Where Is Feminism Now?

By Susan Faludi  Where Is Feminism Now? : Democracy Journal


Photo by Gage Skidmore via CC 2.0

I watched the election returns with a friend and her 14-year-old daughter, Kristiana. They were both wearing Wonder Woman t-shirts in anticipation of the moment that night when Hillary Clinton blasted through the highest glass ceiling. My friend, a lifelong feminist and a news junkie, was confident of victory: She’d purchased two jeroboams of Prosecco. Kristiana, a passionate young vlogger on Tumblr, sat next to me on the couch, composing a sci-fi story for her creative writing class about a female physician who discovers a cure for leukemia; but before she can try it, hackers steal her memory, which has been downloaded on a flash drive. (There’s a metaphor here that I’m still working on.) Two hours into our vigil, the news turned grim. And as the CNN map began to fill with crimson, I watched the color drain from the face of my young seatmate. Kristiana fell deathly silent, then began to shake. She was exhibiting all the signs of someone about to go into shock. “I wish I were old,” she finally burst out, her voice quavering, her eyes locked on her mother and me. “I have to grow up in this. You at least have had a life. This is going to be my life.” I put my arm around her, but I could summon no words of comfort. I was as shaken as she was. And as terrified for her future.

I was faced that night with a question that so many older feminist women were facing: How had we gotten this election so wrong? I couldn’t suppress the sickening feeling that, by our own obliviousness, we’d let down Kristiana—and a whole generation of young women.

There are those who believe, per the old anarchist mantra, that everything must be destroyed before we can commence the revolution. Or, to frame it in feminist terms, the glass ceiling won’t be shattered until women and women’s rights have been kicked into the basement. The root cellar may well be where we find ourselves, in a country stripped of rights and laws fundamental to women’s equality—from legal abortion to national health coverage to pay equity to equal opportunity legislation—and commanded by a man who regards women as arm candy and sex toys or “dogs” and “pigs” to be slandered and humiliated. (Not to mention the misogyny of the men he’s likely to have by his side: chief strategist Steve Bannon?) Perhaps four years under such a President will be the long-awaited wake-up bell for the final women’s rebellion. If so, it will be a rebellion that will first have to restore more than a half century of work just to get back to where we were on Nov. 7, 2016.

Since Seneca Falls, the women’s movement has been a matter of two steps forward, one step back, a never-ending march where declarations that “the woman’s hour has struck!” are invariably met with setback and disappointment. “While men proceed on their developmental way, building on inherited traditions,” feminist historian Dale Spender wrote years ago, “women are confined to cycles of lost and found.” But for all the stops and starts, we’ve never had to face in modern times what we may be in for now: a complete 180, no steps forward and 200 steps back.

So here we are, looking into the abyss. But there’s something that may be even worse: The horror of the steep descent to come is compounded by our shame that we didn’t see it coming. “I’m in total shock,” Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), blurted out in a media interview the day after election. “Quite honestly, I feel that I’ve failed…the women’s movement was clearly not able to break through to women nationally.”

So many feminists, myself included, were blindsided. We took cheer from the stories of erstwhile female Trump supporters switching horses after the hot mic video of Trump’s boorish preenings surfaced. We thrilled to the reports of more than a million women joining Facebook’s “secret” Pantsuit Nation page in the final days before the election and the polls in late October predicting a Hillary Clinton landslide. We believed—in spite of the unmitigated Republican assault, in spite of the vitriol spewed 24/7 on Fox News and Breitbart and countless other reactionary mega-megaphones, and in spite of Clinton’s own missteps and weaknesses and inabilities to wow the crowds—that there was still a shoulder-to-shoulder groundswell building quietly among women across the country, a wave that was bound to crest on Election Day. We felt sure that Trump’s sexual outrages would unite the female masses. We missed a major danger flare, coming from the ranks of our own sex.

It was a heartache to read the exit polls: 53 percent of white women voting for Trump (compared with 4 percent of black women and 26 percent of Latina women). And while a slim majority of college-educated white women supported Clinton (51 percent), white women without college degrees backed Trump by 62 percent. In the 48 hours after the shock waves of the election results hit, young feminist writers hit the Web to vent their rage at Trump’s female followers. They had “sold out the sisterhood” and “betrayed” the feminist cause. They were “misogynist,” “racist,” “self-loathing,” “selfish”; they were “haters” of women of color, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community, and people with disabilities; they were so “self-deluded” that they “like getting groped; they were handmaidens and hand puppets of their racist, sexist husbands, so desperate for patriarchal support that they’d betray their own sex for a few breadcrumbs of male approval.

Maybe some of these Trump women deserved all the calumny. Maybe some of them were, in fact, masochistic marionettes of Archie Bunker mates. But how would we know? One of the great failures—of the many failures of our broken and barely functional Fourth Estate—was the lack of substantive reportage, much less intelligent diagnosis, on the state of mind of white working-class women. (New York Daily News columnist Leonard Greene was one of the few to note the void. “We’ve heard so much these last four years about the ‘angry white man,’ so it’s no surprise that 63% of white men voted for Trump,” he wrote the day after the election. “Well, guess what. White women were angry, too, but we were too busy staring through the glass ceiling and admiring the Jacob Javits Center for its symbolism to notice.”)

But it wasn’t only the establishment media that failed to listen. For all the talk about online feminism mobilizing a global sisterhood, and for all the back-patting among progressive women in the academy about how “intersectional” we are these days, the feminist blogosphere paid little mind to the conditions and circumstances of that vast demographic of women who didn’t fit the stock three types of a feminist taxonomy: urban left intellectual, grass-roots crusader for the marginalized, professional Lean-In-er. Did white working-class women betray feminism, or did feminism betray them?

And here’s something more to consider. White working-class women were thought to be in Clinton’s corner until 2016. From her 2000 U.S. Senate race through the 2008 presidential primaries, Clinton perplexed many white-collar pundits with her strong showing among women lacking college degrees. “The backbone of her support, going back to her first US Senate race seven years ago, remains among those who resemble her the least,” the Boston Globe marveled in 2007. “One constituency she consistently wins hands-down is working-class women.” In Newsweek’s review of the 2008 book Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers—an anthology (by professional female journalists) virtually based on the premise that women don’t like Clinton—the magazine wondered, “How, then, to explain that polling has consistently shown blue-collar women have rallied to Clinton’s campaign?”

But in the course of the 2016 race, Clinton’s support among white working-class women fell away. Why? Did they resent her ambition in a time when their own got them nowhere? Did the you-go-girl cosmopolitan feminism on display during the campaign rub them raw? Did they suspect upwardly mobile professional women of taking away jobs that might have gone to men who would have supported them? Did Trump fulfill their secret fantasies that a sugar daddy might come along and rescue them from their troubles? Did they believe their future security lay not in government programs but in the revival of a father-knows-best household? Was it all about abortion? Who knows—it was a phenomenon that drew scant notice in the media and few attempts to understand and redress it among feminists or Clinton supporters, even as it rivaled  working-class male enthusiasm for Trump.

We can hurl all the epithets we want at Trump’s female voters, but it won’t change the outcome. (And aren’t we the ones who, a la Michelle Obama’s counsel, promised to go high when they go low?) There’s only one path out, and that is a mass voter mobilization for a women’s rights candidate in the next election. What we need to do now is to figure out a way to forge a real cross-class feminist collaboration. That will mean putting aside our identity badges and our squabbles over who gets the laurels in the victim-sweepstakes contest. It will mean trying to understand what Angry White Women are actually up against.

As it happens, white working-class women are struggling with economic woes that a class-conscious women’s movement would be best positioned to address. What do blue-collar women consistently rate in polls as their number-one concern? Pay equity. And no wonder: They are now as segregated as they were in 1950. And it’s only gotten worse with the next generation: Young women in blue-collar communities now face the greatest gender pay gap in the country. Meanwhile, there’s the other gap: not the one between men and women, but the one between working-class women and their more educated sisters, which has ballooned dramatically in the last two and a half decades.

