Poverty among plenty -- and it's getting worse


Check out the news this week:

The Associate Press reports that there are increasing numbers of homeless and poor people in Silicon Valley. The piece almost sounds like something I would write:

Simply put, while the ultra-rich are getting even richer, record numbers of Silicon Valley residents are slipping into poverty. "In the midst of a national economic recovery led by Silicon Valley's resurgence, as measured by corporate profits and record stock prices, something strange is going on in the Valley itself. Most people are getting poorer," said Cindy Chavez, executive director of San Jose-based Working Partnerships USA, a nonprofit advocating for affordable housing, higher minimum wages and access to health care.

That will come as no surprise to people who lived through the last tech boom in San Francisco and are struggling to live through this one. Great wealth does not trickle down around here; it sucks up housing, drives up costs, and creates homelessness and poverty for the most vulnerable:

The causes for the growing disparity are complex, but largely come down to one thing: a very high cost of living. The median home price is $550,000, and rents average just under $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in this region that is home to many of the nation's wealthiest companies including Facebook, Apple Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Google. For a family of four, just covering basic needs like rent, food, childcare and transportation comes to almost $90,000 a year, according to the nonprofit Insight Center for Community Economic Development. "The fact is that we have an economy now that's working well only for those at the very top," said Lawrence Mishel at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. "Unless we adopt a new approach to economic policy, we're going to continue going down this path, which means growth that does not really benefit the great majority of people in this country."

Meanwhile, there’s a new study out, using a new approach to economic data, that shows that almost a quarter of all California residents live below the poverty line. The raw data, which is a bit thick, is here. There’s a state Senate report on it here. Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF) held a hearing on the data -- but uncovering the facts, while valuable, isn’t going to get anyone off the streets. And I don't understand why this isn't on the front page of every major newspaper in the state.

Before my trolls tell me that I hate the rich, let me repeat: I don’t hate anybody and I don’t blame rich people for what this country has created. That’s the fault of the policymakers who, since Ronald Reagan too office in 1981, have allowed the United States to embrace increasing social inequality.

Great wealth can make a country, well, wealthy. But if it’s allowed to stick entirely to the top, then if can do more harm than good.

And the reality is that, particularly in the South and the West, tax policy is designed to help the wealthy at the expense of the poor:

The fact is, the more the poor are taxed, the worse off they are, whether they are working or not. We all pay a huge price for this shortsightedness. Medicaid payments, food stamps, disability benefits — all of these federal programs swoop in to try to patch up a frayed safety net.

In other words, it’s not the Invisible Hand of Adam Smith causing the poverty in California. It’s not laziness that causes poor people to live on the streets. And it’s not just happening in San Francisco.

Now, some of the people who like to comment on this blog suggest that poor people just move somewhere else, that it’s too expensive to live in San Francisco and that’s just the way it is.

That's a bit of a harsh approach, and undermines the entire idea of a city as a community, where people of different income levels can live. But it’s also impractical; one of the reasons people come here, besides the weather and the scintillating level of intellectual dialogue (present company excluded) is that there are jobs here. Oh, and most poor people can' t just pack up, hire a moving van, relocate to another city, pay first and last month's rent, and live on savings until they find a new job.

There was a time when the federal government taxed great wealth, and used the money to invest in cities, building (and subsidizing) housing and infrasructure and funding jobs programs. Much of that is now gone; revenue sharing is a ghost of the past, eliminated in the Reagan era.

So now we have almost a parody of American economic news: The New York Times reports that the Dow Jones Industrial Average is setting new records, and on the same page notes that the numbers of homeless people and people living in poverty are also setting records.

This is by far the biggest issue, the most serious crisis, facing the country, and (unlike wealth) it trickles down to every level of government. And it seems as if nobody is paying attention.


strategy of plagiarism and obfuscation.

The guy is a fraud and a troll.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

Facts matter.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

Not to Trolls, apparently.....

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

hands around like a drunken epileptic, then I will be the first to acknowledge it.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

therefore can only be a very small part of the economy, and limited to certain business sectors, usually retail.

You cannot develop something like an oil-field with a co-operative. Doesn't work.

Posted by anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 10:31 am

See Above......
Another Troll bites the dust!

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:36 am

Co-ops are small, people-centered enterprises that cannot carrry heavy freight.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:48 am
Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

Coops scale because the model is viable and that world without profit really scares you to the core of your being.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

If co-op's could scale, then some of them would have done.

