Friday, July 18, 2008

Consumer press. . .

A friend sent me the following from the Daily Kos from last Monday, July 14, 2008. Seems to point up the fact that our national press just can't stay on the story that is the story in the moment of the events that they cover. I wonder how much press is shaped by consumer evaluations, rather than by a commitment to report what is actually happening in our culture? Cory, who posts to The Daily Kos here, asks a very good question: When it comes to subjects like poverty, is anyone listening?

One additional note: please don't read this as a partisan, political statement from me or this blog site. Poverty should not be regarded as a partisan political issue. Rather, to me and many readers here, poverty is a "value issue." And, there was a day in this nation when both sides of the partisan political divide seemed to care about its resolution. Anyone remember Senator Mark Hatfield, as just one example? A hero of mine.

Can We Talk About Poverty?
by coryDMI
Mon Jul 14, 2008 at 11:24:42 AM PDT

Last Wednesday, I saw John Edwards speak at the Yorkville Common Pantry, a food pantry and soup kitchen in Harlem. After walking into the building, I found myself in the back of a small press conference, just a few feet from Edwards.

The beginning of the press conference started out as expected -- he talked about Half in Ten, his anti-poverty campaign to reduce poverty in America by half within the next ten years, and praised the food pantry for their work in New York City. But after his five minute speech, when it was time for questions from the press, the subject quickly turned away from poverty.

Although Edwards tried his best to talk about poverty, the press just didn't seem to care. Instead, their questions focused almost exclusively on the presidential campaign. If Obama offers you a position as attorney general, will you take it? Is it mere coincidence that you're in New York City within 48 hours of Obama and Clinton's joint appearance here? Do you think that Obama is moving towards the center, and do you support that?

In other words, the press was there to see John Edwards. Poverty? You wouldn't have even guessed that's what the event was about.

But despite the mainstream media's indifference, poverty matters.

According to the Center for American Progress Task Force on Poverty, one in eight Americans currently lives in poverty. That's using the federal definition of the poverty line -- less than $19,971 per year for a family of four. About 31% of Americans live below 200% of the poverty line.

Inequality is at record levels, and the U.S. has higher poverty levels than other developed countries.

CAP's report, "From Poverty to Prosperity: A National Strategy to Cut Poverty in Half," offers a variety of suggestions to decrease poverty. The suggestions run from increasing the minimum wage to passing the Employee Free Choice Act. They suggest increasing federal support for childcare assistance, increasing Pell Grants, and promoting equitable development of cities. The cost of the plan -- they estimate $90 billion -- would be paid for by rolling back Bush's tax cuts on people who make over $200,000 a year.

If the reporters at the Yorkville Common Pantry event had been listening, they might have heard Edwards say that when people are lifted out of poverty and into the middle class America becomes stronger. They might have heard him talk about plans for making food stamp information available over the Internet, making work and education an important part of getting rid of poverty, and importance of integrating affordable housing into the infrastructure of cities and urban areas.

But they weren't really listening.

Biking home from the event, I got stuck at a long traffic light. I glanced at the enormous Hybird Chevy Tahoe just a foot to the right of my bike and peered through the dark tinted windows. Edwards sat inside, looking thoughtful and ponderous. I almost felt bad for the guy. Can you really effect change if you can't get the mainstream media to care? Edwards had called poverty "the cause of my life," but can he really start that conversation if nobody's listening?

[To read the post with live links, simply click on the title line above.]


Anonymous said...

It does seem sometimes that poverty is not even a mainstream Democratic Party issue, much less Republican. The Dems are all about blue collar, formerly union, somewhat-lower-middle-class issues, and seem afraid of FDR/LBJ anti-poverty issues that many now perceive as failed intitiatives. Even Obama and Clinton only seemed to talk about poverty when pressed by Edwards.

Anonymous said...

People typically need an issue, the environment has moved to the top.

Helping people move beyond where they are takes effort and time.

Steve said...

I read this as my wife was watching Fox news. The interviewee was defending the need to possibly cut tax refunds to the rich. Sean Hannity said "oh...from each according to his means to each according to his needs"

Larry, you need to accept the fact that the haves will not give up even a small portion of their advantaged position and possessions freely. They see advocates for poor people as their enemy, and even get angrier when they cannot be politically correct and against helping poor people.

It wouldn't bother me so much if these were the thoughts and prejudices of atheists and darwinians. But when people attack those who advocate for the needs and for justice for the poor...and claim allegiance to Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the words of John the baptist, when he asked those who came to hear him:" ...who told you to flee the wrath to come?" When some people then asked him what thy should do...

Lu 3:11 And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."

People who call themselves Christian, and do not align with the poor are schizophrenic at best.

Justin said...

Steve, I understand your concern, however is it not possible to disagree with the means for achieving said results while still agreeing with the goal? I won't vouch for Hannity, mainly because he's, well, a whole host of things that I don't want to be permenantly etched to having written online, but speaking as a person who disagrees with socialism as a cure to poverty, yet who is committed to social justice nonetheless, I would think it inappropriate to paint people with a broad brush.

Daniel Gray said...

And "socialism as a cure to poverty" is not a broad brush stroke? I think you're being incredibly reductionist, Justin, but then again, you usually are towards people who disagree with you on here.

Anonymous said...

I don't often agree with Justin, but I thought his statement above was perfectly reasonable and made without invective. I think some of us who disagree with Justin (and others) sometimes react with as much hyperbole and vitriol as we accuse our perceived adversaries of using. Justin should be free to state his views and, in this case, commended for doing so calmly and civilly.

Steve said...

This is a great opportunity to lay aside hyperbole, and clarify ourselves. maybe we need definitions.

Daniel feels that Justin was using the "inappropriate" broad brush when Justin reclassified my statements as socialistic. But honestly, Justin, didn't you know the buttons you were pushing in using that word? I suppose that if the historic inference of the term was shed, it could mean the same thing as "social justice" that Justin says he approves of.

So if we are referring to the failed experiments of totalitarian governments who called themselves "socialists", can we all agree that we do not consider that a cure for poverty, and that we are not advocating for the USSR to be the model?

Please hear me then in that context when I felt that Hannity's quick and defensive response to NOT giving tax refunds to the rich ( a far cry from redistribution of wealth at bayonet point)was a knee jerk and tactical response to what many might consider socially just.

Hannity said another phrase later that was a classic of propagandist logic: He asked "Do you think it's fair that the top 10% of the taxpayers in the U.S. pay 70% of the taxes?" As the guest tried to respond, he would not let him talk until he had answered yes or no to that point. Whether it is a fact or not, I do not know, but his presentation was classic mis-speak. He clearly was not saying what percentage of the income they bring in and are being taxed on. (If the top 10% earn 70% of the total income, then a 70% tax burden is obviously fair and equitable) He also didn't say which taxes he was referring to. Demanding a yes no answer and nothing else suggests to me battle tactics, and not a desire to seek truth on the issue. It is protective, and that kind of broadcasting is everywhere. The irony of reading the post on lack of press focus on poverty while hearing this kind of rhetoric provoked my comment.

There are many wealthy philanthropists and I appreciate all they do. But even in their philanthropy there is a desire to control the situation. Control is yet another luxury not shared with poor people. I think Jesus addressed it clearly many times, but the one that comes to mind is his conversation with the rich young ruler, who wanted eternal assurance from Jesus. Jesus said in essence " Surrender control to me"...

To really relate to the poor means to understand the lack of control; politically, economically and in matters of justice. To really help the poor, there needs to be a little more balance in the many areas of control. I guess I would like to hear of examples from Justin of Social Justice coming about voluntarily.