With corrupt bullies and idiots like Chris Christie and Rob Ford in high office North Americans better get busy understanding these damaging critters. As bad as this new generation of neoconservative/neoliberal players are they don’t seem to be much restrained, let alone going away any time soon, thanks to the political resistance of a liberal class or left wing. No, Chris Christie can be as awful as he wants until he undoes himself. As he may indeed have by going so far as to physically corral the people he is supposed to serve in order to make a political point; as was the case with the episode of artificial traffic congestion on the bridge to Fort Lee, New Jersey. Rob Ford, though stripped of many duties, is still at large politically and positioning himself for a long run to the next election quite convinced his supporters will be there for him. After years of awful behaviour we can only hope that some political force will emerge to sink these men. Waiting around for them to blow themselves up is not really good enough.
Chris Christie’s New Jersey is everything that’s wrong with America
James Howard Kunstler in Politico Magazine
Editorial: Building the Left to challenge Rob Ford
image: Benito Mussolini via Wikimedia Commons
Some years into the Great Recession and we still have the plummet from
six-digit-income-and-a-nice-house to food bank level survival being presented as new and notable. The family in this item from CNN are located in New Jersey. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when the father said he looked to Mitt Romney for new leadership on the economy or some other nonsense. His wife, in contrast, seemed to have a hunch the system really had nothing to offer either way.
Living on food stamps in middle-class suburbia
YouTube posting from United Way of North New Jersey
image: An early press run of food stamps, Harris & Ewing Collection, US Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.
Digital technology and the Internet have done great things for our ability to dynamically map and understand reality. Feeding America has made use of such tools to present food insecurity information for every county in the country. The dark cluster along the Mississippi River and the envelopment of entire states may surprise you, unless you are living it, that is.
Map the Meal Gap – Feeding America Interactive map
The face of hunger is changing in Mercer
nj.com looks at above-average food insecurity and food bank use in one county in the state of New Jersey
photo: Don O’Brien via Wikimedia Commons
Whenever a big storm, franken or otherwise, hits North America we see plenty in the media about the stranded travellers, the disruption to utilities and businesses, the influence of global warming and so forth. Never much about the homeless and socially excluded. With Sandy, at nine hundred miles across, the biggest storm in the lived human history of the Atlantic Ocean, there has actually been some mention of what might happen to the poor.
In north New Jersey we find more archetypal descriptions of people fallen out of their middle class working lives. “How will they climb back into them?” seems to be turning into “will they ever climb back into them?” Past performance in terms of income, employment, acquisition of assets and debts within the management of one’s personal finances and the dimensions of personal character doesn’t seem to hold an answer for many.
“Unlike the long-term poor, they had those nest eggs to fall back upon in hard times. But now, as the months without work have stretched into years, those accounts have been depleted and even extended unemployment benefits are running out. With job prospects still wispy, increasing numbers of them are reaching out for help,” says Harvey Lipman in this piece from The Record.
This piece contains a number of useful links regarding poverty in New Jersey including a searchable database of six indicators for Passaic and Bergen counties.
image: Princeton University from Wikimedia Commons
Descriptions of where suburbia is at call forth questions about its future. Some of the predictions of where it’s all going for suburbia are dire indeed. In a world of capital and energy problems the growth of suburbia is safely described as over. Does that mean we are looking at decay and contraction or adaptation? Is it possible that we’ll see an element of scrapping, reclaiming and recycling of the very fabric of suburbia? Maybe. There’s hundreds of thousands of tons, nay millions of tons, of everything from wood to asphalt to aluminium and copper out there. If it is deployed in a built environment that increasingly is either unsustainable or simply doesn’t meet human needs what will happen to it? Humans are inventive critters so we’ll probably see all three: adaptation, contraction and physical reclamation of useful materials.
With that in mind we’d like you to meet two guys already at it. Kenny Chumsky of New Jersey and a Canadian in southern Ontario named Jack-the-Scrapper. These dudes troll the suburbs garbage picking and scrapping. They live off the consumer insanity of suburbia but could easily have their way with the very bones and flesh of it without much difficulty we imagine. Kenny has a charming New Jersey accent and looks a little worse for wear, he doesn’t even don work gloves as he demolishes everything from TV sets to swing sets. Jack is younger and could easily be a comedian with his own reality show. He’s almost as funny as the Chief Publisher here at suburban-poverty.com. Jack doesn’t look half as rough as Kenny, …must be all that socialist public health care forced on him by his vile government. Either way, these two men are out there on the edge, testing the future one discarded cast aluminium barbecue at a time.
How to scrap metal from a TV: for copper, wire and aluminum Caution: awesome!
How to scrap a flat TV for cash $$$$ “I’m gonna hit that TV with this axe!”
If you live in a suburban area in North America you probably have noticed a serious rise in scrapping and garbage picking. Such things were staples of the economic life of developing countries and their visibility here probably speaks volumes. Copper wire is currently worth about $3.00 a pound and that is why the cords disappear from the toasters and video tape players that go out on garbage day. Pop cans and scrap aluminium is worth less than a dollar a pound. Other times scrappers repair or reuse objects and the internet abounds with tales of perfectly good stuff hauled out of the garbage. Outside the suburban-poverty.com office the first wave of scrappers in vans and pickups, often with trailers, rolls by mid-afternoon garbage day. There’s another wave around dinner time. Sometimes one around 20:00 and another at 23:00. Individual pickers and scrappers can cruise by at any time on garbage day. There’s a man nearby here who scraps on foot with a specially adapted baby buggy. Not something really anticipated when this grand, sprawling suburban creature was birthed officially in 1974.
Here are links to two mainstream internet video journalism pieces on suburban poverty. One is from Fresno, CA. The other is from North Bergen, NJ. The North Bergen piece is pretty shallow stuff, hit-and-run, low cost journalism. A reporter talks to a food bank user who has seen her aspirations to be middle class evaporate over the last few years and, my goodness, it apparently sucks for that person.
The California piece is a little better, takes in the problem and goes for a bit of a walkabout with people capable of analysing the big picture and involved with activist responses. Either way…
The New Poor of Fresno Time Video
America’s New Poor CNNMoney
According to a recent report by Rowan University and Fair Share Housing Center suburban rental affordability in New Jersey was better in 1970 than today. That’s so long ago it might as well be 1870!
Report blames zoning laws for lack of affordable housing in New Jersey