With Murphy Out, Can We Get Back to Basics, Like the Families We Fail?

Tammy Murphy’s exit from the race for the U.S. Senate seat that’s held by three time indicted Senator Robert Menendez marks the end of a counterproductive feud between the First Lady’s campaign and Andy Kim that had swallowed up all of the air.

The contest was framed as a battle between the Murphy Democratic Party machine and Kim as the leader of a reform movement pushing back on the obvious nepotism that the corrupt elevation of the First Lady to the U.S. Senate would so represent. Lost in this narrow casting was any consideration of the deteriorating circumstances of nation’s millions of financially struggling families with children that were sent into a kind of freefall when the federal government on President Biden’s watch pulled the plug prematurely on a myriad of COVID era social supports.

Perhaps now, with a race that includes Larry Hamm, social justice advocate, Dr. Patricia Campos-Medina, a labor educator and the former national legislative director for the AFL-CIO, and Patrick Merrill, who wants to “bring a working class voice to Washington” we might get around to debating why our nation is not working for so many families with children.

At the top of the list of post COVID hits to the poor was multi-millionaire Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA)  decision to join Senate Republicans to end the Expanded Child Tax Credit. In its brief 12 months it was implemented it helped drive down the percentage of children living in poverty to 5.2 percent, the lowest level recorded. Once that lifeline was withdrawn, five million children fell back into poverty almost overnight and the percentage of kids in desperate straits shot up to 12.4 percent.

And as social policy experts will tell you, federal poverty data excludes the lived reality of tens of millions of Americans that are captured in the United Way’s ALICE [Asset Limited-Income Constrained & Employed] state level studies that track the regional variations of cost of living, housing and childcare that are excluded from the federal poverty criteria.

In much of America, as well as in counties in New Jersey like Cumberland, when you add the percentage of families living in poverty to the ALICE cohort having trouble making ends meet, you have the majority of households. In New Jersey, six counties Cumberland, Passaic, Essex, Hudson, Atlantic, and Salem have poverty rates that exceed the nation’s 20.7 percent threshold. According to the United Way’s New Jersey analysis, out of the 202,000 households headed by a single woman, 143,600 are either living below poverty or in the ALICE cohort struggling week to week to get by.

This disturbing reality is largely missing from our 2024 campaign debate at the top of the 2024 ticket with Trump vs. Biden, and so far in the New Jersey Democratic U.S. Senate primary to replace Sen. Bob ‘Gold Bar’ Menendez. Several states, including New Jersey, passed their version of the Expanded Child Tax Credit.

And while there was bipartisan support for rebuilding America’s infrastructure, the White House couldn’t muster sufficient support for his proposal to extend universal pre-K nor to keep Biden’s campaign promise to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour.

When the Biden White House decided to end the COVID emergency the federal government directed the states to end the pandemic era practice of automatically re-enrolling Medicaid participants. This so-called “unwinding” cleared the way for more than ten million people including 4.2 million children to be kicked off the health insurance program.

Across the country, there was a wide range of responses. In states like New Jersey and New York there was a concerted effort to limit the damage and maintain some continuity of coverage but people were still dropped. In Texas alone, one million were tossed off the rolls.

Even as COVID continues to take lives, the nation regressed back to the fractured healthcare model forgetting the hard lessons that the closer we get to universal health care the easier it is to track infectious disease in the first place and to maintain infection control across zip codes once a pandemic is underway. It’s just common sense. When you have health insurance coverage you are more likely to seek care.

The end of the pandemic emergency also brought an end to the moratorium of evictions and foreclosures at a time when greed-inflation was at its most ferocious and vacancies were at an historic low. Now, foreclosures and evictions are on the rise with PBS reporting that some cities saw a 50 percent spike in evictions from their pre-pandemic levels as rents continued to spiral.

This largely under reported story is a consequence of a lack of local reporting on social conditions, lagging data collection as well as reporting, and an overarching American disdain for the working poor whose existence raises troubling questions about our 21st century version of winner take all capitalism.

This also accounts for the beltway blind spot when Biden partisans express bewilderment that more Americans don’t feel better about the President’s post-pandemic ‘economic miracle’ that’s based on 10,000 feet aggregate data points like the Gross Domestic Product. Nobody votes or raises their children in the aggregate.

Let’s make 2024 about the actual circumstance of all of the American people, and how we can most effectively uplift those who are doing all they can for their children but still come up short at the end of the month.

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3 responses to “With Murphy Out, Can We Get Back to Basics, Like the Families We Fail?”

  1. This was a very smart move for Tammy Murphy. She ran as a “ticked-off mom.” The message was NOT authentic.

  2. Emm and do the ticked off mom of the right wing culture war, book banning, mask wearing refusals demanding open carry guns that dislocated qualified school board members and fired very well qualified school superintendents, teachers, counselars but now never present themselves at the school board meetings anyway?

    They’re authentic?

    It’s a question?

  3. My comment was neither right or left. My comment related to this article. About the everyday mom that is juggling and struggling and has no time for partisan bickering. And yes, Tammy Murphy’s message was not authentic. The United States Senate needs the most qualified candidate, not a ticked off mom. That can read a bit insulting to all genders on both sides of the aisle.

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