Tag Archive: poverty

What’s Your Trump Era Top 5?

I’ve been thinking about that scene in Forrest Gump when he runs back and forth across the country for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. He gains a following. People find purpose in what he’s doing. He’s peppered with questions…
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Confirmed: Education Policy Is Entirely Political for @GovChristie

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

Chris Christie, 2013 [all emphases mine]:

“We are doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the President than not. And with Secretary Duncan,” Christie said at 2013 conference for KIPP Public Charter Schools. And he hasn’t been shy about criticizing others in his party for opposing the standard. “I think part of the Republican opposition you see in some corners in Congress is a reaction, that knee-jerk reaction that is happening in Washington right now, that if the president likes something the Republicans in Congress don’t. If the Republicans in Congress like something, the president doesn’t.”

Chris Christie, May 28, 2015:

The governor, speaking at Burlington County College in Pemberton, declared Common Core is “simply not working.” Christie wants to assemble a team to develop a state-based group to develop “new standards right here in New Jersey, not 200 miles away on the banks of the Potomac River.”

The speech is Christie’s first policy speech delivered in New Jersey and his fourth such speech since taking concrete steps toward a presidential campaign. The first three speeches – which included topics such as national security and economic growth – were given in the early presidential voting state of New Hampshire.

“It’s now been five years since Common Core was adopted and the truth is that it’s simply not working,” Christie said.

“It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents and has brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work,”
he said. “Instead of solving problems in our classrooms, it is creating new ones.”

Welcome to Camden, President Obama. Here are some things I think you need to know.


James Harris is the Immediate Past President of New Jersey NAACP (2005-2013). He opposed the abolition of the Camden Police Department as President of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference on grounds it was a racially motivated effort to destroy the Police Union and replace African American and Latino police officers with Whites. He also contended various practices were anti urban, anti- African American/Latino and anti-poor. Further, it was believed the Chief of Police had contributed to poor policing practices in Camden. Harris also chairs the Education Task Force of the New Jersey Black Issues Convention. – Promoted by Rosi

Barack ObamaWelcome to Camden, New Jersey Mr. President. I am happy to see you visit Camden New Jersey, one of the poorest and most dangerous cities in the United States of America.

Mr. President, I sincerely hope that you will talk to some residents other than the elected officials who are completely controlled by the political bosses who have created the conditions that allowed Camden to become and remain poor and dangerous for so long.

I hope you do not endorse the process that has led up to the propaganda of dramatic improvements in Camden public safety. You should not endorse the fact that Mayor Dana Redd fired more than 267 Camden police officers, who represented the most racially and ethnically diverse police department in New Jersey (over 75% African American and Latino). I hope you do not endorse the fact the “new” Camden Metro Police Department was created by the political bosses in Camden County to destroy the Police Union that was led by African Americans and who were operating under a Union contract that had been negotiated and signed while Camden was under state supervision.

Mr. President, I hope you will understand that the firing of this racially diverse police department was implemented with a agreement by the all-White New Jersey Civil Service Commission, which voted to eliminate the rules that allowed public employees to legally challenge unfair and unjust treatment.

I hope you will not encourage the continuation of policies and procedures that are racially discriminatory and violate all the most important values supported by the NAACP and other civil and human rights organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

An Air-brushed State of the City Address in Camden

Cross-posted from the Local Knowledge Blog.

“Air-brushing” Camden – DAMN – that’s the perfect phrase. Thanks, Stephen, for this post about what the Christie administration and official and corporate Camden refuse to give a damn about. THIS POST is what they should be reading. – Rosi

No matter how skeptical I am walking into the building, the shark room in the Camden Aquarium always takes my breath away. It’s majestic. It gives any event a little gravity. Not that the Cooper’s Ferry Annual Meeting, featuring the mayor’s State of the City Address, needed more pomp and circumstance. It had every Camden dignitary, politician, potential developer or cheerleader possible (and they were all thanked more than once). But the meeting made me sad. It made me sad because it was a dishonest conversation about Camden. The Narrative (with a capital N) was that everything is fixed, everything is getting better, everything is hopeful. But to make that case, the speakers had to hide the real Camden, the one I know and love. I long for the day that we can stand in front of developers and tell them about Camden as we know it, not about a 5 block radius of downtown, and talk about Camden’s diversity and history as assets, not something to sweep under the rug. I walked into the aquarium wanting to hear a pitch for Camden that asked people to be a part of what was already here, not pine about a mythical shining city that fails to resemble the city we live in.

