Environmental Health News

What's Working

  • Garden Mosaics projects promote science education while connecting young and old people as they work together in local gardens.
  • Hope Meadows is a planned inter-generational community containing foster and adoptive parents, children, and senior citizens
  • In August 2002, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board voted to ban soft drinks from all of the district’s schools

#899 -- The True Cost Clearinghouse, 22-Mar-2007

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Rachel's Democracy & Health News #899

"Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?"

Thursday, March 22, 2007................Printer-friendly version
www.rachel.org -- To make a secure donation, click here.
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Featured stories in this issue...

The True Cost Clearinghouse Opens Its Doors
  What is pollution costing us? Now you can find out by visiting
  the True Cost Clearing House.
The White House Has Been Fudging the Data on Global Warming
  A new investigation reveals that the White House edited climate
  reports in "hundreds of instances" to emphasize uncertainty
  about the role of humans in this important problem.
Global Warming Cuts $5 Billion in Grain Crops -- Study
  Global warming is always portrayed as a problem that lies in the
  future. Now a new study reveals that for the past 20 years global
  warming has been reducing the grain harvest in the U.S. by 44 million
  tons per year.
Climate Is Big Issue for U.S. Hunters, Anglers
  Hunters and fishers are finding that global warming is wrecking the
  natural systems upon which wildlife depends.
Are Big Enviro Groups 'Holding Back' the Anti-Warming Movement?
  Why can't the U.S move more quickly to curb global warming? The
  answer to that question reveals a rift in the environmental movement.
A Third of U.S. Jobs Pay Low Wages
  Could you make it on $11 an hour or less? That's the top wage for
  44 million jobs in the U.S.
The Danger Zone
  Among black men, joblessness hovers between 30% and 50%. Jobless
  rates at such sky-high levels don't just destroy lives, they destroy
  entire communities. They breed all manner of antisocial behavior,
  including violent crime.

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From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #899, Mar. 22, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]

THE TRUE COST CLEARINGHOUSE OPENS ITS DOORS

By Nancy Myers

Economics has been used as the number one argument against the
precautionary principle, against environmental regulation, and against
protective policies of all kinds. Since the early days of the
precaution movement, advocates have been looking for economic
arguments for the precautionary principle.

Making that kind of argument hasn't been easy in the past because the
studies simply had not been done. That is changing. An increasing
number of recent studies have examined the hidden costs of the
industrial growth society and the unsung benefits of a transition to
sustainability. Those studies are reaching critical mass and they make
explicit what many of us have suspected all along: precautionary
action does pay, by economic as well as other measures.

The Science and Environmental Health Network has begun to assemble
these studies in the True Cost Clearinghouse.

In the True Cost Clearinghouse you will find landmark studies like the
2006 World Health Organization report attributing nearly a quarter
of global death and disease to the environment; the Landrigan et al.
study on the cost of environmental pollutants and disease in American
children; the U.N. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; and the 2005
Pimental and Patzek analysis showing biofuel production requires
more fossil energy than it produces.

The Clearinghouse also includes many smaller studies, informal
analyses, and news articles on topics ranging from the costs of ADHD
in adults to the economic value of happiness brought by cleaner
air.

All of these studies, reports, and articles include but do not focus
exclusively on monetary costs and benefits. The emphasis is on
heretofore hidden social, health, environmental, and economic costs of
economic activities--the debit side of the ledger, which has always
received less attention than the credit side.

The Clearinghouse is searchable and arranged in an easy-to-browse
list. Many full reports are accompanied by related news articles,
press releases, and executive summaries.

We hope gathering these studies in one place will serve the following
functions:

Correct some of the huge distortions of current cost-benefit analyses.
These new studies give weight and reality to the costs and benefits
that fall to the public and to the commons, as opposed to industry and
developers. They put numbers where there have been none before, or
where they have been ignored. We don't want to get trapped in trying
to prove everything by the numbers and assigning a price to things
that are beyond monetary value, like health and life. But avoiding
economic analysis can lead to the assumption that all economic
arguments favor industry and economic enterprise as we know it. And
they do not.

