Poverty Is Not an Accident

Poverty Is Not an Accident
Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Poor, white and pissed

You are reading http://livinginthehood.blogspot.com

I wrote the author:


Awesome commentary. Gotta tell you, though: I'm pretty tired of being called, "trash." I see myself more as leach food.

At any rate, I'm copying your commentary into my http://livinginthehood.blogspot.com blog soon.

I volunteer at a community radio station here. It's at the university. Talk about yer smug liberals! Lordy!

Anyway, thanks for tellin' it like it is!

Joe Bageant: 'Poor, white and pissed: A liberal guide to the white trash planet'
Date: Tuesday, February 22 @ 10:32:11 EST
Topic: Conservatives And The Right
By Joe Bageant

If you are reading this, it is very
likely you are a liberal, maybe even an outright screaming burn-down-the-goddam-country commie --- in which case I say, "Come sit by me comrade! (Especially if you are a fiftyish blonde.) Like most lefties you probably live in an urban area, or someplace with reasonable cultural diversity. More than likely you are educated and can read this without moving your lips. Maybe you even live in the freethinking People's Republic of Berkeley, or bustle along under the fabled lights of Manhattan where you can see independent films and buy such things as leeks and soy milk at your grocery store.

I, however, live in a town where it is easier to find chitterlings, ponhaus and souse in the grocery store than a leek ... and where Smokey and the Bandit still plays to packed movie houses year after year. My hometown's claim to fame is the 1983 "Rhinehart Tire Fire" in which five million discarded tires burned for nine months, gaining Winchester, Virginia, national news coverage and EPA superfund cleanup status. The smoke plume was visible in satellite earth photos, the cleanup took 18 years and the fire stands as my hometown's biggest event of the Twentieth Century. As for intellectual life, this is a town where damned few residents ever heard of say, Susan Sontag. Even though our local newspaper editor did manage a post mortem editorial on her, which basically said: Goodbye you piece-of-New-York-Jewish-commie-[
language]! Most townspeople reading the paper at their breakfast tables were asking themselves, "Who the hell is Susan Sontag?"

They would ask the same thing about Daniel Barenboim or Hunter S. Thompson because they've never been on Oprah, either. Our general ambience was well summed up by a visiting Atlanta lawyer who looked around town and observed: "Dumb lordee, I reckon!" This, from a guy who's seen a lot of dumb crackers.

Laugh if you want, but this is the red state American heartland everybody is talking about these days.

Is it possible for a higher class of person to live in American places like Winchester, Virginia? Not really. Only the local old family business elite and well-paid plant managers transferred here find such a place livable---the former for their social status and the latter in the safe knowledge they will be transferred out someday.

Most of the rest of us stuck in Winchester are what used to be called the traditional working class. These days, when we are called anything at all, it is White Trash. Poor working whites, people with only a high school diploma, if that. Nationally we are at least a quarter of white U.S. workers, thirty five million in all by the government's own shaved-down numbers.

Nobody knows for sure in a nation that calls millions of $7 and hour janitors and marginal contract labor people with no insurance or benefits "independent businesspersons" and "entrepreneurs."

Small independent business people are, we are told, "the backbone of America's economy." If that is true, then it's a sorry-assed thing because we are talking about citizens who bring down maybe 25-30K a year before taxes. With both spouses working. I told my freelance janitor friend Gator that he was the backbone of the American economy; he said he felt more like its [

In any case, my people are not the people in the cubicle next to you at work (though they might well be cleaning it at nights when you are sleeping.) Mine are not people complaining about paying off their college loans, or who got the best parking spot at their office campus complex. They have different problems entirely, mostly related to truck payments. They are people like my old tree service boss Danny, who cut off a finger working with a chain saw, wrapped it in a MacDonald's foil wrapper and ran to the hospital to get it sewn back on. Or any of the thousands of people in this town who smash apples into apple sauce or boil them into vinegar at National Fruit Products, performing soul-grinding shift work year after year with no opportunity ever to be promoted, or of getting health care. All they get is the seasonal layoff when all the apples are smashed and the millions of gallons of vinegar bottled - working class people going nowhere in a town that smells of vinegar.

