Sunday, February 26, 2012

Your Friendly Neighborhood Food Pantry: A Case Of Nutrition By Omission?

You know that the Silly Season is truly underway when candidates who've spent a lifetime on the public dole refer to themselves as“Outsiders.” From the Reckoner's perspective, however, the Silly Season takes an even stranger twist whenever these well-heeled “public servants” try to talk about poverty, which has arced to levels not seen since...well...the 1960s.

Take Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich (please!), whose major catchphrase is his vow to become the “best paycheck president,” as opposed to “the best food stamp president” (Barack Obama). Chances are, if you've turned on your TV lately, you'll have heard Gingrich repeating these phrases like a yapping mutt. Like most election year jabberwocky, this statement falls apart under critical scrutiny, as this link makes clear:

All these issues came to mind during a trip to the friendly neighborhood food pantry, a necessity forced on The Reckoner by a) reduced freelance income, and b) bills piling faster than he could pay them. Even in a shorter month like February, such factors are sufficient cause for distress (as the snapshot of our refrigerator amply demonstrates).

After filling out a short intake form, the Reckoner was allowed to take one grocery bag of food, and one plastic bag of clothing. Here is what emerged from that brown paper grocery bag, after the return home:

(1) bag of plain rice
(1) box of Raisin Bran cereal
(3) boxes of macaroni and cheese (to be donated, as the Squawker is allergic to dairy products)
(1) can of apple sauce
(1) can of beef stew
(1) can of corn
(1) can of evaporated milk (to be donated, as The Squawker is allergic to dairy products)
(2) cans of tuna (to be donated, as The Squawker is allergic to fish)
(1) glass jar of spaghetti sauce

Alas, the Reckoner only half-filled his clothing bag, because there was hardly anything in his size – let alone that of the Squawker's physique – although he did find a couple of sweaters that will work well against the next wintry blast. The clothing racks were in various states of disorganization, since they'd been moved from another location, and the church's volunteers hadn't had the time to rearrange them.

The grocery bag itself came pre-selected, without the Recknoer's input. From the Squawker's perspective, such policies are enormously frustrating – what's the point of including food items that you can't even use, when you're allergic to them? This isn't the first time that the Reckoner has seen such policies at work – are they a product of bureaucratic bloody-mindedness, or simple lack of awareness on the pantry operators' part?

The nutritional implications of this list are interesting to consider, as well – besides the can of beef stew, meats and vegetables are most glaring by their absence. In some ways, that's not surprising, since they tend to be the most costly items of any grocery store trip – yet it's hard to imagine anyone being able to plan meals, based on that list.

Nor does it appear that whoever did make this list considered that factor on their end – it looks a catch-all of the cheapest products that somebody found handy on their latest trip to stock the food pantry itself. The Reckoner is well aware of the pressures on food banks, and food pantries – yet it hardly seems possible to imagine how anyone could feed themselves adequately, based on the above list, let alone satisfy the diet and nutrition pundits' wishes.

Of course, gremlins like Gingrich couldn't see themselves living this way – an inconvenient truth that they freely omit in their single-minded pursuit of power. But that doesn't prevent them from trotting out numerous statements to the contrary, long after they left behind those hardships of daily life that too many Americans are still struggling to address – including the Reckoner himself.

However, the Reckoner is a sporting gentleman, and invites any local, state or national politician to devise meals, using this list – any takers will get to see their responses published here. One small hint, though: you'll need to use a little bit of creativity, in light of all the limitations. So speaks the Reckoner.  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Where is Everyone? Economic Nomads and the Destruction of Community

One thing that modern American life has done is break up communities, it breaks up families, it breaks up marriages, it keeps you from your friends, and one then starts asking if life spent with people far away through screens, phones and the Internet, is even really like having a real life? Soul-less suburbs with over-worked zombies has become the norm for American life, and one reason people watch so much television, is there are more people in that little box to talk to you rather then in your regular life. What happens when someone has their roots dug up and thrown away, every 3 years, 5 years, 6 years, 7 years? Some of us are introverts and even take 5 years to make a friendship of any note.

Take it from it from me,if I had a time machine, I would tell a 20 year old, choose a small town and stay there. Some youthful moving is necessary for college, to avoid ending up in your Mom's basement, but there is a point where it has served it's usefulness. Don't get caught up in the bait and switch "American Dream", there are no geographical cures.

