Blogger's note: It's been a few years since we had a guest post here at Attytood, but here's a GUEST POST written by my friend and colleague Sandy Shea, the editorial page editor of the Daily News. She went up and over the Delaware River today to catch anti-poverty expert Frances Fox Piven, and her report goes something like this:
Today, Rutgers-Camden’s Center for Urban Research and Education hosted Frances Fox Piven, whose status and occupation can best be described by the title of her most recent book: “Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven: The Collected Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate.”
Piven, who is Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, is, among poverty experts, a rock star. Although Glenn Beck has demonized Piven for her encouragement of the poor and unemployed to mobilize, there were few haters in the crowd of about 40 students and faculty where Piven spoke about “Poverty Policy and the Politics of the Poor,” a tragically short session lasting about an hour. Highlights of her talk: For the past three decades, our policy approach to poverty has consisted primarily of scrutinizing the poor themselves, and their attitudes and habits. In fact, the political economy is responsible for the persistence and increase of poverty.
She cited how poverty emerged as a problem in the 1930s, following the Great Depression and the electoral realignment of 1932, with the election of FDR, who helped create the social welfare state. Another 30 years passed before another social welfare movement took hold in the ‘60s and ‘70s, with the expansion of Medicaid and Medicaid, and the war on poverty.
She thinks that recent job actions at Walmart (protests and walk-outs at thousands of Walmarts on Black Friday) and the recent mobilization of fast food workers over low wages are signs that another social movement is afoot.
The real issue is income equality, and Piven points out that the economic elites’ effort to redistribute wealth and income centers on taking not only our current earnings but on past earnings of workers (via looting of pension funds and erosion of savings in home mortgages), but future earnings as well. Unsustainable college debt means that students’ earnings will be eroded for most of their working lives trying to pay it back.
One bright spot amid this gloom: lunch for the session was free. (Though, of course, journalistic ethics forced me to go to Chick-Fil-A later instead of partaking. And yes, I know that’s not the appropriate choice, but I’m sorry, those waffle fries….)