A Journalist Signs Off to Go Fight Poverty

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We’re proud to collaborate with The Nation in sharing insightful journalism related to income inequality in America. The following is an excerpt from Nation contributor Greg Kaufmann’sThis Week in Poverty” column.


Greg Kaufmann on Moyers & Company. (Photo: Dale Robbins)

Nearly two years ago, TheNation.com launched ”This Week in Poverty” as a way to keep the issue of poverty — and what we can do about it — front and center for our readers.

We felt that poverty was largely ignored by the mainstream media, with the exception of every September, when the new Census Bureau statistics were published. In contrast, as the oldest political weekly magazine in the country — founded by abolitionists in 1865 – The Nation has poverty coverage in its DNA. It’s been a great privilege to be a part of that coverage on a weekly basis.

Today marks my last ”This Week in Poverty” post. I’m going to spend more of my time working with local, state and national organizations engaged in the fight against poverty. I look forward to continuing to contribute to The Nation as well as to BillMoyers.com, which has also been so supportive of this blog.

For me, spending more time in the field, and having the freedom to engage strategically with activists, feels like a natural progression of my work at The Nation. The more I have spoken with people who are struggling in poverty, or with workers trying to survive on low wages; the more I have been alarmed by Republicans, and disillusioned with Democrats; the more I have been impressed with the activiststhinkers and advocates fighting for good policy and stronger communities, while also searching for new approaches to that fight… the more I’ve wanted to get involved as an activist myself.

TheNation.com created this blog with the notion that it simply isn’t true that we don’t know what to do to turn the tide in the fight against poverty — that there are many progressive organizations and, most importantly, people living in poverty themselves, offering solutions that are there for the taking and that need to be heard.

My friend and editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and I share a deep respect for the people who are doing this work, and that was also a key motive for creating this blog: we need to recognize people and groups for their good ideas, and their hard work, much of which is done in relative anonymity. And of course, it was a glaring weakness in most media coverage of poverty that the stories rarely engaged with people who are actually living in poverty themselves. As we headed into the presidential campaign last year, this absence was even more glaring.

I think one of the best moments for this blog and what its readers could accomplish was TheNation.com’s #TalkPoverty effort during the presidential campaign, which was developed in collaboration with senior editor Emily Douglas and community editor Annie Shields.

We interviewed advocates (hereherehere and here) and people living in or near poverty, providing them with an opportunity to pose direct questions to President Obama and Governor Romney. It was an effort to push a constructive conversation about poverty into the presidential debate. Little did we know that so many groups and individuals would adopt the campaign as their own, trying to get the moderators of three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate to ask at least a single question about poverty (which the moderators failed to do). In the end, the Obama campaign responded to “This Week in Poverty,” and #TalkPoverty still thrives on Twitter today as a way to share information and promote action.

It’s my hope now that we will aggressively move beyond talk to organizing and taking action to push for known solutions. I believe that we will not see the kind of change we seek without a movement that is visible, constant and disruptive, as we have witnessed with the recent immigration reform and marriage equality movements.

The conditions for an antipoverty movement now exist: when more than one in three Americans are living below twice the poverty line (below about $36,500 for a family of three) — unable to pay for the basics like food, housing, healthcare, education, and unable to save — something’s got to give. When 95 percent of the economic gains are going to the top 1 percent, and more than 60 percent to the top .1 percent — the potential is there to unite the majority of people who are being denied an opportunity to get ahead.

So my hope as we close out this blog is the same as it was when we launched it — that readers will get involved in the fight against poverty, and work and push, and work and push, and work and push some more, until we get where we need to go.

Below is a list of organizations whose work I’ve had the privilege to get to know over the past two years. If you keep up with these groups, sign up for their updates, you will know more about poverty and what we can do about it than the vast majority of members of Congress or your state and local representatives do, and you will find opportunities to get involved. You can also share your own ideas with these groups about how we can build a strong movement — and I know you have great ideas. I know it because the most unexpected thing of all about this blog was the number of people who started e-mailing me about what needed to be covered. Your passion and ideas helped shape “This Week in Poverty” in significant ways over the past two years, and I thank you for that.

I hope you will keep in touch – I’m still writing — but most importantly I hope you will get involved and fight hard.

Children, Parents and Families

Broader, Bolder Approach to Education

Children’s Defense Fund

Children’s HealthWatch

First Focus

Legal Momentum

Mary House

Mary’s Center

National Partnership for Women and Families

National Women’s Law Center

Healthcare, Disability and Aging

The Arc

Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force

National Council on Aging

National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives

Housing and Homelessness

Care for the Homeless

Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness

Home Defenders League

National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

National Low Income Housing Coalition

Occupy Our Homes

Pathways to Housing

Hunger

Center for Hunger-Free Communities/Witnesses to Hunger

Food Research and Action Center

Mazon

New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Share Our Strength

Justice and Courts

Center for Court Innovation

Race and Civil Rights

Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Poverty & Race Research Action Council

