Tag Archives: Poverty

Black History Month: Giving From The Heart

Back in December, I was overcome with tears at the secret Santa’s who gave anonymously so that families in need could have a better Christmas. As I know first hand, it is easy to feel isolated and forgotten when you are overwhelmed. Many people are struggling and feeling subsumed beneath the ongoing grind of economic strife and lack of employment.

People hear the economic numbers and the unaffected find it convenient to dismiss them, forgetting that they translate into actual families and individuals.

The 4 million foreclosures forecasted this year, are 4 million crushed dreams. More than just shelter, it is the hard work, the hoping, planning and sweat it took to carve out one place on the planet to call your own, to retreat, renew and build – gone. In many cases, after years of sacrifice.

How about the inability to meet basic needs like buy healthy food, pay for health insurance, or keep the heat on?

As the events of 2008 proved, life can flip you on your head with no warning. Unless you are someone like Romney whose safety net extends beyond our shores.  Say for instance…

  • The bank cuts off your equity line of credit, or claim (repeatedly) that they lost your HAMP application.
  • Your food stamps get cut without warning, or the state announces that they have no money to keep your child’s school running.
  • The GOP decides another unemployment insurance extension is not a priority, or heartless maniacs cheer at the thought of letting the uninsured die while the insurance companies make billions off the sick.

It can, or has happened, to someone you know right now.

Sometimes, the so called safety net is not enough. Only the Romneyesque with the convenience of many mansions, servants and staff, who buffer him from the hardships or every day life, can believe that it is.

So many more of us have been fighting to fulfill our basic needs for longer than 2008 and it is only now that the house of cards almost collapsed and numbers of the poor are increasing that the embattled have moved – center stage.

In my opinion, man is at his best during times of stress. People find unknown stores of strength to fight and others feel compelled to lend a helping hand. It is the good thing about crises, seeing how people come together and forget about race, class, sexuality and all the other factors that we use to divide ourselves.

Which is why I am totally psyched and inspired by my latest find.

Kudos to Chris Jansing and The Grio.

The Grio, which I love, is a great online publication for African American news. The Grio.com’s 100 showcases 100 African Americans who are making history. Browsing the diversity of categories is nothing short of inspiring and informative but my favorite is Service & Activism.

Take a look at the following story about the emerging phenomenon of online giving, featuring the fantastic Andrew Bo Young III. Andrew is the CEO of Givelocally which connects charitable individuals, in a new and personal way, with those who are in need.

Make no mistake, the gift of giving is not quantified by dollars, but the currency of caring and kindness. It is the greatest gift you can give, one straight from the heart.

Blessings to all who sacrifice and uphold their fellow man. They make me proud to be human, unlike the GOP who make me wish I could become a tree ;). Hey, it could happen lol.

Poltical Gaffe of the Week: The Award goes to…Mitt Romney

Every week it seems, I hear some insane new statement coming out of the GOP field that leaves me reeling with outrage spitting fire. This week, the prize goes to Mitt Romney, fresh from his Florida Primary victory, he told Soledad O’Brien that he was “… not concerned about the very poor…”

They are adding up my friends.

1. The first Black president has now been affectionately dubbed the Food Stamp president.

2. Newt Gingrich thinks poor kids should be janitors and has more passion for creating lunar colonies than for helping the disenfranchised.

3. Rick Santorum doesn’t want to give Black people handouts. Excuse me, Blah people.

4. Ron Paul thinks “fleet-footed Negroes” are a threat to Whites and supports arming yourselves, illegally of course, for protection. So fleet footed are the Negroes that they can apparently only be stopped by bullets.

And on and on.

Mitt’s statement has reverberated through the airwaves and cyberspace like a virus. It’s easy to see why, there are approx. 46.2 million Americansliving in poverty now and that number increased by 2.6 million from 2010.

It did not surprise me that Mitt thinks of the poor as irrelevant to his ends. His career, say Bain Capital, offshore accounts, and economic proposals make it obvious that his primary concern is the über rich.  What surprised me was that he had the absolute gall to make such a bald statement when he is running for President of the United States. It just boggles my mind that he could possibly be so stupid. So much for his Harvard education. Let me say for the record that it was not a gaffe, it was his unedited belief. Or, as Freud would say, his subconscious unleashed.

