Expanding opportunities for more American families

It is scandalous that in many so called ‘civilised countries’ people do have to work for just a few Euros, Dollars or Pounds.

Wherever you look in Belgium at a construction site you shall see Polish workers, who have to work for a lot less than the other workers in the country.

In Western Europe people are attracted from Spain, Romania, Poland, to come and work for very low wages in very bad conditions. They find a job because they are willing to work more hours for much less money than the workers of that country and as such undermine  the local economy, because local people can not find a job and come on the dole.

The United States also has to do with such terrible low wages. President Obama does find this is not the right way for a community to treat its fellow citizens. He wants to see a higher minimum wage for all Americans. In his annual address to Congress he offered the opportunity to write a wish list for the year ahead. In the weeks leading up to his 2014 State of the Union, President Obama emphasized a plan to work around Congress to accomplish his goals when they would not act.

Map of minimum wage rates in the United States...

Map of minimum wage rates in the United States. See List of U.S. minimum wages. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obama announced the morning of the State of the Union that he was increasing the minimum wage for federal contractor workers to $10.10 per hour. Addressing rising inequality and limited social mobility was a major theme of the president’s speech, but raising the minimum wage for the majority of Americans is one area where he has few options on his own.

It may be good to see the lowest unemployment rate in over five years, but when you get to hear for how much certain Americans have to work on irregular hours day and night, they should shame themselves. Some might say than those working in the restaurants and Wall-mart had to study better, but that is no excuse to only pay them so much.

After all the troubles it is nice to notice that after the five years of grit and determined effort, the United States according the president may be better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth but we do have to be on the look out for the upcoming Asiatic countries.


Minwage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The States has still to do more to invest in their country’s future while bringing down their deficit in a balanced way.  This the president is much aware of, but we can wonder how much the republicans are willing to give him the change to let the ordinary American to grow and to live in good conditions. The president knows that the budget compromise should leave them freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.

The president said:

In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together.  Let’s make this a year of action.  That’s what most Americans want – for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all – the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.

Have many Americans not been taken hostage by the governing parties? How long are they going to endure such childish way of certain elected? We may question of those elected are really interested in those who voted for them and for those who look at them to govern the country properly. With reason the president may ask if they are going to help or hinder this progress. We in Europe only get the impression most of those republicans are doing all effort to hinder any advancement for the country. (I may be wrong, but that is the impression I am getting when I look at what they have done the last few months not to say the last two years.)

I would think a raise of the federal minimum wage is one of those common-sense proposals that is both good for the economy and good for the country. Having more income shall not only bring in more money by the income taxes and VAT, but having people more money to spend will give them the opportunity to buy more goods, so having things to be made, bringing in extra people to make those things. Something the Belgian government is forgetting as well by not allowing retired people to gain enough extra money to make their life more comfortable.

In the United States, considering there has not been an increase since July 2009, workers who depend on these wages have been losing income to inflation for over four years. A raise is long overdue. Not only the Democrats do find it high time; economists and nearly three-quarters of Americans support giving hard working folks a raise. And research shows that it could lift approximately five million people out of poverty, ensuring a more secure future and increasing economic activity in their communities.

But incredibly, the party that caused a $24 billion hit to the American economy when they shut down the government in the name of denying people health care, do oppose this raise. Those Republicans say that it would lead to job losses, a claim that ignores the economic studies that clearly indicate a minimum wage hike would strengthen the economy.

Work productivity

Work productivity (Photo credits: http://www.mysafetysign.com)

For years, the Republican Party’s approach to poverty in the United States has been to ignore it, or worse, oppose and obstruct policies that would expand opportunity. In 2014, GOP leaders are finally paying some lip service to poverty; but they’re taking little action.

I got to wonder where the American dream might be gone to, when I hear the Hispanics and Mexicans and see so much poverty going on in the “land of milk and honey”. Those pictures of hard working families where parents can not have enough time to be with their children because most of the time is spend to keep the chin above water.