The belief that working-class women are just doing their bully-boy husbands’ bidding doesn’t hold up under inspection, either. The marriage rate has fallen most dramatically among working-class women. (Less than 48 percent without college degrees are married, compared with 64 percent with a college diploma. By contrast, in 1960 the two groups were as likely to be wed.) That means an equally dramatic increase of working-class women struggling to support families on their own. Since 2000, as many households have depended on a single mother as the sole source of income as on a traditional male breadwinner. What would speak to these female heads of household is a robust feminist agenda that attends to their real social and economic concerns.

We’re a country that wants to pretend class doesn’t exist, and American feminism wears those blinders, too. But not always. In the late nineteenth century, a critical mass of bourgeois female reformers and working-class women came to regard economic rights as the key to women’s elevation—and advocacy on behalf of female laborers as the path to achieving it. That effort garnered one of its greatest successes in the same state that nurtured Clinton’s political beginnings: Starting in the 1880s, the Illinois Woman’s Alliance brought together almost every women’s organization in Chicago, from suffragists to unionists to socialists, forced a Congressional investigation into female sweatshop labor and pushed through the state’s Factory and Workshop Inspection Act, creating an eight-hour day for women and children and banning factory labor for children under 14. Cross-class collaboration is not only possible among American women; it’s essential.

While we’ve been busy bemoaning Angry White Men, their sisters are becoming the face of their class. As Julia Sonenshein noted in her excellent October 2016 article in Politico, “most of the white working class”—53 percent—“is actually female.” They will be joined by vast numbers of millennial women, who face an economic climate that has placed them in worse financial straits than their parents. Already, record proportions of young women now identify as working class.

I look at Kristiana, the devoted young feminist, and fear for her future—and pray that we can mobilize a future women’s movement to come to her generation’s aid. “I don’t know the path forward,” NOW head Terry O’Neill said as she made her circuit of the media on November 9, “but we need to find a way together, we need to get serious about solidarity.” We could do worse than to start building a sisterhood with that vast swath of women who may need feminism the most, whether they know it yet or not.

Where Is Feminism Now?

Community discussion on Sept. 27 in Newport on Findings from the Recent Report on the Status of Oregon Women & Girls

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) will host a community discussion at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27, on the Oregon Women’s Foundation “Count Her In” Report (https://womensfoundationoforegon.org/ uploads/CountHerInreport. pdf ), which was released Sept. 21 on the status of women and girls in Oregon.   

The discussion will be held at Central Lincoln PUD meeting room, 2129 N Coast Highway, Newport.   

More than 100 Lincoln County women, and a few men, participated in the “listening tour” stop that was held earlier this year in Newport and that contributed to the “Count Her In” report.  

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of NOW believes the findings raised some major concerns and that it important to have a community discussion about how the coast can respond to some of those findings.   

Among the concerns identified by NOW are:   

An estimated 1 million Oregon women and girls — more than half of the state’s female population — have experienced some form of sexual or domestic violence. This     is one of the highest rates in the country.   

Oregon is one of the least affordable states in the nation for child care. A year of day care is now more expensive than annual tuition at a state university in Oregon.   

Women and girls of color in Oregon experience disproportionate barriers to success, including poverty rates that are nearly twice as high as those of white women and girls.    Hundreds of thousands of women lack access to the information and services they need to decide if, when, and how they become pregnant. Almost half of Oregon pregnancies are unintended, a rate that has barely dropped in 20 years.   

Oregon women earn between 53 and 83 cents (depending on race or ethnicity) for every dollar white men in Oregon earn. The gender wealth gap, based on the sum of a person’s assets, is even larger: approximately 35 cents on the dollar. Oregon’s gender wealth gap is among the largest in the nation.   

Oregon women have the   highest incidence of reported depression in the country, as well as the highest rate of alcohol use. Women are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide than men, and Oregon women have higher rates of childhood trauma than the national average.   

The purpose of this meeting is to work on solutions to the obstacles facing women and girls in the local community.

The public is encouraged to attend. For more information, email centraloregoncoastnow@gmail.com or go online at www.centraloregoncoastnow.com.

Is it harder to be a woman in Oregon? New report finds high rates of alcohol use, trauma, childcare costs

The Oregonian, September 21, 2016

Oregon women have the nation’s highest rates of reported depression and heavy alcohol use. More than half say they have experienced sexual or domestic violence, one of the worst rates in the country, officials at a new Oregon foundation have found.

And Oregon is one of the least affordable states for working mothers to care for children, with a year of daycare now more expensive than annual tuition at a state university.

Officials at the new Women’s Foundation of Oregon say they hope the “Count Her In” report, released Wednesday, will be a wakeup call. It’s the first comprehensive look at Oregon women and girls in nearly two decades. And it is grim.

“When you read this list, it’s just irrefutable that Oregon has a problem with gender equity,” said Sue Hildick, president of the Chalkboard Project and the board chair for the new foundation. “And it’s deep.”

https://mlewis-oregonian.carto.com/viz/8c243980-7f9c-11e6-a927-0e233c30368f/embed_map The stark findings, pulled from surveys and federal and state reports, reflect harsh circumstances for Oregon’s women in almost every facet of life:

• Nearly half say they’ve experienced a childhood traumatic event such as abuse or neglect, federal surveys have found. . Nearly a quarter say they have been raped.

• Women across the state earn less than men, according to Census numbers. For women of color, the wage gap is much larger. Latinas, for instance, earn only 53 cents for every dollar earned by all men.

• And the foundation discovered nearly half of Oregon’s counties have zero women serving on their county commissions, the government bodies usually responsible for doling out social services.

Advocates say the findings match hard data to an unsettling reality they’ve witnessed for years. Oregon’s women and girls are struggling — with domestic abuse and sexual harassment, but also school attendance and substance abuse.

“We didn’t have the data to back up our claims,” said Elizabeth Nye, the executive director of Girls Inc. “You feel like you’re just shouting into the wind, not being able to substantiate what you’re saying.”

But Hildick, Nye and others say the report offers a glimmer of hope. Maybe now, they hope, policymakers will listen to pleas for help.

“It’s a way to start conversations, to galvanize and bring energy to these issues,” Nye said. “If you don’t ever talk about it, or if you don’t know it, it’s just going to continue to be the same as it always has been. I really do think people will step up and say, ‘This can’t continue this way. We can do better.’

The last comprehensive report on Oregon women and girls came out in 1998. That report, created by the Oregon Commission on Women and the Institute for Women’s Policy, drew mostly from 1990 Census data.

Its findings were hopeful: Oregon women led the country in voter turnout, health insurance coverage and business ownership. They reported roughly average rates of employment and earnings.

That data, nonprofit workers said, was no longer a useful guide for their programs.

“It was a different time,” Emily Evans, the director of the Women’s Foundation of Oregon, said about the 1990 Census. “The Berlin Wall had just come down. I was in first grade. Nobody had a computer in their house.”

For the new foundation’s report, Evans started by talking to nonprofit leaders such as Nye about what kind of data might help their work.

Existing survey data didn’t always break down responses by race or income, Nye pointed out.

In Oregon, for instance, Nye said people assumed school-age girls were doing “fine” because they graduate at higher rates than boys do. But what about black and Latina girls? What about girls living in poverty? No one had data to show how they, specifically, were faring.

Evans’ foundation first paid economists ECONorthwest to pull relevant federal, state and local numbers. Then the foundation conducted its own research. They trawled state, city and county governments to compile a list of female elected officials. And they supplemented their numbers with face-to-face interviews across the state.

Earlier this year, foundation workers and volunteers loaded up Evans’ grandparents’ 1985 motor home and went on the road. They visited 14 counties and talked to 1,000 women and girls. They held events in Spanish, Russian and Somali. They drove to the Umatilla reservation to talk with Native American women.

The 28-foot motorhome doubled as a listening booth. There, women recorded their own histories. The data said wages are low and daycare costs are high. Evans said women knew that, intimately, from trying to juggle their career aspirations with their role as caretakers.

“Oregon and women know what’s wrong,” Evans said. “There was no disagreement with what the data said. These challenges are felt every day.”