One of the problems we working class Southerners have is that educated progressive Americans see us as a bunch of obese, heavily-armed nose pickers. This problem is compounded by the fact that so many of us are pretty much that. Call it the "Dumb-crackers-lordee-I-reckon" syndrome. But liberals err in thinking this armed and drunken laboring species is an exclusively Southern breed. No matter where you live in this nation you will find us. We are the folks in front of you at the Wal-Mart checkout lugging a case of motor oil while having a nicotine fit. But even in such democratic venues as shopping, our encounters are limited because we do not buy designer beer and you do not buy ammo or motor oil by the case.

And if we aren't in the checkout line, then we are probably waiting on you as clerks. With our bright red regulated vests and nametags we do not look poor or desperate. But I can tell you that Roy, the smiling, wise old guy in an orange vest in the plumbing department of the local Home Depot - the guy who knows everything there ever was to know about plumbing, is limping around at 67 on bad knees with two bone-grafted discs from life as a construction laborer is working solely so that he can have health insurance. Not insurance from Home Depot, mind you, but so his entire paycheck can pay the private insurance he must have if he doesn't want to lose the rundown bungalow he and his wife bought right after the Korean War to medical bills. And that bungalow is now in such a bad neighborhood that only the slumlords who dominate our city council ever make an offer, and even then not much. He's been losing ground for 25 years, not that any of the tanned middle class suburban customers here or anywhere else give a good goddam.

This is solidly red state neo-con Virginia, where people have a ready explanation for Roy's condition in life: As Jimbo the newsstand owner here says, "They are losers who can't cut it in the greatest society on earth. Darwin was right. Gandhi was wrong. Tough [
language]!" Jimbo is the same guy who once advised me to "Always kick a man when he is down; it gives him incentive to get up." I sometimes think it was the meanest thing in hell that made America's little working class towns such as Winchester.

Paw, am I a paradox?

To be poor and white is a paradox in America. Whites, especially males, are supposed to have an advantage they exploit mercilessly. Yet most of the poor people in the United States are white (51%,) outnumbering blacks two to one and all other minority poverty groups combined. America is permeated with cultural myths about white skin's association with power, education and opportunity. Capitalist society teaches that we all get what we deserve, so if a white man does not succeed, it can only be due to laziness. But just like black and Latino ghetto dwellers, poor laboring whites live within a dead end social construction that all but guarantees failure. If your high school dropout daddy busted his ass for small bucks and never read a book in his life and your mama was a textile mill worker, chances are you are not going to be recruited by Yale Skull and Bones and grow up to be president of the United States, regardless of our national mythology to that effect. You are going to be pulling an eight-buck-an-hour shift someplace and praying for enough overtime to make the heating bill. A worker.

The political left once supported these workers, stood on the lines taking its beatings at the plant gates alongside them. Now, comfortably ensconced in the middle class, the American left sees the same working whites as warmongering bigots, happy pawns of the empire. That is writing working folks off too cheaply, and it begs the question of how they came to be that way. To cast them as a source of our deep national political problems is ridiculous. They are a symptom of the problems, and they may be making it worse because they are easily manipulated, or because they cannot tell an original idea from a beer fart. But they are not the root cause by any means. The left should take its cues from Malcolm X, who understood the need to educate and inform the entire African-American society before tackling the goal of unity. Same goes for white crackers.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Don't laugh, you're next!

Middle class liberals, or affluent conservatives for that matter, are hard put to understand poor white working class culture. With our guns, God and coarse noisy aesthetic, (let's face it, NASCAR and Shania Twain?) we look like a lower species, a beery subset of some sort. The truth is that poor white working culture is not a subset of any other American class. It does not operate below the middle and upper classes, but parallel to them. Just as there are few ways out of it, there are few ways in. Its inhabitants are born here. The educated left cannot easily get inside. When it comes to access, liberal social academics are camels passing through the needle's eye, though I've never met one who would admit it, or even knew that observing is not necessarily understanding.

Consequently we find many books/studies focusing on ethnic minorities, but few credible ones about our defiant native homegrown poor. To my mind, it is impossible to be tenured and have street cred, but then I am just a prejudiced redneck prick from Winchester, Virginia, otherwise referred to as "Dickville."

