Friday, June 09, 2006

LET'S HELP THE RICH SOME MORE

The widening gap between rich and poor in America is recognized around the world(wealth in America).

"The wealthest 1 (one) percent of households now controls a third of national wealth," says this piece in Guardian Unlimited. Yet the U. S. Congress, primarly the Republican Party, wants to extend that wealth by doing away with the so-called "death tax," better known as the estate tax. The tax doesn't apply to the vast majority of Americans, only, as Paul Krugman says, "to the very, very wealthy."

"Wake up: The American dream is over.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

BAD NEWS OHIO BAD AGAIN

George Zeller delivers the bad news again(Bad News for Ohioans). Ohio suffers the 122nd month, more than 10 years, of trailing the job growth average of the U. S.

Monday, May 08, 2006

OHIO LOSES 204,308 JOBS IN 2000 RECESSION

How can anyone even think of continuing Republican rule in Ohio?
The job figures in the following report cry out for a change in direction and governance.

Can sanity return to Ohio in 2006? Read what has been done to Ohio by reactionary Republican control of governance here:

(Cleveland, OH) During the five-year period between 2000 and 2005, Ohio lost 204,308 jobs, representing 3.8 percent of all Ohio jobs, according to a new report by George Zeller of The Center for Community Solutions.

Zeller's report delineates uneven job loss distribution across the state. For example, it notes that in 14 counties, more than 10 percent of all local jobs vanished. Trumbull and Clark counties suffered a 12 percent job loss. The deepest job loss came in Monroe County, where more than a third of all local employment disappeared.According to the report, with the exception of Summit County in Akron, all of Ohio's large cities lost substantial numbers of jobs during the 2000s recession. Cuyahoga County's 75,733 lost jobs in the Cleveland area was the largest loss among Ohio counties. Other counties lost jobs as follows:

* Hamilton County (Cincinnati), 31, 550* Montgomery County (Dayton), 22,473 * Franklin County (Columbus), 21,100 * Lucas County (Toledo), 14,116 * Trumbull County (Warren), 11,359 * Stark County (Canton), 10,562 * Mahoning County (Youngstown), 6,877 * 7 urban counties, more than 10,000Akron was the chief exception.

While Summit County lost nearly 5,000 jobs in 2001, in 2003 and subsequent years, job growth was larger than its prior recessionary job losses. By 2005, Summit County had more jobs than it had in 2000 when the recession began.

Zeller notes that the national 2000s recession lasted only eight months between March 2001 and November 2001. However, Ohio entered the recession earlier than the rest of the country, and its recovery has been much slower than that of other states. Many regions of Ohio are still losing jobs more than four years after the end of the national recession.Ohio's lost jobs caused an annual paycheck earnings loss of $2.53 billion.

This enormous paycheck loss created severe hardship for hundreds of thousands of families. Total earnings loss was only 1.3 percent of total aggregate earnings. But, in some parts of the state the losses were much deeper. The $649 million quarterly loss of paycheck earnings in Northeast Ohio was larger than the $633 million quarterly loss of paycheck earnings in the entire state.

Annualized, these losses were $2.6 billion in Northeast Ohio and $2.5 billion on a statewide basis. Thus, on a net basis, all of Ohio's net paycheck losses during the 2000s recession were in Northeast Ohio. "It is certain that Northeast Ohio suffered much more severely from the 2000s recession than other parts of the state," states Zeller. In manufacturing industries, 14.3 percent of all paycheck earnings disappeared.

Eighteen Ohio counties lost more than one-fifth of their total manufacturing paycheck earnings. Several large urban counties lost more than one-fifth of their manufacturing paychecks in only five years. Throughout this period, typical strategies to help maintain incomes of families containing laid off workers were not implemented. Unemployment benefits were not extended temporarily.

Welfare caseloads did not expand temporarily. The minimum wage was cut from 74 percent of poverty to 65 percent. Thus, hundreds of thousands of Ohio families suffered severely from the losses in jobs and earnings during the 2000-2005 recession. The report includes community-specific tables measuring job losses over the five-year period.

The new report, along with other reports in the Economic Indicators series, is available at www.CommunitySolutions.com. Contact Zeller for community-specific tables at 216-781-2944 ext. 242 or gzeller@CommunitySolutions.com. The Center for Community Solutions is a private, nonprofit organization providing strategic leadership to improve targeted health and social conditions in Northeast Ohio through applied research, public policy analysis and advocacy, coalition building, communication, and organization of community resources for action. Established in 1913, it is a United Way agency.

Link to previous post

The link to the previous post didn't take. It ishttp://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/08/us/08poverty.html

One Mark of Poverty - Missing Teeth

The lack of simple of an ordinary body part can mean poverty. Not an arm or a leg. But very simple, as in teeth. One often finds rather economically-deprived people missing front teeth and unable to do anything about it.

It's another mark of poverty.

The New York Times today talks about the economic risks of being "near poor." Missed teeth play a role.

The loss of teeth can keep someone from getting a job that might keep him or her and the family from poverty.

The article quotes Mark Rank, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, "For all age groups except those 70 and older, the odds of a temporary spell of poverty doubled in the 1990s," the Times notes.
Rank is the author of the book, "One Nation, Underpriveliged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All."

Poverty is now the forgotten American problem.

"For example," the article says, "during the 1980s, around 13 percent of Americans in their 40's spent at least one year below the poverty line; in the 1990s, 36 percent of people in their 40's did..."

About 37 million Americans lived below the poverty line in 2004, the article said.

Yet, still little is written about it. It doesn't seem to be on any media agenda.

And so much for the great Bush economy.

- Roldo Bartimole

Monday, April 17, 2006

Recession weakens but still not good here

Here's another of George Zeller's reports on unemployment in Ohio and here:

It is Monday, so we have yet another update to the figures on local new claims for unemployment. As usual, I attach the new data on a four week moving average basis for Cleveland-Akron-Lorain-Elyria, and on a quarterly basis for the entire state. When we finally return to job growth in our region once again instead of the continued job losses we are actually seeing, the new claims figures will fall back down to 1999 levels.

In particular, the Cuyahoga County figure will fall significantly below 1,000 new claims each week.Just as in other recent weeks, we have mixed news. New claims continue to decline in 2006 relative to 2005 on a very widespread and almost universal basis.

That means that the recession is weakening across Ohio, and even locally.But, the number of new claims in the new figures for the week ending April 8 still show Cuyahoga County with 1,033 new claims, a figure still above 1,000.

Thus, although we are showing clear signs that the situation will improve eventually, we also have a clear and definite sign that even during the first week of April 2006, the recession is still not over in Cuyahoga County.

Locally, we continue to lose jobs more than four years after the official end of the USA recession back in November 2001.

The weakness is still present in the entire Cleveland-Akron-Lorain-Elyria region. All seven counties in the region are still showing new claims at a higher level than they had in April 1999, when we were still generating net job growth.

Collectively, the seven county region had new claims 24% higher than they should be at this time of year during the first week of April.

Statewide, Ohio's new claims are still 32% higher than they should be during the first week of April.

So, the statewide Ohio recovery from the recession remains very weak at best. As you know, the state actually lost jobs in December, January, and February.

The new claims figures are not giving us a lot of encouragement that the Ohio or the Cleveland situation has improved much through April.It still looks definite that when we do start to recover from the recession by gaining jobs instead of losing them, our first definite indication of that fact will be in these weekly figures on new claims.

The modest level of good news in these figures is not much, but we need to recognize what tiny amount of good news is in the figures. Week to week, the level of new claims continues to moderate. This brings it down from an alarmingly high level to a level that is just somewhat too high.

So, we eventually will come out of the lengthy 2000-2006 recessionary job losses in both Ohio and northeastern Ohio, but the rate at which we are heading toward that happy day continues to be agnozingly slow.The figures for the first week of the second quarter of 2006 in the statewide 88 county data are not very reliable. Since only one week is in the figures, the early 2Q 2006 data will certainly be volatile in coming weeks. But, having said that, the 2Q fractional data and the associated data for all of the first quarter of 2006 are showing the same pattern.