Get the attention of those who listen to economic arguments. That
includes not only policymakers but also large segments of the public
who are resistant to changes to the status quo. Studies that put
numbers to the cost of harm and the benefits of precaution can give
policymakers a rationale for rejecting arguments that privilege "the
economy" over health and wholeness. They can help communities get a
handle on the real choices they face in economic development.

Begin to break the stranglehold of money as the sole measure of what
we value as a society and how we make our decisions. The precautionary
principle directs us to go ahead and take necessary protective action
based on the best available information, not to wait for science's
standards of proof. That doesn't mean ignoring science; it means
incorporating science into our decisions but not backing off and
letting science decide. Nor does it mean ignoring economics; it means
incorporating what we value into our decisions, and monetary value is
only a part of this. We cannot let monetary values alone make the
decisions.

Encourage more studies like these in the next several years.
Paradoxically, we may have to use money and numbers to help us get
beyond making our decisions by money and numbers alone. Over the next
few years we have a chance to change the terms of the debate about
money and numbers by pushing them as far as we can toward reality. In
this process we can make explicit what we value, what can be
monetized, and what cannot. We have a chance to shift the debate
through numbers to value, ethics, and responsibility.

Precaution will pay in economic terms. We must shift our societal
perspective to the longer-term bottom line in order to grow our own
social, ecological, and economic wealth. This is just common sense.
Many, though not all, precautionary actions require upfront spending
but pay off in a relatively short time. If money invested in
children's preschool pays off in reduced teenage crime, this can
hardly be called sacrifice. Families make these decisions all the
time. We need to do it as a society.

We invite you to browse and search the Clearinghouse and suggest more
studies to include. Send them to Nancy Myers, nancy@sehn.org.

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From: The New York Times, Mar. 20, 2007
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MATERIAL SHOWS WEAKENING OF CLIMATE REPORTS

By Andrew Revkin and Matthew Wald

WASHINGTON, March 19 -- A House committee released documents Monday
that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who
was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate
reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or
play down evidence of such a role.

In a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform, the official, Philip A. Cooney, who left government in 2005,
defended the changes he had made in government reports over several
years. Mr. Cooney said the editing was part of the normal White House
review process and reflected findings in a climate report written for
President Bush by the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

They were the first public statements on the issue by Mr. Cooney, the
former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental
Quality. Before joining the White House, he was the "climate team
leader" for the American Petroleum Institute, the main industry lobby.

He was hired by Exxon Mobil after resigning in 2005 following reports
on the editing in The New York Times. The White House said his
resignation was not related to the disclosures.

Mr. Cooney said his past work opposing restrictions on heat-trapping
gases for the oil industry had had no bearing on his actions once he
joined the White House. "When I came to the White House," he
testified, "my sole loyalties were to the president and his
administration."

Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his
editing and recommendations on what he had seen in good faith as the
"most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific
knowledge."

Mr. Cooney was defended by James L. Connaughton, chairman of the
environmental council and his former boss.

The hearing was part of an investigation, begun under the committee's
Republican chairman last year, into accusations of political
interference in climate science by the Bush administration.It became a
heated and largely partisan tug of war over the appropriate role of
scientists and political appointees in framing how the government
conveys information on global warming.

The hearing also produced the first sworn statements from George C.
Deutsch III, who moved in 2005 from the Bush re-election campaign to
public affairs jobs at NASA. There he warned career press officers to
exert more control over James E. Hansen, the top climate expert at the
space agency.

Testifying at the hearing, Dr. Hansen said editing like that of Mr.
Cooney and efforts to limit scientists' access to the news media and
the public amounted to censorship and muddied the public debate over a
pressing environmental issue. "If public affairs offices are left
under the control of political appointees," he said, "it seems to me
that inherently they become offices of propaganda."