Research

Center for American Progress

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities


Center for Economic and Policy Research

Demos

Economic Policy Institute

National Employment Law Project

Urban Institute: MetroTrends

Workers’ Rights

Caring Across Generations

Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Interfaith Worker Justice

Jobs with Justice

Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United

Multi-issue Groups

Alliance for a Just Society

Campaign for America’s Future

Center for Community Change

Center for Law and Social Policy

Center for Social Inclusion

Coalition on Human Needs


Community Action Partnership

Half In Ten

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Kansas Association of Community Action Programs

LIFT

National Council of La Raza

National Nurses United

NETWORK

PolicyLink

Progressive States Network

RESULTS

The Rural Assistance Center

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Western Center on Law & Poverty

Greg Kaufmann is a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, the former poverty correspondent for The Nation and a former contributor to BillMoyers.com. The opinions expressed here are his own. You can follow him on Twitter @GregKaufmann.
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  • JonThomas

    May the wind be at your back… although we know it won’t be. You’ll be facing storms, monsters, sirens, harsh winds constantly throwing water in your face, and a crew that will make you both scream in frustration, and glow with pride. When there’s no wind, it will be the doldrums. Further, unless you have a huge treasury, you’ll be constantly facing funding problems requiring lots of pandering, which will unfortunately get you close to integrity compromising situations,

    Some ports will be welcoming, others will toss you in prison. Watch out for thieves and scammers, and never drink from a glass or bottle which you left unattended.

    In short… you’ll probably fail miserably, but the fight will be way worth it!

    Always remember, if you stay awake, and keep watch, truth may just be found exactly where you least expect.

    Anyway, don’t forget to have fun!

  • Jeff Torres

    How about helping a fellow journalist in poverty? What a story I have but can’t write about. Maybe you can.

  • Susan Eggert

    I excited for you heading deeper into the fray, and sad for our loss, but know someone of excellence will pick up your baton, or pen, or keyboard…

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your work.

  • movingazforward

    More than 30 percent of children in my state live in poverty. I think volunteering to work with children at a local Title One school is a great way to make a difference.

  • Karen Clark

    As a 60-year-old woman, just had to go and get food stamps. Grateful for the help, but know there has to be a better system for people to obtain this benefit. I had 14 steps/windows and 3 days.and am still not done. And absolutely no funds available for emergency rental assistance. What happened to the safety net?

  • Kelli Hernandez

    I had no idea that some of these organizations existed. I live in poverty, and am currently awaiting a hearing for Social Security.

    I’m extremely concerned that there are not enough mental health services for those suffering from mental health issues, and with my particular desire for advocacy someday, on the part of survivors of domestic violence or adult survivors of childhood abuse, who need to learn life skills, engage in the therapeutic process and have access to opportunity that was not provided in youth. We are the scapegoated, exploited and mostly forgotten masses that are chronically ill, disabled from years of chronic abuse, but free of that abuse and wanting to live and have peace. It cannot be done without support and opportunity.

    Thank you for your advocacy and fight on behalf of all of us living in poverty. Also a huge thank you for the unspoken heroes who work on our behalf everyday, whom I will never meet, yet who care. God Bless you on your new journey…

  • FC

    While I greatly admire you idealism I can’t agree with you statement “people … are being denied an opportunity to get ahead”. Statement like this are romantic in a progressive sort of way, but will not lead to solutions.

    This statement implies that there is an organized group keeping people down. Which is simply not true. This constant referencing of the 1% as if it was some sort of evil cabal is the current mantra of the of the “progressive movement”. It serves little purpose and will lead America nowhere. It implies the economic pie is limited and that people have no control over their own lives.

    The so called 1 pct has gained income and assets because they, more often than not, worked hard and gained skills needed by society. The world has changed dramatically over the last 30 years.

    American factories compete on a global scale. The left constantly references the image of the good old days of the middle class in post war America – as if it is a norm. It was not a norm. After WWII we controlled much of the world. We were the only major economy that was left intact and solvent. By the early 70′s that was no longer the situation. Germany, Japan and others “caught up”. Now we also compete with Korea, China and other Asian Tigers too. Because of this, unions can no longer make the same wage demands on US corporations. US companies can’t be competitive paying someone $25 an hour to assemble a phone. Thats simple economic reality. Its not the result of evil people in big companys somehwere on Wall Street.

    The fact is that if you don’t have skills, you are probably not going to get paid very well, but that is not the fault of the 1 pct. The 1 pct isnt doing something wrong by becoming skilled and working hard. They are not taking money from the 99 pct.

    I am all for rasing the minimum wage. I am for spending money in a sensible way to make sure everyone’s kid has the opportunity to get a good education, but I dont think as a society that we can gurantee outcomes.

    As much as I dislike the direction the Republican right has taken, I think the progressive movement needs to be very mindful that its rhetoric has real impact. Demonizing sucessful people is not and will not be productive and, I believe, contrary to the interests of the very people the movement is trying to help.

    We need to create a bigger pie. That is ultimately the real solution.

    I

  • movingazforward

    I have seen no evidence that supports your claim that the richest 1 percent in this country work harder and have more skills. Most evidence suggests that many of these people work in the financial sector and have reaped the benefits of Wall Street bailouts, stock market gains, investment income, tax cuts and a relatively low top marginal tax rate. Compensation from working is typically a small portion of their net worth.