Burden of Reformy Proof

Cross-posted with Jersey Jazzman.

I’ll keep this short, as I can’t believe I actually have to write this down:

I see a lot of arguments in social media and blogs and editorial pages and elsewhere along these lines:

“American education is a disaster! We must do something! And you can’t prove that my proposed reforms won’t work!”

This argument makes no sense for at least three reasons:

Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon: Inane and On the Job

Cross Posted from My Blog: http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

As the nation continues to pull out of the most devastating economic downturn in a half-century, New Jersey lags behind. From most credible points of view – statistically, academically, and though plain observation, The Great Recession never ended here. Instead, it continues to grind on under the completely inept, arrogant leadership of a largely absentee governor in hot pursuit of national office. Here in the Garden State, joblessness, poverty, deteriorating social services and a dangerous wealth gap continue like it’s still 2008.

Tip O’Neal, the late, great speaker of the House of Representatives once said “all politics is local.” Upon considering his famous phrase, I began to think how my local legislators (I live in the Princeton area, or District 16) are reacting to this ongoing crisis. The State Legislature is absolutely the most powerful governmental entity in this state – and any state. While frequently divided, if a state legislature has enough political will, I can quickly take the reigns of power and direction from a governor and make him or her bend to its will. Only the legislature has the power to raise taxes, spend money, and make law. Any governor, however much in possession of personality or constitutional authority, has little or no clout in the face of a determined legislature. And let it also be said that the New Jersey legislature has the ability to impeach and remove the governor or any of his appointees.

So with Christie on his constant interstate adventures, who is minding the store? Well, it’s not the legislature, and especially not the lawmakers in my district. And if I could point out any legislator who is more out of touch, more uninterested in directly tackling the state’s numerous and very serious problems, it’s Republican Assemblywoman Donna Simon. When it comes to politicians who seemingly operate on a form of cruise control to nowhere, she takes the cake.

Just consider three bills she’s either sponsoring or co-sponsoring in the current legislative session. Now before I go into the bills, allow me to explain why I’m not nitpicking. Proposed Bills mean a lot to legislators and their constituents. Bills are the only solid, tangible indicator of what a particular politician seeks to achieve. Legislators can make speeches and all kinds of promises during campaigns, but only through their bills do they really have any chance of implementing actual ideas. So these proposals really ‘count’ and ought to be considered as the most genuine reflection of what a politician is contemplating and has to offer.

Again, Simon’s interesting ‘trinity’ of bills amply demonstrate what makes her faulty clock tick.

First, there is A3104, or more straightforwardly (and I’ve named it) the “New Jersey Gun Control Repeal Act.” This bill is perhaps the most radical, most right-wing, most reactionary proposal of the entire legislative session. It’s right out of Alabama. The bill would effectively eliminate most if not all forms of gun control in the state. It would enable county officials to undercut gun control laws by having the power to issue firearms identification cards, but that’s not the most extreme part. The bill, if ever passed, would transform the New Jersey into a “shall issue” state for people seeking to get licenses to carry concealed weapons. Under the bill, any person qualified to purchase and own a firearm (again, which would be a simplified process on the county level) would be entitled to pack heat.

So basically, if Simon’s bill were brought to lawful fruition, New Jersey would quickly be transformed into another version of Florida, complete with nonstop daytime shootouts at convenience stores and weekly household massacres. Oh, and of course, there’s the ever-present possibility of another Newtown slaughter.

Firearms aside, Simon’s also turned her attention not to pressing issues like cancer research at Rutgers, or student poverty, but to one of the most imperative issues today: Parents who face the nightmare of a court ordering them to pay for their kids’ college education. Yes, she actually wrote a bill, A4070, addressing this predicament directly. It would bar N.J. courts from ordering any parents to pay for college. I’ll call it the “Good Look Kid, You’re On Your Own Act.” Though her party ostensibly champions the notion of “Family Values,” apparently Simon thinks that this personal form of parental betrayal ought to be enshrined in law itself. You can’t make this stuff up.

