Show Details for the week of January 6th, 2014

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On The Monitor this week:

  • We talk with Jill Quadagno about how Racism undermined the ‘War on Poverty’
  • We talk with Peter Byrne about the sale of the USPS real estate and other properties: Is Sen. Feinstein Profiting From the Fire Sale of the Public’s Property and Art?

More about this week’s guests:

Jill Quadagno holds the Mildred and Claude Pepper Eminent Scholar Chair in Social Gerontology at Florida State University and is the author of several books on social policy including The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty.

The “war on poverty” was launched 50 years ago this week in Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 State of the Union address; also see excerpt of video from this 1965 speech on voting rights which also addresses racism and the war on poverty.
Quote: “Several factors stymied efforts to end poverty in the U.S. The heart of the Economic Opportunity Act was the effort to bring about social change through community action programs. Yet across the nation – from the deep South to New Jersey – community action programs became entangled in the civil rights movement, creating a backlash that was ultimately their undoing. Job training programs, too, began as an effort to provide the poor with the skills to earn a decent wage. In practice, however, young black women received training that would prepare them to be domestic servants and homemakers. Young black men gained valuable training in the skilled trades but came into conflict with the unions that wanted to maintain control over hiring. Once again, then, the goal to end poverty through jobs became enmeshed in conflict over racial discrimination. A guaranteed national income, or ‘negative income tax’ — which would now be regarded as unspeakably radical — was actually backed by the Nixon administration and had broad support, but a bizarre coalition of southern white Democrats, religious groups and welfare rights advocates (who thought it didn’t go far enough) defeated the proposal. We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that key parts of the war on poverty – the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 — have been critical for reducing poverty. Until then, poor people and older people had no way of ensuring access to health care. We do see some continued racial dynamics around the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion optional for the states, and as states make their decision, it is not only partisan politics that determines the choice, but also the degree of negative racial sentiment within the state.”


Peter Byrne is author of Going Postal: The Husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has Been Selling Post Offices to his Friends, Cheap. The first chapter of the book is available online.

The Los Angeles Times published a piece recently about sales of post offices and protests they have aroused. The article notes that CBRE is “the private entity that holds an exclusive contract to broker postal service real estate. … Riling many here is the exclusive deal with CBRE Group, whose chairman, Richard Blum, is married to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “A recent e-book by investigative journalist Peter Byrne details allegations of below-market sales to CBRE clients and investors. (CBRE has declined to comment on those claims.) A June audit by the Office of Inspector General raised unrelated ‘conflict of interest’ concerns and noted ‘poor oversight’ of the CBRE contract.”


Byrne’s story “Death, Maiming, Money & Muni” was a finalist in 2004 for the Investigative Award given by Investigative Reporters & Editors. This hard-hitting expose of San Francisco’s transit system also won first place for investigative reporting from the Association of Alternative Weeklies. His series exposing U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein’s conflicts of interest — “Senator Warbucks” — was a finalist for the 2008 Investigative Enterprise Award by Investigative Reporters and Editors and received awards from the California Newspaper Publisher’s Association and Project Censored.

Byrne has received national, regional, and local recognition for investigative work, writing style, and in-depth profiles of politicians, grifters, grafters, and… artists (for whom he has a soft spot). He also writes compellingly about new developments in physics, quantum computation, and stock car racing. Byrne likes to take tough, complex subjects and explicate them in ordinary language for normal people. He figures that if he can understand exactly how people steal money from the government and get away with it, or how reality-shifting media organizations owned by defense contractors are able to brainwash millions of people into working against the interest of the human species — then he can explain how it works to the reader.

He loves reading purloined documents, and taking whistle blowers out to lunch at fancy restaurants.


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