For the upper class economic nomad shoveling up those roots every 5 years may actually pay off, if the corporation or company offers more cash, for the price of wiping the slate of your life clean to restart somewhere. Of course even there how many tearful teens and depressed spouses or homemakers followed the careerist as they bounced around from state to state? For some when young, this may pay off, a few measured moves and finally settling somewhere to raise their young children, once a certain level is reached, and one can have a happy and stable life.

For the poor or working class moving this much often happens via poverty or need I say desperation?. The Squawker changed cities and states to avoid being behind the part-time Arby's counter for good. The Reckoner and her moved to deal with a growing pile of debt only to have it take us over in tsunami after the Reckoner had faced a year and a half of unemployment. Not easy choices, but there friends are left behind and human grief being what it is, one wonders why so much of life is influenced by faceless bureaucrats at endless desks who toss resumes and applications in the trash, and even ones with faces, that almost seem to find whimsical pleasure in snipping away livelihoods and chopping up micro-communities on a bad hair day.

But what happens when the poor or the neo-poor after another job lay-off or firing, looks at the scattered cracked vestiges of their life and realizes in middleage-hood, living somewhere where there is no roots and you have stayed a permanent stranger is just another thing to grieve? The moving didn't pay off.  Escaping minimum wage for 10 dollar an hours a waste of time. The long list of stressful dead end but semi-professional jobs with endless lists of lay-offs reaching into a void of nothingness. What end to look forward to but being a stranger in nursing home being cared for by strangers and never having anyone visit?

The Squawker has reached the point where she has told The Reckoner she will not move anymore, she is done. Having left a loved community 6 years ago and just starting to make friends here, The Squawker knows all too well the ramifications of living in a place where "NO BODY KNOWS YOUR NAME" and has deemed herself too old to do THAT again. She wants to be in a place where she is known, noticed and no longer an invisible shadow in her own life. Yes that is what happens if you move too much.

One thing the Squawker would like to ask her upper-class baby-boomer parental units is why didn't any of us wonder what would happen should the younger people in the family fall down the economic ladder? Hundreds of miles in physical distance for an upper middle class person, is not a problem, a decent automobile with expendable income to fill the tank, or buy a plane ticket makes that distance nothing while for people struggling with the light bill, even the $140 dollar bus ticket to go 500 miles can be an insurmountable obstacle. Families then become strangers to one another and the economic chasm even between relatives separates into a widening void. It's kind of depressing when your grandmother dies, and you do not even have 30 bucks in your wallet and know gas alone will cost $200 without even adding in the hotel room, and you simply can't make it.

Sadly for many of us as people moved far and wide, even the notion of HOME itself is destroyed. There is no "home" to move to. No one place, where relatives and friends all live. Everyone has been scattered. When you are young and 25, this can work, everyone still meets on holidays, some relatives still even live in the same area, but as the years progress and everyone has lived far away and separated, and even illness makes travel harder, the march of time turns you into near strangers. The wealthier relatives with money to spend, eat out, large homes to share amusements in and take actual vacations visit each other, and you are left out, and over time, you are forgotten.

This is some of what people in this country have forgotten, where money, material goods, and success came first to so many. However for some of us, who entered the modern life, the pay-off was not there, while others were able to build themselves up, many got knocked off the mountain. Perhaps even most? The numbers are hard to know.  I often wonder what will happen now that jobs are so few and it seems only 20% of the populace are getting jobs and lives where there is any semblance of security. Security and riches started being counted in dollar bills rather then other "riches". One's treasure needed to be built on more then chasing after endless corporate carrots on sticks, only to be snatched away in many people's cases.

People who are surrounded by nieces, nephews, uncles, aunts, grandchildren, children, and other relatives and townspeople of note, are fortunate to not live the modern economic nomad life, that has left so much of the last few generations without any moorings. If you moved away but grew up with your great aunt down the street, you had a life that many today lack. Sit down and ask yourself who would come if you were dying in the hospital? If you say no one, that may be a problem you may want to fix.

One question the Squawker would like to ask, is "Did the moving really benefit any of us?" Well if one reads books like "Bowling Alone", one knows that social capital has broken down. Why has this happened? Well in my opinion ,communities of near strangers, has helped this along. The Squawker has seen the impersonality of the big city where people come and go like trains through a train station and smaller towns with more permanence. There is a big difference. In the latter people actually know each other. It is said that Americans move an average of 14 times in a lifetime.  The Squawker once on a lark counted her number of addresses and hit 14 last year.