Yet they have not.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:09 pm

REI and electric coops that provide juice to 1/6 of the population prove that the model can scale.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:19 pm
Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

"Its production capacity of 145,000 bpd makes it the fourth-largest oil refinery in Canada."

"Based in New Delhi, India, IFFCO is a federation of more than 40,000 cooperatives."

"BC LNG Export Co-Operative, comprised of Haisla First Nation (situated near Kitimat), a dozen gas producers of intermediate size from both British Columbia and Alberta, and several Asian purchasers."

Sounds large enough to accommodate my needs.....

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

If you best argument is that 99.9% of refineries do NOT follow your model, then you are in deep trouble.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:10 pm

My argument is that sooner or later,
ALL businesses will follow "my" model
or be subject to nationalization.
Privatization has had it's day,
leaving us with catastrophic ecological
disasters, wars-for-profit, and a declining standard of living
for it's subjects. Including you.

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

You are simply expressing your frustration at a system that you dislike.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

A shred? How about an ocean full of plastic, every waterway and lake in the US being polluted, no old-growth forest left, unusable farmland because of agricultural chemicals, crashing fish populations in the oceans. Sorry to confuse you with facts.
And the "system" of which you speak is on life-support, because it rewards mediocrity, and even failure (see Wall Street).

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 6:16 pm

Crashing fish populations is a classic tragedy of the commons resulting from a lack of property rights

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 8:17 am

See above.....

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

Unusable farm land? Yields keep rising. If you didn't get all your news from the Tim Redmonds of the world, you'd know that

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 8:40 am

I try to stay out of discussions that don't fall within a couple of areas where I have some experience and expertise, and agriculture is not one of them, but a MW article linked earlier had this quote:

"Moreover, without significant improvements in agricultural technology, it will be increasingly difficult to feed a world that is rapidly approaching 10 billion people. To do so, food production will need to increase by 60% to 100% by 2050. But the amount of arable land has remained relatively constant at around 3.4 billion acres for the last decade. Increases in crop yields have become more difficult to achieve."
"Why your standard of living will keep shrinking: More people, scarcer resources, means less for everyone", by Satyajit Das

Marketwatch is a sister website of the WSJ, publications not usually known for liberal or progressive articles and biases.

Posted by guest on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 9:40 am

And where would yields be without the agricultural chemicals he decries?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 9:49 am

"What if the agricultural revolution has already happened and we didn’t realize it? Essentially, that’s the idea in this report from the Guardian about a group of poverty-stricken Indian rice and potato farmers who harvested confirmed world-record yields of rice and potatoes. Best of all: They did it completely sans-GMOs or even chemicals of any kind."


stupid Trolls.....

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 16, 2013 @ 8:58 am

Coops can't scale like Citibank or Bank of America, true.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:01 pm

Anyone can cherry pick.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

Bank of America and Citibank tried to destroy our economy and taxpayers, retirees and savers are being forced to pay for them to not fail.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

entail that the corporate/shareholder model is flawed.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

not flawed; dead in the water.

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 16, 2013 @ 9:01 am

"The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment." -Warren G. Bennis

and, "Digital progress has surprised a lot of people recently, and we ain’t seen nothing yet. Brawny computers, brainy programmers, and big data are a potent combination, and they’re nowhere near finished. The labor-force implications of their work are nicely summarized by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, who says that, “The spread of computers and the Internet will put jobs in two categories: People who tell computers what to do, and people who are told by computers what to do.” Only one of these two job categories will be well paid." - Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, "Race Against The Machine."

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 7:19 am

This website needs to be redesigned to make it easier to follow threads,
and perhaps to send an email when someone comments on your post.

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 9:04 am

Oldtimers will remember when taxpayers bailed out the S&L industry back in the late 1980's for bad real estate deals to the tune of $1-2 trillion. This debt is still on the US books with interest being paid (mostly) to the very wealthy, some of whom were bailed out in the first place. Our political leaders said, "Never again!"

Fast forward to 2007. The most recent real estate bailout was over $5 trillion, much of which won't be paid off for decades while the very wealthy continue to collect interest on the debt.

In both cases the real estate speculators who sold at the top of the market made huge multi-million dollar gains, but the lowly taxpayers were stuck with the bill after the party was over.

In Europe we're seeing the same story. Banks are bailed out with the multi-millionaire depositers often being paid in full and the European taxpayers are stuck with the bailout debt.