The data, for instance, revealed high rates of sexual violence across the state. On the road, women told foundation staff and volunteers that their communities are ill-equipped to support survivors. Hospitals lack trained sexual assault nurse examiners, as well as the money to process physical evidence like rape kits.

In Newport, one woman described waiting days without a shower after her assault because no one at her local hospital was trained to examine her. She eventually drove to Corvallis to receive help.

Data collected from a child care advocacy group showed the cost of child care in Oregon is the second most expensive state in the country for infant care — a statewide average of $11,322 a year — and the fourth most expensive for toddler care, with a statewide average of $8,797. A single parent making the median income of $22,000 would have to spend half her salary to put an infant in daycare.

“There is a reckoning coming,” Evans said. “We have this perception of ourselves as a progressive state and a great place to live. When we dive into the data, we’re finding it’s incredibly challenging for women and girls in Oregon, more challenging than it is in many, if not most, other states. But there is something hopeful about finally knowing the full measure of the problem. Then we can move past the speculation of whether it is a problem and move toward creating solutions together.”

A few policymakers have indicated they plan to join that quest.

Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, first heard about the report when his wife attended a listening session in Bend. He contacted the foundation and asked for a copy of their findings.

“I’m a physician by training, so I’m a data-driven guy,” Buehler said. “I try to stay away from the tired partisan arguments. I just try to look at the data and not ask if it’s a Republican or Democratic idea, but what’s the best idea to solve the problem?”

Buehler called the report “really top-notch work” and said it will help guide him in the coming months. Buehler, who pushed legislation 2015 that made it easier for women to obtain birth control prescriptions, plans to use the data next year as he works on bills aimed at improving mental health and suicide prevention.

The report, citing state and federal data, said 9 percent of Oregon women report having seven or more drinks a day — the highest rate in the nation and nearly double the national average of 5 percent. On their listening tour, the researchers found 70 percent of women told them they “faced a mental health issue that adversely affected” their jobs, home life or health.

“Good policy will be produced from such great foundational efforts,” he said.

The group found some bright spots.

Oregon women vote at higher rates than Oregon men, and at higher rates than women in most other states. Oregon women serve in statewide elected office at some of the highest rates in the country. And they give charitably and volunteer their time at higher rates than Oregon men and than women in most other states.

“Women and girls in Oregon are giving a lot but getting less than women and girls in other states,” Evans said. “Imagine how much they could give if they weren’t facing all these daily challenges.”

— Casey Parks

Interactive map by Melissa Lewis


August 23, 2016 – African-American Women’s Equal Pay Day

Equal Pay Day, August 23, for African-American women is a full 236 days into a second year that they have to work to be equal in pay to the dollar paid white, non-Hispanic men  working just one year. In other words, their median pay in 2014 was 64 cents compared to the white man’s dollar, leaving a gap of 36 cents. One reason for the large wage gap is that African-American women experience both gender and race discrimination leading to a lifetime of low pay. Updated information from 2015 Census data shows that the median earnings for African-American women has declined to 60 percent of the white man’s dollar!

Based on the 2014 wage gap, African-American women would lose $877,480 over a 40-year working career compared to white non-Hispanic men and in some states the lifetime loss could be as high as more than $1 million.

Recent studies have calculated that closing the pay gap for all women would cut the poverty rate in half (8.1 percent to 3.9 percent), and for single women, the poverty rate would drop by more than half to 4.6 percent. At the same time, the economy would receive a huge boost of nearly a half-billion dollars from women receiving equal pay! For women of color, equal pay would lift many out of poverty and provide the financial stability needed to raise their families.

New study reveals disturbing stats on gender discrimination in tech

BY on January 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm

tech jobs

“In one review session, one male partner said of a female employee, ‘We don’t have to worry about her bonus or promotion because she just got married. So she’ll probably have a baby and quit soon.’”

That’s an account from one of the participants in a new survey on gender discrimination in tech. Stanford University researchers interviewed more than 200 women, mostly in the Bay Area. The respondents, who “hold positions of power and influence” were asked questions about promotion, inclusion, unconscious biases, motherhood, and harassment and safety.

The results were troubling. Sixty percent of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances. Forty percent felt the need to speak less about their family to be taken seriously and 75 percent were asked about marital status and children during interviews. Eighty-seven percent received demeaning comments from male co-workers. Ninety percent witnessed sexist behavior at company off-sites.

Those are just some of the statistics laid out. The full study is available here.

“The inspiration for this survey came out of the incredible conversation from the Ellen Pao & KPCB trial,” writes Elephant in the Valley, the organization behind the survey. “What we realized is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace. In an effort to correct the massive information disparity, we decided to get the data and the stories.”

Obama Dedicates $118 Million to Uplift Women and Girls of Color

The new initiative is an awaited counterpart to last year’s initiative for young men, ‘My Brother’s Keeper.’

Girls hug President Barack Obama as he visits the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Girls hug President Barack Obama as he visits the Boys and Girls Club of Cleveland. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

NOV 13, 2015
Rebecca McCray is a staff writer covering social justice. A former Fulbright scholar, she is based in New York.
When President Barack Obama announced a multimillion-dollar philanthropic initiative to uplift young men of color last year, the investment was met with praise from some stakeholders and a big question from others: What about girls and women?

On Friday, a long-awaited answer was delivered at an all-day forum at Wake Forest University dedicated to the issues facing women and girls of color. The White House Council on Women and Girls announced a five-year initiative that will include $118 million in public and private partnerships devoted to empowering women and girls and lifting them out of poverty.

The conference centered around a White House report, Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color, that focuses on education, health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity, among other issues. While gains have been made for marginalized American women in recent years, the report noted, significant inequity and barriers to success remain.

While the average woman makes just 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, for example, the gender pay gap is even starker for women of color. Black women earn just 60 cents per dollar earned by the average white man, while Latino women earn only 55 cents. In spite of representing a smaller percentage of the overall U.S. population than do their white counterparts, black and Native American girls are overrepresented in the juvenile justice system. Girls of color are more than twice as likely than white girls to become pregnant as teens, decreasing their odds of earning a high school diploma.

Obama addressed the inequalities facing women and girls of color in September during a speech before the Congressional Black Caucus, foreshadowing the initiative announced Friday.

“When women of color aren’t given the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential, we all lose out on their talents; we’re not as good a country as we can be,” Obama said. “So we’re going to have to close those economic gaps so that hardworking women of all races, and black women in particular, can support families and strengthen communities and contribute to our country’s success.”


Working, But Still Poor – Oregon Center for Public Policy

Working, But Still Poor – Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Working, But Still Poor

by Tyler Mac Innis

A View of the State of Working Oregon

Work is not a sure path out of poverty. The official poverty line, based on a formula developed in the early 1960s, underestimates what it takes to make ends meet today. But even with the bar set too low by an outdated calculation, some employers pay too little to lift many working Oregon families above the poverty line.

Lawmakers can enact policies that will lift low-wage workers out of poverty and help them get ahead. Lawmakers should increase Oregon’s minimum wage and enact rules that better protect workers from dishonest employers who steal wages. They should also better fund services that help low-paid working families succeed, such as child care subsidies and job training for workers with dependent children.

Families living in poverty often confront barriers to employment, such as physical or mental health problems, children’s health issues, domestic violence and lack of affordable child care.[1]

Nonetheless, most families with children living in poverty in Oregon are working families. In other words, a poor child in Oregon likely has a working parent.

In 2013, among Oregon’s poor families, more than seven out of 10 (72 percent) had at least one parent who worked.[2]

In total numbers, there were nearly 72,000 Oregonians living in poverty despite belonging to a household with at least one full-time worker in 2013.

To put that in perspective, that is close to the entire the population of Medford (76,000), Oregon’s eighth largest city.

Having a full-time working parent does not prevent children from growing up in poverty.

In 2013, among Oregon children living in poverty, two out of seven (28.8 percent) lived in a home in which at least one parent worked full time.

Rates of poverty among working families are particularly high among Asian and Latino families.

In 2013, nearly nine out of 10 Asian families (86.8 percent) and Latino families (86.4 percent) living in poverty had at least one parent working at some point during the previous year. By comparison, the figure was about seven out of 10 (70.4 percent) for non-Hispanic white families.

