Where is the help for economic disaster area of North Adams?

August 28, 2011

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I WONDER whether President Obama, vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, read last Sunday’s front-page story about conditions in North Adams (“Between haves, have-nots, an ever greater gulf’’). How would he react to the difficulties that single mother Mindy Shoestock has in feeding her two sons and paying monthly bills while earning $9 an hour as a shift manager at McDonald’s?

In North Adams the official unemployment rate in June was 9.7 percent. So what did the state do? It closed the local unemployment office. People in North Adams and throughout the country are facing an economic and social disaster.

When tornadoes hit Western Massachusetts in June, President Obama quickly called it a disaster area, eligible for federal funds. Republican Senator Scott Brown praised the Department of Labor for making $3 million available to create temporary jobs for storm clean-up and repair.

I guess the government will help if people are harmed by disasters that are “natural,’’ and result from no fault of their own.

Well, it’s no fault of Shoestock’s that a huge corporation such as McDonald’s pays her only $9 an hour. And the people of North Adams are not to blame for the banking collapse and this “Great Recession.’’ So, why not provide federal emergency aid to those facing social and economic disasters?

Maynard Seider
The writer is a professor emeritus of sociology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams.

High business costs a ‘curse’? Not if it means wage floor risesTHE SUNDAY Globe reports the shocking disparities of income and opportunity engulfing the Commonwealth. Yet in a story on the front page of the Money & Careers section, we learn that Massachusetts is “cursed with high business costs,’’ largely because of high wages (“Stripped of stereotypes, a Mass.-N.H. business analysis reveals many ‘facts’ are pure fiction,’’ Aug. 21).

If we want to reduce extreme inequalities, the wage floor will have to rise. That would be no curse, but a blessing, a sign that we’re the kind of Commonwealth we’d all like to live in.

That is one curse we don’t want to reverse.

Chuck Collins
The writer is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of