Catherine Rampell, an opinion writer for the Washington Post, is not someone I have read a great deal. But two of her recent pieces have grabbed my attention for their clarity and a sense of the tragic.
The first was about Charles Gladden, a janitor and dishwasher in the cafeteria of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington DC (read here). Gladden is 63 years old—my age—and homeless. But when the Senate privatized its food service in 2008 (because it was losing up to $2 million a year), his job became a lot tougher. The new company shrunk the workforce and worsened hours. The government does not require the contracting companies to pay a living wage, so his take-home pay is about $360 a week. He has remained homeless because he gives much of his salary to his children and grandchildren; furthermore, he has had several physical maladies (including diabetes) so that he has missed work, and he has to panhandle on weekends in order to pay for insulin.
The second column is about the tax cuts in Kansas by the Republican legislature and Republican governor (read here). These drastic cuts, mostly for the wealthy, have had a disasterous effect on the state, roads, welfare, and especially on the school districts. These cuts that began in 2012 have brought in hundreds of millions of dollars less that projections. For the fiscal year beginning in July 1, the estimates are a $422 million shortfall. “The most recent reductions, announced in March, required [school] districts to absorb an additional $51 million in cuts by the time this fscal year ends June 30.” This has resulted in schools announcing early closures for the school year, as well as cuts to personnel and programs. This also means that teachers have to readjust their curricula in order to cover the same amount of work in less time.
I wanted to raise up these two stories, but also to point to Rampell as an important columnist to watch for.