Republicans criticized Dr. Hansen for what they described as taking
political stances, for spending increasing amounts of time on public
speaking and for accepting a $250,000 Heinz Award for environmental
achievement from the Heinz Family Philanthropies, run by Teresa Heinz
Kerry, the wife of Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts.

Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, proposed that
Dr. Hansen, by complaining about efforts to present two sides on
global warming research, had become an advocate for limiting the
debate.

Dr. Hansen replied, "What I'm an advocate for is the scientific
method."

Mr. Deutsch said his warnings to other NASA press officials about Dr.
Hansen's statements and news media access were meant to convey a
"level of frustration among my higher-ups at NASA."

Mr. Deutsch resigned last year after it was disclosed that he had
never graduated from Texas A&M University, as his resume on file at
NASA said. He has since completed work for the degree, he said Monday.

Democrats focused on fresh details that committee staff members had
compiled showing how Mr. Cooney made hundreds of changes to government
climate research plans and reports to Congress on climate that raised
a sense of uncertainty about the science.

The documents "appear to portray a systematic White House effort to
minimize the significance of climate change," said a memorandum
circulated by the Democrats under the committee chairman,
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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From: Reuters, Mar. 19, 2007
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GLOBAL WARMING CUTS $5 BILLION IN GRAIN CROPS -- STUDY

By Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK -- Global warming has cut about US$5 billion worth of the
world's most commonly grown grains over 20 years, according to a new
study.

Warming temperatures from 1981 to 2002 cut the combined production of
wheat, corn, barley and other crops by 40 million tonnes per year,
according to the peer-reviewed study published in Environmental
Research Letters on Friday.

"Most people tend to think of climate change as something that will
impact the future," Christopher Field, a co-author on the study and
ecology expert at the Carnegie Institution in Stanford, California,
said in an e-mail response to questions.

"This study shows that warming over the past two decades has already
had effects on global food supply," he added.

Not every scientist agrees that agriculture is suffering from warmer
temperatures.

A draft UN report obtained by Reuters on Thursday said warming is
expected to turn the planet a bit greener by spurring plant growth,
but crops and forests may wilt beyond mid-century if temperatures keep
rising. That report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
will be released on April 6.

Field said the Carnegie study was the first to estimate how much
global food production has already been affected by climate change. It
was funded by the Carnegie Institution and the Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory, which is managed by the University of California
for the US government.

Average global yields for several of the crops suffered from warmer
temperatures, with yields dropping by about 3 to 5 percent for every 1
degree Fahrenheit increase, the study said.

Average global temperatures increased by about 0.7 degree F during the
study period, with even larger changes in several regions.

If the past is an indication, agriculture will also suffer going
forward, Field said. "We expect future warming to continue to be a
drag on yields, essentially like driving with the parking brake
engaged."

The cereal crops hit by global warming account for at least 55 percent
of non-meat categories consumed by humans, according to the study.
They also contribute more than 70 percent of the world's animal feed.

Farmers can adapt to warmer temperatures through changing crop
planting times, the varieties they grow, or the locations used for
each crop, Field said. He said in the past farmers have been very
adaptable to environmental challenges, but adaptation to warming can
take years.

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From: Reuters, Mar. 13, 2007
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CLIMATE IS BIG ISSUE FOR U.S. HUNTERS, ANGLERS

By Ed Stoddard

Culebra Creek, Colo. -- As the snow melts from the towering peaks in
the distance, Culebra Creek runs fast and the trout are biting. But
Van Beecham, a fourth generation fishing guide, is uneasy.

"When I was a kid we never had regular run-off from the mountains in
February or March. This is global warming," Beecham said.

The early run-offs are one of many signs of warming temperatures that
have caught the attention of hunters and anglers around the United
States -- an influential group that has its pulse on the outdoors.