    The top 1 percent of earners is also comprised of CEOs of mega-corporations who have amassed a great deal of their wealth by shipping jobs and tax liabilities overseas resulting in historic profit gains (in addition to the above benefits).

    After all of the above factors are considered, I think familial and political connections and influence play a bigger role than does hard work. Way too many hard-working, talented, educated individuals are unable to get a job for that not to be the case.

    I hope Progressives will continue educating the American public about economic realities that affect most of us every day. Thank goodness we are no longer waiting around for policy makers to do something about it.

  • Anonymous

    I find it odd that your types always have the remedy in the afflicted being the guilty: the psychology issues lay with them, not the advantaged.

    FORTUNATELY – the founders were not as selfishly, righteously dim as you.

    “In order to gain a clear and just idea of the design and end of
    government, let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some
    sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest; they will then
    represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this
    state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought. A
    thousand motives will excite them thereto; the strength of one man is so
    unequal to his wants, and his mind so unfitted for perpetual solitude,
    that he is soon obliged to seek assistance and relief of another, who in
    his turn requires the same. Four or five united would be able to raise a
    tolerable dwelling in the midst of a wilderness, but one man might
    labour out the common period of life without accomplishing any thing;
    when he had felled his timber he could not remove it, nor erect it after
    it was removed; hunger in the mean time would urge him to quit his
    work, and every different want would call him a different way. Disease,
    nay even misfortune, would be death; for, though neither might be
    mortal, yet either would disable him from living, and reduce him to a
    state in which he might rather be said to perish than to die.

    Thus necessity, like a gravitating power, would soon form our newly
    arrived emigrants into society, the reciprocal blessings of which would
    supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary
    while they remained perfectly just to each other; but as nothing but
    Heaven is impregnable to vice, it will unavoidably happen that in
    proportion as they surmount the first difficulties of emigration, which
    bound them together in a common cause, they will begin to relax in their
    duty and attachment to each other: and this remissness will point out
    the necessity of establishing some form of government to supply the
    defect of moral virtue.”

    Paine – Common Sense (you could probably use some?)

    “Another effect of public instability is the unreasonable advantage it
    gives to the sagacious, the enterprising, and the moneyed few over the
    industrious and uninformed mass of the people. Every new regulation
    concerning commerce or revenue, or in any way affecting the value of the
    different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who
    watch the change, and can trace its consequences; a harvest, reared not
    by themselves, but by the toils and cares of the great body of their
    fellow-citizens. This is a state of things in which it may be said with
    some truth that laws are made for the FEW, not for the MANY. ”

    Madison – Federalist 62

    When companies were eased in the ‘financial burden’ involved in the cost of moving factories overseas by the tax code, not only did they rape the common taxpayer of some of his money but they set into motion a vicious cycle:

    Those workers who had properties that benefited from reasonable proximity to places of employment lost property values and the communities, tax base.

    Those workers also lost their jobs.

    The facilities left vacant were often irresponsibly left to stand and slowly decay into unsafe eyesores – further aggravating property and tax value issues.

    Neighboring areas likewise slid into decay.

    Afflicted communities then were faced ultimately, with the cost of destroying the eyesores. Raping those left in the area yet again.

    Really, it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure this out. No, just takes having more people like yourself extracting their brains from their heineys so that they might expand a bit, and think more clearly.

  • teeky2

    The organizations listed above are where Bill Gates and the other ALEC, Wall Street, corporate CEO’s, and the 1% mega-wealthy SHOULD be putting their money. Instead they choose to strategically place their “philanthropy” into reforming our nation’s public schools in the image of big business, which is already failing and will only create a 2-tiered education system in the end. Closing public schools and running campaigns to villify, blame, and fire teachers is not the answer. Kudos to Mr. Kaufmann’s real action.

  • Tin man

    The quickest way to create a bigger pie, and to stimulate more pie growth, is for the 1ners to share much more of their gargantuan surplus wealth. To say the don’t control the politics that keep people down…from tax policy to gun control…is laughabable. If they would just give a relatively small portion of their wealth to fix the roads, for example, the pie would grow and more could share.

  • FC

    Moving forward, your facts are not correct. Most members of the so called 1 pct are private small business owners, doctors, lawyers etc. and statistically they were not born with a silver spoon in their mouth. The forgoing group, and I know a fair number of them, are working 60 -70 hours a week, spent many years in school and have sometimes risked a lot to get where they are. If you make $300K and you live in metro New York or San Francisco – guess what – your not rich. 9/10 ths of the 1 pct are the foregoing people I just described. They are not the beneficiaries of government bailouts and they pay a lot of taxes.

    The only group that truly has the ability to take advantage of tax loopholes is the top 1/10th of one percent of income earners. This is a very very very small sliver of the population. When you get to that point you have enough money to pay for sophisticated advice and vehicles to avoid paying taxes or you are receiving most of your income in the form of capital gains.

    Also, what is wrong with getting investment income? Many union pensions are getting investment income. America was built on capital raised via the stock exchanges. We will have a depression here if you take away peoples ability to gain from investment income.

    I also did not say or imply that the “average” wage earner does not work hard.

