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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book - The TitleLess Leader

The Titleless Leader: The Critical Value of a Compassionate Heart

By Nan S. Russel
August 15, 2012

Compassion, like trust, is one of the four needs that ignite natural followership and workplace results.

Operating with a compassionate heart is a titleless leadership component. Bottom line? Kindness matters.

I was reminded of that while settling into a seat behind a row of text-messaging siblings. I noticed my growing irritation when the one in front put his seat back into my already cramped leg room, as the group bantered loudly. This four hour flight was going to be extra long, I muttered to my husband.

Saving the day with a a small act of kindness

By the time the plane took off, I was braced for the return of the young man’s seatback into my area and a continuation of rowdy teenager behavior. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When he started to adjust his seat in my direction, his older brother reminded him that because someone was seated behind him, it wasn’t polite. “Wow,” I thought, “What a small kindness to practice and teach your children.” I was impressed as the two brothers and sister quietly listened to iPods and read the entire flight.

I had misjudged them. That was further evidenced while disembarking in Denver to change planes. The young man in front of me quickly stood to aid a passenger struggling to retrieve her bag from the overhead bin, and all three patiently facilitated an orderly queuing-off so families in front with car seats and toddlers could disembark.

Taught to notice the little things that impact others, these siblings automatically extended a considerate approach, helping hands, and thoughtful behavior. They were a good reminder to evaluate my own actions. How often do I forget to hold the door, say thank you to a kindness, or offer assistance? How frequently am I blind to others’ needs, or cause frustration because I’m inattentive to how my actions are affecting them?

Sure, recognizing and doing small things won’t change the world. But it will improve it. My mood was saved that day by one small act of kindness.

Life is busy, hard, challenging, and complicated enough. Recognizing the power of the little things we can do to help another get through their day with more ease and grace, seems a good idea to me. Ian MacLaren, a 19th-century Scottish author and theologian, put it well, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”

Is compassion compatible in today’s workplace?

But words like “kindness” and “compassion” used in connection with work make some uncomfortable. Will you appear weak and naive to display kindness? Can you be both kind and influential? Compassionate and business minded? Caring and fair? Yes, you can. And titleless leaders are.

So what does a compassionate heart look like in the real-world of company policies, business priorities, and cries for fairness? Below are three quick ways you can show more care and compassion within any position, role, or sphere of operation, even when the organizational culture runs counter to the concept.

And if you’re wondering, “whats the benefit?” ask yourself, who would you follow someone who demonstrates kindness, or someone whose actions spark mental name calling unfit to print?

Pretend your kids (or someone else’s) are watching. We watch our language, say please and thank you more, increase our patience, and behave better in front of children. Harvard University Assistant Professor Sreedhari Desais research found that, “not only do we behave differently around kids, but its not only the presence of a child that makes us feel this way, it’s the idea of a child.” Her research team discovered even child reminders - a teddy bear or crayons in a room - resulted in better and more generous behavior from adults.

Give a daily boost to you immune system. Commit one act of kindness at work every day. Make it a calendar reminder until it’s a habit. According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, Helping others reverses feelings of depression, supplies social contact, and decreases feelings of hostility and isolation that cab cause stress, overeating, ulcers, etc. This simple, daily habit benefits your physical health, reduces your stress, and positively impacts the mental health of those around you. A sense of well-being lasts a few hours after a kindness happens, no matter how small.

Pay attention to how. You can have difficult conversations, challenge results, implement change, have heated debates, negotiate contracts, and any number of tasks (the what). But as you do, remember how you do what you do matters. Your mood, words. location, style, and approach (the how) will impact cooperation levels, engagement, well-being, self-esteem, and performance on both sides. Be kind, considerate, and good-hearted in how you do things. In her Psychology Today blog, author Judith Sills, PhD, remarked, Kindness is a step beyond respect or fair play, a step out in front of the corporate policy manual. It’s personal, thoughtful and - for want of a better word - caring.

Kindness an compassion are alive in many work groups. It’s the preferred style of titleless leaders and requires no formal policy statement, organizational mandate, or approval. Its simply their way of being.

The TitleLess Leader - How to Get Things Done When You’re Not in Charge, copyright 2012 Nan S. Russell. Published byCareer Press, Pompton Plains, NJ. 800-227-3371.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/30/12 •
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Class War Stupidity

Are You a Victim of Political Propaganda?

