Friday, February 22, 2008

I am in the New York Times! (online)

Yahoo! It ran on the website! Now, the printed version did not run it, but the 2 well-written letters in the paper are right beside mine on the web. I feel there is no shame in having to cede print space to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi! In fact, it may well be _because_ she wrote that the NY Times chose to run responses to this particular op-ed. Despite how she behaved on the Farm Bill, I am still honored to share space with her on this issue. Here are the 5 letters that ran on the web, including mine...

To the Editor:

“Poverty Is Poison,” by Paul Krugman (column, Feb. 18), echoes what members of Congress heard at a national summit meeting about child development that Democrats convened last year. Children who grow up in poverty have a much lower chance of success in school and in life, but investments in early childhood development help to even the odds, offering hope and opportunity where little existed before.

The despair that poverty brings to millions of American children compels us to take a serious and sustained national approach. Last year’s bipartisan revamping of the Head Start program to focus on early intervention was huge progress; now we need to do the hard work of making sure this important initiative is financed.

Other solutions can be found in our tax policy — we can reward parents struggling to lift their families out of poverty.

Democrats insisted that the recent economic stimulus package include rebate checks for 35 million families who work but earn too little to pay federal income tax, and we included additional benefits for families with children. The approach of these recovery rebates is similar to that of the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is widely recognized as one of America’s most effective anti-poverty policies.

Poverty is indeed poison — to the children who fall prey to it, and to the future strength of our nation. With a singularity of purpose, America can develop an antidote.

Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
Washington, Feb. 20, 2008

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman is right that the “War on Poverty” 44 years ago had a positive effect by reducing poverty, particularly among children. That this effort to improve the lives of millions of Americans was derailed by reactionary politics couldn’t be more true.

In the late 1960s, I was responsible for coordinating federal antipoverty programs for the six states of the Northeast at the United States Office of Economic Opportunity. I saw firsthand the positive effects of programs like Head Start, the Job Corps and the Neighborhood Youth Corps — designed to help children and teenagers.

I also witnessed the cynical, systematic attacks on these programs by Richard M. Nixon and his point man, Spiro T. Agnew. The phony rhetoric they used to stigmatize the programs was passed along by the media. Thus, “economic opportunity” programs became “minority” and then “welfare dependency” ones. The reality was that two-thirds of the poor being served were white.

Nixon severely weakened the national initiatives, and then Ronald Reagan abolished the coordinated federal effort altogether in 1981. (At the time I was chairman of the president’s National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity.) The consequence: four million Americans were driven into poverty, most of whom were women and children.

Poverty is poison, and politics can be toxic.

Arthur I. Blaustein
Berkeley, Calif., Feb. 18, 2008

To the Editor:

Paul Krugman helps shatter the myth that there is nothing we can do about poverty. Too many people think that the state of poverty in America is inevitable, never questioning what we can do to change it nor looking at the inspiring progress of other industrialized nations.

I believe that it is possible not only to end poverty in the United States, but also to end extreme poverty around the globe within our lifetime. Our country can help make this happen by passing the Global Poverty Act and holding ourselves accountable for our part in achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.


To the Editor:

Having worked in Newark for over a decade, I am bewildered that people could believe that poor Americans are not that poor.

Poverty anywhere is not a fixed notion but a relationship between the resources available to the general public and the resources available to the poor. From health care and nutrition to transportation and access to good schools, poor children and their families struggle every minute of every day. Those who do climb out of poverty have done so with immense and uncommon personal effort. Not everyone is so gifted.

John Edwards did indeed set the stage for Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton to follow on this matter.

Jo Ann Joseph
Glen Ridge, N.J., Feb. 18, 2008

To the Editor:

In a new study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, cognitive neuroscientists found that while stories were being read to children of poverty, they were “less able to screen out noises embedded in the stories” than were children from more affluent families. Such evidence suggests that cognitive skills are strongly influenced by environment.

Since distractions of all kinds, including those that stem from difficult home environments and antisocial street behaviors, are a constant in the lives or many poor children, it is no wonder that their reading test scores suffer. Nor is it then surprising that as a consequence, dropouts and suspensions are disproportionate among minority children, especially black boys.

Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, now all but forgotten, needs to be revived by our next president.

Jerrold Ross
Jamaica, Queens, Feb. 18, 2008

No comments: