New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Life Story

March 13, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

A Woman Struggles with Poverty, Race, and Education in America

by Pat LaMarche

I had lunch this week with a woman who was homeless for a number of years. She’s in Section 8 housing now with a slumlord who doesn’t fix what breaks and has ignored the cockroaches that move from rental unit to rental unit easier than a breeze on a cool night. No surprise there, as breezes don’t have legs and the ability to seek out moisture and food.

She’s found two prospective places and hopes to move, but the federal housing inspectors haven’t given her the okay yet, so she struggles to tolerate her home. She reached out to me because she’s in a bit of trouble and she needs some help. (more…)

A World Like That…

March 02, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Family, Pat LaMarche, Politics

Reflections on Poverty and Possibility from the 2013 EPIC Journey

by Pat LaMarche

When Diane Nilan and I first met several years ago in a campground in South Central Pennsylvania, I had no idea that we’d team up to try and change the hearts and minds of people who don’t know much about homelessness. I sought her out simply because I was writing a weekly column for Maine’s largest daily newspaper, The Bangor Daily News. Tiger Woods had just smashed up his car and blown up his career and I was looking for a real hero — I wanted folks to see the difference.

I stumbled upon this little-known woman who had, at that time, been ramming the roads in an RV for five years. Her mission was to create documentaries that allowed folks to learn the truth about homeless kids and their families. She has many films to her credit; My Own Four Walls is my personal favorite. All you see and hear (with the exception of a few encouraging tones from Diane) are children. Children tell their story. And if you’ve got a dry eye after that movie, it’s time for an EKG. Her second film, a feature-length ditty, tells the story of seven women and their kids. You may not need a hanky at the end of that show, but you’ll definitely know that something’s terribly wrong with the way we treat the poor. (You can get info on Diane’s films and watch trailers, etc. at her website.) (more…)

Paying for Detention

February 16, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Pat LaMarche, Politics

Interview with Sheriff Arpaio Casts Light on Kids, Poverty, and More

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche is on a journey to explore homelessness and poverty in the U.S. NCV will post updates from her travels…}

I met with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio this week. (You can read the full transcript of our conversation on my Facebook page.) I was excited to meet with him for many reasons. I was hoping against hope that he could clear up something about the role the criminal justice system plays in the lives of the poor. But all that aside, I thought he might answer some questions that were planted in my brain earlier on our Babes of Wrath EPIC Journey: why in the world kids in Arizona get charged a per diem for their incarceration.

Short answer? He didn’t know. No, it’s not that he didn’t know why, he just didn’t know they were charged at all. The kids are charged in Coconino County, Arizona — but it appears not in Maricopa County. It must be subjective. After all, Sheriff Arpaio decides what the kids in his jails have, including a chain gang. When we spoke, the Sheriff was boasting about his equal opportunity chain gangs. (more…)

Up from the Depths

February 09, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

A Homeless Veteran Strives to Escape LA’s Skid Row

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche is on a journey to explore homelessness and poverty in the U.S. NCV will post updates from her travels…}

We’ve parked the RV we’re using to travel our 5000 miles through the nation’s impoverished communities at my cousin’s place. Frank lives in San Marino, California. Google says Frank’s house is 12.9 miles from Skid Row. Moving back and forth between the two locations, it becomes more and more difficult to believe that’s true.

One thing that is true is that it almost never rains here. Months will go by without a single drop. So why are the streets in San Marino and Skid Row wet? Well, in San Marino they water the lawns. And, if you suspend your 21st century concept of sanitation for a few minutes, you can figure out what’s happening on the streets of the nation’s unofficial homeless capital. (more…)

Babes of Wrath

January 26, 2013 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Pat LaMarche

A Journey into the Deep-Seated Poverty of America

by Pat LaMarche

{Editor’s Note: NCV Contributor Pat LaMarche embarks on an epic journey, rekindling the spirit of Steinbeck’s fictional Joad family to explore issues of homelessness and poverty in the U.S. We’ll present Pat’s reflections from the road as she and her intrepid traveling companion continue on the journey…}

This week I started out on a 5000-mile journey through the inner city shelters, backwoods camps, and forgotten hideaways of our nation’s poorest people. I’ll meet babies, toddlers, school kids, drop outs, drug addicts, minimum wage earners, former home owners, veterans, the elderly and more. But I won’t do it alone. I’m traveling from Little Rock, Arkansas to Los Angeles and all the way back to Asheville, North Carolina with a hero friend of mine. This is my third trip traveling through the wealthiest nation and into the world of the homeless, and it’ll last a little more than a month. It’s my friend’s first trip, but she’s been on it for more than eight years. (more…)

A Gospel of Wealth

December 28, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Economy, Robert C. Koehler

Making Eye Contact with the Poverty in Our Midst

by Robert C. Koehler

“I’m pregnant,” she said.

Well, OK. She wanted $4. I could have done the “pretend not to see you” thing. Taking that option is part of life these days, especially in Chicago. She’d been standing in the middle of the intersection, trying to get money so that — if she was to be believed — she and her daughter could get dinner at the McDonald’s on the corner. When the light changed, she came over to me. I was out for a walk. It was a beautiful, cold December night.

This is what I’d been thinking: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” It was a quote from one of my favorite writers, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and at times it feels true — such as when I’m walking through my vibrant, unpredictable neighborhood. Suddenly nothing is ordinary or banal, nothing is to be blown off. Oh, the humanity. (more…)

Incompatible Aristocracy

December 12, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: David Swanson, Economy, Politics

The Rich Don’t Always Win…

by David Swanson

Many of us have heard the current period referred to as a second gilded age.  Or we’ve seen the current inequality in wealth in the United States compared to that of 1929.  But we have not all given sufficient thought to what ended the first gilded age, what created greater equality, what created the reality behind that category our politicians now endlessly pretend we are all in: the middle class.  We have a sense of what went wrong at the turn of each century, but what went right in between?

This is the theme of Sam Pizzigati’s new book, The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph Over Plutocracy That Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970.  I take away three primary answers short enough to include in a brief summary. First, we taxed the riches right out from under the rich people.  Second, we empowered labor unions.  And third — and this one came first chronologically as well as logically — we developed a culture that saw it as absolutely necessary for the greater good that the rich be made poorer. (more…)