Saturday, January 14, 2012

Poverty in America on C-Span - wow!

I watched a wonderful show today. 

This is the longest post I've done in a long time.

This show I watched tonight is a symposium on poverty. Suzie Orman was on it, along with filmmaker and activist Michael Moore, Majora Carter, Urban Revitalization Specialist, Roger Clay, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development President, Barbara Ehrenreich, author and NY Times columnist, and Princeton professor Cornel West. It is a rerun of a show first on Thursday, January 12, 2012.

Here are some ideas from this show. The poor in America now include people from the middle class, who have had good things in their lives that are now absent. The numbers show that there are 50 million americans in the country who are hungry, says Vicki Escarra, the Feeding America Group President and CEO.

The numbers of hungry people have doubled since the recession, she said, and it is a crisis right here. Before now, it was hidden more. She says we all know somebody who is struggling right now.

Tavis Smiley says that the younger you are, the greater the chance is that you are in poverty.

Vicki Escarra says 10-15 pages need to be filled out for a food stamp application, which is much longer than the form for getting a gun. Also, some programs do support families. Some people say we spend too much on food stamps for poor people.

Food is at record highs, and how far does $135.00 a month really go? She lives in DC. Politicians don't know the families they are affecting. They do not know how hard these people are working to get out of poverty. When they cut people out, they don't know how this will affect people.

Vicki Escarra says there is enough food in this country to feed everybody and most of the world. We could work on the food system better. 17 million kids can't be educated because of hunger. We need to see children and families have enough to eat in the United States of America.

Suzie says that there are some tools that people in poverty can use to get themselves out. She says that people need to believe they can make it out of poverty. Others can help people lift themselves out of poverty. Hope is important, and believing in yourself is important.

One person can be the spark to help start real change. One thing she wants to change is FICO scores for people. Without a good score, people can't get good loan rates, can't find places to rent, and you can't get hired.

People who pay in cash or on debit don't count like people paying via credit. This is wrong, she says. The late fees and interest on credit cards is a credit trap that people need to get out of. America needs to be more of a cash society, she says. Suze Orman says there is "serious money" in credit cards and prepaid cards that "charge exorbitant fees". Her goal is to have FICO scores for people who have debit cards in two years.

She also talks about student debt. Private student loan debts are way higher than Stafford loans, for instance. These can go to 19 percent. The loans can't be discharged via bankruptcy. Banks like it when you don't pay your debt back. An expensive education doesn't guarantee a job either.

She says we need to have documents in place to protect you tomorrow. If you can't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your children. We pass a silent message of "less" to our children if we do not educate ourselves and them. Don't set yourself up to be a victim to a system that wants you to fail.

Suze Orman wants to help people stay out of poverty, get involved with the money you have today, and learn how to make more from less, and take your hard-earned money and give it to others, like the banks.

People need to know how to invest their money in retirement plans, and how to take care of yourself in the future. Medicare and Social Security or Pensions, 401K's, you will have to work until you are 75 or 80 just to retire possibly. People need to be powerful over their own money and then they can help others.

Another issue is the environment - because poor people are winding up in the worst locations. Majora Carter says we can deal with the way the environment is changing to support energy conservation and creating green jobs for all people, including the poor.

What can we do right now with our capitalist system? How do we make poor people less poor? How can we help our leaders have vision? She says that there needs to be jobs for the undereducated too.

Barbara Ehrenreich says that everyone must be a leader. She says that we have discovered "the power of solidarity" in the last few months. Her book is "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America." We need to "have the strength of we" and come together as leaders.

She says that our system of capitalism is destroying itself. Our economy is now based on the 1%. How can this system survive?

She agrees that there is a class war. One of the targets was the unions. They have been terribly weakened. But we still have to take a lesson from them about solidarity. They can still take on that 1 percent.

When you are poor, you can be poor and proud. Say "we don't want their stuff!"

The speakers on this show mention that about half of the country (U.S.) is living in poverty. Wow. This is a HUGE number. They discuss how to lift people out of poverty. Tavis Smiley says most of the people living in poverty and going through the most hell are African-Americans. He wonders why most black people are being silent. Why is this?

Roger Clay answers that he had unrealistic expectations of President Obama. He does believe that President Obama has done some great things, and he has high expectations for him, but has been somewhat disappointed with his leadership on the poverty issue and the unemployment rate.

He believes with pressure on him, he may improve President Obama's leadership on this issue. He believes that Barack Obama is definitely the better choice over the Republican candidates for President though. Tavis Smiley says he needs to make poverty a priority.

He says we don't want to go back to the past. It was never good for him and many others. We do need to learn from it, but use new tools. He thinks we need to think bigger. Hope can be delusional. Most Americans used to think that they would be rich, so they wanted to protect the rich. Now this is changing. The system itself need to change. This can happen in the next 10-15 years.

In the short term, we need good jobs with benefits. But we need to change the system too. We can't leave people with no jobs or real help.

We need to spread the wealth of this country throughout all its people. There are things we all own, such as oil in Alaska. They distributed $3,000 per person to the citizens there. Our natural resources could belong to everyone. Patents could be paid for by giving ownership to everyone and this could get rid of food stamps and other safety net programs.

Cornel West says that banks are making money but not producing anything. It is too speculative globally. We must tell people the painful truth about our system.  It has changed in the last 30 years. Trade unions are being pushed against the wall. We can keep our heads high in the midst of darkness, but it is difficult.

Read more about this great show on my Friend Facebook page in my Notes.

