Hawkeye Labor Council
US District Court, 111 78th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA
Clinton Labor Congress
Clinton Schools Administration Building, 1401 12th Avenue North, Clinton, IA
Speakers include representatives from Iowa Workforce Development Board, Clinton School District, Clinton Housing Authority
Sometimes a Great Notion – Directed by Paul Newman. Filmed 1970. It was released to widespread dismissal in 1971, stars Paul Newman and Henry Fonda and Lee Remick.
In a supremely ironic film, those two great bastions of Hollywood liberalism – Paul Newman and Henry Fonda – star as father and son scabs. Their rugged individualism, community-destroying strike defiance and overall bravado are the Alpha of America.
Paul Newman’s handsome misogyny is as disarming as Henry Fonda’s loveable curmudgeon. They chop down centuries old forests, rise before the sun, drink beer, hunt, alternately fuck or ignore their beautiful servile wives. Henry and Hank Stamper – their characters in the film – live by their family creed, “never give a inch.”
The film is based on a story by Ken Kesey, of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest fame. I was written a year after Congress passed the Equal Pay Act mandating equal pay for women. It was filmed two years after the 1968 French General strike, a student-led protest against austerity measures that swelled into a strike of over 4 million workers, and the same year US Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, mandating safety regulations for workers.
The film doesn’t convey the depth of character to the union members or women in the film – covered in more depth in the original novel’s 650 pages. It is essentially a male-heirarchy tale, and the film remains faithful critic to their hierarchy. The Stamper clan cling to their molehill as vigilantly as they uproot its trees. Cynically – because that is the essence of Our Masculine Myth of American Exceptionalism – at the end of the film, our heroes Henry and Hank win. Deperately, glorifyingly. Their indomitable man-conquers-man, man-conquers-nature, man-conquers-society spirit lifts them, and we who sympathized with them, to a state of hollow despair. You are left to feel like the centuries-old forests torn apart by Henry, Hank, and even the workers when they are not on strike: ravaged. Because their ethos is pathological.
Kesey considered it his best novel, better than his notorious earlier work, One Flew Over the Cookoos nest. But the film and book remain little known to most Paul Newman, Henry Fonda or Cokoos nest fans.
It’s live streaming online on Netflix, possibly on hulu or other free sites.
Sometimes between sessions, I think about making out bingo cards or race track type cards for the next session just to at least have a couple of laughs while some of our legislators are wasting our money. But filling such things out is almost a no-brainer anymore. Especially for Republicans. Gone are the days when you could make out a card for them and include such items as “more money for college” or “aid for the poor” or even “aid for the cities.”
Nowadays the list is about 5 items long and it goes something like this:
- Screw the poor and middle class on health-care
- Anti-gay, anti-marriage equality laws
- Anti-women laws – often against women managing their own reproductive health
- Anti-union legislation
- Take away some “welfare” from the poor.
A person can almost always count on three of those items having some legislation written about them. As far as I know, this session we already have the anti-poor health care cooking along with the annual anti-gay crop. But I fear our local Republicans are falling behind their counterparts across the country. Doesn’t some self respecting Republican legislator want to put a trans-vaginal probe someplace? I had better be careful what I ask for
Democrats are kind of predictable also. They want decent schools, decent pay for teachers, good jobs, health care, and education to be affordable through college. How can they ever win by putting people first and not doing God’s work by peeking in Iowan’s bedrooms? It is a wonder.
If you are a person who is going to legislate on people’s morals then I believe you should be fully biblically moral yourself. That is no more than one marriage total and no fooling around outside that marriage. Also if you are going to force women to have unwanted pregnancies, there must be some provisions for the other half of the pregnancy team to care for the child.
But if the the legislature can’t do its part, then Matt Schultz is expected to do his part to fill in the ALEC score card. Remember that on March 13th Schultz is planning to implement his plan to stop people from voting whose name ends in a vowel or a Z.
I am sorry, but every year when I see our legislature wasting time and money, I get upset. Especially when the time they waste is in trying to screw those among us that do not have the political connections to make the system work for us. Now we got Branstad wasting money to score points with ALEC by avoiding a really good Medicaid deal. This will teach people not to be poor by letting them die slowly at home rather than seeing a doctor.
Medicaid Expansion Would Save Lives!
I read today that for every 175 people enrolled in the new Medicaid, one life will be saved. That means that for the 150,000 new Iowans enrolled in the Medicaid Expansion, 857 lives would be saved. Often those who claim to be pro-life are the same who are anti-medicaid expansion. I am wondering how they square “pro-life” with “Go Die” if you can’t buy health insurance? For that matter, even if you can buy health insurance, that doesn’t mean your claims will be covered or you can afford the deductible.