The rates of poverty among working families for other communities of color were not statistically different from the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

Single working mothers are more likely to live in poverty than single working fathers in Oregon.

In 2013, 31.9 percent of single working mothers lived below the poverty line, compared to 18.1 percent of single working fathers. For those working full time, 13.1 percent of single mothers and 3.3 percent of single fathers lived in poverty.
Women tend to earn less than their male counterparts and are more likely to work in low-wage jobs.[3]

Lawmakers Must Help Ensure that Work Pays for Poor Families

To reduce poverty in Oregon, lawmakers must help make work pay for poor working families — which are the majority of the state’s poor families.

First and foremost, lawmakers should ensure employers pay a decent wage. In part, this means increasing the state’s minimum wage. Oregon’s minimum wage is not high enough to lift a full-time worker raising two children out of poverty. Workers deserve a substantial increase in the minimum wage, one that lifts families out of poverty.

Lawmakers also ought to enact strong protections against wage theft. A minimum wage counts for little when dishonest employers cheat workers out of the wages they have earned. Too often employers commit wage theft by forcing workers to work off the clock, stealing tips or not paying their workers at all. Lawmakers need to put in place new rules making it harder for dishonest employers to engage in wage theft and easier for the state and workers to enforce wage laws.[4]
Lawmakers should increase funding for services that help poor working families succeed on the job. For example, the Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program, which subsidizes child care for low-income working families, is so poorly funded that eligible parents are often put on a waiting list and are unable to secure child care. Employment training programs such as the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program, a program for very poor families with dependent children, currently serves a fraction of those who could benefit because of funding constraints.

Oregon lawmakers can act to make work pay and ensure working families are not poor despite their work efforts.

[1] For a discussion of barriers to employment see Heidi Goldberg, Improving TANF Program Outcomes for Families With Barriers to Employment,Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 22, 2002.

[2] This analysis uses 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Micro Sample (PUMS) microdata. The analysis focused on Oregon households living in poverty with a related child. The ACS categorizes work experience as “full time in the past 12 months,” “less than full time work in the past 12 months,” and “did not work in the past 12 months.” Less than full time includes short-term and seasonal work. For example, a person who worked 40 hours per week for 10 weeks during the winter holiday season in a retail position would be considered to have worked less than full time by the ACS. This analysis looks at the share of households in poverty with children where at least the head of household or the head’s spouse had some work experience in the 12 months prior to the survey response. While a person who worked “less than full time” could also be considered long-term unemployed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which defines long-term unemployment as joblessness for 27 weeks or more and actively looking for work during that time, that person is still correctly counted by the ACS as having worked less than full time during the past year. Similarly, a person who “did not work in the past 12 months” under the ACS survey might not be considered “long term unemployed” under the BLS survey if the person was not actively seeking work. One is a survey of who has been working and one is a survey of who has been unemployed; they are not meant to be mutually exclusive. Unless otherwise noted, all data in this fact sheet comes from OCPP analysis of American Community Survey data.

[3] For more on the gender pay gap, see Jane Farrell and Sarah Jane Glynn, What Causes the Gender Wage Gap? Center for American Progress, April 19, 2013, and Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can?, Academy of Management Perspectives, February 2007, pp. 7-23.

[4] For more on wage theft, see: Oregon’s Wage Theft Problem Persists, Oregon Center for Public Policy, January 14, 2013.

Posted in Minimum Wage, Poverty, Role of Government, TANF, Wages.
More about: erdc, race and ethnicity, wage theft, working poor
– See more at: http://www.ocpp.org/2014/12/04/fs20141204-working-still-poor/#sthash.9sUEEDTH.dpuf

Our Choice Between a Strong America and a Weak America

George Polisner – Friday, November 7, 2014


Near the end of 2008 America was on the precipice of economic collapse –which would have also had a severe and lasting impact upon global markets and the world. Since 2009 we’ve experienced a long slow recovery from the cliff.

There are numerous issues we must face quickly as Americans or America will perish as a footnote in history –characterized as a “nice try”. We can either be remembered as the society that recognized our strengths and addressed our weaknesses –or we can be known as a once promising society that waited for magic to happen until it did not.

The vital issues as I see them:

The Corruption of the Political and Judicial Environment

Influence of money on elections and representation

Remember one of the key issues in the founding of America – “No taxation without representation”? When we each cast a vote (assuming we do and that our vote is counted), we have an expectation that our elected officials will advocate for our interests. Regardless of your political ideology –do you really believe that your vote or mine compared to a million dollar check from Exxon Mobil, the Koch Brothers, General Electric or Monsanto will have the same value with our elected officials?

The Constitution and Bill of Rights established an intent for representational fairness. Furthermore, three branches of government were created to provide greater protection against the corrupting influence of wealth. My friends that are very liberal with affinity with the green party are justified in their anger and frustration with the present system. My libertarian friends are absolutely correct to be livid as well. Unless you are the person collecting the check from Exxon, Chevron, WalMart, GE, Monsanto, the US Chamber of Commerce or the Koch brothers –you are completely justified in your alarm, frustration and anger.

So why are we fighting each other instead of the system that is subverting our government? –More about that later.

Under our present system it takes generally takes massive amounts of money to run a successful campaign. GMO labeling is a great example –where despite the will of the people –citizen initiatives for GMO labeling have been narrowly defeated due to being outspent by opposition from the likes of Monsanto, Pepsi, Kellogg’s and others by 10 – 1 or more. Media purchases (commercials on TV/Radio, newspaper ads, magazine ads and direct mail are all incredibly expensive.

In recent years the perfect storm was intentionally created to erode our ability to have a representative government. The conditions were set forth by the evisceration of the “Fairness Doctrine” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine – which had provided a mechanism for equal and fair broadcast time) and the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in “Citizens United” v. the FEC and McCutcheon v. the FEC.

Influence of money on budget and appropriations

Part of the role of government is to determine how to allocate and invest our taxpayer dollars to keep America strong now and for future generations. This is also an area that has caused significant anger and frustration among Americans. This is due to a lack of alignment of how our money is allocated (societal priorities) and the inefficiencies and corruption in the present system.

When people talk about “Big government” versus “a government so small we can drown it in a bathtub” what some are really saying is we want an efficient government that provides the services we need at the federal, state and local levels.

While “drowning government” is used as a battlecry by Grover Norquist and others -they are actually not interested in addressing inefficiency or corruption. They are simply manipulating the masses from civic/political participation and to privatize –so they can transfer and consolidate additional wealth to the top 1%. Most of my conservative and liberal friends agree –if our/their home is on fire –we’d like a well-trained group of first responders that can react quickly and save life and property. If we drive over a bridge we have an expectation that it won’t collapse. If we need a license to drive our vehicle –we’d like to make sure we can get in, be tested and evaluated and licensed. If we turn on our water faucet –we expect clean, safe good tasting water –not a flammable sludge.

The problem becomes when Monsanto or another large company, industry (via a lobbying group) or extremely wealthy individuals write large campaign donations (or hire family and friends of our elected officials) –there is an absolute expectation that our representatives will reward them with lucrative government contracts –or projects that are not aligned with our societal priorities or imperatives. These are “pork projects”, “earmarks” or “bridges to nowhere” –and create justified anger among taxpayers.

Voter Rights

If we truly aspire toward a democracy –we must act like one. We should be making every effort to make voting accessible, simple and highly encouraged.

The voter suppression movement is antithetical to democracy –and those behind such efforts harbor such a complete contempt for America, the Constitution and Bill of Rights –as a nation we should be considering the revocation of their citizenship and eliminating their ability to live in or do business in the United States. A pattern of interference by any individual, group of individuals, lobby or business entity should be investigated and upon a finding of guilt –there should be severe civil and criminal consequences.

All federal, state and local elections should allow absentee voting and receive ballots no less than 30 days prior to election day. Election season should include at very least two legally recognized holiday’s: Issue Day in which broadcast media provides time for all candidates and groups representing major societal issues access to airtime and Election day should also be a paid holiday.

