brotherpeacemaker

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Only Nobodies Want Universal Healthcare

Broken Egg

On Sunday morning I usually watch This Week with George Stephanopolous and catch up on the political flavor of the week from various political pundit perspectives. The show usually features George Will and Cokey Roberts. Sam Donaldson and Robert Reich are regulars among a long list of others. Yesterday I watched these people discuss the ramifications of universal healthcare and how President Barack Obama is wasting political clout on a fruitless attempt to get a public healthcare option for the masses who continue to do without.

At one point, in order to drive home his argument, the conservative Mr. Will pulled out his Medicare card and told the story of how he presented it to his doctor and his doctor said that it was great that Mr. Will’s children was going to pay their father’s bill. Some of the people around the table laughed. Mr. Will made the statement that no one wanted universal healthcare. I thought that was a stupid thing to say. I would like to see universal healthcare. Mr. Reich was arguing for universal healthcare. There are about fifty million Americans without any kind of healthcare who more than likely would like to see kind of universal healthcare.

All of the political experts around the table with Mr. Stephanopolous had healthcare. They all had high dollar jobs getting paid to express their opinion and help shape the public’s political perspectives. No one at the table felt a desperate need for healthcare. Somebody at the table called the American healthcare system the best healthcare system in the world. They didn’t add the fact that it’s only the best for those people who have healthcare benefits. Otherwise, the people who don’t have coverage or who may have a preexisting condition, the system sucks.

About a year and a half ago, there was one morning I was getting dressed for work. My partner and I were acting silly the way fairly new couples do. She was getting baby boy ready to leave the house for a few errands. She got the baby dressed and turned her back towards him. The baby was sitting in the middle of the bed. He was kind of cranky and wanted his mother’s attention. He suddenly threw himself back and simultaneously kicked his legs up ready to throw a tantrum. Although he was in the middle of the queen sized bed, when he went back, his head was over the edge of the bed. The physical makeup of toddlers is such that something like ninety three percent of their body weight is above their neck. When he thrust his body back and simultaneously lifted his legs, the momentum was enough for gravity to grab hold of his head and pulled him over the edge of the bed head first like a real life Humpty Dumpty.

Talk about time slowing to a crawl. My body took a totally useless adrenaline dump. There was no way given the physics of this universe I could reach him in time. The mother was standing in between us with her back turned away from the baby. My partner could only see the horror in my face. She turned around just in time to see the baby’s feet disappear with the rest of his body. We both waited for the sound of the baby’s head hitting the hardwood pine floors. But instead of the thud indicating head to floor contact, our ears heard the sound of feet hitting the floor. The mother ran around the bed. I braced myself waiting to hear the wail of a baby in serious pain. But instead we heard the cry of a baby frightened and frustrated. As best as we could figure out, when he kicked his feet up and gave his body the momentum to go over the edge of the bed, that same momentum managed to flip him totally over and he somersaulted before he hit the floor. The baby was fine. We laughed. We were both relieved.

As a first time father I saw my baby’s ten months of life flash across my eyes. I thought about our brand new healthcare and thought how fortunate we were that I had a job that afforded us coverage. If the baby was injured we had some protection. But what about all the people that suffer serious injuries from the occasional accidents that are bound to happen when people make the mistake of taking a moment to be less vigilant than they should be?

Even though we are protected the issue of healthcare for others remains an area of deep concern for me. I’d like to think that this concern comes from a sincere interest in the welfare of my fellowman. But I can’t help but think that as a black man living here in America and unwilling to completely conform to the standards of behavior for black people as dictated by the corporate culture that is dominated so completely by a mindset skewed to protect white privilege, it is only a matter of time before I may find myself unemployed and without adequate healthcare once again. Some noble sentiment may sound nice and community oriented. But my concern for the unemployed may just as well be a selfish one based on the possibility of future events.

For the moment my family and I are doing well. I have a job that allowed us to pay back the people that helped us during our leanest of times and buy a house. We are weathering this storm and appear to be coming through the other side after waiting for what appeared to us to be the longest of time. I hope and pray for the wisdom that we never forget the experience of being among the less fortunate people. By no means are we out of the woods just yet. I won’t be retiring from working anytime soon. But we are definitely doing a lot better than a lot of the people who live around us. We are not black community Rockefellers but we are beginning to develop options for the future that many black people in our neighborhood do not.

However, just because we are doing well now and for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean that the issue isn’t still an important one. There are people who need help. As a supposedly civilized culture we should not allow ourselves to develop the false sense of security to think that it is okay to leave such a large chunk of our community unprotected. And more often than not the unprotected part of the community that is most susceptible will be comprised of the lower class that is overly represented by black people.

All too often people want to label people who call for true universal healthcare as irrelevant. No one wants universal coverage except for the cry babies looking for a handout. But the issue remains the same. There are way too many people who don’t have healthcare. There will be parents who will be distracted for just a second and their baby will be injured. There will always be people who will suffer accidents. These people will need medical help. But instead of us acting as a civilization working to help the weakest amongst us we will scold them and discard them for being part of the group of unfortunates unable to help themselves. We are quick to dismiss those who can’t afford healthcare. They are the nobodies who want universal healthcare and who wants to listen to them?

Sunday, June 21, 2009 Posted by | African Americans, Life, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare | 7 Comments

Lessons On Sharing

socialism_by_miniamericanflags1

My parents did a pretty good job of showing me the importance of sharing.  With my brothers and sisters, or whenever I had friends, cousins, or other family members come to our house and I didn’t share my toys or anything else with them I learned that there were heavy consequences for not having a generous spirit.  If I didn’t share I could have whatever I thought I owned and controlled free and clear taken away from me.  I could actually have my things taken away from me and temporarily given to somebody else for them to play with.  And if I continued to not cooperate, what may have been temporary could quickly flip and be made permanent.  I learned, sometimes the hard way, that sharing is an important concept to teach to every member of any community.