By Joel Hirschhorn
Yahoo
September 28, 2011

Much is being said by Republicans about a class war being waged by President Obama and Democrats. In their fantasy world this class war is attacking so called job creators. All this talk is pure nonsense, absolutely false and misleading, intentional political garbage designed to intentionally mislead gullible Americans stupid enough to believe the lies. Here is the truth: There has, indeed, been a class war waged in the US; it has been going on for a good thirty years. And this real war has been won.

There are official data over time called the Gini index or coefficient between zero and one that is a statistical measure of economic inequality. When it is zero national income is evenly distributed among all citizens, and when it is one all the income goes to one person. Obviously the Gini figure will be somewhere between zero and one. Some nations have very low values and others very high ones. In the high category is the US. But more important is that the index has changed over time, rising from about 1980 to current times, after it had remained fairly stable over several decades. That significant rise from about .37 to .45 shows unequivocally that the rich got richer as most of the population in the middle class and below lost ground.

To truly appreciate what has happened you must seriously examine some data. For example, between 1979 and 2005 the inflation-adjusted income of families in the middle of the income distribution rose 21 percent. That is very slow growth, especially compared with the 100 percent rise in median income over a generation after World War II when inequality actually decreased. More importantly, over the same period, the income of the very rich, the top 100th of 1 percent of the income distribution, rose by 480 percent. Absorb that number for a few moments. In 2005 dollars, the average annual income of that group rose from $4.2 million to $24.3 million. Those numbers describe the true class war in which the rich and powerful were the clear winner.

Presently, according to new estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, one-fourth of those with incomes of more than $1 million a year pay income and payroll tax of 12.6 percent of their income or less, putting their tax burden below that of many in the middle class who are likely pay twice that amount or even more. The class war winners are clear.

Need more convincing? Consider DATA from the Tax Foundation. Between 1987 and 2008, the share of income controlled by the top 1 percent grew to 20 percent from 12 percent. That equates to a total share growth of 67 percent. During the same period, their share of taxes went to 28 percent from 24 percent, indicating a share growth of 17 percent. Follow that? The top 1 percent share of income grew nearly five times faster than their share of taxes: 67 percent versus 17 percent. Pretty darn good deal. So forget all that malarkey from Republicans that the rich pay so much of the nation’s taxes unfairly. The class war winners are reaping the rewards of a two-party plutocracy that they own.

Here is another dose of class war reality. The top 1 percent share of total pre-tax income rose from about 10 percent in 1980 to 21 percent in 2008, a nice doubling that helps explain the rise in economic inequality. It really pays to win the class war.

The idea that raising taxes on the rich in these dismal economic times in any way represents some injustice is such baloney that one should wonder how any American can possibly eat this Republican garbage. Similarly, the nonsense about job creators somehow not creating new jobs because of higher taxes flies in the face of reality, because very low taxes have not caused them to create significant new jobs. Nor did higher taxes for some decades for decades after World War II stop high rates of new job creation.

The rich class own most of the wealth of the nation after winning the class war for some thirty years. They accomplished this victory by using money to buy and corrupt the political system. The most perplexing aspect of all this is why most Americans have not risen up in revolt against the political system that has so screwed them. Those on the right keep supporting Republican candidates that lie to them and actively work against the economic interests of all but the rich. Those on the left fall victim to the lies of Obama and other Democrats that promise much but deliver next to nothing to bring economic justice to most Americans. Democrats have also contributed to the killing of the middle class.

Odds are that those who have lost the real class war will continue to suffer until they wake up to the need to overthrow the political system. The only peaceful strategy being use of the Article V convention option in the Constitution by which state delegates could propose amendments that would reform the political and government system to take away the power used by the rich to steal the wealth of the nation. Do not ever believe that voting for new Democrats or Republicans will fix our corrupt and dysfunctional system.

One important thing to keep in mind: Raising taxes on the rich is necessary but not sufficient to turn the class war already won by the rich around.

Finally, the path to economic justice must include what Dylan Ratigan is advocating, a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics, which I urge readers to support. This is the way to remove the key tool used by the rich and powerful to pervert the economy in their favor. Congress will never propose such an amendment, only a convention will.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/30/12 •
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Why A Law For Paid Sick Leave?

