Tag Archive: poverty

The REAL Objection to Adequate School Funding

Cross-posted from Jersey Jazzman.

Every once in a while, the school defunders give away the game:

[NJ State Senator Mike] Doherty [R- Tea Party] also brought up what he said was another broken promise from Christie. He said the governor had promised to make equal school funding a key theme of the 2013 campaign, in which all 120 seats in the Legislature were up for grabs. He expanded on that when I spoke to him Friday.

“It was the perfect issue for putting Democratic suburban legislators on the defensive and rallying our suburban base,” said Doherty. “But instead of fighting for school funding, it was all about running for higher office.” [emphasis mine]

Poverty’s Terrifying Specter Haunts 600,000 of Jersey’s Children

Like Marie Antoinette entertaining at Versailles, our state policymakers continue to debate and propose a myriad of new laws and regulations that, as usual, address rather marginal issues. Smoking on the beach? Sure, Trenton’s debating on it. Animal cruelty? We’ve got loads of proposed bills on that one. Internet decency and bullying? Absolutely…the Garden State’s reps are all over that. But in the midst of all of this legislative excellence came really big news. News, of course, that after its initial reporting was tucked away, forgotten, marginalized, even by a so-called “Progressive” Democratic majority in the Legislature.

The shocking informationemerged earlier this month from the yearly “Kids Count” report of the highly respected Advocates for Children of New Jersey. The raw number, one that is hard to hide, is shameful and highly indicative of our state’s inexorable slide into a Third World status. One third of New Jersey’s Children – over 600,000 – are living in a de facto state of poverty. And more than half of those children – some 300,000 – are living in a state of extreme poverty.

We’re not talking about adults here. We’re not examining the numbers of New Jerseyans who, in fine right-wing fashion, are expected to resolve their own poverty through the magic of full-time employment. We are talking about kids. Remember them? They are the people that we, as a state, are collectively responsible for. No, this isn’t a socialistic jibe. I’m not proposing a Communist nirvana. I’m simply stating that the children of our state – well over a half million of them – are in desperate crisis.

Six Hundred Thousand. The number needs to be fleshed out. What does 600,000 look like? Try imagining a sold out Yankee stadium. Then stretch that thought to embrace 10 or 11 of them, all filled to capacity, with every seat, from the prime locales along the first base line to the seats in the distant rafters, occupied by a child. And all kids, nothing but kids. This isn’t Rio de Janiero, Mumbai, Damascus or some other Third World city. This is New Jersey, right now.

As an educator/blogger with a profound interest in our state’s fascinating history, I think this present level of poverty can only be described as Dickensian. Charles Dickens remains famous for his descriptive and touching stories concerning those who were desperately poor in an era of declining social mobility, insecure employment and a callous, uncaring state. From this mid-19th century British writer we get such classics as A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. His stories are filled with such terrors as urban starvation, brutal bosses and environmental degradation. With no meaningful social safety net to depend on, Dickens characters, regardless of class, were continually filled with the terror of sliding into hapless poverty. Doubtless to say 600,000 of our state’s children would probably fit into one or two of Dickens’ novels, and neatly at that.

Just like today, during Dickens’ era of the mid-1800’s, New Jersey had an abysmal record in caring for its poor. During that era there was a so-called ‘answer’ to poverty, and one that is still hinted at by politicians on the right today. It went by many names – the poorhouse, the workhouse, the almshouse. But in all its manifestations it was a ghastly place where the poor were forced to work for their bread and shelter, frequently under the supervision of municipally-appointed masters or bosses that amply represented a state that so despised the unfortunate. The workhouse was a destination of last resort – much like our homeless shelters of today. It was a place of utter humiliation.

One of the worst examples emerged out of Paterson in September 1867. The city’s so-called Almshouse was at the center of a well-publicized scandal involving its city-appointed Steward, a man by the name of Sigler.

During the course of the state’s investigation of him, Sigler’s victims testified to the horrific conditions of the almshouse. Current and former residents reported that Sigler had repeatedly abused those under his care. He routinely whipped people who were clearly mentally ill, banishing some of them to rooms where they subsequently froze to death. Additionally, many children were under his supervision placed there by the state and parents who could not afford to care for them. Kids who gave him trouble were routinely lashed by an instrument of torture that can only be described as a smaller version of a cat o’ nine tails. Bed-wetters and other young “troublemakers” were regularly deprived of meals and punished in other cruel ways.

It is interesting to note that even during his trial, the authorities made no move to separate Sigler from the residents, a fact that at least one publication stated was “for political reasons.” Sigler was under the protection of a higher authority.

