Andy Driscoll’s Script-As-Blog


Andy Driscoll – April 30, 2012

Now that the so-called Human Services Omnibus bill has passed with some devastating cuts first proposed, then restored, thanks to lobbying and demonstrations – and, perhaps a very dicey election year looming and a clear threat of yet another Dayton veto of a radical GOP bill – some of the disasters in waiting have at least been put off until and if the GOP retains its surprising majorities in next year’s session.

The baffling thing about poverty, like other societal maladies, is that, despite the dry, old statistics showing incredible increases in poverty, the decline in median incomes, the rise in homelessness and the decline in public assistance, the increase in foreclosures and the plunge in property values – the gap widens – and the people in power really don’t seem to give a damn.

What is it going to take short of a complete collapse of our economic infrastructure? Some say it’s already arrived; we’re just hanging on. Are we? For all the hope we keep wanting to generate, is there room for it? How long, if ever, before middle-class suburbanites take up arms against The Man and find themselves in the same place as the poor and people of color have been for decades – on the business end of a police officer’s 9mm Glock or Billy-club, a pepper-spray can or tear-gas canister for their trouble?

Perhaps. Then again, perhaps that will be the only time a march on the banks and politicians will yield some results and policies will change and wealth will be shared.

But, leave us not hold our breath.
Average citizens/residents are feeling the pinch created by people and institutions who literally could care less – because they seem to have no depths to their lack of caring.

Poverty is NOT one of those conditions that will get better by the pulling up of bootstraps. Poverty is a societal disease that needs a major injection and infusion of capital – real capital – money and other resources. Anything else is a punishment inflicted on people who have less than the people making the decisions and who spend much of their legislative or administrative time and capital denying others their fair share of a pie they keep shrinking.

How bad is it? Some statistics to chew on, thanks to several sources:
Nationwide, 46.2 million people were in poverty in 2010. While the poverty rate sits at 15.1 percent, Minnesota ranks 13th lowest in the nation in numbers of those living below the poverty line ($11,344 for an individual or $22,113 household income for a family of four), but the state’s numbers have increased significantly from 2007-2008. The poverty rate then was 9.6 percent. BUT…in 2009-2010, 560,000 Minnesotans lived in poverty, or roughly one out of ten state residents. That represents a 2.1 percentage point increase from 2006-07.

Even more staggering, says the Minnesota Budget Project, the preliminary numbers show that over the last decade, Minnesota’s median household income fell from $65,120 in 1999-2000 to $54,785 in 2009-2010, or by more than $10,000, after adjusting for inflation. Only Michigan experienced a larger decline in median income during the same period. And things aren’t much better out in our rural communities. The economy remains stagnant in all sectors of the state, even though our economy remains more diversified than most states. We simply don’t rely on a single corporation or a single industry, like the Detroit auto economy, for instance.

Today, we try and catch up on the status of poverty and its fallout in Minnesota as the Legislature winds down its work and Minnesotans have a chance to assess the needs of the next decade while statistics continue to rise giving the lie to promises of imminent prosperity – homelessness, especially among families and children and veterans home from the wards; free and reduced lunches among increasing numbers of kids in our schools; unemployment checks coming to an end after too many months seeking jobs and failing. And on and on.

Advocates spend their lives with and lobbying for families, children, homeless Minnesotans and those who need a huge variety of services and take their cases to the halls of the Capitol every session, only to find themselves in the same battles with dispassionate lawmakers year after year, sometimes even when things ought to be better.