Going Undercover in the Belly of Our Beastly Food Chain

Huff Post Food • Feb. 29, 2012

Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table takes us on a vivid and poignant tour of a place we don’t really want to go: the mostly hidden, sometimes horrible world of the workers who form the backbone of our cheap, industrialized food chain. Sound grim? It is, at times, but McMillan’s lively narrative and evident empathy for the people she encounters make her sojourn into the bowels of Big Food and Big Ag a pleasure to read. Continue reading “Going Undercover in the Belly of Our Beastly Food Chain”

Superdelegate Sleaze: A Case Study

The Huffington Post • March 18, 2008

At a moment when Democratic Party officials are urging voters to trust unelected superdelegates to act in the country’s best interests, HuffPost’s OffTheBus investigation into the background of DNC superdelegates reveals at least one appointed superdelegate who is as likely to use his political connections for personal profit as for the greater good.

Take the case of Joseph F. Johnson, a member-at-large of the Democratic National Committee from Chantilliy, Virginia –a suburb of Washington D.C. — and a superdelegate currently tilting toward Hillary Clinton. Continue reading “Superdelegate Sleaze: A Case Study”

Supermarkets Won’t Solve Obesity, But Bodegas Might

HuffingtonPost.com • Nov. 6, 2007

The lack of healthy food in our nation’s poorest communities is finally making it into public discussion, but there’s a tricky hurdle we’ve yet to get around: How to fix it. The most obvious solution–bring in food stores like supermarkets, which are correlated with people eating more fruits and vegetables–is a bureaucratic nightmare. “Food deserts,” typically located in poor urban areas, usually come with limited building sites, hefty regulations and market realities that differ dramatically from the suburbs where supermarkets perfected their business model. Continue reading “Supermarkets Won’t Solve Obesity, But Bodegas Might”

The Problem with the EITC

The Huffington Post • April 17, 2007

It’s common knowledge that tax day inspires a nationwide grumble, but it’s beginning to be known for bringing annual cheers from the country’s working poor. In recent years, the Earned Income Tax Credit–a stealth antipoverty program with broad bipartisan support–has become one of the country’s most successful efforts to help the poor: Last tax year, the EITC put $41.4 billion into the pockets of workers who earn too little to get by, more than we ever spent on welfare. That work-first hook has made the program a bipartisan favorite, but a closer look suggests that the EITC isn’t the panacea its often touted to be. Continue reading “The Problem with the EITC”

Paying the Poor to Behave

HuffingtonPost.com • March 30, 2007

Yesterday, New York City’s Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveiled specifics on the newest piece of his groundbreaking antipoverty initiative: Paying the poor for behaving well. From a press conference in hardscrabble Brownsville, Brooklyn, Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs explained that, come September, the city will be paying poor families for keeping doctor’s appointments and making sure their kids go to school. Funded with private foundation grants, these “conditional cash transfers” will, among other things, pay $25 for attending elementary school here, $300 for a good test score there; if a family collects every reward, they stand to net $5,000. Continue reading “Paying the Poor to Behave”

Paying Daddy to Be Dad

The Huffington Post • Oct. 10, 2006

Forget marriage promotion as the solution to poverty. New York State is taking on fathers. The move has been a long time in coming; for all the success welfare reform had in moving single mothers into jobs–albeit low-wage ones–it’s largely been a failure at doing the same for men.

Here in New York, the state welfare agency is launching a special tax credit for noncustodial parents, at least 90 percent of whom are fathers, to encourage (and make it easier for) them to pay child support–the first of its kind in the country. Parents up to date on their child support can get up to $1600 back at tax time–and they don’t cease to be eligible for the program until their income exceeds $32,000 annually, a far more generous threshold than the regular EITC. Continue reading “Paying Daddy to Be Dad”

Bloomberg’s War on Poverty

The Huffington Post • Sept. 19, 2006

With the Katrina anniversary come and gone, it’s unclear how quickly poverty will recede from public debate. But in New York City, it was yanked back to center stage by yesterday’s announcement of the findings of a high-profile antipoverty commission chartered by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Taking on poverty at the local level is a bold proposition–not least because much of the funding for antipoverty initiatives comes from the feds. It’s also an increasingly necessary approach as the federal government further abdicates responsibility for doing so, and funding correspondingly recedes. As such, the experiment in New York helps illuminate a couple important ideas about contemporary poverty–and government’s role in alleviating it. Continue reading “Bloomberg’s War on Poverty”