Executive directors at the World Bank have rejected the draft version of President Paul Wolfowitz’s regressive family planning policy, which made “virtually no reference to sexual and reproductive health.”
ILLINOIS: Number of Chicago public school graduates going on to college rose from 44 percent to 48 percent over the last three years.
MARYLAND: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signs into law several key environmental statutes.
LOUISIANA: African-Americans in New Orleans face mounting discrimination in an ailing housing market.
THINK PROGRESS: Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA): “I hope it’s your families that suffer” from a terrorist attack.
AMERICA BLOG: First Lady Laura Bush claims that no one suffers from Iraq more than she and President Bush do.
MY TWO SENSE: CNN’s Glen Beck: Iraq withdrawal “would be America’s most shameful act of immorality since slavery.”
FIREDOGLAKE: “Karl Rove has more than Sheryl Crow to worry about.”
“Yesterday, Senator Reid said the troop surge was against the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. That is plainly false. The Iraq Study Group report was explicitly favorable toward a troop surge to secure Baghdad.”
— Vice President Cheney, 4/24/07
“Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq.”
— Iraq Study Group report, p. 30
Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.
CORRECTION: Two days ago, some of our readers received The Progress Report with the word “credibility” spelled incorrectly in the subject line of the e-mail. For the sake our own credibility, we want to acknowledge and apologize for the error.
From Poverty To Prosperity
When Hurricane Katrina struck in Aug. 2005, “it revealed that in one of the nation’s proudest cities, racial and economic disparities were enormous. Tens of thousands of families were living in severe poverty, jobless and unable to afford transportation out of town or a night in a motel as disaster approached.” The plight of poverty in New Orleans laid bare by Katrina forcefully reminded the country of the economic hardships that a significant share of Americans face everyday. In an economy that produces $13 trillion annually, 37 million Americans still live below the official poverty line. “Millions more struggle each month to pay for basic necessities or run out of savings when they lose their job or have a health emergency.” This continuing poverty effects more than just the poor who live in it, as “the lost potential of children raised in poor households, the lower productivity and earnings of poor adults, the poor health, increased crime, and broken neighborhoods all hurt our nation. Persistent childhood poverty is estimated to cost our nation $500 billion each year, or about 4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.” Last year, the Center for American Progress put together a Task Force on Poverty, gathering “a diverse group of national experts and leaders to examine the causes and consequences of poverty in America and make recommendations for national action.” Today, the task force released its final recommendations in a report — “From Poverty to Prosperity” — that calls for “a national goal of cutting poverty in half in the next 10 years and proposes a strategy to reach that goal.”
BAD GETTING WORSE: There are more Americans living in poverty today than there are total people living in the state of California, the most populous state in the nation. The number of poor Americans has grown by five million in the past six years, while inequality has reached historically high levels. In 2005, the richest one percent of Americans had the largest share of the nation’s income — 19 percent — since 1929, while the poorest 20 percent of Americans had only 3.4 percent of the nation’s income. Though the number of Americans in deep poverty has climbed slowly but steadily in the past three decades, a study by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that since 2000, “the number of severely poor has grown ‘more than any other segment of the population.'” In 2005, 16 million people — 5.4 percent of all Americans — had incomes below half the poverty line. The number of Americans living in such extreme poverty grew by over three million between 2000 and 2005, and the share of poor people living in extreme poverty is now greater than at any point in the last 32 years. Without urgent action, these numbers are on course to continue growing. The federal minimum wage has remained static for nearly a decade. At $5.15 an hour, it is at its lowest level in real terms since 1956. The federal minimum wage was once 50 percent of the average wage, but is now only 30 percent of that wage. If Congress were to restore the minimum wage to 50 percent of the average wage — about $8.40 an hour in 2006 — it would help over 4.5 million poor workers and nearly nine million other low-income workers.