The recession is definitely slowing down in Ohio on an almost statewide basis. Dayton continues to be the chief exception to that pattern.

George Zeller, Economic Research Analyst - Center for Community Solutions
http://www.CommunitySolutions.com

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Attention Reporters of the 21st Century

Photo by Jacob Riis

"Every once in a while I am asked why I became a newspaperman.
For one thing, because there were writers of such trash, who, themselves comfortably lodged, have not red blood enough in their veins to feel for those to whom everything is denied."

- Jacob Riis, from an article by Len Bernstein in PhotographicWorld.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Reentry - Confronting Perpetual Punishment


By Mansfield B. Frazier

The hosting of a national conference “Re-Thinking Re-Entry: Confronting Perpetual Punishment” at the prestigious Harvard Law School (March 30 — April 1, 2006) is a clear indication that the issue of hundreds of thousands of men and women annually returning home from periods of incarceration is on the cusp of finally receiving the national attention and critical examination it deserves.

The convener, Charles J. Ogletree Jr. (the Jesse Climenko Professor of Law; the founding and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice; and the director of the Criminal Justice Institute ...all at Harvard Law School) set the tone for the conference when he stated in his opening remarks that it was his hope that the members of the assembled body would “challenge many of the arcane laws and policies that serve to block successful reentry.”

That challenging of the current state of reentry — and where the issue is headed in America — had already begun the evening before at the Conference Welcome and Overview, moderated by the deputy director of the Criminal Justice Institute, J. Soffiyah Elijah. After cordially welcoming us she stated that in the months leading up to the conference she’d begun receiving phone calls and emails from individuals she had never heard of before, most of them having somewhat similar backgrounds: ex-wardens and other retired and former correctional officials. They all had the same goal in mind — to secure a spot on the panel of presenters. It was clear to Elijah that these individuals, who she knew have little standing or history in the reentry community, wanted to use their participation in the conference as a means to enhance their virtually non-existent credentials in the field.

The Rev. Thomas J. Stevens, the executive director of a prison aftercare ministry in Framingham, MA said that he has also been receiving calls from individuals with similar backgrounds who want to partner with his agency. “They want to try to capture some of those federal reentry dollars, but need to use a faith-based non-profit to access the money,” said Stevens. “These are by and large the same people who’ve part of the problem, and now they are attempting to cash in on an economic opportunity by jumping on the reentry bandwagon as if they are now part of the solution. It’s disgusting.”

The general consensus among the audience was that unless the efforts of these individuals to highjack the reentry movement is monitored, exposed and railed against, funding that rightly should go to grassroots organizations — that have been working diligently in the field for years — will wind up in the bank accounts of these individuals that are busily setting up their own non-profits.

“The problem is, these retired corrections professionals formerly worked with the federal and state people who have the power to determine where the reentry funds will go,” added Rev. Stevens, himself a formerly incarcerated person who served seven years behind bars but has been out and running his agency for 22 years. “And the real fear is, these people are so well connected to the system, the whole reentry movement will be turned into just another money-making industry for bureaucrats, another revenue stream for people and organizations that don’t give a damn about formerly incarcerated persons ... only the dollars they can make off of them. The ‘ol boy’ network is being cranked up, and we all know how brutal that can be in terms of directing where the dollars go. And their justification will most often be that they don’t want to fund organizations run by formerly incarcerated persons, who, by the way, are the real experts”

The conference was off to a roaring start and the next day would prove just as interesting, enlightening and, perhaps, as controversial.

The staff of the Criminal Justice Institute had assembled a stellar panel from around the country. On the dais at the opening plenary session was — among others — Edwin (Eddie) Ellis — the chair of the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, a criminal justice, public policy, academic center and think tank at City University of New York; Kerry Healey, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, who was instrumental in the redirecting of funds away from the construction of an additional state prison to the establishment of eight reentry centers (the first state in the union to have opened such centers); and Dorsey E. Nunn, the energetic formerly incarcerated activist from California who is the co-founder of “All Of Us Or None,” a newly developing civil and human rights organization comprised of people whose lives are being impacted by (sometimes decades old) felony convictions. The panelists each gave a brief overview of what they thought was working or not working in the reentry field, and, although Ellis was not at the session the night before, his remarks and concerns were strikingly similar in tenor, tone and content.

He set forth his premise that while all evidence indicates that the most successful reentry programs — in terms of offering support and reducing recidivism — are run by formerly incarcerated persons, he is increasing concerned that funding is being directed to other, politically connected, agencies such as existing halfway houses. This concern over where the funding is beginning to go was echoed over and over again at lunchtime and in private conversations during the entire three-day conference.

Ronald E. Hampton, the executive director of the National Black Police Association energized the discussion by flatly stating that lingering vestiges of racism on police departments nationwide is (in part) responsible for the huge number — 750,000 individuals in 2006 alone — that will return home from a period of incarceration. He added that oftentimes black officers, trying too hard to fit into an established police culture, are as guilty of prejudice against young black men as white officers.

“You have to keep in mind that the road to reentry begins with someone getting arrested,” said Hampton. “Decisions made by front line police officers on a daily basis are what ultimately determine how many people will one day be trying to reenter society. And if you start with racist attitudes on the front end of the process, the whole process — from beginning to end — is tainted. As long as police in this country are promoted on how many arrests they make rather than how well the peace is kept, we will continue to have these huge numbers. One way to help solve the reentry problem is to send fewer people to prison in the first place.”

A number of other panelists voiced this concern in different terms. There was a feeling that by overly focusing on reentry while failing to attempt to devise strategies to reduce the number of people entering prison in the first place will create a permanent reentry bureaucracy that will never put itself out of business.

Hampton’s remarks were the perfect segue for a question from the audience: Are lawyers in America being complicit, actually adding and abetting a flawed criminal justice process? Are they, just for the sake of expediency, just to keep the docket moving along, having young men and women accept plea bargains when the defendants really don’t understand everything they will be losing in the bargain?

Nunn, who has worked as a paralegal since he was paroled from prison in 1981, was animated — almost vociferous — in his response.

“No! They don’t tell you that the deal you are about to make can, in some states, mean that you may never be able to vote, that you will, for the rest of your life, have trouble finding a job, that in most cases you won’t be able to obtain a student loan, and in a lot of jurisdictions you won’t be able to live in public housing,” said Nunn. But he was not through. “They rush you to cop a plea, telling you that you’ll be out in whatever number of years they can negotiate for you, but they never, ever tell you the impact a felony conviction will have on your life forever. It’s really a life sentence, but in the interest of keeping things moving they don’t tell the client that. They’re afraid that if these young people knew what they were setting themselves up for down the road they would think twice, and sometimes three times, before pleading out. And the system doesn’t want that, it just wants to be through with them as fast as possible so that it can deal with the next number on the docket. These folks are not seen or thought of as people, just docket numbers, and that makes it so much easier to dispose of them and ship them on up the line.”

Money has a lot to do with it, said Lisa Kung, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center for Human Rights. “Many jurisdictions under-fund public defender’s offices and the result is, case loads on all public defenders are staggering. They’re so overworked they hardly have time to learn the person’s name, let alone know the facts of the case before they try to strike a deal,” said Kung. “Of course I’ve sat around with a bunch of young lawyers over a couple of beers and the subject comes up ...’what if we quit going along with this system of rushed justice, what would happen?’ They know what would happen ... it would bring everything to a screeching halt. But I don’t think anyone has the courage to go there just yet ... just as long as it’s happening to the other guy.”

Attorney Cynthia Goode Works, a legal education consultant and former director of training and education for the National Legal Aid & Defender Association stated that it’s an ongoing educational process for lawyers. “I have some lawyers tell me that they honestly don’t think the issues created by a plea bargain are their responsibility. I have to try to educate them.”

An audience member offered one glaring example of attorney malfeasance: Modification of court-imposed child support payment orders. As the situation now stands, in most cases when an individual is incarcerated his “arrearage” accumulates, often leaving the person in a financial hole upon their release from which they may never climb out of. The national average is close to $20,000 owed in back child support upon release. This figure acts as a tremendous disincentive to these men seeking to find work.