If you think about this "no loyalty to place" thing, and basically the problems with outsourcing and the corporations sending all our jobs overseas means they have no loyalty to this country, think about the bigger affects of businesses and others who have no loyalty to a town or community.

Every white-walled apartment becomes just like a long-term hotel room, and long lines of empty faces just another place to be passing through. Even if one considers the homogenization of "place" where big box stores and the same McDonald's arches, Applebee's, Bestbuy's littering the landscape makes one almost forget what city they are in,this has made things even worse.  People feel a punch to the middle of their soul but can't even put a word to it. Lonely? Despondent? Missing something? How about the saying "There is no 'there' there"?

Rethink all the moving.--The Squawker

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Don't Cry For Me, America

The Squawker's adult life has been spent in poverty with some brighter periods of on the edge working class "stability". The reasons for this are complex and range from the "personal is political"--wider trends to the fact of illness and slipping through the cracks. One decent stable good job for either her or her spouse could have made all the difference. 

She did the right things, never did street drugs, never drank, went to college, graduated with a decent G.P.A, got more training and schooling, did volunteer work, married The Reckoner, and well, tried and failed. In my case, there was serious health problems to confront as well. For both of us, the door of opportunity got slammed over and over. There have been brighter moments of some working class stability, but also times spent in severe poverty.

Today we are somewhere on the low end but not quite the most desperate end. We are still short of food at the end of the month, and now questioning how we are going to pay for a car repair. The Squawker was unable to pay her medical bills this month but is hoping to send a little next. The Squawker knows that she fell down the ladder and climbing back up is probably not going to happen given her age and state of health but with time and God's help, never takes anything for granted including food in one's fridge and a roof.

This is not some academic's website where from a lofty ivory tower there is pontificating about what "those poor people" should do to improve their lot. The Squawker and The Reckoner, are two middle aged people who have seen life for years from the viewpoint of the "disposable" American. The kind of people you saw holding their posters on "We are the 99%" but with more to say then will fit on one poster board or piece of paper. The Squawker questions aspects of the Occupy Movement and does not trust the likes of Soros and pals, but understands the sentiments of those who have spoken up, to say "Something here is not right!"

You won't see us telling any of you to go to poverty simulation exercises at a silly Bridges out of Poverty meeting. Someone send those folks a note, there are plenty of REAL POOR people out there they could talk to rather then playing PRETEND with the MIDDLE CLASS.  Personally the idea of middle class people faking that all they have to eat for the week is a few boxes of cheap box macaroni and cheese offends The Squawker.

The Squawker herself has lived in poverty and know what it is like. She has scoured the web, trying to find websites where people talk openly about being poor in America. There are many who talk about what is happening but very few who have a voice who have lived it or are living it. There is almost nowhere that the poor in America really have a voice.  That probably because Internet hook-up comes to very few poor people. Due to the generosity of a good friend for a computer and the necessity of making money online to pay bills in the Squawker and Reckoner household, the blessings of being on the web are here.  So it's time for at least a few of us to have a voice.

As for poverty, to show what we have gone through....and that we are real, the Squawker will share some of her experiences:

Picture this, there is no money left in your account, for gas, food or anything else. You do not know what to do. Homelessness looms. Your young adult life has already been lived in a series of rented rooms with milk crates as you work low level jobs that offer no medical care or stability with a long series of roommates coming and going. Finally you get your own 2 room apartment in a "bad side" of your college town. However you never see it and never can rest as mere survival necessitates working 60-70 hours a week at low level jobs. At one point there is 4 pieced together part time jobs.

You return to school hoping for another chance, knowing that you entered too low paying of a field with too few of job opportunities where your bad lungs serve as a barrier.  These jobs range from working at Arby's , temp house cleaner for the disabled, plastics and other factory work where you are never fast enough as health problems loom. Temp agencies "own" everything, and you would be thankful even if a factory job panned out to be full time and secure, but it never happens except for a few couple month intervals.  Everything is temporary but your bills.

Other people seem able to get good jobs, not you. Your clothes are getting older and more ripped up and worn. Thrift stores offer only so much, and even there you can barely afford clothes, as everything has to be put into rent to keep yourself off the street. The demands for a "professional appearance" seem like a joke. Hair cuts and manicures are not affordable.  You wonder how you will get ahead. You imagine lines of nice outfits where work could be gotten and you could join with the regular people. When your car is lost, despair sets in.  The street is very close.