    I agree with a lot of the goals of the progressive movement, but the goals will not be obtained by passing around incorrect information and propaganda or telling people they are victims.

    I just wish the political right would spend a day in a less fortunate persons shoes and I wish the left would spend some time studying economics and accounting. Everyone would be better off. Reality would then be on the table for discussion.

  • JonThomas

    Private small business owners??? Doctors? LOL! Nuff said!

  • FC

    Space: do you have any training in economics? Do you have any training in accounting? Have you ever worked in the world of finance? Do you know how to read a financial statement? Have you received an education in business history? I think if you get some of that training and education and read a lot more expansively it will temper your emotional reaction to my comments. I have worked blue collar jobs and I have also worked in the world of finance. I understand both sides of the discussion here. There is no cabal keeping people down. There has been a macro economic change in the way business is done worldwide. America is not immune to this. Its not the fault of the so called 1 pct. Its economic reality. If you think taxing the 1 pct to death is going to help it wont. The money will leave the country. Its a big world out there competing for capital. If people cant make a reasonable return on their investments here they will move somewhere else. That will have a very very negative impact on the middle class here. Idealism has to be tempered with pragmatism.

  • movingazforward

    I agree that we are talking about two different groups of the wealthy. The fact is, both groups have benefitted from the same policies of the past three decades, policies whose existence they ensure every time they vote. Call it a “cabal” if you wish, but of course wealthy people, politicians, and corporations are doing everything they can to stay that way.

    The enormous wealth created for a very small number of people in the last few decades compared to economic conditions and opportunities for everyone else has been grossly out of balance. Thankfully, learned economists and average citizens alike are no longer debating that undeniable reality, and public discourse is focusing on how to fix it.

    Regarding investment income, and I’m just speculating here, but I would guess that a majority of people who invest their income to any significant degree would be the types of earners we are talking about. Middle class wages have decreased enough that investing is not possible the way it used to be.

    Comparing people who invest their income with those who have investments via union pensions is completely erroneous. Most union pensions belong to public employees who are fortunate if they can crack 50 grand when they retire.

    I regret my reply to your comment above as it has taken the focus away from the intent of this post. I work with 29 children every day, many of whom live in poverty. They are an incredibly bright, creative, and compassionate group of young people who will do great things. Time to get the economy working for them.

  • FC

    Do you really think the wealth was “created for” a very small number of people? Realistically it would be more appropriate to say “created by”. I don’t know of anyone that had wealth “created for” them. Almost everyone I know that’s in the 1 pct did a lot of right stuff to get there.

    Was this a mistake of word choice or do you honestly believe that this wealth was “created for” this group? If you believe that the wealth was “created for” this group, I would would love to know who this group is so I can apply for a golden ticket.

    You see this is where I depart from so much of the political left. I like the ideals, but like the political right, the thinking is based on dogmatic political thinking that leads nowhere. There are real solutions to be had in the middle ground that are sustainable.

    Also, I admire anyone as committed as you are to helping people. I would imagine its very rewarding and very difficult.
    I write these comments to these articles because my hope is to get people to see the whole picture. Idealism is a great thing, but it is often energy channeled with limited results. Too often it becomes an us vs them political statement. Nelson Mandella understood that.

    To be truly effective its better to structure solutions that get broad social and political support. Corey Booker seems to get that equation.

    A lot of the rhetoric of the progressive movement is alienating the very group that can offer solutions in partnership with someone like you. There is no point in demonizing successful people. Don’t you want your students to be successful? Successful people that return to help their communities out? Money can makes things happen if its spent intelligently.

    Good luck to you and those you are helping. I am sure you are making a real difference in their lives.

  • JonThomas

    Third Way, ALEC… just 2 recently-in-the-news examples of groups (which it seems FC is negatively characterizing as “cabals”) working together to push agendas.

    Sure everyone will join forces for causes they want to promote, but… just because there may not be one large group of 1%-ers working as a unit… for that person to say that it doesn’t ever happen is disingenuous, or simply not thought out.

  • JonThomas

    There are many, many, many… wait… ALMOST EVERYONE WHO DOES WORK, TRADE, AND PRODUCE does it for their family and children!

    To say that wealth wasn’t ‘created for’ someone is not close to accurate.

    The actual responsibility which CEO’s and corporation are legally required to preform is to “create wealth for’ their investors!

    Using groups… whether it be in the form of think tanks, lobbying firms, individual lobbying efforts, superpacs, political action groups, or any other effort to promote legislation or beneficial condition (even advertisements, and image and public perception control) … is common practice, and would fall into the realm of fostering an environment which ‘creates wealth for’ some benefactor.

  • movingazforward

    Opportunities have been created that have made it easier for people to achieve success. The poor have the double challenge of trying to escape poverty while living in a time when opportunities that might help them become successful are decreasing.

    I appreciate “big picture” thinking and solutions . On that we can agree!

    I wish I could hear about the successful achievements of former students. Regarding successful people helping their communities, no one is lining up at my school. Tax credit donations usually go to schools that need them the least. I do hope the problem of segregated school systems , one that mirrors exactly what we are talking about here, will become big part of the discussion.

