Saturday, January 4, 2014

The American Nightmare

Even though I know the President has his heart in the right place, leaving it to Congress, in particular the Republicans, to extend the unemployment insurance will accomplish very little, if anything at all. Perhaps Republicans from a decade ago would have felt a little compassion for those constituents in dire need but that is not the new breed of Republicans - who no longer feel any shame in showing their disdain towards the poor and those falling through the large cracks of the middle-class, caused precisely by those Republicans. A Party that seems to aim at shocking the people by not only openly expressing their hate towards the poor, women, gay and anyone that doesn't have a six figure bank account, an impeccable image and a dark soul.

Expecting a group of people that would rather see this country on its knees than collaborate and help this president move the economy out of the slump it is in, that preferred to shut down the government - knowing that they will not get the ransom they demanded - just "because" without giving a damn about the consequences is not logical. Thinking that they will "grow a heart" is as inconceivable as thinking that Democrats, just because we changed calendar year, will grow a spine.

Mr. President... if Congress doesn't extend the unemployment insurance, then please sign an executive order... You know you can do it, you've done it before. Don't allow Congress to throw under the bus 9% of the adult population that is desperately looking for a job, but can't find one.
If you don't, soon America will not be the prosperous land we all believe it to be.  Those that live in America, will not be living the "American Dream" but will find themselves in a perpetual "American Nightmare."



Weekly Address
The White House
January 4, 2014

Hi, everybody, and Happy New Year.

This is a time when we look ahead to all the possibilities and opportunities of the year to come – when we resolve to better ourselves, and to better our relationships with one another. And today, I want to talk about one place that Washington should start – a place where we can make a real and powerful difference in the lives of many of our fellow Americans right now.

Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline – the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job.

Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire. And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all.

We make this promise to one another because it makes a difference to a mother who needs help feeding her kids while she’s looking for work; to a father who needs help paying the rent while learning the skills to get a new and better job. And denying families that security is just plain cruel. We’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough – we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.

What’s more, it actually slows down the economy for all of us. If folks can’t pay their bills or buy the basics, like food and clothes, local businesses take a hit and hire fewer workers. That’s why the independent Congressional Budget Office says that unless Congress restores this insurance, we’ll feel a drag on our economic growth this year. And after our businesses created more than two million new jobs last year, that’s a self-inflicted wound we don’t need.

So when Congress comes back to work this week, their first order of business should be making this right. Right now, a bipartisan group in Congress is working on a three-month extension of unemployment insurance – and if they pass it, I will sign it. For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today. Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.

After all, our focus as a country this year shouldn’t be shrinking our economy, but growing it; not narrowing opportunity, but expanding it; not fewer jobs, but doing everything we can to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires.

That’s my New Year’s resolution – to do everything I can, every single day, to help make 2014 a year in which more of our citizens can earn their own piece of the American Dream.

After five years of working and sacrificing to recover and rebuild from crisis, we have it within our power, right now, to move this country forward. It’s entirely up to us. And I’m optimistic for the year that lies ahead.

Thank you, and have a great weekend.
obama's signature

Friday, January 3, 2014

Walk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

cc shoesThe much awaited 2014 finally arrived and without much fanfare.

Where I live, there were not that many fireworks or idiots firing their guns, which is always a good thing, at least for my pets that are terrified by those menacing noises and even when I hate to admit it, I am too… there is always that little voice in the back of my head warning me that a bullet might come clashing through the walls or windows and hit someone in my household, for some strange reason, that someone, in my mind, is always me.

As most of us do, I waited for the stroke of midnight to eat the customary grapes and drink cheap champagne… I busted in cheers, kissed my loved ones, called those I could and sent a text to those far away. I was so happy to see that 2013 was finally a memory, I was filled with the beautiful idea that the nightmare might be over.

But today, a friend posted an article by the Huffington Post “Florida Law Mandating Drug Tests For Welfare Struck Down By Federal Judge” and immediately the venom began to flow freely… the vile comments were, for the most part, done by democrats!

It surprised me to know that there are democrats that have joined the crazies in assuming that the majority of people on welfare are drug users, thieves, opportunists or lazy people that prefer to live in poverty as long as they don’t have to work. It cannot be denied that there is a small number that might fit that description (less than 2%) but it is not the majority. Most are families that by no fault of their own find themselves struggling to survive, to keep a roof over their heads, to feed their kids and are desperately looking for a job or, as it happens with most, they already have a job but even when working can’t make ends meet.

Some people went as far as to suggest that if they are poor, they should not have children. I do not agree but for the sake of argument, let’s say OK… However, what should people that were working, with a decent paying job and had a child before they lost everything… what should they do? Give their child up for adoption? Kill them? We have always heard that Americans love the underdog… that might be true in many instances (sports, politics, competitions, etc.) but it is not true for a regular Joe, for the poor. When it comes to people in need, in our own backyard, they are open game to be kicked, denigrated, ignored, abused and neglected. If the needy is in a faraway land, then we must show the world there is no other people more caring, compassionate and giving than Americans! The hypocrisy is sickening. The poor in our own country is the pushing bag for most – not all – of the American populace. The poor is the tool for those that have accomplished nothing to feel better about themselves, about their mediocrity… and as bullies usually do, at the first opportunity they will happily talk about the poor with disdain and in a nauseating tone, while claiming to be Christians!