Furthermore we must have law that establishes clear transparency and accountability in elections. Until we can separate money from campaigns -we must demand clear labeling of ballot initiatives including who is sponsoring and funding them. We cannot allow front groups to obscure the real power and motivation behind initiatives.

For example we can not tolerate an unholy alliance between oil companies to attempt to eviscerate law established to protect air quality through a front group called “Citizens for Healthy Clear Air”. We must have the mechanisms to understand that Chevron contributed 5 million dollars, Exxon contributed 5 million dollars -not a “citizens” organization “concerned” with air quality.

Voter Responsibilities

With rights come responsibilities as citizens. We must take the time to understand the candidates, their voting records, their stated positions (and until we can separate money from campaigns and appropriations) who is funding them.

We must look beyond the attack ads, yardsign, soundbite and promises to understand the candidates or ballot initiatives. There is excellent, well-researched information that is published by many different trusted organizations that can guide you if you need help.

People have died or have been beaten in order to win the right to vote. When we do not vote (whether due to apathy, cynicism or a “boycott”) we are not only dishonoring these courageous men and women –we are simply letting Monsanto, WalMart, McDonalds and Halliburton determine what America should look like.

Growing Economic Inequality

Tax code and policy

Since the 1960’s our tax code has changed, become more complex and now clearly favors corporations and the wealthiest Americans. When an administrative assistant is investing a greater percentage of their earnings into American society through their taxes than a wealthy venture capitalist or ExxonMobil -the tax code is clearly a key contributing factor to the growing abyss between working families and the wealthiest Americans. While many may say this erodes the quality and dignity of the American dream for most people -it is far more disturbing on deeper levels as it weakens the American economic system. Our economic engine fuels America -so by weakening our engine -it absolutely weakens this country.

Our tax policy should encourage the type of investment as well as divestment that is aligned with our national, state and local objectives. For example -if from a National Security perspective -we seek to limit our dependence on oil imports -our tax policy should include credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, mass transit passes, solar/wind for home use -while paying for those credits with additional taxes on gasoline or other carbon use.

Estate taxes should provide an exemption up to three to five million dollars and be adjusted for the cost of living every five years. While some argue this represents a double tax (presumably income/capital gains taxes during one’s lifetime) and then again upon death -it is not about fairness -it is about protecting America from the conditions that exist today -an obscene concentration of wealth among the wealthiest 1%. This creates a significant imbalance of power and wealth -and each subsequent “trust fund” generation is more insulated from real American life -while being able to assert more influence and power over such lives. Estate taxes protect the path to democracy from an  “economic cancer”. With diminished or zero estate taxes we are led directly to the oligarchy we’ve become today.


Corporations use our infrastructure, education system, resources and people. The basic rule should be -if you want to conduct business in America -you should pay taxes here. When ExxonMobil is generating record quarterly profit and pays zero tax and a small business trying to survive is paying taxes -there is something inherently wrong. If America’s strength and promise is grounded in fairness -we must address this. Fair taxes are not anti-business. Providing a landscape in which small businesses can thrive -while large enterprise can still provide a solid return on investment (without harming society) should be a goal. As tax revenues are invested in government services -and appropriations for a future, stronger America -large corporations need to either provide their fair share or agree to no longer conduct business in the lucrative American market,

Minimum versus living wages

Lately the stagnant federal minimum wage has been in focus. The federal minimum wage in America is $7.25 per hour. Based upon a 40 hour work week this is $290.00 per week (gross wages).

21 million workers (an estimated 16% of the American workforce) would be postively impacted by a change in policy on wages. The average CEO in 1965 made 20 times the average worker salary.

In 2013 average CEO compensation was 295.9 times average worker compensation. There are a handful of CEO’s that have (or continue to have) the leadership, vision and work ethic -that they have made a company what it is (or in some cases have created entire industries). They have risked their own capital (or convinced others to put capital at risk -not an easy task) and have created opportunities for 100’s or 1,000’s or 10’s of thousands of American workers.

Most of the rest of the class of CEO’s are managers -not leaders. They may have a well-recognized name or following. They may have created higher equity value for a company by shifting costs to society (by reducing the workforce, transferring jobs to lower paying areas around the world, legally evading U.S. tax responsibility through tax loopholes and keeping worker wages stagnant). They are not innovating or creating any value for America or the world -they are simply shifting costs on paper.

To create stock/shareholder gains by reducing the American workforce, busting unions and keeping workers fearful (and reducing worker wages) should not be tolerated by American society.

For example -there are many that would say -the free market will take care of itself (although we’ve yet to actually see a free market -and likely never will). However in near “free-market” conditions WalMart (one of America’s largest employers) keeps average worker wages low and is vigorously anti-union. This causes many WalMart workers to supplement their negligible wages with food stamps and other vital social services that we all pay for (in our taxes). This at a time in which they were paying $100’s of millions of dollars to executives as “performance bonuses”. Yet many consumers continue to shop there because, you know, “Save money. Live better!”.

I’d propose that while we increase the federal minimum wage -many state and local governments should also address minimum wage, raising it beyond the federal minimum if the local region has a higher cost of living. Furthermore -large corporations like WalMart, McDonalds and others should be held accountable for a higher, “Living Wage”.

As Americans -we should be supportive of any worker that is employed and trying to improve their own economic standing and that of their families. And we need to make sure the largest, most successful enterprises are not simply taking care of their executives and to a lesser degree, their shareholders. They must treat their employees fairly and certainly not have an expectation that American taxpayers will cover part of what should be fair wages.

Healthcare Costs

American healthcare and drug costs are out of control. There are two fundamental issues -access to care and cost containment. Between 1999 and 2009 according to RAND healthcare costs nearly doubled for the average American family with little improvement in quality of care.

Furthermore -prior to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act -a growing number of American’s had no access to healthcare coverage in America.

Individual responsibility

In the scope of the American healthcare system -we each bear some responsibility to ourselves our families and society. If we are to be a relatively unhealthy nation, filled to excess with fast, fried food, smoking, drinking (among other cultural issues we discuss later leading to substantial mental health costs -we exacerbate expenses and diminish the quality of the average american life. While government should not dictate individual diet or health -government can certainly make recommendations that must be unfettered by lobbying by meat, fast food, drug, tobacco, GMO or other industries that are seeking profit without regard to American health or healthcare costs. However a person that indulges in high risk behavior -should not shift their costs to society -the cost of healthcare coverage should not be “one size fits all”. The additional costs of healthcare related to conditions of obesity should be borne in part by the individual through a tax on fast or unhealthy food and additional taxes on companies that profit from such products. Additional healthcare costs associated from smoking and alcohol should be addressed in a similar manner.

Food/Beverage/Tobacco/Firearms Responsibility

Companies and entire industries that create health risks should be taxed and such taxes should be earmarked to offset any additional societal costs related to such behaviors including health and education for Americans to live more content, healthy lifestyles.

Employer versus Societal

I believe that as a nation we have a fundamental responsibility to each other to ensure that Americans have access to food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. While an employer benefits from greater productivity (and thus profit) with a healthy workforce -and should encourage positive behavior (fitness, nutrition, incentives for remaining in good health) -it is ultimately our responsibility as a society. Whereas the Affordable Care Act is an attempt to help contain costs (through a competitive, “free-market” exchange and the negotiating leverage that comes from adding 30-50 million people that previously had no access to healthcare coverage) -the intent of the ACA is also to provide a societal mechanism for access to coverage. As more employers have shifted the burden of additional heathcare costs to employees (via the co-insurance payment) -I believe we unfairly burden employers with rising healthcare costs. Such costs should be borne by society in a single payer system of care. While many may vehemently disagree (as evidenced by protest signs such as “I want government out of my healthcare”) on single payer -I suspect much of the negative reaction has been driven by misinformation from insurance companies, insurance lobbyists and people like the Koch brothers. If you have a choice between government weighing in on healthcare or the CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield or a group of wall street analysts (and let’s face it -those are the choices we have) -who do you think is more likely to approve a necessary and vital procedure for your child? A CEO that has their executive bonus tied to cutting costs and driving profit? Good luck with that. Frankly -the only people I’d like involved in my healthcare is me and my doctor. Nevertheless -the system itself has to be administered -and healthcare is one industry (of several) that should not be driven by the motive of profit. There are other, better ways to measure the efficacy of the system without paying a CEO tens or hundreds of millions of dollars while healthcare costs continue to spiral out of control.