It is a polarizing and divisive statement sure to incite rage in the masses who are currently obsessed with income inequality and rightly so.  The leader of the United States is elected to lead ALL Americans, not just the ones with the biggest checkbooks, “normal” sexual orientation, “correct” religion, pale complexions, or his Ivy league, English speaking, upper class contemporaries. It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist, or senior political analyst, to determine that his statements, and even the clarification, were not even a teensy bit politically savvy.

Then, you can move onto your justifiable outrage at the immorality of that statement. It is the poor of our society who need the most help. This is a basic tenet of every major religion known to man. I didn’t think the Mormons were different, please correct me if I am wrong. The poor need access to quality education, affordable housing, food, and viable employment opportunities, all of which are at an all time low. All of which, are being attacked daily by the Republican party and their minions. To hear Mitt Romney tell it, only the Democrats are concerned about that and the “safety net” which the government is gracious enough to provide. That’s a joke. in and of itself. Do we not ALL pay taxes? Aren’t taxes supposed to ensure your right to assistance when you need it? And are not so many of us in need? Right.

What we do not need is anyone even remotely resembling Willard Mitt Romney.

Some politicians do a marvelous job at fooling people. They are great actors, no pun intended. They spin rhetoric so floriferous and fine that you would give them the shirt off your back. Not Mitt, he is a poor player on the political stage who seemingly has a very difficult time speaking unscripted, which underscores just how inauthentic he is.

I have long opined that I could not possibly vote for any of the GOP candidates because none of them know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of an average American. Lacking this very salient experience, they simply can not relate to the aspirations and struggles of their constituents. Some wealthy people are an exception to this rule, like John F. Kennedy. Some people are simply more compassionate and empathetic. Others, are driven to embrace the diversity of humanity by their moral and/or religious beliefs. Sadly, not one of GOP candidates, Mittens in particular, displays these characteristics, or any real moral fiber. If we judge their behavior in the light of morality, every single one of them comes up short. Like Napolean lol.

There are many characteristics that make a good leader but moral character is one of the most important. It is the thing that connects them to the individual, not just the body politic, helps to bolster them in times of duress, and minimizes the very corruptible influence of politics, wealth, fame and power.

It is obvious that Mitt and many other GOP candidates play to a particular mindset and class because poor people don’t vote. Historically, it is the middle and upper class who vote because the system works for them and so they believe in it and uphold it. That needs to change. It began to change under Obama. It is under attack this year with voter suppression laws just to minimize that very possible reoccurrence.

My bet is that Mitt will have completely exhausted his supply of political currency by November, if he hasn’t already done so. I hope that he and the mighty GOP have succeeded in putting a fire in the belly of those cynics who dismiss the importance of politics in general. I hope the poor are so pissed off that they flood the ballot boxes in defiance of a system that continues, inexorably, to attempt to crush the lives out of them by dismissing their very existence and stacking the odds against them. It would be a wonderful way to show Mitt and his cronies just how very much the poor matter and what solidarity means. But that’s just me. I’m paying attention and I can tell you I am very pissed off.

This made me happy. Check out The Goldie Taylor Project because the truth matters.

Income Inequality & The New Poor: Who Speaks For Them?

In the daily spin cycle of political madness, it is rare to hear the GOP nominees talk about their plan for improving life for average Americans. Instead, what you hear is vitriolic attacks against their contenders, talk of trips to the moon, tax plan proposals that are proven to benefit the 1%, war, more war, ways to secure the border against the massive waves of immigrants stealing American jobs (not patriotic outsourcing corporations), and an ongoing barrage of negativity aimed at President Obama.

Strip away the rhetoric and one can only surmise that they are not in touch with the average American whom they so desperately wish to represent. This is underscored by small things like the fact that Romney, the lead contender for the GOP nomination, receives the most votes from those making over $200,000.

