Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Stories of the New Homeless

A while back I wrote about The New Homeless, and took a look at why it is we hear so little about them. In 2009, tent city stories were all the rage. In 2010, the most visible tent cities have been broken up and residents dispersed by the town fathers. As the numbers of homeless families increase, the media coverage decreases. A little digging finds a few stories:

In the Las Vegas Sun:

Before the recession, Michelle and her then-boyfriend, John Brower, led a relatively happy life. He worked at a grocery store, she as a waitress and then at the crafts store. She hoped to go back to college.

Like thousands of other residents, the Browers, now married, had lived paycheck to paycheck. They teetered on the brink of homelessness for the better part of a decade. If one of the longtime Las Vegans lost a job, eviction wasn’t far behind.

They wound up living in a tent in a homeless encampment in the desert. Michelle was pregnant.

But getting out of the desert is harder than ever amid the recession, the Browers say. You need to create and print resumes, you need a phone, and you need clean clothes for interviews. Getting all of that lined up takes a lot longer when you have to ride a bus for two hours across town just to shower and the only phone you have is at a friend’s house.


In 2009, an estimated 13,350 homeless people were in Clark County, according to county records. That’s 17 percent over 2007 numbers.

Of those, about 6,640 were living on the streets or in the desert.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says that’s a drop in the bucket. The group says there are 39,760 Nevadans, mostly in Southern Nevada, couch surfing or in families that are “doubling up” in single-family homes to share expenses. It claims Las Vegas has the fourth highest homelessness rate in the country, behind Detroit, New York City and Los Angeles.

Maybe I'm being naive, but shouldn't nearly 40,000 homeless folks in the southern part of one state be a big news story?

A recent NPR story looked at the phenomenon of homeless college students:

Antonio Sandoval, head of UCLA's Community Programs Office, says he doesn't have the exact number of students experiencing the day-to-day hardship of food and shelter because they often keep it hidden.

"It's very affluent here, it's Westwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills," Sandoval says. "Students who come to UCLA want to fit the norm here, so they're not going to tell you they're homeless, or they're not going to tell you they're hungry.

Just down the hall from Sandoval's office is an unmarked door. Inside is a converted utility closet filled with food. There's a refrigerator stocked with fruit cups, yogurt, juices and milk. Next to the fridge is a pantry.

"It has a lot of soups and main meals you can cook like macaroni and cheese," explains Abdallah Jadallah, a 22-year-old engineering student.

Jadallah says he got the idea for the food closet after noticing a number of students were going hungry. The food is donated..

As Antonio Sandoval points out - this is at UCLA, which is smack dab in the middle of California affluence. Imagine the stories that aren't being reported in the other 49 states.

HBO is currently showing a new documentary called Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County

The film takes a look at the lives of families who work hard, but don't earn enough money to be able to afford housing in one of the wealthiest areas in the nation - and what life is like for children growing up with no fixed address.

Originally posted at Main St/workingamerica.org

So Much for the Conventional Wisdom

We keep hearing that when the economy begins to turn around, businesses will start to hire. Well, it ain't necessarily so:

Motorcycle sales are falling in 2010, as they have for each of the last three years. The company does not expect a turnaround anytime soon.

But despite that drought, Harley’s profits are rising — soaring, in fact. Last week, Harley reported a $71 million profit in the second quarter, more than triple what it earned a year ago.

That's impressive! But:

Many companies are focusing on cost-cutting to keep profits growing, but the benefits are mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy, as management conserves cash rather than bolstering hiring and production. Harley, for example, has announced plans to cut 1,400 to 1,600 more jobs by the end of next year. That is on top of 2,000 job cuts last year — more than a fifth of its work force.


Because of high unemployment, management is using its leverage to get more hours out of workers,” said Robert C. Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the former president of Fidelity Investments. “What’s worrisome is that American business has gotten used to being a lot leaner, and it could take a while before they start hiring again.”

What's worrisome to me is that businesses may choose to perpetuate high unemployment.