Can’t find meaningful work? Toiling as a TEMP for big business exploiting you and your skills?

THAT’S LIFE.  The good old days of being treated with dignity and respect by employers is nearly gone.  Likewise for loyalty and retention.

UNION MEMBERSHIP in America is DOWN to LESS than ten percent.

I guess that’s why we’re even thinking of laws like this:

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Commissioners to vote on controversial paid sick leave

WFTV
August 27, 2012

Orange County commissioners are expected to make a controversial vote on Tuesday that could affect thousands of workers.

The issue at hand is whether or not all workers should get paid sick leave.

Labor activists say people deserve time off.

“Is it sound public policy to tell business how to run business?” said Fred Brummer, county commissioner.

The question posed by Brummer is at the heart of a political battle that’s boiling over in Orange County.

Should the county force employers to offer workers paid time off when they or their family members get sick?

Brummer and the majority of his colleagues on the County Commission say no.

“These types of starter jobs that don’t have sick time are the kind of jobs that so much of my district needs,” said Brummer.

With the county’s biggest employers like Disney and Darden Restaurants behind them, commissioners are pushing for a referendum on the November ballot, asking voters to ban companies from being forced to offer paid sick leave.

It’s a last minute move that’s angered labor activists who spend months collecting signatures to get their own sick leave question on the ballot.

“We had more than 50,000 petitions validated by the supervisor of elections office. We did it on time, played by the rules, played by the book and this is an attempt to basically stop democracy in action,” said Maria McCluskey, of Organize Now.

If approved, their question would force employers with more than 15 workers to offer one hour of sick time for every 37 hours worked.

“It’s rough out there, especially in Florida, and workers need this type of protection,” said McCluskey.

With the way votes are expected to line up on Tuesday, it appears both questions will appear on the November ballot.

But what if they both pass?

WFTV was told by lawyers in the know that the county commissioners’ initiative would likely trump.

SOURCE

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Lawmakers look to cut workers’ unused vacations

By Brent Kallestad
The Associated Press

Rank-and-file state workers who haven’t received a pay raise in the past half dozen years may now see some perks reduced to help pare what some lawmakers say is a worrisome liability.

State officials want to decrease the amount of vacation and sick time employees can accrue from one year to the next, saying the amount of money that would be owed these workers if they left state employment is a serious liability on the budget. The state owes about $677 million in deferred vacation and sick pay, down from about $691 million a year ago money that will be paid out over many years as employees quit or retire.

Currently, employees can accrue up to combined 18 weeks of vacation and sick time that would be paid when they leave. Gov. Rick Scott and some lawmakers say employees should have those accruals capped at a lower level.

“The bottom line is the taxpayers are the ones footing the bills,” said state Rep. Debbie Mayfield. “When we have benefits and programs that the private sector doesn’t that the taxpayers are paying for, then we need to take a look at it. Let’s get real with what our benefits are.”

Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, introduced legislation for the 2012 session that didn’t get off the ground in an election year and is now working with incoming Department of Management Services chief Craig Nichols along with Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, who doubles as the state’s chief operating officer, on a new bill for 2013.

“We are exploring the methods that private industry manages paid time off, including sick leave and vacation time, and plan to discuss some solutions with the Legislature during the next session,” Wilkins said.

Doug Martin, legislative director for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union that represents 57,000 Florida government employees, said hacking away at workers’ benefits will make it more difficult for the state to hire and keep its top talent.

“The work for many in the state is not dictated by a time clock, it’s dictated by a 911 call,” Martin said. “The state has to compete against the private sector. The state has to provide a suitable package of benefits and pay, not only to recruit the best, but also to retain them.”

The largest portion of the obligation to career service employees is $424 million for vacation time on the books. Another $151 million is unused sick time that employees with 10 years or more service can cash in when they leave state government.

Finally, there is nearly $102 million owed in special comp pay for employees ח many in the public safety sector deemed essential at times. Instead of getting overtime pay for extra work, they take extra time off. A new rule that took effect on July 1 requires that employees taking a special comp day must now schedule the corresponding day off within the next few months and use it before the expiration date.

Employees who are asked to work on holidays or in certain emergencies note that many agencies are already short-staffed.

“How are they going to work this out?” asked Mike Ebersole, who has worked for the state for a dozen years and serves as the statewide political chair for the union representing state employees. “We’re giving up time with our families to go out and do these things and you can’t even give us comp time?”