What can — and should — be done is for the lawyer to petition the court to modify the payment order at the time the person enters prison(not dismiss it, it will still be owed by the individual, but they will be given time to find work after their release and then resume making payments). Virtually no lawyers in America are currently concerning themselves with this very real issue that their clients will one day face.

On the more positive side, a host of potential solutions for individuals attempting to reenter society from jail were offered by Andrea J. Cabral, esq., the sheriff of Suffolk County, MA, the county in which the conference was being held. She seems to be one elected official that “gets it.” Her grasp on the issues surrounding reentry was masterful, and the solutions she has devised, along with other stakeholders, seem to be working.
Those initiatives include the Offender Reentry Program (ORP), a collaboration between Bunker Hill Community College, the Sheriff’s Department and Youth Opportunity Boston. According to the sheriff’s website, “ORP’s mission is to provide students in the Suffolk County House of Correction with the necessary resources to successfully transition to the community. Graduates are offered comprehensive follow-up services for six months once they return to the community. ORP is able to provide assistance with necessities such as transportation, clothing for interviews and obtaining identification. Additionally, a job developer is available at Youth Opportunity Boston to assist students with their employment search and career development.”

Sheriff Cabral also created the Common Ground Institute (CGI) with the intention of making “our population more attractive to employers and increasing employment opportunities for individuals transitioning back into society.” The intensive, 10 week program addresses recidivism issues and teaches life and employment skills, all with the goal of making Suffolk County a safer place to live. Sheriff Cabral decided early on in her term to take a “pro-active approach to reducing recidivism, in part, by placing an emphasis on vocational education.”

The CGI program will celebrate its first year anniversary in May 2006, and of the 51 men that have gone through the program thus far, 27 have been released, and 21 have gotten jobs. This partnering of corrections agencies and educational institutions in Suffolk County could prove to be a model worth looking at and perhaps replicating in replicating in other areas of the country.
The conference ended on the question of how the reentry community can begin to change public perception and attitudes in regards to formerly incarcerated persons. Everyone was in agreement that this was perhaps the major issue — and stumbling block — facing those attempting to reenter.

Dorsey Nunn summed the issue up succinctly by stating, “This is a population America would just as soon forget, so we have to begin to provide adequate advocacy for formerly incarcerated persons, we have to hold more networking conferences like this, find more ways to get our message out, and begin to effectively lobby to change state and federal laws that negatively impact on lives and keep people out of employment and out of the mainstream. We’ll never be as great a nation as we can be until we begin to give people who’ve been to prison a second chance, a real second chance.”




Monday, April 10, 2006

Assessing Poverty as Relative Deprivation

If you have a color TV, a microwave, possibly a car, how can you be classified as impoverished? Can someone who owns these consumer products really be called poverty-stricken? Good questions.

The brief answer is, "Yes." Relative Deprivation - your standing in comparison with others - can be a determinent of economic standing and well-being in American society.

Once again, a report The New Yorker of April 3 examines poverty from attempts to classify poverty in the early 1960s to now and how it might be differ. (New Yorker). Just think of all the new products many of us consider necessities exist now that did not exist in 1960.

The article examines attempts to determine an accounting system of when someone or a family suffers impoverishment and can be considered "in poverty."

The author John Cassidy takes us on an examination of what has constituted poverty over the last half-century or more.

However, Cassidy reasons, "Rather than trying to come up with a subsistence-based poverty measure about which everybody can agree, we should accept that there is no definitive way to decide who is impoverished and who isn't."

If you used 1971 standards, the possession of such consumer goods as mentioned above - color TV, etc. -would likely put today's poor families in the middle class, according to one assessment cited.

As one example, Cassidy writes, "Poor health may be the most dramatic consequence of relative deprivation, but there are more subtle effects as well. Although many poor families own appliances once associated with rich househods, such as a color televisions and dishwashers, they live in a society in which many families also possess DVD players, cell phones, desktop computers, broadband Internet connections, powerful game consols, S. U. V.s, health-club memberships and vacation homes." Maybe he should have mentioned newspapers, magazines and books, too.

He writes that "relative deprivation" could have other limitations. Cassidy quotes Amartya Sen, a 1998 Nobel winner in economics noting, "Being relatively poor in a rich country can be a great capability handicap, even when one's absolute income is high in terms of world standards."

Sen also wrote in his book "Development of Freedom" that African-Americans "suffer from relative deprivation in terms of income per head vis-a-vis American Whites. They also are absolutely more deprived that low-income Indians in Kerala."

Sen says "...African-Americans as a group have a smaller chance of reaching old age than Indians born in the impoverished state of Kerala, who are much poorer."
We all recognize the income inequality in America is widening. Therefore, relative deprivation is increasing. That likely means that there are more people in poverty than the Census Bureau or other aggregators claim. When do we do something about it?

- Roldo Bartimole

Saturday, April 01, 2006

A Little Capitalist Quiz


We don't put enough pressure on the supposed political friends of low income people as we should.

A good source to prove that statement is the capitalist press. It knows the truth.

Take this quiz by Matt Miller in Forbes magazine.(Capitalist Quiz).

He asks: "Whose Medicare prescription drug plan was bigger? (a) the one proposed by Al Gore in the 2000 campaign or (b) George W. Bush's enacted in 2003 and now being rolled out?

Answer. Of course, Bush's plan, which cost nearly twice what Gore proposed.

I believe it. Being on Medicare and having signed up (after much frustration) to what investigation said was the best plan for me according to the prescription drugs I take. I like the plan. Three of the five durgs, primarily heart-related, are generic and cost nothing. Zip, zero. That's a good price. The other two are much lower in cost than I was paying.

Another question asked by the quiz: Who's health care plan was more conservative, Bill Clinton's or Margaret Thatcher's? Thatcher, said Miller, "would have been thrown from office had she proposed a plan as right-wing as Clinton's. Well, we know Europe is far ahead of us in social services of all kinds.

But it's something to think about as we get ready (already) to choose the next Democratic presidential candidate. If he or she can't propose and fight for a national health plan, operated in the form of Social Security, what good are they?

Another category: Who's government was larger, Clinton or Reagan? I guess by now you know the answer: Reagan. Federal spending under Reagan was 22 per cent of GDP; under Clinton, 20 per cent. Of course, it didn't break down what the money was being spent to do.

What point such comparisons make to me is that we are a conservative, backward nation on social welfare. Time to get into the modern world, America.

- Roldo Bartimole

Friday, March 24, 2006

Minimum Wages Really Minimum

Can Ohio be this stingy. With Republicans in control, yes. Seems as though the Republicans can only give tax breaks to the wealthy and leave working people toiling for as little as pennies. About 400 pennies or so an hour - $4.25 to be exact. Try living on that.(http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm)


Nation editor Katrina Vander Heuvel writes this week(
http://www.thenation.com/blogs/edcut?bid=7) that the U. S. Congress, Republican controlled naturally, isn't much better. The feds haven't raised the minimum wage in more than 8 years and "...it will be the longest stretch of stinginess in American History" if they don't act by December.

Meanwhile, corporate pay for major American executives is up 12 percent, 2004 over 2003.

Their ANNUAL pay is $9.84-Million a year, according to a report done for the New York Times(http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/paywatch/pay/).

Are Americans so unconcerned about themselves and others to allow this kind of inequality to persist? The answer, I guess, is Absolutely.

- Roldo Bartimole

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Jail, New Form of Slavery

Read John Ettorre's report on a talk by Marian Wright Edleman of the Children's Defense Fund at John Carroll University recently. (http://www.workingwithwords.blogspot.com/). "Jail is Fast Becoming New Form of Slavery." The jail mentality of our criminal system is one of the least covered but most important issues today.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Comments

I've had a problem with comments and learned of it from someone who sent comments but they never got to me. So if you have commented and not seen it posted, please forgive. I still haven't found out why but hopefully I will and I'll be checking. - Roldo

Thursday, March 16, 2006

MERCK OBSCENE TACTIC DAMAGES CANCER PATIENTS

It's said that health bills are a main cost of bankruptcy.

For some, the devastation can be more damaging. Drugs needed to preserve health can not only bankrupt you, but kill you.

