Skip to main content

Since January, Greg Kaufmann has been talking about poverty at The Nation. Good to see since we don't do that nearly enough. The excerpt below is from an interview with Kaufmann by Theresa Riley at BillMoyers.com:

Theresa Riley: Last month’s numbers from the U.S. Census showed poverty numbers holding steady from 2010 to 2011. That’s not exactly good news since poverty levels are the worst they’ve been in 50 years. What should people be paying attention to in these numbers?

Greg Kaufmann: I think the biggest takeaways from the recent numbers are that only the top quintile saw its income rise in 2011; the bottom four-fifths all saw a decline. Also, only the bottom and the top saw growth in the number of full-time, year-round workers — which speaks to the proliferation of low-wage jobs and difficulty reaching the middle class. In short, I think the numbers speak to the fact that we need to stop looking at poverty as a separate phenomenon from the rest of the economy — an economy with a proliferation of low-wage jobs and a weak and inequitable recovery. Finally, the number of people living below twice the poverty line — less than about $36,000 for a family of three — rose from 103 million to 106 million Americans. That’s a better representation of who is struggling in this economy than the 46 million people below the poverty line. Even at two times the poverty level people are making impossible choices between food, housing and healthcare — and forget about savings for college, for example.


Riley: What are some common misconceptions about poverty in America?

Kaufmann: That poor people don’t work and don’t want to work. That most people on assistance are African American (most are white). That we waged a war on poverty and poverty won (poverty would be twice as high as it is today — nearly 30 percent — if it weren’t for government assistance). That the solution to families headed by single mothers is marriage. And, generally, there is a lack of recognition that most people who turn to welfare are either working low-wage jobs, are temporarily unemployed, or they need safe, affordable childcare in order to work and it’s not available.

Riley: Besides the financial crisis, are there other systemic problems that are factors in the high rate of poverty?

Kaufmann: The proliferation of low-wage jobs is a huge problem. I think the fact that TANF (cash assistance) is administered differently by 50 states and we have no uniform minimum benefit or eligibility standards increases poverty, and also deep poverty. Prior to welfare reform for every 100 families with children in poverty 68 received cash assistance. Now it’s just 27, and the benefit averages about 30 percent of the poverty line. I think the lack of affordable childcare — federal assistance for childcare currently reaches about one in seven of those who are eligible — is a huge problem for workers and also in terms of improving outcomes for children in poverty.

Riley: Why aren’t people outraged by these numbers? What do you think it will take to capture the public’s attention?



Kaufmann: You got me. I thought the recession would make people more sensitive to how easy it is to fall into poverty. I don’t think that’s happened — in fact, it seems like it’s probably increased the scapegoating. I’ve always believed it will take presidential leadership to a) educate people about poverty; and b) take aggressive action to eradicate poverty. But these days I’m thinking it’s more about us educating, agitating, organizing, and pushing — not waiting on a president. To that end, I want to do a much better job finding out and reporting on what’s happening at the community-level.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2007The unique weirdness of the AG nomination:

How completely through the looking glass is this "administration?" The nomination now pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee for Attorney General serves to crystallize the issue by shattering all meaning behind two comfortable platitudes that used to function to satisfy all onlookers that all was right in Heaven.

First, there was the assurance from the nominee and his supporters that he'd respect the "rule of law." That used to be a fine phrase to toss out there without having to worry about it meaning too much one way or the other, until we learned that everything we once thought was a "law" was now a "hypothetical."

And now Senator Russ Feingold is testing the limits of the remaining currency of another shopworn but previously serviceable platitude -- the old throwaway explanation for a bad vote on a nominee:

He may be the best nominee we can get from this administration in this respect.
Senator, I'm afraid I'm going to have to challenge you on that. This "administration" has taken us well past the point where stock phrasing will be sufficient.

Tweet of the Day:

@AdamSerwer If the Republicans don't expect Mitt to lose then why are the 2016 contenders already running?
@emptywheel via TweetDeck



Today's Kagro in the Morning show had a great extended segment today with Greg Dworkin & Tim Lange (aka Meteor Blades) on the air together for most of our first hour! We talked last minute polling, gut/narrative vs. data, more Nate Silver, the breakthrough Business Week "It's Global Warming, Stupid" cover, the October jobs numbers, and much more. Don't forget to vote for us as Best New Show in the Stitcher Awards! Vote 1x/day through Nov. 5!




High Impact Posts. Top Comments.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site