Archive for Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Panel at Kansas Union discusses the forces and attitudes around poverty

September 11, 2013


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A panel discussion on poverty in the United States, held at the Kansas Union Alderson Room. Speakers from left to right:
Mark Rank, Krissy Clark, Deb Adams, William Emmons, David Smith and Derrick Darby.

A panel discussion on poverty in the United States, held at the Kansas Union Alderson Room. Speakers from left to right: Mark Rank, Krissy Clark, Deb Adams, William Emmons, David Smith and Derrick Darby.

Imagine if the whole world worked like a game of musical chairs. Every time the game is played, the number of players pacing around the circle would always outnumber the chairs to sit on. The only certainty in life would be that, when the music stops, some are going be left without a place to sit.

Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis, argues that this is exactly how the world works. With the country's labor pool always larger than the number of job opportunities available, U.S. economic and political structures guarantee that a certain number of players "are bound to lose," he said.

Rank was the keynote speaker at a panel discussion about American poverty held at the Kansas Union today. Also invited to the discussion were Krissy Clark, a reporter for American Public Media's "Marketplace," as well as William Emmons of the Center for Household Financial Stability. Joining them were David Smith, a Kansas University professor of sociology, Derrick Darby, a KU professor of law, and Deb Adams, a KU associate professor of social welfare.

For Rank and others, high poverty levels in the world's largest economy represent a moral injustice and failure of U.S. social institutions, one that affects everybody. He and a colleague found that workers between 20 and 75 have a 60 percent chance of living at least a year below the poverty line. Along with the risk of becoming poor are high levels of public spending "on the back end" to address the effects of poverty, including health issues, crime and incarceration.

The Kansas University School of Social Welfare sponsored the panel. It was the first in a KU speaker series on the subject of poverty that will span the school year. Spaces are free to the events, which will be held Nov. 7, Feb. 5 and March 28. Those interested can RSVP at


David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

The problem with this article is the sociologists assume & maintain attitudes that there will always be losers in life...such pessimism! The article does not mention any discussion of how to solve the problem.

There are plenty of jobs for those with marketable skill in the trades, marketable education & those constantly striving to succeed (motivation). The only people left standing in the game of socio-economic musical chairs are the unskilled & unmotivated.

The root causes of poverty have always been; unskilled single parents, broken homes & unskilled & unmotivated workers.

Mark Rank, as a Social Welfare professor, promotes social justice, but does not seem to promote personal achievement & self-sufficiency.

I hope KU does better with the rest of the series.

deec 4 years, 8 months ago

Those are a lot of conservative talking points all crammed together there. However, the facts don't match your opinion. Inequality is at its highest level since 1927. Manufacturing jobs which once provided middle class income are still doing Asia. They've been replaced with low-wage service sector jobs. Companies hire temps, interns and independent contractors to avoid paying livable wages and benefits.

question4u 4 years, 8 months ago

"The root causes of poverty have always been; unskilled single parents, broken homes & unskilled & unmotivated workers."

Always? Ancien Régine ring a bell? What about the Great Chain of Being? The Irish potato famine? Would you really argue that a million Irish died of starvation because they were "unskilled & unmotivated workers"? That's obvious nonsense and about as brutal and callous a suggestion that anyone could make. There are a myriad other examples that disprove your statement as well.

It's easy to make categorical statements, but history will keep you honest if you're not ignorant of it.

Paul R Getto 4 years, 8 months ago

This is Muscular Sam's new Middle Ages. The serfs are still with us.

Seth Peterson 4 years, 8 months ago

They are not losers, and sociologist don't make this assumption or have this attitude, they have done studies and found that the job market will always be smaller than the labor force. You are the one who assumes this makes people without jobs losers.

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

deec please spare us the excuses. Ask yourself why inequality is increasing & what can be done about it.

Why have manufacturing jobs moved overseas? Because the US is not competitive in those areas. The US worker must realize we are in a global economy & a global job market.

The old job skills are still required. But many new job skills are currently required. People need to retrain themselves constantly. To work in todays work place continuing education is required just to maintain ones position or profession.

Please do not offer excuses. When I was 10 years old tragedy struck my family which left us destitute. There were no government support programs. At 10 I went to work to pay for my grade school education & to by clothes. 62 years later I retired with degrees in engineering & business. I earned those degrees while supporting a wife and 2 children.