A small part of the total, $4.2 million, is in the governor’s office, which pales in comparison to the more than $200 million accumulated by state corrections employees.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, noted that lawmakers have tried for years to put the brakes on the costly system, recalling that former Senate President John McKay changed the rules to curtail school principals leaving with payouts sometimes nearing six figures for built up vacation and sick time. Fasano agrees with Mayfield that payouts on accrued time should be based on the current value and not the salary the employee earns at the time they leave the state’s ranks.

“Sick days are supposed to be used for what?” Fasano asked. “It’s for when the employee is sick or has a child that has to go to the doctor or for emergency purposes. You need to use them responsibly.”

Mayfield would like to revise the present sick leave rules where employees could carry over sick days as a protection against a catastrophic illness, instead of receiving a lump sum payout when they leave. Another possibility would be making disability insurance available to employees to cover them during lengthy illnesses instead of allowing them to accrue sick days.

There is no federal law requiring private companies to offer paid sick days, although employees of the U.S. government are provided 13 paid days a year. Federal employees also have a broad range of benefits that go beyond insurance and RETIREMENT and each agency is free to offer its own benefits package.

Nearly two out of every three private-sector workers, or 62%, get paid sick days, according to a 2010 estimate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But most of them are among the highest-paid workers in the nation. About 38%, or some 40 million American workers, get no paid sick days. The availability of paid sick days rises with income.

Fasano and Mayfield agree that they don’t want to change benefits already earned by employees. The Legislature recently required state employees to contribute 3 percent of their earnings to their retirement, but that has been challenged and awaits review by the state Supreme Court.

Annual leave payout for career service employees maxes out at six weeks. A departing employee can be paid for a quarter of their unused sick leave up to a maximum of 480 hours. The more highly paid senior management employees can receive a maximum of 12 weeks unused vacation plus the accrued sick time. The vacation and sick leave benefits are accumulated on the number of hours worked each pay period with the multiplier increasing with seniority.

“Some of these state employees know how the system works better than the people who put it in place,” Mayfield said, adding that agency supervisors must do a better job. “Managers should be held accountable to make sure that employees use their vacation time and personal time off. Use it or lose it.”

Copyright The Associated Press

SOURCE

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Paid sick leave a wise investment
Maryland can protect workers, public health with little effect on businesses

By Barbara Morgan and Ross Eisenbrey
November 28, 2012

Having shown national leadership on marriage equality and fair treatment of immigrant children, Maryland has the opportunity to turn its attention to the plight of workers who have no access to paid sick days. The ability to earn paid sick days allows workers to avoid the choice of going to work sick or going without pay and maybe even losing a job.

Employers, workers, and the public would all benefit from such a standard. The many employers that already provide paid sick leave would have a level playing field with their competitors, and all would more easily maintain a healthy workplace.

Currently, 40 percent of private sector employees nationwide cannot earn paid sick days, and lower-paid service workers in the restaurant and fast-food industries are particularly unlikely to have this safeguard. Food service workers, health care workers, child care workers and others who come into physical contact with the public or handle our food are among the least likely to have paid leave. There can be serious consequences when infected employees go to work, as happened with an estimated 8 million people during the peak of the H1N1 flu virus outbreak several years ago.

Polls show overwhelming public support for paid sick leave, even among those who identify themselves as political conservatives. And as more and more jurisdictions adopt a standard, familiarity and support will grow.

Any new labor standard will generate concerns about the business climate and job creation, but the evidence from jurisdictions that have legislated paid sick days has all been positive.

The first jurisdiction to set a paid sick days standard was San Francisco, where employers have been required to offer paid leave since 2007. Surveys show workersג lives improved, businesses succeeded, and two-thirds of employers support the citys sick-days ordinance. Fears that the law would impede job growth were never realized. In fact, during the last five years, employment in San Francisco grew twice as fast as in neighboring counties that had no sick leave policy. San Francisco’s job growth was faster, according to the Institute for Womens Policy Research, even in the food service and hospitality sector, which is dominated by small businesses and seen as vulnerable to additional costs.