Then there’s the icing in the cake. A bill so perceptibly ridiculous, so hideously unnecessary, so completely silly, that it more than demonstrates her aloofness from the everyday concerns of residents. Again, does the bill fund our ailing highways and bridges? Does it enable the students of Camden to learn in a decent environment by requiring its schools provide heat? Is this a bill that aims to bring billions of dollars to Atlantic City so that coastal community doesn’t literally fall into the sea? Nah. Simon’s ‘best’ bill, A3012, bans bestiality. Yes, you read that correctly. Simon’s not concerned with the chaotic gun violence in Trenton. She’s apparently not losing any sleep over the horrendous, months-long delays for families applying for Medicaid. No, she wants to direct the state’s attention against the real enemy: people who French kiss their dogs. Now I’m not a person who advocates bestiality – but there was one time that my dog Dusty greeted me at the door and licked my face. So for all I know, depraved pet owners like me could be in Simon’s crosshairs.

Donna Simon. Yes, she’s thinking outside the box. Far outside of it. Really, miles away from it. She’s floating away from the box, to the point where it’s become a visible speck. Perhaps she’s laughing, perhaps not, but the joke is on us. As New Jersey continues to flounder, Simon and her pals remain focused on complete and utter nonsense. They get away with it because we let them.  

Our Statistical Dreamworld Belies a Deteriorating NJ Poverty Crisis

Politicians and governments love words. Words can be powerful. They can motivate, inspire and promote. But they can also deceive. And it is primarily a level of deception, employed by a whole host of words, that is leading a major disconnect. It is the big lie that is right in front of us, and it can be summed up in a simple question: if the recession is apparently over (statistically speaking), why is the majority of New Jersey’s population suffering on a level unprecedented in living memory?

To tackle this important question, we have to take a two-pronged approach. First, we must see how we’re being deceived into thinking that life is improving when it is absolutely not. Secondly, we need to look at real, working models of how to bring the unemployed and underemployed genuine relief and a measure of security.

First, let’s tackle the deception. There was no “Great Recession.” It never began and it never ended. Recessions are typtically temporary economic phenomena, witnessed in cyclical fashion in all industrialized economies. We had one in the 1970’s. We had one in the early 80’s. It was a situation characterized by stagnant economic growth and a degree of unemployment. In every instance, the economy contracted, then within two or three years expanded again. Sometimes state and federal authorities helped things along; at other times it was simply the dynamics of our terrifying yet dynamic capitalist system that moved mountains. The economic situation that we’re experiencing now is approaching a decade in duration. So again, there was no “Great Recession.”

What is happening, what began as early as the first term of President George W. Bush, was a Second Great Depression. And it’s not over yet, not by a long shot. In fact, unless government steps in at all levels, this current, regressive economic state will become the “new normal.” In other words, America will become a Third World Nation, with an advanced developed lifestyle enjoyed by only a fraction of the population. Pictures of this way of life are available on the web; just go to Google Images and type in “Guatemala City” or “Karachi, Pakistan.”

The deception isn’t conspiratorial, its roots lie in traditional government methods. Its primary source is our current method of detecting key economic statistics, namely, the rates of unemployment and poverty. Current state and federal measurements of these two vital indicators are now so off the mark that even those of us who aren’t economists suspect that something’s wrong.

First, consider our ‘official’ unemployment rate. It doesn’t measure those people who have either dropped out of or been shut out of the workforce. It doesn’t take the underemployed into account. According to the Federal Government, the current rate hovers around 6.2 percent. From the point of view of any modern industrialized nation, that’s not too bad. Think about what this number means. For every 100 workers out there, this statistic stipulates that only 6 or 7 are out of a job. Yet to adults on the ground, we know that this number might as well apply to alien abductions in Nevada. Out of all the people I know, it would be safe to say that half if not more are either underemployed or not working. I turn on my television and see mostly ads for payday loans and access to black lung lawsuit settlements. So who is correct, my unscientific assumptions based on my own personal observations, or that of the government with its army of bureaucrats, statisticians and economists? I’m starting to think mine are.

