The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘poverty’

SCREWING THE POOR – AND PUTIN

There is a fundamental truth to budgets – whether those are individual or governmental.  If you spend more than you take in you’re going to run in the red.  Individuals have figured a short-term work around to this problem by deferring their desire to purchase something today and pay for it tomorrow.  This is why we have burgeoning balances on consumer credit cards.  The government has figured out the same work around which we call the National Debt – which the present administration has nearly been able to double in five short years.

Obama and his cohorts have talked a great deal about “income inequality.”  That there are some Americans who are billionaires and  a great many more who barely survive until the next refill of the government handouts arrives is certainly true.  But as with all liberal governments at all times, they concern themselves only with the income aspect of the equation, disregarding the issue of how those funds are spent.

In any economic downturn, it would probably be safe to say that most people except the wealthiest, look at ways that they conserve what they have and cut some spending corners.  Unfortunately, those who are the poorest have most of their budgets dedicated to things that are necessities; food, rent, clothing, utilities and what little they might have earmarked as discretionary represents a very small part of their budgets.  Increases in the price of the necessities, as we are now seeing in food staples, puts even the most frugal of these people in the position of not being able to make ends meet.

An increase in the price of gasoline at the pump may annoy the millionaire as he drives his Maserati to work at his six figure job.  The increase in the price of gas has a much greater effect on the person who is driving his clunker to his minimum wage position – perhaps meaning that he has to skip a meal or substitute cat food for tuna fish in his lunch box.

What is remarkable in all of this is that America clearly has the opportunity to be energy independent within a decade.  All we have to do is utilize the natural resources which we are fortunate to have.  One would think that an administration that is concerned about “poor Americans” would have had a Eureka moment by now and set the wheels in motion to do just that.  But that is not this administration.

America is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world.  We have the potential to become, once again, the largest producer of oil in the world.  Besides the impact that being energy self-sufficient would have on bringing down the price of these commodities at home, that price reduction would have a profound impact on those in other countries who can exploit the current high prices to achieve their own political advantages – Vladimir Putin being one of the first to come to mind.

After years of foot dragging, the administration finally allowed one LNG facility to be permitted.  Construction will be completed next year and the facility will be operational.  Seven other such projects have been in limbo for five years – waiting approval from the EPA.

Aside from the obvious benefits of having cheaper energy here at home, the jobs that would be created to build and maintain these facilities is certainly another reason these projects should have been allowed to move forward.  And if Putin were to see that the basis of the Russian economy which is heavily dependent on energy to provide it with its revenues might be threatened by this American abundance, perhaps he would not have been so willing to embark on his escapade in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Similarly, the Keystone Pipeline has been on hold for as long as Obama has been in office.  This would create ten thousand jobs and would facilitate the wider and cheaper distribution of energy.  Now that the Department of State has cleared the project as having “no environmental impact,” there is no reason that Obama cannot grab his famous pen and allow that project to proceed.

Keystone is a two thousand mile long pipeline.  In America today, we have oil and gas pipelines that run in excess of one hundred seventy thousand miles.  There are more stories in the news in which fuel transported either by truck or ship or train have incidents than from all of these pipelines combined.  Pandering to extreme environmental groups in which the science does not back up their claims is pure politics and ignores positive policy.

The administration’s energy “policy” has two significant effects.  It helps make sure that the poor stay in that condition.  And it gives encouragement to autocrats like Putin to throw their weight around, realizing that a once proud and important country has chosen Puff The Magic Dragon to be its leader.

Advertisements

THE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL/AN AMERICAN ORDEAL

If I were a bookmaker, I’d lay 10/1 that George Zimmerman will be found guilty on at least some charge.  I’d feel very confident in that bet – and it has nothing to do with my review of the trial or the evidence which has been presented.  It has to do with the culture that is ever-present today in American society.

It is the culture that must find in the scapegoat “racism” the diversion to distract us from the fact that the policies that so-called liberals have put in place over decades have created a permanent, impoverished, uneducated underclass to which the majority of our black (or if you prefer African-American) citizens belong.  It is a tragedy, and anyone who has ever voted in Congress to expand or extend “welfare” rather than devise a program of “workfare” should, in my mind, be arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for life without possibility of parole.

