Poverty rate soars to one in six

According to the latest census data, nearly one in six Americans are poor:

Amid a still struggling economy, more people in America fell below the poverty line last year, according to new census data released Tuesday.

The nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1% in 2010, its highest level since 1993. In 2009, 14.3% of people in America were living in poverty.

“The results are not surprising given the economy,” said Paul Osterman, author of “Good Jobs America,” and a labor economist at MIT. “You would expect with so many people unemployed, the poverty rate would go up. It’s just another sign of what a difficult time this is for so many people.”

About 46.2 million people are now considered in poverty, 2.6 million more than last year.

The government defines the poverty line as income of $22,314 a year for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual. The Office of Management and Budget updates the poverty line each year to account for inflation.

via Poverty rate rises as incomes decline – Census – Sep. 13, 2011.

 

Black Cherokees

I grew up in northeast Oklahoma: Cherokee country.  Many of my African-American friends growing up were also members of the Cherokee tribe.  The “Five Civilized Tribes,” which include the Cherokees, assimilated quite a bit into the white man’s ways–which is why the white men called them “civilized”–and that included, since they mostly lived down south, owning slaves.  On the Trail of Tears, they took their slaves with them to Oklahoma.  After the Civil War, in which conflict most of the Cherokees sided with their fellow slave holders in the Confederacy, the slaves, of course, were freed.  In 1866, the tribe signed a treaty that included the provision that all of the Freedmen, the ex-slaves and their descendants, would be granted full membership in the Cherokee tribe.  I always thought that was a noble gesture, accepting the former slaves as equals.  And the Cherokees in the past have not been particularly insistent on “Indian blood,” since tribal rules also allows for white Cherokees, who are as little as 1/16 Native American.

But now the Cherokees have voted to kick the Freedmen out of the tribe.  That was a few years ago, but now the tribal court has ruled on the matter, saying the black Cherokees can be kicked off the tribal rolls, which also means that they will be cut out of the health care and other benefits the federal government gives to Native Americans.  A federal court, though, has stepped in, forbidding the racial discrimination and insisting that the 1866 treaty is still valid.   So now the tribe is up in arms (not literally, not like the old days), insisting that a nation has the right to determine who its citizens can be.  (I suspect that another dynamic here is a bitter election for tribal chief.  A recent vote was nearly a tie, and it was contested to the point that a new election is in the works.  I suspect that disenfranchising a block of voters might be to one of the candidates’ advantage, though I don’t know who.  And there may well be other issues.  I’m pretty much out of touch these days.  I’d be glad to hear from any Cherokees of any color who might be reading this.  Feel free to correct me.)

Cherokee Indians: We are free to oust blacks – US news – Life – msnbc.com.

Closed Communion question

I know that the confessional Lutheran practice of “closed communion,” in which you have to be a member of the church body (or a member of a church in formal doctrinal fellowship with that church body) to commune at the Lutheran altar, is offensive to many non-Lutherans.  I don’t particularly want to debate that practice, which we’ve talked about extensively.  Rather, I would like to ask those of you who are offended some questions:  Have you ever been to a Roman Catholic mass or an Eastern Orthodox divine liturgy?  Perhaps you attended a funeral or a wedding or had an assignment in a religion course or dropped in on a service for one reason or another.   Were you offended because you could not commune?  Did you expect to?  Did you even want to, given your theological reservations about what was going on?

Though some Roman Catholic priests will commune anyone, this is strictly forbidden by canon law.  I would say that there are proportionally more Missouri Synod Lutheran pastors who practice open communion, even though it is against denominational policy, than there are Catholic priests who do it.  And, as an Orthodox commenter helpfully observed in one of our earlier threads, you will come close to never finding open communion practiced in an Eastern Orthodox church.

Used to, one’s membership in a particular theological tradition was defined by whom you would take communion with.   Then we had the ecumenical movement, largely among Protestants, and different churches–usually highly liberal–started sharing Communion with everyone.

Anyway, my impression is that few people feel insulted when they don’t join Catholics or Orthodox in their sacramental rites.  After all, we think, I’m not Catholic or Orthodox.

So why is it different with Lutherans?

 

Perry’s vaccination problem

Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry got hit hard in the recent debate over his executive order to vaccinate young girls against a sexually-transmitted disease.  My friend Rich Shipe was telling me even before Perry threw his hat in the ring that a lot of social conservatives oppose him for that reason.  Here is the story:

Four years ago, Gov. Rick Perry put aside his social conservative bona fides and signed an order requiring Texas girls to be vaccinated against HPV.

The human papillomavirus is a sexually spread virus that can cause cervical cancer, and he says his aim was protecting against that cancer. But it didn’t take long for angry conservatives in the Legislature to override a measure they thought tacitly approved premarital sex, and for critics to accuse Perry of cronyism.

Now Perry’s taking heat on the issue anew as he runs for the presidential nomination of a GOP heavily influenced by conservatives who are sour on the government dictating health care requirements. Illustrating the delicate politics at play, he’s both defending himself and calling his action a mistake.

