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Updated on February 14, 2011

Collective Economies

In the United States for every dollar men receive in wages, women receive seventy-eight cents. Single women have a higher poverty rate than married women. For single people who have lost their unemployment insurance benefits, human services are very limited to certain groups. General Assistance is only available for pregnant, single women, single refugees and single seniors. Food Stamps and Medical Assistance are what is available for most singles. Public housing usually takes 2-5 years and transitional housing is limited, also. Rental assistance is only available for one month only, and only if you have a certain amount of income.

An additional tier of unemployment benefits to 99 weeks is not available in all states. Some states have a lower unemployment rate, like Minnesota. In these states only 86 weeks of unemployment benefits are available. With a high number of people looking for work, it's difficult for many to get a job of any kind, even temporary work. Of all the people I know, few have a permanent, full-time job after being laid off. Even the training programs available through Work Force Centers and programs for dislocated workers, like HIRED, are only available at certain times of year because of limited funding. You have to apply at the beginning of funding cycles to have a chance for training. The banks were bailed out, but the unemployed and dislocated workers were not bailed out at an equal rate. I have written to my Congressional Representative about my situation. I urge every one reading this blog to do so whatever your location. If you are able, a visit to their office might be good, too.

I sometimes have to explain to prospective employers why I do not own a phone. People giving me advise often suggest suggestions and ideas which would be practical if I had a certain amount of financial resources. Some people think that your family can help you with every thing. There are some members of Congress, such as Ron Paul, who criticize the long-term unemployed as being lazy. They say eliminating unemployment insurance would motivate people to get a job. This shows a real lack of understanding and ignorance about the real lack of jobs available vs. the number of people who are looking for unemployment. This recession is one of the worse times I can remember looking for work. I was laid off before in 2001 because the music store where I worked closed their downtown location. It took me a year then to find a full-time job. There were not nearly as many people looking for work and fewer candidates who were interviewing for jobs.

There are some collective and community economies which are developing in these times because of lack of adequate governmental action. In some states coops for child care and house work in trailer parks, apartment buildings and in neighborhoods. There is cooperative housing available in some communities. In Minneapolis, in the Cedar Riverside and Powderhorn neighborhoods, housing coops lower housing costs. The residents own and decide the upkeep of the housing. Every one does some house, yard or repair work in the housing. Professionals are called in for some situations. Community Gardens, where neighbors take turns tending the gardens, are becoming more and more common in Minneapolis and some other cities.

Bina Agarwal, Professor of Economics & Director, Institute of Economic Growth, University of Delhi, India, has suggested the farming coop model in Asia is "important, because farms were very small, and larger numbers of small farms were more successful working collectively." She also says it is important for women "to ensure the food supply and support local economies." In Minnesota food coops of good, organic are numerous. Minnesota has more coops than other state. These coops are a little bit of capitalism, socialism and democracy combined. Members get discounts on food and natural products and the right to vote on management of the coop. Coops give money to non-profits in the community and refunds to their members with the profits from their sales.

In Haiti ten women started the United Women's Association of Pouille as a community lender for women farmers. Women grow small plots and sell the produce. Whatever can't be sold as whole produce, they use equipment to create jellies, jams, corn meals, juices and nut butters to sell. Oxfam has supported this group helping them buy equipment. This has increased the status of women because they are bringing income into their families. Their leader, Jacqueline Morette, says, "The men began to see that the women could create opportunities. They realized that if they worked together with women, their family lives could improve."

In Pakistan and India some foundations and non-profits have developed micro finance similiar to the concept of Habitat for Humanity. Women are loaned small amounts to start businesses and then pay the amount back to the foundations or non-profits. In turn the non-profits loan this money to other women who need help. Micro finance through banks have been very unsuccessful for the poor.  Through the banks, because the high interest, it only causes more debt.

Habitat for Humanity develops housing all over the world. A house is built by the family themselves, the whole community and interfaith groups. The family pays a mortgage to Habitat. This money goes back into the development fund which funds other houses.

Different immigrant communities in the United States pool their money to help each other. Some families pool their money for housing, buying cars and loaning money to each other for starting businesses.  Some women's groups have developed psychological counseling, child care and business counseling.

Not all can start businesses, so changes in governmental policy and programs, which are more individualized to each person seeking help would be the way to go. The present programs are too general and not specific to the individual. Too much money is spent on paper work for means tests. If we had single payer health care and child care systems, this would do a lot to reduce poverty in the United States. Europe overall has a lower poverty rate because they have more of these types of systems in place. The money the banks have paid back to the federal government should go for training, starting new small businesses, extending unemployment benefits and job creation. If we got out of Afghanistan, we could use this money towards this purpose, also. The military budget should reflect defense needs, not excessive weapons systems and wasteful projects. Members of the military even admit there is a lot of waste. Businesses should get tax credits for creating jobs. Individual wealthy persons should pay more in taxes because they are able to so and because this would help middle and working class individuals improve their finances. When the middle and working classes have more income, this helps all businesses do better and helps even the wealthy obtain more wealth. Collectively we could do so much. Events in Egypt show the power of the people. Power to the people!





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