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New York City’s Spike in Homeless Families Illustrates Severity of Economic Stress

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As readers may know, I live in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Although that was once the toniest part of town, and the most exclusive buildings are here (such as 720 and 740 Park, in zip code 10021), the rents are generally higher some of the hipper downtown areas (by contrast, you can roll the sidewalks up at night here). I live in a less fancy zip code. Plus for all of the Upper East side, the further east you go (as in away from Central Park and towards the East River) the lower the caliber of the housing stock. East of Second Avenue, you have small walk-ups that were once tenements, punctuated by high-rises.

I’m going into this level of detail to drive home that this area has a bigger range of incomes than you might think. For instance, with walking distance, there is both the Italian restaurant that apparently is practically Bob Rubin’s dining room and lots of fast food stores.

The Wall Street Journal reports tonight that there has been a big increase in homeless families, particularly in New York City.

Notice, as the footnote indicates, the total is based on people living in shelters. That means it greatly understates the number of homeless, since many homeless regard shelters as more dangerous than living on the street (although homeless parents are probably much more reluctant to expose their children to the elements than take that risk themselves). As the Journal tells us:

New York City has seen one of the steepest increases in homeless families in the past decade, advocates said, growing 73% since 2002. The surge was accelerated by the financial crisis and mortgage meltdown, which put many lower-middle class families out of their homes, economists have said. And even though New York City has regained all the jobs it lost in the recession, economists have said they are lower-paying ones.

The steep rise has reignited questions about whether New York’s economic turnaround of the past two decades has helped the city’s poorest residents. Aides to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent whose three terms have seen big increases in homelessness, partially blamed the surge on the economy.

I have seen several changes in when I peregrinate:

A marked rise in the number of people begging. It went up sharply after the crisis and has only continued to rise since then.

A greater range of people begging. It used to be people who looked like they had been homeless for a while but were still somewhat functional. I now see people who are truly desperate (one a man on 86th Street with an ulcerated leg who says he has both cancer and full blown AIDS) and men who seem able bodied (in the past, I wouldn’t have given them money, but it’s different now). Beggars are still predominantly male, but the average age of women seems to have fallen over time.

A lot more raiding of garbage cans. This was never done before except to get cans and bottles to recycle. I’ve now seen people rooting through garbage cans looking for food. And just last week, when the big local grocery store dumped a lot of stuff out on the curb, two women were going through it systematically. This was clearly more freeter-like, one had a cart and they were discussing juicing the vegetables and then freezing the juice. But heretofore, social inhibitions would usually keep people from going through garbage, even if it was only technically garbage (as in stuff just past its sell by date that really was still pretty good). No more.

Now add to this that no one has a handle on how many homeless people there really are. Outside metropolitan areas, how can anyone keep tabs on people living in cars? Camped in tent cities?

I’m wondering if readers can provide indicators of how much distress there is at the bottom in your community. In NYC, conditions might have at best stabilized for a while. I had a dim sense I saw more people looking for help this winter than last and convinced myself that was my imagination (the economy is getting better, right?). But the official tally suggests my eyes weren’t lyin’ after all.

What types of distress are visible in your community? Do conditions for people on the bottom appear to be improving, worsening, or pretty much the same?

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64 comments

  1. JGordon

    One of the benefits of being very poor, if you have a good brain that is, is that you find ways of living that don’t cost money. This includes taking advantage of multiple govermnet subsidy programs, although you do have to be careful about keeping your income under your target threshold.

    For food, in the run-down trailer park I live in, I’ve taken to growing fruit trees and shrubs in my neighbors yards, though most everyone here is on SSI or SSDI or food stamps or whatever. As far as I can tell the level of stress is pretty low. One thing I have been noticing is that a lot of people having been moving in recently, some with *very* nice cars. But regardless, everyone here recognizes that the economy is going to hell, but it’s like we’re getting a hell of a lot benefit out of it anyway so we don’t really care. That’s my view of the general consensus in the run-down (though mostly crime-free) area I live in. Ah, it’s very multiracial too, with mostly white but some black and brown people too. If that counts for anything with you all.

    1. Really?

      Letting loose of the quaint 20th century depression idea that “things will get better again,” is the key. Things are better right now for those who are able to adapt to the new normal. The foolish idea of upward mobility has finally been revealed for the empty promise that it always was; first in that it simply ain’t gonna happen anymore for almost anyone, and second, in that the mythical “higher economic plateau” we all were cynically encouraged to strive for all of our lives, upon attainment, is revealed to have been merely a mirage all along. Our wise elders turned out to be right all along: you simply can’t equate happiness with money or material possessions. Although some of our youth still seem to have a problem with that. They’ll learn soon enough.

      1. peter cini

        Few people want to embrace a career as a dumpster diver… which is a good thing instead of rationalizing a Depression caused by depraved criminality

  2. hondje

    Funny you should ask, this is the front page of my local paper today:

    http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/more-young-pueblo-residents-are-homeless/article_47d4ace6-855f-11e2-ac4d-001a4bcf887a.html

    a couple weeks ago:

    http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/homeless-teens-need-help/article_0c7f6864-77f1-11e2-941b-0019bb2963f4.html

    “Last year at its worst Posada had 53 homeless teens show up one night asking for help and supplies.”

    A house on my block is being squatted by a family, and I can think of 3 families sharing a home with either their parents or another family.