"If you have early runoffs then you have less water in the summer and
autumn," said Oregon-based Jack Williams, a senior scientist with
conservation group Trout Unlimited.

Trout like cold water and become stressed on hot summer days, because
water levels are lower and temperatures are higher than would have
been the case if the run-off came at more traditional times from April
to June.

"We are finding a lot of concern among anglers and hunters about
climate change. These people value traditions and their family and it
will affect their children and their ability to enjoy these kinds of
outdoor experience," Williams said.

The political run-off could flow as far as the Republican Party, which
has broad support from hunters and anglers but which has been
reluctant to address global warming.

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney both hunt and fish. But
both also have ties to the oil industry and they have been less than
enthusiastic about embracing political measures to curb greenhouse gas
emissions.

The vast majority of scientists agree that human activities such as
burning fossil fuels are contributing to a rapid warming of the planet
that cannot be explained by natural cycles.

Where are the geese?

Professional hunters have also detected climate-related changes that
affect their trade.

"The past season was a bad one for goose hunting... I would say the
clients only got about 40 percent of what they usually get," said
Corey Marchbank, a goose hunting guide in the eastern Canadian
province of Prince Edward Island.

He said the weather seemed to be the main factor. Mild autumn and
winter temperatures meant the geese could stay longer in coastal areas
that used to freeze up.

An early grain harvest last season also meant there was less in the
fields to attract the birds when the hunting season began in October.

Hunters and anglers notice such things and are behind many
conservation measures in the United States, not least because they
could not shoot game or catch fish without protected habitat.

"We have a lot of support from duck hunters who know our work in
protecting wetlands is vital," said Ben McNitt, communications
director for the National Wildlife Federation.

Outdoorsmen were seen as instrumental in getting congressional
protection from oil and gas drilling last year for two wild areas: the
Valle Vidal in New Mexico and the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana.

"Sportsmen played a critical role in convincing Congress to protect
these areas," said Kira Finkler, legislative director for Trout
Unlimited.

Groups like Trout Unlimited are now directing political attention to
climate change issues and policy.

A commonly cited figure used by the National Wildlife Federation is
that more than 40 million Americans hunt and fish and that they spend
$70 billion a year on such activities.

Guns, guides, gas, rods, licenses: it all costs money. And the numbers
and the cash all add up to influence.

A nationwide survey of licensed hunters and anglers last year
commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation found that 76 percent
of those polled agreed that global warming was occurring and the same
percentage said they had observed climatic changes in the areas where
they lived.

Eighty percent of the outdoors-types surveyed said they believed the
United States should be a world leader in addressing global warming.

Half of those polled identified themselves as evangelical Christians
-- a key support base for the Republican Party, which has been divided
on the issue of global warming.

"If the priorities of evangelicals change from social issues like
abortion to the environment it could have a profound effect on the
Republican Party," said John Green, a political scientist at the
University of Akron.

It could make the Republicans embrace more environment issues or it
could lose support to the Democrats, Green said.

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From: The NewStandard, Mar. 19, 2007
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ARE BIG ENVIRO GROUPS 'HOLDING BACK' THE ANTI-WARMING MOVEMENT?

By Megan Tady

The heat is on environmental groups and politicians to churn out
proposals for stabilizing the planet's rising temperatures, but some
environmentalists say existing plans to cool climate change are timid.
Their criticism reveals a rift between two approaches: preserving the
American way of life at the expense of quicker solutions, or changing
the structure of US society to counter an unprecedented threat.

The dominant approach to human-induced global warming revolves around
slow but dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions by mid-
century. The mainstream environmental community, along with a handful
of politicians and corporations, is calling for various regulations
and market-based actions to reduce greenhouse-gas output by 60 to 80
percent over the next 43 years.

This goal is based on what some scientists have estimated the United
States needs to do to help the world limit the rise in global
temperatures to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial
levels. The goal presupposes that some climate change is inevitable.
In 2006, a government-commissioned report in the United Kingdom called
the "Stern Review" said that the "worst impacts of climate change can
be substantially reduced" by cutting greenhouse emissions to meet the
two-degree goal.