Yet this place from which and about which I write, could be any of thousands of communities across the U.S. It is a parallel world created by an American system where caste and self-identity are determined by what one consumes, or cannot afford to consume, education and of course, the class into which one is born. Like most things American, it was about money from the get-go. The difference is that some of us have known this truth from birth and on brutal terms. For instance, few middle class Americans today ever sold newspapers on the street corner at age twelve to pay for school clothes or carried coal to a dirty living room stove all winter. I did both. They never sat down to a dinner of fried baloney and coffee after cold hours on the street corner.

If this sounds like some Depression era sob story, let me say that it was in 1959-62. And right now I can find a hundred people in my neighborhood who did the same, or some kids still doing it (often Latino these days).

My point is that there are and always have been a helluva lot of us know-nothing laboring sons out here, whether more fortunate Americans acknowledge our struggles or not. But they should. You see, it's like this: When the heartless American system is done reducing us to slobbering beer soaked zombies in the American labor gulag, your sweet ass is next.

Everybody loves the Dalai Lama, but nobody loves po' me!

Ain't no wonder libs got no street cred. Ain't no wonder a dope-addicted clown like Limbaugh can call libs elitists and make it stick. From where we stand, knee-deep in doctor's bills and hoping the local Styrofoam peanut factory doesn't cut the second shift, you ARE elite. Educated middle class liberals (and education is the main distinction between my marginal white people and, say, you) do not visit our kind of neighborhoods, even in their own towns. They drink at nicer bars, go to nicer churches and for the most part, live, as we said earlier, clustered in separate areas of the nation, mainly urban. Consequently, liberals are much more familiar with the social causes of immigrants, or even the plight of Tibet, than the bumper crop of homegrown native working folks who make up towns like Winchester. Liberal America loves the Dalai Lama but is revolted by life here in the land of the pot gut and the plumber's butt. Can't say as I blame them entirely, but then, that is why God created beer. To make ordinary life more attractive, or at least stomachable.

Whatever the case, helping the working poor does not mean writing another scholarly paper about them funded by grant money. That is simply taking care of one's middle class university educated self. Yet the cause of dick-in-the-dirt poor working white America is spoken for exclusively by educated middle class people who grew up on the green suburban lawns of America. However learned and good intentioned, they are not equipped to grasp the full implications of the new American labor gulag---or the old one for that matter. They cannot understand a career limited to yanking guts out through a chicken's ass for the rest of one's life down at the local poultry plant (Assuming it does not move offshore.) Being born working class carries moral and spiritual implications understood only through experiencing them. It comes back to street cred.

The census bureau keeps numbers on the working poor. Universities conduct studies and economists rattle off statistics. If studies and numbers alone could solve the problem of working poverty, then rip-off check cashing would not be one of the hottest franchises in the country and Manpower would not be our largest employer. Yes, and if a bullfrog had wings it wouldn't bump its ass. Reason and social science are not cutting it, and numbers cannot describe the soul and character of a people. Those same ones who smell like an ashtray in the checkout line, devour a carton of Little Debbies at a sitting and praise Jesus for every goddam wretched little daily non-miracle. (If that last part does not make sense to you it simply proves my point about the secular liberal disconnect.)

A good start on healing this rift might be this: the next time those on the left encounter these seemingly self-screwing, stubborn, God-obsessed folks, maybe they can be open to their trials, understand the complexity of their situation, step forward and say, "Brother can I lend you a hand?" Surely it would make the ghosts of Joe Hill, Franklin Roosevelt and Mohandas Gandhi smile.

More crap about values

Before I am asked the more specific question, "What the [
language] do you think middle class liberals should do then?" I'm gonna answer it.

ORGANIZE! Quit voting for that pack of undead hacks called the Democratic Party and ORGANIZE! Howard Dean is just another millionaire Yale frat boy---(Daddy was a Dean in Dean Whitter) ORGANIZE! Quit kidding yourself that the Empire will protect professionals and semi-professionals such as yourself and ORGANIZE! Spend time on a Pentecostal church pew or in a blue-collar beer joint and ORGANIZE! Join the Elks Club and ORGANIZE!

Realize that there is no party whatsoever in the United States that represents anything but corporate interests and ORGANIZE! Start in your own honky wimp-assed white bread neighborhood group and ORGANIZE! Knock on doors and ORGANIZE! Move heaven and earth and hearts and minds and ORGANIZE! And if enough people do it, it will scare the living piss out of the political elite and the corporations and they will come to club you down like they did in Miami and Seattle. But at least you will have been among the noble ones when the history is written.

