I recently came across three stories that ran in the New York Times on the same day, each in different sections of the paper, yet all tied together across class, politics, and time.
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In an editorial, the paper noted that after Wall Street crashed our economy, the Great Recession of 2008 caused another 1.7 million Americans to plummet into poverty. In 2009, though, even as joblessness soared, the poverty numbers did not rise. Why? Because President Obama’s economic stimulus programs – including expanded unemployment benefits and an increase in food stamps – created a cushion that kept more people from dropping into poverty.
Meanwhile, on the front page, the Times reported that a handful of Americans are not suffering at all from the recession, even though they helped cause it. They are the partners in Goldman Sachs, who’re now reaping multimillion-dollar bonuses for their work last year, even though they performed poorly – Goldman’s profits tumbled in 2010, and it had to pay a half-billion dollar penalty for practicing investor fraud. Goldman also lobbied Congress to pass a very special law in December that dramatically reduces the taxes on these bonuses. By the way, this same law cuts weekly payments to the unemployed – a wicked move that’ll push 175,000 more people into poverty this year.
Then, on the obituary page, the Times covered the death of Sargent Shiver. A lifetime idealist who worked tirelessly against poverty, Shriver helped create and run such pioneering efforts as the Peace Corps, Head Start, Job Corps, VISTA, and Legal Services in the 1960s.
How far we’ve come huh? These three news stories jerk us from the time America’s political leaders had the stuff to battle poverty – to today, when our leaders battle the poor, even as they coddle the superrich.