NOT JUST A ‘POOR PERSON’S’ PROBLEM: Poverty is not isolated to those who are currently experiencing it and the tens of millions who hang on the precipice of falling in. Economist Rebecca Blank, a member of the poverty task force, has found that a third of all Americans will “experience poverty within a 13-year period. In that period, one in 10 Americans are poor for most of the time, and one in 20 are poor for more than 10 years.” Furthermore, “large numbers of Americans — both low income and middle class — are increasingly concerned about uncertain job futures, downward pressures on wages, and decreasing opportunities for advancement in a globalized economy.” Employment for millions of Americans is now less secure than at any point in the post-World War II era. Women and minorities are much more likely to feel the sting of poverty than are white Americans. African-Americans (24.9 percent were poor in 2005), Hispanics (21.8 percent), and Native Americans (25.3 percent) all have poverty rates far greater than those of whites (8.3 percent). With a poverty rate of 14.1 percent, women are substantially more likely to be poor than are males (11.1 percent). If a national agenda to reduce poverty were implemented, it would benefit more than just the poor, as it would promote opportunity and security for millions of other Americans, as well.
MAKING WORK PAY: As history has shown, poverty is conquerable if smart steps are taken. During the strong economy of the 1960s and the War on Poverty, the poverty rate fell from 22.4 percent to 11.1 percent between 1959 and 1973. In the 1990s, a strong economy was combined with policies to promote and support work, and the poverty rate dropped from 15.1 percent to 11.3 percent between 1993 and 2000. Fighting poverty does not require extensive new bureaucracy or more government programs. The Task Force on Poverty found that there are four principles that should guide a strategy to cut poverty in half: 1) “People should work and work should pay enough to ensure that workers and their families can avoid poverty, meet basic needs, and save for the future.” 2) “Children should grow up in conditions that maximize their opportunities for success; adults should have opportunities throughout their lives to connect to work, get more education, live in a good neighborhood, and move up in the workforce.” 3) “Americans should not fall into poverty when they cannot work or work is unavailable, unstable, or pays so little that they cannot make ends meet.” 4) “All Americans should have the opportunity to build assets that allow them to weather periods of flux and volatility, and to have the resources that may be essential to advancement and upward mobility. Read the Task Force’s 12 key steps to cutting poverty in half here.
Under the Radar
ETHICS — ROVE INVESTIGATOR BESET WITH ETHICAL PROBLEMS: The head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), Scott Bloch, told the Washington Post and L.A. Times that he is “launching a broad investigation into key elements of the White House political operations” led by presidential adviser Karl Rove, and “will examine the firing of at least one U.S. attorney, missing White House e-mails, and White House efforts to keep presidential appointees attuned to Republican political priorities.” At issue are potential violations of the Hatch Act, which prohibits the expenditure of government resources “on behalf of a political party or cause.” While Bloch promised the investigation would “leave no stone unturned,” watchdog groups including the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have voiced objections, noting that Bloch’s involvement in such an investigation “suggests the possibility that the White House is orchestrating a cover-up of its illegal and improper activities.” Bloch, who is also charged with “defending the rights of government whistle-blowers and protecting government employees from discrimination,” is currently under investigation for accusations that his office “retaliated against employees who took issue with internal policies and discriminated against employees who were gay or members of religious minorities.” CREW has reported that the investigation into Bloch’s conduct has “been stymied by the fear of OSC staff that speaking to investigators will result in reprisal.” A lawyer for a group of OSC employees “said it was obvious that Mr. Bloch was trying to use the investigation to divert attention from his own problems.” She added, “Mr. Bloch’s assertions that he would conduct a wide-scale investigation…were not believable because his office had only limited authority in such matters.”
LABOR — BUSH’S WORKER SAFETY RECORD IS WORST IN HISTORY: The Occupational Health Safety Administration (OSHA), created under President Nixon in 1970 to mitigate dangerous working conditions across the country, has been extremely effective in reducing deaths and injuries on the job since its inception. But under President Bush, OSHA’s efficacy has been quickly gutted, as he “vowed to limit new rules and roll back what he considered cumbersome regulations that imposed unnecessary costs on businesses and consumers,” killing “dozens” of existing regulations and delaying the implementation of others. Bush holds the dubious distinction of presiding over an OSHA that “has issued the fewest significant standards in its history, public health experts say. It has imposed only one major safety rule. The only significant health standard it issued was ordered by a federal court.” The agency’s head, Edwin G. Foulke, Jr., was previously “Republican Party state chairman in South Carolina and a top political-fundraiser” and also used to advise corporations on how to bust unions. “Instead of regulations, Mr. Foulke and top officials at other agencies favor a ‘voluntary compliance strategy,'” an approach which has thus far only covered one percent of the work force. Bush’s neutering of OSHA reflects a broader anti-regulatory strategy that he has implemented within the federal government. In February, Bush nominated industry lobbyist Michael Baroody to lead the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Previously, Baroody worked for the National Association of Manufacturers, which opposed the reduction of workplace hazards by “attempting to kill OSHA’s ergonomics standard,” calling it “unwarranted litigation.”
