Little Things

November 19, 2009

As we approach the holidays I can’t help but think about the massive numbers of unemployed and homeless people in Detroit (and around the Country). In the past 9 years the rate of poverty, which had been decreasing since the mid-1960s, has been increasing. But statistics about poverty or hunger don’t begin to tell the story. Dr. Martin Luther King once observed that poverty is a form of violence. Not only because it damages the body, but also because poverty damages the soul and spirit.

I can’t begin to understand the effect it must have on a mother who has to choose between paying the heating bill or buying food for her children; between taking a part-time job at minimum wage or staying home to raise her children; waiting at a bus stop to take a sick child to the E.R., or waiting to see if they will get better without spending a dollar on bus fare instead of food.

Choices like these are being made every day by families not just in our own country but in our own city. I see it every day. Anyone who chooses to look with eyes open would too. The debilitating effect of poverty runs through generations, and the vast majority of people in poverty are single mothers and their children – mothers who are working as well as raising their children.

If poverty can injure a soul, then the generosity of others might be a healing salve. Your small sacrifice is a tremendous source of healing for others, so we should not hesitate to give a few dollars to the Salvation Army, The Goodfellows, The Capuchin Soup Kitchen or any of the charities that will be hitting the streets in the coming weeks.

I have a friend who was raised by a single mother on welfare for the first 12 years of his life. He is a successful professional now and earns a good income. Sometimes he tells stories of how his mother would take him and his brother and sister home to home in their neighborhood, asking if she could wash walls or iron clothes for money or food. To give you an idea of how little things mean so much to people in need, he now says that the very best meal he ever had was when his mother sat him and his sibs down for dinner and the only food in the house was a box of cake mix. So she mixed water and the cake mix and that was the meal they had that day. But it was so welcomed that it remains in his memory the best meal he ever had. Little things we give can mean a lot – even if it is some cake mix for a food bank.

Back to the Future

November 19, 2009

Why Bush was such a disaster: Why Obama May Become One:
Not enough troops and no clear mission in Afghanistan. Not enough troops and no clear mission in Afghanistan.
Troops in Iraq.

Troops still in Iraq.

Guantanamo opened. Guantanamo still open.
Rendition. Rendition is still continuing.
Blackwater and other mercenaries hired. Blackwater and other mercenaries still working for USA.
The Patriot Act. The Patriot Act is still the law.
Executive Branch secrecy policy and use of “executive privilege” to block transparency. The same Executive Branch secrecy Policy and use of “executive privilege”.
The rich get richer. The rich getting even richer.
Unemployment high with wage stagnation. Unemployment higher with the same wage stagnation.
Wall St. and Banks unregulated and too big to fail. Wall St. and Banks still unregulated and even bigger than ever.
Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell Policy. Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell is still policy.
Made backroom deals with Pharma for Medicaid. Made backroom deals with Pharma for everything.

Need I go on? This is discouraging…

The Audacity of It All

November 6, 2009
Having read through most of David Plouffe’s book on the Obama Campaign, I am beginning to feel a bit more hopeless.  Since President Obama’s election, I know I have been critical of his choices of staff and find myself increasingly critical of his policies.  As an Obama supporter, I felt a strange sense of anomie as I watched him choose his staff and begin to govern.  After reading through Plouffe’s saga, I think I know why: I suspect that the candidate Obama was not the genuine Obama, and that we have been taken.
The candidate Obama ran as a DC outsider: a man who told us that fundamental change in our politics was vital.  He promised changes in lobbying practices; an end to Gitmo, Iraq and a genuine reconsideration of Afghanistan strategy; an end to Wall St. abuses with effective regulation; an end to Bush tax cuts and a break for the middle-class and home owners in foreclosure, an end to back room deals at taxpayer’s expense – an audacious list of changes that resonated with Americans long disaffected with the system.
President Obama has chosen to surround himself with the same DC insiders that helped to create the economic and foreign policy disasters we face today.  Just look at the headlines.  Obama invoking Bush Administration rules of government secrecy; Obama Administration weakening Investor protections; Obama Administration opposed extending Unemployment Benefits; Obama Administration cut a deal with AIG to not pay back bailout money even as they are giving out larger bonuses than last year; Obama Administration making a secret deal with Pharma to keep drug prices high…
Under the Bush Administration more and more wealth was being controlled by less and less Americans.  Unemployment, homelessness and poverty were increasing and Americans were dying in a useless and pointless war.  The Obama Administration has not changed a single policy that created this epidemic of human misery.
Some people want to cling to hope, but as a realist I consider actions – not words.  Some people want to blame Summers, Geithner and Emmanuel, but it was Obama who chose them.
My mother taught me that you are judged by the friends you keep, and President Obama chose Wall St.  Oh, the audacity of it all…

The “Trickle-Down” Lies of Conservatives

November 2, 2009

Justice is a concept that applies to every aspect of human life, including economics. Dr. Martin Luther King spoke frequently about economic injustice, calling poverty the most insidious form of violence and observing that peace was not the absence of violence, but the presence of justice.

I’ve been worried for a long time about the suffering of working men and women. What kind of debilitating effects has the economy of the past 8 years had on hard working and poor people? In my home-town of Detroit, the suffering is as obvious as it is heart-breaking. Children in Detriot suffer from exposure to hunger, homelessness and violence. Our economic system is beyond sad, it is dangerous. An entire generation of Americans is being raised in an atmosphere of hopelessness – and that is dangerous. By now the economic disaster that Republicans have brought down upon us is obvious. What worries me most is that they are advocating the same policies to this day.

The mantra of the conservative, free-market capitalists is that the cure to unemployment and economic hardship is to lower taxes and “let working men and women keep more of what they earn”. Just this morning I heard Joe Scarborough advocate lowering taxes to create jobs, instead of increasing Government spending. He’s wrong. The “trickle-down” effect of Reagan Conservatism has been thoroughly disproven and the last thing we need to do is to repeat the mistake again. Reality sucks for Conservatives, so they choose to ignore it. For example, when the highest tax bracket was a rate of 39.6% from 1992 through 2000, the average unemployment rate was 5.0%. Since the Bush tax cut made the highest rate 35%, the average unemployment has risen to 6.0%. The facts show, lowering tax rates actually INCREASES unemployment!

As for “a rising tide floating all boats”, 1% of the population live in yachts while most Americans are sinking: 99% of the wealth in this country has become redistributed to 1% of Americans in the last 8 years, while the average income has not changed. More and more people are fighting each other for the economic crumbs – fighting without health insurance!

We face a moral choice. The policies of Conservatives have nearly destroyed our economy and the moral fabric of society. When more children live in poverty than ever before, when hunger and homelessness increase while fewer and fewer become richer and richer, then we have become an unjust society. Conservatives are Pied Pipers leading us to ruin. We can choose to cling to the myth of free-market capitalism, or find another economic system to heal the suffering… and to preserve our liberty. Or the change just might be forced upon us.