Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bail-outs Only for the Rich, (and Definitely not New Jersey)

It is a strange world indeed when the only people who get bailed out [by us] are the rich and powerful. I heard this morning on NPR the Senate was considering extending unemployment benefits by 13 weeks (something I would personally benefit from at this point), but Bush would veto such legislation. Incidentally, jobless claims are skyrocketing with no end in sight. Just this morning a report by the labor department indicated jobless claims are at a sixteen year high.

There is no real talk about what every day Americans are going through though. It is bail-out banks, bail-out the auto industry, next comes the air line industry. But, where does it end and when does the focus become people, not corporations. Is that not where this conversation should begin? How are people doing? Well, a new report on food and nutrition tells you: one-in-eight Americans who struggled to feed themselves adequately in 2007 even before the economic downturn. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of those affected rose from 10.5% to 11.1%. That's 36.2 million people.

Other highlights: The families with the highest rates of food insecurity were headed by single mothers (30.2 percent), black households (22.2 percent), Hispanic households (20.1 percent), and households with incomes below the official poverty line (37.7 percent).

States with families reporting the highest prevalence of food insecurity during 2005-07 were Mississippi (17.4 percent), New Mexico (15 percent), Texas (14.8 percent) and Arkansas (14.4 percent).

The highest growth in food insecurity over the past nine years came in Alaska and Iowa, both of which saw a 3.7 percent increase in families who struggled to eat adequately or had substantial food disruptions.

"Nationwide, children suffering from a severe disruption in how much food was available to them rose 50 percent, from 430,000 in 2006 to 691,000 in 2007, the worst year since 1998. Not Congolese fleeing the chaos of civil war. Not Dickensian orphans. Americans in the 21st Century."

This begs the question, what the hell are we thinking? Do bail-outs really help Americans? Will this help us turn the corner or is an entirely new way of thinking needed?

Here in the state of New Jersey Legal Services for the poor's funding is down approximately 65%. Lay-offs indeed have already begun in south jersey and the mood at the organization is bleak. Governor Corzine promised an additional 9.5 million in funds to keep the organization afloat. Word, however is this funding is in doubt (maybe Corzine is too busy thinking of who he can bail-out at the Department of Treasury). What will happen to poor people in New Jersey if this organization is forced to gut itself and cut jobs in half, which some of the plans project? Now mind you Legal Services here is asking for 9 million. Compare that to 25 billion the auto industry is asking for? Do we not have our priorities straight? Might we do both? (Just to put these numbers in perspective. The difference between a million and a billion is very significant. It takes 11 days for 1 million seconds to tick. How about a billion? 30 + years!).

While the poor are forced into poverty and "it is a result of the times" Auto executives fly into Washington on private jets and ask for 25 billion. Banks are given 700 billion. What if we took just one of those billions and divied it up amongst the poor? Would that be such a bad idea?

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