Author Archive: njppwhiten

Economic Opportunity is Slip Slidin’ Away for Most New Jerseyans

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As you may have read in the press and here on Blue Jersey, yesterday the US Census released new comprehensive data from 2012 on incomes, demographics, poverty and more. The picture for New Jersey, unfortunately, is not a pretty one. In the post-recession period from 2009 to 2012, New Jersey has seen: Fewer households in the middle class, lower median incomes, greater income inequality and dramatic increases in poverty.

As my colleague Ray Castro explains in an Issue Brief we released yesterday, “three years into the national recovery, New Jersey’s middle class is worse off and poverty is deepening for already-poor families.”

New Jersey was one of only five states in the country to see an increase in family poverty from 2011 to 2012, and one in ten residents now live below the official federal poverty level. Even more – one in four – live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is considered a better measurement of true hardship in high-cost New Jersey.

poverty

One place we can clearly see the impact of increasing poverty and strain on the middle class is the dramatic increase in the share of New Jersey households who are receiving food stamps: That share rose to 9.3 percent in 2012, up from 5.5 percent in 2009 (it was 8 percent in 2011). In other words, the share of households requiring food stamps jumped by an alarming 69 percent in just three years. Yet the House GOP voted just last night to cut the SNAP program. (We should thank New Jersey’s two Republican Congressmen – LoBiondo and Smith – who stood up to their party and voted no.)

The stats are disturbing, and worth a look – but the solutions are equally important, because there are actions the state can take to help reverse this slide:

• Restore the 20 percent cut in the state Earned Income Tax Credit which mainly helps working families with children

• Increase the eligibility level for WorkFirst NJ, which now provides temporary cash assistance to less than half the families with children in poverty

• Increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation

• Maintain housing programs that support struggling working families

• Increase state efforts to provide health insurance to poor and working families under the Affordable Care Act

• Invest in high-quality preschool for more children from poor families

• Strongly oppose proposed draconian federal cutbacks in food stamps, unemployment insurance, health coverage and other safety net programs

Who Has Time for the Flu? How to Fight Illness With Smart Policy

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One of the simplest and most crucial ways to prevent the spread of flu is for people with the infection to stay home so as to avoid infecting others. Sounds simple enough, but for the 1.2 million New Jersey workers without access to earned sick days, it’s not so simple.

After the jump, check out the full op-ed (originally published on NJ Spotlight) connecting this crucial public health issue with the movement to ensure all workers are able to take time off for illness without losing a paycheck or, worse, a job.

AZ’s Republican Gov Embraces Medicaid Expansion. NJ’s Needs To Do the Same

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has become just the third Republican governor in the country to opt in to a crucial piece of Obamacare: the Medicaid expansion. Brewer, a Republican, did so even though she continues to oppose the Affordable Care Act in principle.

With the feds picking up nearly all of the costs, it’s no wonder Gov. Brewer came to her senses and opted in to the expansion, which will help boost Arizona’s economy while providing health coverage to those in need.

Your move, Gov. Christie.

For background on why the expansion is a no-brainer, check out these two recent NJPP reports: 9 Great Reasons to Expand Medicaid in New Jersey Now and Another Reason to Expand Medicaid: Working New Jerseyans in Most Occupations Would Benefit

The Graphics Tell the Story of NJ’s Growing Income Inequality

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NJPP has a new Issue Brief on income inequality out this morning, culled from a comprehensive state-by-state analysis of income trends. The findings – that the Garden State has among the largest, and growing, income gaps between rich and poor – are certainly bleak, but many of the key facts are eloquently and simply explained in a series of infographics produced by our national partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute.

Take a look, share the images with your friends, and then check out the Issue Brief – which includes how we think New Jersey’s leaders can work to stem the tide of inequality – and weigh in with your thoughts.

As a standalone, this pretty much sums it up:

And this is the series of graphics all put together:

Three Reasons to Vote ‘Yes’ on Question 1

With a presidential election and the devastation of Sandy, it’s no wonder that little space or attention has been given to the “Building Our Future” referendum question on Tuesday’s ballot.

But it’s still important to vote “yes” on the ballot question – NJPP president Gordon MacInnes lays out the 3 big reasons why in this blog post (after the jump) cross-posted from NJPP.org.

The Governor Needs to Come Home and Sell the Higher-Ed Bond Issue

As Blue Jersey readers are well-aware, the governor’s been out of state A LOT lately, campaigning for a wide array of GOP candidates. The latest piece from NJPP’s Gordon MacInnes argues that the governor needs to be at home campaigning instead for New Jersey’s future – in the form of the higher education bond issue that’s on our ballot.

An excerpt:

It’s a proposal the governor supports – after all, he signed the bill that put the measure on the ballot – and argues for it emphatically and effectively on occasion. But for the sake of the future of our state and our students he must do so more often as the November 6 vote approaches.

Read the full piece after the jump…

Labor Day and the Myth of Playing by the Rules

Some thoughts on the United Way’s new ALICE study from NJPP president Gordon MacInnes:

Productivity is up, but wages are down.

Corporate profits and retained earnings are up, but family income is down.

Your neighbors who “play by the rules” – those who work full-time to support their families and give their kids a better chance than they had – are sliding backwards on this Labor Day.