Military/Defense Costs There is no question in this volatile world we need a strong, well-equipped and capable national defense with the ability to rapidly and effectively deploy in order to protect American and allied life around the world. Nevertheless -the military procurement process is bloated and there are many well-known areas of waste and corruption. The manner that we address our defense costs needs to radically change. In the year 2015 we will be spending over a trillion dollars (between mandatory and discretionary federal budget) on military services. This represents approximately $3,300 per year for every man, woman, child and infant in America. In 2011 we outspent the next 15 countries (including Russia and China) combined and outspent the second country (China) by five times (see chart below).


The American education system was once one of the best in the world. An international study found that the U.S. is now 19th in combined testing of Mathematics, Science and Literacy. This is important. As many Americans have begun to correlate energy policy to American security (the more dependence upon oil imports and global volatility -the more we have to spend on military to protect our global energy interests) people have not yet considered the connection to global leadership in education to national strength.

Eighteen education systems had higher average scores than the United States in all three subjects. The 18 education systems are: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong-China, Ireland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao-China, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Shanghai-China, Singapore, and Switzerland.” (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/pisa2012highlights_1.asp)


This is of great concern for the future of American society. When we do not have to depend upon other, potentially unstable regions of the world -we do not have to increase our military capability to remain strong and secure. Our ability to synthesize new materials that will improve the quality of American and perhaps life around the world rests with our future scientists, mathematicians and research.


If we lag in education -we will have to depend upon discoveries and materials that came from elsewhere (if they are even made available to us). At present we have a military advantage over any other nation -however that is due to superior technology, science and research. How long will that advantage last when we are lagging behind at least 18 other countries in education?


Furthermore -the cost of higher education in America is rising exponentially (while again -the American profit before people approach to student loans will continue to transfer wealth and weaken the American economy).


How many of our youth -if surrounded with leading K-12 schools -that are safe havens from violence, bullying, guns might have gone on to be the next Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, John Kenneth Galbraith or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -instead of imprisoned, sent to war or trying to survive in America with menial employment -because we as a society squandered an opportunity to support them.


If there is any place where our investment as a society should be clear -for a strong America now and especially in the future -education is the place. Our schools should be places where learning is inspired, world class and safe. It is the place where we show our youth that we value their life and past generations encourage each new generation to go beyond, add to American and global knowledge and chart a better, safer future for all. It should be unfettered education predicated upon the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics -and should include continuous new scientific knowledge and theory as it becomes available. It should be publicly funded -and in no way should ExxonMobil or the Koch Brothers be teaching climate theory, McDonalds should not be sponsoring nutrition classes and WalMart should not be sponsoring business or consumer courses. And education should be well-rounded in culture, languages, humanities, music and the arts -all to help future generations appreciate and protect the gifts provided by past generations.


Public College and Universities in America should be tuition free -and we should fund materials and limited student expenses -either through low interest loans or grants for those that do not have the economic ability to fund themselves. When higher education is unaffordable -it limits our societal ability to have every individual reach their potential -and when we do not provide the incentives -we weaken American society now and in the future.

Racism and Gender Discrimination

If we are to consider ourselves an advanced and civilized society -there is no room for discrimination or pay inequity. Work performed by an individual should be compensated on the basis of the quality and value of the work, not predicated upon anatomy or the color of one’s skin.


There remains a vast difference in how we seek to be perceived as a nation -and the deep seated fear and hatred we harbor against others. Unlike the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision that we are a post-race society -there is racism running through most threads of American life -and in some regions -it is not even hidden.

Energy Policy

Our energy policy over the last 50 years has been defined by Big Oil, Coal and the Nuclear power industries. Abdicating such important policy to the profit motive has led us to the brink of climate catastrophe (or Nuclear catastrophe as Fukushima continues to demonstrate an important lesson about nuclear power generation through fission technology). It has also is responsible for shifting incredible wealth to one of the most politically unstable parts of the world -and we have paid for this policy- and continue to do so with the blood of our sons and daughters (as well as many innocent civilian lives). We must rapidly transition to a safe, renewable energy strategy. The answer does not lie beneath the surface of America in the form of dangerous fracking technology. The answer is not in an environmentally ill-advised pipeline. The answer is blowing in the wind -as well as solar energy, transitioning to electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles and other technologies that minimize carbon emissions and contribute to catastrophic climate change. We need to apply the same rigor to the “energy” race as we once did to the space race. It is at an absolute minimum a matter of national security.

Domestic Security, Drug Policy, Police and Prisons

We would all like to raise our families and enjoy a life free from crime (well, I suspect most of us anyway). Addressing quality and dignity of life in the areas outlined above (namely economic inequality, racism, education, healthcare) are all proactive investment in domestic security. When people and communities are valued over profit and wealth -there is simply less crime. We are human however -and thus crime will happen. Our lack of proactive investment in society and in communities that have led to widening economic inequality is a factor in more crime as well as drug and alcohol abuse in America. Police and prisons are a reactive expenditure when we fail.


A democracy is predicated upon a well-educated populace and access to unfettered, real and independent news. Such news should not be mired in opinion or filtered to produce a specific way of perceiving events -that is a fundamental difference between news and propaganda.

When news (or the “Fourth Estate”) becomes beholden to a particular perspective -it is no longer trustworthy, credible or of value. Many years ago major American broadcast news competed for viewers on the basis of investigation, integrity and were not held accountable for profitability by the leading broadcast networks. News was viewed as a public service -and part of the price broadcast networks paid for leveraging American society-owned “broadcast commons” or airwaves. In the late 1970’s television shifted and with it -news became accountable to produce profit. Not only has this diminished the quality of news (whereas arguably the entertainment value has increased) -the profit motive is often directly in conflict with reporting the news. As a society -we must make a renewed investment in competitive and real news sources that are effective, efficient and not beholden to a political or corporate perspective. Media should be well funded through societal investment from tax revenues and not filtered by industry lobbyists, politicians or from foreign investment. Furthermore -numerous cable channels procured distribution capability by establishing an “educational” component to their programming. For example in many markets while the “News” show Hannity spews hate and lies corresponding to the political perspectives of the foreign owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch the line-up of thoughtful programming that is helping to educate and inspire America is as follows:

  • The History Channel: “Pawn Stars: The Adventures of Corey and Chum”
  • TLC (formerly called The Learning Channel): “19 and Counting: Jesse’s Engagement (can’t wait for Jesse to have 19 kids)”
  • Arts and Entertainment: “Godfather of Pittsburgh -I’m the Big Guy”
  • Discovery: “The Town That Caught Tourettes?”
  • National Geographic: “Alaska State Troopers -Cut in the Gut”
  • Bravo: “Vanderpump Rules”
  • Science: “Which Universe Are We In?”

-a question that seems more than reasonable when putting the above list together. These are a small bit of evidence with regard to why we must read more and watch TV less. What was sold to society as a great boon to education and knowledge has simply been another way in which we are fed opinions via “news” programming, told who to hate and who to blame for our problems. And in between the above programming or “Honey Boo Boo” (thankfully cancelled as of this writing), or watching Ted Nugent or Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from helicopters or the Duggars spewing out another child -in complete denial that the world has finite resources while pretending their genes are so remarkable -the only thing better than 19 Duggars must be 20 Duggars! -while I do not recommend violence of any kind -shooting your TV might be considered justifiable from my perspective.


