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February 12 2014


January 10 2014


Week In The News: Polar Vortex, Christie’s ‘Bridge Gate’ And Al Qaeda In Iraq

Polar vortex. Chris Christie and “Bridge Gate.” Al Qaeda in Iraq. Dennis Rodman in North Korea. Our weekly news roundtable goes behind the headlines.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie's second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn't endorse Christie for re-election. (AP)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie enters a news conference Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, at the Statehouse in Trenton, N.J. Christie has fired a top aide who engineered political payback against a town mayor, saying she lied. Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly is the latest casualty in a widening scandal that threatens to upend Christie’s second term and likely run for president in 2016. Documents show she arranged traffic jams to punish the mayor, who didn’t endorse Christie for re-election. (AP)


Margaret Brennan, CBS News State Department correspondent. (@margbrennan)

Charles Babington, Associated Press Congressional and political reporter. (@cbabington)

Jack Beatty, On Point News analyst.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: U.S. Leverage in Iraq Tested As Fears of Civil War Mount — “Iraq’s Shiite-led government paused on Wednesday on the brink of a military assault against al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants that posed the risk of exacting a high civilian toll and plunging the country deeper into sectarian conflict. Senior U.S. officials, including Vice President Joseph Biden, have urged Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to secure the support of local Sunni leaders before attacking to drive the extremists from Fallujah, which sits in the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni minority. Many Sunni tribal leaders, alienated and angered by Mr. Maliki, have refused.”

WNYC: N.J. Gov. Christie Faces Traffic Jam Scandal — “Uncovered emails and text messages link Gov. Chris Christie’s administration to a scandal involving the closing of lanes leading to the country’s most traveled bridge. It snarled traffic for days. The emails add evidence to claims from state Democrats that the closure was political retribution for a mayor who did not endorse Christie for re-election.”

Washington Post: A Deep Dive Into the Polar Vortex — “The polar vortex is really just a large air mass that is extremely cold (temperatures fall below -78C, or -108F, during the Northern Hemisphere winter). This concentrated area of cold is encircled by a fast-flowing river of air called the polar night jet. Basically, the jet – with its swiftly moving air current – traps the vortex over and near the poles, north and south.”

Sponsored post

January 08 2014


Drones Flying the Friendly Skies

As the US is reeling from disclosures about NSA eavesdropping on Americans, will commercial drones create fears of more snooping, this time from the skies over http://www.kcrw.com/news/programs/tp/tp140108drones_flying_the_fr

War On Poverty At 50 Draws Many Eyes

Our Jan. 8 hour marking the 50th Anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of a ‘War On Poverty’ in America featured a variety of takes on the not-so-ceremonial date remembering the former President’s call to end American poverty in a generation.

LBJ didn’t totally wipe out poverty, of course — the latest figures peg American poverty at roughly 15 percent of the total U.S. population, give or take a few points. And that rate is controversial – Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic says we’re wrong to even consider the poverty rate as a mark of economic growth and individual wealth in this country. His colleague, Derek Thompson (a regular on our sister program Here & Now) says the 15 percent rate nevertheless shows we haven’t ‘won’ the war on poverty.

Professor Michael Katz of the University of Pennsylvania  offered up this fast and fantastic read on the War on Poverty’s legacy for the Oxford University Press’ blog.

In the U.S. News & World Report, Danielle Kurtzlebeen points out that 15 percent figure probably misses around six million impoverished Americans, a figure getting a wide work out in academic circles. The very concept of “who counts as poor in America” gets a much-needed write-up in the PBS NewsHour Business Desk by Simone Pathe.

For a more numbers-wonkish approach to poverty rates in America, our guest Melissa Boteach’s work as part of a team at the Center for American Progress is as good a read as any for the history and context of the poverty debate today. A companion report by the C.A.P. on economic opportunity and the social safety net is also a fine read.

A Columbia University study on the poverty line, changes in poverty rates and supplemental insurance policies is a dense but fascinating read for any piqued by our conversation on this anniversary day. And a buzzy New York Times piece by sometimes-On Point guests Annie Lowery and Ashley Parker on efforts by national Republican Party leaders to reclaim fighting poverty as a main political issue in this midterm election year caught our eye this morning as we prepared for the broadcast.

Our suggestions are far from exhausting — on big national policy anniversary days like today, the wealth of media coverage can be overwhelming. Instead, we hope our suggestions offer a nice place to start as you read up on the nitty-gritty details of an issue that’s difficult to grasp.

We want your suggestions, too: what did you read or watch or hear today about the War On Poverty that really made sense to you? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Tumblr and @OnPointRadio.


The War On Poverty: 50 Years On

Fifty years after America’s declaration of war on poverty, we’ll look at what’s been won, and what lost. Look for new thinking.

President Lyndon B. Johnson visit to Tom Fletcher residence during Poverty Tour of Appalachia (Courtesy LBJ Presidential Family).

President Lyndon B. Johnson visit to Tom Fletcher residence during Poverty Tour of Appalachia (Courtesy LBJ Presidential Family).


