My reincarnate order form came today. I have to choose my top three choices for what creature I want to be when I am reincarnated someday.
I was a little concerned, ya' know, wondering if ...<< MORE >>
Category: Politics is Ugly (opinion)
Newt Gingrich has called President Obama the "food stamp president."
Food Stamps, you likely know, are a form of government aid to buy food for those without money, without a job. Like unemployment compensation, food stamps help people down on their luck. Food stamps imply aid to poor people without hope and have such a negative image that California has renamed them CalFresh. It sounds inspiring and good.
We think of these food stamp beneficiaries as homeless drug addicts and single pregnant women with too many children. Food stamp recipients are also people with families, people with good children. People that have lost their jobs, their homes and their will. For some, they are people who have families that live lives no different, and therefore, they cannot turn to another for help.
If you've been unemployed, you might appreciate unemployment compensation and food stamps, and still feel guilty about accepting "free" government aid. We even know that we've contributed to paying for these benefits, and many contribute and never collect their beneifit. Others may get these benefits and never contribute to the system that pays for them because the government provides a system that is supposed to prevent Americans from dying of starvation.
But for many of us, we feel guilty about collecting the benefit we paid for, because we imagined we were paying to help someone else, and there's certainly no guilt felt for that. No guilt even when we turn around and deride those that accept the benefit we've generously provided through our paychecks and taxes.
This helping system doesn't always work; some Americans slowly die from the illnesses of malnutrition. They die from despair. They die from living in unsafe places with others like them. The government does what it can, and we all wish it could do more, but we don't know what can be done to fix it. We apply bandaids and bandages that hide the ugliness from view, because we really don't want to be directly involved. That's not wrong, it's just human.
In a time when unemployment is at a record high, and when the national economy is at its worst since the Great Depression, we should apprecaite the opportunity to help people with food stamps. Read the news - churches and community centers cannot provide enough food to those in need, because there aren't enough contributions to help those in need.
It's peculiar that a presidential candidate enjoys an attack of the "food stamp president" in a time when food stamps are the last hope for many. The candidate hopes to point to the despair and place blame. But even if right, he cannot miracously create millions of jobs to fit millions of people, tomorrow.
Move beyond the rhetoric and imagine your world without aid. Really. Imagine it. Walk out into the street with nothing, and find your way to your next meal. When it gets dark, cold and you're hungry, know that you have no where to go.
You won't be knocking on the door of a wealthy neighborhood church, they'll be closed. Or a mansion behind a gate, they'll turn you away. You'll find your place among others like you, and they will collect government aid, because no one else wants to see them.
We're peculiar that way. Human beings want to help others, as long as we don't help those that bother us. That is what Newt Gingrich is trying to protect through fear; he tries to maintain the status quo by instilling fear of change. On the surface, it seems odd, because candidates nearly always run on the prospect of change - change to fix the "broken" system. But this GOP is instilling a fear of change created and then, therefore, imagined by the public to be real. For example, fear of the obscure (and dead) Saul Alinsky that Newt wants to instill in "regular people."
Saul Alinsky was clearly a radical and liberal that tried to instill power in the poor. He hoped to create a government for all people. That change today, or then, would not maintain the status quo for the wealthy, or even the middle class, and the GOP mantra is: Who really wants that kind of change? What we want, Newt is trying to tell us - those that vote at least - is to protect our interests, to prevent change that will benefits others that bother us.
And here's why the candidates only care about the people they can scare, the people that vote: "The Problems with First Past the Post Voting," explained by CGPGrey on YouTube.
Category: Every Other Monday (random essays)
How decisions define who and what we will be. OR... Why experts are not.
In early May 1983, I was in Salt Lake City, heading north to Seattle. I had nothing but a car, some clothes, a camera, and a typewriter in the trunk. I had a vague plan never to leave Seattle, and to become a writer there.
I had spent the winter months writing letters and sending resumes to hundreds of Michigan employers in a quest to get a city planning job during a recession that held no jobs. Back then, you had to type each letter individually. My mom had an IBM Selectric, and she made me take typing classes after eighth grade (but she told me not to let anyone know I could type).
There were no jobs in 1983 because Detroit was making big cars. Earlier, AMC made some small cars, but one of them was the Pacer, and then later, they went bankrupt. Americans had also discovered ten years earlier that gasoline is a limited resource. And then by 1983, Americans bought small Japanese cars because they had cup holders.
The bumper sticker on rust belt cars heading for the Sunbelt read: "If you're the last one out of Michigan, please turn off the lights."
It seemed like a good idea, so I left.
I don't know why all of this energy stuff was unexpected news, I read about it in Scholastic Magazine in the 1960s. They said the gas would be gone in 50 years. That means we have about six years left - seems like a good guess to me.