That's what makes obscene the acts of drug-maker Merck as the New York Times reported(http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/business/12price.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
on March 12. It describes a strategy of drug companies to sell off certain drugs to another firm, which then raises the price incredibly.

These rapacious acts are commensurate to someone selling water at $50 a glass during a disaster as Katrina. The acts are morally abhorrent.

Alex Berenson writes that a two-week prescription costing $77.50 for a "decades-old cancer drug" were increased to $548.01 when a 64-year old retire went to get the prescription refilled. That's a $470.51 increase or more than 600 percent!

The woman in question must take the drug, Mustargen, for six months and pay some $7,000, none of which is covered by insurance, according to the Times story.
Merck sold the drug, along with another, Cosmegen, to Ovation Pharmacueticals, a six-year old company. Ovation has increased the wholesale price by about ten-fold, writes Berenson.

The price increases, according to the company, were needed to invest in production facilities for making the drug. However, at this time Merck continues to produce the products and sells them to Cosmegen.

Merck, one assumes, just wasn't making enough money on the drug, used by only some 5,000 people a year.

So why not just ship it off to some other firm that can charge obscene prices for rapacious profits.






SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE THREATNED BY GOP?

Do deficit spending by this Republican Congress jeopardize cuts in Medicare and other social spending, even including Social Security?

Deficit spending is damaging the future for Americans. Bush, a conservative, hasn't vetoed one spending bill in five years and VP Cheney says, "deficits don't matter."

Marianne Means, veteran syndicated columnist, says so (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/263106_means16.html)
in an informative column entitled, "Ultimate Fiscal Hypocrites."

President Bush, she writes, wants to cut Medicare by $37-billion (with a B) over four years.

"Ouch," writes Means.

Means quotes the Congressional Research Service warning that budget moves now threaten future Social Security payments.



Friday, March 10, 2006

WE NEED A CALL TO ARMS

Something has always puzzled and bothered me. That is why so many working and middle class people resent helping those less fortunate. They seem to feel that “those” people do not deserve help. The thought seems to be “I did it myself, why can’t they.” (By the way, nobody “does it” themselves.)

Maybe thinking about poverty and those who are poor is painful, or boring.

“There is a monotony about the injustice suffered by the poor that perhaps accounts for the lack of interest the rest of society shows in them. Everything seems to go wrong with them. They never win. It’s just boring,” wrote Dwight Macdonald in the New Yorker on Jan. 19, 1963.

He was reviewing Michael Harrington’s “The Other America: Poverty in the United States,” a book that had a powerful impact on the national conscience in the early 1960s, just as Kenneth Galbraith’s “The Affluent Society,” seemed to herald an America without real problems.

I re-read Macdonald’s treatise recently. I had thought it was more passionate about Harrington’s historic book. However, the review examined other books on poverty also. Yet, Macdonald’s review launched interest in Harrington’s book and thesis.

The combination of the essay and the book awakened – as it came at the start of the civil rights movement – forces that eventually propelled national legislation to deal with the issues of poverty. Legislation, ironically, that insured every one of us – poor and not poor - with benefits we now take for granted.

The awakening came with the progressive thrust of the 1960s and the new administration of John F. Kennedy. The drive continued, indeed, picked up pace, with Lyndon B. Johnson, who took the Presidency after Kennedy’s assassination.

By 1964, Harrington had been asked to come to Washington to help Sargent Shriver to work on LBJ’s War on Poverty. “The Socialist (Harrington) had become a celebrity, and (the ultimate in fame) his book is still excerpted in anthologies for freshman English courses,” James Sledd wrote in the Texas Observer in 2000.

Just how much we all (most of us) have been helped is revealed from a statement I picked up via the internet, though my printed copy comes without identification.

“Begun officially in 1964, the War on Poverty was an ambitious governmental effort to address the problem of persistent poverty in the United States. Over the next decade, the federal government – in conjunction with state and local governments, non-profit organizations and grassroots groups – created a new institutional base for antipoverty and civil rights action and, in the process, highlighted growing racial and ideological tensions in American politics and society.”

In 1964, the article goes one, the anti-poverty effort (Economic Opportunity Act of 1964) launched Legal Services, Upward Bound, Job Corps, VISTA, and many other programs of the Great Society.

Civil Rights acts, food stamps, various educational programs and even Social Security improvements were made, helping people beyond those in poverty.

We’re it not for these efforts, we on Social Security wouldn’t be receiving yearly increases linked to cost of living. That’s a great advantage for older Americans who depend heavily upon Social Security for economic security in their later life.

It also wrought Medicare, so helpful to tens of millions of us. Without the poverty drive, I do not think we would have a Medicare program. Add to that Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, helping care for those unable to obtain health care without help.

These programs are not simply for poor people. They help even those who heap animosity on the poor. They don’t realize that they reap many of the benefits because the poor and others demand social and economic justice.

I’ve had people get angry with me because I tell them they are on welfare when they collect Social Security. Yes, they have paid into the system. However, it is a social welfare program and that is good and necessary.

We have seen presently how President Bush has been rebuffed when he tried to alter the Social Security program by trying to make it more of a private investment gamble than a matter of essential security for the elderly.

Moreover, even President George Bush and this Republican controlled Congress couldn’t avoid this historical push for social improvements, evidenced by the prescription drug legislation, a flawed but still helpful extended social welfare program for millions of Americans who never would think of themselves as welfare recipients.

I re-read a portion of Harrington quoted by Macdonald and I realize that poverty has changed and now is possibly worse than when Harrington sounded the warning.

“The poor are increasingly slipping out of the very experience and consciousness of the nation (Mr. Harrington writes). If the middle class never did like ugliness and poverty, it was at least aware of them. ‘Across the tracks’ was not a very long way to go… Now the American city has transformed. The poor still inhabit the miserable housing in the central area, but they are increasingly isolated from contact with, or sight of, anybody else… Living out in the suburbs, it is easy to assume that ours is, indeed an affluent society…

“Clothes make the poor invisible too: America has the best dressed poverty the world has ever known… It is much easier in the United States to be decently dressed than it is to be decently housed, fed, or doctored…

“Many of the poor are the wrong age to be seen. A good number of them are sixty-five age or better; and even larger number are under eighteen…
“And finally, the poor are politically invisible… They are without lobbies of their own; they put forward no legislative program. As a group, they are atomized. They have no face; they have no voice… Only the social agencies have a really direct involvement with the other America, and they are without any great political power…

“Forty to fifty million people are becoming increasingly invisible.”

The “necessities” of life go far beyond what they were in the 1950-60s. Other factors – drugs, demands for higher skills and education, fewer demands and pay for manual labor, more disturbing isolation by geography, job and social contact, family disintegration, more destructive sexual mores, less compassion – make poverty deeper and less escapable.

So much of our public consciousness and public media concentrate on triviality that the reality of life for the poor (and most of us) escapes notice. Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” and Jonathan Kozol’s “Amazing Grace” stand out in recent years as warnings of our neglect but have not had the impact of Harrington’s book.

We need call to arms.

- Roldo Bartimole


Monday, March 06, 2006

Ohio's Dismal Job History under GOP Rule

The job growth rate for Ohio for the year ending December, 2005 was a dismal, dismal 0.0 percent, according to George Zeller of the Center for Center for Community Solutions (http://www.communitysolutions.com/store/item.asp?ITEM_ID=1029&DEPARTMENT_ID=3). 0.0 percent means zip gain.

That's why I call George Zeller, the center's new economic research analyst, the scariest guy in town. He tells the most devastating news with his jobs watch figures.

The state, according to Zeller, actually lost so many jobs last December that the month's deficit wiped out any earlier gains of the year. It's the 117th month Ohio has laged behind the U. S. average job gains, the longest streak in history, he says.

Meanwhile, Ohio's Republican dominated government is concerned about gay family life.

Look at his disturbing report, noted above.

Has Welfare Reform Reformed Poverty?

Welfare reform has/has not worked? Yes and no.

Both sides may have some truth according to studies. In a December New York Review of Books article (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18565) Christopher Jencks writes about welfare reform. He centers on a book entitled "What Happened to Welfare," an eight-year effort by Jason DeParle. DeParle wrote "American Dreams: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation's Drive to End Welfare."

