By Clay

Ryan Plan Rebuttal:  "House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has recently proposed addressing these issues by consolidating multiple means-tested programs into a single “Opportunity Grant” for states. States would have the option of combining up to 11 safety net programs to pilot new approaches to case management and services delivery.  While this sounds like an innovative approach, this model is problematic for many reasons. It opens the door to block grants, an approach that has historically resulted in cuts to key components of our nation’s safety net."

When you look at the discussion on Ryan's plan between conservatives and progressives--there seems to be some common ground.  Especially regarding the problems that need to be addressed.  Hopefully, policymakers can capitalize on that common ground. 

This is a thoughtful analysis and I'd recommend reading the entire thing.  I hope this debate continues and doesn't lose momentum.

Is Marshalsea Still Open?:  "The recent drive toward privatization of government functions has turned traditional public services into profit-making enterprises as well. 

In addition to probation, municipal court systems are also turning collections over to a national network of companies like Sentinel that profit from service charges imposed on the men and women who are under court order to pay fees and fines, including traffic tickets (with the fees being sums tacked on by the court to fund administrative services).

When they cannot pay these assessed fees and fines – plus collection charges imposed by the private companies — offenders can be sent to jail. There are many documented cases in which courts have imprisoned those who failed to keep up with their combined fines, fees and service charges.

“These companies are bill collectors, but they are given the authority to say to someone that if he doesn’t pay, he is going to jail,” John B. Long, a lawyer in Augusta, Ga. active in defending the poor, told Ethan Bronner of The Times."

We better keep these hardened criminals off the streets!  In all seriousness, these judges need to have conversations with the defense before imposing a fine.  That was always my experience in court.  A punishment needs to be just--setting someone up to fail is not a just outcome and undermines the legitimacy of our criminal justice system.

Don't Forget to Tip:  "One in six restaurant workers, or 16.7 percent, live below the official poverty line. The poverty rate for workers outside the restaurant industry is more than 10 percentage points lower, at 6.3 percent."

Maybe the debtor prison article is made possible because all those individuals work in the restaurant industry! 

Rich Hill:  "Many viewers and critics will see much of what is portrayed in the film as “culture,” but it’s actually structure: the product of decades of disinvestment from communities like this one, which leaves behind depressed, isolated, local economies with no jobs, a dwindling tax base, and nothing to attract business or new residents; aging, dilapidated housing stock; underfunded, inferior schools; little or no access to health care and other social services; and few people around who aren’t as poor as you are. This segregation of poor people matters, producing what social scientists call “concentration effects.” Thus, disability, physical illness, and mental illness are more common in poor families and in poor places.  The fact that there are lots of people medicated in Rich Hill — Andrew’s mom, Appachey, and Harley, at least — shouldn’t surprise us."

There it is again.  That choice between culture and structure.  It's a chicken and egg problem, and I don't think one is more to blame than the other.  Both need to be the focus.

Rich Hill is really something people should watch.  I hope that there is something similar that we can do in the rural South to raise awareness about rural poverty.

Boring, But Worth Understanding--Ryan's Plan Cont'd:  "Under Ryan’s plan, agencies would be required to conduct a “distributional analysis” on proposed regulations to see if they would have a disproportionate economic effect on low-income households or low-wage workers. Those regulations would require congressional approval."

This is more on Ryan's plan.  The deregulation argument seems unfair here, and on first glance seems to go against conservative orthodoxy.  Isn't Ryan calling for more Congressional oversight, and in a sense more regulation to ensure that regulatory requirements are not creating a regressive burden on the poorest consumers? 

Everything's Bigger in Texas--including Poverty: "A higher minimum wage. Less blight. A greater emphasis on early-childhood education. And more investment in encouraging residents to pursue tax credits.

Those are some of the proposals that Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings’ poverty task force is recommending to combat the city’s growing gap between the haves and have-nots. From 2000 to 2012, Dallas’ poor population increased a staggering 41 percent, while the city’s overall population grew only 5 percent.

The task force’s leaders on Wednesday will brief the City Council on their findings.

Rawlings appointed the panel in February to identify substantive, short-term plans the city could implement. And the group — a collection of activists, academics and policymakers who’ve studied poverty closely — did just that.

But to truly ensure a prosperous future for Dallas, task force leaders said, the city must first confront the depth of the challenge.

Dallas has the third-highest poverty rate among U.S. cities with populations larger than 1 million people. It has the highest child poverty rate among that group. And despite Dallas’ growing prosperity, every council district in the city has seen an increase in its poor population.

“That’s not the Dallas a lot of people … know about,” said Larry James, task force chairman and president of the anti-poverty group CitySquare. “But it’s the reality of our city.”

Living in Dallas from 2006-2009 allowed me to see this aspect of the city.  I worked with the homeless and also in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  It will be interesting to see what the Task Force is able to accomplish moving forward.  I'm skeptical of task forces after seeing some of the work that was done in the South during the meth epidemic, but it at least brings more attention to the issue.

Why I'm Doing What I'm Doing:  "Concentrated rural poverty like what Las Animas is experiencing is becoming more common far beyond regions with concentrated persistent generational poverty like Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta. Researchers at the USDA Economic Research Service identified this disturbing pattern in the distribution of rural poverty by sorting non-metropolitan counties like Bent County by their “rurality”—how near to metropolitan areas and how urbanized the population settlement patterns. They discovered that the more rural the county (like Bent County), the more likely the rate of poverty is high, and furthermore that place-based poverty is a self-reinforcing phenomena. As USDA economist Tracy Farrigan notes, “People are moving to areas where they can afford to live, which are areas with less support for them. It’s kind of a cycle. So the places are poor, and the people are poor”…increasingly and persistently."

The Fight Against Cancer: "The overall effect, Feinberg says, appears to be that cancers can easily turn genes “on” or “off” as needed. For example, they often switch off genes that cause dangerous cells to self-destruct while switching on genes that are normally only used very early in development and that enable cancers to spread and invade healthy tissue. “They have a toolbox that their healthy neighbors lack, and that gives them a competitive advantage,” Feinberg says.

“These insights into the cancer epigenome could provide a foundation for development of early screening or preventive treatment for cancer,” Timp says, suggesting that the distinctive methylation “fingerprint” could potentially be used to tell early-stage cancers apart from other, harmless growths. Even better, he says, would be to find a way to prevent the transition to a cancerous fingerprint from happening at all."

Interesting to me since thyroid cancer was part of the study.  Hopefully this understanding will eventually lead to preventing cancer.