Unfortunately, not too many people seem to have learned these lessons or may have taken these lessons to heart.  The whole Joe the plumber saga made famous by the political race to the White House exposed some really twisted, anti sharing thinking by a lot of people.  I saw the video of Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher trying to raise an issue with then Senator Barack Obama about his tax policy.  Mr. Wurzelbacher gave a sad story about wanting to buy a plumbing business but didn’t want to do it under Mr. Obama’s plan for taxes.  Mr. Obama’s plan for taxes is that those who are more capable, people who have an income of more than a quarter million dollars, should pay a higher tax rate.  Why?  The thinking is that those who can need to help make up for those who are less fortunate.  Mr. Obama tried to explain to Mr. Wurzelbacher that when we spread the wealth, more people will be able to help support Mr. Wurzelbacher planned business and we all benefit from it.

Mr. Wurzelbacher, and a lot of people who think just like him, responded that Mr. Obama’s plan sounds like socialism.  Forcing people to pay a higher tax rate simply because they are more fortunate and may have more disposable income sounds like Marxism.  These are communistic principles and Mr. Obama is trying to change the tenets of capitalism!

Actually, America has a history of multi-tiered tax rates.  As people go up the income ladder, people pay a higher tax rate.  Take someone who makes say thirty thousand dollars a year.  For the sake of simple argument let us say that this person has a take home income of two thousand dollars a month.  Paying for a place to stay, transportation, food, and other necessities, there isn’t much left for anything else at the end of the month.  Compare this to the person who makes three hundred thousand dollars a year.  Their monthly take home income is about twenty thousand a month.  After they pay for their transportation, food, and other necessities, logic says that this person should have a lot more money at the end of the month.  Logic says that this person can afford to share with people who don’t have as much.

But the idea of sharing this extra wealth through a tax policy is simply too much to bear for a lot of people.  People want to control what they give or who they help.  People should be free to say no to the though of helping our less fortunate neighbors or free to pick and choose who they want to help and when.  It is this type of thinking that has led to the awesome chasm of disparity between the people who have a great deal and the people who don’t have much here in America.  And instead of people having a sense of compassion for the people who need help, we have been manipulated into having more compassion for people who already sit on top of mountains of treasure.

Under the guise of staying true to the concept of capitalism we are becoming a country of people less likely to put the good of the many ahead of the good of the few or the one.  Many of us don’t event want to entertain the idea of living as a community of people that spreads a minimum livable amount of wealth to everyone.  We prefer to keep our poor people poor and to have a greater portion of wealth concentrated in a smaller pool of people.  Some of our political leaders will say that we don’t need to spread the wealth, we simply need to create more wealth.  But regardless, the more wealth the country creates, the more that wealth is likely to go to the people already wealthy and the less likely that wealth will be distributed to the mass of people who need it.

There’s a reason why we hear statistics like the upper one percent of wealthy Americans control two hundred percent of the wealth in this country or that the average American corporate executives make five hundred times the salary of the average worker.  There’s a reason that we hear stories of schools in one district are allowed to crumble and to fall into disrepair while others thrive with limousines for school buses and state of the art liquid crystal personal display devices being used for books.  We are less and less likely to share our good fortune with our neighbors.  It is more important to a lot of people that a billionaire makes another billion dollars than to have a tax system that provides for better public infrastructure.  But providing for public infrastructure is too socially responsible for a country obsessed with run amok capitalism.

I learned a long time ago that if I don’t share what I have with people who might not be as fortunate I run the risk of having what I have taken away.  It is a basic tenet of being in a community.  If I found myself in the middle of the ocean sharing a rubber raft with a person with a plenty of water and food rations I would hope that he or she would share their food and water with me.  If not, I would do my damnedest to share my parent’s lesson on what happens when people don’t share with my rubber raft associate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Economy, Life, Socialism, Taxes, The Economy, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare, Welfare, White Privilege | 6 Comments

Contract Terminated

CVN Republicans Crossroads

The Contract with America was a concept implemented by the Republican Party and presented to the American people six weeks before the 1994 Congressional election campaign.  It was developed by Larry Hunter with assistance from Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, Bill Paxon, Tom DeLay, and others.  The Contract was based in part on text from one of former President Ronald Reagan’s State of the Union Address.  The Contract detailed the actions the Republican Party promised to take if they became the majority party in the United States House of Representatives for the first time in forty years.  It was introduced during the first midterm election of President Bill Clinton’s Administration, and was signed by all but two of the Republican members of the House and all of the Party’s non-incumbent Republican Congressional candidates.

Supporters of the Contract with America described it as revolutionary in its commitment to offering specific legislation for a vote, describing in detail the precise plan of the Congressional Representatives.  Its provisions represented the view of many conservative constituents on the issues of shrinking the size of government, promoting lower taxes and greater entrepreneurial activity, and both tort reform and welfare reform.  With all the promises that the Contract represented the Republican Party gained a majority of seats in the 104th United States Congress.  It was viewed as a major triumph for the Republican Party and its leaders such as Minority Whip Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, and for all the people who were part of America’s conservative movement.