DeParle is a New York Times senior writer, winner of the George Polk award for his writing on welfare and twice a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Jencks is the Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy at JFK School of Government at Harvard and a long-time writer on poverty issues.


Welfare reform was the result of promises made by Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton. He eventually signing legislation in 1996 that ended "welfare as we know it," fulfilling his promise. It was Republican legislation that did away with Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).

The AFDC started in the 1930s primarily aimed at helping widows, so, as Jencks writes., originally AFDC "was not seen as subsidizing sin." It became view that way when single-mother families predominated.

DeParle in his eight-year examination of the welfare program and its results, included his continuing observation of three mothers and their experience with "welfare reform."

"American Dream" brings together three related stories: the political struggle over welfare reform in Washington, Wisconsin's efforts to move Milwaukee welfare recipients off the rolls, and the way these changes affected three black families in Milwaukee.

(In Ohio, welfare reform took its most stringent form when former Gov. George Voinovich ruled that welfare clients could remain on the roles only three years in a lifetime. Federal rules allowed up to five years in a lifetime.)

"The three families are at the heart of DeParle's book. Their lives show both how much somethings have changed after welfare reform and how little difference these changes ultimately made to the three families," Jencks writes.

What you get is that life is as tough or more so as these families contest with its economic and social problems.

Though DeParle said of one of the mothers, Angie, "she got a lot of satisfaction from the job, and her supervisor told DeParle that she was unusually good at it." However, after seven years employed at a nursing home she was making only $9 an hour. That was more than most former welfare clients were getting but not enough to support her four children and then a fifth from another family.

So, Angie, DeParle concluded, was only a little better off economically. She had some economic gain but more expenses.

One of the arguments for the welfare reform was that the children of mothers who get jobs would have a better opinion of their mothers and possibly a more middle class outlook. The theory seems not to be proven.

Asked about this, Angie says, "I don't think the kids think about that. They'd like it if I'd just sit around with them all day." It's possible, according to DeParle, that the children felt "prouder" than Angie realized.

By going to work, Angie gained $3,400 in annual income. That suggest to me that working wasn't that productive, at least not in the economic sense. She lost her $8,400 in AFDC but earned $8,300, making up some more income with a wage and tax credits. The family was still eligible for food stamps.

DeParle says, most striking is "the long list of things that don't seem to change when mothers leave welfare for work... (a list) includes parental control, cognitive stimulation in the home, family routines, and harsh parenting."

Jencks writes that every study he's seen supports DeParle's observation that welfare reform moved many single mothers from welfare "but that nearly all are still sturggling to live on meager incomes."

That belies the conventional wisdom that Americans feel that those working should be paid adequately.

Unfortunately, however, the poor aren't getting much sympathy even as they struggle to become working members of society. That seemed to be the political desire on the part of resentful working people: get these people to work.

The outlook for change is dismal. There is no great constituency for low income people. DeParle rightly sees, "It's hard to picture a radically new politics of poverty when politics remains so dominated by money and the poor so lacking in power."

There is no public ferment, as there was in the 1960s, say, to produce social benefits that not only help the lowest income people but those struggling with keeping afloat economically. No one is yelling, "Poor Power," as was done during the civil rights movement of "Black Power."

An increased minimum wage, public works (besides invading other countries) for more jobs, and adequate health care for all (http://www.americansforhealthcare.com/index.cfm) should be an easy agenda to sell Americans.

However, there will have to be very intense pressure (http://www.uhcan.org/) for this to happen.

Politics and the news media are not interested in the problems of poverty. Only significant action will gain attention for such issues. Celebrity and money dominate. We read more about quickie health reports (the sun could damage your skin) than we do serious reporting on the health crisis in most media.

- Roldo Bartimole












Friday, March 03, 2006

Health Care and Homelessness

The following is a written response to the Squeaky Wheel posting below
regarding a New Yorker article about homelessness and medical costs:


"Your article was thought-provoking, even as I start on my long journey to India. The issues are so complex and difficult to resolve.

As the Executive Director of a federally qualified health center serving primarily individuals and families who are homeless, I see how health problems create homelessness; however, I also see how improved management of chronic disease and dental problems help many return to stable housing and a productive lifestyle. So one aspect of any 'solution' must be adequate medical and dental services for everyone.

Perhaps with the advantage of Electronic Health Information, we can find a way to track money saved by preventing unnecessary emergency room and specialist visits, and then that money can be funneled into expanded community treatment.

Money currently spent by 'law enforcement' to manage our mentally ill or addicted neighbors should, again, be spent on treatment in the community. A well-designed program, with an initial investment of federal funding, could be used to demonstrate the savings, which can then be diverted to treatment in the community.

And, yes, we need additional affordable or free housing to help people achieve some stability in their lives, but not with out adequate supportive services.

We have seen too many formerly homeless individuals move into public housing, with no support, only to find themselves back on the street again a few months later. Sorry I didn't have a chance to read the article by Gladwell before I left.

Thanks for sharing your blog with me."

- Linda Somers
Director
Care Alliance Health Center


Monday, February 27, 2006

Close but no cigar yet

George Zeller reports on job figures from his new perch at the Center for Community Solutions. Although there's been some job improvement, Zeller still looks for a better sign that we in Northeast Ohio have exited the recession period.


It is Monday, so we have another set of updated local figures on the new claims for unemployment. I attach the new figures as usual. We are still looking for an unambiguous sign that the recession is over in the local labor market.

You will recall from previous weeks that we had a catastrophic week here and there, especially in December, but in January things started to look much better. Now, in figures for mid-February, we have an ambiguous reading.

There is no question that we are getting close to the end of the recession's impact at the local level. But, we still do not have our current new claims figure back down on a stable basis in comparsion to the 1999 growth levels.

All seven counties in Cleveland-Akron-Lorain-Elyria are still above their 1999 levels in the new figures. But, they are much less above their 1999 levels than we had been seeing in prior weeks. So, it does appear that things are continuing to improve on an extremely slow and gradual basis. But, that improvement is still at a snail's pace.

So, we unfortunately cannot say that it looks like our local job losses have ceased during the first quarter of 2005. If we keep up this snail's pace of recovery, maybe we will be growing again by baseball season.

But, with 1,310 layoffs in Cuyahoga County last week, we still remain 25% above where we should be at this time of year.We need to be below 1,000 new claims each week in March figures for Cuyahoga County.

We will find out during the next two weeks if we reach that level or not.It still is clear that in comparison to last year on a quarterly basis, Ohio's new claims are still falling on virtually a statewide basis, except in Toledo and Dayton.

But, we stil have farther to fall in most areas before we get back to unambiguous solid growth.So, overall, we have lukewarm news this week.

George Zeller, Research AnalystThe Center for Community Solutions http://www.communitysolutions.com/

Interesting Homelessness/Poverty Site

Cuyahoga County, with a population of 1.35-million, has 2,208 homeless, according to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness & Poverty http://www.weingart.org/institute/ at the Weingart Center in Los Angeles.

The listing of counties indicates that in Cuyahoga County 52 percent of the homeless are "chronic" and 19 percent are family. The percent of the population that is homeless is .2 percent.

The highest level in Detroit with 1.6 percent of the population homeless. Next is our capitol, Washington, D. C., at 1 percent.

WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT

Andy Young has signed up as a sort of good will ambassador for Wal-Mart. What a disappointment.

Young, one of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s top lieutenants, worked in Cleveland on poverty issues. I'd see him at the Inner Church Council offices on Euclid Avenue when the Council was the most active agency on poverty matters in Cleveland.

He also help lead the Poor People's protests in Washington, D. C., after the assassination of Dr. King.

A Cox News Service story in the Plain Dealer this morning says that Young will become chairman of a group that defends Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

Young is quoted, "I like to fight poverty. For almost 10 years, I've been using in my sermons the message that fighting poverty is good business, and I've used Wal-Mart as an example. The question is how do you fight poverty - with high wages or low prices? The answer is both."

Well, I think you fight poverty with higher wages and as a consumer you want low prices but you must consider the cost of those desires.