    1. Brindle

      And very similar in Northern Minnesota.
      The article mentions a supposedly improving economy….

      —”The number of people who used Northland food shelves hit a record level in December according to the Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank.

      “Our food bank and our region’s food shelves are experiencing use that they have never experienced before,” Shaye Moris, Second Harvest’s executive director, said in a news release. “It is putting greater demand on our nonprofit agencies, which of course means that we need more food and funds to meet this increased demand.”—

      http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/260054/group/homepage/

  3. Max424

    I see the “distress” most acutely at my local Starbucks. My baristas in the main are smart, efficient young women in their mid-20s working towards their second or third college degrees.

    Compiling ruinous student debt with no real job prospects, while laboring full-time/part-time for the Man and getting paid peanuts –with no possible benefits … EVER.

    It ain’t quite slavery, but neo-liberal productivity-wise, it might be something better.

    Note: Peregrinate. Excellent word. Can’t say I’ve ever run across it. Which is unusual –I’d thought I’d seen em all before (or at least all the useful ones).

    What good is having a shooting stick if you’re not willing to peregrinate, eh?

    1. A Real Black Person

      The perspective of everyone who has has a good job is that there’s plenty of work. You just have to”want it badly enough”. To them there’s no recession, and there certainly isn’t a homeless problem. Those who are running rapidly to stay in place on the hamster wheel perceive anyone who doesn’t have two or three degrees and isn’t working 50-90 hours a week as lazy.

      To the vast majority of the public, your comment would be seen as jaded and negative. Faith in the system, as far as going to college and getting a good job remains strong as ever.

      1. Really?

        But yes, the relatively successful youth I work with seem to have no lack of confidence in the future whatsoever. Who knows, maybe they’re right and we’re all just getting old? But I doubt it. The evidence seems to say otherwise.

        1. peter cini

          You need to talk to the other 50% of recent college grads that are unemployed or severely underemployed. Or speak to those crushed by student debt. More and more it’s looking like a lost generation to many commentators. We hope our youn people can weather through…. but a few more years of this Depression and they’ll effectively be out of the labor force.

          Go back to school? Upgrade skills?

          Paul Craig Roberts reports that The National Science Foundation’s report, “Doctorate Recipients From U.S. Universities,” says that only 64% of the Ph.D. engineering graduates found a pay check.

          1. Really?

            Granted. But the “up and comers” these days are really striking (to me anyway) with their sunny optimism. I guess if you still fashion yourself as capable of potentially being one of the 1% things have never been brighter. Of course the 1% only got to be the 1% by being exclusive, and the trends all say that the consolidation of wealth will only continue throughout their lifetimes. I know I certainly wouldn’t want to be young again these days.

        2. ChrisPacific

          College students or recent grads often aren’t all that streetwise about finance, especially credit (credit card companies have long known about this and taken advantage of it). My guess is that, being the young sunny optimists that they are, they bought the story about student loans being a smart investment in your future at face value. The idea that someone might have been selling them a line with the goal of extracting money from them and keeping them trapped in perpetual debt peonage probably hasn’t entered their heads as a possibility. In a better world, they would be right.

          1. A Real Black Person

            What about the math/physics/engineering grads? Are they not streetwise about finance as well?

          2. ChrisPacific

            Some are, but fewer of them than you might think. I’m one myself and I made some pretty stupid financial decisions early on.

            It’s not so much a question of ability to understand the underlying mathematics (which are actually pretty simple – anyone with high school mathematics ought to be able to figure them out) and more about understanding what it actually means in a real world setting. A bigger factor is probably the level of financial responsibility they’ve had to date, and their understanding of the tradeoffs and compromises involved in living within a budget. It’s also about the ability to look past the sales pitch (“Have what you want now! Pay later!”) and see the hidden consequences (paying later comes at a cost, the cost compounds the more and the longer you do it, and there’s no guarantee it will remain within your ability to pay).

            These are all skills that most of us develop as we get older, but for young people a lot of it is new. Sometimes a free credit card offer might be a student’s first experience having access to credit. It’s easy to make mistakes.

  4. MikeNY

    Oh, fiddle-dee-dee.

    Bubble Ben is well on his way to inflating another enormous asset bubble, which will guarantee unfathomable riches for all.

    Let’s party like it’s 2007!

  5. AbyNormal

    Jan 2013
    http://www.ajc.com/news/news/atlanta-seeks-volunteers-for-citywide-survey-of-ho/nTwNj/

    this story was recently updated on a local news station, where they declared the ‘service’ was strictly for identifying homeless Veterans. the weather here has been unseasonably warm, with only a few nights below freezing, so im not sure i understand the recent cause for this survey unless the numbers are growing. the numbers reported in the article are a sad joke.

    i rent an apartment in a small complex, less than two miles from country club of the south, n. fulton atlanta. all city transit has been halted in this area.

    i observed a local scenario playing out in 2010. on occasion my daughter, a senior in hs, would invite me to lunch with her friends at the school cafeteria (i was fearless like this). there were a few tables with kids and a counselor that were obviously distraught. when i asked my daughter an her friends about what was going on over there, they informed me their parents were having financial problems. i look a little closer an couldn’t help but notice the kids were sporting high-end attire. it didn’t take a breath before my daughters friends cackled the ‘lo down’…the parents of the distraught were signing their mcmansions into the kids names and the kids were getting notices of foreclosure, utility cut offs etc. due to these economic burdens, some of the kids were being informed their college expectations were null an void…but they were still sporting cars, cell phones, gucci bags etc.

    when im out an about i practice observing the children of all classes…i spend sleepless nights toiling their outcomes.

    Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed. m.montessori (today…what do our kids feel they can accomplish?)

    1. AbyNormal

      http://www.homelesstaskforce.org/thefacts.html

      The fastest growing group of homeless people is children under 9 years of age.

      Atlanta is the poorest city in the U.S. for children – more children in Atlanta live in poverty than in any other city.

      48% of all the children in Atlanta in poverty live in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 a year.

      For children under age 6 living in female-headed families with no spouse present, the poverty rate is 58.8%.

      Children ages 6-17 living in female-headed families with no spouse present have a poverty rate of 44.9%

    2. from Mexico

      AbyNormal said:

      …the parents of the distraught were signing their mcmansions into the kids names and the kids were getting notices of foreclosure, utility cut offs etc. due to these economic burdens, some of the kids were being informed their college expectations were null an void…but they were still sporting cars, cell phones, gucci bags etc.

      The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes has called this 20th-century baroque. I don’t know if you’re familiar with 17th- and 18th-century Mexican baroque, but it achieved a dazzle and splendor which far surpassed anything known in Europe. An example is the Capilla del Rosario in Puebla. Here are a couple of fotos to give an idea of what I’m talking about:

      http://www.articulosweb.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/no-se-pierda-la-capilla-del-rosario-.jpg

      http://www.fotosdepuebla.org/galeria/var/resizes/Templos/Capilla-del-Rosario/capilla-rosario-0011-hdr.jpg?m=1349846189

      Here’s how Fuentes explains the phenomenon in The Buried Mirror:

      The New World became a nightmare as colonial power spread and its native peoples became the victims of colonialism, deprived of their ancient faith and their ancient lands and forced to accept a new civilization and a new religion. The Renaissance dream of a Christian Utopia in the New World was almost destroyed by the harsh realities of colonialism: plunder, enslavement, genocide. Between the two was created the baroque of the New World rushing to fill the void between the ideals and reality…

      And nothing expressed this uncertainty better than the art of paradox, the art of abundance based on want and necessity, the art of proliferation based on insecurity, rapidly filling in the vacuums of our personal and social history after the conquest with anything that it found at hand. An art that practically drowned in its own burgeoning growth, it was also the art of those who had nothing else, the beggars at the steps of the church, the peasants who came to have their birds blessed or who invested the earnings of a whole year of hard work in the celebration of their saint’s day.

      In A New Time for Mexico he elaborates further on the Baroque — “a culture of disguise and dissatisfaction” which compensates “for the people’s poverty and uncertainty with altars of gold, shrines of silver, and carved stone.” And as he goes on to explain:

      A line from the great Spanish Baroque poet Quevedo that I often quote comes to mind:

      …solamente lo fugitivo permanece y dura.
      …only the fleeting lasts and endures.

      In Mexico, as throughout Spanish and Portuguese America, the Baroque goes well beyond the sensual intellectual reason of the Europeans. For among us, the Baroque is a necessity, a vital, resounding affirmation — or, better yet, the affirmation of a necessity. A devastated, conquered land, a land of hunger and of dreams, finds in the Baroque the art of those who, having nothing at all, want everything. The Ibero-American Baroque is born of the abundance of need; it is an art desiring what is not there, a triple somersault over the abyss of desire with the hope of landing on one’s feet on the other side and touching at last the object of desire: the fraternal hand, the body of love.

      1. AbyNormal

        The Buried Mirrors… Fuentes challenges us to think in new ways about how a national character is formed, how a stereotype evolves, and what continuities are discovered when a human community truly understands its roots. Illustrated with more than 160 stunning drawings, paintings, and photographs.

        i would be embarrassed for not owning this prize…if it didn’t take till the end of the week for shipping (thank you)

        as for the Majesty of the Capilla del Rosario, im adding it to my top 5 ‘must sees’…im doing an online tour now and its leaving me breathless (thank you again)

        “There must be something beyond slaughter and barbarism to support the existence of mankind and we must all help search for it.” Fuentes (a soul to be studied)

      2. Goat_farmers_of_the_CIA

        “…The Ibero-American Baroque is born of the abundance of need; it is an art desiring what is not there, a triple somersault over the abyss of desire with the hope of landing on one’s feet on the other side and touching at last the object of desire: the fraternal hand, the body of love.”

        The message, for all the beauty of the language it is conveyed in, is essentially reactionary. As with Vargas Llosa, a mistifying cultural history attempting to justify *what is* to kill any though on what could be *in this world*. In his youth , Fuentes, like Vargas Llosa was a commited lefty. But both, in their old age, became embarrassing reactionaries. Vargas Llosa defended the 2003 US attack and invasion of Iraq. Fuentes contributed to a hagiography of Venezuela’s Cisneros plutocratic clan. Both basically wrote a couple of masterpieces at most; the rest is op-eds and “entertainments”, to use a word Graham Greene used to refer to some of his work. Their insights into Latin America’s condition in their youth never went beyond lyrical platitudes; reading the putrid ideas they spoused in their old age makes one wish they had died young, the bastards.

        1. Ms G

          “Their insights into Latin America’s condition in their youth never went beyond lyrical platitudes; reading the putrid ideas they spoused in their old age makes one wish they had died young, the bastards.”

          Nice.