Harley has warned union employees at its Milwaukee factory that it would move production elsewhere in the United States if they did not agree to more flexible work rules and tens of millions in cost-saving measures.

This could be a frightening new US reality - companies holding workers hostage, in exchange for jobs.

originally posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Granny Grizzly's Latest Endorsement

Sarah Palin, self-styled “Mama Grizzly” (which apparently sounds more Alaska folksy than "lipstick wearing pit-bull") endorsed US Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte this week. Ms. Ayotte is one of the seven Republicans in the field of 14 candidates running to replace retiring Senator Judd Gregg. Apparently Ms. Ayotte is thrilled to be chosen as a “Mama Grizzly” since Palin’s endorsement is the very second thing one sees on her website. The first thing one sees is a face shot of Sarah Palin. The third thing one notices is a rather odd profile shot of Ms. Ayotte, taken from the back. Apparently the endorsement of the linguistically, geographically, and factually challenged Palin is quite a coup. Mrs. Palin has also endorsed Sharonn Angle, who is running for US Senate against Harry Reid, in Nevada. Angle proposed returning to the health care system where folks paid for medical care with chickens. Palin also endorsed Rand Paul of Kentucky, who hasn’t been able to take his foot out of his mouth since he won the primary. Maybe she likes his shoes. The most amusing bit of fallout from the grizzly endorsement of Ayotte was a front page comment in the Union Leader from Joe McQuaid, who seems quite unimpressed with Mrs. Palin.

Sarah Palin and Kelly Ayotte do have some things in common. Both are considered politically conservative. Palin is trying to recreate herself as a “conservative feminist,” which Ayotte, so far, has (wisely) steered clear of, despite the fact that both of them are against a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and reproductive choice. Palin praised Ayotte, claiming she “battled all the way to the US Supreme Court to protect the rights of NH parents – and won!” It’s true that as NH Attorney General, in 2005, Ayotte defended an NH parental notification bill before the Supreme Court. It’s also true that SCOTUS sent the case back to the federal court that declared it unconstitutional, because it made no exception for the possibility of a medical emergency that could threaten the health or even life of a minor child. The law was later repealed. This is hardly the victory that Palin is claiming it was – but – she and Ayotte are both counting on the fact the media is little more than a stenographer for the GOP, especially in NH. The obedient media does not question or counter misinformation or even outright lies.

There are the occasional exceptions. NHPR’s Josh Rogers took Kelly Ayotte to task last week for one of her favorite outright lies. Ayotte has repeatedly stated that Arizona has the second highest rate of kidnapping in the world. This isn’t true. She’s been made aware that it isn’t true, yet she continues to say it. According to a May 2010 story by Dennis Wagner in the Arizona Republic, the crime rate along the Arizona border has remained flat for the last decade. Statewide, rates of violent crime are down. The sheriff of Pima County calls all of the rhetoric, “a media created event.” Arizona Senator John McCain has generated plenty of that rhetoric himself, and now he’s being assisted by Kelly Ayotte. Take some time to ponder the recent revival of the immigration issue, and how “urgent” it has become. Think about when immigration started to become a hot topic again. Then think about what’s coming up in November.

What are most working folks concerned with right now? Either keeping their jobs or finding one. What are they getting from the politicians on the right? A lot of distraction about immigration, abortion, and marriage equality. This is all meant to divert attention from the sad reality that the GOP hasn’t any kind of plans to offer – just the usual cut taxes and cut spending baloney, served up with a side of dishonesty. Oh, how they wail that we are being taxed too much – yet in 2009, we paid lower federal taxes than we have since 1950. The Bush tax cuts, once touted as the fastest way to create jobs, are still in place, yet the jobs never materialized. The Republicans have been trying since the Reagan years to convince us that tax cuts for the wealthy are the way to create employment. It hasn’t worked. If it did work, over 5 million jobs would not have been lost during the Bush administration. It doesn’t work – but that won’t deter our doughty friends on the right from doing their best to help the rich get even richer.