Through my research I was unable to find out if Sigler was ultimately convicted and punished. But that’s not really the point. The point is that in this age of wireless Internet and email, our state, by allowing such a huge number of children – 600,000 – to remain and fester in poverty, is committing a moral outrage – a sin – equal in every way to Sigler’s.

Helping these kids is something that is going to take bold leadership, big ideas and yes, money. This problem is so huge that it makes the debate over abolishing reality transfer fees rather laughable. These kids need help, now. We’ve got to get them out of this modern-day version of the poorhouse.  

Posted on: http://kurzglobe.blogspot.com/…

At CPAC: Awesome Empty Chairs & Awesome Chris Christie

Yesterday, the same day as Gov. Christie’s speech was delivered to a standing-O but plenty of empty seats (as Paul Mulshine notes), John Hudak, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and editor of their Fix Gov blog made this observation:

But when did the room fill up? Right afterward, as Hudak notes, when that panel ran over and into Wayne LaPierre’s time.

And that about says it all for CPAC. Except for that New Jersey  governor they gave 15 minutes of stage time to yesterday. One of the things Christie did do, in a speech that never mentioned his scandals, dropping polls or scrutiny of his Sandy spending, was to mock income inequality as a legitimate issue. While 24.7% of his constituents are living in poverty. And that about says it all for Gov. Chris Christie.

Hat/tip to Daily Kos for Hudak’s first tweet.  

I voted.

Cory Booker & Marsha ShapiroI voted just now. I voted for the guy on the left. There’s an exuberance about this picture that really gets to me. Partly because that’s my friend Marsha Shapiro with Cory, but mostly because of him. It’s Marsha’s name, along with her partner Louise Walpin’s, and Garden State Equality’s, on New Jersey’s marriage equality lawsuit. And Marsha’s beautiful engagement ring – Louise proposed – is big news in my little circle of friends. Hard-won.

Cory Booker and I went, separately, to our first GSE meeting – as invited guests. His support was early, a big deal because he came out of Newark.

I didn’t vote for Cory in the Primary. I voted for my old boss, Rush Holt. Some people I respect are looking past 2013 to next year. One is Bob Braun, who calls Booker “so mysterious he qualifies to be the Manchurian Candidate”. I get it. I’m looking past 2013 too. Booker, assuming he’s elected tonight, has a lot of hoops to jump through for me. And maybe you.  I see both good and bad in him. I think he’s capable of being, right out of the box, a standout leader in a stuffy chamber of 50 100. It will depend where he shines his lights.

There’s a lot I disagree with him about; chief is his approach to education, and his wooing of Wall Street. But when he and my friend Loretta Weinberg stepped into the LGBT Caucus together at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year, the cheer was enormous. There aren’t that many black elected leaders in that movement. But not just that. This morning, my friend Deborah Jacobs – past ED of ACLU-NJ, now VP for Advocacy at Ms. Foundation – posted her reasons for voting Booker. And, in my little circle of friends, Deborah’s opinion looms large. She lives in Newark; I’ve rarely heard her say much good about her mayor.

But what she says is right. Lonegan’s unacceptable to anybody not carrying a death wish against the country. And Booker has also stepped up for women, in a way most men don’t bother to politically. He supports Barbara Buono even as so many men in her party’s infrastructure undermine her. I’d also add that not many politicians talk about poverty, as he does, though we disagree on strategy.

Deborah perfectly describes the mixed feelings a lot of people have about Booker – but also why today is was right to vote for him. I hope she won’t mind that I post her comments here. They’ve already been shared by a lot of people on Facebook.  

Economic Opportunity is Slip Slidin’ Away for Most New Jerseyans

promoted by Rosi

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.


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

Misery Persists in the Nation’s Third-Richest State

If you drive around the neighborhoods of Moorestown or Montclair, with their million-dollar homes and exquisitely manicured lawns, you might get the impression that New Jersey’s economy is dong just fine. And you’d be partially right. The economy is doing fine for CEOs, high-powered attorneys, and education profiteers. But just like the impression of New Jersey that an outsider gets from the opening scene of The Sopranos, this is a false and dangerous impression.

The real story is summarized by a subheadline in this morning’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Misery persists in the nation’s third-richest state

The article summarizes a report, “Poverty Benchmarks 2013”, released by the Poverty Research Institute. The report takes into account New Jersey’s high cost of living and concludes that almost one quarter of New Jersey’s citizens are living in poverty.

It should not be a surprise that our poverty rates have skyrocketed under Chris Christie’s reign. While he did not create poverty in the state, Christie’s policies have exacerbated the problem to an alarming extent.