There now. I've got it out of my system.

Given that every damned utterance or word published about America these days has to have political implications and relevancy to the crooked 2004 elections, let's talk about the much discussed political anger and "values issues' of hitherto faceless self-screwing working class folks. Tell ya what. I have both prayed and been [
language]-faced six ways to hell with these people and I am NOT seeing the much bally-hooed anger about the values most often cited, such as gun control, abortion or gay marriage...True, these are the issues of the hard-line Bible thumpers and fundamentalist leadership that has harped on them for decades. And the politicians love that crap. And apparently so do the media pundits.

But here in this particular heartland, once I step away from the fundamentalist crazies, I am simply not seeing the homophobia so widely proclaimed by the liberal establishment. Hell, we've got three gay guys and at least one lesbian who hang out at my local redneck tavern and they all are right in there drinking and teasing and jiving with everyone else. As my hirsute 300-pound friend Pootie says: "Heck, I have a lot in common with lesbians!" (I would concede however, that homosexual marriage, was just a bit too much for some of the working class to accept in the 2004 elections. It was the visuals.)

The working class people in my town are angry, but not especially angry at Queer Eye For the Straight Guy, or unseen fetuses. I think working class anger is at a more fundamental level and that it is about this: rank and status as citizens in our society. I think it is about the daily insult working class people suffer from employers, government both national, state and local, and from their more educated fellow Americans, the doctors, lawyers, journalists, academicians, and others who quietly disdain working people and their uncultured ways. And I think working class anger is about some other things too:

It is about the indignities suffered at the hands of managers and bosses---being degraded to a working, faceless production unit in our glorious new global economy.

It is about being ignored by the educated classes and the other similar professional, political and business elites that America does not acknowledge as elites.

It is about one's priorities being closer to home and more ordinary than those of the powerful people who determine our lives.

It is about suffering the everyday lack of human respect from the government, and every other institutional body except the church.

It is about working at Wal-Mart or Home Depot or Arby's wearing a nametag on which you do not even rate a last name.
You are just Melanie or Bobby, there to kiss the manager's ass or find another gig.

It is about trying to live your life the only way you know how because you were raised that way. But somehow the rules changed under you.

It is about trying to maintain some semblance of outward dignity to your neighbors, when both you and the neighbors are living payday to payday, though no one admits it.

It is about media-fabled things you've never seen in your own family: college funds set aside for the kids, stock portfolios, vacation homes...

It is about the unacknowledged stress of both spouses working longer, producing more for a paycheck that has been dwindling in purchasing power since 1976.

Yes, it is about values. It is about the values we have forsaken as a people---such as dignity, education and opportunity for everyone. And it is about the misdirected anger of the working classes toward those they least understand. You. And me.

By the way, the working people I am talking about are not entirely unhappy with life, just angry to a certain degree at this point (and bound to be angrier when the Bush regime finally runs the nation's economy off the cliff.) They simply resist change because for decades change has always spelled something bad---9/11, terrorism, job outsourcing...always something bad headed toward worse.

Arise oh pissy liberals!

It is one helluva comment on the American class system that I get paid to speak, write about and generally expose to liberal groups the existence of some 250 million working Americans who have been fixing America's cars and paving its streets and waiting on its tables from day one. As a noble and decent liberal New York City book editor told me, "Seen from up here it is if your people were some sort of exotic, as if you were from Yemen or something." Jeesh!

This is not to berate educated liberal America---well, OK, a little. But if liberal America has been somewhat too smug, my working class brethren have been downright water-on-the-brain stupid to be misled so easily by the likes of Karl Rove and the phony piety of George Bush. (And god dammit Pootie, Saddam did NOT attack the World Trade Center!) However, liberals and working people do need each other to survive what is surely coming, that thing being delivered to us by the regime which promised us they would "run this country like a business." Oh hell, yes, they are going to do it. So the left must genuinely connect face to face with Americans who do not necessarily share all of our priorities, if it is ever to be relevant again.