Foster’s Daily Democrat published an opinion piece by Kelly Ayotte this week, where she promises that cutting taxes will jump start the economy. She also promises she will end the “death tax” which is what the defenders of the wealthy like to call the estate tax. They used to wail about how the death tax would kill family farms, before it was proven that hardly any family farms would be affected. NH abolished the estate tax some years back. Naturally, the one thing Ms. Ayotte doesn’t propose cutting is the defense budget. The GOP is only too happy to keep on borrowing and spending to perpetuate the war machine.

There is one more thing that Palin and Ayotte have in common. They’re both quitters. Sarah Palin quit her job as governor of Alaska, before finishing her first term. Kelly Ayotte quit her job only months after promising Governor Lynch that she would serve a full second term as NH AG. Ms. Ayotte was appointed to her first term by the GOP Governor-of-Whom-We-Don’t-Speak: Craig Benson.

"I like being here, because it seems like here and in our last rally too -- other parts around this great Northwest -- here in New Hampshire you just get it." Sarah Palin in Laconia, 2008

published as an op-ed in the Conway Daily Sun newspaper, July 23, 2010

© sbruce 2010

Becoming Less Invisible

The long term unemployed are finally becoming less invisible. From the PBS The Nightly Business Report:

DARREN GERSH, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: The official figures will tell you there are 1,371,000 people like Randy Moe.

RANDY MOE, 99ER CHICAGO: I was unemployed, laid off, August 15, 2008, and collected benefits until about six weeks ago.

GERSH: That's because Moe hit the limit on benefits. In most states, that's 99 weeks, which is why many of those who have run out call themselves "99ers."

MOE: We've become thrown away people. They're losing a lot of valuable people, the country is.

GERSH: Randy Moe found other 99ers online. A dozen meet regularly in this chat room. They talk about finding a job and about lobbying Congress for help. They're part of a grassroots movement to add what's called a tier five to unemployment insurance -- another 20 weeks of benefits.

Websites for the unemployed are cropping up:

Jobless Bloggers

No Job Survivor

Survive Unemployment News Blog


Unemploymentality has a lot of links to other unemployed bloggers, some helpful options (look for Broke-Ass Stuart's money saving recommendations) and there's also plenty of entertainment.

The only way to end long term unemployment is to put a human face on it.

cross posted at Main St/workingamerica.org

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Senate Gamesmanship Hurting Families

Those pesky unemployed folks - from WaPo:

Even before his unemployment checks ended, Dwight Michael Frazee's days were filled with the pursuit of any idea that could earn him a buck. But few are working out, and now his nights are filled with dread.

In the coming weeks, the Senate is expected to resume its debate about whether to extend the emergency jobless benefits that were passed in response to the steep increase in unemployment caused by the recession. But people like Frazee, who have suffered the longest in the downturn, will not be part of that conversation. They are among the 1.4 million workers who have been unemployed for at least 99 weeks, according to the Labor Department, reaching the limit for the insurance. Their numbers have grown sixfold in the past three years.

The 99ers are glaring examples of the nation's most serious bout of long-term joblessness since the Great Depression. Nearly 46 percent of the country's 14.6 million unemployed people have been out of work for more than six months, and forecasters project that the situation will not improve anytime soon. Currently, the Labor Department says there are nearly five unemployed people for every job opening.

As grim as the news is, at least the media is beginning to cover actual stories of folks who are amongst the long term unemployed.

The Grand Junction Sentinel takes a look at an unemployed single father:

Daniel Stark didn’t have the best Fourth of July weekend of his life.

That’s because the Clifton resident is worried about the immediate future for him and his 6-year-old son, Isaiah.

Stark has been unemployed for more than a year and is about to see his unemployment benefits run out. He’s angry not only because he can’t find a new job, but also because Congress hasn’t extended those benefits.

A bill to do that has stalled in the U.S. Senate several times.

“I’ve talked to everyone, my senators, my congressman,” he said. “They need to know that they’re impacting people who are really hurting. A lot of people are scared to tell them that, but I’m not. I just want this to be over so I can find work.”

Stark and his son have already spent time in a homeless shelter. That's the reality of the game that is being played out in the Senate.

