“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”
John F. Kennedy, Profiles in Courage

Poverty in America

Robert Reich Explains the Economy

Tea Party Pubic Service Announcement

February 29, 2008

One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008

A recent report by Pew Charitable Trust Documents the increase in incarceration rates across the United States, bringing the current prison population to more than 2.3 million, the largest number of people incarcerated in any country in the world.

Excerpt from the Exectuive Summary:

Three decades of growth in America’s prison population has quietly nudged the nation across a sobering threshold: for the first time, more than one in every 100 adults is now confined in an American jail or prison. According to figures gathered and analyzed by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project, the number of people behind bars in the United States continued to climb in 2007, saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime.
For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling. While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine. Gender adds another dimension to the picture. Men still are roughly 10 times more likely to be in jail or prison, but the female population is burgeoning at a far brisker pace. For black women in their mid- to late-30s, the incarceration rate also has hit the 1-in-
100 mark. Growing older, meanwhile, continues to have a dramatic chilling effect on criminal behavior. While one in every 53 people in their 20s is behind bars, the rate for those over 55 falls to one in 837.

Prison costs are blowing holes in state budgets but barely making a dent in recidivism rates. At the same time, policy makers are becoming increasingly aware of research-backed strategies for community corrections—better ways to identify which offenders need a prison cell and which can be safely handled in the community, new technologies to monitor their whereabouts and behavior, and more effective supervision and treatment programs to help them stay on the straight and narrow. Taken together, these trends are encouraging policy makers to diversify their states’ array of criminal sanctions with options for low-risk offenders that save tax dollars but still hold offenders accountable for their actions.

The full report can be accessed at:

February 28, 2008

Immigration and Crime: Myth and Reality

A recent report released by the Public Policy Institute of California demonstrates that the immigrant population of California, slightly more than one-third of the state's adult population make up only 17 per cent of the prison population. In fact, the report found that native-born Californian adult males are incarcerated at a rate of ten times that of foreign-born adult males. Further contradicting the scare tactics of those attempting to criminalize and demonize all immigrants, the report found that "on average, between 2000 and 2005, cities that had a higher share of recent immigrants saw their crime rates fall further than cities with a lower share. This finding is especially strong when it comes to violent crime."

One of the report's authors suggests that immigrants are less likely than native-born Californians to commit crimes because they are coming here for economic reasons, to find work and to increase their incomes. Commenting on the report, Salvatore Bustamante, director of a state-wide immigrant advocacy group stated that "A lot of people have painted immigrants as the criminal element in our society, and that isn't the case." He further explained that immigrants come to the US to find work and as a result stay "under the radar of authorities" and avoid criminal activity to prevent being deported.

The authors of the report conclude that the "findings suggest that spending additional dollars to reduce immigration or to increase enforcement against the foreign-born will not have a high return in terms of public safety. The foreign-born in California already have extremely low rates of criminal activity."

The full report titled:

Crime, Corrections, and California What Does Immigration Have to Do with It?

can be accessed at:

February 18, 2008

Study Shows Stress Caused by Poverty Impedes Brain Development in Children

At the annual meeting in Boston on February 15th of the American Association for the Advancement of Science it was reported that neuroscientists found a direct correlation between poverty and impaired neural development in children. Researchers found that children in very poor families experience hormone levels produced by stress that impairs their neural development. They further found that the imapct of this is added to any damage that may already have been casued by improper nutrition and environmental toxins.

As important as a study like this is for public policy it received a mere 127 words in the United Press International dispatch. A Lexis-Nexis search found only three print media outlets that picked up the story. The Financial Times (of London) reported the story under the headline Poverty Mars Formation of Infant Brains, devoting a mere 474 words. It was also picked up by the Sydney Morning Hearld in Australia which devoted 430 words, under the headline Study Shows Stress Affects Brain Growth.

The only outlet in the United States that even bothered to address this important story was the NY Times, but in the opinion section. Even the venerable NY Times did not deem this an important news story. Instead of reporting it as news, it was left to Paul Krugman to address this in his Op-ed column Poverty is Poison.

Krugman's column can be accessed at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/18/opinion/18krugman.html?ref=opinion

Perhaps this was not reported in the United States, although the conference took place in Boston, becasue of the obvious impact such a study would have on social policy as indicated in the Financial Times article referring to the remarks of Jack Shonkoff, one of the reserchers:
"Well-tailored programmes can help, Prof Shonkoff agreed. But in the end, the only way to remove the “toxic” impact of poverty on young brains is to abolish poverty itself, he said"

February 15, 2008

The Middle Is Falling Out of the Economy

What has happened that has so changed the economic life of the American people? And what changes in public policy can our government undertake to remedy the fact that so many Americans do believe that our best days may be behind us?

Read Harold Meyerson's* recent testimony ( as published on the blog of the American Prospect Magazine) before the Labor Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, addressing the long term state of the economy, rising inequality, the dearth of good jobs in the middle of the economy, and America's changing role in the world economy.


*Harold Meyerson is executive editor of The American Prospect and a columnist for the Washington Post.

February 12, 2008



The early childhood health and education program for low-income children, Head Start, was reauthorized in bi-partisan legislation that President Bush signed in December. However, the politicians in Washington took away what they gave by funding of the program at $480 million below the authorized level. And last week President Bush proposed a budget which would reduce even further below what the Congress authorized with the number of children who would be served in Head Start falling to 895,000 in 2009, with deeper cuts in the future. Head Start will have no choice but to turn away children who need this support the most.