“If I had it to do over again, I would have done it differently,” Perry said Tuesday night as he debated his rivals, insisting that he would have worked with the Legislature instead of unilaterally acting. But he did not back down from his stance that girls should be vaccinated against the virus, which is generally spread by sexual contact. He argued that it wasn’t a mandate and noted that he included the right for parents to opt out of the vaccinations.

“This was about trying to stop a cancer,” he said. “I am always going to err on the side of life.”

Not that the explanation satisfied his GOP opponents. . . .

It all began when Merck, which won approval for the first HPV vaccine a year earlier, was spending millions lobbying state legislators to require girls to be vaccinated with the new product, Gardasil. The company also was donating money to a national organization called Women in Government, which in Texas was led by state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, who chaired the House public health committee. She was also the mother-in-law of Perry’s chief of staff at the time, Deirdre Delisi — the same woman who now is one of Perry’s top presidential campaign aides.

Schedule and campaign finance reports show that on one day — Oct. 16, 2006 — Deirdre Delisi held a staff meeting to discuss the vaccine and Merck’s political action committee gave Perry $5,000. The drug maker had previously given $6,000 in donations. Perry’s office called the timing of the donation a coincidence.

A review of campaign finance reports shows that Merck’s political action committee continued to contribute, a total of $17,500 to Perry’s campaign fund between 2008 and 2010 even though Perry’s order was eventually overturned.

By early 2007, Toomey and Dianne White Delisi were working to overcome opposition among lawmakers to a bill to require the vaccination. But conservatives said they feared the requirement would infringe on personal liberties and signal approval of premarital sex. Rather than wait for the Legislature to act, Perry signed an executive order on Feb. 2, 2007, requiring the vaccination — with an opt-out provision. It surprised even his allies who acknowledged that it was out of step with his limited-government stance.

Perry explained his action by pointing to his long-documented passion about fighting cancer. He had signed a host of legislation to that end, including a constitutional amendment in Texas that created a cancer research institute funded with $3 billion from bond sales.

“We have a vaccine that’s going to save young women’s lives,” Perry said in 2007. “This is wise public policy.”

The governor quickly found that Texas parents didn’t like the idea of the government telling preadolescents to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease. Within three weeks, the House public health committee approved a bill negating the order but Perry persisted in defending his initiative. By May 8, when it was clear the Legislature was going to pass the bill stopping his order, Perry said he would stop fighting.

via Perry facing new criticism for Texas vaccine order – CBS News.

What do you think about this?  Is there a legitimate “pro-life” reason to order a vaccine that might prevent deaths from cancer?  What about the appearance of “crony capitalism”?  If you disapprove of what the governor did, do you consider this a deal-breaker in your ability to support Perry?  Does that apply just to the primary, or also, if he becomes the Republican nominee, if he runs against President Obama?

HT:  Rich Shipe

Another debate

Last night’s debate between the eight Republican presidential contenders was put on by CNN and sponsored by the Tea Party, no less.  Wolf Blitzer presided, but he worked from questions from the Tea Party audience, which made them arguably more interesting to conservatives.

My impression is that Perry got beaten up pretty severely by the other candidates (to the point of getting boos from the Tea Party for his program of vaccinating little girls for sexually transmitted diseases and for promoting a Texas “dream act” giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition for state colleges.  Ron Paul got in trouble for blaming America for the 9/11 attacks.  Mitt Romney, on the other hand, did quite well, scoring points with conservatives and winning applause from the Tea Partiers.  Newt Gingrich put in an impressive performance, as did Rick Santorum.  Herman Cain acquitted himself well, getting across his intriguing “999″ plan (9% individual income tax; 9% corporate income tax; 9% national sales tax).  Michelle Bachmann was forceful and aggressive, but I’m not sure she inspired confidence.  Jon Huntsman didn’t do too much.  (Am I missing anything in my analysis?)

After the first debate, Michele Bachmann rose to pre-eminence.  After the second, it was Rick Perry.  Now Mitt Romney seems to be in ascendance, with ex-candidate Tim Pawlenty endorsing him and politicos reasoning that someone who calls Social Security a Ponzi scheme (which, technically, it is) can hardly win Florida.

Anyway, how do things stand with you and this election so far?  Is there any candidate you feel like supporting with great enthusiasm?  Can any of these people beat President Obama?  Which is more important to you, electability or ideological purity?

 

 

The housing market & the economy

Attention is now on “jobs, jobs, jobs.”  Earlier, the attention was on “economic stimulus.”  But many economists are saying that those emphases miss the big problem that is dragging the economy down and preventing consumer spending:  the mortgage crisis in the housing market.

Almost half of America’s mortgages are “underwater,” with the amount owed being more than the property is worth.  That hurts the banks and other lenders, since the collateral they are holding is not enough to cover the value of the loans they have made.  The collapse of house prices might at least help people to buy homes, but the lenders now have to be especially stingy in making loans.

And for  homeowners, the loss of their home’s value a loss of their major capital.  For many of them, their home was a major part of their retirement plan–sell the big house, buy a condo now that the kids are gone, and live off the rest.

Housing woes impact the job market too, since lots of people are employed in construction and in the manufacture of consumer goods that go into the new houses.

Does anyone have any ideas for reviving the housing market?

 

(See  Obama jobs plan: Economists give good reviews but say more needed on mortgage debt – The Washington Post.)


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