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Dec 20, 2012

Special Report: The Unequal State of America – Lean times for the “undeserving poor”

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – The U.S. federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year on aid to the poor. There isn’t enough to go around for Shaun Case.

The 34-year-old Indiana native has learning disabilities and endured a childhood of abuse. Relatives say he was thrown through a plate-glass window by his grandmother when he was a teen, leaving him with a permanently numb left hand. Social workers consider him well enough to work, though, and he never qualified for disability benefits.

Dec 20, 2012

The Unequal State of America: Indiana’s rocky road to welfare reform

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – Indiana’s bold effort to remake welfare got off to a shaky start.

In 2006, Gov. Mitch Daniels privatized the management of the welfare-benefits system with a project led by IBM. Two-thirds of Indiana’s social-service agency’s staffers became employees of IBM and its partners. In a process dubbed “welfare modernization,” recipients would apply for benefits online and by phone rather than meeting social workers face to face.

Dec 20, 2012

The Unequal State of America: A Hoosier falls off the “benefits cliff”

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) – The U.S. welfare overhaul was designed to incentivize people like Juanita Isom to work. For 13 years, she has had a full-time clerical job at an Indianapolis insurance firm. For 11 of those years, she has been on some kind of public assistance.

The 33-year-old divorced mother of five said she makes roughly $25,000 a year and gets child support from her ex-husband. But she can only get by with help from five federal government programs – food stamps, Medicaid for her kids, childcare vouchers, subsidized school lunches and the earned income tax credit.

Dec 19, 2012

Special Report: The Unequal State of America – Why education is no longer the “great equalizer”

BOSTON (Reuters) -

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men — the balance wheel of the social machinery.”

- Horace Mann, pioneering American educator, 1848

“In America, education is still the great equalizer.”

- Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, 2011

When Puritan settlers established America’s first public school here in 1635, they planted the seed of a national ideal: that education should serve as the country’s “great equalizer.”

Dec 19, 2012

The Unequal State of America: An interview with U.S. education chief Arne Duncan

By David Rohde and Kristina Cooke

(Reuters) – Arne Duncan, the U.S. secretary of secretary, spoke with Reuters about education’s role in income inequality. The questions and answers have been edited for length.

Q: In a commencement speech in December 2011, you said education is still the “great equalizer.” Is that true?

Dec 19, 2012

The Unequal State of America: Job training offers a second shot at prosperity

GARDNER, Massachusetts (Reuters) – In Massachusetts, places like Mount Wachusett Community College are on the front line in the effort to bolster education for adults. Located in the former chair-making hub of Gardner, the college has seen a flood of students since the financial crisis struck in 2007.

Enrollment is at a record 12,300 students, but state aid has shrunk from about two-thirds of the budget to about a quarter in the past decade. So, Mount Wachusett raised fees. Over the past four years, the loan burden shouldered by the average student seeking an associate’s degree has doubled to $8,000.

Mar 5, 2012

Santorum’s underdog wins and self-inflicted wounds

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – (Reuters) – As Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum fought for his political life in 2006, his ally Senator Arlen Specter offered a word of advice: Just stop talking.

What Specter meant was that Santorum should stop talking about social issues, according to Adrienne Baker Green, a Specter aide who witnessed the exchange.

Mar 5, 2012

Special report: Santorum’s wins and self-inflicted wounds

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – As Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum fought for his political life in 2006, his ally Senator Arlen Specter offered a word of advice: Just stop talking.

What Specter meant was that Santorum should stop talking about social issues, according to Adrienne Baker Green, a Specter aide who witnessed the exchange.

Jan 30, 2012

Special report: Mormonism besieged by the modern age

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Reuters) – A religious studies class late last year at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, was unusual for two reasons. The small group of students, faculty and faithful there to hear Mormon Elder Marlin Jensen were openly troubled about the future of their church, asking hard questions. And Jensen was uncharacteristically frank in acknowledging their concerns.

Did the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints know that members are “leaving in droves?” a woman asked.

Jan 15, 2012

Insight: Rivals set to pounce on Santorum’s past

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Rick Santorum’s last-minute surge in the Iowa caucus brought him neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney in the first contest of the 2012 race to select a Republican presidential candidate. But it came too late to attract the harsh scrutiny usually visited on front-runners.

Only in recent days have questions emerged about his stand on abortion, his votes in Congress, and his endorsements of Romney over John McCain in 2008, and Senator Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004.

    • About Kristina

      "Kristina Cooke is an investigative reporter based in San Francisco. Before joining Reuters, she worked at CNN International and The Economist's "World In" journal. She studied International Relations and History at the London School of Economics and grew up in Karlsruhe, Germany. Write to Kristina: kristina.cooke@thomsonreuters.com Follow her on Twitter: @kristinacooke"
      Joined Reuters:
      2005
      Languages:
      English, German, Spanish, Japanese
      Awards:
      Deadline Club, 2010
      Front Page Award, 2011
      New York Press Club, 2013
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