Michael Katz, professor of history, University of Pennsylvania. Author “The Undeserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation.”

Melissa Boteach, director of poverty prosperity program at the Center for American Progress. Coordinates “Half In Ten: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Half in Ten Years.” (@MBoteach)

Lee Ohanian, professor of economics, University of California Los Angeles. Where he director of the Ettinger Family Program in Macroeconomic Research.

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Alternative Poverty Rate Stuck at 16% — “In September, Census reported the nation’s official poverty rate, which stood unchanged at 15% of the population in 2012—well above the 12.5% level in 2007, before the recession. Some 46.5 million Americans were below the official poverty line of $23,492 for a family of four. On Wednesday, Census reported a more comprehensive measure — one designed to account for anti-poverty programs, regional differences in housing costs and necessary out-of-pocket medical expenses — that showed that 49.7 million people were “poor,” an increase of about 3 million from the official measure. The supplemental poverty rate was 16% in 2012, not significantly different from 16.1% in 2011.”

The Nation: Fifty Years Later, the War on Poverty Must Be Renewed — “But there is a still a long way to go before achieving President Johnson’s stated objective: ‘total victory.’ The tragic misadventure in Vietnam distracted the administration and the country from the one war President Johnson actually did declare, and more recent decades have seen the war on poverty co-opted by the proponents of austerity and turned into an unrelenting war on the poor.”

Washington Post: Paul Ryan’s claim that $15 trillion has been spent on the war on poverty — “The poverty rate is determined by the U.S. Census, and generally such government figures are fairly authoritative. The poverty rate is now about 15 percent, and the last time it was this high was in 1993. Ryan spokesman Conor Sweeney said that was the year that Ryan was referencing when he said ‘in a generation.’ (Okay, a generation is generally defined as 30 years, but 20 may be fine for government work.)”

January 04 2014


Microfinance and politics: the removal of Muhummad Yunus from the Grameen Bank - Rear Vision - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

In a move that surprised many people outside Bangladesh, Muhummad Yunus, founder of the influential microfinance institution the Grameen Bank, has been removed from his position as head of the bank. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/rearvision/microfinance-and-politics-the-removal-of-muhummad/2955800

November 11 2013


Episode 494: What Happens When You Just Give Money To Poor People? : Planet Money : NPR

A study discovers what happens to farmers in Kenya after they get a windfall. Also: giving money to thieves and drug addicts in a country that's much worse off than Kenya. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/11/08/243967328/episode-494-what-happens-when-you-just-give-money-to-poor-people

November 04 2013


The Food Stamp Cut And American Priorities

Food stamp benefits cut and Congress considers even deeper cuts. We’ll hear the debate over national priorities, hunger and character.

Food Stamps, the SNAP program, is the largest US anti-hunger program.  It’s designed to help the poor buy food.  It’s hardly luxurious.  The average household receiving SNAP benefits had an annual income of $8,800 in 2010.  SNAP benefits have covered $1.80 per meal.  Now, after cuts on Friday, that’s headed down to less than $1.40 a meal.  SNAP is controversial because it has grown.  Enrollment has doubled since 2004.  The cost has tripled.  Of course, we had an epic recession.  But the heat is on.  Up next On Point:  Food stamps – SNAP – American hunger and American priorities.

– Tom Ashbrook


Eli Saslow, staff writer at the Washington Post; author of a four-part series of stories on food stamps. (@EliSaslow)

Rep. Peter DeFazio, Democratic Congressman from Oregon’s Fourth District. (@RepPeterDeFazio)

Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute. (@MTannerCato)

Eldar Shafir, professor of pyschology and public affairs at Princeton University, co-author of “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.”

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post: Hard Work – “The congressman had been called a “starvation expert” by analysts on TV and a “monster” by colleagues in the House of Representatives. Protesters had visited his offices carrying petitions demanding he resign. And now, six months into his crusade to overhaul the food stamp program, Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) departed the Capitol to address his most wary audience yet: the people whose government benefits he hoped to curtail.”

The Daily Beast: The Republicans’ Food Stamp Fraud: It’s Not About Austerity — “ Its size fluctuates with the economy—when more people are working, the number of those on food stamps goes down. This, of course, isn’t one of those times. So right now the SNAP program, as it’s called, is serving nearly 48 million people in 23 million households. The average monthly individual benefit is $133, or about $4.50 a day. In 2011, 45 percent of recipients were children. Forty-one percent live in households where at least one person works. More than 900,000 are veterans. Large numbers are elderly or disabled or both.”

Northwest Watchdog: Oregon’s DeFazio protests food stamp cuts — “DeFazio, a Democrat who represents Oregon’s fourth congressional district, is protesting proposed cuts in the U.S. House to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps low income families buy food, according to KVAL. A huge farm bill passed by the Senate on Monday includes $760.5 billion for SNAP, nearly 80 percent of the entire bill. The House is proposing steeper cuts to SNAP.”