Picture this, two feet of black water in the bathtub, why did big city metro water always turn black in an otherwise clean bathtub? Rats and mice scurrying along the floor, having to make sure your shoes were not filled with mouse turds which look like miniature forms of rabbit droppings except less round. Hearing the squeaking and the rustling of the pink colored glue traps that did little, dropped into place by a slum landlord from hell who told you "Everyone's got problems!" when you tell her, you think the apartment has reached horror movie level infestations. The landlord won't fix the stove either.  The apartment before this had roaches and a nightmare of a pipe bursting in the ceiling ending your time there. Neither had working stoves even if you could afford another $50 a month for the gas company.  It rains inside when you are poor too.

Picture this, the Squawker after being turned down for work by the temp agency that morning goes out to her kitchen to eat, with only 5 dollars in her pocket that must be preserved to get to whatever next job may come for gas, and find half a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs and a few old condiments in the refrigerator. She makes egg salad spaghetti for dinner, a new invention, which joins other notable meals such as hotdog omelets, ramen noodle tuna mix, and when desperation really hits mayonnaise and onion or ketchup sandwiches.

Picture this, urban youths throw a rock through your window because they are bored, smashing it into bits.Three apartments down, one apartment has nothing in it but a plastic mattress and lawn chair, there are always lines outside of this apartment, later the cops bust it for drug-deals. Cops sprawl young people across the trunks of police cars right on your street to arrest them and search them for drugs, they believed they have dealt. Homeless people with shopping carts sleep on the ledge of the old abandoned Chinese restaurant across the street while gang members, you must avoid eye contact with flash signs to each other at the corner convenience store which offers you nothing but ramen noodles, a limp onion or two and bologna, along with endless chips and various forms of liquor to imbibe. It costs a 6-7 dollar cab ride to get to the regular grocery store, each way, The Squawker due to health problems does not walk well and there is no car, to get there. One other choice is a 2 bus transfer, and 1 hour trip each way to get to the local Save-A-Lot. At least there is one Mexican grocery store, a direct bus route away, which provides some fruits and vegetables and food with real sustenance.  A trip down there is 4 dollars. Sometimes even the few dollars to get somewhere barely exists. Life becomes narrow when just leaving out the door, costs you almost 5 dollars off the top.  The poor who cannot walk well, are really in trouble.

Picture this, The Squawker because of work that demands she is street smart to survive tells the Reckoner to hide at the local bus stop as they wait for a bus to take them home. She sees trouble walking from yards away, her urban experiences and earlier job experiences with "violent youth" as a residential counselor giving her extra sensitive radar. They are standing with a crowd at a bus stop, the Squawker whispers to the Reckoner with only seconds to spare before they are seen,  "HIDE NOW" and he thankfully listens, as they peer behind a brick wall, part of the ramshackle buildings next to the bus stop, they watch as a man takes out a sawed-off shot gun and robs every person they were waiting by. They hide and wait until he is finished clearing everyone of their wallets, jewelry and cash, and go home. This experience is the icing of the cake of a life spent in danger, trying to keep three chess paces ahead of various abusers, users, con artists and the violent, in a dangerous neighborhood, that has included The Squawker having to fight off getting jumped and robbed and the Reckoner being chased by three men on a subway stop to clean him of his too little cash. Women in these areas learn fast what being followed means. Some may ask, "why did you live there?" But zip code is determined by income in your huge metro city, some relief would come later when The Squawker and Reckoner escaped on purpose to a small rural town. The night before they moved away, finally getting the means to escape, a cacophony of gun fire, erupted at 5am from about a quarter of a block away.

This is just some snapshots. There is far more to say......

Poor America

It's sad that it's always foreign news now telling us what is happening in America, while our news lies to us about the 'improved economy". Reading some of this news,  I shook my head sadly, having just taken a trip down by the local mall seeing even more closed down stores.

At least here, Panorama presents some truths. I found it interesting that now we have the lowest social mobility of all the modern nations. I would say social mobility has SUNK, and for many the trip down the ladder is down. They show the poor people forced to wait outside for the doctor, I saw this in my old rural town. Not everyone has the health to stand outside in the cold. There the 'free clinic" would have a long line of the uninsured unable to get medical help standing for hours in line and shivering.

