Welfare Moms on the Campaign Trail

Sunday, April 15, 2012 | Margy's Blog & Updates | News

Soooooo - did some advocate or operative actually propose responding to the Ann-Romney-Attack-Scandal (I kid) by raising the question of whether welfare Moms should be required to work?

Or did Chris Hayes decide on his own that it was important to expose an apparent inconsistency in the Romney world view? (A fair charge in this case.)

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Either way, the result may be more reinforcing of the already dominant organizing idea: people on welfare are irresponsible, and therefore perhaps we have to make them work or else they won't, etc. etc. etc. Hayes reveals this problem with his guests.

But, by highlighting the problem - he raised the issue. And now the bad frame is all over the web. Every progressive advocate repeating this wants to highlight the double standard. The problem is that too many people don't see it as a double standard at all. 

Progressives can't win any battle by raising the topic of welfare as a defense -- particularly when the case requires agreeing that making welfare Moms work is a bad idea (even when it is).  

Exception: Stack empty.

Progress on License Reinstatement Policy

Sunday, December 18, 2011 | access to driving | Margy's Blog & Updates | News

Here's a great new article citing The Mobility Agenda and making the case for reducing barriers to driving by lowering fees for reinstatement after suspension for non-driving offenses. 

"Revoking a license for non-driving offenses does not only hurt an individual, but can cause serious side effects in our communities."


Exception: Stack empty.

Chicago Tribune: People Need Cars

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 | access to driving | Margy's Blog & Updates | News

The Chicago Tribune reports on The Mobility Agenda research on transportation and access to driving.

ownership of a car allows people to fully contribute to local economies through increased job opportunities, wages and hours worked.

“We forget that public transit really does not meet the needs of everyone,” Waller said, “particularly people who are working in the service economy whose schedules may not mesh very well with transit, or whose job location and home location don’t mesh well with public transit.”


Poverty in the Movies - So Not Changing the World

Sunday, November 22, 2009 | General | Margy's Blog & Updates | News


Precious, the movie, has been getting a lot of attention – and some of my friends recommend it highly. But, I’ve been resisting. A.O. Scott, in his commentary Two Movies, Two Routes From Poverty, confirms my inclination to avoid. I waited years to see Pursuit of Happyness for the same reason. That film made me cry, but it also made me mad. Scott points out the problem of movies about poverty: they usually focus (by necessity) on the story of the individual and thereby obscure the systemic issues. I just mostly get annoyed seeing movies that reinforce the problematic, widespread assumption that a little more charity and/or personal responsibility will solve the problem. Where do people get those ideas? From….uh, the movies!!

Raina Kelley, in an essay in Newsweek, took a more ambivalent, less incendiary view, noting that the movie’s intense focus on an individual’s terrible story blunted its potential to make a larger statement. “I wish I could agree with those who say ‘Precious’ is just one more movie that feeds our vision of ourselves as victims,” she wrote. “Even that would have been better than what lies underneath: the fact that black people have begun to accept as unchangeable the lot of those stuck in the ghetto.”

And this is a critique that might extend to “The Blind Side” as well. Both movies tell stories that suggest a way out of poverty, brutality and domestic calamity for certain lucky individuals while saying very little about how those conditions might be changed. For all their differences, they ultimately occupy a common ground that is both optimistic and, at the same time, curiously defeatist. Both locate the problems facing their main characters in the failure of families — of mothers in particular — and find solutions in better families, substitute mothers (Ms. Rain and Leigh Anne), whose selflessness and loyalty exorcise the biological monsters who have been left behind. The fact that “The Blind Side” is based on a true story lends credibility to this sentimental idea.

Left or right, black or white, Americans love happy endings. Overcoming adversity is our national pastime, especially when it can also be a spectator sport. And we love stories of heroic educators, coaches and moms — Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds,” Edward James Olmos in “Stand and Deliver” — who change the lives of poor, marginalized children by teaching them hard work and self esteem. Let me be clear: I’m not disparaging either “Precious” or “The Blind Side,” even though I think “Precious” is a much better movie. They are both sincere and serious, and if they serendipitously share a premise, they also share a blind spot, which is hardly theirs alone.

At the end of “Precious” the heroine shoulders her burden and sets off to make her way in the world, a conclusion that may be objectively bleak — Precious is an H.I.V.-positive teenage mother who has only recently learned to read and write — but that fills the audience with a sense of hard-won redemption. We believe she will be all right because we would rather believe that than confront the failures of institutions, programs and collective will that leave so many other Preciouses unrescued.

Lessons from Experience

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Margy's Blog & Updates | News

John Edwards “says his explicit framing of poverty was never intended as a winning campaign tactic.”

In this review of the recent history of policital talk about poverty for American Prospect magazine, Alec MacGillis talks to John Edwards and many others (including – full disclosure – your blogger).

Many of those interviewed seem to think that unless we use the word “poverty”, we aren’t really talking about it. I’m left wondering what the policy and think tank mafia will make of the history.



News Brief Thursday, January 8th

Thursday, January 08, 2009 | News

This edition will be the final News Brief from The Mobility Agenda. We hope you have enjoyed reading them over the past several months. Please visit our website, www.mobilityagenda.org, for updates and news from us in the future. Thanks!