I mentioned this in a much earlier post but an experience from my days in the temporary help business bears repeating – particularly in light of this trial and the overall culture we find in America today.  It is a story about a young black woman who responded to an ad and who was looking for employment.

One of our best clients, the Quaker Oats Company needed someone to do filing and make copies on their Xerox equipment.  The position was scheduled to last for two months but there was a good possibility that they might hire the individual permanently.

Most of the people whom we put out on assignment had extensive skills, far beyond the level of this position so our list of potential candidates to fill this spot was limited which is why we advertised the job.  The day after the ad appeared in “The Chicago Tribune” a young woman arrived at our office to apply for the position.  I interviewed her myself.

Because I was interested in maintaining my relationship with the client, I was willing to take a loss on this job and planned on paying the applicant far more than the going rate – specifically, I would offer a salary of three dollars over minimum wage – minimum wage or a few cents more being what the position was worth in the market.

I sat down with this young woman who was 22 years old.  She was dressed very appropriately for a job interview.  It was obvious that she had taken the time to try to put herself forward in the best possible light.  She seemed eager to find a job and, in fact, was the first one to respond.  I liked that about her.

She did not have a high school diploma – owing to the fact that the first of her children was born when she was 17.  She also had two younger kids.  Nevertheless, she seemed quite bright – and I was impressed with her attitude.  She wanted to do better for herself and her children.

After decades of interviewing people, sometimes you just have to go by gut feelings rather than documentation and I wanted to give her a chance to enter the work force.  (Other than having done some babysitting, she had never held a job).  So I offered her the position and told her what it would pay.

As I said, she was bright.  She asked how many hours a week she would be able to work so I told her 37-1/2.

She did some rough multiplication and came up with her weekly gross earnings.

Then she looked at me and said, “You know, I would really like to take this job but I can’t afford to.  I know there’s taxes going to come out of this, and I’d have to spend on carfare to get to and from, and I’d have to pay a baby sitter, and if I take this I would lose my welfare and Medicaid and one of the babies has got the colic.  I just can’t afford to take this job.”

I nearly cried.  This young woman was exactly correct.  It made no monetary sense for her to accept this job – and if not this one, certainly not any other at minimum wage.  Thus we had condemned her to a life on the public dole – a life in which she had only dependence and could never develop self-respect.  What a tragedy.

That interview haunted me for days and while I will not say it was the “Eureka moment” which caused me to march to a conservative way of thinking (I was already there), it certainly reinforced my belief that was the correct path.

That interview occurred about 20 years ago.  It would be incorrect for me to say that nothing has changed.  It has – and for the worse.  And every time politicians expand a welfare benefit, they tighten their grasp and twist the noose around the necks of those whom they need for the sole reason of getting themselves re-elected.

There is an obvious solution to this problem – so simple that you don’t need a PhD. in Economics to understand it.  Here it is.

Rather than cut off a person from welfare and Medicaid because they have found employment, simply reduce those benefits by a percentage, based on their earnings on their job.  In that way, the person is going to have significantly more money to take home and spend and will have an incentive to seek employment.  The other benefit is that the taxpayers will save money.  And perhaps the most important benefit is that the individual who is working will be able to take pride in herself.

So what does this all have to do with George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin?  Everything.

You see if you slap the word racism around loud enough and often enough; if you have the not very Rev. Al Sharpton bellowing it at the top of his lungs; if you have constant media attention paid to the trial of the allegedly “racist” Mr. Zimmerman; if you have Obama commenting on it; you have set the stage to divert the easily diverted public’s attention from the failings of our Congress; from our departure from the American ideal of America being a place where you can have anything you desire if you’re only willing to work for it; and from the real racists – who have built a power base composed of the ignorant, uneducated, welfare mothers and children who think having an Obama phone is the greatest thing in the world.

Those who have voted to establish this group that is only one step removed from slavery are the ones who should be on trial.  Not Mr. Zimmerman.

WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

In the Presidential election of 2008, our black citizens who voted cast approximately 95% of their ballots for Barack Obama.  He won.  They lost.