Even if climate warming is kept to two-degrees or lower, the report
said there will still be "serious impacts" on "human life and on the
environment." For instance, the report predicted the disappearance of
drinking water in the South American Andes and parts of Southern
Africa and the Mediterranean, up to 10 million people affected by
yearly coastal flooding, and 10 to 40 percent of species on Earth
going extinct. "They're really holding the whole movement back by
setting their sights so low."

Noting that "2050 is a long time away," David Morris, vice president
of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said he wants to see action
right away. "So what I want to know is, what are [environmental groups
and politicians] going to do tomorrow?"

Morris and others who want to see more-immediate and deeper action
fear such incremental changes are downplaying the urgency of the
situation. "They're really holding the whole movement back by setting
their sights so low," said Brian Tokar, Biotechnology Project director
at the Institute for Social Ecology in Vermont.

Market-based solutions

The basic premise behind long-term plans for emissions reduction is
that moving away from a fossil-fuel-based energy system will take time
because market forces will take a while to make renewable technology
prices competitive.

"It's still possible that we can avoid dangerous climate change and
cut emissions in half by mid-century through a process that doesn't
require an immediate shutdown of all of our coal-powered plants," said
John Coequyt, Greenpeace energy policy analyst. "We can still do this
in a phased -- and as a result -- economically beneficial manner."

"There's no reason we can't get there within the next five to ten
years with significant funding."

In January, Greenpeace published what it called a "blueprint for
solving global warming." The plan calls for 80 percent of electricity
to be produced from renewable energy, 72 percent less carbon dioxide
emissions, and for the US's oil use to be cut in half -- all by 2050.

The timeline is based on removing the market barriers to green energy,
while making dirty energy more expensive. It does not call for
significant public funding of renewable energy or government
investments in new energy infrastructure or public transportation.

Tokar dismissed the 2050 timeline, saying the US could cut greenhouse-
gas emissions more quickly if pressure groups took a different stance
and instead called for immediate government intervention.

"The only thing that can change it is a significant investment in
public funds to really jumpstart the industry," Tokar said. "There's
no reason we can't get there within the next five to ten years with
significant funding."

Coequyt of Greenpeace agreed with Tokar that the United States could
reach emissions-reduction goals sooner if not for the perceived need
to depend primarily on the market to make renewable energy the best
choice for consumers.

"That's definitely the case; we could see faster action," Coequyt
said. "It's hard for us to be a lot faster than what we put in our
scenario, but if the government made it a true national priority, I
don't think there's any doubt that we could go faster."

Despite this admission, Greenpeace is not pushing for the government
to get heavily involved in funding and distributing renewable energy,
but instead promotes weaker reforms like removing subsidies for
fossil-fuel industries and forcing prices to reflect the actual costs
of environmental damage. To reduce market barriers faced by clean-
energy technology, Greenpeace advocates offering producers of
sustainable power priority access to the electricity grid and reducing
the governmental red tape that inhibits their startup.

"None of [the solutions presented by mainstream groups] address the
power structures. None of them address corporations. None of them
address a lack of democracy."

"What would be the other option?" asked Coequyt. "Mandate that every
house has to have solar panels on it and that coal plants have to shut
down?"

According to Tokar, Greenpeace and other groups should be calling for
the funding of public transportation and subsidies to make housing
more energy efficient. "We can do all of these things immediately," he
said.

Dissidents also rebuke the mainstream environmental community for not
pushing hard for a less-energy-intensive lifestyle in the United
States.

Coequyt acknowledged Greenpeace is not yet urging Americans to
fundamentally change the way they live to fight climate change. "What
we're saying right now is that we have the technology, and we can
reduce our energy through efficiency use so much, and we can do it
without having to completely change our lifestyle," he said. "But it
is certainly possible that in the near future we may have to have a
more-urgent call."

