Saturday, January 8, 2011

Remembering the poor...

Once again we thank the NYTimes’s Bob Herbert for reminding us what is important and what we should be worried about.  In his Friday’s column, “Misery With Plenty of Company,” he jerked our minds away from the foolish Kabuki being played out on Capitol Hill back to focus on the lives of millions of Americans who are living in poverty with little hope for change.  [Here]
Consider the extremes. President Obama is redesigning his administration to make it even friendlier toward big business and the megabanks, which is to say the rich, who flourish no matter what is going on with the economy in this country. (They flourish even when they’re hard at work destroying the economy.) Meanwhile, we hear not a word — not so much as a peep — about the poor, whose ranks are spreading like a wildfire in a drought.
The statistics concerning poverty in America that Herbert quoted are horrifying.  He wrote that 44 million American’s were living in poverty in 2009.  That’s 14 per cent of the population or more than 1 out of every 10 Americans.  And before you take a deep breath, think of this:  one of every five children in this country live in poverty.  Furthermore, while you might believe that we live in a “post-racial” time, note that one quarter of blacks and Latinos live in poverty.
These statistics paint a horrifying picture and yet there is no national discussion of the issue of poverty except for wingnuts who blame the poor for being poor.  On the other hand, we heard this from the President when he talked to some staff from the NYTimes about his press secretary Robert Gibbs who is leaving for greener (in every way) pastures: [Here] [The emphasis is mine.]
He’s had a six-year stretch now where basically he’s been going 24/7 with relatively modest pay. I think it’s natural for someone like Robert to want to step back for a second to reflect, retool, and that, as a consequence, brings about both challenges and opportunities for the White House.
Robert Gibbs’s “relatively modest pay” was $172,000 a year.  The Times pointed out [Here] that this placed Gibbs in the top 10% of income distribution in the country.  I’d say that wasn’t too shabby, would you?  The same Times article went on to point out that Peter Orszag, Obama’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, earned $199,700 and now has joined Citigroup at a reported salary between $2 million and $3 million dollars a year.  Not a bad career move, if government service is now seen as being merely a step up the career ladder.
I have recently been remembering FDR’s (so-called) Second Bill of Rights which he proposed during his State of the Union Address in 1944,    He proposed a number of things that still resonate.  (Yes, I remember the radio address.  I was a teenager, but they sounded quite sensible to me at the time.  They still do.)   Wikipedia sums them up for us: [Here]
  1. Employment with a living wage
  2. Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
  3. Decent Housing
  4. Medical care
  5. Good Education
  6. Social Security
Isn’t it interesting that we are still struggling to accomplish all of these goals and even fighting to retain the ones that we have?
As President Obama edges closer to the right and chooses more business-friendly staff, we await his January State of the Union Address with great interest and a large dose of trepidation.
I wonder if the President read Bob Herbert’s Friday column?...     

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