When poor, medical insurance is one of the first things that go overboard. The Reckoner has needed a surgery for years, it is for veins that do not close properly, and not considered an "emergency surgery", there is no help available. It has been 4 years, we asked the doctor for help but was turned down, and told either have the $5400 dollars upfront or just go without. The Squawker in her life has paid a very high price for not having medical insurance and having problems go undiagnosed too long, this included not having the 500 dollars upfront for a thyroid test in the 1990s.

What is the main reason that people go without medical care? They do not have good jobs or have jobs or income that do not provide it. When someone makes 8 dollars an hour, and has a $1,000 dollar spend down to even get the most basic of tests, many who are working even go without. The video presents the Republican politicians who now preach "blame the poor" and "hate the poor".

The Squawker does not think much of the hapless Democrats either. Obama has signed trade deals with foreign countries this year assuring that even more jobs will disappear from our country. Both parties have betrayed this country.

I think people need to question the myths that this is the "richest country in the world" and 'an economic giant". Those days are over. Our manufacturing sector country-wide not just in Detroit has collapsed. Homeless shelters are filling and tent cities are springing up. They show some of those tent cities. Today people do not realize that many homeless shelters are filling up. As you watch the part about the tent cities, ask yourself why people are living in tents in a nation full of empty foreclosed houses? I do not think that is acceptable either.

Many of our homeless are underground, they know the price of being too visible is being rounded up and arrested for loitering or harassed, many are taking to the woods or RV campers or living in their car or van. I found the guy full of nonsense who said "People need the skills to be independent". How many people are there WITH SKILLS and even the college education, who are left unemployed. With Obama, the economic collapse began before well him. Obama has supported the bankers, and bail-outs and more which have helped bankrupt this nation. The video speaks of the economy "showing growth", perhaps some are making money but for the majority, the poverty is growing worse. --The Squawker

Friday, February 10, 2012

The College Bubble: The Next One To Burst: The Burden of Student Loans

If you have not seen this video yet, please watch it, though it is long. It tells you how the whole MONEY-MAKING BUSINESS of the UNIVERSITIES and student loan market:  [cough..racket..cough] works.


When The Squawker was in college, she wondered why tuition was raised 8% every year. Why did the costs go so high, and who was making the money? Even knowing that her adjunct professors made so little even beyond the tenured folks, The Squawker remembers her time at her alma mater in the late 80s, wondering why new million dollar buildings were being built all over the place, knowing that held some responsibility for her growing almost too huge tuition bills.

Today I know that the tuition and other bills have literally tripled since those college days. Who can afford college without going into debt now? The "work your way through school" days are over and a pipe dream considering the costs. And if one had a job that paid well enough to cover the costs, they may as well keep that job and hedge their bets! I would not have gone to college again, and would have considered Vo-Ed a better bargain, but my high school days were filled with the message, "One must go to college, or else end up flipping burgers!".  College was enjoyable but not a worthwhile investment for the future. I ended up working at an Arby's anyway after college in between more middling jobs, so that was ironic.

Today I tell young people, unless you have the cash to get you through medical school or have highly prolific technical aptitude, rethink the automatic college course. Sadly too many high school guidance counselors are doing the "go to college" message without thinking of its implications.  Some are wisely asking "what are we getting for our money"? and others are asking "Is anyone learning anything"?

There are endless facets of my education I question, with too much emphasis being put on useless pieces of information. The sad fact of entering adult life with basically no practical skills, was the central problem. Maybe we should focus on having our young people learn how to "do" things rather then just memorizing a bunch of facts. That is one core component that is bringing failure in our education world. How many go to college to delay adulthood or to "have fun"? Why are our students spending more hours "partying" in some places rather then studying?

Outside of a few fields that take higher math skills and include labs, how much practical useful knowledge is being given in your average university? Sometimes I question the future of the university and colleges, with the Internet. One can look up everything online and we all have an "instant library" right here. For those who still love to learn, and have had the joys of learning things FREE, why pay people 50,000 a year, to spoon feed you the information?

In many ways college has been more about buying an expensive piece of paper to be able to enter certain doorways, then an actual test of knowledge. What happens to those who may have the minds, the intellect or the know-how, and still are cut off, simply because they do not have the money? Now we are seeing years long enslavement to student loans in our young people. Remember student loans cannot be discharged under bankruptcy like other debts. They are forever unless one becomes permanently disabled.

