Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"Poor" People

I put that in quotes as that is the way the rich view the poor, as some cluster of individuals due to circumstance they are poor.  This is usually attributed to race and ethnicity as white people who are rich do feel some guilt and in turn surround themselves with those who come here via an H1B1 Visa to demonstrate their equality and openness to those who are "different."  I have met and known many of those who come from India and China and found them to be the most conservative individuals I have ever met.  And yes guess what even those from Spanish speaking countries are often quite conservative largely due to their engagement in the Catholic Church.  So to presume all Immigrants are card carrying liberals rarely actually meets and speaks to them.   But let's all hold hands and prove how open we are to the poor and all that.

Trump opened the door for the hate wagon to drive through. The irony that his Presidency is largely supported by the Evangelical cohort cannot be lost, the most conservative and judgemental of all faiths seem to have no problem shoving racism, infidelity and fraud (as that is much of the issues behind Trump's bankruptcy) into the back of the Bible.

Living in the dead zone for the Bible Belt I have long held suspicion that these are the most hypocritical idiots on the planet. They profess the Bible but when it comes to walking the walk not so much.  Hence the prosperity pulpit and other memes that from the pulpit have less to do with God and more to do with greed that enables the Evangelical right to preach the bullshit they do.

This Sunday I went to Church.  To say it was an alt church of hipsters would be an accurate description but oddly still diverse.  It was not as odd and masculine as the former Mars Hill Church in Seattle that I wandered into when they took over and restored an abandoned Church in downtown Seattle. Irony that the Church too has disbanded as it was one of the most bizarre scenes I have ever witnessed in a Church - largely young, white males, chest thumping, espousing hate.  It was akin to watching a Hitler Youth rally.     Thankfully Storyville coffee exists and I get my beans every two weeks to remind me of the joyous times sitting in the Pike Street Market one on a Sunday doing my religion of reading The New York Times.  And yes I knew of their agenda, I had actually walked into a Mars Church and heard the bullshit, at that time the founder was anti Yoga, but I also believed that these kids needed to see other people, have dialogs and exchanges that would contradict the idiocy of Mark Driscoll.  And today they still exist and have a different message.  So again opening minds is always an uphill battle.

So when I was invited to the Legacy Church I went with an open mind and I found it interesting. I had no complaints and would possibly go again if so invited, but alone no.  Again I don't think this is a place for me as a single woman and I simply don't have the connections to fit in comfortably which is odd given the messages of the Church.  This is where the line of hypocrisy is drawn when it comes to religion.

And when I read this story about the Silicon Valley Minister I was surprised and relieved.  Honesty should be the foundation of the Church and of late the Poor Persons Ministry long advocated by Rev. William Barber in North Carolina has finally crossed state line here and activists are starting to step up here in Nashville, the city that distrusts outsiders in the same way they loathe conflict.

And coming from liberal bastions like Seattle and San Francisco where I had also lived, this message did not shock me.  What I saw in Seattle was this overwhelming need to talk the talk and walk it not so much.  The reality is that when it comes down to the me versus you, me will always win.  Just the current hysteria in the Seattle Public Schools over HCC (Highly Capable) learning is just another example of many ways that when it comes right down to it, families care about their kids first and if your family can benefit great but don't let it harm my kid.   

**Seattle has been working to eliminate Advanced Placement etc for years by creating a Honors for All type program so that all kids can access the AP and other advanced curriculum that has largely been the provenance of white families who can afford the tutoring, testing and fees associated with placement and achievement and by dismantling this they in turn open the door to wider enrollment and less self segregation.  It is going over like a lead balloon.  Schools integrated - yes, Classes - not so much. **

So when I saw Nasvhille had started a Gifted and Talented program I busted out laughing as it was putting random kids only those enrolled in the 8th grade into a room and labeling them that.  No curriculum nor endorsed/trained teacher and this was to do what?  The reality is that it should start at 5th Grade and they follow the cohort through middle school until 8th to see what testing data results.  But in many of the schools they did not even bother to do that as some were simply on call Teachers that roved throughout the building and taught part time in overflow classes.  It was a joke and farce like all things in Nashville Public Schools.  