If Republicans Cared About Morals ………
They would ban gambling in Iowa. Studies I have seen show that gambling hits the poor the hardest. But I forget, being poor is a moral disease. Until then, the rich are morally ok to prey on those poor. And we know it is alright because gambling began in Iowa under that morally straight governor – Terry Branstad. The same Branstad who is saving the poor from the shame of using Medicaid.
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin predicted this morning (March 7th) that federal officials would reject Gov. Terry Branstad’s alternative proposal to expanding Iowa’s Medicaid health-insurance program for the poor.
In a phone call with reporters, Harkin said he spoke to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius after Branstad outlined his proposal to her last month. Harkin said Sebelius agreed with him that Branstad’s idea was “not acceptable.” More here:
DES MOINES – AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan issued the following statement regarding Arbitrator Marvin Hill, Jr.’s arbitration award that was opened today (March 7th):
“During the arbitration hearing, our Union made clear that state employees have repeatedly made wage concessions and plan design changes to maintain their health insurance. We demonstrated that the state currently has historic surpluses and that state government’s health insurance costs for employees have been stable over the past several years. We also noted that the State’s Final Offer on health insurance was nothing more than cost shifting; it did absolutely nothing to lower the overall cost of the State’s health insurance plans. We pointed out that the State’s Final Offer would basically be a large pay cut for state employees. We also showed that the Aon Hewitt wage and benefits studies were flawed; these studies used one comparability group for the wage comparison and then used a different comparability group for the health insurance comparison.
“We are pleased that the arbitrator recognized that the Union’s Final Offer was the most reasonable proposal and that the appropriate decision was to support AFSCME Iowa Council 61’s Final Offer on health insurance.
“With this fair and final decision, AFSCME members are pleased that we will be able to look forward and focus on providing public services to Iowans.” More on the decision:
There is a lot of talk about budget sequestration and federal deficit reduction happening in Washington D.C. What has been lost in the conversation is that there are scores of outrageously profitable U.S. corporations who pay little or no federal taxes. The panel of local experts will explore the damaging impact these cuts will have on our community as well as more progressive, revenue-focused approaches to tackling the national debt.
WHO: A group of concerned citizens
WHAT: Panel discussion on the “Dirty Thirty” corporate tax dodgers
WHEN: Wednesday, February 29, 2013 6:30 pm
LOCATION: 220 E 4th St. Waterloo, Ia. The 220E Retail Incubator.
This event is free and open to the public
Chris Schwartz (moderator) – Working Families Win/ADA
U.S. Congressman, Bruce Braley (invited)
Pastor Belinda Creighton-Smith – Faith Temple Baptist Church in Waterloo
Jan Laue – President Iowa Alliance of Retired Americans
Rudy Jones – Director of Community Development Office, City of Waterloo
Steve Abbott – Iowa Federation of Labor Board Member.
Sponsored by: Americans for Democratic Action; Working Families Win; Iowa Alliance of Retired Americans; Iowa Federation of Labor ; Black Hawk Union Council; Communications Workers of American Retiree Chapter 70901; UNIFY for Education Coalition and the Iowa Citizen Action Network.
The “Dirty Thirty” are; Pepco Holdings; General Electric; Paccar; PG&E Corp; Computer Sciences; NiSource; CenterPoint Energy; Tenet Healthcare: Integrys Energy Group; American Electric Power; Con-Way; Ryder System; Baxter International; Wisconsin Energy; Duke Energy; DuPont; Consolidated Edison; Verizon Communications; Interpublic Group; CMS Energy; NextEra Energy; Navistar International; Boeing; Wells Fargo; El Paso; Mattel; Honeywell International; DTE Energy; Corning; and FedEx. (source: Citizens for Tax Justice)
The Iowa Federation of Labor just launched a new blog: http://iowalabornews.com/
It contains articles and links to pieces on organized labor both nationally and specifically in the state of Iowa. Here’s a sample:
By Ken Sagar, President IFL
The U.S. economy shrunk slightly in the fourth quarter of last year, contracting by 0.1% instead of growing by 1% as analysts expected. It represents the first economic contraction since 2009.
It’s been a long and tough road. We need to move our economy forward. But after forcing trillions in cuts, causing layoffs, and strangling our economic growth, Republicans in Congress want to force European-style austerity on America — inviting another recession.
The massive hit to our economy will come from the “sequestration” cuts to domestic programs. This manufactured crisis is yet another ploy by Washington Republicans to hold our economy hostage in order to achieve their goals to hamstring our government’s ability to provide the necessary services on which so many Americans rely.
There’s no shortage of valuable work that our country needs done — from repairing crumbling roads, bridges, and schools, to spurring high-tech work like designing and building smart grid and renewable energy technology. The job creation from these necessary infrastructure investments will grow our economy today and into the future.
