Posts Tagged ‘income inequality’

Writing on a Wall

February 1st, 2014

Portsmouth,_New_Hampshire_-_bridgeIt’s nice that the President has noticed that our country has a problem with “income inequality,” as it is the fashion to call it, or, as I call it, excessive numbers of excessively rich and excessively poor people.  In the spirit of the time, I would like to forward some words from a person who was professionally concerned with the topic.  This is printed on a poster in the conference room at the Vermont Department for Children and Families’ Morrisville District Office. David Murray, who wrote it, was a long time employee of the Department’s Economic Services Division.  Or, as we used to call it when things had names that meant anything, the social welfare department. He passed away a few years ago.  Please forgive the acronyms and references to outdated programs.  I think you’ll get the gist.

I was sitting in a Voc Rehab office this morning with a person who is at ETC and has medical barriers to work. To help pass the time I asked what her kids were doing this summer and she told me they were doing volunteer work. Then she asked me if I was taking a vacation this summer. I said yes, the family and I were going to Maine for a week. She thought that was nice and said she had never been to Maine. This woman is my age – over forty. I thought it odd that she had never been to Maine, as most people seem to go there to see the ocean, so I asked her if she had gone to New Hampshire to see the ocean. She said, “No, I have never seen the ocean.”

This may show how naïve I am, but this amazed me. I can remember as a kid headed for Maine for the first time, my parents told me that the water was so wide I wouldn’t be able to see the other side. I didn’t believe them. How could anything be that big? But it was and when I got there I was thrilled at the sight!

She is forty-something years old, lives five or six hours from the ocean and has never seen it. She has been on welfare for a long time and can be called one of the “hard to serve.” Are these facts connected? Who can say? If this were 1986 and I were still an SPOP worker (ask an older co-worker if you don’t know what this means) I would suggest she save up her SPOP allowances for a few months and use the money to go see the ocean. Maybe then I would have my answer.

In the rush of ETL dates, conciliations, sanctions, job placements, assessments and all the rest, I think we need to keep some perspective, especially with the hard to serve. We need to keep in mind that it might be hard to see a future if you haven’t seen the ocean.

You all know there are many things the hard to serve haven’t seen besides the ocean. Like supportive parents and spouses, praise for jobs well done, involvement in constructive school activities and on and on and on.

Our job is to help people see the future. Maybe that should be one of the questions on the assessment form, “Can you see your future; have you seen the ocean?


WAP! (for Greg)

May 12th, 2011

One thing we learn from the success of  microlenders such as Grameen Bank is that it may not be a mere tautology to say that a root cause of poverty is lack of money.  Matthew Yglesias has had some fun with this idea.  But take it one step further.  In a society like ours, where 1% of the population owns something like 33% of the assets (look it up yourself), it might even make sense to say that a root cause of poverty is rich people.  After all, there is only a finite amount of wealth.  If most of the sand is piled at one end of the beach, then the people at the other end will have muddy feet.

I would like to attack poverty at its cause by enlisting rich people in ending it. (I am going to assume that if you are reading this you already think that gross income inequality is a Bad Thing and you don’t need to be convinced of the immorality and exorbitant social cost of it.)  To this end, I would like to propose what I call the Wealth

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In honor of Bernie’s filibuster

December 12th, 2010

In honor of Senator Bernie Sanders’ 8 1/2 hour speech against President Obama’s giveaway to the rich, I’d like to share some lines I’ve been working on for the Purgatory volume of my Commedia.  On the merits of the Obama-GOP tax deal, I have no clear idea; it may be, as Obama and Clinton say, the best deal that could be procured at this time, although I don’t understand why the Democrats can’t just use the budget reconciliation process to neuter the threat of a GOP filibuster and pass the middle class tax cut extension without extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.  However that sugars out, I believe that Bernie is fighting the Good Fight and saying what needs to be said but so rarely is.  May his star shine in heaven.

I happen to be working just now on a section of my poem that seems particularly apropos.  In it, the protagonist, who has just spent the night hunkered beneath an equestrian statue in an abandoned factory district of an anonymous Rust Belt city, wakes up and walks along the river towards a bridge about half a mile away, musing about various things.  I have just finished the first draft of these lines, and ordinarily I would not make them public until quite some time had passed for me to become satisfied they need no further revision.  But I don’t think they’re embarrassing in their present state, and they seem so timely I can’t resist sharing them now:   

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