During the first hundred days of the 104th Congress, the Republicans pledged ten bills.  Each bill was to be given a full and open debate, a clear and fair vote, and each was to be made available for public inspection. These bills were not intended as governmental reforms but represented significant changes to policy.  The main points of this program was included tax cuts for businesses and individuals, term limits for legislators, social security reform, tort reform, and welfare reform.  The Contract with America was responsible for:

  • The Fiscal Responsibility Act which would require a balanced federal budget, unless sanctioned by a three-fifths vote in both houses of Congress.
  • The Taking Back Our Streets Act which was an anti-crime package including stronger truth in sentencing, good faith exclusionary rule exemptions, death penalty provisions, funding prison construction, and additional law enforcement.
  • The Personal Responsibility Act which made cuts in spending for welfare programs by means of discouraging illegitimacy and teen pregnancy by prohibiting welfare to mothers under eighteen years of age, denying increases for additional children while on welfare, and enacting a two years and out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility.
  • The American Dream Restoration Act which created a five hundred dollar per child tax credit and initiated steps to repeal the marriage tax penalty and the creation of the American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle-class tax relief.
  • The National Security Restoration Act which prevented troops from serving under United Nations command unless the President determines it is necessary for the purposes of national security, to cut America’s contribution for United Nation peacekeeping operations, and to establish guidelines for the voluntary integration of former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO.
  • The Common Sense Legal Reform Act for tort reform which instituted loser pays laws, limits on punitive damages, and the reformation of product liability laws to prevent frivolous litigation.
  • The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act which was a misnomer for a package of measures to act as small business incentives such as capital gains cuts and risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis and an unfunded mandate to create jobs and raise worker wages.
  • The Citizen Legislature Act was a not very seriously supported amendment to the United States Constitution that would have imposed a twelve year term limit on members of the Congress.

The Contract with America is credited by some as having helped secure a decisive victory for the Republican Party in the 1994 midterm elections.  Some parts of the Contract were enacted by the Republican controlled majority while others were unsupported by the Congress and President Bill Clinton vetoed other parts.  It was Mr. Clinton who sarcastically referred to the Contract with America as the Contract on America.

With the presidential election of 2000, the country gave the Republican Party a perfect political trifecta where the conservative right controlled both houses of the legislative branch as well as the executive branch and control of the judicial branch as well.  A Democratic President was replaced with a Republican President.  And whatever Republican President George Bush wanted the conservative Republican legislature was more than happy to provide.

The people of the United States haven’t enjoyed a balanced budget since Mr. Bush took office.  Mr. Bush inherited a budget surplus and managed to create one of the largest budget deficits in his first year in office.  The national debt has doubled to ten trillion dollars.  So much for that Fiscal Responsibility Act.  And the Personal Responsibility Act is little more than a farce as companies like Halliburton and Blackwater enjoy corporate welfare in the form of no bid multibillion dollar contracts without having to produce much in the way of results.

And all the tax cuts passed since the Republican’s took over the White House haven’t produced much in the way of jobs.  Jobs have evaporated as corporate profits soared.  Oil companies have jacked the price of fuel to record levels with their profits making their own historic records.  Companies enjoying record profits are steadily cutting jobs and outsourcing their work to the very cheapest places available.  Another round of tax cuts won’t do a thing for creating jobs.  It’s socialism to do anything to provide tax relief to the public.  It’s not socialism when we provide tax relief to corporate entities.  While the public is given a five hundred dollar tax credit per child, corporate America gets millions of dollars.

The past eight years has demonstrated our leadership’s penchant to take care of the handful of us at the highest pinnacle of our economic hierarchal pyramid.  Our troops die in a foreign land protecting our freedoms and then corporate America swoops in and reaps all the economic benefits.  And with our government that heavily favors corporate America, while many corporations are more profitable than ever, more people are struggling to make ends meet.  The tenets of socialism that spreads the wealth have been resoundingly reversed.  It got so bad that many of us couldn’t even afford gas to go to work.

But to counter the fact that we were getting economically screwed, our leadership got us focused on family values.  In order to distract us from the fact that some corporate entities are more profitable than ever, the American people were given personal issues like abortion and the protection of marriage from the evil homosexuals with their dangerous beliefs that they could express their commitment to their partners the same way heterosexuals could.  We have to defend marriage even though we do nothing to protect marriage from people who cheat on their spouse or get divorced.  The sanctity of marriage must be protected.  And while we are discriminating against homosexuals, the middle class is steadily dwindling.  And then we weren’t being patriotic to question our leadership.  It is unpatriotic to criticize our government leaders when we are involved in a misguided global conflict.  But it’s okay for corporate entities to pillage the national treasure and profit handsomely at the expense of the public through global conflict.

Mr. Clinton was very prophetic when he called the Contract with America the Contract on America.  And many people have awakened out of their political sheep slumber to implement change.  America started to initiate change in the 2006 midterm elections.  America took away the Republican majorities in both houses of the legislative branch.  Instead of seeing the signs that people wanted change it was business as usual.  The chickens of global unilateralism came home to roost.  The focus to make corporate America profitable has bankrupted middle America.  Corporate America was fat and happy as Middle America continued to lose jobs and faced entire communities of foreclosures homes and a credit crisis.  Obviously the message didn’t get through the first time.  More political change was necessary.

The 2008 presidential election was proof positive of what the people think of our contract with the Republican Party.  Since 1994 they had a chance to do what they said they would to help us all.  But I don’t feel like we have been helped at all.  I feel more like we have been gang raped and bitched slapped.  You damn skippy I’m voting for a reverse course.  Even the people who voted for this contract nonsense have reconsidered.  And the verdict is that this contract should be terminated effective immediately.  Our experiment with this thinly veiled American brand fascism just doesn’t work

Thursday, November 6, 2008 Posted by | Barack Obama, Capitalism, Democrats, Economy, John McCain, Life, News, Oil, Politics, Republicans, The Economy, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare | 2 Comments

Unfair Tax Policies That Lead To Wealth Redistribution

“Joe the plumber” stopped Senator Barack Obama on the campaign trail to challenge his two tiered tax plan.  Mr. Obama plans to let the tax breaks implemented by President George Bush expire at the end at their scheduled term for the upper five percent of the tax paying population.  The return to previous tax levels for the richest five percent has been referred to as a tax increase on the public and a means to redistribute wealth.

Mr. Obama’s opponents, Senator John McCain and the McCain supporters like “Joe the plumber”, who’s neither a Joe nor a plumber but rather a “Sam the tax cheat”, want to label Mr. Obama’s return to a more fiscally responsible government income policy as a redistribution of wealth from the rich who have done nothing but worked hard and worked honest to earn their exorbitant incomes to the people who were lazy and unethical and refused to put forth an honest effort to earn a good living.

For example, the guy at the top of one of those financial institutions that went belly up walked away with hundreds of millions of dollars that he earned perfectly honestly while the guy at the bottom who works in a support role down in the mailroom and earns little more than a pittance has to walk away with nothing.  This disparity is capitalism at its finest.

“Sam the tax cheat”, alias “Joe the plumber”, claimed to be a guy working a hard ten hours a days to earn enough money to buy a plumbing business but now he can’t because he didn’t want to be in a higher tax bracket that will tax him at a higher rate than someone who may not be as financially fortunate, like his real loser self.  People want to say that it is unfair for people who can afford to pay more at a higher tax rate be forced to do so.  By all means let’s be fair.

In order to be fair everybody should be paying the same exact tax rate.  Let’s just set a flat income tax of twenty percent across the board for everyone and every entity that earns an income.  For every dollar of income, everyone should pay twenty percent.  The loop holes that corporate entities and businesses get to discount their income should go out the window.  I know I don’t get to deduct my expenses and pay only on my net income.  It’s only fair that businesses be held to that same standard so we don’t have to worry about anyone getting more of a benefit from any tax policy.

This flat tax rate policy on gross income would treat “Joe the plumber” no differently than “Sam the tax cheat”.  Rich people will pay the same tax rate as poor people.  Got any capital gains?  Tax them at twenty percent.  Twenty percent of all gross income should be more than enough to pay for the social programs we value like the military, police and fire departments, education programs, social security, and our other corporate welfare programs, as well as the social programs that we need like universal healthcare and helping others become greater wage earners so we can add their earning potential to the pool of wealth.

We need to stop these programs that are designed to transfer wealth.  Too many people are getting rich, collecting the wealth of the country into a tiny focal point that benefits a few instead of using the wealth of the country to benefit as many of “we the people” as possible.  Based on the housing, credit, and mortgage bubbles that are now bursting all around us and driving the economy down the toilet we can now see how destructive our unregulated capitalistic system can be.

We need to get back to a system where everyone is equal without exception.  A flat tax on gross income will be a tremendous step in the right direction.  And when the system is fair enough to work for “Joe the plumber” as well as it works for “Sam the tax cheat” then we can kick this bull about the redistribution of wealth to the curb where it belongs.  Unfortunately, “Sam the tax cheat” is going to have to pay his fair share along with all these businesses that now enjoy the benefits of an unfair tax system.

Sunday, October 19, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Democrats, Economy, Life, News, Politics, Republicans, Taxes, The Consumption Tax, The Economy, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare, Welfare | | 2 Comments

Trickle Anywhere But The Black Community Economics

The idea of the American economy operating without substantial capital and sufficient guarantees to address the fears of investors is a frightening prospect for many.  Last week the government pledged hundreds of billions of dollars to shore up the tightening credit market on top of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to keep old money financial institutions from completely collapsing such as American International Group with its eighty five billion dollar bailout plan.  To do without any financial stimulation to promote wealth America would be subject to blight, social rot, decay, and crime from a lack of investment.  Just look at what happened and is happening to the black community.

For decades the black community has witnessed a steady withdrawal of capital investment.  Retail stores and service providers have abandoned the black community for less black pastures.  For decades, when people in the black community were saying we need help the rhetorical reply was pick yourself up by your boot strap and accusations that black people just want an undeserved handout no matter how hard black people may have worked.

I have to admit to some fascination with watching the wildly gyrating stock market swings that were pretty much headed downward.  Trillions of dollars evaporated in just a matter of days.  A lot of people saw the value of their investments plummet and their future in doubt.  It’s been that way for people in the black community for years.  Suddenly, the rest of America and the black community have something new in common.  For a brief moment the majority of America was wondering how it will get by with a lack of capital investment?  But that’s about the end of any similarity.

In order to save America and the rest of the world the government is putting another trillion dollars into the economy by investing in bank stocks, give or take a hundred billion or two.  The government is going to purchase commercial paper and other intangible assets of big dollar financial institutions.  This move just goes to reinforce the notion that when the rich get in financial trouble our social construct will leave no stone unturned to set their world straight so that they can save the rest of us whom they deem worth saving.  If our social system was truly for everybody the black community wouldn’t exist with the racial disparity that we tolerate as simply part of the system.

The government has put together a trillion dollar rescue plan to help the economy by investing directly into banks instead of taking the money and using it to invest in our infrastructure across the country.  A number of bridges are in desperate need of repair or replacement, roads need repaving, the aviation system is in need of some attention, the electric grid needs replacement, water systems are in need of investment, and a long list of etcetera.  By investing in infrastructure the government will create jobs.  The people with these jobs will earn a paycheck and deposit it in the bank.  The banks will actually earn their capital investment by competing for customers to attract deposits.  This is a prime example of trickle up economics.  And with an understanding that government won’t rush in like the cavalry to save the day banks will be a lot more likely to avoid repeating past mistakes.

However, it appears that the captains of the economy have learned a little something from the perpetual state of poverty in the black community.  A lack of investment leads to a lack of jobs which leads to poverty which leads to a lack of value which leads to people abandoning virtually worthless property for a better life somewhere else which leads to vacant properties and buildings blighting a neighborhood and more instances of crime and desperate behavior.  Such a series of consequences are perfectly fine and expected in the black community.  But when it happens outside the black community it must be met head on to stop a national crisis.

It is hoped that the relatively quick solution of government investing directly into the large banks will artificially keep mortgages elevated by giving banks less incentive to make deals with homeowners who may be in financial trouble.  Homeowners who are worried about the value of their home diminishing are saved.  Chances are pretty good that this move is not intended to save the black community.

America has been dealing with some heavy issues.  We’ve been working for decades to try and solve the problems associated with providing quality healthcare to everyone in America.  America has been working to wane its addiction to foreign oil.  America has been working on issues of education and unemployment and poverty for years.  Tolerating these issues has become entrenched into our national psyche.

