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January 20, 2014 at 6:08 AM
As The Seattle Times’ Martin Luther King Jr. Day editorial suggests, this is a time to reflect on how far King County has come toward accomplishing the civil rights legend’s dream of a fair and just society — and how much farther we have to go.
Two must-reads that inspired our board’s view are King County’s Equity and Social Justice Annual Reports in 2012 and 2013. Both are a punch to the gut. They represent public health officials’ courageous effort to lay bare a simple fact: Race and place are directly linked to opportunities for better health, higher incomes and longer lives. (more…)
November 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Anti-poverty efforts must move away from a singular focus on inner-cities and go where poverty is growing fastest: the suburbs. People with limited economic means are stereotyped as living in inner-cities, but America’s poor more often than not live and struggle in suburban communities far from the things they need most, including public transportation, health care and jobs.
These points rest atop rigorous research and public policy advocacy by Alan Berube, a senior fellow and deputy director at the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. He is co-author of Confronting Suburban Poverty in America (Brookings Press, 2013). Berube was in Seattle early Monday to talk about the poverty’s shift beyond urban centers. There are now four times as many people living in poverty in the suburbs compared to a decade ago. Indeed, there are more poor people in suburbs now than in cities. Part of the story is the migration of low-wage jobs, chiefly in hospitality and fast-food restaurants, as well as limited affordable housing in cities like Seattle.
Berube’s talk was sponsored by the Equity kNOW project, a smart partnership between King County and Futurewise to promote more understanding of poverty and general agreement on solutions. I’m encouraged by all of this. King County has the capacity to offer forward-looking mapping and analysis of changing demographics countywide. Anti-poverty efforts need this type of regional leadership, Berube notes. He also credits smart regional cooperatives around the country, giving a nod here to the Road Map Project, a nonprofit organizing South King County communities around improving public education.
Poverty will always exist, just as there will always be unemployment. Efforts to raise incomes should be joined by efforts to ensure everyone, regardless of income, lives in communities helping them not simply survive, but thrive. That means close residential proximity to healthy and fresh foods, public parks, quality schools and reliable bus service. There is a large correlation between people who do not have access to these things and their race, ethnicity and income.
Consider the following in King County:
- The number of people of color has quadrupled over the last 30 years.
- People of color account for more than half of young people under the age of 18.
- Tukwila, Renton and SeaTac are majority minority cities.
- Three ZIP codes – Skyway, SeaTac-Tukwila and Seattle’s Rainier Valley – are the most racially and ethnically diverse in the nation.
The YouTube video by the Brookings Institution below offers a vivid snapshot of poverty’s changing face nationwide.
November 14, 2013 at 6:14 AM
Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times editorial board. Here Bruce Ramsey and Lynne K. Varner offer different takes on a proposal in Switzerland for a guaranteed minimum income.
Apologies in advance if this gives you indigestion, but I just read that Switzerland is thinking about offering a monthly allowance to every citizen. No strings attached.
Americans will immediately think of Social Security, but Swiss citizens of all ages, not simply the elderly, would receive a check from the government. Others might think of public assistance, but Switzerland is not trying to help the poor here. There would be no means-testing. If advocates of the proposal gather enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot, and if it passes, every Swiss citizen could count on a check.
Bruce, I’m intrigued by the plan’s author, German-born artist Enno Schmidt, and his invitation to consider what kinds of lives we would all lead if we could count on a small, but consistent, monthly stipend. Schmidt is part of the basic-income movement getting notice in many parts of Europe and among socialist political circles. It has its roots in income-inequality debates but unlike the minimum-wage battle here in the U.S., basic-income proposals do not rely on recipients participating in the workforce. So it’s not about improving incomes by raising working wages, but rather achieving the same means with a monthly check from the government for as long as you live.
This New York Times story compares conversations surrounding the idea to talk in the U.S. about Robin Hood taxes and single-payer health care. The article notes that “certain wonks on the libertarian right and liberal left,” are coming together around the idea, although they differ on whether the money should be an unconditional stipend or a means-tested minimum income to supplement the earnings of the working poor.
And from the same Times story, Charles Murray, darling of the conservative right wrote in his books, “In Our Hands: A plan to Replace the Welfare State,” guaranteeing $10,000 a year to all Americans over 21 and who stayed out of jail.” Let me take a moment to fantasize about what I would do with my check.