Once we begin to look at the human faces of this declining republic's many moving parts, the inexplicable self-screwing working class voter is not so inexplicable after all. God, gays and guns alone do not explain the conservative populism of the 2004 elections. College educated liberals and blue-collar working people need to start separating substantive policy issues from the symbolic ones. Fight on the substance, the real ground zero stuff that ordinary working people can feel and see---make real pledges about real things. Like absolutely guaranteed health care and a decent living wage.

And mean it and deliver it.

Whoa ho! It ain't gonna be easy, because poor working class Americans, like the rest of us, have become fearful, numb, authority worshipping fools reluctant to give up the mindless heroin of cheap consumerism...just like you...just like me. They'll never come to us, so we must go to them. Which means working the churches and the wards and the watering holes, the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfasts, our workplaces, and lo! Even the beeriest underbelly of the America ... where nice liberal middle class people do not let their kids go for fear it will damage their precious little SAT scores. Again, nobody said it would be easy.

Brotherhood. Solidarity. Compassion.

Too idealistic? Futile? Maybe. But if these are not worthy goals, then nothing is.

Delivering on all this in a peaceful orderly fashion will be a bitch. So hard in fact that I do not much intend to participate. [
language] it.
I've wanted an out and outright armed revolution ever since the November elections. But that's another matter and the guy listening in from Homeland Security right now can go take a flying [
language]. Write to me in Gitmo, y'all! Just address it to "Joe from Yemen."

Copyright 2005 by Joe Bageant
Joe Bageant is a magazine editor and writer living in Winchester Virginia.
He may be contacted at bageantjb@netscape.net.

This article comes from The Smirking Chimp
The URL for this story is:

Friday, February 18, 2005

saving health care for the poor

You are reading http://livinginthehood.blogspot.com

If the House and Senate accept President Bush's proposed $60
billion cut for the Medicaid program, some of the most
vulnerable Americans would go without basic health care

With nearly three-quarters of Planned Parenthood clients living
within the federal definition of poverty, the Medicaid program
is a critical part of the health care safety net we provide. And
as Planned Parenthood affiliates are the leading providers of
affordable reproductive health care services, we are doing all
we can to prevent cuts or caps for Medicaid that translate to
cuts in benefits and services for our patients when they need us
most. We're lobbying state and federal elected
officials...working in coalitions...and mobilizing supporters
like you online and in communities across the country.

Join our effort and urge your member of Congress not to
dismantle the health care safety net that more than 50 million
Americans rely upon.


If you speak out today you will be supporting...
* health care coverage for 25 million children - more than one
in four
* basic health care services for more than 13 million low-income
working parents
* the largest source of public funding for family planning

We have an opportunity to really make a difference in the lives
of millions of Americans. The president's budget is merely a
blueprint. Congress is not bound to the president's requests.

Between now and early March, the House and Senate Budget
Committees will develop budgets that will include funding levels
for Medicaid. Your voice and support are needed during this
crucial time.

Join Planned Parenthood in protecting Medicaid and health care
for America's most needy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

the Old Man's dying

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I've hadMugwart since the early '90s. He was born in my apartment in New Albany,
IN, right across the river from Louisville, KY. He had three moms: his
own, my cocker/basset mix Tica and me.

He used to be able to leap five feet in the air, to catch a plastic
tarantula on fishing line. He, his sister and mom and dad used to walk
all over the farm we lived on in Pekin, IN. Through the woods, in the

Mugwart was the first to discover that, when I pulled in my line from
the water, there'd be a bluegill on it. He took to wading out into the
cat tails to catch fish as I reeled them in.

He could climb the barn's poles to the top rafters. He loved riding in
my Winnebago camper and would spend hours sleeping on the dash board.

He adored dogs.

He's nothing but bones now. He weighs nothing. His eyes are dull and his
fur's matted. He's so week, he can only walk a foot or two before

I put him out in the front yard, near the animal water. I had him in a
cardboard box lined with towels. But he crawled out and is resting in
the shade of a planter, by the water dish.

It's the first time he's been out front in a long time. I try to keep
the cats in the chicken yard, so Grace, my nasty neighbor next door,
won't throw rocks at them.

But he's not able to climb the wall into her yard. He'll be fine out
there. He needs to sleep in the sun.

I'm pretty sad. It's hard, watching a personality being stripped down to
a struggling organism.

Taz has killed two chickens in as many weeks. That was hard, too.