Below is a story about bank bailouts currently happening in Cyprus. But the same stories are being told in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, US, and many other "advanced" economies. When the story finally rolls around to China, watch out. Hyper-capitalism like they play in China will not end well after a leak springs in that ballon.



Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:09 am

America's poor are quite well off by global standards

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:11 am

Myth: Even if you're poor in the U.S. you're doing pretty well.

The Reality: The U.S. ranks near the bottom of the world's wealthiest countries in how well it cares for its children in poverty. Out of 24 nations, the U.S. ranked between 19th and 23rd in critical areas of health, education, and material well-being. (UNICEF, 2010)

Myth: No one goes hungry in America.

The Reality: One in six Americans lives in a household that is "food insecure," meaning that in any given month, they will be out of money, out of food, and forced to miss meals or seek assistance to feed themselves. Nationally, more than 50 million Americans were food insecure in 2011—a 39 percent increase from 2007. Among the hungry are nearly 17 million children. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, 2012)


Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 2:27 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 9:37 am


"Advocates of Supply-Side economics have apparently never realized that when they recommend across-the-board income tax cuts and matching reductions in government spending, they are proposing a policy that---all else equal---is guaranteed to either cause a recession or make any ongoing recession worse. Across-the-board income tax cuts are contractionary (assuming matching spending cuts) because wealthier recipients of income tax cuts will save some of the extra disposable income they are given. Since not all money that is saved is lent out to borrowers, there is a net leakage of money out of the economy whenever money is saved."

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:40 am

that will be spent or invested. It merely means less of it is consumed by the government, which means more of it is consumed by the rest of us.

Voters generally support having the money in their own pocket rather than trusting some bureaucrat to do it for them. Democratic accountibility sounds good in theory but, in practice, it doesn't work out that way.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:46 am

The paradox of thrift (or paradox of saving) is a paradox of economics, popularized by John Maynard Keynes, though it had been stated as early as 1714 in The Fable of the Bees, and similar sentiments date to antiquity. The paradox states that if everyone tries to save more money during times of economic recession, then aggregate demand will fall and will in turn lower total savings in the population because of the decrease in consumption and economic growth. The paradox is, narrowly speaking, that total savings may fall even when individual savings attempt to rise, and, broadly speaking, that increase in savings may be harmful to an economy. Both the narrow and broad claims are paradoxical within the assumption underlying the fallacy of composition, namely that what is true of the parts must be true of the whole. The narrow claim transparently contradicts this assumption, and the broad one does so by implication, because while individual thrift is generally averred to be good for the economy, the paradox of thrift holds that collective thrift may be bad for the economy.


Posted by marcos on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:51 am

on the proportions involved, then that suggests the need for adopting an ecomonic system based more on pre-planning, and less on the random "atoms-of-consumption" scheme.

Posted by lillipublicans on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 8:45 am

The paradox of thrift is a function of a growth imperative, consumption dependent economy.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 8:58 am

budget, whether thru spending cuts or tax hikes, will harm the economy. That's a big part of why politicians are so reluctant to risk unpopularity by doing either. They'd rather kick the can into the long grass and let their successor deal with it.

The problem is that, at some point, the day of reckoning will arrive, and the tough decisions will no longer be able to be deferred.

Do you want pain today or more pain tomorrow?

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:53 am

I vote for Nationalization!

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 11:55 am

price for the assets acquired. I'd happily sell any of my assets to the government if you are happy to pay more taxes for the symbolism of it.

Knock yourself out.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:08 pm

Don't worry, you don't have any assets anyone is interested in.
However, some our neighbors "South Of The Border" (perhaps
Stone's most important film) and elsewhere on the planet have nationalized oil and other natural resources. Oil companies doesn't own any oil, and mining companies don't own the mountains.These belong to the people, and any benefits extracted, derived, or coerced from them also belong to the people.

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:31 pm

government without full compensation.

What you are describing is not nationalization but expropriation. Only happens in banana republics, not here.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

the entire United States was expropriated.

Down with stupidity!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

There is nothing stopping you from tracking down who you have stolen from and returning your ill gotten gains to them.

And yet you do not.

Posted by Anon on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

If you give freely from that beady little heart of yours,
no one will be forced to take it back.
If you don't, someday someone will.

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 14, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

My little pile of nuts for the winter is far from where your grasping hands will ever find them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 15, 2013 @ 9:36 am

Who was talking about you?
Guilty conscience?

Posted by Troll Killer on Mar. 16, 2013 @ 9:04 am