Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

When the world has turned blue

Blue has never been my favorite color, but lately, say in the past couple of days, I'm seeing blue everywhere. As in Montana and Virginia and Ohio. It used to be that Massachusetts was the lonely blue state. But we have friends now. Lots and lots of friends. Blue friends. This makes my heart sing.

The first issue I'd like to bring up to my blue congressman, Barney Frank, and my two blue senators, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, and my new blue governor Deval Patrick, is that the federal poverty level hasn't changed in about a billion years. It is such an outdated figure and yet for the poor of this nation, the services they need from the 'safety net' rely on these figures. The poverty level is never adjusted for cost of living, nor for special circumstances, like where you live. So the poverty level is the same for a family of 4 in San Francisco or New York City as it is for a family in rural Alabama or Texas. However the cost of living is totally and completely different in those areas of the country. The poverty level needs to adjust for that cost of living difference.

Raising the minimun wage is just the beginning. Even with a dollar or two more, many to many citizens are mired in poverty and can't get the services they need. We live in the richest country in the world and our citizens aren't covered by a universal health care plan. When Massachusetts mandated health care for all, they never considered how it would be paid for, and the burden of payment lay right on those who can ill afford to, the poor. Because the poverty level is what deems free care, people living on the edge, but over the outdated poverty level are not able to pay for the health care that is now mandated by law. The state is asking the poor to fork up around $300/month in health care costs, money that they don't have but are required to pay by law. You gotta wonder what lawmakers thought this was a good idea.

Subsidized housing is also offered by considering the poverty level. Families have to wait years and years to rise up the list for subsidized housing, and in the meantime they live in substandard housing rented from landlords disinterested in maintaining their properties but very interested in collecting very high rents. In Boston, the average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in the metropolitan area is $1600-1800/month. Many of these units are not regulated by any law because they are 2 or 3-family dwellings where the landlord lives in one of the unit and is thus protected by any tenant laws. Because Boston is populated with many thousands of students willing to pay anything in order to live in certain neighborhoods, landlords have learned that students will tolerate bugs, rodents, filth, and a lack of repairs as part of the student experience.

Food stamps are supposed to help poor families pay for food. They do not cover all the costs of feeding your family, they are designed to be supplemental. They also rely on the ancient poverty levels, thus keeping most poor families out of the program. What is the point of the a federal program if it is unable to help the people it's designed to help?

These are the domestic issues I'm most interested in seeing our blue politicians work on. There are so many more, but changing the poverty levels to a more reasonable level for life in America today would be the top on my list.
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Blogger booklover said...

I'm so happy about all the blue as well! Been seeing some sour grapes from some Republican bloggers, but I've seen a lot more that are happy about the change, which is nice. You are so right about the issues you discuss. And the children of these impoverished folks will have trouble getting out of it themselves, in part because socio-economic status is such a big predictor of school performance (a bigger predictor than good parenting!). I work in a really impoverished school district and it saddens me to think how hard these kids have it and how hard it will be to get themselves out of poverty.

10/11/06 12:22 AM  

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