But when rich people start seeing the number of zeroes in their bank accounts start to dwindle the government can move with bureaucratic lightening to come up with a solution.  And damn the price, there is no limit to the amount of funds we are willing to pay when upper class people’s welfare is at risk.  And when the upper class gets back on its feet, that prosperity will trickle down like it did before to the rest of the people.  The status quo will return where prosperity will trickle everywhere except where it is needed the most, in the black community.

Friday, October 17, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black Culture, Black Men, Black People, Capitalism, Economy, Life, News, Racism, The Economy, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare | 2 Comments

The Economy Is In Need Of A Redistribution Of Wealth

I was listening to the news the other day and somebody of conservative Republican leanings was accusing his liberal Democratic opponent as favoring economic policies that would create an environment that would redistribute wealth.  I found that funny here in America where we talk about poor people and the less fortunate picking themselves up by their boot straps.  In order for somebody with no wealth to get some wealth they have to find somebody with wealth who is willing to give up some of it, usually it’s in exchange for something like a product or service but it can also take the form of a charitable donation.  Regardless, it is a redistribution of wealth.

But all too often the transfer of wealth goes from the poor to the rich.  Every year it seems like the rich get richer.  Granted we have developed a culture where we worship the people at the top of our financial pyramids.  We are willing to work in an environment where an executive running his or her company into the ground must be paid hundreds of millions of dollars just for being fired.  I don’t know about you but if I got fired I’d be lucky to collect a couple weeks salary along with any reimbursement for accumulated vacation time.  Our financial captains of industry on average make something like five hundred times the average worker.  That’s a phenomenal ratio.

To put it in perspective, the upper zero point two percent of a company with five hundred employees has the potential to earn fifty percent of a company’s payroll.  For every hundred dollar this company devotes to payroll, a single individual can earn fifty dollars while each peon would get something like a dime.  Is it any wonder how the rich keep getting richer?

In order to make up for this ever growing difference in pay between the haves and the have nots, people supplement their ten cents of income with credit.  Need a car or a house?  By the time you save enough money to buy either it’ll cost twice as much as what you have.  Credit for large purchases has become a natural way of life in America.  But now we need our credit power just to buy the kind of television we want or the type of things we should be buying with disposable income.  Credit has become our disposable income.  And in the long run, we end up paying even more for the things that we shouldn’t have.  Credit is when people with no money pay people with money to borrow their money.  And coincidentally this type of economy helps the rich to get even richer.

As the rich get richer the distribution of wealth gets more and more focused until you have a situation where only one person out of a thousand can actually afford to buy anything while everyone else works hard to just to keep from having to live in a cardboard box under a highway overpass.  When only one person can truly afford a car the car company will go under.  When only one person can truly afford a television then chances are good that it will only be a matter of time before the television manufacturer goes out of business.  The economy isn’t going to get anywhere when only one person out of a thousand is the only one keeping factories open.  It’s only a matter of time before the credit bubble bursts and everybody has to actually buy what they can truly afford.

And it doesn’t help the picture when companies are constantly doing everything possible to trim cost by constantly laying people off in order to keep improving productivity and constantly maximizing peak efficiency.  The constantly shrinking pool of people working will lead to a constantly shrinking pool of people buying which will lead to a constantly shrinking pool of items needed for purchase which will lead to a constantly shrinking need for items which will lead to a constantly shrinking need for people to make items which will lead to a constantly shrinking pool of people necessary to work.  It is a vicious cycle that continues to shrink into a vortex of destructive consequences like a tornado in a trailer park.

Creating strategies that keep the concentration of our national wealth from collecting in a relatively tiny fraction of the population is smart economic policy.  The more people who can truly afford to participate in the exchange of wealth will directly lead to more money flowing through the economy.  When such a large portion of our population depending on credit to supplement our incomes in order to get the things that help keep the economy rolling it is nothing but a sophisticated pyramid scheme built like a house of cards just waiting for the worse time to come crashing down, not that any time is a good time for markets to go bad.

If people want this financial mess to end the ability for individuals to flow their own money has to return to a larger portion of the population.  That’s what happened after the great market crash in the early twentieth century.  Economic policies were created that made for a much wider distribution of wealth than ever realized before and the country prospered for it.  The aristocratic environment of the haves and the have nots was replaced with the development of a true middle class.  More people earning leads to more people buying leads to more production which leads to more jobs.  It’s not rocket science.

A redistribution of wealth is exactly what our economy needs.  People will say if you can’t afford to buy it then don’t do it.  To be honest, I don’t have a problem with that argument.  But when people are earning pittances while other people are running their companies into the ground and earning millions of dollars in the process, something’s seriously wrong.  If we don’t allow more wealth into more hands than the global economy is for naught and we all can just return to a barter and trade system and take the love of money totally out of the picture.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 Posted by | Capitalism, Economy, Life, The Economy, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare | 2 Comments

American Whiners

When Phil Gramm slammed Americans for being a nation of whiners and having a mental recession mindset, he was body slammed hard and heavy by many pundits as well as the man he was campaigning for, John McCain. Barack Obama ridiculed Mr. Gramm saying America already has one doctor Phil. When people are losing their homes, their jobs, their ability to earn a comfortable living, and provide for the future of their families it is not a crisis of psychology. When people are having difficulty just buying the basics such as food and gas for transportation, it is a crisis of real consequences that can have repercussions for us all. For Mr. Gramm, no doubt a handsomely paid and wealthy individual compared to the average American, to dismiss the problems with people’s finances as nothing more than a mindset is to demonstrate a serious lack of compassion for others who are not as fortunate.