        2. from Mexico

          @ Goat_farmers_of_the_CIA

          How and why is “The message…essentially reactionary”? For no other reason than it comes from Carlos Fuentes?

          I don’t necessarily want to get involved in all the internicine warfare that goes on within the Mexican left, but many, if not most, of the charges leveled against Fuentes by the Chavistas are dishonest and without merit.

          Your claim that the message is essentially reactionary is like another one of the unsubstantiated charges the Chavistas level against Fuentes, that he is a neoliberal:

          http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=97258

          Anyone who has read A New Time for Mexico, however, knows that this charge is false.

          Surely you are not so uninformed as to know that Chavez is extremely unpopular in Mexico, not just amongst the Mexican right, but the Mexican left as well. He is so unpopular, in fact, that it was one of the political tactics of Lopez Obrador’s opponents in both the 2006 and 2012 elections to try to paint him with the same brush as Chavez. This of course was totally dishonest, because Obrador has little in common with Chavez. But it does nevertheless serve as an indication of just how unpopular Chavez is here in Mexico.

          1. skippy

            Well Mexico still thinks its a cultural 2nd España, where it counts.

            Skippy… funny how DNA flows throughout down south… eh.

          2. from Mexico

            It’s not just Mexico.

            Chavez is not that popular in most of Latin America.

            This poll, for instance, is typical. It shows that only 33% hold a favorable image of Chavez across Latin America;

            http://e-lecciones.net/archivos/loultimo/IMAGEN_DE_VENEZUELA.pdf

            Also, Venuezuela is perceived as not being very democratic. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being undeomocratic and 10 being totally democratic, Venezuela ranks a lowly 4.3. For comparison, the average ranking for all Latin American countries is 6.5. Cuba ranks lowest at 3.5.

            So what is one to make of all this, that the vast majority of Latin Americans are stupid, ignorant and/or deceived, and that only the Chavistas have a lock on sure truth?

  6. Scootie

    You should say a bit about the cost of housing. Affordable housing in New York, which I thought was nonexistent 30 years ago, is completely gone. So while – in contrast to other parts of the country – NYC has jobs, there’s no place to live. This blog talks about the F in FIRE industrial complex, but CBRE, Related Properties, et al. are pretty evil…

    1. Cynthia

      Everything is going according to plan. I’ll never understand why the elite prefer to live in a gated community surrounded by a slum and protected by private security. The desire to possess everything must be so strong that the distinct drop in quality of life this means for them isn’t important.

    2. DANNYBOY

      Correct.

      I’m 64 and have seen the results of unaffordable housing all around NYC. I am probably repeating myself (AGAIN), but still think that “Mike! Wall Street’s Mayor” by Neil Fabricant is a must read for those who wonder exactly how it happened.

      Hint: we was robbed!

    3. neorealist

      I believe, for the past few years in particular, that NYC for all intents and purposes is unaffordable for those in the working class/lower middle class realm. Lived in a studio in the east village with an ex in the late 80′s–$750 a month. I’ll bet that studio is about 4 or 5 times as much now. Hell, from what I understand from an article I read in the NYT a few years ago, there are many working people who live in shelters!

      NYC-great place to be a cherry picking good times and culture tourist for sure.

      Moved to Seattle about 24 years ago. Very affordable back then, even if the jobs didn’t pay as much. Now Seattle proper is practically unaffordable for those who are in the working class to lower middle range. As far as need and poverty on the street, there looks like a slight uptick in begging–50 somethings primarily; Not all that different from 10-15 years ago. However, the number of mentally ill on the streets appears to have increased. Also, there’s an increase in burglaries and car theft. Since a majority of the population are transplants from other cities, I’ve noticed that many people who get laid off and or find themselves out of work for a long time around here usually move out of the area to greener employment pastures in other cities, particularly if they are transplants, since they don’t have the family backstop to help tide them over. The people mobility along with a relatively stable IT and aerospace sector keeps the the unemployment rate from drastic moves upward.

      The ultra-boonies around here appear to have the most stress from the numbers I’ve seen as far as food stamp need and poverty
      http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Food-stamps-Which-Washington-communities-get-the-4260922.php

  7. dcblogger

    When I first moved east of the Anacostia river in Wash DC I never saw beggars. I assumed that this was because people were so poor here that no one would bother to beg. Begging was confined to the downtown area where there are plenty of people with spare change. Not now. Now beggars are a common sight. Mostly men.

  8. mad as hell.

    Goodwill stores in the area where I live seem to be going gangbusters (upper Midwest. Most of the stores I see are new or just a few years old. A new store in my town opened in February and the parking lot is at least ¾ full every time I drive by. The vehicles there have $30,000 trucks and Cadillac’s parked among the bunch and why not.

    I go in any second hand store and the aisles always have enough people in them that would make a Best Buy manager or a mom and pop store owner grin ear to ear. Need a tv for your play station or x box? Goodwill has them for $2. Threw your putter in the lagoon. You can get a decent one for a buck.
    Another source of savings is craigslist. Ask anybody about craigslist and they will give you a story about what they bought and the deal they got on it.

    I don’t know if our corporate overlords are going to realize that in order to sell more of their products that the people that produce or service them should be able to afford them. When you have Obama saying that the minimum wage needs to be raised to $9 an hour that still comes to less then $19,000 a year without deductions. That wage hike won’t even be considered by congress because it’s to high and yet try getting by on that with a family.