When people could get jobs paying off the student loans where the incomes matched the debt, perhaps there was some sense to borrowing a little bit to get through school. That is a crazy decision now however when middle aged people can barely find professional jobs or ones with a living wage or have seen their own employment prospects sent overseas. The young people are starting off with a stacked debt. Their futures sold out for greed. Some are even speaking of Generation Y as being a "lost generation". Generation X had it bad enough, but our crummy jobs could at least get one a small apt or rented room living out of milk crates, something is wrong when I am seeing 26 year old cousins, one with a college degree, stuck living with Mom and Dad.

Many blame the young people and say they were stupid, they majored in underwater basket weaving, etc...but I do not. I know how the system presents little options besides college or the military, people are even lied to about what skills are needed and the institutions, more focused on making money rather then preparing them for life, have failed them. So most decide to take the student loan spin of the roulette wheel even in mass unemployment thinking they will be one of the fortunate ones to get the great job right out of college. The only thing, is that too will come to a close as well very soon.

What will happen when people wake up, and trust me I am surprised it has taken this long, and ask, "Is it all worth it"? When college is no longer seen as "worth it" except in very few fields? When college enrollments will drop? Think about the jobs that will be lost then when the colleges can't keep their doors open anymore. With the student loans because young people are not getting jobs able to pay them off, nonetheless even support day to day life bills, the defaults are rising. Many are saying this is the next BUBBLE to BURST, and they are right. What happens when the college system collapses? I believe it's coming:

Student loan debt: The next financial disaster?

--The Squawker

Americans Have Become Slaves to Debt

Debt Slavery: 30 Facts About Debt In America That Will Blow Your Mind

The above article has a lot of great points, he is right that the American people have become slaves to debt. please read it, and know how bad things are getting out there:
When most people think about America's debt problem, they think of the debt of the federal government. But that is only part of the story. The sad truth is that debt slavery has become a way of life for tens of millions of American families. Over the past several decades, most Americans have willingly allowed themselves to become enslaved to debt
Remember the days when usury was illegal? Yes, it actually used to be.

Today there have been so many loopholes made, a credit card company can double your interest rate even if you have not been late on one payment or missed one, say from 18% to 30%! There are no laws to protect you, they will bury the loopholes in the "fine print" so to speak that 99% with no legal business law education do not even understand what happened as they notice their minimum payment doubling and sending them into default.

In other words the credit card companies hold all the cards, and now we have politicians who answer far more to the banking lobby, and why you, the consumer and American citizen, are punished for not being able to make your debts, the bankers get endless breaks. The "too big to fail" banks got their billions of dollars of bail-outs and some say trillions! So they get paid for failing and you, well, better be careful or the homeless shelter awaits.

Even if a bank goes out of business, and they are off the roster, they will sell your debt pennies on the dollar, so a junk debt dealer can go sue you, and empty your bank accounts or seize any property you happen to own. Think about that, the bank is out of business, it FAILED, but you are still on the hot seat. Most people going into debt now, are not doing it to fill up bags at the mall of knickknacks and clothing they do not need. They are doing it to fill the gas tank, to keep groceries on the table, and for unexpected expenses such as car repairs, dental problems or medicine.

The Squawker knows what it is like to not to want to use a credit card for food or necessities, but what do you do when there is other money there? Our jobs if you even have a job, pay so little now. People simply do not make enough money to match the demands of the economy. So debt becomes normalized and no one asks "How come so few can afford the basics like housing, medicine and food without going into debt?"

When did it become normalized for our young people to start off life with thousands of dollars in debt or for people to go into 30 years of indentured servitude just to live in a basic bungalow? That is an interesting question. Many have profited off the debt laden American life, but may it's time to question how and why it is being done.

Many say "Do not go into debt!", but how does one live life with no car, no home, or no college education? Perhaps we should question the whole shell game and how American people have been set up. I also think for our young people really examining and looking at returning to an earlier form of life, where community and family unity was part of day to day life is the only answer, but there they need others for support, others who are invested in them, instead of endless borrowed money to start careers or to have a home.

But how does one survive in this modern society when one is not given or able to obtain the tools, namely money to operate? They used the debt to fill the gaps and now too many have paid the price.
Proverbs 22:7 The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
--The Squawker

Monday, February 6, 2012

Grandma and Grandpa have 47 Times the Wealth, because they had Good Jobs and We Did Not ?