The 1980's recession wasn’t really all about energy and auto companies and steelmakers. New large ships and new interstate freeways and new double-decked trains and cheap foreign labor allowed goods, and cheap foreign fuel, to move faster and cheaper from Asia to America than from California to Detroit. It's difficult to imagine all that stuff was new in 1983, but the original 1950's design for the interstate freeway system wasn't even finished until the '90s. I remember hitchhiking home from college one weekend and an old guy picked me up and told me about how there didn't used to be no freeways. He said he went to Denver once when he was my age, and half the roads weren't even paved.
I was sure this was some made up old-man malarkey, but I looked it up in my parents Red & Blue World Book Encyclopedia, and I found it might have been true. It's funny how those books held the whole history of knowledge.
As for cheap foreign goods: My car was a Mazda, my camera a Minolta, the film was most likely Fuji, and my clothes were probably made in Sri Lanka. My typewriter was a Smith Corona, made in Cortland, New York; they relocated to Mexico in 1995, well after the typewriter era ended.
No one knew then that Detroit's neighborhoods would be abandoned and leveled 30 years later. And people in Detroit would talk about turning the city into a farm. No one understood then, like now, what really caused the world to change.
Today, change continues on the tails of the Great Lapse in judgement (the Great Recession). Experts tell job seekers today that the failure to be born into the right time, and to have the opportunity to get the right job out of college will follow you for the rest of your life. In a bad way.
Wow! If that's how it worked for those of us from the '80s as well, I’ve been screwed. That means my first job then set the tone for a career of disappointment, according to what the experts say now. To make matters worse, back then I was told I was one of the last baby boomers born, and was competing for the jobs and promotions already filled by boomers older than I. It was yet another reason for the young to resent their elders, but mine wasn't a generation to protest much.
Well, it isn't always as bad as the experts tell you, because experts think YOU are everyone. To experts, you are a statistic of the whole population that represents each individual.
In truth, a hundred or so different circumstances shaped how I came to be where I am now, and where I am not. Many of these circumstances had nothing to do with national or international policies or the condition of the economy. That seems blatantly obvious when you say it out loud.
The big picture: Today, our politicians and economists and all the other experts are publicly trying to re-energize an economy that no longer exists. We all know that to be true, and the old economy is gone, but we don’t understand it, so we muddle along like before and just pretend that it works.
What we do know is that the boomer bubble is retiring and they now buy fewer products. Boomers have already accumulated most of what they need or want. We also know that young people, X-Gen, Y-Gen, NexGen, whoever... they don't need a stereo, an answering machine, a VCR, a DVD player, an mp3 player, a camera, a daily newspaper, a magazine subscription, a typewriter, a more powerful computer. Or office paper, jewel cases, videocassettes, software, and updates to all that hardware and software. Or a TV in every room... it goes on. Secretarial pools, pre-automated shipping, email, online shopping, resale shopping. I just sold my used junk to someone in Russia. Really - today.
We all have smartphones that do all those things. Yet we still wonder why people aren’t buying the stuff that fed the economy for 30 years. We wonder what happened to Circuit City and Best Buy; we say it’s Walmart and Targets fault. But they aren’t selling that crap anymore either. Yet we still try to figure out why people don't buy stuff like before. The ships full of stuff that no longer gets shipped.
It's a new world full of old theories about how to fix it. Cars are even different. The average U.S. car is 10.8 years old. Back in the '70s and earlier, cars didn't even last that long, and required extensive repair long before they were ten years old. There's another pump in the economic engine, now gone.
So listening to experts isn't really a wise choice. Do what works and believe what you do.
But back to my timeline and Salt Lake City in May 1983: I had just happened to call Sarasota County that day about a job I’d applied for, and the Sarasota staff was meeting to make a hiring decision when I called.
The Sarasota job was just an internship. They had already hired one local guy, and planned to hire a girl from Wisconsin. A boy, a girl, a local, an out-of-stater. Everything was balanced. But I called, I asked, and I was hired during the call. The job paid $800 a month and I took it. For perspective, I had about $80 a week to spend after rent, food and gasoline.
So I never moved to Seattle, but I visited Seattle that May in 1983 before turning around for a very long drive to Sarasota. I picked out a house that I might have bought and thought I'd restore on Capitol Hill. It was a desolate and decrepit old gingerbread-style on top of the hill, near a small grocery and a parking lot. I also picked out a coffee shop nearby where I might have written notes for my planned and still unwritten best-selling novels.
I did spend half a year on Siesta Key, halfway between the beach and Big Olaf's Creamery, and a short walk from a Tiki hut where an Englishman sold a good stout. They charge $1,200 a week now for the apartment I lived in then.
As far as I can tell, I didn't get screwed by the 1983 economy for the rest of my life. What do experts know about what an individual will be? All in all, my deal has turned out pretty good so far. That summer internship led to a job in Chicago, and then on to L.A in 2002. I'm glad I never got that job reviewing zoning applications for some small Michigan town in 1983.
We'll see now how the present will change my past next.
Published 01/23/12 - after a rainy, sunny, then rainy again weekend in Los Angeles, CA.
BobFoolery.com® - All Rights Reserved 2012