Monthly Archives: February, 2013

Millions of white and black pupils in poverty need city services for neighborhoods, not gentrification

The number of children in poverty from Kids Count show 4.082 million African American, 5.225 million non-Hispanic white, and 5.814 million Hispanic. Half of the Hispanic total (an ethnic measure of origin in Spain or South and Central America, including Mexico) is half white race and half black race.

Removing the ethnic division, the racial totals would be 6.989 million black and 8.132 million white. A common sense analysis says that students of all races always do better in well-funded schools, while living in good neighborhoods, and do poorly in low-funded schools, while living in bad neighborhoods.

For example, public school students in Philadelphia are served poorly by their school system, and even worse by their city government. After 18 years of publishing a newspaper there, it was apparent that city services were diverted from all neighborhoods to invest in civic centers, stadiums, center city revitalization and gentrification. Meanwhile, the neighborhoods were crushed with abandoned cars, few police and crumbling roads. School buildings rotted. Teachers were paid half of their suburban counterparts.

My newspaper served a primarily African-American community, and city services were just as good or bad as in the white neighborhoods. Many businesses, on the other hand, shunned locating in the community, and closed stores, citing the usual “demographics” claim. Facts, such as our 89% home ownership, did not sway marketing opinions.

After some years of effort by folks like Rep. Dwight Evans, business began to move in by the droves, but it required community pressure on downtown powers to make it happen. While much of that racial prejudice has subsided since that period of the 80s, the bitter prejudice against poverty continues.

Children need a good environment and good teachers. Most cities spend their tax money supporting sports teams and giving tax breaks to developers and campaign contributors. Real estate assessments are pushed way down for new bank buildings, but sales taxes nickle and dime poor residents.

Children need parents with decent jobs, employment that pays more than below poverty wages. Children need decent homes, not rat holes allowed by payoffs to city inspectors. Children need public transit, so they can visit museums and cultural centers at minimal cost. Children need after school clubs, school bands and orchestras, art classes, all items on the chopping block of politicians who think heroism is making someone else miserable.

Poverty feeds on itself. Companies don’t want to open in poor neighborhoods. Smart children grow up and move out of bad neighborhoods. So, the secret is not “fixing” schools, but fixing neighborhoods and cities and business investment. City leaders must begin to focus on fewer civic centers and more rec centers, fewer stadiums and more quality schools, fewer clubhouses and more boys and girls clubs.

$6,000 healthcare deductible lowers birth rate in the U.S. and keeps many from marrying

Some pundits have recently commented on other blogs that the birth rate seems to be declining among middle class citizens.

In my opinion much of this terrible trend is caused by economics – newly minted healthcare insurance plans that no longer just require co-pays, but have a huge first contribution.
When a family has to pay the first $6,000 in healthcare costs in a year – having a baby is suddenly a very expensive proposition, especially if you are below the median $32,000 annual earnings level.
It doesn’t impact Medicaid pregnancies for the poor (virtually no cost), nor do the rich consider $6,000 much more than chump change.
A single plan doesn’t cover any costs of pregnancy. And if you get a family plan when already pregnant, it doesn’t cover childbirth or its complications, if any.
So, it is not just inequality of income that is threatening to destroy the middle class, it is the extreme costs of having a baby, even with insurance.
Another result of this high healthcare pregnancy cost is its affect on marriage rates. A single woman with no income qualifies for Medicaid, which pays for her childbirth at no real cost to her. If married most women would find that their husband’s income raises their family to a level that does not qualify for Medicaid. Not surprisingly, folks figure out what is best for their finances and don’t get married, as shown by declining marriage rates.

We should not use our Social Security worker contributions to pay for general welfare programs

The day after the President’s State of the Union address, many pundits are concerned with his reference to Social Security, a subject he continues to toss out as a bargaining chip with the GOP.  

Social Security is a worker program that has been used as a welfare program. Our 13.4% contributions (you plus your boss) should pay for a decent pension when we get to 65 (why not 60?), just as the law was intended. If there is to be a minimum pension (there is) for folks who did not pay into the system, those funds should not come from workers, but from general funds, which would allow the rich to contribute to welfare, not just the middle class. If there are to be disability payments, they should come from general funds. Ditto, death benefits, etc.
Other countries divide Social Security into a guaranteed amount, plus an amount determined by how much you contribute. The guaranteed amount has nothing to do with the retirement amount you earned.
The rich don’t want their taxes raised one penny to pay for a guaranteed pension or to pay for disability or to pay for death benefits. The rich don’t want to pay for anything that the average person receives. It’s not just that they disdain everyone but their class, it’s also because being greedy helps them stay rich.
Sadly, Americans also receive much lower benefits from Social Security than folks in other countries, in the 35% range for the middle class, although 90% in the poor class (where often there is virtually no contribution). Germany, for example, returns about 70% of previous wage levels in benefits, or about twice what we get here.
The President is obviously listening to his friends at CAP , people like Roger Altman, William Daley, John Podesta, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers – in my opinion all from the corporate stooge club that wants lower income taxes for the rich and higher taxes for the middle class, while pretending to be liberals. 
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