Many hardworking American families have been ripped apart by deportation. A society that claims “family values” and then separates parents and children is drowning in its own hypocrisy. We owe it to the history of how America was founded (by immigrants) and achieved greatness (by immigrant labor) and how we continue to put food on our tables (most of which has been provided through backbreaking efforts of immigrant labor. We need a new round of amnesty (for those that are want to yell ‘Merica here and talk about building a big fence -it was your political idol -Ronald Reagan that signed Immigration Amnesty into law in 1986 -see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Reform_and_Control_Act_of_1986)

Whereas the resources that American society has is finite -we do need sensible controls and a forward thinking immigration policy -and we need to address where we are at today. By not providing amnesty -we devastate communities and create more uncertainty and anxiety for an important part of America.


People want to eliminate corruption and drive perceived and real inefficiencies out of government services and systems. Many are told that privatization is a key to creating a competitive landscape and such competition will lead to efficient use of our societal investment. The reason privatization is not a panacea is it creates competition for profit. As a private enterprise -I can succeed by increasing revenue or lowering costs or both. Often if I lower costs -I diminish the services I provide. Whether I succeed or fail is not based upon the societal outcomes or results we desire -it is purely upon profit or loss of the enterprise.


Government should be held accountable and should be transparent in the funding and outcomes of agencies providing public service. However the profit motive is often in direct conflict with providing the services we need as a society. Privatization tends to benefit the already wealthy -as any reduction of costs (due to stagnant salaries, reduced workforces, lack of retirement or other benefits) -are generally shifted to executives and stockholders. This is why there is so much pressure on industries that historically have been government services to privatize. It is sold to us as “greater efficiency”. It is more frequently intended to transfer and consolidate wealth.

Acknowledging Our History

America aspires to be a strong and benevolent beacon of hope for humanity. A place where people are valued over things, innovation and hard work are rewarded and there is opportunity for all that are willing to work hard. Even if we “right” the ship -I believe we must understand our complete history, acknowledge our past mistakes, remedy them if we can and look to a future that is not encumbered by our past. From genocide (the trail of tears), slavery, imperialism, wars prosecuted on the basis of lies and interference in other sovereign governments (such as the assassination of Allende in Chile, the multiple attempts to assassinate Castro and destabilize Cuba meddling in Central America and elsewhere in the name of “national security” should be cast into the light, studied and readily understood so in the future we do not make similar mistakes. We must redefine what is in our national interests -and it should be predicated upon keeping Americans and our allies safe in America and abroad -it should not be predicated upon protecting the accumulation of wealth -or protecting the interests of large, multinational corporations over the rights of indigenous people.

Cultural Societal Illness

The pursuit of profit and wealth (and the accumulation and consolidation of wealth) has become the American focus. From “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, “Real Housewives of Wherever”, “Cribs”, music videos, expensive cars and the constant bling paraded in front of us in a barrage of commercials for Cadillac’s, Lincolns, BMW’s and so on. We are told we can be much happier if we buy more luxurious homes, cars and jewelry. In fact -we’re told if we don’t shop, the terrorists win. I believe if we don’t shop (and consume) in a more evolved way -”the terrorists” do win.

As a nation we have lost our way. We have had the quality of American life eroded over the last few generations. We have abdicated our American values to money and material wealth. Instead of a sense of community where people would take care of each other, children could be outdoors playing until dinner -we’ve become a suspicious, fearful nation. We’re worried that our jobs could be eliminated at anytime -because the new CEO wants to hit quarterly expectations and take a large bonus. If we are fortunate enough to have a mortgage payment we’re hoping we don’t lose our home as so many recently did. If we pay rent -we hope the owner doesn’t increase the rent so we are faced with a “should I buy my medicine or groceries” decision for ourselves or our family. Some are so frightened they want to take their assault rifle or handgun with them wherever they go -which then creates more fear. A young person graduating from college or university (if they were fortunate enough to have the support to attend) graduates while encumbered with tremendous debt. Any thought of using the education for public good or services is lost as young adults enter the job market with home mortgage-like debt.

    • A pristine forest was once a day or weekend in nature. Now forests are managed and clearcut for profit.
    • We sing about “Purple mountain majesties” in “America the Beautiful. Now we remove mountaintops for mining interests and profit.
    • Our water ways were once unspoiled, precious resources. Now they are perfect to carry our toxic waste out to sea where in the Gulf coast they can mix with the oil disaster caused by BP and Halliburton.
    • For years our diplomatic solution was to send in the Marines (even if it meant invading the wrong country and creating instability and chaos for generations).

We have supported brutal dictators like Pinochet, Noriega, Batista, Trujillo and others in exchange for giving our large corporations unfettered access to their natural resources, people and markets. However when they no longer follow our directives we cut them loose.

We fund prisons but not schools.

Are you fortunate enough to be able to attend college? We’ll make sure you start your your life burdened with significant debt.

We pay our educators, first-responders, nurses and others next to nothing and accuse them of “bankrupting” the American system.

We allow our political landscape to be sold to the highest bidder.

We won’t allow two people that love each other to marry -however we advocate passionately for the right of someone to acquire possession of an assault weapon at a moment in time in which their anger, depression and situation drives them to take their own life and many more around them.

We complain about traffic while driving slowly or stopped, alone in our carbon polluting cars, trucks and SUV’s -and protest against a high-speed train or other forms of mass transit -because it is “wasteful”.

  • We see poverty in other countries and think “what a shame” or we quickly turn the page or change the channel without thinking about the abject poverty that exists in America.
  • We are distressed when people are killed at a mall -but don’t give much thought to the child that walks to and from school in an area plagued by drive by shootings and violence.
  • We see the parade of people of color being detained on “Cops” because they may have stolen a car, assaulted someone or had drug paraphernalia and are glad they are arrested, convicted and behind bars -yet when a massive fraud created the most severe economic crisis in America since the Great Depression -we patched the system up with taxpayer money -slapped a few wrists and then Congress fought for less regulation and enforcement (and continue to do so).
  • We are shocked about what Lindsey, Miley, Amanda or Justin do next -and could care less that an American drone strike or bomb just killed a group of innocent children or a wedding party in a dangerous place whose name we cannot pronounce.
  • We gather in the tens of millions to watch the Super Bowl or American Idol -but we don’t vote -and then we wonder why our quality of life is being eroded, how wealthy Corporations are now “people” and money is now “speech”. We care less about who you are and more about what you do, what car you drive and what you have.

We claim we are hated for our freedom? I suspect we are admired for our “freedom” and are simply held accountable for what we do with it. In 2008 we were tired of illegal wars and occupation. We were tired of a deregulated business climate that led us to the precipice of economic ruin. We were tired of tax cuts for the wealthy and record deficits. We still believed in the American dream. We had hope again. In 2014 we elected a Congress (whether we voted or not) that will advocate for the same policies that brought us to the brink of economic collapse. And this time -the stakes are much higher -our environment and economic systems are at risk.

What Can We Do?
Each election cycle will be viciously fought from herein, the odds against and the stakes higher. We will be fighting against a monumental wave of money pouring into campaigns, attack ads, media buys and opinions masquerading as news.

We are divided (and conquered) in many ways. The politics of wealth focus on our differences, tell us who to blame and corrupt the system to create cynicism and apathy.

If we are to survive as a nation -we must unite around the things that we agree upon. The last few election cycles have provided insight into how America can win -not how a party wins. There were numerous ballot initiatives placed by citizens that received enough petitions/signatures to become part of the local and/or state ballot. As our legislators have largely failed America for a long time -we can work on American outcomes that “We the People” want, share resources across state and local boundaries and put critical issues to vote from sea to shining sea. While electronic petitions have become popular -we need a mechanism to go beyond the petition and draft American law. There are too many recent examples of massively popular support for an issue that dies in Congress because it is wildly unpopular with the people and industries that are buying Congressional representation.