Click here for more information on the cuts : http://www.cbpp.org/2-5-08bud.htm

Contact your member of Congress and tell them to defend Head Start and the children and families in their district enrolled in a Head Start Program: Send a message to your Congressmember: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/956/t/4330/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=22809

Since many of these key decisions relating to investing in our children will be pushed off to the next president: Send a message to the 2008 Presidential Candidates:

February 8, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Do We Ever Learn from our Experiences or our Mistakes - An Old Solution to a Current Problem by Irwin Nesoff

Although the current mortgage meltdown and concurrent housing bust have been described as the worst since the Great Depression, they are not unlike those similar occurrences that took place back then, not so long ago. By 1933, as a result of the Depression, unemployment reached 25 per cent and there was an 80 per cent decline in new housing construction.

America experienced a building boom in the 1920’s fueled by the loosening of lending standards (sound familiar?) People began purchasing larger and larger homes encourged by interst only loans and the belief that prices would keep rising. (Am I making the comparison clear yet?) As the economy began to sour and people started losing their jobs the default rate on home mortgages began to rise, with approximately one in six homes entering foreclosure. Today that percentage is much lower, only about 3 per cent of all mortgages, or about 1.5 million mortgages are seriously past due or in foreclosure. However, considering the larger number of homeowners today that also results in a larger number of foreclosures.

Like George Bush today, Herbert Hoover watched the decline of the economy and the housing market in paralyzed disbelief. Taking no action to address the growing problem Hoover left it as part of his legacy of a ruined economy for his successor, FDR. This is very similar to the scenario being played out today as Bush is collecting unsolved problems for his successor to deal with.

When FDR came into office in 1933 he pushed through piles of legislation in his first 100 days to address the disastrous economy he had inherited. One piece of legislation passed in this flurry of New Deal bills was the Home Owners Loan Corp (HOLC). Through this mechanism, the federal government purchased failing mortgages and turned them into low interest mortgages to help stave off foreclosures. The HOLC also made low interest loans to help families repurchase homes that they had lost to foreclosure.

This was a simple idea that worked then and can work now. But, almost thirty years after the Reagan Revolution convinced Americans that government is the problem and NOT the solution, we are somehow waiting for the private sector that created and profited handsomely from this debacle, to solve it for us. The time for decisive action is now, but where are the legislators willing to commit the government to do what it exists for, to protect and serve the people. George Bush has spent seven years demonstrating to us that government under his tutelage is not capable of solving problems, only creating them. But isn’t that why we elected a Democratic Congress? The answer to the foreclosure crisis, the Home Owners Loan Corp. or some similar effort, is a proven method that worked once before and can work again. As in so many other failures of government to protect the welfare of its citizens, it is not the resources that we are lacking but the will.
The Center For American Progress has recently published a well researched report on addressing the mortgage crisis: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2007/12/pdf/holc_paper.pdf

February 4, 2008

A Plan for Debt and Fiscal Irresponsibility

President Bush Unveils His Proposed 2009 Budget
by Irwin Nesoff

On Monday, February 4th President Bush released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2009 plunging the country into record deficits and crushing debt. This $3.1 Trillion budget proposes a record $515 billion for the Pentagon, making the US defense budget larger than all defense expenditures of all other countries combined. If the Democrats roll over on this budget, as they have on nearly every other Bush initiative, with its combination of defense increases and domestic cuts, it will add $410 billion to the national debt. This one year deficit is only surpassed by the record-breaking deficit of 2004, which was $413 billion. In the eight years of the Bush presidency, the national debt will have increased by 75%, placing a crushing burden on future generations and ensuring little if any growth in social welfare and health services regardless of who occupies the White House next year.

When George Bush started his first term as president he inherited a balanced budget and $4 trillion in debt. In just one year he increased the national debt to $5.77 trillion and today, as a result of Bush economic and tax policies the national debt stands at $9 trillion. The interest alone on this debt costs US taxpayers $250 billion annually.

To date the US has spent $600 billion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it is expected that the president will ask congress for $200 billion more, a figure that does not show up in the federal budget. In addition to this is the so-called stimulus package that will cost the federal government $150 billion, which the government must borrow to make good on.

According to the Federal Office of Management and Budget, in the seven years of the Bush presidency federal spending on national defense has increased from 17.3 per cent to 20.5 per cent of the national budget. That means that twenty cents of every dollar collected in taxes is spent on the military. At the same time, the share of the federal budget spent on human resources has declined from 65.5 per cent to 63.2 per cent. That number will slip even further this year with Bush proposing cuts in Medicare, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, technical education grants to states and alcohol abuse counseling to name a few of the 151 domestic programs slated for cuts.

This is not a budget for growth, nor one that looks to the future. It is a budget that borrows against the needs of current and future generations. As the debt grows so too will the interest payments on that debt, siphoning off an ever increasing share of taxpayer dollars.

Finally, as if to thumb his nose at the working men and women of America, Mr. Bush calls for his tax cuts to be made permanent. This in spite of the fact that fully 65% of this GOP tax cut went to the top 10% of income earners, while 90% of Americans shared a mere 35% of the tax cut benefits. If the Democrats in Congress were to live up to their campaign rhetoric and allow the tax cuts to lapse when they expire in 2011 the government would collect an additional $2.1 trillion in taxes through 2018. If they had the courage to roll back these tax cuts before they expire, even more could be saved. Imagine what an additional $300 billion in annual tax revenues can begin to do to repair some of the damage done by the reckless fiscal policies of the current administration and the Republican Congress of the last six years.