In essence, Mr. Gramm was trying to tell people to quit having a victim mentality and a lot of people took exception to his indifference to most people’s plight. No one said that Mr. Gramm might have a point. No one said that things would get better when everybody took more personal responsibility for their conditions although it goes without saying that we the people could have better prepared for these rainy days. More of us could have purchased more efficient living accommodations. More of us could have purchased more efficient forms of transportation. More of us could have used our credit resources more sparingly. Most of us could have done things more wisely. But should haves and would haves and could haves do little to help alleviate the fact that people are concerned about what they need right now. We can point the finger later but right now people need help.

The parallel between the current economic conditions of America compared to the economic conditions of many people in the black community since forever are similar. Black people have always been given rhetoric to quit being a whiner and pick ourselves up by our boot strap. Many people have the attitude that black people are just a bunch of whiners and need nothing more than to change. Despite the overwhelming evidence that says there is a fundamental economic dysfunction within the black community, regardless of the reason it’s there, most people are content to turn a blind eye and say this problem would not exist if people in the black community didn’t suffer from their weakness of character that prohibits us from rising to the challenge and meeting our problems head on.

It is a matter of public record that on average people in the black community earn only seventy eight percent what people in the white community earn. And that is if black people can find a job. The rate of unemployment in the black community runs approximately twice the rate of unemployment in the white community. Black people are much more likely to be incarcerated and to have less access to adequate legal representation. The lack of compassion for people in the black community is tremendous.

But now that the other economic shoe is free falling and more people in the nation are being impacted with the specter of unemployment, unaffordable housing, poor public education prospects thanks to the ill conceived program called no child left behind and the other maladies that are plaguing us as a nation, more people want reassurance and some understanding that their problems are not psychological but are real and our frightening.

Why doesn’t the dominant community take this rare opportunity to show the black community how easy it is to just quit being victims and whiners when there are no jobs available or when there is no money available? I believe there is a lot to learn here! Everybody in the black community can learn first hand how to get a job when the job market is shedding jobs at a rate of fifty thousand a month. We can learn how to balance budgets between income and expenses when there is no income. We can learn how the responsible people are paying for housing even though foreclosures rates are rising almost exponentially. And mostly of all, people in the dominant community can take this golden opportunity to show exactly how we should respond to uncompassionate rhetoric from someone who just doesn’t give a damn.

So far, the reactions from the dominant community have not been very educational or enlightening. In fact, if anything, the responses from the dominant community have been quite similar to the type of responses that would originate from the black community. I would dare say that no matter the skin color, when people feel like they could use some help, it would be appreciated if others would show some kind of empathy or concern for their plight. If anything, the dominant community demonstrates that when you are a victim, there is nothing wrong with having a victim mentality. Picking up a boot strap to lift your self out of a predicament really is pointless if there’s nothing to hook that boot strap to.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black History, Black People, Capitalism, Economy, John White, Life, Politics, Racism, Republicans, The Economy, The Race Card, Thoughts, Unemployment | 5 Comments

Racial Diversity Is Not Cultural Diversity

Head In The Sand

I have to confess that it chaps my ass whenever someone labels me with the stigma that I, a black man, am simply looking for a handout without putting in the work necessary to get ahead. I assure you that I have worked considerably hard. I have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. I have nearly twenty years of experience in the development of various database applications systems on platforms from COBOL to Oracle to PL/SQL to Visual Basic to Microsoft Access. I have worked in industries such as oil and gas, communications, health insurance, architecture, commodities trading, risk analysis, and manufacturing and distributing. I learned carpentry and built houses with my own hands. I have helped others when I could and I have accepted help when I needed it. I have paid dues.

When my son was born I made a conscious choice to leave a consulting job that paid okay but provided no health insurance in search of something better for my son. My woman and I were living in a predominantly white area with few friends. Literally, we would see another black person maybe once a week. I didn’t want my son growing in an area so divorced from the black community and so removed from his black relatives. I made the choice to return home to the neighborhood I grew up in smack dab in the heart of a traditional, urban, black community. Now with the benefit of hindsight I could make an argument that this may have been a mistake. But health insurance became a priority and we simply could not afford it where we were. I left that job eight months ago in an attempt to find work with benefits.

In the eight months it took to find a job I packed bottles in boxes for just above the federal minimum wage. This was a job where I had to stand on my feet all day on a concrete surface. Even with insoles in my shoes, when I would get home my knee joints, back, ankles and muscles ached so badly it was all I could do to make it to the bathroom for an Epsom salt bath when I got home. I usually felt better in the morning. But one morning when I woke up and my fingers had locked up as if I had rickets I took the warning my body was giving me to heart and quit. After that, I helped assemble computer displays for a local company that needed nearly four hundred monitors modified when the vendor shipped the wrong item. Instead of shipping everything back the vendor paid to have the screens changed on the spot. I worked in a warehouse with little heat in subfreezing temperatures.

I applied for hundreds of jobs. I did dozens of phone interviews. I went to a lot of face to face interviews with several of them requiring me to go across country. I’ve never embellished my resume. But inevitably the first question I’m hit with is, tell me about your experience with quantum physics. I never worked with quantum physics. Well why did we bring you here? That’s something you have to tell me. I worked hard just to get employed. It is my personal belief that I worked a lot harder and jumped through more hoops than the average job applicant. There is no doubt in my mind. Maybe it’s the hair. It is far too ethnic for a lot of people. When I’m introduced to an interviewer and they briefly get that repulsed look or the look of being hit with a phaser set at maximum stun it would be a logical conclusion. When so many interviews start off with some pretense that there’s been a mistake the logical conclusion is that I am not conforming enough to the ethnic standards established for African Americans. I don’t know how but I lucked up on a job where the decision maker didn’t care about hair or ethnicity but about getting the job done. Although rare, there are jobs available where the person doing the hiring truly does not care.