But for some environmentalists, making the urgent call for lifestyle
changes -- from something as tame as driving less to more radical
changes like adopting a vegetarian, localized diet -- should go hand
in hand with the push for larger, system-wide greenhouse-gas
reductions and energy efficiency. They say radically scaling back
consumption is needed to ensure global environmental sustainability
and equity.

Mark Hertsgaard, an environmental journalist, said that to avoid
"irrevocably cooking" the planet, "we cannot continue this resource-
intensive life." Given a rising global population and unmet energy
needs of poorer countries, he said: "At the end of the day, we also
have to cut back on our appetite. That's just arithmetic."

Morris, of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, said
environmentalists need to start pushing large-scale changes into the
public discourse. "We need to start asking for the kind of sacrifice
that will be required," he said.

Political Disconnect

Another plan published by the United States Climate Action Partnership
(US-CAP), a coalition of corporations and environmental groups, calls
for legislation to rapidly enact a "mandatory emission-reduction
pathway," with an ultimate goal of 60 to 80 percent carbon reductions
by 2050.

The partnership includes the Natural Resources Defense Council,
Environmental Defense, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change and the
World Resources Institute. They are joined by nine corporations --
including DuPont, BP America and General Electric.

Vicki Arroyo, who is with the Pew Center, said their proposal is
"ambitious."

But, Arroyo said, the plan "can't start today" because passing
legislation takes time. "There really is no way in our system to move
any faster than what's being recommended here," Arroyo said.

Many of the proposals reflect the need to court the Bush
administration and politicians, who have refused to call for tough
measures on climate change.

Bill McKibben, an environmentalist organizing national demonstrations
against climate change with the new "Step It Up" campaign, likened the
United States's stance on global warming to an "ocean liner heading in
the other direction entirely." He said, "[Eighty percent reductions by
2050] seems to be at the moment the outer limit of what's politically
possible."

For author and radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen, the obstacles
to faster changes presented by the US political system, illustrate the
need for more-holistic measures.

"None of [the solutions presented by mainstream groups] address the
power structures," Jensen said. "None of them address corporations.
None of them address a lack of democracy.... The environmental groups
are not questioning this larger mentality that's killing the planet."

Copyright 2007 Independent Media Institute.

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From: The New Standard, Mar. 19, 2007
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A THIRD OF U.S. JOBS PAY LOW WAGES

By Jessica Azulay

A new analysis [1 Mbyte PDF] has found that some 44 million American
jobs -- about one out of every three positions in the United States -
pays $11.11 per hour or less.

The report, published by researchers at a think tank called Inclusion,
also says those jobs are less likely than higher paying work to
include benefits like health insurance, retirement accounts or paid
time off. Inclusion is affiliated with the progressive Center for
Economic and Policy Research.

According to the report, the median wage for men in the United States
is $16.66 per hour, which means that half of men make more than that
wage and half make less. The researchers defined low-wage jobs as
those paying less than two-thirds of the median male wage.

"In short," wrote the researchers, "our preferred definition of low-
wage work is any job that pays substantially less than the job held by
a typical male worker."

The researchers' analysis of US Bureau of Labor statistics found that
the occupation with the most low-wage jobs is retail sales. Of the 4.3
million retail-sales workers in the country, half made less than $9.20
per hour, according to the report. Low-wage jobs are also concentrated
in the fields of food preparations and serving; building and groups
maintenance; healthcare support; personal care; and farming, fishing
and forestry occupations.

The economists plotted low-wage work over time since 1979, and found
that in the late 1990s low-wage jobs began paying more until 2001,
when their wages were up by 5 percent over 1979's figures. But,
according to the report, since then, low-wages have fallen back to
almost the 1979 levels.