A report prepared by Sentier Research, which “The New York Times” cites in its Sunday, November 4th edition details how black American wage earners saw the greatest percentage reduction of any ethnic group in the Obama Recession – a startling 11.1% of their income disappeared – more than twice that of any other group measured in the study.  I have provided a link to the story for you to review:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/big-income-losses-those-near-030517130.html

Sentier Research is a company founded in 1997, based in Annapolis, MD.  It has an extensive clientele which include various U. S. government agencies and it also conducts statistical research for a substantial number of foreign countries.

Estimates are that our black citizens will once again cast approximately the same percentage of their votes to re-elect the President.

“Give the people what they want.  And let them vote for what they deserve.”

LIVING IN FEAR

Gloria and I had lunch Friday at a nice little restaurant in the neighborhood.  It’s a café that has an extensive wine list and, as this was the start of Gloria’s weekend, she decided to have a glass of a Chardonnay which she said was delightful.

Gloria’s in her early sixties and is a blackjack and Pai Gow Poker dealer at one of the local casinos.  That’s how I met her.  We’ve been friends for the last several years.  Her husband passed away and her children are grown and live out of state.  So Gloria, and her cat Essie live together.

My friend is a very thoughtful and intelligent person.  As we finished the salads we had ordered for luncheon, our conversation turned to the Presidential election.  Frankly, I didn’t know whom she was supporting in the race but I expressed my view on the subject.  I looked for her reaction when I said that I was supporting Romney, trying to gage her reaction.  There was no need for that.

Gloria said that she was very depressed by the poor job that President Obama had done, though she had voted for him four years ago.  But she was afraid to vote for Romney because of the thought of the possibility of riots should Obama lose.  I was startled at this statement.

“Who do you think is going to riot?,” I asked her.

“The people who view Obama as a savior and who are afraid that Romney will cut off their benefits,” was her answer.

Sadly, I’ve heard this kind of thing before – so it is certainly not my friend’s unique opinion.  We live in a violent society.  I understand how a single, elderly woman living by herself might be concerned for her personal safety.  And the neighborhood in which Gloria lives has seen an influx of ne’er-do-wells who have been preying on the residents, many of whom have lived there for twenty years or longer and are elderly.  Her concern is not based on her imagination but is an opinion formed by reading the police blotter.

I related to her how I had been mugged while I was in college and how my parents wanted me to move out of the neighborhood to a place that was “safer”.  I remember having a heated discussion over this with Mom and Dad.  I understood their concern for my safety – but I refused to move – perhaps out of youthful arrogance – but I like to think more out of principle.

My argument to my parents was, “There are good and bad people everywhere.  But if all the good people move to a place that is ‘safe’, then that leaves no one behind but the bad people there.  And since the bad people have nothing to steal from each other, they will turn their attention to other more opulent areas where the former residents have moved.”

In other words, as the lyrics of the old gospel song state, “There’s No Hiding Place Down Here.”

What I explained to Gloria was that eventually the rioting which she feared might happen – whoever gets elected President.  The simple reason is that we cannot indefinitely sustain the kind of mindless spending on programs which enslave people by allowing them to live, but only at a level of poverty.  At some point, sooner or later, the spigots will be turned off because there will be nothing more for them to pour.

Based on our conversation I think I made an impression.  She decided that she was going to vote for Romney – and purchase a small weapon to defend herself should the need arise.

I CAREd

When I was ten I received a surprise birthday present from my aunt and uncle.  It was a brand new crisp twenty dollar bill.  I had seen one before, but had never actually held one in my hand.  And I had certainly never been the proud possessor of such a thing.  I was awestruck when I opened their Birthday Card and saw the bill inside.

Of course, this was many years ago.  Twenty dollars would buy two hundred comic books, instead of being a minor deposit on a pair of gym shoes or designer jeans.  I offer you that information just to put the gift into perspective.

Well we had a festive little Birthday Party, Grandma providing the catering, the finale being my favorite birthday (or any other occasion) cake, a three layer sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and strawberries spread between the layers and topped with more whipped cream and glazed whole strawberries on the top, leaving just enough room for the insertion of the ten birthday candles.

After the company left, my Mom, who had whisked away her sister’s twenty dollar bill for safe keeping asked what I was going to do with all that money.  I had seen some ads on television from a group called CARE.  They helped out a lot of poor children in Africa and other underdeveloped countries.  So I asked Mom and Dad if it would be alright if we could send them ten dollars and if I kept the rest.