Give new fathers a year’s paternity leave, says CleggWalk on pier
“‘If dads don’t get involved with their kids early on in a meaningful way, often they don’t remain engaged afterwards.’”
Screw the UK’s ideas for long-term planning! This country was founded on the basic ideals of short-term profit!

Poverty in Oklahoma: a ‘challenging’ forecast
Under the shadow of the poverty banner, the forecast isn’t looking any brighter.

Worsening poverty calls for united effort in region
“Will you add ”doing my part to reduce poverty“ as one of your resolutions for 2009?”
Sure! But since it appears that one of your resolutions is to keep talking about poverty, I’ll go ahead and write it in for 2010 as well.

The Dispossessed
“They have been made poor by a combination of impersonal economic forces and legal-political obstacles to equality.”
The joy of the endless argument that talking about poverty brings…(The “responsibility rebuttal” isn’t far behind.)

Low-wage economy ‘creates child poverty’
“The report predicts that, without changes in policy, there will be a similar number of low-paying jobs in 2020 as in 2004, due to an expansion of employment in low-paid sectors such as retail, catering and lower-level service posts.”
Moving workers out of bad jobs means little if that bad job is filled by someone else.

To stop poverty, it takes a village
it takes a village that stops talking about poverty…

Barack the ‘Magic Negro’
“America, like much of the world, faces a growing polarization of wealth that has made poverty the new and real racism. People of all colors are being left out of the opportunities for good educations, good jobs, good health and good housing.”
Unfortunately, they will continue to be left out as long as education, jobs, health, and housing are swept into the growing pile of poverty policy.

Mississippi has highest teen birth rate, CDC says
“A variety of factors influence teen birth rates, including culture, poverty and racial demographics. For those and other reasons, kids in mostly white New England likely would delay child birth…”
Poverty was long ago tied up into a neat little package with racial divisiveness and teenage pregnancy (not to mention drug use, individual responsibility, etc.) Did we not learn anything from Pandora’s Box?







News Brief Monday, January 5

Monday, January 05, 2009 | News

Paid Leave

NJ set to begin payroll deductions for paid family leave
“A drop in productivity when there’s somebody pinch-hitting for people who are out on leave…is a further obstacle for employers to keep and retain clients and to limit their costs.”
Luckily, this worker benefit comes at no cost to employers (though you wouldn’t know it, the way they fight it).

Lawsuit filed to block Milwaukee sick leave law
“The 20-page lawsuit claims the ordinance is unconstitutional, vague and unenforceable, and creates a new minimum wage ordinance contrary to state law.”
Working while sick is actually required by the MMAC constitution.

Minimum Wage

Media Undermines Minimum Wage Increase
“The reporters continue with this narrow frame by implying that certain employers and the state’s 300,000 minimum wage workers will be the only ones to feel the impact of the change.”
Narrow frames make for narrow minds.

Opinion: The minimum wage
The minimum wage sets the wage floor. As Roosevelt and his advisers understood, we have to raise the floor to lift the economy.”


Editorial: The State of the Poor
“But too little attention is being paid to the poor in the current economic crisis.”
Clearly, too little attention is being paid to framing strategy when it comes to “the poor” as well.

Curing poverty is the key to improving education
“The answer to improving school achievement is simple: cure poverty.”
Why didn’t we think of that before? Problem: solved.

‘Reducing poverty’ is the wrong goal
“Unless we want to narrow the list of solutions at the outset, the new president should focus instead on how to establish goals that measure our progress toward an inclusive economy that works for all of us.”
Note to self: The Cure Poverty Caboose is derailed. Abandon ship.


The Mobility Agenda calls for new Presidential focus on economic and social inclusion

Monday, January 05, 2009 | News

In an op-ed published today in the Philadelphia Daily News, The Mobility Agenda’s Margy Waller recommends that Barack Obama focus on establishing goals that measure our progress toward an inclusive economy that works for all of us.

 Waller writes that the goal of an inclusive society is a multi-dimensional concept incorporating not only notions of adequate income, but also neighborhood quality, access to the arts, education, health care, participation in civic events, housing, pensions, and other factors.

 She concludes that it will take hard work and high-level attention to develop a framework and narrative for this concept; establishing a new cross-agency effort to develop and focus on such goals is worthy of Presidential attention and cabinet-member status. Moreover, she argues, in contrast a goal to cut poverty is too limited and doomed to failure in today’s society. 

Read the op-ed here. 



TPM Cafe

Friday, January 02, 2009 | News

 Media Undermines Minimum Wage Increase

Residents of nine states  – Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington  – will see a boost to their local economy from a state minimum wage increase taking effect in the new year.

Unfortunately, media coverage of the change varies across place and often undermines public support for this progressive step…

Read the full article here.


Workers Independent News

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | News

Mobility Agenda Report: Community Benefits Agreements Are Improving Low-Wage Jobs

The progressive think tank, Mobility Agenda, is out with a report on community benefits agreements that says these agreements are transforming thousands of low-wage jobs into good, living wage jobs in communities across the nation. These agreements between developers and labor/community coalitions on p[rojects that use some public finding are legally binding and designed to boost wages and stregthen local labor markets…

Read the full article here.