Connecticut became the first state to enact a sick-days standard earlier this year, and it is too early to speak definitively about its experience so far. But Economic Policy Institute economists Elise Gould and Doug Hall calculated the potential impact of Connecticut’s law before it passed and concluded that the cost of allowing employees to earn five days of paid sick leave a year would be very small relative to sales. If Connecticut employees with no sick leave were given the ability to earn five days of paid leave and used it as much as employees who already had access to leave, the cost was predicted to be only 0.19 percent of sales. For employers already providing five or more days of leave, there would, of course, be no cost at all. There is no reason to think the impact on business in Maryland would be any different.

For this small cost, we can improve the quality of jobs held by low-wage workers, boost productivity, reduce turnover and protect public health.

Opening access to paid sick days for more than 700,000 Maryland workers who do not have leave will mean stronger, healthier families. Working parents are often forced to choose between staying home with a sick child and going to work. When parents cannot take off work, children are sometimes sent to school ill, diminishing their learning experience and exposing other students, teachers and staff to infection. When employees go to work sick, they endanger their own health and the health of their colleagues while jeopardizing safety and the quality of their work. But not going to work can mean overdue bills or skipping meals.

Business lobbyists will argue that new rules will hamper job creation ח despite the evidence from San Francisco. In fact, it is not over-regulation but rather rising inequality and wage stagnation, which dampen consumer demand, that are among the fundamental causes of our economys woes. Businesses will add workers when demand picks up, a process that can be helped by increasing access to paid sick leave. Employee turnover will be reduced and there will be more money in the pockets of the poorest workers, the people most likely to spend in the local economy.

Maryland should seize the opportunity to take the lead in quality job creation and sensible public policy.

Barbara Morgan is an economist and faculty member of the Johns Hopkins University. Ross Eisenbrey is vice president of the Economic Policy Institute.

SOURCE

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Disney World Fights Against Paid Sick Days For Florida Employees

By Barry Bradford
Huffington Post
April 27, 2013

Pressure from Disney World has influenced the Florida Senate to take a big step back in guaranteeing paid sick days for workers.

The Florida Senate voted Friday to PREVENT LOCAL COMMUNITIES FROM ENACTING THEIR OWN WAGE AND BENEFITS LAWS until a statewide study can be conducted, The Orlando Sentinel reports.

The bill, which would at least delay efforts to guarantee all workers paid sick days was DRAFTED WITH THE SUPPORT OF DISNEY WORLD AND DARDEN RESTERAUNTS, the company behind Olive Garden and Red Lobster, as well as the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

“Today, Republicans in the Florida Senate stood up for corporations like Disney and Darden and against the interests of families who believe their own communities know what is best for them,” Stephanie Porta, an advocate for those seeking paid-sick days, SAID IN A STATEMENT.

Family organization MomsRising.org is spearheading efforts to fight back. The group claims that this week, Disney World refused to accept a PETITION WITH 6,000 SIGNATURES demanding that the resort STOP PUSHING LEGISLATION THAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF EARENED SICK TIME INITIATIVES.

Neither Darden nor Disney World responded to voicemails from The Huffington Post requesting comment. MomsRising also was not available for comment.

The move is the latest in a drawn-out battle. Disney World and Darden worked to keep a measure requiring paid sick days OFF THE BALLOT last November. Workers also have complained that the resort DOES NOT PAY A LIVING WAGE, Reuters reported in 2010. That same year, Disney agreed to pay $433,819 to employees in back wages after an investigation uncovered the resort had VIOLATED THE FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT, according to Occupational Health and Safety.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/28/12 •
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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Divide And Conquer

greedy-exec.jpg

Workers are worried about having their benefits cut. With good reason.

By Laura Clawson
Daily Kos
August 22, 2012

Americans’ fears about having their benefits or wages reduced, being laid off, or having work hours cut back shot up in 2009, and haven’t fallen back to pre-2009 levels since, a Gallup poll finds. Benefit cuts lead the list of worries, with 40 percent fearful about that, while wage cuts and layoffs follow at 28 percent.

It’s no wonder that fears about benefit cuts have consistently topped responses to this question since the first time Gallup asked it in 1997. You only have to look at any story about a union’s contract negotiations - companies are overwhelmingly demanding cuts to health insurance and pensions, and they didn’t come for union members’ health insurance and PENSIONS first. Companies worked their way methodically through, cutting benefits to the most VULNERABLE workers first, selling middle-class professionals on the idea that 401(k) plans would make them investor-class masters of the universe and make pensions obsolete and undesirable.