    I have to say that increasing poverty among my students and their families affects my and our success every day in so many ways. The kids keep me going, though: A note on my fridge from a student last year says ” I love school. The best part about it is that I get to see you.” Seriously, can you beat that?

  • movingazforward

    Yup, there are cabals on both sides. But there is no comparison when you measure the amount of resources behind the folks who would like to keep the economic status quo and those who would like to see more of a balance. It makes me hopeful that many of these groups are now seeing the light of day.

  • AnnaFrieda

    “The so called 1 pct has gained income and assets because they, more often than not, worked hard and gained skills needed by society.”
    Aha. So the lowly McD worker makes about $20,000/year (if lucky). Deemed fair, because that worker does not have skills. The McD CEO rakes in almost $14 million in compensation. Please enlighten me what super-human skills the CEO has that warrants $14 MILLION and that society can’t do without?
    You need to be reminded that it is the workers that keep the show going, not the CEO. Take away the workers and everything stops, take away the CEO and … burgers will be sold as if nothing happened.

  • movingazforward

    Yeah, but any day now the non-minimum wage jobs will start trickling down from the wealth.

  • JonThomas

    Not holding my breath. :-)

  • GregoryC

    And don’t forget Bill Clinton’s Make Work Pay cuts to AFDC. Now more single mother households live in poverty without resources to help. I was reared in a single mother household and saw my mother work hard only to be paid significantly less than her male counterparts because they had “families to support.” When I was in high school, Mom finished her Baccalaureate at night school while working full-time during the day. She received her MBA as I graduated with my Baccalaureate. Very proud of her. I think both political parties have failed most working class people. I believe Obama is the first president since Reagan not to raise minimum wage.

  • FC

    That is not a logical argument. Why do you think the CEO makes so much money? Usually because someone thinks they are getting value in return. And yes, the person behind the counter usually has limited skills and that is why they are getting paid less. Its a free country. Companies typically pay people for what they get in return. Clearly the minimum wage is too low, but your not paying someone $100K year to flip burgers. That’s skill you can learn and perform in three minutes. I’ve worked at a fast food store. I know what the work is like.

    Have you ever met a CEO? I have met a number. They are typically extremely able and extremely well educated and entrusted with multi-billion dollar corporations. Yes, their job is a hundred times more complicated and difficult that the burger flipper’s job. Thats a fact. Most went to premier schools have advanced degrees and have been groomed for years before becoming a CEO. They understand marketing, finance, accounting, management, taxes, personnel, business law and are experts in their particular business, etc.

    Why are people so angry at people making a lot of money. Its not productive and it does not further the plight of the “working class”. It would be much more productive to spend energy finding a way to get people trained.

    Guess what there is nothing wrong with making a lot of money. CEOs can make or break an entire company. I have seen it first hand.

    And no a single burger flipper doing a poor job wont really impact the company. A single bad CEO can drive the stock down 50 pct and cause tens of thousands of people to lose their jobs.

    Its not good to resent people for being successful.

  • Mark Cohen

    Just a few corrections to note: 1) Obama President from January 20, 2009 to present. 2) Last increase in Federal minimum wage was July 24, 2009. Thus, minimum wage raised during Obama term. Every President since Reagan has raised the minimum wage. Ronnie sure didn’t. Go to www . dol . gov / whd / minwage / chart . htm (remove all spaces) to see when min wage raised. Finally, while Clinton ran and won on a “ending welfare as we know it” platform, it was the Republican congress that took his campaign pledges, beefed them up, and then passed them in much more ruthless form than he ever proposed. And, while he signed them into law, the tide of public opinion at the time was greatly against any other option. To find this information, just search google for “Bill Clinton’s Make Work Pay cuts to AFDC” and look for The London School of Economics PDF on the matter (about 6 hits down).

    It is interesting that you say both parties have failed working class people, yet the only party I see you slamming by name is the Democrats in most of your posts. Combine that with the observation that much of what you report seems to be skewed or outright factually incorrect, and it certainly suggests a particular agenda to all of your posts.

  • SJB

    FC, I have training in economics–a Ph.D. in fact, and training in accounting. I have worked in finance, am familiar with economic history, and am from a blue collar, working class family, and have worked years in blue collar jobs. I also understand both sides of the discussion.

    There have been many changes, including macroeconomic changes, but many of these changes have been explicitly implemented by insiders in the government and in corporations. Even changes in academics have played a part. That is so much of what Bill Moyers presents in his TV program and on this website.

    Who is being idealistic here? What do you think lobbyists, who are paid vast sums of money to change the game, are doing? Why do the Chamber of Commerce, all sorts of industry trade groups, and professional lobbyists make any effort if it isn’t to change the rules on their behalf. I have also worked in government and have seen these efforts firsthand.

    The 1 percent should be taxed. If you truly understood economics you would know that investment in human captial has a high rate of return. You would also know that underutilization of vast human resources seriously reduces GNP. You would also know that an economy largely based on consumer goods needs consumers to buy those goods. The 1% isn’t spending the majority of their income.
    It is moronic to say that money will leave the U.S. The truth is that even if the 1 percent left the U.S. (frankly, I say good riddance), the U.S. has a wealth of capital, natural resources, and human capital. We don’t need the 1 percent to make this country great.