My mother hugged me and said that would be a very nice thing to do and she promised to get their address so that they could send in a check for my donation.  But as it turned out, after she sent in my ten dollars, she and Dad received a thank you from CARE and some information from them about the work they did, and they became regular monthly donors to CARE for the rest of their lives.

Apparently, even ten year olds can make a little bit of a difference in the world.

Since I made my little donation to CARE, many other organizations have been founded to help feed those who do not have enough food to survive.  Although I have forgotten the particular group that placed the ad, I remember one that said a ten dollar donation would enable them to buy enough food from a food bank to feed a family of four for a week.

Imagine that.  For the price of a couple of “Happy Meals” we could feed an entire family for seven days.  It’s something that we should all think about the next time we pull up to the drive in window.

But as much of a difference as each of us could make to the impoverished who share our planet, this is minor compared to one other benefit we could offer the world.

I’m not sure when we will see the final accounting of the amount of money that will be spent this year on the Presidential campaigns of the two candidates.  Not to mention the amount that will be spent on senatorial and congressional races and local offices.  But my guess is that $500 Million is probably a low estimate.  And that’s just for television advertising let alone all the mailers and flyers which besiege us at every one of these events.

What if, you’ll forgive my clinging to my childhood starry-eyed optimism, what if, instead of contributing to political candidates, those donors turned their attention instead to the charities whose mission is to feed our poor?  Can you imagine the impact that $500 Million would have in reducing the suffering, malnourishment and need of people both in America and around the world?

Instead of seeing an endless procession of ads bashing the other candidate and explaining why he or she is a thief, a crook and a liar – all of which I find extremely depressing, we might see an ad of a little girl in Somalia or Appalachia who said, “Thank you for helping my family by giving us our food.”  That would be an ad that I would actually enjoy watching and feel good about seeing.

As with all things it comes down to priorities.  But if a child of ten could see the misery of other children who were less fortunate, shouldn’t we adults have the ability to share that insight?  Shouldn’t we all CARE?

THEY “GONNA PUT YA’LL BACK IN CHAINS”

Some people think Vice President Joe Biden is merely inept and insensitive.  I think that he’s planning a second career as a script writer for SNL should he and President Obama’s bid for re-election fail.  So far he’s managed to offend blacks, Greeks, and Indians (the kind that he thinks were destined to own and operate 7-11’s) and can it be a long wait until he starts telling Pollock jokes?

What the Vice President doesn’t understand is that there is some truth in his statement, that blacks are “Gonna get put back in chains.”  The part of the statement that he doesn’t comprehend is that is exactly the case now and has become increasingly more so under the greatest expansionist of the “Welfare State,” President Barack Obama.

Welfare is perhaps the greatest oxymoron in our language.  Very simply put – it isn’t.  It is indentured servitude and has created a permanent underclass with no education, no future and no hope.  It allows people to subsist below the poverty level in an environment of despair, overcrowded housing conditions and with exposure to personal violence that, if we were to see their real lives portrayed on television, we would be horrified.

This is not the “Good Times” of Esther Rolle and Jimmie Walker, living in a housing project in Chicago and keeping it together as a family.  That is an image that does not stand up to the reality of the average black welfare recipient’s life – a life which includes poor medical care and an insufficient income to feed the family which is headed up by a mother with no father present in more than seven of ten cases.

This is a story about a life where the children born into it experience a nationwide drop out rate from high school of nearly seventy percent and a teenage pregnancy rate that is six times the national average – perpetuating yet another generation destined to live in poverty and ignorance.

This is a story where the average life expectancy of a resident is 12 years shorter than for their black brothers who live in middle class neighborhoods, due to disease and violent death.

This is a true American tragedy – and it is at the feet of our politicians that we should lay the blame.  They have done everything in their power to continue the enslavement of this large segment of our population in a manner that would have embarrassed their ancestors’ former owners.  Why?  Because this is a dependable block of votes to keep the perpetrators in power and the voters, who know no better, miserable and dependent.

Thank heaven for industry which has provided a means of escape from this life of poverty and despair – although that exit sign is open only to a few – those who have the potential to become professional athletes or have careers in entertainment.  For there is no other way out for this populace whom we have created.  Even if the economy were booming, they simply do not have the skills to fill possible job openings – not even within government.