The notion that “if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead” seems to have become something of the fairy tales. It is true that the  manufacturing sector in the United States may been adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s and that there is more oil produced over there than they buy from the rest of the world – the first time that’s happened in nearly twenty years. But what about the labour force, are they getting the right rewards for the work done?

The United States determines the official poverty rate using poverty thresholds that are issued each year by the Census Bureau. The thresholds represent the annual amount of cash income minimally required to support families of various sizes.

Since 1993 in 2010 the US got the highest poverty rate having 15.1 percent of all persons living in poverty. It may be better than in the late 1950s when the poverty rate for all Americans was 22.4 percent, or 39.5 million individuals. But you would think with the Golden Sixties and the advancement of equality and civil rights it would have become much more better.

Like in many countries and cultures we notice that family and religious values have become less which made that we can find much more divorces and one parent families. Those families encounter lots of difficulties finding affordable housing, schools and entertaining possibilities for their kids and themselves.

Poverty rates are highest for families headed by single women, particularly if they are black or Hispanic. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 15.8 percent of households headed by single men and 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty.

There are also differences between native-born and foreign-born residents. In 2010, 19.9 percent of foreign-born residents lived in poverty, compared to 14.4 percent of residents born in the United States. Foreign-born, non-citizens had an even higher incidence of poverty, at a rate of 26.7 percent.

As in Belgium children become the victim and represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States; they are 24 percent of the total population, but 36 percent of the poor population. In 2010, 16.4 million children, or 22.0 percent, were poor. The poverty rate for children also varies substantially by race and Hispanic origin. 16 401 000 children under 18 where living in poverty in 2010 and today there are many more hidden living in bad conditions, having not enough medical aid nor good food.

The number of poor people in the United States held steady at nearly 50 million in 2012, but government programs appear to have lessened the impact, especially on children and the elderly, federal data released on Wednesday November 6, 2013 showed.

“Millions more people would have been poor in 2012 in the absence of our safety net programs,”

said public policy and poverty expert Sheldon Danziger, who heads the Russell Sage Foundation social science research centre.

America, the same as Europe should come to recognise that the state of privation has deteriorated to much and that our civilisation allowed a lack of the usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions to grow too far out of each other. Our society should not allow it that certain people can earn more than three hundred times more than somebody else who does less interesting work or has to do a more dirty work.

The goods and services commonly taken for granted by members of mainstream society do not have to be the threshold. We do not need a mobile phone, tablet or kindle. But the roof above the head and enough space to live in at reasonable temperatures, with running hot and cold water are much more important, with the provision to have enough healthy food.

It looks like that many Americans consider it not so bad that “only” 58.5% of their population at least one year comes to live below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75. Is that what has become the margin for the land of promise?

This Winter we could see many homeless having to find ways to survive the bitter cold. I am convinced than the ciphers are much higher than those of January 2009 when there were about 643,000 sheltered and unsheltered homeless people nationwide.

The country may be proud to announce this year that their deficits are cut by more than half. But how much where they wiling to invest in children and education, the future of the country? Many business leaders around the world, for the first time in over a decade, have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest. Naturally because what is going on in that so called communist China breaks all rules of decency and human respect. People are taken away from their environment, their country house with garden to be put together like animals in a to cramped space of high-scrapers. Those countries who are keeping to live on the low income rates of Chinese and Pakistani will get the box in their face in some years time. Customers shall not take it any more that people are exploited whilst they as customer still have to pay so much.

I was chocked to note that Calvin Klein had clothes being manufactured in Pakistan in the factory that collapsed and where people had to wok for 4€ a day whilst his underpants for  men are sold in our country for 85 € (too expensive for ordinary folks like me, and some pensioners like me, having to work extra for 21,25 hours).

John Boehner tells American Unemployed its You...

John Boehner tells American Unemployed its Your Fault for Being Lazy (Photo credit: Cory M. Grenier)

Our society should not allow such a big difference in income. America may boast that it can get almost two-thirds of the poverty stricken people staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. This still leaves too many, the other third living on the street, in an abandoned building, or another place not meant for human habitation. though around 44% of those homeless people are employed! so why do they not get proper housing?