She has a muzzle now, as does Porkchop. She'll wear hers any time she's
near the chickens from now on. They both wear them for walks.

I need to get Porky his rabies vaccine soon, so I can submit the
paperwork to animal control.

The judge dismissed the warrant I had. I have to return to court on Mar.
1, for the original citations. But, since the animal control officer no
longer works for the city, I'm expecting the charges to be dismissed.

My radio program came off pretty well, I think. Ma's very proud and is
being very affectionate.

I'm editing it to burn to CDs to give to the participants and to submit
for a broadcasting award.

They say I'm getting paid for it, too, soon as the paper work clears at
the university (which could take a month.)

I'm planning to concentrate on gardening and writing now. I owe Paul
Ingles some "Your Top Stories" interviews for his program.I

've just been resting, yesterday and today. Ma & I got the flu last
week and are still pretty weak and coughing.

I keep going out front to check on Mugwart. I expect he'll be dead
before nightfall. Ma said she'd help me dig his grave. I expect I'll
bury him right where he dies: in the sun, in the front yard, near the
water dish, with chickens around.

I've ordered some hatching eggs: mixed barnyard. BUt I have my eyes on
some Muskovie ducks: giant, quackless ducks. I'm also watching Japanese
silkies eggs. They're my favorites.

Life goes on.

Ma and I are discussing the possibilities of moving to California in the
next, few years, if we can find suitable employment and a town with less
than outrageous rents. good luck, huh?

Well, that ought to keep my readers from emailing and callign,
complaining they never heard the outcome of my legal troubles.

I have LOTS to write about the Kicked Out Queers broadcast. It'll be in
the rriverstone radio blog. I didn't DARE write any of it before the
broadcast; I was afraid they'd pull the program, honest to gawd! sheesh.

But I'll catch u up on the behind the scenes stuff soon.

It was a wonderful experience, finally.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

War on the Poor

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Eric Garcetti: 'Bush transforms the war on poverty into a war on the poor'
Date: Wednesday, February 09 @ 09:58:52 EST
Topic: Economic Policy
By Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles Times

President Bush refers to himself as a wartime president, and he has shown resolve not to back down on the battlefield. But the budget he released this week waves a flag of surrender in another war, the 40-year "war on poverty."

The budget announces cuts of 28% � or $1.4 billion � from our arsenal of critical social programs. The largest and most vital to Los Angeles is the Community Development Block Grant. As more cities draw on poverty-fighting grants each year, Los Angeles' allocation has steadily decreased, from $88.6 million in 2003 to $82.7 million this year. Under the proposed cuts, our allocation would plummet by at least $15 million.

Alongside previously proposed cuts to Section 8 housing assistance, these reductions send a stark message to the country's poor, its elderly and its urban youth: You're no longer our problem.

In Los Angeles, these grants pay for after-school programs, home repairs for the elderly in blighted neighborhoods and intervention programs for youth on the brink of joining or already in gangs. They spur economic development projects and fund outreach to the homeless.

Now the president wants to cut these groups off from the prospects of economic recovery. That represents a radical departure from a nation's commitment to its most vulnerable citizens.

In the prosperous decades after World War II, the nation found too many Americans still without access to decent housing, education and economic opportunity. Later, from President Johnson's declaration of a war on poverty in 1964 to the expansion of federal anti-poverty programs under presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, a national consensus emerged supporting the federal government's power and duty to alleviate disenfranchisement and powerlessness in our poorest urban and rural areas. Even President Reagan, a conservative hero, expanded block grants.

The programs Bush intends to cut enjoy bipartisan support in Congress: Conservatives often favor block grants, which allow local governments to set their own agenda to fight poverty.

Federal officials have suggested that the cuts are intended to hold local governments "more accountable." The Department of Housing and Urban Development already conditions grants on oversight and meeting exacting standards.

Even more perverse, the president himself has called the country's attention to causes that his own budget abandons. His State of the Union address admirably underscored the fight against gang violence. But the organizations that struggle to do what Bush called "giving young people, especially young men in our cities, better options than apathy, or gangs, or jail" rely on block grant funds.