If the automatic spending cuts under sequestration go through in March, we will be cutting $4 in spending for every $1 in revenue — with 80% of the total money paid for by middle-class and low-income families instead of the wealthiest Americans or big corporations.
Due to all the loopholes and special tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations in our tax code, finding the money to help avoid the austerity cliff wouldn’t be hard: we can find $1 trillion in new revenue over 10 years by closing just a few of these special tax breaks.
We need to help our legislators have the backbone to address the needs of we the people and not the corporations and their wealthy CEOs.
On January 17th, 2013, Tavis Smiley moderated a panel of public intellectuals on the topic of poverty in America – a topic so rarely discussed, you’d think it was a peripheral issue rather than the root cause (and consequence) of so many other hazards. It isn’t taken seriously. Just another set of statistics contorted to fit one’s political agenda. However, at a moment when the country is considering further devastating cuts to health and human services, job training, food stamps and education, this conversation is one we must have more often and with a great deal of seriousness. Click here to watch it on C-SPAN
Human poverty does exist in the US - in spades. But unlike poverty of years past, poverty is now sublimated. Federal Food Stamp and free and reduced lunch programs shroud poverty from view. The poor stand next to you in the grocery line, and next to their classmates at the school lunch line. Because the cheapest food also happens to be the unhealthiest, malnourishment is more often draped in obesity rather than emaciation. The poor live off the beaten path and in neighborhoods we’re not supposed to go to ’cause they’re “bad.” There aren’t bread lines in the streets or folks in overcrowded welfare or unemployment offices – they are online, call-in only. The poor are rarely found lobbying at the Capitols, but they are plentiful in morgues and prisons and in the military.
As writer and artist John Berger noted, “The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other. It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich. Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied, but written off as trash.”
The day after Tavis Smiley hosted that panel discussion, President Obama was inaugurated on MLK Holiday and on MLKs Bible [see Cornel West’s take on this at minute 25-30 in the program]. Though he spoke about gay rights, about the rights of girls being allowed to succeed, and on the vital issue of UNIVERSAL SUFFERAGE, Obama failed to mention Organized Labor, which along with education and Social Security, is among the most successful anti-poverty programs in the U.S. Josh Eidelson discussed this in an article for Truthout.
Obama made a point about investing in schools in order to create good “workers,” but he failed to note that we then suppress their abilities to organize so they can, in turn, bargain dignified wages and benefits for their labors. As union membership rose from the 1950s through the 1970s and then declined from the 1970s to current day, the number of Americans living in poverty mimicked the rise and fall.
Then two days after Beyoncé lip-synced the National Anthem at the ceremonial swearing-in, and the sycophantic press got over their post-ball hangovers, the Big Story of the day was that union membership in the US had dropped to a 90+ year low. Many offered their reasons for why this is so, but few if any dug into the correlations between poverty and unionization, from the Industrial era until now.
The current legislative session in Iowa now must decide what to do with the billion dollar surplus earned from years of spending cuts to essential programs like court services, unemployment offices, jobs training programs and many others. Instead of using this opportunity to help Iowa’s poor (an all-time high number of Iowans currently receive food stamps), Governor Branstad has proposed sweeping commercial and industrial property tax reform. But the problem with his vision of reform is the poor do not own commercial and industrial property. There are no tax credits for living in a car, a shelter, a family or friend’s sofa, or in a pay-by-the-week motel.
The Iowa legislature should be recognized for its attempts last year to address poverty by passing legislation to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit which targets poor workers, and by supplementing Iowa food banks with $500,000 in state assistance. Unfortunately those attempts were in vain as Governor Branstad vetoed both (he actually vetoed EITC twice last year).
Partisans of all sides could possibly agree that it’s not that the poor shouldn’t “get” government subsidies/assistance; it’s that they shouldn’t “need” it. But the realities of our economic model that repress workers’ rights to organize result in enormous human need. But an economy is man-made. Policies are set forth through our public and private institutions where poor people are being told they have to work harder, and they are going to have to do with less.
The Iowa legislature’s number one priority in dealing with the budget surplus should be to address poverty and health and human services. Women and children make up the largest segment falling into poverty. One in four children under the age of five is food insecure. Poverty’s impact on children is immeasurable – how do you calculate immorality? Quantify psychological destruction? Measure the violence of broken families? You can only describe it, and in doing so your heart should break if indeed there is a soul still in you that hasn’t been erased by bean counting economic theories.
To find out more about Tavis Smiley’s poverty summit, go to Afuturewithoutpoverty.com or look up: #povertymustend on Twitter. At the website, you can sign a letter to the White House that demands the President give a major public policy address on eradication of poverty in America and convene a White House conference on the eradication of poverty.