Ezra Klein in the WaPo gives us a look at the numbers of long term unemployed since the 50's:

Klein asks:

Unemployment is likely to remain above 9 percent for the rest of this year, and for much of next. That means the ranks of the long-term unemployed will swell even further. As you can see in the graph atop this post, that's been the trend so far in this recession, and it's not likely to stop now. And we're just going to leave them without incomes and without job opportunities and without money to spend in their wrecked local economies -- thus making it harder for those economies to generate new jobs? That's the economic theory this country is going to embrace amid terrible joblessness?

Sadly, this does seem to be the economic theory that the US intends to embrace. That's why, in my humble, long-term unemployed opinion, the stories of what this is doing to people must be told. Loudly.

cross-posted at Main St/workingamerica.org

Monday, July 12, 2010

Census Jobs Ending

The temporary census jobs are wrapping up, and hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed workers will be pouring in to the already flooded job market:

Now, its decennial work largely done, the Census Bureau is shedding hundreds of thousands of workers — about 225,000 in just the last few weeks, enough to account for a jot or two in the unemployment rate, say federal economists. Most of those remaining will be gone by August; a few will last into September.

Usually the census has trouble getting enough people to stay on to finish the job. Not this year:

“Typically, at this point in the process, we’re losing a lot of people because they’re taking jobs,” said Kathleen Ludgate, the regional director in Boston. “I wish we had that problem now.”

Ms. Ludgate receives notes from departing workers, some by e-mail, others in ink. They thank her for the chance to learn something about themselves and their country. They write to say their confidence had picked up, that they can again meet the gaze of friends and neighbors.

These are the missives of hard-working people who found themselves in a tighter spot than they ever expected, and who came to view census work as a lifeline.

Many are middle-aged. The census offices in Providence and Bridgeport, Conn., offer a sea of gray-haired men and women in neat office garb. They work with an intensity that suggests they would rather concentrate on the task at hand than the fast-approaching end.

How will this affect the unemployment numbers? From The Atlantic:

According to these projections and the actual results in June, it would mean a summer of 329,000 net job losses. It could take until winter before the labor market gets those back through three months of net positive gains, unless jobs grow at a rate of more than 110,000 per month starting in September. That might not sound like much, but so far this year, only two months -- March and April -- have seen non-Census job growth exceed 100,000.

At this rate, millions of unemployed people are likely to be unemployed for years to come.

cross-posted at Main St/workingamerica.org

Thursday, July 08, 2010

NH's Rand Paul

New Hampshire has a primary election in September that will winnow the field of candidates for some of the races. One of the GOP gubernatorial hopefuls recently stopped by the Conway Daily Sun, for an interview. Jack Kimball is a seacoast area businessman, who described himself as the “warrior” in the race. (Some men never recover from high school football.) He was honest enough to say that he’s not “the establishment” candidate. This is true. He’s called Glenn Beck an “American hero,” which reportedly provoked a fresh outburst of Beck tears. Kimball is a tea partier, and a member of Beck’s 912 Project. This is the same Glenn Beck who said, “But when I see 9/11 victim family, you know, on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh, shut up.’ I’m so sick of them. Because they’re always complaining.” Some hero.

Jack Kimball achieved national notoriety on April 15, when he spoke at the Concord Tax Day Tea Party rally. That day the tea partiers had a number of events around the state to show their ire at paying taxes. They were in Market Square in Portsmouth, at the docks in Wolfeboro, and in front of the State House in Concord. All of these are public places, paid for by – you guessed it! The very same tax dollars that the tea partiers are so opposed to paying. The Concord Monitor quoted Kimball:

In Concord, gubernatorial candidate Jack Kimball drew cheers with an anti-tax message. He decried the state's taxation of business while criticizing its relatively low level of services."I don't mind paying my fair share, folks," he said. "I don't think any of us do. But I do mind when I'm raped. It's awful."