And then there is the national poverty rate. Again, the government’s numbers are the stuff of pure fantasy. According to today’s Star-Ledger, for a family of four (!) the level hovers around $23,000 annually. Yet I have many neighbors, friends and family who make close to double that and are teetering on the edge of disaster after paying their monthly rent and utilities. I’ve got neighbors who tell me to be careful when pulling into my parking lot, not just because their kids are playing in the area, but because they haven’t been able to pay their auto insurance for the past four months. Again, when it comes to determining our economic state, who is accurate? Who is being deceived?

This week, New Jersey got its answer. The United Way, one of the state’s most respected and experienced charitable organizations, released a major report providing a more straightforward and accurate rendition of current conditions. The report said that 38 percent of households – which is almost half of the state – are “struggling to meet basic needs.” What are these needs? Medical care. Dental care. Child care. Transportation. Housing. You know, the basic features of life that make America a First World Nation. These struggling families – and their numbers are growing – are called “ALICE households,” the name standing for: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

Once this new standard is applied, the results conform “mysteriously” to what so many of us already see in the Garden State. For example, in urban Trenton, 76 percent of all households are at ALICE levels or below. In suburban seaside Wildwood, the number stands at 71 percent. In troubled Newark the number is 68 percent. These monumentally high indicators tell us that Third World conditions have already arrived, more or less, for an overwhelming majority of families in these diverse, radically different locales. But the Check Engine light is even on, and steadily so, in Princeton. A wealthy town filled with secure families, right? It’s got a 30 percent ALICE rate; 11 percent of households in that leafy university town are solidly below the poverty line.

As the ALICE rate increases, it sends an even more ominous message. America, and New Jersey in particular, is still a land of social mobility, but today, the direction of this mobility is moving inexorably downward.

This is the rate that we, as a political polity, should be using to correctly and accurately gauge our current economic and social state.

So what do we do about it? What can we do about it? We can’t wait for the economy to turn around this time, because this isn’t a recession, it’s a Depression. We have experienced this for almost a decade now, and it continues in New Jersey. If current trends continue for, say, the next ten years, we’ll lose an entire generation to debt, despair, illness and dysfunction. This slide is still in its early stages, and it doesn’t seem to be reversing due to the magic of the market.

What we need is comprehensive welfare reform and a complete reordering of our state’s political and economic priorities. We need to stop hating each other and reacting to the woes of our neighbors with glee or advice characteristic of the days of Western Expansion. We need to stop our war on our schools and teachers because they’re not the problem. We need to get our kids off the street. We need to increase access to job training and technology. No, I’m not calling for a communist revolution. Communism doesn’t work. I’m not calling for an oligarchic state, as it exists in Mainland China. That won’t work in the long-term either. What seems to work, what seems to keep societies from completely going off the deep end, can be found on a pleasant, green Island in the North Atlantic. Known for its experience with tidal waves of poverty, occupation and injustice, it seems to have developed a comprehensive, yet modest system to keep its people afloat in good times and bad. I’m talking about Ireland.

More on this in my next post.  


Where Will All the Boys Go?

I’m pulling this up top again today to make sure as many people as possible see it. Are Gov. Christie’s brave new world reformers even aware of this kind of research? let alone conducting it themselves with the vast power they exercise over the Camden district and its kids? Do they even care? Promoted by Rosi, with thanks to Julia, and to her Rutgers colleague Stephen Danley, at whose excellent site, Local Knowledge Blog, Julia first published this today.

Imagine turning your public schools over to a private corporation that is unaccountable to your community; has no experience educating children like those attending your public schools; and forces most of the boys to leave before graduation?

That is exactly what the Christie Administration is doing in Camden.

The Administration is transferring control of public education to three out-of-state charter corporations – KIPP, Mastery and Uncommon Schools – that are completely unaccountable to the people of Camden.  The corporations will take hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars from existing Camden public and charter schools to build or renovate and operate 16 new renaissance charter schools.*

The three charter corporations are aggressively marketing themselves and their new facilities to Camden parents and could quickly account for 9,300 of the district’s almost 15,000 publicly-funded spots, leading to the closure of the majority of Camden’s public and charter schools.