Older Americans are 47 times Richer Than Young

No, I didn't make that statistic up...

47 Times RICHER!

Hey all any of us have to do under the age of 50, is look and compare the lives of our grandparents and parents. Take a look at the obits sometime, and read the ones of people in their 90s and 80s and how they worked at Company A, B, and C for upwards of 30-40 plus years or even had long time jobs for over 25 years. How much is that happening for people now? It's called the social contract, stability, and well it is gone. No decent life sustaining jobs, means no house, no savings, no building up of wealth and planning. Life becomes all about survival. 

---The Squawker

Temp Slave Sounded The Early Warnings

Years ago when my life was a bunch of part-time and temp jobs pieced together, during the "zine" revolution of the 1990s, I discovered a magazine called Temp Slave. This was a magazine where young people were questioning why they were working dead end jobs, that offered absolutely no security or even guaranteed time at the job. Temp agencies, be it Manpower or a lesser known independent were a nightmare, giving you these terrible typing tests designed to make you fail. Even though you could type without even looking at the keyboard at home, complicated sentences and word-structure of what you were told to retype, tripped you up on purpose! Sucker, its the low level hard dirty factory work for you. Perky, lithe, made up women would give you jaded eye once overs and send you to jobs they wouldn't give to their dog.

They would send you to jobs where even with a college degree, one was relegated to hot plastic factory floors. I still remember when I was given the plum-job at the screw factory that was supposed to last three months. Walking past the stinking open vats of green goo that boiled the screws and washers, the boss fired me within a week for not being able to screw washers onto the screws fast enough.  Other nightmare temp jobs offered me marathon envelope stuffing, cleaning houses, scrapping plastic "skin tags" off cell phone covers and at one job that only lasted 1 hour, trying to lift 80lb. heavy acrylic windows [for RVs?], as an asthmatic woman without the best health, they mercifully sent me home.

Over time, I started warning my friends and young family members, "Do not work for a temp agency, if you do so, you will be nothing more then a rat in a caged maze that more often then not leads to a complete dead end! And like the rat, you will find yourself confused and dazed at the end of it all." During the course of my life, I've met only one person that turned a temp job into a pernament job.

Young people in the 1990s already knew they were being being shafted. Who ever heard of jobs, they could just take away on a whim 20 years earlier? Sure they sold temp work, trying to say there were endless middle class bored housewives who wanted to get out of the house for a few hours a week, and that it would help supplement their already decent enough incomes, but for most of those desperately calling Shelia or Jenny Monday morning at 7am for an assignment, temp work was all they had and they knew it, and it wasn't work one could really build your life on.

Temp jobs stink, is your rent temporary or your bills? --The Squawker

Being Poor

On this website, on an article called BEING POOR,  people share what it is like to be poor and what they face. There are over a hundred people that share what their life is really like. Something those who never have lived it can't even conceive of:

Read it, and realize this is life for millions in this country---The Squawker

U.S. Liquidating its Best Companies

U.S. Liquidating its Best Companies From the Globalism is a failure files:
"500 patents—is now a Chinese company. Westinghouse Nuclear Energy’s major shareholder is Toshiba—a Japanese Company. Lucent Technologies, a former research division of AT&T, along with all the patents acquired from the beginning of the phone system, is now a French company. In 2008, Brazilian-Belgian brewing company InBev purchased the iconic American brewer Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser. With the sale of these manufacturing companies, the future profit and technologies all belong to foreign entities. As we have become unable to produce enough for ourselves in America, we have outsourced our manufacturing to China, Japan and others. This is resignation; the realization that we are no longer competitive in the world and can no longer be a productive manufacturing nation." RCA is now a French company, Zenith is a Korean company. Frigidaire is a Swedish company."
---- The Squawker

Get Rich Or Pound Sand

Can't Get The Care Or The Drugs That You Need? Note To Self: "You're On Your Own"

Greetings, one and all, this is the Reckoner speaking, striving to cut through the static of this Political Silly Season, alias...the Presidential Primary Race.

Although the economy remains the most important issue for most Americans, health care isn't far behind. One of the most disturbing aspects of this debate – from the Recorder’s perspective – is how often the human dimension seems to get forgotten or ignored by the candidates grubbing for votes.

