News Release

Poverty of Ideas?

As President Clinton tours poor areas of the United States, analysts are available to comment on past and future policy choices:

MIMI ABRAMOVITZ
Professor at the School of Social Work at Hunter College and author of Regulating the Lives of Women, Abramovitz said: “It’s positive, and long overdue, that Clinton is addressing these issues, but to be saying that you want to deal with poverty while you’re calling welfare ‘reform’ a success is rather disingenuous. While the welfare rolls have dropped sharply, studies indicate that many have simply joined the ranks of the working poor. They now have jobs that are paying below poverty wages, without benefits or affordable child care; moreover, states have been ‘forgetting’ to tell them that they are still eligible for Medicaid and food stamps.”

JAMES K. GALBRAITH
Author of Created Unequal: The Crisis in American Pay and professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, Galbraith said: “It is good that Clinton is going out and calling attention to these issues, but some of the suggestions are flawed. If you build a base of incomes and social and physical infrastructure, then business activity develops, but if you throw business activity in a region where that does not exist, then you have a sweatshop phenomenon. What is needed is housing assistance, public services, money to improve schools and the environment, and income support such as through the earned income tax credit and a higher minimum wage.”
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GEORGE FRIDAY
Friday is a member of the Grassroots Policy Project and a low-income activist. She said: “If it wasn’t for NAFTA, hundreds of thousands of jobs would not have left the U.S., creating more poverty. If there were minimal protections for migrant workers, then we wouldn’t have the depth of poverty that we have. If North Carolina, where I live, wasn’t a ‘right to work’ state, people could do collective bargaining and have the guarantee of organized workplaces. As it is, they can be fired at will. What you have now are people who are afraid of losing jobs, so they don’t push for better conditions and safety at their workplaces.”

ROBERT J. S. ROSS
Professor of Sociology at Clark University and author of the forthcoming Hearts Starve: The New Sweatshops in Global Context, Ross said: “What the president’s tour highlights is that there are really important pockets of poverty in the country. Full employment is the single most important thing in lifting people out of poverty, and the president seems to understand that. But a rising tide lifts boats unequally. While poverty is falling, income inequality remains at post-war highs… Using tax incentives just moves investment around. Spot subsidies have not proved to be terribly efficient inside of nations.”

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167