So when it comes to Church and faith I have a similar disbelief and while I respect those who choose said avenue I want nothing to do with it.  And clearly even those deep within want nothing to do with it either.  Funny how the Minister's Parishioners did not want to hear the truth as that is the point of religion - myths.   And yes in my visit the hit for money was subliminal and clear with a story about a family who tithed, had some crisis that in turn challenged that and then suddenly a miracle happened and an insurance policy that the family had paid them off and all was right with the world!  Miracle? Myth or Coincidence?  Hey I am all for Prayer and solace it guides but it always comes down to money.  And yes I through 10 bucks in the kitty as I felt I got my money's worth. I am just not sure how one defines worth when it comes to faith.

'Elitist den of hate': Silicon Valley pastor decries hypocrisy of area's rich liberals

Gregory Stevens resigns after tweets about Palo Alto, slamming tech industry greed and empty social justice promises

Sam Levin in San Francisco
UK Guardian
Tue 22 May 2018

A Silicon Valley pastor has resigned from his church after calling the city of Palo Alto an “elitist shit den of hate” and criticizing the hypocrisy of “social justice” activism in the region.

Gregory Stevens confirmed Monday that he had stepped down from the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, an LGBT-inclusive congregation, after his personal tweets calling out the contradictions of wealthy liberals in northern California surfaced at a recent council hearing.

In emails to the Guardian, the 28-year-old minister detailed his “exasperation” with Palo Alto, a city in the heart of the technology industry, surrounded by severe income inequality and poverty.

“I believe Palo Alto is a ghetto of wealth, power, and elitist liberalism by proxy, meaning that many community members claim to want to fight for social justice issues, but that desire doesn’t translate into action,” Stevens wrote, lamenting that it was impossible for low-income people to live in the city. “The insane wealth inequality and the ignorance toward actual social justice is absolutely terrifying.”

He later added: “The tech industry is motivated by endless profit, elite status, rampant greed, and the myth that their technologies are somehow always improving the world.”

Local headlines about Stevens, who has faced intense backlash from residents and city leaders, labeled his tweets “nasty”, “vile”, “unsavory” and “unholy”, highlighting posts in which he called Palo Alto “disgusting” and said: “I hate ‘social justice’ in Palo Alto. What a fucking joke.”

Local critics had surfaced Stevens’ tweets while opposing an effort by the church to get permits to allow new community activities in the space. His old tweets were geared to “small group of progressive ministers and Leftist political activists”, he said, adding that he had vented his frustrations in “an unprofessional and often hurtful way” and was resigning to “minimize the negativity” facing the church.

But, he later added, “I think rage and anger toward oppression and injustice is a Biblical calling on our lives.”

The underlying messages to Stevens’ tweets, however, touched on continuing tension in Silicon Valley, where some of the world’s wealthiest companies and entrepreneurs have pledged to better the world through innovations, yet working class families and poor residents struggle to afford the most basic necessities. The region has one of the worst homelessness crises in the country and a huge shortage of affordable housing, forcing tens of thousands of low-income workers to commute more than 50 miles to work.

Stevens, who is queer and has lived in Palo Alto for nearly three years, noted that his church was located in one of the richest neighborhoods in the city, with houses worth anywhere from $5m to $15m.

“Jesus was a homeless Jew who said it was harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle,” he wrote, adding: “It is very difficult to do Christian ministry, a ministry that calls us to fight with and for the poor and marginalized among us, in the midst of an enclave of wealth and power.”

He argued that the church’s rich neighbors could afford to “feed and house” all the homeless people in Palo Alto and surrounding cities, but instead focused on passing laws that further criminalized this population, encouraging police to harass those sleeping outside or in cars. The city had also made it hard for the church to provide meals for the homeless by requiring costly permits, he said.