  • FC

    I see that you have not learned the lessons of history. Everywhere they have espoused your ideology and antipathy for successful people it has resulted in misery for all and death for many.

    You obviously haven’t dealt with people who deal in the real world of business where real decisions get made. There is a big difference between being an academic or working in the government and actually managing a profitable enterprise.

    Look how ably the computers systems were set up for The Affordable care Act. Hundreds of millions for a web site that does not even work. A real business would have set that up for a fraction of the price in 1/3 rd of the time.

    If you read your history you will find out that every country that drove it’s 1 pct out subsequently suffered decades of economic depression. If you lose the professional class you basically destroy your economy. Venezuela is a case in point.
    That’s real economic history. Its the history they don’t teach in the worker’s paradises at the University of Caracas and Havana.

    Read about the history of what happened in Venezuela decades ago. Or perhaps read about Ecuador or maybe Cambodia with the KR. Read what really happens in the real world when people toss around statements like “good riddance” to the professional class so we can have a workers heaven.

    Disliking people because they are successful or different than you is not productive. Being kind and understanding and having a civil discourse is.

  • SJB

    I have indeed run a profitable business. I grew up in a family with a successful business. You say you want to have a civil conversation, but you make assumptions about the belief systems, experience and training of people you have no clue about.

    Wasn’t the contractor for the Obamacare website a private enterprise?

    The professional class includes college professors and government employees, who do, by the way, deal in the real world.

    I do not dislike the 1% as people. I have known some 1%ers who are very kind, generous people, and good business managers. I also do not dislike successful people, as I am one myself.

    What I do not like is the attitude that the 1% is the source of all wealth and productivity. It is simply not true. If by some happenstance tomorrow the 1% disappeared (and I am not saying I want that), what do you think would happen? We would not fall apart. The country would go on and different people would take over. There is nothing special about the 1%.

    It is luck of the draw what time you are born in, what country you are born in and what family you are born in. Yes, people who earn their wealth work hard for it. But there are many others who work hard and don’t get the breaks that successful people might have.

    My father created a successful business, but he was lucky to have children who were not afflicted with illnesses that might force him to stay working in the foundry job he previously had just to keep health insurance. He was lucky to have a smart woman for a wife who helped him and was willing to sacrifice to help his business thrive. He was lucky to be starting his business at time of prosperity, instead of today, because that town is now a shadow of itself. He was lucky he had an uncle, after his father abandoned his family, who gave him a skill, which he began learning from the time he was 14, and then could use to build a successful business.

    People who do not understand that much of what they have is sheer luck of the draw, vastly overestimate their real contributions to society, and underestimate the potential of others who did not have similar opportunities. In addition, they fail to show appreciation for the gifts they have been given in life.

    And I am not a Marxist. I don’t seek a worker’s paradise. I do seek a world in which a poor child in a rural area or an inner city has the opportunity to get an education (including college) just as easily as the child of a 1%er. I seek a world in which these children have the opportunity to become a professional, or a business person. But we no longer have that in the U.S. and it is not because of macroeconomic changes. It is because our system has become corrupt. Belief that a superior group of 1%ers will take care of us is false belief. They are the ones who have corrupted the system.

    You use very limited and extreme examples of history. There are other examples of countries that support workers that are highly successful–Germany being a case in point.

    Economics is about more than business. It is about society. It is frustrating to be in a profession that so many cite, yet few really understand, which is why I, regrettably, was snarky, and I apologize. Most economists understand that economic systems must work to the benefit of the greatest possible number in a society. That doesn’t mean a system must, or even can, work for everyone. But a functional system must work for more than the 1%.

    I recommend you read more widely in economics so that you can gain this insight.

  • FC

    If the 1 pct went away it would cause a depression overnight. You would lose so many skills that it would destroy us economically. While luck is component of success its not usually the defining variable that determines success.

    I don’t think the “system” is more corrupt today than 50 years ago and trust me I understand your train of thought and could ably argue your position. I read extensively and am even more critical of the “right” in this country that the “left”, but I perceive neither to offer real solutions at this time.

    The right is obsessed, foolishly, with: incarceration of the underclass, lowering taxes, religious piety, being against gay rights, wars and the military industrial complex. They seem to have never seen a war they don’t like because their kids don’t have to go fight.

    The left is alienating the most successful people, naive about the looming debt crisis, unrealistic about what government can efficiently achieve has this crazy notion that there are unlimited resources to drawn from the 1 pct to fund insane ineffective government programs and never saw a regulation that they don’t like, etc.

    Believe it or not my inclination is has always been in the liberal direction.

    I have no belief that the 1 pct is a morally superior species. I just don’t think the 99 pct is either. What I find distressing is the progressives silly reflexive belief that the “working class all good 1 pct all bad” People are people.

    The path to solving the problems of poverty and the loss of good middle class jobs is for Americans to understand BOTH sides of the discussion – because both sides have legitimate points.We need to create effective programs that will gain broad and enduring buy in.

    There is a responsible right and there is a responsible left – somewhere. Barry Goldwater and George McGovern were both both responsible political advocates. Ted Cruz and Al Sharpton are not and therein lies the problem with American politics today.