At the 88th Congress of the United States in March 1964 president Lyndon Johnson had a special message to the hoping American people. He said them that for the first time in their history, it was possible to conquer poverty. Johnson proposed nothing less than the eradication of poverty and racial oppression.

Because the economy was still booming in the wake of the Second World War, there seemed no reason to think that prosperity and political liberalisation would not continue indefinitely. Indeed, in January 1960, the Los Angeles Times suggested that

‘the decade of the 1960s should be the most dynamic in the world’s modern history’

Poverty is more widespread now than before. A substantial number of people do not earn enough to survive independently.

President Obama in his speech praised companies like the wholesaler for embracing higher wages as a way to increase productivity and reduce turnover.

 “This will help families.  It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.  It does not involve any new bureaucratic program,”

he said.

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by – let alone get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.

The first black president wants the congress-members to see that it is their job to reverse these trends. But does the government knows that many of today’s myopically focused anti-poverty initiatives have become ends-in-themselves, monopolising massive amounts of resources that might otherwise go into the kind of innovative and radical restructuring necessary to create a system robust enough to accommodate everyone. Fifty years after Lyndon Johnson his talk America’s war on poverty has become a war with itself.

Rob Lyons writes:

The world produces more food per head than ever before and people are living longer than ever before. In the late Sixties, the global death rate was about 13 deaths per year for every 1,000 people. Now, according to the CIA World Factbook, that has fallen to under eight per 1,000 people. In 1969-71, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 33 per cent of the world’s population was undernourished. Now, about 16 per cent of people are malnourished. That’s still far too many, but it is an enormous improvement.

We already grow enough food, in theory, to feed not only the current population but the possible peak population later this century, too. Moreover, many areas of the world currently have agricultural productivity that is way below the global average. There is plenty of room to grow even more given the introduction of better methods. For example, the east African country of Malawi appeared to produce large increases in agricultural productivity in the mid-Noughties by subsidising fertiliser. While that is no long-term solution to the country’s problems, it does show that there is real potential to increase yields with access to better inputs and methods.

Question is how many people shall be able to afford the treasures of the field and the drinkable water. And those living a our western society, how shall they be able to find themselves at ease, not having to face difficulty to get a proper housing and food provision, able to keep themselves healthy?

President Obama promised to offer a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

 Some require Congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.

Christian leader for social change; Author of ‘On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good’ wrote in the Huffington post:

The only way to win the War on Poverty is for liberals and conservatives to make peace — for the sake of the poor. That would be the best way to mark the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, declared by President Lyndon Johnson in his January 1964 State of the Union address. Making peace means replacing ideologies with solutions that actually solve the problems of poverty. With both Republicans and Democrats speaking out on poverty this week, and the recession slowly receding this should be an opportunity to find the focus, commitment, and strategies that could effectively reduce and ultimately eliminate the shameful facts of poverty in the world’s richest nation.

For any proposal, the basic question must be whether it helps more people and families rise out of poverty and realize their dreams. This means setting aside political self-interest and thinking beyond our too often inflexible ideologies.

Conservatives need to stop saying that government programs don’t reduce poverty, because the facts demonstrate that is just not true. Referring to safety nets as “hammocks” simply betrays a lack of knowledge of, or relationship with, people who are struggling and need help. Government is not always the enemy, but often a valuable partner.

Yet, liberals cannot imply that government alone is enough, or that the safety net is capable of completely lifting people out of poverty. After all, the whole idea of the safety net is that it catches you after a fall. There are vital programs that protect people from poverty during hard times and keep many people from falling into further impoverishment, but they do not eliminate the root causes. The problems of family breakdown in our society need to be taken seriously and the cultural pathologies poverty creates require a response. Both social and personal responsibility are needed to end poverty. Economic opportunity must be actually available to everyone, especially lower-income people and families. This is a basic premise and goal that should be the starting point of the conversation between liberals and conservatives.