In his email to the Guardian, Stevens was also outspoken about the harms of the tech sector, accusing Facebook of “completely destroying (through rapid gentrification) the historical black and brown East Palo Alto neighborhood”, which is adjacent to the tech company’s Menlo Park headquarters and not far from his church.

“The working class does not benefit from these ‘advances’, but cook, clean, and baby sit rich babies before heading off to home on long hours of public transit.”

Stevens said he was originally drawn to the church because of its “progressive Baptist theology”, noting historical Baptist figures such as Nat Turner, who led a slave revolt, and Martin Luther King Jr. He said he was also inspired by the local pastor, a gay man who had fought for years to be ordained.

But Palo Alto, he said, “wanted nothing to do with actual justice and was more so interested in guarding their enclave of power and wealth”, adding: “If the wealth inequalities are not addressed, any talk about climate change, homelessness, and migrant rights is in vain.”

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Welfare Works

 Here in Tennessee we are gearing up for an off-year election and the throw downs have been fast and furious.  In  a state that never expanded Medicaid they are already working towards ensuring work requirements are in place for those who receive this service.  The irony is not lost that the largest portion of jobs are in the service sector, in a right-to-work state with incredibly low paying jobs that provide no health care benefit of any kind.  So it works then because then they qualify for Medicaid, right?  Wrong.

I have a lot of conversations and fewer now that I realize anytime I do open my mouth the reality is that I am a dirtbag who has the audacity to ask questions and comment on some of my observations and cite data that questions the bullshit that dominates the horizon here in the city of it.  A recent Ed Blogger and TV Investigative Journalist Phil Williams a Racist Cancer. Okay then. I was just called a Racist and Bitch recently so its all good as mine is not terminal.

The South does not like inquisitions well, they find them rude and impolite. Southern Hospitality has a low bar in defining hospitality.  That said they have an equally low bar when it crosses into poverty here.  Nashville has declining poverty but that is just the result of moving it out a simple way of cooking the books and they like that here, clearly given our School District and City shortfall.   The damage of poverty is something to see to believe. I have never seen nor experienced it first hand as I have since relocating here.  I used to feel bad for them I now feel bad for myself having to cope with it.  I have no tools in this carpetbag in which to use to do anything for either them or myself and each day is another in an endless line of walking among a city who is utterly aware but choose to be oblivious, like the markers on each corner and on every building, the truth is that to be ignored.

Facts are like truths they have their own.  The GOP clings to this unicorn like the mythical one of meritocracy,  that wealth trickles down. No that is just piss and don't tell me its raining.  We are all getting rick rolled.

G.O.P. Insists Making Poor People Work Lifts Them Up. Where’s the Proof?

By Eduardo Porter
The New York Times|Business 
May 15, 2018

There’s something almost eerie about the unwavering nature of the Republican system of belief.

The nationalists who propelled President Trump into office may appear locked in an existential battle with the party’s pro-trade globalists. In truth, the Republican Party is still driven by the two propositions that have guided it for decades: cutting government aid will free poor Americans to shake dependency and get ahead, and cutting taxes on the well-to-do will bring prosperity to all.

In December, Republicans dusted off the old trickle-down slogans to justify a nearly $2 trillion tax cut, blithely ignoring a virtual consensus among economists and glossing over a 40-year body of evidence that the only people who benefit from tax cuts for the rich are, well, the rich.

Now, the party is moving on to the government-aid part of the canon. In January, the Trump administration freed states to demand that Medicaid beneficiaries get a job, a move likely to bump hundreds of thousands of poor Americans off their health insurance.

It was just the beginning. As early as this week, Republicans in the House could vote for a new farm bill that would impose work requirements for recipients of food stamps, dropping maybe two million Americans from the program, according to the liberal-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and cutting benefits by $23 billion over 10 years, according to government estimates.

Indeed, the administration’s ultimate goal is to attach work requirements to the entire social safety net. In the words of the president, “We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity.”