    It seems to me that very few are willing to take up wage stagnation in today’s shining city on the hill know as America.

    1. Eclair

      Yes, Mad as Hell, Goodwill may be the new Walmart.

      Driving through once-prosperous farming towns in south-east Colorado and Nebraska, three stores are almost ubiquitous: Dollar Store and Subway. Goodwills are shiny and new, often occupying imposing 19th century brick and granite buildings on the town’s Main Street.

      Among the middle class there is a new retail hierarchy: consignment stores offering really nice stuff from jeans to down-filled couches; Goodwill Salvation Army and local stores like Savers; and, at the bottom (or maybe the top if you are a ferocious shopper), the Goodwill Warehouse.

      The Goodwill Warehouse is just that, filled with bins filled with stuff. Newborn-sized “onesies,” leather coats, sexy bras, Disney “princess dresses,” (have the princesses decided to face reality or have they moved up to a larger size?), linen napkins, beach towels, woolen long johns, complete with moth holes. In a separate section: bins filled with suitcases, kitchen ware, shoes, electronics, toys, books.

      Prices are unbeatable. $1.50 per pound up to 20 pounds; 21 pounds and over, at 99 cents per pound. Bring a friend and combine shopping baskets.

      On Saturday mornings, immigrant families converge from all over the Denver area. The kids play with Fisher-Price toys and read books. The adults make an early pass through the bins, then settle in with their half-filled shopping baskets against the back wall, to chat, visit friends and wait for the morning’s big event.

      Workers clear out a space in the middle of the warehouse, then make sure everyone is seated and quiet. The back doors swing open, and a half dozen employees enter, each pushing a huge wheeled bin filled with “new” merchandise. At a signal, the shoppers rush for the bins and begin their search. A winter jacket for school, a green velvet dress for church, sweaters, skirts, work pants. 99 cents a pound.

      Depressing to contemplate is the amount of stuff that our consumer system has produced – at the cost of exploiting millions of sweat-shop workers in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Stuff that gets discarded when it is still perfectly good, or gets remaindered by stores because it is slightly out of fashion or is last year’s color. The Goodwill Warehouse is its last stop before … what? Landfill, container ships to China to be processed into rags? Or back to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, where some child can pretend to be a princess or an old man will be grateful for the warmth provided by moth-eaten underwear?

      1. diptherio

        Having several times taken used clothing to the third world (to give away), I can tell you that most US clothes are far too big for non-Americans to wear. Anything bigger than a medium is useless as clothing outside of the US and Canada, as no one else is fat enough to wear our larges, much less our XXLs. I didn’t realize how unusually large we, as a country, are until I tried to shop in the US for Nepalis.

        1. jake chase

          Did you know that only one shoe in width six E (size 13) is available in America? We may be fat but we seem to have unusually narrow feet for our girth.

  9. gozounlimited

    Too bad for NY state…..especially when Cali is popping. I guess the biggest difference between Cali and NY is Cali isn’t run by banksters and gangsters. To each his own.

    1. diane

      Is that you Silicon Valley Roundtable[1]?, …. Jerry Brown????, … Feinstein?, … Boxer? [1], … Anna Eshoo? …. Do see my comment currently at the bottom of this ‘page,’ at the far left comment margin.

      [1] S.RES.25
      Latest Title: A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that comprehensive tax reform legislation should include incentives for companies to repatriate foreign earnings for the purpose of creating new jobs.
      Sponsor: Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] (introduced 1/25/2011) Cosponsors (None)

      (Bolding mine. Read: Congress must allow even further huge tax cut to Multinational Corporations who’ve already been gifted with being allowed to offshore Trillions in tax savings to the tune of Austerity for the masses.)

  10. Wake Up America!

    I echo the comments of AbyNormal.

    I lived in an affluent area of North Atlanta for over two decades and the rapid decline I witnessed the last several years was stunning.

    Smart, educated neighbors out of work for 3 or more years, unable to pay their mortgage after all their savings had been exhausted. Yet, their teenagers continued to dress well and drive nice cars (I’m talking BMW’s & Audis). Never figured out how they managed to pull it off. Eventually, the “Notice of Default” arrives, the eviction notice shows up months (or years) later and the white “This Property Now Owned by Fannie Mae” notice graces the front window of a home where an upper middle class family once lived. Another suburban Atlanta McMansion sits empty until purchased by Blackrock or some other investor to morph into a rental.

    If you want to see the desperation of the once rich in Atlanta, head over to the nearest Plato’s Closet. This is a retail chain that purchases gently used or new designer clothing. Soccer moms arrive with trash bags full of Ralph Lauren and J Crew loaded into the back of their Escalades or BMW X5 SUV’s. When offered $18 for a bag of clothes they paid in the hundreds or more for (most likely charged to their Dillards account) they quitely accept.

    The foreclosure crisis has rocked Atlanta. There is a silent depression happening in the once crown jewel of the south. The belief is that if no one talks about it, eventually the problems will go away. 285 will be wall-to-wall cars at rush hour again, the malls and restaurants will be full and happy days will be here again. The area is in denial.