So please do not bore me with your political terms of "conservative talking points". If they are conservative in your eyes maybe it is because I am a self-sufficient person & am encouraging others to be also.

I am offering a way out 0f Mark's socio-economic musical chairs thru practical advise & thru hard knocks experience! NOT thru POLITICS!

I will not judge you based on your youth & inexperience.

BY the way the government is not the answer either. Since President Johnson's administration & the start of the Great Society program in the 60's we citizens have spent over $6 Billion.

Yes the problem is worse because the government is promoting "Dependency". Socio-economic improvement comes thru "Self-sufficiency".

deec 4 years, 8 months ago

I'm 56.

Did your family receive social security survivor benefits or G. I Bill assistance to purchase a college education or a home? Did you or your employer get SBA loans or government contracts at any level? How about farm subsidies or tax credits?

Corporations moved jobs overseas to increase profits and stock value. Why pay a living wage by Western standards when you can outsource manufacturing for pennies on the dollar?

What would your world look like where everyone is an engineer or medical professional while no one swept floors, answered phones or framed buildings? Where would the "makers" be without their maids, nannies, sales clerks or restaurant workers? Would they haul away their own garbage or repair their own vehicles?

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

Exactly. We need to recognize that there are jobs that have to done, and start treating those people with dignity, because they do work hard. Anyone who works hard should at least be able to afford the basics. Nowadays they can't even afford a car.

Companies have moved their jobs out of the country, not to remain competitive, but to make more profits. The price of cars and other products just keeps rising, except maybe clothing. If they are paying less for labor, then the trickle down should have been lower prices, but that isn't what they wanted. It's not enough for a company to make a good profit and provide jobs. They have to make bigger and bigger profits, any way they can, including cutting quality and treating their workers poorly.

rtwngr 4 years, 8 months ago

Let me guess; more and bigger government is the answer. Right?

Michael LoBurgio 4 years, 8 months ago

Brownbacks Austerity and Its Devastating Effects on KS Working Poor

Sam Brownback made a commitment in 2011: to serve the state of Kansas as its governor. It was a commitment to all who live in the state, rich and poor alike.

While campaigning, he made specific promises to the children of Kansas, pledging to make their lives better and offering them the hope of opportunity. As he wrote in his “Road Map for Kansas,” [T]o those Kansas children who live in poverty and despair, please hear this message—the hope and promise of Kansas is not lost. So long as we firmly believe in opportunity, accountability, and responsibility, hope and promise will never be lost.” He goes on to promise, as part of a five-point commitment, to “[d]ecrease … the percentage of Kansas’ children who live in poverty.”

His expectation was that these promises would be fulfilled via the drastic reduction and eventual elimination of state income taxes, a move tailored to benefit the state’s top earners. As the Kansas City Star reported in June, Brownback told a group of business leaders at the time, “We’re on a path of growth and job creation, so I say, ‘Come to Kansas.’ … We’re paving the way to make Kansas the best place in America to raise a family and run a business.”

I guess the families to which the governor refers are not families living in poverty, as his promises have translated, in reality, to devastating blows to poor citizens’ survival. As a recent Wichita Eagle editorial notes:

The number of adoptions in the state is at a six-year low.
There are near-record numbers of children entering the foster care system.
The number of families receiving cash assistance has been cut nearly in half.
Work requirements for child care assistance have been increased by 50 percent.
There’s been a 20 percent reduction in the amount of time people may receive federal welfare benefits.

Meanwhile, Kansas has one of the lowest food stamp participation rates in the nation.

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

No deec I never took anything from the government. Even when I was unemployed I never took unemployment checks. I used the lack of income as motivation to get out and seek employment. I never took a government loan for college. I took out private bank loans with security given. During my college years I & my wife both worked full time.

Yes corporations moved jobs overseas to both be competitive & make money. Employees move all of the time to different jobs so they can maximize their own personal incomes, so what is the issue?

Funny you should ask the question about what would my world look like "if"...

I will tell you. First in my world sweeping floors & answering phones are "entry level" jobs. Within those labor categories there are promotions, e.g., head of the maintenance department, & the executive secretary both making well over the minimum wage. As for the framer I have personal experience with that skill as I employed framers for a living. Payed those crews hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The Trades as I mentioned above are very good paying jobs.