  • movingazforward

    I don’t see the left demonizing successful people. They are shedding light on the growing problem of inequality and the residual and in many cases irrevocable damage our country has suffered from the policies that got the 1% to this period of tremendous wealth.

    Just off the top of my head, these policies have led to:

    loss of our manufacturing base
    outsourced jobs
    stagnant or lower wages for American jobs
    unaffordable college education
    more families and children living in poverty
    increased healthcare costs
    harm to our land, water, air (and the human and economic costs of such)
    corporatization of our media, public schools, prisons, and the political process (heck, I think my dog is the only thing that hasn’t been corporatized)

    Right or left, NONE of this has been good for our society as a whole. And please, we did not get to this place because “both sides do it.” We all have easy access to voting records.

  • FC

    Sorry, The assumption that there is linkage between the 1 pct getting “wealthy” and the policies you indicate above is fragile at best. There is this thematic undertone that the progressive movement tosses around that its gospel truth that somehow this nebulous 1 pct has gained at the expense of others. This belief is premised on an assumption that there is direct cause and effect. That is a pretty big assumption. Its a huge assumption.

    Did anyone ever consider the entire world changed and that automation and foreign competition has reduced the need for low skill jobs and increased the need for high skill jobs? The 1 pct in America didn’t cause that. The days of Archie Bunker living a middle class life in Queens are gone for the most part, but assuming that the 1 pct took it away is not necessarily a logical train of thought.

    The assumption is that its all a zero sum game. The 1 pct isnt the enemy. The enemy is broken homes, uneducated Americans who vote idiots on both sides into office and most of the issues you indicate above.

    I don’t agree with your assessment of our politicians. There are plenty of fools on both sides of the isle. There just so happens to be more fools on the Republican side right now. The Democrats are not distinguishing themselves either. This ACA roll out is a case in point.

    And, by the way, corporations are people too… just kidding.

    Happy holidays.

  • movingazforward

    I know that extreme inequality and the effects thereof in America and abroad are a direct result of U.S. business practices and legislation at all levels of government. That this has paralleled historic income gains for top earners is no coincidence. Moneyed interests have way too much power; this is the broader issue that needs to be addressed, IMO. I’m not holding my breath on that one, and I prefer working with people directly, anyway. Will you consider helping one of the groups listed in this article? If not, how about reading with some first graders? You (and they) will be glad you did.

    Happy holidays to you, too.

  • Anonymous

    Bill Gates is very generous. Look him up before trying to slam him.

  • teeky2

    Yes, Bill Gates is very generous, BUT if you look at where his money goes, you will see that much, if not most, of it goes to support think tanks and organized groups that support the CORPORATE REFORM of various aspects of society in ways that will ULTIMATELY bring more profits to Bill Gates. Usually he does NOT know more about these issues than the people involved in them know, regardless of how much money he may have. He’s also fairly careful to cover all his bases by donating something to all sides so he can be seen as supportive of teachers, for instance, by donating to NEA and AFT, BUT he puts far far larger sums of money into entities that are trying to privatize and close public schools nationwide. He’s for 100% online education, no teachers and no schools needed. What he fails to realize in his hubris, is that this will work for only SOME, but not ALL students. Gates does not really donate unless it serves his own personal agenda or advances his profits. He’s not stupid. Neither he is the benign philanthropist some would make him out to be, but rather a “venture philanthropist”, i.e. for-profit. Look deeper.

  • teeky2

    CEO’s receive exorbitant salaries and bonuses only because their compensation is decided largely by small, insular groups of their mega-wealthy comrades! The workers, the public have NO say. Who do you think serves on the boards of these corporations, regular people like us?

  • teeky2

    Again, you are looking at this only through the single lens of Wall Street and money. Broaden your thinking to what’s right for ALL Americans. Just because the world is ruled by those with money today, doesn’t mean it SHOULD be, or that those rulers will ultimately do a good job. They aren’t. Look at the mess America is in now, thanks to being ruled by money and greed!

  • teeky2

    Whether or not it would work, or be adequate, I, for one, would at least like to TRY having all corporations and the uber-wealthy pay their fair share of taxes—–just to see how we’d fare with that, as opposed to having them offshore their trillions (is it 30 trillion) in profits to AVOID paying their fair share, even given their exorbitant rates of profit. Right now, they’re just seeing how far they can push the American public before it revolts.

  • teeky2

    You need to dig deeper! There is hard evidence in the area of education that the 1% IS profiting tremendously off the privatization movement. Tons of evidence and connections. Why else is Wall Street racing to invest in for-profit charter schools and virtual academies? Read Diane Ravitch on education. The dots have already BEEN connected. By now, it’s all considerably more than just “theories”.

  • teeky2

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but doctors, lawyers, and SMALL business owners are most assuredly NOT part of the 1%! They’re part of the upper middle class, still middle class though. In other words, they are us.

  • teeky2

    ALEC is the LARGEST group of 1%ers AND legislators, and perhaps the oldest if you count its precedent groups. ALEC is invested in keeping the status quo as far as its own members’ fortunes and profits go. That single organization controls something like 95% of the total “wealth” of the country. You call that balanced?