Michael Moore remembers what a great experience it was to vote for President Obama, He even cried. It was really emotional. The past 8 years had been so painful. Then other countries turned against us because we invaded other countries. He says Barack Obama and his wife both have a good heart. So he is not despairing, but he is not happy with everything going on since the election.

Tax the rich, end the wars, take the money out of politics, corporations are not people, constitutional amendments,  how many gated communities can you build? Because you made so many people poor or nearly poor. How much more will you make them suffer? Someday they will not take it any more. You will wish you dealt with it now, when there is peace and not violence. Do it! Trust me.. it's coming!

He thinks our Democracy is being controlled by the 1 percent that rule this country. One or two threads are left - one is one person, one vote. But there is a lack of choice on who to vote for. Both people are feeding at the same corporate trough.

We need to remove money from government, go to paper ballots, remove the electoral college, move election day to the weekend, and make it EASIER to vote.The majority want regulation on Wall Street, and somebody arrested for these crimes.

We need to have politicians promise not to take money from the banks or Wall Street. They need your vote, or they can't win. Don't punk people who have less. the President should say he won't take one dime from Wall Street, and he'd get a lot more support.

Credit card debt and student debt have been fighting each other for #1.

Here is the deal, he said, ...The Republicans have not run anybody who is going to beat you. So... I think there's a pretty good chance you are going to win this election. Don't lose another year. You have the opportunity to be the Roosevelt of the 21st Century. You can bring this country to the moral place it should be. You can help create the American Dream for every person Suzie is talking about... (there is more! I can't wait to hear this again.)

Michael Moore says that money in government is causing so many problems. Everyone is serving Wall Street. The Occupy Wall Street movement is fighting this. He is talking about Capitalism as defined in the 21st century. We need more say, it needs to be a Democratic system. The way it is right now is evil and it needs to change. Right now our system is unjust, unfair, and not Democratic.

21% of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is the Antichrist. What is up with that? They are pretty crazy. Let's work on the ones that aren't. If people have cable, they can watch this. We need to get behind jobs that pay a decent wage. How can we create these jobs? 2 trillion dollars are in bank accounts of corporations.

The 99 percent need to have 4 or 5 parties to represent them, Michael Moore says. 

They used to create more jobs, but now they just put it in the company bank account as a rainy day fund. They think another crash could happen, and they want to be protected. Congress can force then to release the money for jobs. We need a Roosevelt-style jobs program right now.

This is a Tavis Smiley Forum, called "Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity". He is a host on PBS. has a copy of this forum on this page. What a great show. I plan to try to listen to this via my computer and a set of earphones.

There is so much said here that I did not know. The group agrees that leadership is needed to help our fellow Americans right now. Tavis Smiley thinks that many people are still not caring about the poor people in our country.

Cornel West believes that poverty and hunger is a national security problem, and we need elected leaders who "understand the tears." He thinks that eventually if this keeps on, riots may happen and this country needs to take action.

He is against the injustice of poverty affecting the young people in our country. If we want the eradication of poverty, we have to target the young people from birth to 5 years old. We need a renaissance of compassion and a revolution.

We take action on wars and saving banks, but myopic leadership can lead to a catastrophe. The Black prophetic tradition is weak and feeble right now. More people need to choose to be a part of it, no matter what your race is.

Righteous indignation and anger can channel through love. Get made with love and courage and be willing to die for something bigger than you.

We all need to talk justice, and do the right thing. It's not about politics and power, it's about people and caring about other people. We take action, Cornel West says, or we go under as a nation. Democracy is almost gone.

We need a sense of history to help change this system. The system is all about people up for sale.

The system itself was broken in the past... and it is now. We have to keep our focus on the system, and people of courage and vision must organize and mobilize. It's not about one person or one President, it's about fundamental transformation from oligarchs to everyday people.

What are you willing to do? What will be the cost? We don't want to lose our democracy. Dick Gregory, most of his friends are dead. This is a new form of slavery. Oligarchy needs to be challenged. People are afraid to stand up and make a choice. Most people would rather sell out than die, Cornell believes.

He thinks that the resiliency of poor people is very strong. There needs to be a wave of young people like some ancestors were. They are indoctrinated into overnight success... and this does not help. There is a shift in young people that could make them sell out to superficial status. Quick success is not as worthy as working towards something important.

Tavis Smiley says things are getting worse, even though money has been spent.

Barbara Ehrenreich says that corporate policies and wages and the bad safety net system is rigged. If you spiral down, you will spiral faster. There is no ladder going up, there is a greased shute going down. Employers are checking credit scores - what is that about?

And they don't want to hire people who need jobs. What?? Debts mount, along with the possibility of legal trouble, she says. When you apply for food stamps, your information is in the system like a criminal's is. Is there a war on the poor?

We can be Poverty Abolitionists, Tavis Smiley says. There are Poverty Deniers out there.  Our system is not democratic.

Optimism suggests that there is a reason to believe things will get better. Hope says faith is the substance of things hoped for, things not seen. We need to move from symbols to substance.

Wow. What a program. It was one of the best I have ever seen. I suggest you listen to it or watch it also. This program may be offered on PBS later on. I hope so!


PS I believe that Martin Luther King, Jr. would definitely be involved in this struggle to help our fellow Americans.

PPS I may have some words wrong on here. I was typing pretty fast! I hope I got most of the speakers and ideas right.

See these links for more information about this great talk:
Tavis Smiley Hosts Symposium on Poverty in America / C-SPAN


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