The problem is some in society look down on them. Folks should take Steve Jobs, Apple Computer, comments to heart when he said "I never had a job that was beneath me".

Minimum wage jobs are entry level jobs, they are not intended for folks to spend a lifetime in them. They are stepping stone jobs to a bright future with personal development & motivation.

You see the Mark Rank's of the world do not offer an optimistic view of society. I don't like his view because I still believe personal achievement is possible if we are willing to grasp for it.

deec 4 years, 8 months ago

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that we now have 115,000 janitors, 83,000 bartenders, 323,000 restaurant servers, and 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers with bachelor’s degrees -- a number exceeding that of uniformed personnel in the U.S. Army."

There are about 2.3 million janitors in the U.S. If all those millions of janitors become supervisors, who will they supervise? Because I doubt there are 2.3 million people in the country salivating over a career as a janitor that pays, on average, $10.68 per hour.

Peacemaker452 4 years, 8 months ago

Did the Bureau of Labor Statistics happen to tell us what kind of bachelor’s degrees these people have?

Are they Engineers and Pre-Med, or are they Business and Art Appreciation?

Just think of all the student loan debt that could have been avoided if those people had just gone straight to truck driving school.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

So you're a minimum of 90 years old to have been ten before the New Deal, you never took advantage of unemployment insurance that you were paying out of your own paycheck, never collected Social Security, don't use Medicaid, don't attend public schools or public universities, and privately funded all roads between you and your destinations.

Honestly, it sounds like you were foolish rather than proud. You let ideology blind you from considering all your resources. As a citizen, you paid for those services.

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

Sorry I did not respond to you question4u.

Great tragedies have struck throughout history & always will. But they strike without regard of socio-economic status. Everyone is hurt. History also tells us that these tragedies are temporary & that those societies willing to rebuild/remake themselves do so and society in general is made whole & improved.

Southern Ireland today is improving with high-tech & pharmaceutical companies relocating there. This is even after a long war with England.

London became a great economic force after the great fire. It also helped them build safer & improve hygiene.

Japan became a great economic force after the destruction of WWII.

Greensburg, Kansas is remaking itself after the tornado.

Leavenworth, Washington Relocated & remade their town into a major tourist attraction after the logging industry stopped.

These folks rose up from disaster thru their resilience. You see it is not the tragedy itself. It is what we as individuals do about it. How do we proceed afterword. How do we remake ourselves. Where is our internal vision & motivation.

deec 4 years, 8 months ago

Ireland is not doing well at all. The unemployment rate is all the way down to 13.40 percent as of August 2013. A large part of the drop is due to the second diaspora which has reached the same levels as during The Famine.

Japan became a great industrial power thanks to U.S. government aid. "The American government, under the auspices of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), played a crucial role in Japan’s initial economic recovery, although Japanese government measures fostered rapid postwar growth. SCAP officials believed economic development could not only democratize Japan but also prevent the reemergence of militarism, and forfend communism. Military hostilities in the Korean peninsula further boosted the economy in 1950 because the U.S. government paid the Japanese government large sums for "special procurement." These payments amounted to 27% of Japan’s total export trade.[1][citation needed] The United States also insisted that Japan be admitted to GATT as a "temporary member" – over British opposition. During the Korean War, "

Likewise, Greensburg's recovery depended on federal assistance. "Thanks to $80 million from FEMA and a $2.5 million commitment from NREL,"

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

So deec from your perspective what is the answer to poverty & socio-economic conditions. You seem to point to government as the solution.

I would contend that government is the problem. Example is the current economic wows of the world. The USA has not helped solve this problem. On the contrary, it has put up road blocks and created more dependency. We have massive enrollment in long term disability when nothing in the work place justifies this. We have a government creating uncertainty rolling out regulations that constrain business, not facilitate. We have a health care law, one may like or not but that is not the point of contention, it is that the law encourages part-time work because the law is too costly. In recent years about 75% of all new jobs created are part time work.

Our educational system is in the tank by virtue of our low rankings in math, science & reading when compared to other countries.