  11. Susan the other

    Only the real estate and building boom from 1990 to 2005 stopped (or slowed it down) begging and panhandling here. Literally with a tin cup. In the late 80s and early 90s you had to fight your way into the mall and now this desperation is returning. The big difference now is something I consider to be good: not too many people are going to the malls anymore. In Cottonwood (south Salt Lake) they scraped the old Cottonwood Mall. It was so hideous. So what will provide the jobs we need, now that real estate has been exhausted? (Even in China where the need for housing is enormous housing is on hold while they adjust from export to domestic consumption. Gosh, that won’t take long will it?) If solutions are not found in a timely manner, then the delay becomes the solution. It’s disgusting. I can think of millions of jobs we need to create today. One is building affordable housing. Seriously affordable. And seriously green. And creating a better distribution system for produce, and food cooperatives. That we just let everyone starve, and wander the streets, is unconscionable beyond belief.

    1. Really?

      We suffer from a serious deficit of imagination, a serious surplus of greed, and a serious over reliance on the status quo to provide solutions, which, for a myriad of reasons, it’s never going to deliver. Stormy waters ahead.

    2. ambrit

      Dear Sto;
      The older cohort here will remember when Ronnie (The F—ing Antichrist) Regan started ‘downsizing’ the budgets for mental health programs at the State and Federal level in the ’80s. It really did start that long ago. I hope it doesn’t take that long again to return to a compassionate government.
      One potential problem with this creeping destitution of the populace is that it can, and no doubt will, be manipulated to foster class war between the ‘lower’ socioeconomic groups.
      When homeless people with some sort of stress induced problems start stealing your s—, it’s fairly easy to be convinced to ‘punish’ them, not the crooks at the top who engineered this. Divide and conquer.
      What grabs most compellingly at the heart strings is the vista of blighted youth we encounter now. The danger is that desperate people are easy prey for demagogues and factionalists.
      I don’t pretend to know how to resolve this generational con game. Right now I’m seeing a lot of good old “I’m all right Jack” in the workplace. Sigh.

      1. Lambert Strether

        Yes, we thought “the homeless” were a temporary problem, to be solved by feeding them. Which we did. Of course, the real solution to the homeless problem is homes, just as the real solution to poverty is money. Our society isn’t about solutions right now.

  12. Paul P

    You have to count, of course, the families doubled up, as well as those sleeping on the trains or in the street. I don’t know how entry into the shelter system works now. But, during the Guliani Administration, if you found yourself homeless, you had to go to a welfare office in the Bronx. The only point of entry into the shelter system. Then you and your family had to sleep in the welfare office while you waited for an opening in the shelter system. The welfare center got so crowded that, eventually, Guliani would not let people into the center. If you stayed on the steps overnight, you were homeless. But, if you went back to sleep doubled up with friends or family, you were not considered homeless. Guliani set up a similar hurdle for people applying for food stamps. You had to pick up the application for food stamps, but had to wait a day to apply. These hurdles were subject to law suits brought against the Guliani Administration by the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services for New York, and other advocacy groups.

    On a related matter, shelter allowances–money welfare provides for rent–are based on family size. A family of four received, at that time (and probably now), $312/month for rent. A familly of three got $286/month. Yes, $312 and $286. So, the importance for poor families of Section 8 vouchers, a NYC Housing Authority apartment (NYCHA accepted the wefare shelter allowance as rent), or privately owned, but publically subsidized project based Section 8 housing (which also accepted the welfare allowance as rent), and other rent supported housing is crucial protection against becoming homeless.

    The NYC welfare grant was set in the 1970′s and has remained basically the same since that time. The majority of public assistance recipients at that time could afford
    to pay their rent. Of course, there have been some inreases, but the grant has been basiclly frozen, while inflation reduced its purchasing power.

    Peter Marcuse and Tom Angotti are doing a program on “The Creeping Privatization of Public Housing” on Saturday, March 9th, 1:30-4:00 pm at Brecht Forum in Manhattan, NYC.

  13. rob

    North carolina varies.From just a little bad to much worse.My current gauge is that today, the lines of the local “loaves and fishes”,food pantry had cars going all around the parking lot.Maybe thirty cars as opposed to the 7 or eight you might see normally while driving by.
    From my vantage point ;
    The economy of north carolina which was vibrant in the nineties, has been trailing off since the tech bubble burst.But at that point, good times were in memory so it was easy to assume that things would turn around.Then 9/11 happened.which was convienient, because then in this military heavy state peoples mind went to “the war”,(whichever war you wanted to call it), and who was going where,when,.SO the fact that the economy just wasn’t coming back could be blamed on the waiting.”lets see if we invade iraq”, and then….and all the while…. the huge fluctuations in gas.building supplies(i.e.”commodities” to some)rabid market manipulation,stealing money from a people who are just “waiting for the war to end”…While…nafta and the like “removed”, huge industries like textiles, and furniture making….which while the news didn’t want to cover, was hollowing out a states traditional middle.All of this,
    then in @ 2005-6 , us simple construction workers were able to sit around in the morning and joke about the rediculous bubbles in construction we were seeing around the country(but not here,really.I was noticing at the time I wasn’t doing work for homeowners doing projects they have wanted to do ,and were paying for out of savings,but were working for people who were eager to spend”bank money” on aquired homes.)Everyone knew a serious scandal was in the making, but no one knew “WHEN”, reality would pop the bubbles elsewhere.But even the modest appreciation we were experiencing was enough to leave many people today still underwater on their homes,and really unwilling to spend any more on something they owe more on than it is worth.
    Here, It has been 10 solid years of decline.and it really isn’t getting better.Everyone is just trying to keep busy, nothing more.
    Now all the while, the working class has been under wage pressure downward.After all, North carolina is a “Right to work for nothing”state.;..every bill under the sun has gone way up.gas,fuel,electric,insurance,taxes,fees,co-pays,etc.All those “commodities”.And now the first truly fascist governor and state assembly is pushing full steam ahead to deny any aspect of a safety net to the downtrodden ,while giving every payraise to themselves and dismantleing regulations on the corporate elite, and trying to hand over any resources the people and the natural state have left; to industry of every kind.Privatize it all.
    It is no wonder so many are increasingly finding it hard to hang on.After time,more things get left behind…this payment, that insurance,this car, that medicine..it is a spiral downward.The normal rules of growing up in america don’t apply anymore.There is not necessarily any benefit to getting something that will be of use in the future, maybe it won’t.tools,education,equiptment,property,etc.Maybe it will just be wasting resources?Just sitting around collecting dust,costing money.
    Then on the flip side, there is the segment of the population who is working in an industry/sector that doesn’t respond to economic realities,like on the payrolls of corporate/academic/public/fiefdoms ,where the axe has yet to fall..Or farming at a time when rising commodity prices actually help more than they hurt…living as if everything is fine enough.Ignorance is bliss.Especially when it comes with a comfy salary with benefits.These are really the only people left that don’t get the problem.They are under the influence of the opiate called”a steady job”.These people are the biggest target of who needs to look around, but that “steady job”,seems to get in the way and doesn’t allow enough time to really be curious.

