Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty, then established the (EOE) The Office Of Economic Opportunity. Dr. King died in the midst of fighting for garbage workers, who were making poverty wages. While, at the same time he was organizing the Poor Peoples Campaign, and Operation Breadbasket, a corporate accountability campaign, to get jobs in urban ghettos. However, years later the issue of poverty is still alive and well. Sadly in all of that fired-up effort, much of it has dwindled down to just a flicker .
The recession also pushed many more people into poverty. In 2010, the poverty rate peaked at 15.1 percent, and has barely fallen since then. This is the first time the poverty rate has remained at or above 15 percent three years running since 1965. Fiften percent of Americans live in poverty. Meanwhile, the working poor make wages that still allow you to qualify for welfare and food stamps.
While, in the coming weeks of the auto show, we will celebrate the upswing in profits by the big three automakers, and Wall Street banks get back to business as usual, earning massive CEO salaries. Local governments, look for ways to balance the budget through cutting the pensions of public workers. The work of doing something about poverty must be a serious intent, and driving people into it doesn't show an effort.
CEOs' 2010 median pay jumped 27 percent from $7.1 million in 2009, one of the largest increases in recent history. The jump was a complete reversal from 2009 and 2008, when most CEOs took a pay haircut. The growth in CEOs' median pay topped the median 21 percent total return that investors would have collected if they owned shares of the companies in the compensation analysis.
Now Congress taking any common sense actions this year, would be like a camel to go through the eye of a needle. However, here are just four actions that certainly could get some folks out of poverty, and keep others from slipping into poverty.
Raising the minimum wage would certainly boost those who are just barely getting by into a serious place of sustaining there household. Studies show that raising the minimum wage grows the economy and grows folks out of poverty. If you don't believe my limited economic analysis, the Washington Post article which sited the work of economist Arindrajit Dube made it clear: higher minimum wage, lower poverty rates.
Dube uses the latest in minimum-wage statistics and finds a negative relationship between the minimum wage and poverty. Specifically, raising the minimum wage 10 percent (say from $7.25 to near $8) would reduce the number of people living in poverty 2.4 percent.
Meanwhile, as Congress continues to specialize in inaction on anything substantive that actually helps the American people, people will continue to slowly slip into poverty.
When I think about the City of Detroit and the threat of pensioners being cut substantially, I can't help but to think that the banks that we bailed out at 1.8 trillion dollars in tarp funds. Now are moving back to huge CEO salaries and profits. Even after banks like Bank of America and Chase were convicted of wrongdoing. Yet the haircut they take versus the haircut the pensioners are proposed to take is nil. Realizing that Detroit is just the test case for those watching and waiting to see if its really possible to cut public pensions, this could quickly become a national epidemic. Once again it only leads down the road of raising the poverty level.
Big three automakers are back on their feet with the help of the government welfare check and tarp funds, yet they have low wage tiered workers making just 50 cents more than minimum wage in auto plants. These are good, old, greasy, hot, dangerous, jobs that require skill and brunt. Nevertheless, these folks can't make a descent living. If we keep outsourcing jobs oversees and suppressing workers wages. We are simply, forcing people into poverty.
When Franklin Roosevelt, dealt with the recession he created jobs literally. If government continues to do nothing to pass legislation to get people working like John Conyers Humphrey Hawkins jobs bill or Presidents Obama's American Jobs Act then there will continue to be a mass of displace people living from welfare check to welfare check, and in urban ghettos like I live in the proliferation of drugs and violence will escalate.
A real poverty agenda would deal with these issues not in a sidewinder type of manner, but in a head-on, feet-forward way. Congress has the ability to do it. Not to mention the other low-hanging fruits like student loan forgiveness or expansion of welfare for distressed families or more Pell grant budgeted. Corporations and congress are the only vehicles to help make that happen. We need to do something transformative, and we need to do it now. It is ever so clear that if we are going to have a real poverty agenda, the cowards in Congress -- who spend their time playing pitty-patt games forcing government shutdowns -- need to go. Over the holiday break, I watched the Wolf on Wall Street, and it's sad to say but the characters are very real. Although, we don't see them up there in their private planes and penthouse suites, we know the wolves are there, cause we can hear them howling at rising profits and executive salaries -- while the sucking sound you hear are jobs and families flung into poverty. 2014 will require a vigilant vote and voice to make a real difference for a very real problem.