There is a collective madness going on in this country and most of the world. The Conservative Right and the Religious Right is outraged at Pope Francis, because this Pope has the audacity to say that being selfish, self-centered and greedy is a sin. How dare he? Thus, they have labeled the Pope, as a Socialist, as if being a socialist was such a bad thing! I have news for them… their beloved “Jesus” was a socialist.

To grasp the concept of compassion, of loving “thy neighbor as thyself,” you don’t need to walk on water… you just have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Milking the System

Let’s talk about those that are truly “milking” this system, those that are on Welfare without needing to be.

In 2013 a handful of big oil companies received subsidies from the United States ranging anywhere between $14 to $52 billion a year, while these oil companies raised the cost of gasoline for the rest of us; but no one is outraged by this. Of course, the big oil companies do not call these moneys subsidies, they are “investments” because, according to them, they are providing a service, producing jobs, etc. as if they were the only companies doing this and completely forgetting about the disastrous damages they have inflicted in the environment and that we, collectively through our taxes, have helped cleaning up.

Microsoft, a company that as we all know is in no dire need for financial assistance, received in the form of a tax credit (from 2004 – 2010) a total of $305 million dollars or an average of $50.8 million a year. Microsoft revenues during those same years were $343 billion dollars… but no one raised an eyebrow about this. Granted, Bill Gates is a great philanthropist that donates most of his profits, but we can’t say the same about Microsoft's shareholders which benefit from the Federal "handout" or tax credits, that greatly increases their profits.

According to an article from the Huffigton Post, last year about $180 billion dollars were given to corporations in the form of tax breaks. On April 15, 2013, IPS (Institute for Policy Studies) published an article, Corporate Tax Dodgers: 10 Companies and Their Tax Loopholes, that states that ExxonMobil received a tax subsidy of $6.8 billion; FedEx received a tax subsidy of $2.1 billion; Honeywell received a tax subsidy of $1.7 billion, after paying no taxes for 4 years, and the list goes on. 

In 2013, Congress approved $9.5 billion in Farm subsidies that will go to wealthy “farms.” Some of the congressmen that were so “giving,” receive farm subsidies themselves and these same congressmen were among the ones that decided to make significant cuts in SNAP or what is commonly known as “food stamps.” The majority of the “farmers” that received the farm subsidies are the same that invested millions in lobbyist to push for these “farms” to receive huge handouts from the government. Farmers have received a total of $256 billion dollars from 1995 to 2012.

According to EWG and Forbes, the major recipients of these “farms,” with their corresponding net worth in parenthesis, are: Paul Allen, Co-founder of Microsoft (Net worth: $15.8 billion); Charles Ergen, Co-founder of DISH Network (Net worth: $12.5 billion); Philip Anschutz, Owner of Anschutz Entertainment Group and co-founder of Major League Soccer (Net worth: $10.3 billion); Leonard Lauder, Son of Estee Lauder and former CEO of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc. (Net worth: $7.6 billion); Jim Kennedy, Chairman of Cox Enterprises (Net worth: $6.7 billion); S. Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A (Net worth: $6 billion); Leslie Wexner, CEO of L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret (Net worth: $5.7 billion); Charles Schwab, Founder of brokerage firm Charles Schwab Corporation (Net worth: $5.1 billion); Stewart & Lynda Resnick, Owners of POM Wonderful, Fiji Water and Teleflora (Net worth: $3.5 billion); David Rockefeller, Sr., Former chairman and chief executive of Chase Manhattan Bank (Net worth: $2.8 billion); and Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce (Net worth: $2.2 billion).

The Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidies Database mentioned a few congressmen that received farm subsidies in 2012 and therefore, in 2013 as well; most of them voted to make substantial cuts to the SNAP program. Click here to see the list.

While the U.S. 2013 Budget lists $117 billion dollars in Welfare expenses. $6.7 billion of it went to WIC and $82.6 billion went to the Food Stamp program. However, the expenses for Food Stamps is broken into 3 different expenditures (all named Food Stamp Program: one which reported 0 expenses, a second one that reported $75.7 billion expenses and a third that reported $6.9 billion expenses). I will select the highest as the one going directly to the needy: $75.7 billion dollars.

It is important to keep in mind that veterans and the families of the actively serving troops are included in these figures; there are about 900,000 veterans and about 5,000 military families that rely on food stamps. In 2013 there were a total of 23,052,389 families receiving food stamps (including veterans and military families). The average monthly amount provided by SNAP for one person is $189.00, and this is not necessarily true… my mother, who is a SNAP recipient gets only $140.00 a month and even though I am unemployed, I do not qualify, so I receive none. The amounts received per person varies, but it is never over $189.00 a month, which is the maximum allowed for a single individual; the larger the family the less each person will receive. A family of 5 (a father, a mother and three children) will receive as a maximum $750.00 a month, which is $150.00 per person or $4.83 per person, per day for all three meals.

So, if you are outraged that the government spent $75.7 billion helping the needy but you are not outraged at the billions the government gives to wealthy corporations, then you are a worthless, heartless and selfish human being!

Compassion starts at home… I just don’t know when America will begin practicing at home what it preaches abroad.