Union members’ benefits only started getting hit after enough other people’s benefits had been cut that companies could play divide-and-conquer, STOKING RESENTMENT, against workers who still had good benefits, promoting the question “why does my neighbor have a pension when I don’t?” rather than “why did my boss take my pension?” And even as too many people still fall prey to that corporate campaign of division, it may be starting to sink in that once PENSIONS are gone for everyone in the 99 percent, and once even people who have employer-provided health care are paying a bigger chunk of the costs every year until they CAN’T AFFORD IT AT ALL, businesses are coming for something else next. So, yeah. American workers should be worried about benefits. And they should be doing something about that worry - voting, organizing, taking to the fucking streets - before there are no more benefits to be worried about.

SOURCE

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Why the Republicans’ Old Divide-and-Conquer Strategy—Setting Working Class Against the Poor—Is Backfiring

By Robert Reich
January 4, 2014

For almost 40 years Republicans have pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy intended to convince working-class whites that the poor were their enemies.

The big news is it’s starting to backfire.

Republicans told the working class that its hard-earned tax dollars were being siphoned off to pay for “welfare queens” (as Ronald Reagan decorously dubbed a black single woman on welfare) and other nefarious loafers. The poor were “them”—lazy, dependent on government handouts, and overwhelmingly black—in sharp contrast to “us,” who were working ever harder, proudly independent (even sending wives and mothers to work, in order to prop up family incomes dragged down by shrinking male paychecks), and white.

It was a cunning strategy designed to split the broad Democratic coalition that had supported the New Deal and Great Society, by using the cleavers of racial prejudice and economic anxiety. It also conveniently fueled resentment of government taxes and spending.

The strategy also served to distract attention from the real cause of the working class’s shrinking paychecks—corporations that were busily busting unions, outsourcing abroad, and replacing jobs with automated equipment and, subsequently, computers and robotics.

But the divide-and-conquer strategy is no longer convincing because the dividing line between poor and middle class has all but disappeared. “They” are fast becoming “us.”

Poverty is now a condition that almost anyone can fall into. In the first two years of this recovery, according to new report from Census Bureau, about one in three Americans dropped into poverty for at least two to six months.

Three decades of flattening wages and declining economic security have taken a broader toll. Nearly 55 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year in poverty or near poverty (below 150 percent of the poverty line). Half of all American children have at some point during their childhoods relied on food stamps.

Fifty years ago, when Lyndon Johnson declared a “war on poverty,” most of the nation’s chronically poor had little or no connection to the labor force, while most working-class Americans had full-time jobs.

This distinction has broken down as well. Now a significant percentage of the poor are working but not earning enough to get themselves and their families out of poverty. And a growing portion of the middle class finds themselves in the same place—often in part-time or temporary positions, or in contract work.

Economic insecurity is endemic. Working-class whites who used to be cushioned against the vagaries of the market are now fully exposed to them. Trade unions that once bargained on behalf of employees and protected their contractual rights have withered. Informal expectations of lifelong employment with a single company are gone. Company loyalty has become a bad joke.

Financial markets are now calling the shots—forcing companies to suddenly uproot, sell out to other companies, transfer whole divisions abroad, liquidate unprofitable units, or adopt new software that suddenly renders old skills obsolete.

Because money moves at the speed of an electronic impulse while human beings move at the speed of human beings, the humans—most of them hourly workers but many white collar as well—have been getting shafted.

This means sudden and unexpected poverty has become a real possibility for almost everyone these days. And there’s little margin of safety. With the real median household income continuing to drop, 65 percent of working families are living from paycheck to paycheck.

Race is no longer a dividing line, either. According to Census Bureau numbers, two-thirds of those below the poverty line at any given point identify themselves as white.

This new face of poverty—a face that’s both poor, near-poor, and precarious working middle, and that’s simultaneously black, Latino, and white—renders the old Republican divide-and-conquer strategy obsolete. Most people are now on the same losing side of the divide. Since the start of the recovery, 95 percent of the economy’s gains have gone to the top 1 percent.

Which means Republican opposition to extended unemployment insurance, food stamps, jobs programs, and a higher minimum wage pose a real danger of backfiring on the GOP.