Continuation of:

Preparing for an important election

Untoward stuff going on in American political world


Also of interest:

  1. We need a bit more hunger to end poverty
  2. The war on poverty – did poverty win?
  3. Are one-in-five Britons really living in poverty?
  4. A fixation with inequality, a poverty of understanding
  5. 2013 Federal Poverty Guidelines
  6. Northern America & Rural poverty
  7. U.S. poverty rate remains high even counting government aid
  8. Health Reform Central


  • Who Counts as Poor in America? (pbs.org)
    Homeless people without shelter from this week’s frigid temperatures. Medicaid patients living out their days in a nursing home. Orphaned kids raised in foster homes. Or Dasani, the “invisible child” profiled in the New York Times five-day spread. Who among them counts as poor?
    Debate over the War on Poverty’s success hinges on interpretations of the poverty rate. Liberals argue that the poverty rate would be much higher if it weren’t for the government benefits enshrined in Johnson’s agenda. Conservatives point out that a 4 percentage point drop from 19 percent poverty 50 years ago is pretty paltry, while the rate has actually increased from 1973 when it was 11 percent.Politics aside, it’s almost universally recognized that the official poverty measure (OPM) doesn’t paint a complete picture of poverty in America.
    The poverty measurement leaves out many people. Unrelated kids under 15 living together (like in a foster home) don’t count as poor. Nor do people who live in institutional group quarters (college dorms, nursing homes or military barracks). And in perhaps the cruelest irony, people without “conventional housing (and who are not in shelters)” (i.e., the homeless) aren’t part of the official poor.
  • One third of Americans experienced poverty in Obama’s first term (examiner.com)
    On their way to poverty, accelerated by the economic disaster born in the Bush administration, Obama watched one third of Americans fall off the log and into the harsh sea of poverty. That is an American disaster of major consequence.Yet, while they slid and are trying to hang on, Republicans somehow make the victims irrelevant, and worse, the villains.

    There is no need for this circumstance, but it has been years in the making. The way forward is to correct our behavior so that we are not compounding the problems further as we have been.

  • How We Won – and Lost – the War on Poverty, in 6 Charts (motherjones.com)
    Johnson’s administration went on to design “Great Society” initiatives, including a permanent food stamp program, Medicare and Medicaid, Head Start, which provides early education to low-income kids, and increased funding to public schools.
    +The war on poverty helped raise millions above the poverty line. During Johnson’s years in office, the poverty rate dropped from 23 percent to 12 percent.But where do we stand today? The government’s official measure of poverty shows that poverty has actually increased slightly since the Johnson administration, rising from 14.2 percent in 1967 to 15 percent in 2012.
  • Jim Wallis: Want to Win the War on Poverty? For the Sake of the Most Vulnerable, Let’s Work Together (huffingtonpost.com)
    It’s certainly impossible to celebrate a victory over poverty in America with our poverty rate still at 15 percent — 4 percent lower than it was five decades ago — with 46 million Americans still poor in America. The poverty rate fell by 11 percent in the first 10 years after Johnson’s declaration with several new federal programs put into effect, but success dropped off as attention drifted and federal spending shifted to the Vietnam War. Programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, have helped to significantly decrease the poverty rate among the elderly to 9 percent, from 28 percent in 1964. But large numbers of children remain impoverished — one out of every five kids are poor in America. For black or Hispanic children, that number is one out of three.
  • Urgent: US needs higher minimum wage (rebelnews.org)
    The American people are counting on us to get this done, and in his State of the Union Address Tuesday, President Obama committed to taking action despite GOP obstruction: He will use executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts.This is a good first step to show we are committed to helping Americans who work hard and play by the rules. And as we tend to this core American value, we will expand the middle class, which will always be the backbone of this nation’s economy.
    For an issue as important as increasing economic opportunity, Americans deserve serious solutions and a more responsive government. If Republicans truly want what’s best for this nation, they will stop putting politics before people and start working with Democrats to help American workers.
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About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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