We are getting far afield of the main point of the social justice mantra in the original article. Yes there are time when government can be of help. Currently evidence shows this is not the case in the USA.

Regardless of your arguments, history shows that individuals with a vision & motivation over come their socio-economic situations and achieve. That is my point. Social justice comes from the individual. As I have mentioned in earlier posts. In the long term the USA government has not been the solution. It always has & always will be the individual.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Neither individual action nor government action alone can solve these problems - that requires a combination of both.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

History also shows it's possible to win the lottery. That doesn't mean that it is likely or easy to do so or that we should base all economic policy around the idea of lottery winnings.

Thinking_Out_Loud 4 years, 8 months ago

Citizen1 wrote "...history shows that individuals with a vision & motivation over come their socio-economic situations and achieve. That is my point. Social justice comes from the individual." I disagree, however.

The argument that, since some individuals are able to break past the barriers of poverty, anyone who is sufficiently visionary and motivated can do so is specious, at best. It falls into the trap of blaming the victims. What history truly shows is that the burdens of socio-economic status are so confining that, absent true equality of opportunity...which is generally denied by these statuses...the vast majority of people cannot escape their conditions regardless of how visionary or motivated they are.

A good read for examining what justice is truly about is "Justice as Fairness" by John Rawls. Another related work worth reading is "Justice in America: The Separate Realities of Blacks and Whites" by Hurwitz and Peffley.

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

Getting back to the point of the original article of an assumption of permanent unemployment & poor socio-economic situation for some.

How has that $6 trillion dollars expended by USA government on the "Great Society programs & social programs" continuing today helped anyone out of their poor condition? As mentioned above the problem is growing.

Government works best, when it gets out of the way and facilitates economic growth & promotes individualism & self-sufficiency.

50 years of social programs & government interference has not helped anyone. How many people get wealthy & economically independent on any social program including a so called "living wage"? I say nay nay, nada, none!

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

Here you go:

The government does work best when it facilitates economic growth. It promotes economic growth, in part, by making sure everyone has an equal shot at that self sufficiency you mistakenly think everyone has an equal shot at obtaining.

The statement that "social programs & government interference has not helped anyone" is false. Easily disproved, since you only need one example. I'll give you two. Ursula Burns grew up in project housing and now runs Xerox. Howard Schultz also grew up in the projects and now runs Starbucks.

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

Chootspa, thanks for the examples, but none of them are examples of government helping them.

They both achieved their success thru their own pursuit of a better life. Ursula thru marriage & her personal desire for self improvement. Yes she is a marvelous success story. As for Howard he got out thru his individual effort also, by playing football. He stared in football & received a college scholarship & used that to educate himself.

These are both great examples of how people who's personal desire & motivation for a better life used the opportunities before them to pursue their dreams. They worked hard & government was not involved.

Thanks Chootspa for helping me make my point.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

What exactly do you think a "project" is?

But hey, if you need to have "welfare" or "food stamps" spelled out, there's always President Obama. I think he did ok for himself.

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

And without food stamps and other social help, they would have gone hungry and maybe have starved as children. Chootspa made the real point.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

"Neither individual action nor government action alone can solve these problems - that requires a combination of both."

I agree. So why can't we do this.

I think some of the comments on here clearly indicate that we love our myths. The Romans and the Greeks created the greatest civilizations in the world and they also produced incredibly complex mythologies that helped them cope in their daily lives. Every civilization creates pantheons of complex mythologies and we even have these stories in our own families passing from generation to generation. It is a coping tool.

When companies show that they care more about cheap labor than they do their own countrymen, we are taught it is good business to do that. It is the American way we are told. We cannot see the workers being abused in those countries so it is okay. When companies hide their profits and use exotic loopholes to hide their cash and avoid taxes, the folks on the business channel admire the business skills of these CEOs and tell us this is why America is great.

With any good story there is always both an antagonist and a hero. The antagonist could be Satan, or a Democrat, or the unions or Obama. The hero or protagonist, of course is us, because we are really smart. At least, it feels good to believe so.

We are no different than the Greeks and Romans. Someday, there will be classes taught on the subject of American Mythology. We will be spoken of as once having been a great civilization. We won't be around then but I imagine we would be surprised at how really dumb people will say we were.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Good question.