The president has also sworn to end homelessness in a decade, but block grants finance the city and county's homeless services and make up 20% of the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

New ideas are welcome in the struggle against poverty. Fiscal discipline will be necessary to balance an overstretched budget. But this budget attempts neither. The war on poverty has suddenly become a war on the poor.
Eric Garcetti, who represents the 13th District on the Los Angeles City Council, chairs the city's Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times:

This article comes from The Smirking Chimp

The URL for this story is:

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

President puts faith in religion-based social services

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President puts faith in religion-based social services
Date: Tuesday, February 08 @ 10:01:16 EST

Topic: Economic Policy
Bush favors private aid with a moral dimension at the expense of more traditional programs.

By Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON � In the latest sign of a philosophical change in how the government should deliver social services, President Bush's new budget would cut some traditional aid for the poor in such areas as housing and health coverage.

At the same time, some religion-based programs that promote such goals as sexual abstinence and marriage and provide mentors for at-risk children would enjoy increased federal aid.

Both the shift away from long-standing social welfare policies and the willingness to step up spending on programs tied to religious organizations reflect the fact, analysts said, that the administration is more comfortable than many of its predecessors in advocating social service strategies with a moral dimension.

Administration officials said Monday that the increases � although generally smaller than the cutbacks � would be made in part through payments to faith-based organizations, a hallmark of Bush's self-described "compassion agenda."

An additional $150 million, for example, is proposed next year for programs aimed at treating drug addicts, keeping at-risk boys from joining gangs, and the mentoring of prisoners' children and newly released prisoners, among other items. Much of this money would be directed toward faith-based groups.

Programs for marriage preservation, "responsible fatherhood" and sexual abstinence would get about $280 million more.

Additional tax breaks would encourage personal contributions to charities.

The size of such increases appear minor, however, compared to the estimated $45 billion in cuts to Medicaid over the next 10 years and other reductions to food stamps, community development grants and housing for the disabled � cuts that social service advocates said Monday could bring major changes to the lives of many aid recipients.

But administration officials said the increases in faith-based funding reflected the philosophy of an administration eager to find what they viewed as better ways to deliver services.

"The president has chosen to go with the programs he thinks are the most effective and, of course, he has continued to maintain a strong belief that partnerships between government and America's armies of compassion mean a lot in the lives of our poor," said Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Towey called the Bush plan a "compassionate budget in a tight budgetary time," and officials noted that many of the traditional social service programs such as public housing vouchers remained mostly intact.
But advocates for the poor challenged the administration's reasoning.

"The administration wants to abandon commitments that the federal government has made to serve low-income families, and to replace those practical commitments with very small pots of money and lip service about the faith community," said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of social welfare agencies and labor unions.

The debate over the role of faith programs comes after Bush won reelection campaigning to increase government funding for religious charities that he maintained were often better at serving the needs of the poor than entrenched government bureaucracies.

Bush enjoyed broad support from conservative evangelicals drawn to his faith-driven views on moral issues.

The full scope of the proposed budget cuts was not clear Monday, and some advocacy groups cautioned that some faith-based organizations might suffer a net loss of federal dollars.

Still, in pronouncements by the administration Monday, faith-based programs were among the well-publicized winners.

The same division in the Department of Health and Human Services where the marriage and abstinence programs would be increased faces a $719-million cut overall.

"This budget signals a substantial increase in the redistribution of federal dollars to faith-based organizations dealing with topics like marriage and abstinence and away from secular organizations," said Paul C. Light, professor of public service at New York University.

Light sees the Bush budget as part of a slow but steady trend to fund conservative churches and organizations that have a clear social agenda, often at the expense of secular nonprofit organizations and traditional federal aid programs.

At HHS, the head of the Administration for Children and Families, Wade F. Horn, said that this year's budget showed a real commitment to topics such as marriage, child support, fatherhood and sexual abstinence for the unmarried.

"At the end of the day, those initiatives will be there for the benefit of kids," Horn said in an interview.

Horn said his agency had long provided funding to church-related organizations such as Catholic Charities that offered a range of social services.

"I think what's different now is that we try to remove as many barriers as possible" for smaller, independent faith-based organizations that have never participated in federal programs before, he said.