Read An Excerpt Of “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much” By Eldar Shafir And Sendhil Mullainathan

August 28 2012


Online University For All Balances Big Goals, Expensive Realities : All Tech Considered : NPR

The University of the People says it's the "world's first, tuition-free, online university," designed for poor students who would otherwise lack access to higher education. The institution has 1,300 students in 129 countries, but it's also struggling to maintain its "free" mission. http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2012/08/27/160116814/online-university-for-all-balances-big-goals-expensive-realities?ps=view&ec=mostpopular

March 18 2012


Homeless Hotspots: Exploitation Or Innovation? : NPR

An advertising agency sparked controversy at the South by Southwest technology conference when it hired homeless people in Austin to act as "Homeless Hotspots." Critics charge that it exploits the homeless. But Megan Garber, a staff writer for The Atlantic, sees some good in the project. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/13/148528071/homeless-hotspots-exploitation-or-innovation

January 19 2012


DocArchive: Guangzhou - China's migrant metropolis

China's economy depends on a system regulating workers from around China and beyond. In Guangzhou, the migrant metropolis, Mukul Devichand hears stories of anger and reform.

March 03 2011


Public Lectures and Events: Income Distribution and Social Change after 50 years

This event was recorded on 1 March 2011 in Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House. Fifty years ago, it was believed that income inequality was falling and that poverty had largely been eliminated. This lecture returns to Richard Titmuss' masterly crossexamination of the evidence about income inequality and argues that we have much to learn, but also to add. Tony Atkinson is the centennial professor at LSE. His most recent book is Top Incomes: a global perspective. http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/podcasts/publicLecturesAndEvents.htm

Public Lectures and Events: The Haves and Have Nots

This event was recorded on 8 February 2011 in Old Theatre, Old Building. Inequality is a surprisingly slippery issue, involving not just straightforward comparisons of individuals, but also comparisons of price and consumption differences around the world – and over time. In this lecture Branko Milanovic, the lead economist at the World Bank's research division, will approach the issue in a new and innovative way, focusing on inequality in income and wealth in different time periods and contexts: from inequality in Roman times (and how it compared with inequality today), to depictions of wealth inequality in literature (Pride and Prejudice and Anna Karenina), to inequality across generations of a single family (the three generations of Obamas illustrating this theme). As for global inequality today, the talk will examine its main cause (differences in average incomes between countries), the role China and India might play, and, perhaps most importantly, whether global inequality matters at all, and if does, what can we do to reduce it. Branko Milanovic is one of the world's leading experts on inequality. He is lead economist at the World Bank's research division in Washington DC, a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and the author of The Haves and Have Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality. http://www.lse.ac.uk/resources/podcasts/publicLecturesAndEvents.htm

January 09 2011


Favelas, AfroReggae & Brazil

Brazil’s musical group AfroReggae was born of the streets of Rio de Janiero’s hard-life shanytowns, or favelas. Now, AfroReggae is trying to give back — to give inspiration, hope, pride and a path to youth surrounded by too much violence, drugs, and poverty. It’s culture versus violence in the tough streets of Rio. We hear AfroReggae and explore Rio’s favelas. http://www.onpointradio.org/2010/12/favelas-afroreggae-brazil

December 09 2010


Mondo Diablo Episode 286: This Christmas has Been Brought to You by Child Labor

This week, the Krampus and his workers, Knecht Ruprecht, Krampus, Hans Trapp, Zwarte Piet, Klaubauf, Muff, Butz, Pere Fouettard and Belsnickel, bring you the last in the series of Worst Jobs podcasts. This time it's children making dolls for children, gos-herding and turkey dressing. As in, yanking the guts out of hundreds or maybe thousands of fresh turkeys, by hand, in time for Christmas. But my own day of judgment is at hand (did you know that the Visit from Saint Nicholas could be considered a mini "day of judgment" for children? It's true)! I will be presenting, tomorrow night, a small amount of information about Christmas political history, characters and pagan traditions that have come all the way to us. We will also have a nice atheist Christmas party. Now THAT'S how freethinkers have a Christmas party. With a lecture. Luckily, I have pictures.

October 21 2010


NPR's Planet Money: When A Dead-End Job Isn't A Dead End

"How does a guy whose mom is a heroin addict — a guy who drops out of high school, has a kid, and starts working a minimum-wage job at a fast-food restaurant — climb out of poverty? On today's Planet Money, we hear the answer from Katherine Newman. Newman, a sociologist, found 300 people who were working at fast-food restaurants in Harlem in the early '90s. She followed them for the next eight years and told the story in a book called Chutes and Ladders. About a third of the people she followed managed to rise out of poverty during that time. A lot, of course, had to do with individual initiative — taking the civil service exam, landing union jobs, that sort of thing." From http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/10/19/130678389/the-tuesday-podcast

October 12 2010


Food Stamps & Nutrition Controversy

More than 40 million Americans are now on food stamps. What does that mean? And should they be allowed to use them to buy sugary sodas? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says "no."

September 28 2010


Noam Chomsky on U.S. Rage, Ruin

A conversation with Noam Chomsky, legend of the left, on Obama, America, and the world.
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