And, I like the rest of your post as well. It's odd to me that so many believe these myths, and hold on to them in the face of contradictory evidence.

It's obvious and common sense that a combination of government and individual action has the greatest chance for success. Government can regulate the private sector and provide help for individuals, and then they need to make good choices and take advantage of the available help to better themselves.

chootspa 4 years, 8 months ago

Exactly. Providing everyone with a fair shot isn't the same thing as taking away everyone's money and redistributing it in equal amounts. I wish people would give up that tired straw man. It's a matter of making sure people really do have a means to lift themselves out of poverty that doesn't involve a lot of luck and chance.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

"Upwards of two dozen workers at Apple plants in China have become so desperate that they have taken their own lives, often by jumping to their death from their dormitories. The deaths were so common for a time that Chinese bloggers began referring to the Shenzhen plant as the “Foxconn Suicide Express.” In its investigation of conditions at Longhua and other plants making Apple products, SACOM concluded that many of those who committed suicide were exhausted, overworked, verbally and physically abused by supervisors, or publicly humiliated when they failed to meet their production quotas."

Barlett, Donald L.; Steele, James B. (2012-07-31). The Betrayal of the American Dream (pp. 92-93). PublicAffairs.

There is a lot of information out there about how people in other countries are being abused so that American Corporations can gain a competitive advantage and increased profits but we should not be admiring these people. We should face up to the fact that something is terribly wrong when we can abuse people in other countries in ways that would never be allowed in this country. It reminds me of Chinese laborers building the railroads.

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Those sorts of things are very disturbing.

I guess it's "out of sight, out of mind" for many Americans.

David Reynolds 4 years, 8 months ago

Interesting comments regarding companies using abused labor overseas, and thus demeaning American businesses that do so. As I mentioned above, we are in a global market for products, labor & their wages/benefits.

I also think some of the conditions overseas are appalling. What can be done about it? Are you willing to pay higher prices for your iPhones, shoes, clothes, TV's, etc?

What I do not read are answers to the problem.

How about some workable solutions?

jafs 4 years, 8 months ago

Higher minimum wages and better regulation of businesses, especially large corporations.

Of course, those are government actions, so you'll probably oppose them, based on previous posts.

tomatogrower 4 years, 8 months ago

"Are you willing to pay higher prices for your iPhones, shoes, clothes, TV's, etc?" Yes. I see kids all the time destroying their iPhones, shoes and clothes. Ever seen a lost and found pile in a school at the end of the year? They could clothe a small country. And there are even smart phones there. How could you not look for your phone when you lose it? If they had fewer things, and more expensive things, people, not just kids, would take better care of it. Now it's - Darn lost my jacket. Well, I'll just go buy a new one. Or - Darn I dropped my iPhone. I'll just go buy a new one.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

The threat commonly used is to say that we will pay much higher prices. It has been demonstrated that much of the time this is not true. Usually people not in manufacturing use this argument.

Non manufacturing executives on wall street looking to cut corners and make some quick wind fall profits make this argument.

It has been clearly demonstrated that US manufacturing can compete but when the government is helping forein competitors instead of helping it is like being ambushed from behind by your own country.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

Much of what is being promoted as smart business is simply a case of greedy individuals cheating their own countrymen.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

Another problem is that we get tricked by people offering simplistic solutions.

If you took your car to get the transmission fixed and the mechanic had only one tool, a hammer, you would probably ask why he has only one tool. If he said, don't worry, this fixes everything, you would probably not leave your car.

Yet, this is how we see our political leaders operating all of the time. In Kansas the first speaker the legislature wanted to listen to was Arthur Laffer so that they could use the Laffer Curve to justify what is essentially very irresponsible tax legislation which rewards a wealthy minority and sacrifices everyone else.

The hammer style of managing complex issues will not work but it has been playing well with too many voters. Politicians cannot get out of the mess they made for themselves. It will take the American people demanding more intelligent leadership and the dismantling of political pacs and organizations like ALEC who are hurting this country.

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 8 months ago

We need to re-examine our values and our ethics as well as the assumptions we have been making about our political parties and politicians in general. We need to change.

We need to question and research, read and study. We need to start asking questions instead of accepting the status quo. We need to start acting like we deserve to live in this country and believe we can make it better for everyone.

because we can...

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