Tag Archive: poor

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

UPDATE: Watch POTUS Live.

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).

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.  

 

Appellate Division Stops Christie Administration from Seizing Affordable Housing Trust Funds

promoted by Rosi

On June 7, 2013, the New Jersey Appellate Division created a process the Council on Affordable Housing must follow before the Christie Administration can seize up to $165 million dollars in affordable housing trust funds needed to recover from Hurricane Sandy. As stated by NJ Chapter NAACP president, in his recent op-ed published in the Star Ledger, “At this time of extreme need, it is unbelievable the Christie Administration is attempting to seize these funds and stop the development of new homes.” Over the past few months, plans to build over 3,000 homes for victims of Sandy, people with special needs, and working families have been in limbo due to the Christie Administration’s aggressive and unlawful attempt to take this money. Over fifty percent of these funds were also designated to homes in the nine-counties hit hardest by the storm.  

Christie’s Trust Fund Raid Halted

promoted by Rosi

Today, Governor Christie handed Prince Harry a royal fleece as part of Sandy recovery. Unfortunately, the Christie Administration continues to royally fleece lower-income families displaced by Sandy. But a new court order holds out promise for the thousands of New Jersey residents still seeking a place to live after the storm.

Late yesterday afternoon, three judges from the New Jersey Appellate Division issued an order blocking the Christie administration’s seizure of up to $164 million in affordable housing trust funds. This marks the second time in the last year the Administration has attempted to seize funds intended to provide safe and affordable housing to our state’s poorest and most vulnerable families. A significant amount of these funds – 57 percent – were also already earmarked for towns in the nine counties hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday’s Must-Read Article

Susan K. Livio of the Star-Ledger has written a piece you must read: The Long, Grim Line for Aid:

By 9 a.m., the line snakes down South Clinton Street and extends along Freeway East. Once the people clear the metal detector, they’re in line again — some for hours, baby carriages in tow — divided into their different needs. Every week hundreds will leave empty-handed because county workers are too inundated to help them all. They are given an appointment and told to come back later — sometimes 10 days later.

This recession is only getting worse and even though so many headlines are about Wall Street, the poor are going to bear the brunt.  It’s a shame so many Republicans don’t seem to think the situation is urgent.

But never mind my griping, click through and read the whole thing.