But let me say something relative simply and straight forward like how messed up it is that black people who embrace their African identity have to go through all of these changes and have to canvas the job market so much harder, longer, and stronger and the white mindset will dismiss this reality with a cliché that I, along with a great percentage of like minded people, want a handout or want it easy and don’t want to earn our opportunities. But this begs a few rather straightforward questions: Why the hell should my search for a job be any more difficult than the obviously white person who searches for a job? Without knowing anything about me and my struggle, or other black people and their struggles, why do people assume that people who refuse to dismiss the disparity are lazy and do not want to put forth the extra work necessary to obtain an opportunity? Just deal with it is the popular refrain.

Because I say that black people have it harder, and without much investigation to the contrary by people with an overwhelmingly complacent mindset to the status quo of black subjugation, I am minimized as being lazy and wanting an undeserved handout. Ironically, it is the people with the mindset to dismiss claims of racism without any effort at examination that are lazy and undeserving. Without so much as a glance at the actual circumstances people burst onto the scene to defend the status quo with about as much willingness to examine the issue from all perspectives as an ostrich with its head in the sand. People pull unsubstantiated stereotypical ideas out of the air that are given credibility by so many members of the dominant culture. Why? Because even though these ideas lack merit they perpetuate white privilege and black subjugation.

A lot of people talk about racial diversity. But only by well established parameters that are culturally superficial. People who are looking for an equal opportunity should be treated equally and not be dismissed or minimized simply because they want a fair shot at a piece of the action without having to change who they are. There are black people who don’t have a problem with abandoning their ethnicity. That’s their prerogative. But they are not the only black people trying to get a job. Black people who want to conform and be indistinguishable from the racially generic that’s assumed to be white have accepted that arrangement for their identity. However, black people who want to be identified and acknowledged as black people and not mistaken as a racial eunuch, and who do not appreciate being told how their blackness has been subdued to the point that people don’t see it anymore are looking for employment and educational opportunities as well.

Generally speaking, the problem is that the dominant community has a distinct advantage because our culture will grant the candidate that appears to conform to established stereotypes an opportunity before it is willing to take a chance on anything outside the established norm. The norm is that the white candidate is more acceptable than a black candidate. And then the black candidate who makes every effort to minimize his or her black culture is much more likely to be given an opportunity before the black candidate who embraces black culture. And all these suppositions are based on nothing that truly indicates the candidate’s ability to do the job like experience, education, certification, and skills. Our culture may make some timid steps for racial diversity. But cultural diversity that includes true African American culture and not the canned crap readily accepted by the dominant culture that only includes black icons such as Rosa Parks, Doctor King, Harriet Tubman, and the like, is avoided like the plague. Racial diversity is not cultural diversity.

Thursday, March 27, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Life, Racism, Thoughts, Unemployment, White Privilege | 15 Comments

Why Do We Have To Fall Into The Cracks?

Falling Into The Cracks

A black woman and a black man got into a philosophical debate about the condition of our society and our willingness to let entire segments of our community to suffer an existence without hope. They were family. The woman was the man’s aunt. She was about fifty and he was about twenty. The sister is old school and very conservative. The brother is a young adult still trying to find his way and trying to get answer to some questions that are pressing on his conscience. The brother wants to know why in America, supposedly the greatest country in the world why we would let entire communities suffer with inadequate schooling, healthcare, employment, and other things that are important for establishing a standard a comfortable life while other communities are making money hand over fist? More pointedly, why are people in the black community more likely to suffer?

Sister girl didn’t have a problem with the condition of the black community. She lives in a beautiful upscale neighborhood in one of America’s top cities of opportunity for African Americans. All the years of struggle have paid off handsomely for her family. She and her husband, even their teenage son, drive Mercedes-Benz, although the boy’s is a bit older. There were a number of times when they needed help and could’ve lost their house. There was a time not too long ago when no one in the house had medical coverage. They were just an accident away from losing everything and falling into an irrecoverable pit of financial ruin.

But they were lucky. They had family that could help them when finances turned slim. They were able to avoid serious injury or sickness. The husband managed to land a job with a financing company. The woman landed employment. Even the son managed to get a part time job and alleviate some of the pressures of the house by taking care of his own needs without having to strain the parent’s pockets. They eeked through and now they’re sitting fairly pretty.

The brother came from a family where only the father worked. Mom stayed at home and raised this man and his sister. Times were tight. His father worked a manufacturing job and was laid off on a regular basis. Thanks to a strong union the family had some of the best medical coverage available in America despite the regular layoffs. But those layoffs took a toll on their savings. The children grew up and went to college. But because of finances they had to pay their own way as they stayed at home. The son started going to college. But working and school was a rather difficult combination. He dropped out of school after the first year. He’d like to go back but he isn’t sure what he’d like to go back for. He needs to do some searching to find out what it is he wants to do. His sister went on to get her degree, got married, and is doing fairly well.

To answer his questions the woman told him that in a society like ours somebody has got to fall through the cracks. People have to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and make sacrifice. But the brother responded by pointing out that the only reason the woman was able to avoid ruin was because she was lucky. She was lucky that her husband found a good job. She was lucky that her son didn’t get sick. She was lucky that she had family that could help her when she had money problems. Why are some people more lucky than others? Would you be willing to help someone else?

Luck was only part of it. The woman and her family had to work hard just like everyone else. It is true some people have it easier than others. But somebody in their family had to pay the dues that allowed them to have it easier. Her son is lucky that the woman and her husband paid their dues. Now, he can benefit from it. Our society allows people to do the things necessary for people to succeed. Unfortunately, our society is also setup so that some people will fail. Some people have to fall through the cracks. While some people are lucky some people are destined to be left behind and suffer. It’s all part of the way we choose to live.

But why does someone have to fall through the cracks? When we see someone fall aren’t we supposed to stop and help them up? Isn’t that what a community of people is for? Instead of helping each other most of us are actually pushing others into the cracks. Why don’t we stop and work together to fill the crack so nobody has to fall? Isn’t that the whole point of community? You would’ve fallen through the cracks if you didn’t have family to rely on. Doesn’t that ever bother you some time? Don’t you ever think how about how close you came to losing it all and then ending up in a position where you couldn’t start over because the hole you fell in was so deep?