WOMEN’S RIGHTS — WORLD BANK REJECTS WOLFOWITZ’S REGRESSIVE FAMILY PLANNING POLICY: World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and his political appointees have attempted to reverse the institution’s long-standing policy of promoting family planning, despite Wolfowitz’s recent statement, “Our policy hasn’t changed.” As The Progress Report noted earlier, a draft of the bank’s pending Strategy for Health, Nutrition, and Population (HNP) mentions family planning just once, in reference to a 2006 reproductive health project in the Caribbean that supported family planning services (p. 120). In contrast, the previous HNP (1997) identified a “lack of access to family planning services as a primary health challenge.” The draft was prepared by the office of managing director Juan JosÃ© Daboub, a strong proponent of U.S. policy in Iraq whom Wolfowitz hired last year. Officials at the World Bank have now rejected this regressive family planning policy. In an April 19 memo, eight of the World Bank’s executive directors write, “After reviewing the strategy document…we still have some major concerns regarding this document…and cannot support it in the present form.” The directors specifically attack Daboub’s revision of the World Bank’s family planning policies. They note that the “original document makes virtually no reference to sexual and reproductive health, on a strategic level. This is surprising, considering the Bank has committed almost US$2 billion to sexual and reproductive health over the past 10 years.” Even though Wolfowitz is no longer a member of the Bush administration, his World Bank policies continue to support the President’s conservative priorities: promoting abstinence-only policies and conservative ideology over solid scientific research.
Several retired generals endorsed Congress’s Iraq withdrawal legislation yesterday. Maj. Gen. John Batiste called it “important legislation [that] sets a new direction in Iraq,” while Lt. Gen. William Odom said it will “re-orient US strategy to achieve regional stability, and win help from many other countries — the only way peace will eventually be achieved.”
“Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will return to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, this time to meet” with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), “who recently called for the attorney general’s resignation, accusing Gonzales of lying to the senator and his constituency in Arkansas.”
“After more than a decade of government inaction, gay-rights proponents in Congress have gotten several major bills moving through the Democratic-controlled chambers, a development that could result in the greatest expansion of federal protections for gays and lesbians in US history.” The measures include tougher action against both workplace discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
“The Iraqi government withheld recent casualty figures from the United Nations, fearing they would be used to present a grim picture of Iraq that would undermine the coalition’s security efforts.” The United Nations released its own figures, showing that sectarian violence remains high in Baghdad, despite the U.S. escalation strategy.
“After months of furious debate and threats of excommunication by the Catholic Church, Mexico City’s legislative assembly on Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to legalize abortion for the first time in the capital’s history.”
President Bush said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might have one-on-one talks with Iranian leaders at an international conference on Iraq next month. “What I’m not willing to do is sit down bilaterally with the Iranians,” he said in an interview. Later, he said Rice and Iran’s foreign minister might have bilateral conversations. “They could. They could,” Bush said.
Newly-appointed Defense Undersecretary James Clapper Jr. “is moving to end the controversial Talon electronic data program,” which “collected and circulated unverified reports” about alleged threats, including data on “anti-military protesters and peaceful demonstrators.”
And finally: There are “problems” in Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-AK) office, according to an internal memo sent to staff. The biggest one: “[I]f you have a long magazine-reading bathroom trip planned (and you know what I mean), please go to the public restrooms. We don’t want to subject our staff or constituents to any fowl (sic) smelling odors while they are in the office.”