News outlets and blogs around the nation picked up on Mr. Kimball’s trivialization of a serious crime, used to score cheap political points. If Kimball ever had a man put a gun to his head and rape him, or a group of men beat him up, hold him down and gang rape him, he wouldn’t be using the term so blithely. One in six women is raped during her lifetime. One in four women on college campuses is raped. One in three women serving in the US military in Iraq is going to be raped by a fellow soldier. One in 33 men will be raped in his lifetime. The Concord Monitor got so much mail about the story on Kimball, he felt compelled to offer up a very GOP apology:

“I used the term ‘rape’ talking about taxation at the Tea Party in Concord. I think the Concord Monitor took the remark out of context and there has been a lot of negative reaction. People that know me know that I don’t say things to purposefully hurt people. “I want to apologize to anyone that is offended. My remark was clearly not intended to offend people.”

Not exactly a foray into the land of personal responsibility. I’ve listened to the tape. That is exactly what he said – that is the context. In this insincere excuse Kimball blames the CM for taking his remarks out of context. He blames people for being offended. The one thing he doesn’t do is offer a sincere apology.

Jack Kimball is also well known for the reader board sign in front of his business on the Route 1 Bypass in Portsmouth. He uses the sign to express his beliefs like, “NH has the highest business taxes in the US.” According to the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Council, NH doesn’t even make the top ten list of states with the highest business taxes. Four New England states make their top ten list, but NH isn’t one of them. New Jersey is number one. This dishonest bit of hyperbole is especially disappointing coming from one of Beck’s 912 Project acolytes. The third of the project’s nine principles is: “I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.” It does say try. No mention of succeed.

Kimball’s website is all that one would expect from a far right Republitealican. Lots of commentary about liberty and freedom from gummint interference, while informing us that he’s against a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and opposed to marriage equality. All that liberty and freedom is for folks who aren’t female or gay. He recites the standard issue NH GOP mantra, “NH doesn’t have a revenue problem, NH has a spending problem.” He blames business taxes for everything. No mention of property taxes. No mention of the role that the Bush administration played in destroying the US economy. The magic slate of Bush responsibility was wiped clean the day Obama took office -isn’t that right, Ralph from Eaton?

Kimball has a lot to say about socialism, so I was shocked to learn that he actually supports socialist practices. The free market doesn’t support nuclear power, which is why no plants have been built in over 30 years. The US Dept. of Energy has $18.5 billion in loan guarantees for nuke plant builders in 2010. Obama has asked for $35.5 billion in the 2011 budget. Included in the emergency supplemental bill passed by the House on July 1 was $9 billion more for new nuke loans. Let’s be clear – these are loans. If the loans are defaulted upon, we the taxpayers pick up the tab. As I’ve pointed out before, the nuclear industry is one long taxpayer subsidy from inception to decommissioning. The taxpayers pay for the building of the plant, pay for insuring the plant, pay for the cleanup if there’s an accident, and pay for the decommissioning, which is always more than the owners have saved up for. The only thing the taxpayers don’t get is a share in the profits. The most devoted free marketers seem to find socialist nuclear power perfectly acceptable.

Kimball’s list of endorsements is full of people you’ve never heard of. The NH GOP seems to be lining up behind John Stephen. Stephen, though better known, is joining the ranks of Jim Coburn and Joe Kenney as the latest sacrificial lamb to be led slaughter against the popular Governor Lynch. I’m betting that NH GOP Chairman John Sununu Sr. would be about as happy to have Kimball win the primary as the Republicans in Kentucky were to end up with Rand Paul. The tea partiers are even nuttier than the standard issue GOP, and that’s saying something.

“Finally a guy who says what the people who aren’t thinking are thinking.”
Jon Stewart

Published in the Conway Daily Sun on July 9, 2010
© sbruce 2010

States Continue Layoffs

The city of Lawrence, MA has just laid off 23 firefighters, and closed a third fire station, in an attempt to balance the budget. This is especially alarming in a city that has been called "the arson capital of the world."

The Los Angeles County Office of Education has just laid of 177 employees.

In Grand Rapids, Michigan the school board approved layoff notices to 71 employees.

The Miami-Dade budget, recently proposed by the mayor, includes 900 layoffs.