History, however, has proved that this doctrine, too, is mostly wrong. We have been here before, more than 20 years ago, when the embattled President Bill Clinton embraced the Republicans’ “welfare to work” strategy and replaced the federal program to aid poor families with children with a rash of state-managed programs that imposed stringent work requirements on beneficiaries.

Work requirements did, of course, encourage the mostly poor single mothers of able body and mind who did not already hold a job to get one. Their earnings from work increased. As they left the welfare rolls, government spending on welfare payments declined.

But what did not happen is perhaps more important: The incomes of all the mothers ostensibly freed from dependence hardly rose at all. The loss of welfare payments pretty much canceled out their earnings from work. With little education and virtually no access to training, they got stuck in the low-wage labor market that has taken over so much of the American economy.

Young children did no worse when their mothers got jobs in terms of either cognitive abilities or socialization skills. But unless the mothers’ incomes rose, they did no better either. Mothers who for some reason could not get a job — or go on disability — got a raw deal.

For his 2004 book “American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation’s Drive to End Welfare,” my colleague Jason DeParle spoke at length to Angie, a single mother of four living in Milwaukee.

“On welfare, Angie was a low-income single mother, raising her children in a dangerous neighborhood in a household roiled by chaos,” he wrote. “She couldn’t pay the bills. She drank lots of beer. And her kids needed a father. Off welfare, she was a low-income single mother, raising her children in a dangerous neighborhood in a household roiled by chaos. She couldn’t pay the bills. She drank lots of beer. And her kids needed a father.”

There are 41 million poor people in America, according to the Census Bureau, four million more than in 1996. Before welfare reform kicked in, 68 percent of poor families got help from the federal entitlement to the poor. By 2016, its replacement served only 23 percent.

Benefits shriveled over the period: In 35 states, benefits are at least a fifth lower than they were when welfare was overhauled. In most states, they take families less than a third of the way out of poverty.

“What is crucial to understand is what we mean by success,” said Gordon Berlin, who runs the policy analysis firm MDRC. “Is the goal of welfare about reducing poverty or about reducing dependency?”

Maybe this shouldn’t be surprising. For all the lofty pronouncements surrounding the 1996 welfare reform, Mr. Clinton’s goals were political: “to remove welfare from national political attention so that it would no longer cost the Democrats votes,” as Christopher Jencks of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government noted.

Republicans were motivated, of course, by doctrine. “Much of the Republican welfare reform policy was based on values,” wrote Ron Haskins, one of the top architects of the Republican welfare strategy that Mr. Clinton signed into law, in his insider tell-all “Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law.”

Research into the potential effects of ending welfare as America then knew it seems to have played only a bit role.

What motivates Republicans today? Raw dogma? They cannot be hoping to pay for their tax cuts by cutting nutrition benefits. Other than Medicare and Social Security, there is no program in the meager social safety net with enough money to pay for those.

I have suggested that Mr. Trump’s approach to welfare might be calibrated to appeal to the white blue-collar voters in his base who feel that anti-poverty programs amount to using their taxes to help undeserving black and Hispanic recipients.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the president and congressional Republicans honestly want to tweak welfare to improve the lot of poor Americans; to build a safety net that revolves around work but also provides help when work can’t be had.

There is, in fact, a lot of research on what works and what doesn’t. Much of it was carried out by MDRC, which starting in the late 1980s conducted more than a dozen experiments in cities around the country to explore the consequences of different paths from welfare to work.

Here are some thoughts: Rather than threatening workers to get them to join the work force, offer carrots instead. The earned-income tax credit, for instance, which increases the incomes of workers on low wages, has done a great job not only in drawing single mothers into the work force but in improving their incomes as well, delivering additional benefits for their children.

MDRC also identified a series of programs to “make work pay.” Spending real money on training has been found to help workers escape dead-end jobs at low wages. I am not optimistic that these ideas will find their way into the policy mix, however. They just don’t fit in the Republican system of belief.