If they had a clue, they could speak more persuasively and authentically about issues which matter to a larger section of the country, not just the moneyed elite, the bigots, the Tea Party and the like. You know, like President Barack Obama did so beautifully in his State Of The Union address. So, beautifully that 91% of those surveyed, regardless of party affiliation, agreed with the direction and umm progressive plan that he proposed.

Just for your edification, the middle class is loosely defined as:

  • Individuals whose role in society is “conceptualizing, creating or consulting”
  • College educated
  • Salary ranging from $25,000 upwards to $100,000

For a fuller definition, see Wikipedia source here

Stories of The New Poor

They are doing their best to talk around the realities that many of us are facing and so I thought it would be germane to share some real stories of what the middle class, better defined as the New Poor, are going through.

1. A friend of mine, who is a single mother and has an MBA in Business, was gainfully employed until 2009.  In her early 40’s she finally attained her piece of the American dream which allowed her to buy her own home, provide an excellent education for her daughter and have a modest savings.

She was out of work for one year and in that time, ran through her savings and 401K. Unemployment not being sufficient, she began living off her credit and was dogged by the prospect of losing her new home. Tenaciously, she treated her job search like a job, spending three hours a day working her contacts, calling and submitting resumes and spending one day a week at the library.

Going on interviews was an exercise in terror,  as she ran headfirst into the stereotype most educated Black people endure all their lives. Interviewers love you in print, love your articulation and intelligence via the phone but once they meet you the story changes. First to be fired, last to be rehired in a bad economy. Lest we forget, that the African American employment rate is double that of Caucasians historically.

Finally, she found a job through a temp agency, which required that she take a 1/3rd pay cut with no health benefits. Her blood pressure medication costs her a whopping $150 a month and of course, with the stress of her finances, she’s had intermittent health problems ever since her layoff. Yet, despite her qualifications, three years later, she can’t find a job in her former salary range and now only makes enough money to pay her basic bills. She’s thankful that her sister lives with her to share the load and lives in fear of an emergency that she will not have the funds to deal with.

Her daughter, now in public school, straight A and brilliant, is now one year away from college and she’s been told that the cost of her education will now be solely on her. These are the hard choices we make in spite of years of planning and preparation.

2. Another friend of mine, in her 50’s, bought a co-op during the good old days in 2007. She had lived in her one bedroom apt. for 20 years when she sold it at a considerable profit to buy a really nice 1 bedroom condo in NY. Since 2008 she has changed jobs three times. She’s a nice Jewish girl but the reality is that salaries have declined and when companies discover they can do more with less, the people get shafted.

During her bouts of unemployment, her parents helped her because her available income and 30 years of savings quickly evaporated. Her current job doesn’t cover the cost of her basic living expenses anymore so she lives off a combination of credit and her home equity line of credit.

3. My boss retired in early 2008 at 62. He had already lost 50% of his savings when the stock market began it’s course correction in 2007. Thankfully, his home is paid off and in great shape but he too has no discretionary equity to work with so any emergency or extra expense is covered by his home equity which is now $5,000.

He and his wife pay approx. $1,200 a month in health care coverage which eats up a huge chunk of his savings. I won’t tell you about the co-pay because you might get ill. So much for your golden years.

4. And then there is me. You can read my story here.

This is the reality for those who have not been foreclosed on, who are not “welfare queens”, and for those who have been educated to compete and contribute in a free-market society. How much personal meaning does that have these days?

In many cases, this the reality of working people who had already managed to elevate themselves from blue collar working class backgrounds, regardless of race. They are struggling and suffering, mostly in silence.

This contrasted against the greediest amongst our society whom continue to flourish and fight against paying higher taxes as generational poverty becomes a stark and frightening reality. If this trend continues what will it mean to the future of our country? Or, doesn’t that matter?

Who speaks for them? I will give you a hint, the name does not include the letters GOP. Amongst many other frightening realities, it is the spectre of reactionary and regressive policies that do not benefit the masses, or reflect 21st century progressive values, homelessness, lack of medical coverage, hunger and poverty which make this a critical election year.