  • teeky2

    And some do it for control and power. Guess it’s addictive.
    Others would characterize it as greed and egotism.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe if the 1 pct went away we would all be better off. Maybe Potlatch is a better idea.

  • Dude

    If the 1 pct went away, there would be a depression here in the USA and everyone would be out of work. There would be no Potlatch as there would be universal poverty.

  • Dude

    Here are some statistics for you:

    In 2010, the top 1 percent of tax returns included 18.87 percent of all
    adjusted gross income and 37.38 percent of all federal individual income
    taxes paid. The top 5 percent earned 33.78 percent of income and paid
    59.07 percent of taxes, and the top 10 percent earned 45.17 percent of
    income and paid 70.62 percent of taxes.

    Also, public corporation earnings are taxed twice. First at the corporate level and then at the shareholder level. That adds up to a lot of taxes.

    The bottom 50 pct of earners in America essentially don’t pay federal income taxes. Read the real numbers. I think it would change your perception.

    And yes, many many doctors are part of the proverbial 1pct. Especially on the coasts. I have family that were doctors. Again read the statistics.

    Also, how many millions of American get paid in cash and don’t report their income? My guess is a whole lot of contractors do that and small businesses. Are you angry because they don’t pay taxes?

  • Dude

    Who fabricates this sort of conspiracy stuff? The 1 pct is either sending their kids to good public schools or private schools.

    Wall Street isn’t racing to open for profit charter schools. There are no dots to connect. Someone opens some for profit schools and somehow a bank loans some money and people think there is a dark conspiracy by Wall Street mavens to promote this stuff? Believe me, there isn’t enough money involved in these sorts of institutions to get Wall Street excited. This sort of mass hysteria conspiracy stuff harms the objectives of the “progressive” movement. Its the same reason that OWS was ultimately doomed.

    People are generally dissatisfied with public schools that have bloated management ranks and unrealistic teachers unions that wont let the bloated management ranks fire the under performing teachers and throw out the kids causing all the problems.

  • Dude

    Boards are not like “regular” people. That is correct. They are typically other business people with a lot of experience. The stockholders (the owners of the company) get to vote on the board of directors. That is why the public has no right to vote. If you don’t have an ownership interest in the company why should you have a right to vote on the BOD? Why would you ever want an average person that does not have an exceptional level of business skills voting on the board of a multi billion dollar company? That does not make sense. This is not a communist country.

  • Dude

    Bill Gates is one of the strongest arguments for capitalism – ever. Between Bill Gates and Warren Buffett money donated in the hundreds of billions will have been donated to great causes before they die. You know, having money does not make someone a bad person.

    Warren Buffett is so enamoured with the objectives of Mr. Gates charity that he is turning over his fortune to Gates to give away.

    What you are saying here is simply not true and liableous.

  • Anonymous

    What do you think is going on? At least Potlatch allowed equality for all.

  • Anonymous

    We all have easy access to voting records.

    Not so easy anymore thanks to the SCOTUS.

  • Dude

    Fine, everyone can share poverty. Sounds like a great plan. America was founded on equality of opportunity, but not opportunity of outcome. If you want to experiment with equality of outcome read the history of Russia post 1917. I don’t think you will be so keen on the direction you seem to want to take after that. Its great to be uber idealistic, but it doesn’t work in the real world. I choose to live in the real world.

    I think there are lots of idealistic people (in general) that inhabit this web site that don’t understand how the real world works. They think they understand business and economics, but they don’t. Almost none of them could read a financial statement to save their lives, yet they comment on business issues that require this ability. They have no understanding of accounting or business management, but they reel off all these uniformed paranoid statements and incorrect facts that make virtually no sense – if you have a business background. I think there are a lots of people in America that are scared and feel powerless and lost in a sea of change and believe someone has to be blamed. .

    What these people don’t understand is that the people that are in positions of power and money deem these people to be well meaning, but unable to find their way to solutions that make sense. The assumptions about the motivations of big business and the upper class on this web site are to a large degree baseless and premised on class prejudice. No one takes people seriously if they are not offering anything but uninformed sound bites.

    The extreme left and right are useless in this country. They tend to accomplish little other than create polarized politics. We need pragmatic people like Cory Booker and Bloomberg. They are able to bridge the gap and get things done for the benefit of all. That is my rant.

  • movingazforward

    I guess this is the thread that refuses to die! Voting records are easily obtained; the sources of money changing hands in exchange for those votes, not so much (thanks to SCOTUS and a weak FEC).

  • movingazforward

    Hi there! So many myths regarding public education, so little time to dispel them.

    In the mean time, I agree with teeky2′s Diane Ravitch suggestion. Also, Arizona has more charter schools than any other state. A very good source of information about the for-profit charter school movement in AZ and across the country is David Safier at BlogForArizona. Sadly, folks have discovered that there is big money to be made with charter and online companies and educational materials. Lawmakers in Arizona and other states are cashing in. You can follow the money whenever you see the terms “Education Reform” or “School Choice.”

    I will be back to respond when I get through a mountain of schoolwork!

  • Anonymous

    You are correct.