"Now what the president has done is put out the welcome mat for faith-based organizations," Horn said.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

Reprinted from The Los Angeles Times:
This article comes from The Smirking Chimp

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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Queer & Homeless

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PRESS RELEASE The 8th Annual Homelessness Marathon
Rogi Riverstone
Albuquerque: 505-842-8175
Toll Free: 1-877-718-0691

8th ANNUAL HOMELESSNESS MARATHON Broadcasting in Albuquerque

Local producers will carry a live, hour discussion, to be aired at 10pm local time, on the impact of homelessness on Gay, Lesbian, Transexual, Transgendered, Pansexual and Bisexual people in Albuquerque. Stay tuned to KUNMfm 89.9 and http://kunm.org for further details.

The 8th Annual Homelessness Marathon is a nationally-produced show. Participating Pacifica, NPR and independent, community and public radio stations will both broadcast and air it. The Marathon will be broadcast from 9pm, EST on Monday, February 14th to 11am, EST on Tuesday, February 14, 2005. The broadcast will be carried on KUNMfm 89.9.

The Homelessness Marathon has been called, "the most significant media event focusing on homelessness and poverty" by Donald Whitehead, director of the National Coalition for the Homeless. And it is unlike any other broadcast in the world.
The Marathon is almost entirely live, covers taboo territory and features the voices of people who are rarely heard on the air. Perhaps for this reason it has grown rapidly. The first Marathon, in 1998, was on one tiny station in central New York. The 7th Marathon, in 2004, was on 80 stations coast-to-coast, with another 30 stations across Canada carrying a parallel Canadian Homelessness Marathon.

As always, the 8th Marathon's broadcast booth will be set up outside, to dramatize the plight of people with nowhere to go in the cold, and calls will be taken from around the country. But there will be no on-air solicitations. The Marathon is a consciousness raising, not a fundraising broadcast.
The 8th Marathon will be distributed via the NPR and Pacifica satellites and will be streamed on the web. More information, including broadcast schedules and audio clips from past broadcasts may be found at the Marathon's web site: http://kunm.org and http://www.homelessnessmarathon.org.

Porky day

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It's almost 4 in the morning. I woke Ma at two, so she could start work on a special project for her job. She's typing away on her puter, in her bedroom. I can't sleep. I feel duty-bound to keep vigil, so she doesn't go back to sleep before she's done. It's going slowly. And she's cranky. So, I just keep feeding her Earl Grey tea, mixed with sugar free hot cocoa mix, with an occasional piece of Dove Christmas chocolate, to keep her caffeine levels up enough to keep her going.

I get Porkchop back from the pound today. The next door neighbor agreed to drive me out, and both of us back.

I had a dream, during Ma's and my brief sleep tonight. I was at the pound, holding Porky's leash. He LOOKED the same, but his temper was iffy. He wasn't the same. Something in the shelter had changed him. I was a little afraid of him. He seemed quite capable of attacking even ME, if startled. I was supposed to handle him, in a shelter full of people and other animals, while trying to sign papers and write a check.

I think I'll ask them not to bring Porky out until I've concluded my paper work and am on my way out.

He'll be hysterically happy to see me, I'm guessing. He'll probably be a little stunned and very hyper. I'll need both hands and my entire body to control him around other people.

Poor guy: he's been sleeping on cold, concrete floors, surrounded by frightened, angry dog noises, for ten days.

I've got to be ready for it.

Taz will be thrilled to have him home. She's been driving all of us crazy: Ma, me, the cats. She's had nobody to run and wrestle with. Porky's her favorite chew toy. My slippers, underwear and assorted decorations have paid the price of Porky's absence.

Poor Ma can't go to the toilet without a crotch inspection. And my old man cat, Mugwart, is going bald around the neck from so much chewing.

The chickens perch high on things, just to get away from Taz. I try to keep them seperated as often as possible. But, when they first go to sleep and first wake up, there's a small window when they're in the chicken yard with Taz.

I can barely wait to see the old bastard again.

Makes it easier to face my court date tomorrow, knowing I'll have reassembled my family before I go.

Ma's extremely busy at work...obviously...and won't have much time for household stuff. I'm doing most of her chores, now.

If I have to go to jail tomorrow, it's going to be very hard for Ma to care for all these critters and plants.

She gets her cash bond back tomorrow. They'll set my trial date, if I can't get the judge and prosecutor to dismiss the charges.

I don't know if I'll have to post bail for myself.

It's going to be a rough month...