Young won't collect a salary but a contract from Wal-Mart goes to an organization headed by him. The contract's value wasn't released.

Too bad Andy Young gives Mal-Mart a progressive face just at a time efforts are awakening many to the ills of Mal-Mart's business model.

Wealth Migrates to the Top

Paul Krugman this a.m. in the N. Y. Times gives a disturbing insight into the economic situation regarding education, everyone's solution to solve the problem of low incomes.

Krugman writes: "Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains."

He cites a report of the 2006 Economic Report of the President http://www.gpoaccess.gov/eop/ revealing that real earning s for college graduates "actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004." Add that to the cost of a college education and the problem is even worse for our young college graduates.

I went to college under the GI Bill in the 1950s. Between my GI Bill income of $110 a month, I believe, and working during summers, I was able to pay for my education, support myself and leave college without a dime of debt. I feel for young people today who have to heavily burden themselves with debt for their degree.

Krugman centers in on the real problem: The serious problem in the U. S. of income inequality.

While Americans in the first 90 percentile in wage and salary income had income increases of 34 percent, or about 1 percent a year, between 1972 and 2001, Krugman, notes that "...income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent;and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent." He adds, "No. that's not a misprint."

That clearly shows income is being heavily slanted toward the most wealthy in the nation.

Krugman gives reason to why we should be worried about this continued inbalance in income. We should worry "... not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Both history and modern exerience tells us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt."

Isn't that just what has happened fromthe lobbyist scandals to Enron?
We are awash in corruption.



Saturday, February 25, 2006

Where are the chipmunk?

Sometimes poverty is not just the lack of econmic well-being. It also often means the inability to take advantage of non-economic needs, especially for children. In this post former Plain Dealer reporter Jim Lawless poetically notices that the Cleveland Botanical Garden, in the midst of an impoverished area, primarily black, has chosen to lock itself behind gates.

Where are the chipmunk?

The huge granite slabs are the perfect size for sitting and although they provide no hiding places were regularly the home of small, curious animals called chipmunk, providing a break in the greenery of the herb garden.

The cheerful little brown characters drew my young daughters’ attention during our regular walks through lavender, basil and yarrow. The gardens next to the museum were one of the features of the Cleveland, that visitors --from west and east – were treated to.
For me, the herb garden was always best, although the bonsai trees near the entrance and the wonderful wooden structures leading to the Japanese garden were equal attractions. The gray, weathered look of the gazebos, cooled the hottest days and led to the second mystery, the dry riverbed of the Japanese garden.


I loved the place and was simply blown away when the Garden Center added a child-sized garden for little ones, which welcomed them with a mystical, metal gate done by Brinsley Terrell, the clever Kent State sculptor.

This was the magic kingdom really, where kids could climb a giant tree house, bounce across water on stones and watch corn and tomatoes, as well as all kinds of plants grow. All in small spaces, small enough to be perfect for children.

What made it all best is that it was free. So everyone came to see McDog, the tribute to a favorite airedale of a previous member, to amble through more hostas than I have ever seen, take pride in the bounty of roses. For some reason, my favorite rose, an egotistical brilliant red, lost its place even though its colors and name seemed to demand space. It was called "SHOWTIME."

But it was all free, like the art museum. A people’s park. A bounty of the members, who had enough money so everyone could share in the splendor.

And now we have a glass enclosed vista of two other countries, much like so many other places, and now it isn’t open to the people. Now it has fences and rules and an admission charge. I still get in free because my wife and I are members.

But what is the point of this? Why build an outsized exhibition, a place that gives us a strange nature, not familiar here, beautiful in its own right, but at what cost? I don’t understand and how many people will not be able to afford to come and stroll. Now people have to pay to park.
Before, when it was what seemed like the people’s park, parking was free.

I am just not sure what kind of "Botanical Garden" this is supposed to be, and who it is for?

Jim Lawless

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

ARE POOR UNDERCOUNTED - OF COURSE

The U. S. Census Bureau uses a 40-year old formula to determine how many Americans are poor. What that means is that there are a whole lot more poor people than are being reported, according to the Associated Press http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0221-06.htm.

The Census Bureau said in August, 2004 that 12.7 percent of Americans were in the state of poverty. However, using other calculations the poverty rate more realisitically was 19.4 percent.

Why does it make a difference?

Because as Douglas Beshorov of the American Enterprise Institute, "There are hundreds of programs moving hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits that are tied to the poverty line."

That means, in particular, cities as Cleveland, where poverty is high, are being deprived of federal resources they would be eligible if the poverty rate were calculated property.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cleveland Accountants - Help Cleveland's Poor

If the city's accountants - and lawyers who do tax work - got together with social agencies
they could help the Cleveland economy Big Time.

A study at the Brookings Institution (http://www.brookings.edu/es/urban/livingcities/cleveland.htm) showed that the federal earned income tax credit (EITC) helped bring more than $100 million into the City of Cleveland in 2003.

The study showed that although Cleveland was better than a number of cities, only 31.7 percent of those eligible to file for EITC did so. That means many poorer families are not taking advantage of the savings and they and the community is losing many millions of dollars. Based on the $100 million figure above another 68.3 percent should account for another $200 million could be up for grabs and come into the Cleveland economic stream.

In the first quarter of 2003, three percent of ALL income in Cuyahoga County resulted from the EITC, according to info from Alan Berube (Jan. 13, 2005 - Levin College Forum.)

Unfortunately, despite the advantages many poor people don't file for the EITC - and therefore don't get what's coming to them. You must file and income tax return to get the refund. It's easy to find out if you qualify, says the IRS,(http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96406,00.html) in this information report.

That's where professional can help their community - by donating time and expertise to file out forms for those who might not otherwise do so. Community agencies, and even the City of Cleveland, should be willing to extend their services to do this.

I remember a Cleveland Councilman who made many friends in his ward by filing the proper paperwork on the value of homes of his constituents with the County Board of Revision. He helped lower their property taxes and, of course, won their allegience and likely their vote.

If every accounting firm and every lawyer who does tax business would take four or five families which are eligible to receive EITC, it would add greatly to the total income of the community.

Now is the time to get busy with April 15 - or getting extensions - to file tax returns.

It's not healthy to be poor

The New York Times today (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/21/health/21mone.html?_r=1&oref=slogin) reported that a study of 30,000 patients "consecutively referred to the Cleveland Clinic for stress testing" shows that people with less money have more risk of dying than those with money.

I guess we knew that but now there's data to back it up.

The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week, the article said. Home addresses of those involved were matched against economic data of the 2000 census.

"There were 2,174 deaths during the (study) period (6-1/2 years), and patients in the lower quarter of socioeconomic status were twice as likely to have died as those in the highest quarter, even though the two groups did not differ in age, sex, race or current smoking habits," the Times piece said. The report was sort of buried in the" Vital Signs column of items today Times.

It quoted Dr. Michael Lauer, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at CWRU, "Some people think that poverty causes stress to the autonomic nervous system, the part that regulates blood pressure and heart rate."

So Cleveland once again proves that poverty hurts. It can kill you.

Roldo Bartimole

Brian Davis comments

Submission for Squeaky Wheel

Day Labor Study ReleasedTwo university researchers just published a study on day laborers throughout the country. Most of the focus is on immigrant populations and the exploitation within the industry. Cleveland is not a big day labor immigrant, but we have a huge temp. labor population. Here is a link to the national study:http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/issr/csup/pubs/papers/item.php?id=31This is a national look at the dramatic increase in temporary labor over the last decade and the impact on the labor market.

This is not as good as Dan Kerr's study here in Cleveland on the temporary day labor industry (available at the NEOCH website www.neoch.org/programs), but it has received a good deal of national attention. There is some brief discussion of day centers to address the problems within the industry, and a list of recommendations.

Cleveland is one of the few cities with a non-profit hiring hall that was constructed to address the exploitation within the Day Labor industry. Our Hiring Hall is a unique within the industry in that it is a collaboration of homeless groups, unions, and religious organizations. The group is currently trying to get the City of Cleveland seasonal labor contract. They are lobbying the Mayor and City Council to give the entire contract to this non-profit social justice organization. First the City Contract and then Jacobs Field.

