Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Hard Times (part 1)

The other day a consumer was listening to a conversation between two service providers when she suddenly leaned forward and asked me what the word “poverty” meant. Although she didn’t realize it, on that subject she was an expert. She knew all about ‘living poor’ on public assistance, about using her Medicaid card to get the medication she needed, and stretching out her food stamps so they lasted until the end of the month.

But “poverty”? What did that mean?

Eleven years ago, the 2000 Census recorded that 12.4% of the total U.S. population were below the poverty line. The 2010 Census indicated a 2.4% increase of Americans living in poverty, causing the U.S. poverty level totals to rise to 14.8%. More telling is that 25% of disabled persons are living in poverty in the United States.

Yet Congress recently voted to cut $61 billion in funding for programs that poor families broadly utilize, such as Head Start, community health centers and nutrition programs for women, infants and children. An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that of $4.32 trillion in proposed spending cuts not tied to the phase-down of war, $2.9 trillion are in cuts to low-income programs.

Of those low income programs, there has been a strong focus on ‘reforming’ entitlement programs that include essential health care services. Some activists and economists have wondered whether the proposed ‘reforms’ have profoundly flawed math and values. Will Medicare ‘go broke’ if members of Congress don’t agree with what seems to be a fiscal ‘three card monte’ game that shifts costs from one source, the government, and slides those costs onto seniors? Is Congress really concentrating on finding conscientious ways to contain expanding health care costs under Medicaid or are they just trying to find quick and expedient grounds to allow states to cut back on key services and eligibility in the form of a ‘block grant’?

Block granting entitlements is not new. In the mid-1990’s the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) was among the first such programs to be ‘block granted’. Even as poverty increases across the country, states have wide latitude to restrict cash benefits to needy families. They can also set inflexible work requirements that often fail to consider the recipient’s disabilities, literacy, child care or transportation needs. States can also prevent families from receiving benefits if they don’t meet those mandated work requirements and restrict TANF beneficiaries from counting job training or higher education as part of their work requirement. The result: some recipients to must accept low paying jobs with little hope or opportunity for advancement.

As concerned Americans it would irresponsible to ignore or dismiss our country’s uncertain fiscal health. As citizens we must get involved and insist that our voices be heard and that our legislators seek long term solutions towards a balanced budget that doesn’t harshly and unfairly cut fundamental services for millions of other Americans.

- Kate F.


  1. I am still waiting for a reply to the lengthy email I sent RCIL a month ago with suggestions on how to improve circumstances in Utica for people with disabilities like me.

    Approx 90% of the tenants in my building--Genesee Tower are disabled. We have a bulletin board downstairs. It would be nice to see a post for newcomers and other disabled tenants from RCIL notifying them of services that many if most of them are not aware of.

    OUTREACH.......OUTREACH.........OUTREACH!!!!!!!!!!!! Checkout what's happening with outreach at the Finger Lakes Independent Living Center in Ithaca.

    Please reply to my email.--Peter Gumaer Ogden: Rebel.

  2. Please DO NOT delete the above post.

    Is it that those who were once young fiery activists have become the politically correct bureaucrats, The System, and now certain members of their establishment seek to block current grassroots advocates from "rocking the boat?"

  3. PS that was a terrific post Kate--Seriously! You are a terrific person and I think you should be nominated for the RCIL award this year. I am absolutely dead serious.--Peter Gumaer Ogden

  4. A few notes on what poverty in America is:

    1. Most bureuacrats do not respond to your inquiries.
    2. You don't dare question authority because you are afraid.
    3. Few people pay attention to you or visit you because they see no material gain in that.
    4. Not enough food.
    5. Having to walk for 8 years in all types of weather carrying heavy bags of groceries, heavy furniture, a mattress, etc., etc. because no one with a car will help you. [although for the record Kate F helped me once with a computer].
    6. Poor: Not daring to challenge corrupt government authorities who abuse your rights.
    7.Foregoing medical checkups and dental because of questionable competence of some Medicaid doctors.
    8. Fellow church members happy to help poor people in New Guinea but not you their neighbor as it's too close for comfort.
    9. Watching the world fly by you in warm cars while you schlep along on foot in freezing ice and snow carrying heavy bags of groceries. You are a shadow. No on cares.
    10. Unable to apply for the majority of jobs because you have no transportation.
    11. missing out on the vast majority of life's social activities and opportunities because you have no vehicle and no one will give you a ride.
    12. Having one pair of $20 sneakers. One pair of old shoes you bought at the thrift store for $2.
    13.Having the uncontrollable habit of peeking into public trash cans for returnables.
    14. If you are creative or outspoken and known to be dirt poor you are regarded as "crazy" whereas when you have $ this behavior is dismissed as "eccentric."
    15. Can't afford air conditioning an d having to sweat in bed all nite unable to sleep.
    16. Sleeping on the floor for a year because you can't afford a bed.
    17. Having the pleasure of eating in soup kitchens amidst unwashed, smelly, sometimes violent, drooling fellow diners.
    18. Trying to figure out how to cut your hair.
    19. No access to legal representation when you have been robbed.
    20. You can only afford an apartment that is so small you can barely move around in it and have to do almost everything while lying on the floor.
    21. Dumpster diving.

    Walking, walking, walking for miles and miles. In 9 years of walking how many good people have offered me a ride? Maybe 10. ..and how many of them believe themselves to be good Christians. Jews, Muslims, etc? Even people in my own church unwilling to help me get a ride to church. Hypocrites!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I could go on--this is just the tip of the iceberg.

    As the main character in Howard's End said--and this speaks to the larger truth in America today; "The poor are the poor, you feel sorry for them...and that's that." --Peter Gumaer Ogden

  5. oh..and not to forget...and it's the gods honest truth: wearing used underpants from the church's free clothes closet. HA! HA! HA! the poor are so amusing aren't we.

  6. PPS I dare you to delete the above posts by PGO Rebel.

  7. Hi Peter;

    There is nothing and no one preventing any citizen from speaking at their City Hall, writing or emailing or calling their elected officials, starting their own personal Blog, writing Letters to the Editor, or in any way protesting a system of actions they disagree with.
    By moving closer to your true beliefs, you become part of the positive change you seek.
    I urge you to find your own pathway towards justice and peace.

    Kate F