Under Chris Christie, after school programs have been cut, requiring working parents to pay for expensive day care or quit their second jobs. Christie’s veto of a modest increase in minimum wage (which if passed, would still result in many thousands of working families living in poverty) is an embarrassment to decency. His obstinacy on embracing Obamacare is not only costing taxpayers, but is making it more difficult for those in poverty to avail themselves of basic medical care. His reduction of the budget for legal services to the poor makes it more difficult or even impossible for those ensnared by predatory lenders and other miscreants to bootstrap themselves out of poverty. The list of Christie’s thumbing his nose to the poor goes on and on. And of course, Christie’s record is punctuated by the fact that unemployment in the state is the worst in the region, hitting the poor and near-poor the hardest.

So while the AshBritt executives and the education profiteers join the ranks of the 1% in their cavernous homes, let’s not forget our fellow citizens who worry about being able to feed their kids with nutritious food, about the head of household who can’t get a job (or if she’s lucky, can get a minimum wage job that locks her family into poverty even more), or the undocumented young adult who can’t afford out-of-state tuition rates that would prepare him to become a taxpayer.

Clearly, Chris Christie doesn’t care about the majority of New Jerseyans. He figures he can be elected President without our 14 electoral votes, and cares more about Texas’ 38 electoral votes.

We won’t solve New Jersey’s poverty problem overnight. But just like a corporation fires an underperforming CEO to turn around a business, New Jersey can fire Chris Christie in November, and let Barbara Buono start to put the state back on the path to prosperity for all.

(Below the fold: How does your county rank on the poverty scale?)

Today: Taxpayers & education advocates protest Christie tax windfall to Pearson as jobs ship to NYC

This afternoon, there’s going to be a public protest of Chris Christie’s decision to grant a huge windfall with your tax dollars to a company moving hundreds of Jersey jobs out of state. The company is education testing giant Pearson, Inc., a multinational corporation. Pearson got a $66 million subsidy for a new office building in Hoboken. And New York City is getting hundreds of Jersey jobs Pearson is shipping across the Hudson.

Pearson is also a company well-known to educators. The private company has found all sorts of ways to profit from public funds.

What’s wrong with Pearson? Hofstra University’s Alan Singer starts you a list at Huffington Post.

Take the Pearson Test for NJ: Find out what Pearson’s doing with your tax dollars and what it means for your kids and their schools. via public education advocate Stan Karp

Playing NJ & NY against each other: How Pearson did it, and scored big-time tax dollars.

Since becoming governor, Christie has cut public education funding by northward of $1 billion. At the same time in Christie’s New Jersey, more families are having trouble making ends meet and more NJ children are falling below the poverty line. As the state lags behind the nation and the region in economic recovery and job growth. But there’s always plenty of gravy for corporate subsidies in Christie’s New Jersey – NJPP reports more than $2.1 billion since Christie took office (just rated by PolitiFact as true).

Today, public education advocates – including parents, citizens groups and labor folks – will be carrying a giant check for the $66 million Pearson’s getting from Gov. Christie (and your taxes) across the Hudson River by ferry to New York City, where Pearson’s actually sending those Jersey jobs.

WHAT:Demonstration followed by live shipment of a giant $66 million check from taxpayers across the Hudson via Hoboken Ferry

WHO: Bill Holland, Executive Director, New Jersey Working Families Alliance

Stan Karp, Director of Secondary Reform Project, Education Law Center,

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director, Class Size Matters

WHEN: Today, 12:30pm

WHERE: Hoboken Ferry, 1 Hudson Street in Hoboken


Chris Christie uses the working poor as bargaining chips

Bill Holland is executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, based in Newark. Promoted by Rosi.

Cross-posted with the Press of Atlantic City.

Last week – on Tax Day – Gov. Chris Christie took the opportunity to veto a bill that would have ended his 3-year-old tax increase on 500,000 of New Jersey’s working families – including 23,000 in Atlantic County. Instead, the governor has chosen to yet again hold their livelihoods hostage to secure a reckless tax cut for residents making as much as $400,000 a year.

Half a million hardworking New Jersey families rely on the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. The refundable tax credit helps offset the high cost of living for low-income families and gives adults an incentive to work instead of relying on welfare or other public programs. And it’s been championed by conservatives – including Ronald Reagan, who called it “the best anti-poverty, best pro-family policy, best job-creating measure to come out of Congress.”

But in early 2010, Christie slashed the EITC, essentially raising taxes on 500,000. He cut the state credit by 20 percent, costing some families up to a week’s pay. And while he claimed raising taxes on the working poor was necessary, he allowed tax rates on the richest 1 percent to drop that same year.