- By Brian Davis NEOCH (Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless)

Homeless

While I'm by no means anywhere personally acquainted with the problem of homelessness, I've long felt the institutionalizing of the homeless problem would never be a solution. I'm sure it's not an original thought.

I spent a lot of time reporting on dire poverty issues. particularly housing, both in Bridgeport, Conn. and in Cleveland during the 1960s. I also worked in the war on poverty program on housing issues in Akron for a time in the late 1960s. Homelessness simply wasn't a poverty issue during any of that time.

No doubt, however, that it has become a scandalous and seemingly insoluable problem today.

Understanding that it is a problem, I've wondered whether the treatments being offered weren't deterring a solution.

When I came to Cleveland in 1965 before my family joined me, I took a room in a single room occupancy apartment near the Plain Dealer where now Cleveland State University either parks cars or enjoys a soccer playing field. I paid for a week but only lasted one or two nights. It was that depressing. However, it served a population that needed cheap shelter from the elements. Now people very close by that location sleep on the street.

So much of that SRO housing has been destroyed. Destroyed without the market - or shall we say community - providing a substitution. Condo, yes; affordable housing, well...

Instead, we have developed an entire system of treating the need for housing as if it were a disease.

It seemed to me that shelters, food and other programs for people out on the street with no where to go and no ability to even feed themselves certainly met the immediate problems of people in need. However, if you did it tonight, you'd have to do it again tomorrow night, and on and on forever. No real solution has materialized since this problem blossomed in the mid-1980s.

A recent piece in the New Yorker magzine by Malcolm Gladwell(
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060213fa_fact) entitled "Million-Dollar Murrray - Why problems like homelessness may be easier to solve than to manage" offers some interesting insights into homelessness, the homeless and possible solutions at least for some - maybe those damaged most by the lack of simple shelter.

Gladwell begins his piece thus:

"Murray Barr was a bear of a man, an ex-marine, six feet tall and heavyset, and when he fell down - which he did nearly every day - it could take two or three grown men to pick him up. He had straight black hair and olive skin. On the street, they called him Smokey. He was missing most of his teeth. He had a wonderful smile. People loved Murray."


Barr becomes an essential part of the article because, it says, "Murray Bass probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of Nevada." Says one, "It cost us one million dollars not to do something about Murray (who dies in the bargain)." So the cost of homelessness weighs heavily on the community in more ways that as a moral issue.

Therein lies the problem. Are we solving the problem or only treating it and perpetuating the situation?

The article cites a data base produced by "a young Boston College grad student" interested in the problem. He produced a data base that shows what's called a "power law" distribution. It's what statisticians describe as a situation where all the activity involved "is not in the middle but at one extreme." In regards to homelessness that means that, as the grad student found, 80 percent of the homeless are "in and out real quickly." The really acute problem lies in the smaller 20 percent.

The data base, for example, "suggested that New York City had a quarter of a million people who were homeless at some point in the previous decade - which was a surprisingly high number. But only about twenty-five hundred were chronically homeless."

The implied answer would be to concentrate attention to those chronically homeless.

As cited above, Murray Barr used more health care dollars as one of these chronically ill homeless people than anyone in the state. "It would probably have been cheaper to give him a full-time nurse and his own apartment."

That seems to be the thurst. The article cites Philip Mangano, President George Bush's director of the U. S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. He doesn't seem the typical Bush appointee. The article says that he is a history buff and "sometimes falls asleep listing to old Malcolm X speeches and who peppers his remarks with references to the civil rights movement...."

I wouldn't totally dismiss him just because he's a Bush appointee. Bush can make mistakes, as we know.

What's being proposed is to give apartments to these hardcore homeless. Yes, simply give them an apartment and other needed help. And, if he or she destroys the apartment, give another. And if it happens again, you repeat the "solution" with another apartment.

This doesn't seem a program that Repulicans (or even liberal Democrats) could swallow, however, it's being peddle to some cities by this Republican administration.

Mangano is quoted, "Our intent is to take homeless policy from the old idea of funding programs that serve homeless people endlessly and invest in results that actually end homelessness."

There's plenty more to the article, including studies that show the "power law" concept also could work with problems with police. It's been found that a relatively few police officers account for most of the violence against civilians, for example. Get rid of them and you have a more responsive and fair police force.

I think that the article and the concept deserves more attention. I guess that's because there has been a nagging question in my mind about the continued institutionalizing of homelessness and the bureaucracy that has built up around the problem.

It seems the solution to poverty is the give people more income; the problem with homelessness is to give the homeless housing. Sounds simple. I know it isn't.

I asked Brian David, director of a coalition on homelessness here http://www.neoch.org/ to read the New Yorker article. He responded.

"I liked the New Yorker article but have some disagreements with it.

"I agree with the premise but believe that we must spend all new money in this supportive housing effort. We have now neglected affordable housing and homelessness for 20 years and it is impossible to divide up the pie anymore with new experiments.

"It takes every ounce of energy that our organization can muster to keep people from dying in the streets, wrote Davis.

"We are one of the few cities left in the U. S. that still offers shelter to whomever comes to the door," he continued. "I cannot support a new fad from Washington that is supposed 'to change the face of homelessness' unless it comes with a whole bunch of new money."

Davis also worries about a program accepted by the Bush administration. I do too.

However, I believe a new effort is necessary but share the desire for the financing to be adequate.

I'll be trying to get other response to what I believe is an acute poverty problems that, as Davis says and the article makes clear, results in death.

- By Roldo Bartimole






Friday, January 20, 2006

Submitted by Mansfield Frazier

Roldo:

Poverty, as we all know, is a function and byproduct of a deficient education. And we can’t solve the problem of poverty without first solving the problem of our failure to educate the underclass. We blame the school systems and teachers (who certainly should shoulder some of the blame) when, in reality, the majority of the blame should go to parents. However, beyond the parents lie the real culprits: uncaring politicians. The following summarizes some of my thoughts.

An idea whose time might one day come

The most recent disturbing test results posted by Cleveland schoolchildren cited in the PD editorial “Failing our children,” (Dec. 4, 2005), leads me to but one inescapable conclusion: Eventually we will have to adopt former US Senator Bill Bradley’s prescriptive (put forth over a decade ago) of establishing “children’s camps” as the solution to the seemingly intractable problem of failing (and failed) underclass children. We have been nibbling around the edges of this tragic situation for years with admirable sounding programs such as Head Start, which have only produced uneven results when viewed in the long term. The fact unfortunately remains that placing a child in a safe learning environment for six, seven or even eight hours a day has limited lasting effect when every evening that child is returning to a home environment where little value is placed on education, health care and strong, positive role-modeling. If Head Start and other such programs really worked we would not still have a problem with low performing children in any American city.

The focus has to be on the home environment; therein lays the problem. But how long will we continue to restate the obvious by yelling at the top of our lungs, “You parents have to do a better job!”? Of course they need to, but when will we realize that we are asking the virtually impossible from these oftentimes marginally educated and poorly equipped mothers and fathers (mostly mothers)? If these parents knew how to do a better job with their children they would ... but, mostly being ill-raised themselves, they, by and large, don’t have the requisite skills to be better parents. How does a parent read to their child after school when they themselves are oftentimes functionally illiterate ...and don’t want their children — or anyone else for that matter — to know of their deficit? Or what about the parent that spends all day in a grinding effort just to put enough food on the table... where are they supposed to find the energy for spending quality evening time with their children?

Sen. Bradley put forth the idea that we could break the cycle of substandard education (which leads to low goals, eventual poverty, and too often criminal behavior) that continues to plague so many underclass American children of all colors by a massive, one-generation effort whereby middleclass mentors hands-on assist in the raising of these underclass children during those critical early years in a safe, stable — and, most importantly of all — 24-hour environment. And these mentors would not have to be trained social workers, just ordinary, everyday citizens willing to make a commitment to help. Of course the young parents of these children would also be getting the education they missed in their formative years in the process.