In the end Bruce, this is not an idea for America. But Switzerland is a smaller country with one of the most stable economies in the world. The Swiss are a socially conscious lot. Guaranteeing every citizen the ability to feed and shelter themselves without the stigma attached to welfare may work for them. What do you think, and more importantly how’s your digestion?
My digestion is fine but my dander is certainly up. The Swiss are a levelheaded people, and I hope they vote this idea down.
Life requires work. The government should not give able-bodied and able-minded citizens an idleness option in the prime of life. It’s bad for them. It’s bad for the people around them, especially their kids.
The chief promoter of this bad idea argues that the receipt of free money will “unleash creativity and entrepreneurialism.” And guess what? Enno Schmidt’s an artist, which is one of the few occupations on earth that millions of people will pursue even if not paid. Put on a stipend, many an artist would go on making art. (Indeed, there was a sculptor in Norway who had a deal like that with the local authorities, and Oslo has a park full of his work.) But, put on a stipend, would a watchmaker go on making watches? Would a waitress go on serving table? Would your garbageman go on picking up trash?
On this matter, we’re expected to trust the social imagination of an artist?
Or a libertarian, namely Charles Murray. In his book “In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State” (2006) he proposed a grant of $10,000 a year to every American over 21 and not in jail–but provided that we give up all other benefit programs. But it wouldn’t be done that way. And he knew that. And the author of “Losing Ground” (1984), the famous indictment of the welfare state, should have known better than to make a such a proposal.
Paying people not to work results in less work done. I trust myself here. I’m about to retire. If I didn’t have sources of money, I wouldn’t do it. I’d keep working. I can stop working now, in my 60s, because the system under which I’ve worked, and the decisions I’ve made under that system, give me an option of idleness. That I have this option after almost 40 years of work is one thing. But should the young have it?
And if we’re talking about a payment too small to live on, but big enough for a fling—what would be the social purpose of that? Imagine something like Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend, which this year pays $900 to qualifying residents. Suppose every adult American had it, adding $200 billion to the deficit every year. Would that be a wise expenditure?
It might, as you say, provide everyone an income “without the stigma attached to welfare.” But the stigma is good. It is a sign of cultural health. We shouldn’t want to end it.
July 26, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Where do lower-income households have the best chances of rising into the middle class? You’d be surprised. Check out this cool map to compare upward mobility rates across the country. Lighter colors represent areas where children from low-income families are more likely to move up in the income distribution. A New York Times interactive of this map allows you to chart different comparisons.
Source: (The Equality of Opportunity Project)
May 22, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Earlier this week, Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull wrote about the growth of poverty in South King County’s suburban communities. She highlighted the findings of a new Brookings Institute study that concludes a lack of affordable housing has led low-income households to move outside Seattle city limits.
In particular, the last line in the article caught my attention: “We should create and re-create economic opportunities for people in South King County, but we should also be working to give them access to homes and jobs in higher-opportunity parts of the region, like the Eastside,” said Alan Berube, one of the study’s authors.
For now, let’s focus on the former point. If education is the great equalizer in our society, then we have to rely on our educators to get through to the next generation in these communities. In case you missed our previous “Education Conversations” segments, I want to bring your attention to our interviews with Highline School District Superintendent Susan Enfield and University of Washington College of Education Dean Tom Stritikus.
Enfield serves a primarily low-income, incredibly diverse area south of Seattle. Stritikus also spoke about this population and altering the growing opportunity gap between students in poor and wealthier areas.
Their ideas are prescient and worth sharing.
Whether you’re an educator, a student or a parent — right-click and save the images below and post them to your Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter accounts. Click on this link to watch more of their interviews and to learn about the editorial board’s “3 to 23″ education initiative.
April 27, 2013 at 7:04 AM
The Seattle Times Opinion section is now on SoundCloud!
In our first post, guest columnist Juanita Maestas talks about how hard it is to find affordable housing in King County. Maestas, who is working for close to minimum wage, had to move to Pierce County to find housing that was affordable enough so she could also buy groceries and pay for utilities. Listen to her challenge to state lawmakers in the audio piece below produced by Joaquin Uy of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance.
Like this audio? Follow us at Seattle Times Opinion on SoundCloud.