    In general,
    the north carolina economy sucks.Has sucked.And I see nothing happening to reverse that trend.

    1. jake chase

      Where I live in North Carolina skilled workers seem to have all the work they can handle. I haven’t noticed any homeless, or any beggars. Lots of homes are for sale with no takers, even in a pricey gated enclave which began as middle class but has steadily increased in grandiosity as billionaires began building palacial vacation homes on 1/2 acre lots, making their neighbors’ modest dwellings look like slave cabins. A few of my neighbors now work part time at Lowes and places like that. Young people hustle, remain mostly confident if wry about the future. Everyone skimps as much as possible, as even millionaires now have no income unless they find some kind of work.

  14. CaitlinO

    According to ngram, peregrinate hit its peak during the Civil War, appropriate to a time when many folks in uniform and many folks getting out of the way of folks in uniform were doing a great deal of peregrination.

    It’s more modern peak was during WWII.

  15. Heron

    I haven’t seen many homeless folks in my part of Texas recently, but that doesn’t tell you too much considering how good a job the cops do of keeping the homeless off the streets and how much open space there is for living “rough” outside of the big cities. And while it’s dropped off over the last year, I was see a big increase in “drifter” types walking along the highways with napsacks from 2008 to 2012. I have noticed sold homes tend to be staying vacant longer, and newly built ones are taking much longer to fill than is usual; there’s a residential development in walking distance of my house which I take a stroll through 2 or 3 times a week that was built right before the bust hit, and it was sitting 1/3rd empty until ~a year ago when the slow trickle of buys started to pick up, though there’s still maybe a dozen empty units and the developer has sold something like a fourth of their initial real-estate purchase over to a new assisted living community that has yet to break ground(which is to say, just signs and it may never amount to anything).

    I’ve seen some pick-up in commerical real-estate -ground-breaking have picked up again- but many of the established strip-malls around Bryan/College-Station are still sporting significant vacancies (10-25%), and those vacancies are long-term ones; shops that have been empty for 2 years or more. I’d say that we’ve seen some improvement in South-Central Texas, though no thanks to our do-nothing legislature, but that it’s still pretty shaky and, of course, it’s nowhere near the explosive growth we were seeing during the late 90s, early 00s.

    One other indicator I think is pretty important; Pizza Hut is still offering its 5 and 10 dollar if-you-pick-it-up-yourself pizza deals in my area, and Dominoes has finally gotten in on the act too, which shows they’re estimating a long down-turn. Little Caesar’s has also been running commericals and getting big business again and, considering they are the penultimate bargain pizza joint in this part of the world behind Mr. Gatty’s, I consider their expansion a significant sign of lower incomes generally among those with jobs.

  16. Heron

    Oh gosh; also another major point about that residential development. About a year and a half ago they converted most of the real-estate they had left that they weren’t selling single units for into condominiums. The conclusions from that should be pretty obvious, I think. And this development was high-end stuff for, I’d say, mid to upper middle class empty-nesters; mostly one storey though a few two storeys, abutting a private golf-course, decent square-footage, brick facades with “classy” detail work, wrought-iron gates out front, number-plates by the door; you get the picture.

  17. Chauncey Gardiner

    An under-publicized story has been the effect of market losses and ZIRP on the very elderly and their families. My parents live in a community which includes an assisted living facility and convalescent care. They said that a number of residents have had to leave the assisted living facility because they and their families could no longer afford to make the monthly payments to remain there. They assume these folks have gone to live with family members. We have been very fortunate that no one in our immediate family has required assisted living or intensive care to date, as we are ill-equipped to do so.

    So, “the economy” of our society has delivered 47 million Americans on Food Stamps, the number of homeless – including many families – is increasing and their predicament becoming increasingly desperate, young college grads are working as baristas due to low job formation, and the Obama administration is offering to cut Social Security and Medicare to placate the 0.1% who want to reduce federal social insurance programs because… well, we don’t really know why they want to cut social insurance programs, do we?