Certainly establishing such a program would require a Herculean effort on the part of government, but it would not be as expensive as it might appear at first blush. Much of the funding for such an effort is already being spent by government on various and sundry support programs for the underprivileged; those funds need to be redirected, and the facilities to establish the children’s camps provided. At the time, Sen. Bradley suggested utilizing closed military bases for the camps. Some would question if parents would willingly bring their offspring to such a place, but why don’t we build one — just one — and see if they will come?

Creating the political will to institute such an undertaking would require the efforts of real visionaries , but anything short of the all-encompassing Bradley program is (as the last 50 or so years have so amply demonstrated) doomed to failure. The PD editorial stated that the city, county and faith-based communities must also be held accountable for the welfare of Cleveland’s children, and no one would disagree with that position. However, government at the state and federal level has to do its share too. “No Child Left Behind” has to become more than simply a slogan hijacked by the Bush Administration from the Children’s Defense Fund. This is a problem that can be solved if enough federal dollars are allocated for the solution. The plain fact is, we’re either going to pay up now and try to solve the problem once and for all with a real solution, or we’re going to continue to pay and pay incrementally forever for our collective failure to face hard truths and make tough decisions.

The PD editorial ended by calling on Mayor-elect Frank Jackson to use the dismal test results as a rallying point to ignite community concern over this issue, and I have no doubt that he will use his bully pulpit to do just that — on this issue ... and others of import to the residents of the City of Cleveland. Nonetheless, we have to be cognizant of the fact that these problems facing many underclass children in the city were generations in the making and no single mayor of any size city ... no matter how talented, well-meaning and energized they might happen to be ... is going to be able to overcome them without a substantial commitment from the governor and State Legislature, along with a big hand from the president and Congress.

The problems faced by Cleveland children are beyond critical, and new, innovative measures for solving them have to be given serious consideration at some juncture. In view of the myriad semi-successes and mostly failures of past programs, now, at the beginning of a new City Hall administration, is the time to try Sen. Bradley’s idea on at least a limited, pilot program basis. I am firmly convinced that we will eventually come to our senses and give Sen. Bradley’s idea a try — if for no other reason than all else has failed to produce the desired results and we have run out of other options. The only thing we have to lose is ... another generation of undereducated, ill-equipped and marginalized Cleveland school children. Children that will, in all likelihood, remain mired in poverty their entire lives.

Do We Need a Squeaky Wheel to Find Justice Here?

It’s an old saying, but a relevant cliché: the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Let me be blunt. I think the squeaky wheels in this town have skewed the priority agenda of community needs. The squeaky wheels in recent years have been the sports teams, art, bicycles, towpaths, lakefront parks, convention centers, fancy bridges, downtown housing—all in some way worthy causes, most of them causes of middle and upper class desires.

However, these voices—many good—have championed these needs incessantly. The echo of that chorus overwhelms needs that have no vocal champions. These other voices are seemingly now passé and off the community agenda. These would voice the needs of the powerless, in essence, the poor.

For a short, short time, the time it takes for the sun to peek out of a passing cloud, Poverty’s presence invaded our minds after Hurricane Katrina. The sun of concern disappeared rather quickly. It certainly didn’t translate effectively into concern beyond the impacted New Orleans and its surroundings. It certainly didn’t raise the level of distress in our community. I don’t remember seeing a series on local television, didn’t hear heavy chatter on the blogs and failed to see real apprehension in the pages of the Plain Dealer.

Where has the concern about Poverty gone? My guess is that it went off the agenda when riots and the pressure of civil disorder receded. Again, the squeaky wheel analogy.

How do we bring it back into the community’s vision? How do we make it impossible to ignore?

One way is to get people talking about the subject of poverty. Today, the Internet—blogs in particular—can reach people and can ignite conversation, and thus put Poverty back on the civic agenda.

I’ve had some experience in this area. I was once the welfare reporter for the Plain Dealer in the 1960s, when Poverty had to be addressed even by the mass media. Below is a piece that has, of the thousands I’ve written, remained a favorite. It is because I believe it touches the reality of Poverty.

It should be read in the context of the 1960s. It also needs some explanation. It was presented in a full-page display dominated by a silhoutted photograph of Eddie Brown (name not real) looking out his window. The photographer was Michael Evans, one of the few photographers who didn’t mind accompanying a reporter on stories dealing with Poverty, and particularly in the black community. Evans was an intern who later went on to be the official photographer for President Ronald Reagan. (Evans died last December—Note New York Times obit).

Evans’ photo gave impact to the emotion of the article, written in March, 1967. I remember being very nervous after turning in the article because it wasn’t a typical article. I worried about changes that might be made by copy editors who would review and edit the piece before publication. The next morning I found that it had survived intact.

I also found that it had created reaction, much of it negative. An excited “copy boy,” as they were called in those days, followed me up the aisle as I entered the office. Lots of angry calls had come into the office that morning. The copy boy was Dennis Kucinich. I personally received copies of the page torn from the newspaper with racist and anti-poor slurs written across the page.

One more part of the story must be told. I interviewed the landlord of Eddie Brown’s apartment. The opening paragraph read:

“The manager of Eddie Brown’s tenement leans back. His jacket opens, exposing a pearl-handled revolver in a holster strapped to his chest.

"The owner of Eddie Brown’s tenement slips his hand into his coat pocket and fingers his revolver.

"When the manager collects rents, he is accompanied by another man who walks shotgun.

The articles goes on to note: “With the pearl-handled revolver resting on his stomach, the manager says, “the people here like me, I do little things for them.’” Here’s Eddie Brown’s story. I wonder how many Eddie Browns there are in Cleveland’s inner city today:

This is Eddie Brown…looking out at life.


Funny thing about Eddie Brown. If he were lost in the woods there would be 300 men ready to search. If he were caught in a cave, newspapers around the world would tell the story.

But Eddie’s problem is he’s not lost, just expendable.

There are about 200 expendable Eddie Browns in a private prison in three tenement buildings on Addison Road and Wade Park Ave. N.E. They are the children of some 40 families, most of them on relief.

A social worker calls it a concentration camp, made impenetrable because of the fear of a landlord. But it’s not that.

Eddie’s trap is the view from his bedroom window.

A garbage heap has more reality to him than than a perfectly manicured lawn could have. Such a lawn would be a disgrace. It would be an expectation.

Eddie, like 11-year-old Ralph, will have to live with that garbage heap and how it fits with the rest of his life.

“This is the best place I’ve ever lived,” says Ralph, cupping a cigarette in his hand.

Does the garbage bother you, Ralph? “Naw,” he says. The garbage heap melts into the background.

Because home is a darkened, littered stairway with dirty puddle on the landing…or the decomposed body of a mouse that didn’t survive..or the scratching at night of a rat that did…or the moan of a wino.

The parents don’t talk much. It’s not that they don’t know they have problems. One almost senses they have tired of explaining it to reporters, social workers, surveyors, research-gatherers and other do-gooders.


You know this isn’t the first time someone has knocked at the door with that “What are your problems?” routine.

Funny how you get the feeling that you know what the problems are, that you might be part of them. And then you get that look from one that bleeds the hope that you might be able to do something. Then you know you are part of the problem.

You are fake hope.
You sit and listen.

“Tomorrow,” says Eddie Brown’s father, “tomorrow I go get a job. With a landscaper.”


And, “at night you can’t rest for their scratching,” a woman says of the rats.

“You can’t go to the store at night because of the teenage gangs,” says another. “They jumped my husband with an iron pipe.”

But it’s okay during the day because somebody’s always looking out the window.

Eddie Brown stares from a bedroom window as a young girl holding a plastic garbage pail turns it over and adds garbage to garbage.

Eddie Brown’s mother doesn’t let him outside the apartment. But the rear view tells him all he has to know.

THIS BLOG IS NOT MINE. OTHERS NEED TO CARRY THE BURDEN.

I hope that social workers, educators, reporters, physicians, nurses, advocates of hunger and homeless centers, social service agents, pastors, ministers, rabbis who are unable to write what they want in their newspapers, the poor themselves (who could tell the story more truthfully), others who in their jobs come in contact with poverty issues will tell their stories here. We want to know who is suffering, how and why. We want as much attention to the distressed as celebrities of all kinds.

Somebody suggested that it be called the “Squeaky Wheel.” So be it. Now let’s hear some squawking.