Copyright 2007 The NewStandard.
The NewStandard is a non-profit publisher that encourages
noncommercial reproduction of its content. Reprints must prominently
attribute the author and The NewStandard, hyperlink to http:/
/newstandardnews.net (online) or display newstandardnews.net
(print), and carry this notice.

"Understanding Low-Wage Work in the United States" Inclusion

Jessica Azulay is a staff journalist.

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From: New York Times, Mar. 15, 2007
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THE DANGER ZONE

By Bob Herbert

The national unemployment rate came in at 4.5 percent last week and
was generally characterized as pretty good. But whatever universe
those numbers came from, it was not the universe that black men live
in.

Black American males inhabit a universe in which joblessness is
frequently the norm, where the idea of getting up each morning and
going off to work can seem stranger to a lot of men than the dream of
hitting the lottery, where the dignity that comes from supporting
oneself and one's family has too often been replaced by a numbing
sense of hopelessness.

What I'm talking about is extreme joblessness -- joblessness that is
coursing through communities and being passed from one generation to
another, like a deadly virus.

Forget, for a moment, the official unemployment numbers. They
understate the problem of joblessness for all groups. Far more telling
is the actual percentage of people in a given segment of the working-
age population that is jobless.

Black men who graduate from a four-year college do reasonably well in
terms of employment, compared with other ethnic groups. But most black
men do not go to college. In big cities, more than half do not even
finish high school.

Their employment histories are gruesome. Over the past few years, the
percentage of black male high school graduates in their 20s who were
jobless (including those who abandoned all efforts to find a job) has
ranged from well over a third to roughly 50 percent. Those are the
kinds of statistics you get during a depression.

For dropouts, the rates of joblessness are staggering. For black males
who left high school without a diploma, the real jobless rate at
various times over the past few years has ranged from 59 percent to a
breathtaking 72 percent.

"Seventy-two percent jobless!" said Senator Charles Schumer, chairman
of Congress's Joint Economic Committee, which held a hearing last week
on joblessness among black men. "This compares to 29 percent of white
and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts."

Senator Schumer described the problem of black male unemployment as
"profound, persistent and perplexing."

Jobless rates at such sky-high levels don't just destroy lives, they
destroy entire communities. They breed all manner of antisocial
behavior, including violent crime. One of the main reasons there are
so few black marriages is that there are so many black men who are
financially incapable of supporting a family.

"These numbers should generate a sense of national alarm," said
Senator Schumer.

They haven't. However much this epidemic of joblessness may hurt, very
little is being done about it. According to the Labor Department, only
97,000 new jobs were created in February. That's not even enough to
accommodate new entrants to the work force.

And then there's the question of who's getting the new jobs. According
to statistics compiled by the Center for Labor Market Studies at
Northeastern University in Boston, the only groups that have
experienced a growth in jobs since the last recession are older
workers and immigrants.

People can howl all they want about how well the economy is doing. The
simple truth is that millions of ordinary American workers are in an
employment bind. Steady jobs with good benefits are going the way of
Ozzie and Harriet. Young workers, especially, are hurting, which
diminishes the prospects for the American family. And blacks,
particularly black males, are in a deep danger zone.

Instead of addressing this issue constructively, government officials
have responded by eviscerating programs that were designed to move
young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the labor market.

Robert Carmona, president of Strive, an organization that helps build
job skills, told Senator Schumer's committee, "What we've seen over
the last several years is a deliberate disinvestment in programs that
do work."

What's needed are massive programs of job training and job creation,
and a sustained national effort to bolster the education backgrounds
of disadvantaged youngsters. So far there has been no political will
to do any of that.

You get lip service. But when you walk into the neighborhoods and talk
to the young people, you find that very little, if anything, is being
done. Which is why the real-world employment environment has become so
horrendous for so many.

Return to Table of Contents

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
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  often considered separately or not at all.

  The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining  
  because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who
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  health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the
  rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among
  workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy,
  intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and
  therefore ruled by the few.  

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  Tim Montague   -   tim@rachel.org
  
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