    But at least the stock market hit all-time highs for the 13 percent of Americans who own stock this morning on the Fed’s QE rocket fuel injections of Cash into the Primary Dealers while the banks are sitting on well over $1 trillion in their reserve accounts with the Fed.

    Gee, what’s wrong with this picture?

  18. diane

    A friend, from Sunnyvale (in the core of Silicon Valley, California), shared this November 2012 Sunnyvale Community Services info, which was sent in a letter to potential contributors, with me:

    People don’t usually associate Sunnyvale with poverty or people in need, but these figures prove otherwise.

    We helped 6,981 of our neighbors last year with food or financial aid, equal to 5% of the population of Sunnyvale.

    96% of our clients have extremely low to low incomes, making under 200% of the federal poverty levels. [What they don’t mention, likely due to fear of Corporate donators who donate an insignificant amount of their offshore tax savings, is how many of those low and no income ‘clients,’ were once employed, making livable wages.]

    Sunnyvale rents have increased 34% in just two years! Average Sunnyvale rental figures as of June: (source: RealFacts Online)

    1 Bedroom apartment: $1,792, (up from $1,323 in 2010)

    2 Bedroom apartment: $1,924 (up from $1,492 in 2010)

    The cost of food is rising dramatically, impacting everyone, especially families and seniors. In the past 6 months basic staples have skyrocketed: (source: Second Harvest Food Bank [ New Report Shows Increasing Hunger Gap in Santa Clara County - More People Fell Below Self-Sufficiency Level Even as Economy Recovers])

    It’s a perfect storm for low-income families and seniors.

    Peanut butter is up 66%

    Rice is up 9%

    Eggs are up 7%

    Tuna is up 134%

    Beans are up 32%

    The Second Harvest Food Bank’s 2012 Hunger Index reports that this year, we continue to have 25% of residents in Santa Clara County at risk of hunger. Low-income households are being squeezed financially, with money spread thin across necessities like housing, clothing, and medical bills. Too often people have little money left for food, which means more food assistance is needed.

    Unfortunately, a growing number of our neighbors are one bill away from homelessness. With rents and gas prices soaring, many low-wage employees can’t afford to live here or commute to work here. ..

    From Second Harvest’s website, dated December 2012:

    Second Harvest Food Bank Seeking Donations to Meet Unprecedented Need

    New Poverty Numbers Show Nearly One in Four Californians Living in Poverty

    SAN JOSE, Calif., December 3, 2012 – New poverty numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau show what those who serve people in need already knew – the standard poverty measure underestimates the number of people in California who are struggling financially. According to the new Supplemental Poverty Measure, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation at 23.5 percent. Unlike the standard measure, the new poverty measure takes into account the cost of living, which is particularly high in Silicon Valley.

    “We were not surprised by the new poverty numbers because we are seeing unprecedented need here at Second Harvest Food Bank,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. “We estimate that one in four local residents [in Silicon Valley] can’t make ends meet, and these new poverty numbers confirm that.

    (Bolding and bracketed link/comments mine)

  19. WD

    Washington can produce it’s stats any way it prefers…little if anything is reality based. Nixon would have blushed.

    Our extended family is seeing a rapid build of layoffs – which led to some cognitive dissonance…until I tracked down some more reliable data (?). Unemployment – the way Nixon would have reported it: http://tinyurl.com/yfw5zxj

    Pretty sad when one looks longingly toward Nixon for truthfulness?

    Yet you major Bloomberg probably hasn’t cut his “army” one bit I suspect. Not even enough to build 50K Japanese sleeping closets with showers?

    Reminds me of a science fiction underworld……

    1. Ms G

      Interesting that during the meltdown in this particular case — Bloomberg always has one when his violent warfare on the 99.9% is exposed — he misleadingly blamed the end of a ridiculously ineffective state program (Advantage).

      Because only a few months ago, he was bragging that thewas a skyrocketing shelter population due to how “pleasant” his administration had made the shelters. In his own words:

      Asked by reporters why families were staying 30% longer than even last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “… it is a much more pleasurable experience than they ever had before.” “Is it great?” He elaborated a day later in response to outcry over his comments. “No. It’s not the Plaza Hotel … but that’s not what shelter is supposed to be and that’s not what the public can afford or the public wants.”
      http://www.alternet.org/how-one-gop-plutocrat-helped-make-20000-kids-homeless
      =====

      Bloomberg was ticked off that the Coalition for the Homeless’ Report had to come out today — just in time to distract from his proud moment promoting the wealth of the .01% at the expense of the rest of us. Only one tabloid printed a photo of him plantinf a “first shovel” in the ground for yet another colossal real estate develpment on the Long Island City shore — a monstrosity of mega-high rises with retail, luxury Hudson-views condos and, of course, the “affordable housing” (running anywhere from $400-$4,000 — yes, you read it correctly — $4,000 = “affordable”). All very generously subsidized by yours truly, the NYC taxpayer (land, tax exemptions, operating cash, etc. etc.) and also yours truly, the federal taxpayer (tax exempt bonds).

  20. Bono

    Michigan is in the crapper. The only engines of growth in michigan are the various colleges (such as Univ of Michigan) that are dramatically increasing their graduate programs. Hence new towers go up to house the Chinese grad students, while crime rages and the homeless are everywhere. Forget the fact there are no jobs for students when they graduate (50% unemployment amongst new grads last year).

    http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/05/poverty_rises_even_as_economy.html

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