The outcomes most all Americans want are things like:

  • Legislators and Politicians that will put our communities and country first.
  • Government services that are effective, transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
  • A political and judicial system that is well-insulated from corruption,
  • World class, safe, inspiring K-12 Education.
  • Well-paid educators that will inspire the next generation to learn and go beyond previous generations.
  • Textbooks and education that cover the best body of knowledge we have today -free from political or religious debate.
  • Affordable college and universities.
  • An opportunity for all hard working people to improve their quality of life.
  • Access to high quality, affordable medical, dental, vision and mental health care.
  • Clean air.
  • Safe, clear, good-tasting water.
  • Everyone paying their fair share of taxes.
  • Well-paid first-responders that can afford to live in the communities in which they serve.
  • The economic opportunity to create a better, safer future for our children.
  • Mass transit systems that are inexpensive, fast and efficient.
  • Retirement security for our aging population.
  • Housing, healthcare and services that honor our Veterans.
  • A mechanism to address the out of control economic inequality that has become a cancer to the American economic and political system over the past few generations.
  • Communities that are developed and funded to address abject poverty -so every American can enjoy opportunity, prosperity and truly look forward to a better future.
  • Roads, highways and bridges that are well-maintained and safe.
  • State and National parks to protect pristine areas and coastline for ourselves and future generations of America and the world.

Examples of the type of results we may want to support together (not grounded in political ideology -grounded in concepts and policy that will strengthen America for this and future generations):

  • Election Day Holiday Act: All official Federal, State and Local elections will provide mail-in/absentee balloting beginning at least 30 days prior to Election day and accept ballots until the polls close on Election Day. Election Day will be a paid, nationally recognized American holiday.
  • Political Truth in Advertising: Any content in a political advertisement that is determined to be false or misleading will require a label that identifies the advertisement as false and misleading and will require a response advertisement to the opposing campaign without charge. Furthermore, any attack advertisement will be no longer be exempt from civil libel laws or penalties. A pattern of false advertising will result in criminal fraud charges.
  • Political Funding: No individual, group or organization can provide more than $100 for a campaign. No group or corporation may donate to a campaign outside of the jurisdiction of their HQ.

The outcomes we as Americans want and the method to enact law can be at the local, State or Federal level.

We are developing the “how” we do this -and need your help. We are working on launching a social network called “CivWorks” that protects your privacy, does not sell advertising and provides many of the social features you enjoy today with Facebook, Google+ or other platforms and will use a small monthly subscription fee to fund our initial development, new features and functions that you would find useful and for ongoing not-for-profit operations.

The difference is that we are integrating the features that will allow you to connect with interested or concerned people in your area to work on issues we all care about and how we can either begin ballot initiatives or actually draft and track law we want passed by our local government, State government or Congress -and tracking the bill to see which elected officials support it -and which do not.. Working together on both legislative and budget/appropriation outcomes we want for ourselves, our families, our communities and America -we can shift political power back to “We the People” and create a better America and world for future generations.

Posted by George A. Polisner at 10:27 AM


This Simple Fix Could Lift Hundreds of Thousands of Working Women Out of Poverty

 This Simple Fix Could Lift Hundreds of Thousands of Working Women Out of Poverty

Michelle Chen on June 4, 2014 – 12:51 PM ET
Photo (Courtesy: OUR Walmart, @forrespect)

Lashanda Myrick, a Colorado mother of two, came to Walmart last year seeking a steady job that would help her provide for her children. Instead, she got a job that made it harder to be a mom. When she drops her young daughter off at night at her mother’s house so she can work the overnight shift stocking shelves, she thinks about how her irregular work schedule disrupts her parenting schedule.

“It’s hard not to be able to tuck her in. And it hurts me that my child can’t sleep in her own bed at night. And there’s nothing I can do,” she said at a press conference earlier this week organized by the labor coalition OUR Walmart. “It breaks my heart … because I really have no choice.”

Myrick’s experiences illustrate the ugly duality of the Walmart economy: while consumers enjoy low prices and unlimited selection, workers get low wages and impossible choices. Family versus work, a poverty wage or no job at all.

A new report from the left-leaning think tank Demos reveals the structures of inequality that keep women like Myrick at the lowest rungs of the Big Box retail labor force. Today, researchers found, roughly 1.3 million women working retail jobs live in or near poverty; a typical woman salesperson earns just $10.58 an hour. On top of utterly low wages, women in retail, including many family breadwinners, face a stunning gender gap, typically earning only 72 cents for every dollar earned by male counterparts. That’s a cumulative annual wage deficit of $40.8 billion, equivalent to $381 billion in “lost wages” for women by 2022.

The losses run deeper than their paycheck. Workers skip doctor’s visits because they lack paid leave time and scrimp on groceries to pay the bills. With just 5 percent of retail workers granted paid parental leave, new parents are pressured to rush back to work, potentially jeopardizing their newborn’s health. These day-to-day hardships tax public resources, too, as working-poor families absorb public funds in the form of food stamps, Medicaid and other public assistance programs.

The structural impoverishment is compounded by chaotic, unstable schedules. As we’ve reported before, retail work often puts workers “on call,” with irregular hours that vary weekly or daily.

Meanwhile, the retail sector is expanding rapidly, sucking more workers into the low-wage workforce as middle-income jobs evaporate in the hobbling economic “recovery.”

The lack of job security and union representation deters workers from agitating for better pay and working conditions, perpetuating a cycle of instability and impoverishment in a constantly churning workforce.

But Demos suggests an elegant strategy for addressing multiple inequities at once: a cross-the-board wage hike at large retailers (with 1,000 or more employees). According to the report, raising hourly pay to a level equivalent to $25,000 per year for a full-time worker—about $12.25 an hour—would help close the gender wage gap and lift the poorest workers out of poverty, with trickle-up benefits for the whole labor force.

An estimated 437,000 working women will move out of poverty or near poverty once their wages increase to the new minimum. Family members, too, will benefit from the raise. In all, 371,000 female workers and their family members will leave the ranks of the impoverished. Another 517,000 will rise above the near poverty cutoff.

A mandatory wage hike would be no “job killer,” either. Demos projects that the guaranteed income would actually be an economic boon. More money in low-income workers’ pockets would stimulate consumer spending, boost sales and ultimately add about 105,000 to 136,000 jobs to the workforce. The projected boost to the GDP would range from $12.1 billion to $15.7 billion, the majority generated by women workers.

Relative to the industry’s soaring profits, the additional labor costs would come pretty cheap. The proposed base wage would require a $21.5 billion investment, which represents some 4 percent of the industry’s total 2012 payroll. The effect on retail prices is hard to predict, but even if bosses passed half of those costs on to shoppers, a typical family would pay less than $18 extra over the course of a year—a negligible surcharge for a measure that could help narrow structural income and gender gaps.

Still, $25,000 is not a magic number. Rather, the analysis is framed around a benchmark salary cited by Walmart worker advocates, who note, with outrage, that most of the company’s workers earn less. The proposed hourly pay of $12.25 falls below wage demands put forward by other activists—particularly the $15-per-hour demanded by the fast-food workers’ movement, the citywide campaign that pushed through a $15 wage floor in Seattle, and similar initiatives emerging in other cities.

Aside from a pay raise, women working part-time, who make up an estimated 44 percent of the retail workforce, need an even greater boost to attain a sustainable livelihood. Nearly one in three of those women want full-time work, according to researchers. And even workers who are classified as full-time often see their earnings undermined when their hours are cut back, because under the erratic “just in time” scheduling system, their hours vary wildly depending on fluctuations in inventory.

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So Demos advocates a $12.25 hourly base wage for both full-time and part-time workers. Moreover, to improve overall working conditions, the report urges big retailers to give “involuntary” part-timers more hours, while instituting fairer scheduling practices. Workers should, for example, be informed about their schedules weeks in advance, instead of just days, or be guaranteed a certain number of hours per week, or alternately, a basic weekly pay level, regardless of hours worked.

According to Demos policy analyst Amy Traub, mega-retailers could afford to offer both more hours and more pay, particularly with the added knock-on effects of the elevated wage levels in terms of increased sales. “This is not a poor industry,” Traub says, and given the potential business gains from a better-compensated workforce, “A raise for employees and improving scheduling would be an investment in human capital for these companies.”

Myrick has a different investment in mind, as she goes on strike today as part of the nationwide “Walmart Moms” campaign. “Many times I have to choose between getting shoes for my daughter or my son”, she recalled, “and that’s no choice that a parent should have to make.” As she struggles to balance her work and family needs, a modest raise won’t fix everything, but it might spare her at least one impossible choice.