But I didn’t fall through. Somebody else paid the dues necessary to help me. I will pay the dues necessary to help my son. Hopefully, when he has kids he’ll help them. It’s unfortunate that you don’t have the cushion of safety I have but that’s not society’s fault. That is just a condition of you and your family’s inability to do what’s necessary to make it. Why didn’t your mother go to work? Why didn’t your father find another job when he was laid off? If both of your parents had worked maybe you wouldn’t be asking these questions and be in the predicament you’re in right now. Somebody’s got to pay dues.

Well, we’re family. Since you’re my aunt why don’t you help me?

Help you do what? You don’t know what you want to do. But regardless I’m not responsible for you. Your parents are.

But not everybody who helped you was your parents. You got help from a lot of people when you needed it.

But we had to go and do what we could to pay all those people back. That was their choice to help us or not. If they didn’t want to help I just had to live with that. We’re still working to pay them back and we will. Right now they understand that we are doing what we can to pay them back. We can’t help you until we get out from under some of our debt. And then we have our son to take care of. It’s all about choices and making the right decisions.

But wouldn’t we all be more likely to make the right decisions if we weren’t so afraid that it would be the wrong decision. You make the wrong choice in this society and you will never recover. You don’t even have to make the wrong decision somebody will make a bad move and they’ll impact you. Somebody else will be drunk behind the wheel of their car, hit you, you end up in the hospital. They don’t have insurance, you don’t have insurance, and the next thing you know you’re losing everything. I didn’t make the wrong decision. But it’s like somebody is there just waiting to push me off the cliff into that crack. There’s got to be something better than this.

Somebody’s got to fall through the crack.

But why?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black History, Black People, Capitalism, Life, Philosophy, Racism, Thoughts, Unemployment, Universal Healthcare | 4 Comments

A Day As Part Of The Working

Cogs at Work

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be part of the working again. I’m still pinching myself. Even though I was hired for my MS Access skills they are giving me some good exposure to technologies that I never thought I’d ever get a real opportunity to work with. This is truly a career building opportunity. My immediate supervisor and the other people on the team that I work with have been very helpful. They’ve been nothing but supportive and patient with me. I really do feel like I am very fortunate. For the time being I enjoy waking up in the morning and going to work in the fields. So this is what it’s like to have a job that you truly appreciate!

My day usually starts about three in the morning. Most times I wake up before three. I’ll lie in the bed and do a little meditation and day dreaming. My mind will reflect on my dreams, on my day before, on my day to come, on something I saw on television, or read in the paper, or whatever. But I’m out of the bed at three and I’m at the computer. I’ll start the television and watch the news or something I recorded so I could watch at a time like this when everyone else is asleep and I have the house to myself. My attention is split between the television and the computer. I might be surfing the net looking to do a little research for an article I’m writing. I’m responding to personal emails. I’m responding to comments to the blog. I’m writing my blog. This will go on until about four thirty when I start getting ready for the gym.

About four forty five I’m out the house so I can be at the gym by five. I’ll start with about forty five minutes of cardio and then I hit the weights for another fifty minutes. I’m back home by six fifty, I’ll have a bath (no shower in the apartment), and dress for work. I’m out of the house again by seven thirty so I can be at work and at my desk at eight.

As I work I’m trying to keep track of every random thought that might be helpful to my writing. I’ll hear a snippet of conversation that might inspire me. I have to write these thoughts down immediately less they become unregistered parts of history. My mind is like a train and my thoughts are constantly leaving the station.

A lot of the people are friendly. A lot of people are frosty. I’ll see somebody in the hallway and offer a good morning or whatever and they’ll act like I didn’t say shit. I’ll wait until we make contact, speak to people, and they’ll look down at their feet or some other direction, anything rather be coerced into acknowledging my existence. That really is too bad. There’s the woman who saw me as I came around the corner. She looked up at me then goes back to her work. But then she suddenly does a double take as if she couldn’t believe what she saw. She then turns her entire body away to assure that she doesn’t make the mistake of looking up again. There’s the white guy who pretends to be deaf. Only problem is someone else walks by and the wax in his ears suddenly clears up. Some white people are truly a credit to their ancestry.

But there are a surprising number of black professionals in this working environment.  White people are still the vast majority of the office population.  But I estimate that the black community makes up fifteen percent of the group.  The Asian population is well represented and there is a small but noticeable contingent of people from India as well.  This is one of the most diverse working environments I’ve ever experienced.

I usually leave work about four thirty or five. Last night I had a nagging PL/SQL problem and didn’t leave until well after six.  I usually work through my lunch and breaks. I’m usually home about five thirty in time to catch the nightly news and have dinner with the family. I’m playing with baby boy and I’m interacting with the rest of the family. I’m talking to my Mom and making sure she’s okay. After dinner and the family time I’m back to the computer. It’s about seven thirty in the evening. But by then my eyes are heavy and I’m beginning to wind down. I have to get my clothes and lunch ready for work the next day. I’m out like a blown bulb by eight.

Throughout the day I’m doing my best to juggle my commitment to family (immediate and extended), to my job, to my health, to my spirituality, and to my community. I do my best to keep abreast of current events and to help others understand what is happening in the community, the country, and the world. I think I have a unique interpretation of what is happening to us and by us.

I am thrilled to have this blog. It helps me to keep things in perspective and to remember that there is a lot more to this thing we call community than just our personal wants and desires. And community is more than just the people. Community includes the environment, history, spirituality, the future, the possibilities, and everything in between. Now that I actually have the ability to provide for my family I can actually clear my mind of daily worries. It really is good to be part of the working again.

Thursday, January 31, 2008 Posted by | African Americans, Black Community, Black People, Life, Thoughts, Unemployment | 4 Comments