In New Orleans, 38 civilian members of the police department and 12 recruits training at the Police Academy were fired:

Twenty-three of the dismissed employees were communications operators, which are the people who staff the 911 lines that take emergency calls.

In a city troubled by violence and high muder rates, this is quite disturbing.

No word from the deficit peacocks on how having even more unemployed folks with fewer dollars will help decrease the deficit.

cross-posted at Main St/workingamerica.org

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Lessons We Failed to Learn in 1928

Robert Reich in The Nation:

Wall Street's banditry was the proximate cause of the Great Recession, not its underlying cause. Even if the Street is better controlled in the future (and I have my doubts), the structural reason for the Great Recession still haunts America. That reason is America's surging inequality.

Consider: in 1928 the richest 1 percent of Americans received 23.9 percent of the nation's total income. After that, the share going to the richest 1 percent steadily declined. New Deal reforms, followed by World War II, the GI Bill and the Great Society expanded the circle of prosperity. By the late 1970s the top 1 percent raked in only 8 to 9 percent of America's total annual income. But after that, inequality began to widen again, and income reconcentrated at the top. By 2007 the richest 1 percent were back to where they were in 1928—with 23.5 percent of the total

Apparently we didn't learn anything at all from the Depression. Only fifty years later:

But starting in the late 1970s, and with increasing fervor over the next three decades, government did just the opposite. It deregulated and privatized. It increased the cost of public higher education and cut public transportation. It shredded safety nets. It halved the top income tax rate from the range of 70–90 percent that prevailed during the 1950s and '60s to 28–40 percent; it allowed many of the nation's rich to treat their income as capital gains subject to no more than 15 percent tax and escape inheritance taxes altogether. At the same time, America boosted sales and payroll taxes, both of which have taken a bigger chunk out of the pay of the middle class and the poor than of the well-off.

It makes one wonder why we bother to study history at all. Unless we're willing to engage in stern regulation and address the structural problems, this sort of economic devastation will continue to occur.

Containing the immediate financial crisis and then claiming the economy was on the mend left the public with a diffuse set of economic problems that seemed unrelated and inexplicable, as if a town's fire chief dealt with a conflagration by protecting the biggest office buildings but leaving smaller fires simmering all over town: housing foreclosures, job losses, lower earnings, less economic security, soaring pay on Wall Street and in executive suites.

Precisely. The "small people" are left holding the bag, while Wall St. and the banks rake in the big pay and bonuses. Again.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Even More Bad News

Home Sales and construction are slowing down:

A slowdown in the housing and construction markets contributed to a sluggish outlook for the economy Thursday, highlighting the significance of government stimulus and job creation.

According to new statistics, pending homes sales and construction both declined in May. In addition, figures showed that while manufacturers recorded some gains in June, the pace of activity in that sector slowed last month compared with May and also came in slightly below estimates.

Auto Sales Down:

New-vehicle sales in the United States slowed in June, automakers and analysts said, raising concerns that the market’s recovery could be stalling after months of slow but encouraging gains.

The jobless sure are messing things up for the market's recovery.
This isn't likely to change any time soon. The hiring outlook isn't good:

The weak private sector job growth, coupled with the loss of more than 200,000 census jobs in June, has economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecasting an overall loss of about 100,000 jobs for June. The government will release those figures Friday. The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 9.8% from 9.7% in May.

The Senate failed again to pass an extension of unemployment benefits.

Lurking beneath the deficit concerns for some members is the suspicion that the extended benefits discourage people from looking for work -- even though there are five people vying for every available job and a full third of the 15 million unemployed don't actually receive the benefits.

If Congress eventually does reauthorize the aid, people eligible for extended benefits during the lapse will be paid retroactively. Failure to do so would be unprecedented: Since the 1950s extended federal benefits have never been allowed to expire with a national unemployment rate above 7.2 percent. The current rate stands at 9.7 percent.

The deficit peacocks claim that extending benefits will increase the deficit. No word on how the deficit will decrease with even more people out of work living in poverty.

cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org