Just look at North Carolina, a bellweather state, where Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, up for re-election, is doing well by attacking Republicans back home as “irresponsible and cold-hearted” for slashing unemployment benefits and social services. The state Democratic Party is highlighting her Republican opponent’s “long record of demeaning statements against those struggling to make ends meet.” (Tom Tillis, the speaker of the State, had spoken of the need “to divide and conquer” people on public assistance, and called criticisms of the cuts as “whining coming from losers.")

The new economy has been especially harsh for the bottom two-thirds of Americans. It’s not hard to imagine a new political coalition of America’s poor and working middle class, bent not only on repairing the nation’s frayed safety nets but also on getting a fair share of the economies’ gains.

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Posted by Elvis on 08/26/12 •
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Being Poor III

poverty.jpg

Invisible Americans Get the Silent Treatment

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
August 24, 2012

It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with NO DISCUSSION of WHAT’S HAPPENING to POOR PEOPLE. Official Washington continues to see poverty with TUNNEL VISION - “out of sight, out of mind.”

And we’re not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or MITT ROMNEY and their fellow Republicans.  Tipping their hats to Americas impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.

Remember: for three years in the 1980s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it “the best education I ever had.” And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough WRITES in The New York Times, he did so, “to gain the knowledge and resources that would allow him to eventually return and tackle the neighborhoods problems anew.” Theres a moving line in Dreams from My Father where Obama writes: “I would learn powers currency in all its intricacy and detail and bring it back like Promethean fire.”

Oddly, though, for all his rhetorical skills, Obama hasn’t made a single speech devoted to poverty SINCE HE MOVED into the White House.

Five years ago, he was one of the few politicians who would talk about it. Here he is in July 2007, speaking in Anacostia, one of the poorest parts of Washington, D.C.:

The moral question about poverty in America - How can a country like this allow it?  has an easy answer: we can’t. The political question that follows What do we do about it? - has always been more difficult. But now that were finally seeing the beginnings of an answer, this country has an obligation to keep trying.”

Barack Obama the candidate said he wanted to spend billions on a nationwide program similar to Geoffrey Canadas Harlem Children Zone in New York City, widely praised for its focus on comprehensive child development. In the last three years, only $40 million have been spent with another $60 million scheduled for local community grants.

Obama’s White House team insisted their intentions were good, but the depth of the economic meltdown passed along by their predecessors has kept them from doing more. And yes, billions have been spent on direct aid to families in the form of welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers and other payments. Wha’ts needed, as Paul Tough at the Times and others say, is a LESS SCATTERSHOT, more comprehensive program that gets to the ROOT of the PROBLEM, focusing on education and mentoring. Not easy to do when a disaffected middle class that votes says hey, what about us? - and the wealthy one percent who lay out the fat campaign contributions simply say, “so what?”

Just a few days ago, The Chronicle of Philanthropy issued a REPORT ON CHARITABLE GIVING. Among its findings: ”RICH PEOPLE who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities.” RESPONDING TO HAT STUDY, social psychologist Paul Piff told National Public Radio, “The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become.”

Those few who dedicate themselves to keeping the poor ever in sight realize how grave the situation really is. The Associated Press reports that, “The number of AMERICANS WITH INCOMES AT OR BELOW 125 PERCENT OF THE POVERY LEVEL is expected to reach an all-time high of 66 million this year.” A family of four earning 125 percent of the federal poverty level makes about $28,800 a year, according to government figures.

That numbers important because 125 percent is the income limit to qualify for legal aid, but although that family may qualify for help, budgets for legal services have been slashed, too, and pro bono work at the big law firms has fallen victim to downsizing.  So it’s not surprising, the AP goes on to say, that theres a crisis in America’s civil courts because people slammed by the financial meltdown - overwhelmed by foreclosure, debt collection and bankruptcy cases - cant afford legal representation and have to represent themselves, creating gridlock in our justice system - and one more hammer blow for the poor.

We know, we know: It is written that, “The poor will always be with us.” But when it comes to our “out of sight, out of mind” population of the poor, you have to think we can help reduce their number, ease the suffering, and speak out, with whatever means at hand, on their behalf and against those who would prefer they remain invisible. Speak out:  that means you and me, and yes, Mr. President, you, too. You once told the big bankers on Wall Street that you were all that stood between them and the pitchforks of an angry public. How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/25/12 •
Section Dying America
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