So Vice President Biden, spend a day visiting one of the public housing projects that you and your party have created – if you dare.  And if you can come away from that experience with a clever remark on your lips and a smile on your face – well then it should be clear to all that it is you who are the joke.  And no one is laughing.

ON BEING HOMELESS

I was invited to Stephanie and Will’s wedding in Washington, D. C. Steph was the manager for my temp business. She was a young woman with incredible talent and she was going to marry her college sweetheart. Naturally, I accepted their invitation. I hadn’t been to Washington for many years and looked forward to doing a little sight-seeing in conjunction with attending the wedding.

The wedding was a beautiful affair. It was held in an outdoor setting and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom that Saturday. I couldn’t have been happier for the two of them. They were a wonderful couple.

My departure from Washington was scheduled for late afternoon on Sunday which allowed me plenty of time to attend services at the Church of the Advent, about a three quarter mile walk from the Marriott Hotel at which I was staying.

As I started my walk I noticed two homeless people sleeping against a building. And in the next block there were several more. And yet more on every block. Washington’s clement weather allowed them to sleep outside in relative comfort.

But I found this to be extremely disturbing. In less than a mile I had counted over twenty of these homeless people sleeping on the street – within a few minutes’ walk of both our nation’s Capitol Building and the White House.

I thought back to an experience I had more than a decade before – and the thought caused me to shudder. I had been a homeless person for a week on the streets of Chicago.

My encounter with homelessness occurred as part of a “sensitivity training.” I was trying to gain an understanding of what it was like to be someone who was less fortunate than I was. Although I was never a member (and am not now) of the “upper-crust,” I had never experienced real want. This training would correct that deficiency in my life.

The “group leader” for this training, (I was a group of one), met me in his office at two in the afternoon one Sunday. I had arranged that a friend take care of my two dogs for the week I would be absent.

I met him at his office and his instruction was that I go into the other room and change my clothes to the ones I would find there. These clothes consisted of a ragged pair of bluejeans, a torn flannel shirt and a pair of shoes. The clothes had a nasty smell to them and the shoes were about two sizes too big for my feet. As I put my hands in the jeans I felt a piece of paper in the right pocket. It was a dollar bill. That was all the money I had to spend for the next week.

The instructions for this week of training were simple. I had no friends or family on whom I could call or rely on for help. I had this dollar bill to spend as I saw fit. I had to live on the streets of Chicago for a week. I thought to myself – am I merely stupid or just insane even to consider doing this? (I was offered the opportunity by Cal, my instructor to back out). But I decided to give it a go – although unenthusiastically.

So I left Cal’s office on Michigan Avenue and entered the world as a new person – a homeless person. As it was a beautiful spring day, I walked across the street into Grant Park, trying to develop a plan for how I was going to survive.

As I sat on a park bench, the weather started to change. Clouds swept in from the west and a light sprinkle began. I moved from my spot near Buckingham Fountain and tried to find some cover under some trees – but they provided little protection from the rain as they were just beginning to bud. Nevertheless, a little protection was better than none.

Then the downpour began in earnest. I was getting thoroughly soaked. The only good that could come of this was that I hoped the rain would wash away some of the odor that was attached to my clothing. It did.

I slept in Grant Park that night – next to a clump of bushes. And when I awoke in the morning I felt a little refreshed – but very hungry. How would I spend part of my dollar? What could I buy for a dollar? And when that dollar was gone – how would I survive another six days.

I realized that I had only one option – and although it troubled me to do it – I would have to beg for spare change. And so, like the people that I see on the street today who hold up signs on the side of the road, I began asking strangers if they could spare a few cents – anything.

Some people were kind; some people gave me money just so that they could get past me without a confrontation; most just  ignored my request.

This experience helped me gain a new understanding of what real need is all about. I had settled into my routine of sleeping in Grant Park and was counting down the days until I was released from my training. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday … I was over the hump. Less than three days to go.

And then a startling realization came over me. I had only a few days to go and I could go back to being your average middle-class person. But the other homeless whom I had met along the way had no such expectation. This was their life and it was the one that they were condemned to follow for however many days were left to them.

Because of this experience and because of dad’s statement, “There but for the grace of God go you or I,” I never refuse to give money to those who are less fortunate. And I hope that this post will give you reason to do the same.

 

 

Tag Cloud