We saw this tendency during last month's Iowa caucus, where Danielle Lin came ready to caucus for Republican presidential long shot Ron Paul – until she asked how he'd stop health insurance companies from denying coverage. Not to worry, the former physician responded. Why, he wouldn't even dream of doing such things: “You can't say to the insurance company, 'You have to insure me no matter what I have, I've had a prior disease.' It's like me being on the Gulf Coast and not buying wind insurance until the hurricane's right off the coast.” (Hurricane Katrina survivors might pick a few bones with that statement, too – but that's another posting for another time.) Considering Ms. Lin's status as a breast cancer survivor, this response went over like the proverbial lead balloon...and, while she did have insurance, others weren't so lucky, as she told the press: “I watched three friends die because they didn't have insurance. Nobody can afford private insurance, nobody can. And they're dead.”

Last week, Rick Santorum – another Republican long-shot, or no-shot, depending on how uncharitable you feel – went to bat for The Man, too. This time, the tough questions came from a woman who recounted spending $1.3 million on medications to keep her son alive – yet had also seen many of his friends die, because they couldn't do likewise. Ranger Rick stuck to his guns, however, repeating that time-honored mantra that causes so many Social Darwinist's hearts to skip a beat: let the market do its thing, maaan...let the market do its thing...let the get the idea. The only thing missing in that scenario is the hookah pipe and the meditation rug. For brevity's sake, read the rest of the story here:

But that wasn't even Ranger Rick's silliest statement – that honor goes to this gem: “People have no problem going out and buying an iPad for $900. But paying $900 for a drug, they have a problem with it. It keeps you alive.” People don't exactly go out and buy new iPads every month – but even if they did, the costs probably wouldn't reach the astronomical levels that the health care industry barons have racked up, with nary a peep from the likes of Mr. Santorum. Why? For an inkling, Gentle Reader, visit this link:

And that's before we start on the health benefits that members of Congress get, as this article makes plain:  As the old joke runs...if the folks on Capitol Hill got the same insurance that they palmed off on their constituents, the health care crisis would have been fixed in a day!.

Ron Paul's contributors, on the other hand, seem to be of a different stripe, as this Center for Responsive Politics report suggests.  Like Ranger Rick, Paul suggested charitable care as the best remedy for all those difficult cases – even though charities and nonprofits are struggling to keep their own doors from closing, in the face of budget cuts and decreased support. Perhaps Mr. Paul hasn't gotten the memo yet, but the Reckoner isn't about to test his hypothesis by gambling.

Are these lapses only the province of Repbulicans? Not by a long shot, as the following link'll notice that a certain B. Obama happens to lead the 2011-12 pharmaceutical contribution brigade...surely, you've heard of him! None of these facts will surprise hardened Congressional watchers, but they underscore the dimensions of the problem.

As in past election cycles, when health care is discussed, it's typically couched in terms of numbers, statistics and percentages – but, all too often, with little connection to the people who hurt the most. This is not a theoretical exercise to people who find themselves bankrupted by spiraling medical bills, or lose friends, neighbors and relatives to a profit-driven system that treats them as expendable when they lose their coverage. Unlike Ranger Rick, however, they don't have a lobbyist in their corner, and therefore, no voice.

Until we make a greater effort to heed what those voices are saying, no meaningful progress can be made, as Ms. Lin suggests: "There has to be a middle ground, there has to be regulation to protect American people from corporations. I love Paul's ideas, but there just has to be someone who gets the human piece of this." Time will tell, but until that day finally're on your own. So speaks the Reckoner. --The Reckoner

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Punk Rock Poetry Corner: The People's Haikus

Congressman Scrooge: run
that "Surplus Population 

Joke" by me once more.

Scrooge replies: people
suck up to you around here...
God, I love this place!

Great Elevator're over 40?
We hired someone else.

Take a pay cut, grin

through your boss's jokes..ah, Stockholm
Syndrome in Action.

Executive Blues

skimming paychecks is hard work...
tax exile awaits.

A conspiracy

of stocks speaks louder than guns
drop the greenmail bombs.

Your pension blows up,

you won't work till you drop?
only when pigs fly.

My dreams ran aground:

this scratch off ticket netted
me...only 5 bucks.

Lobbying: my way 

of saying..."It's return
on investment time."

The poor grow poorer, cannot feast on 
air and promises.

Class warfare, you say?

true enough: why rock your boat
when I can sink it?

Hey Mr. Banker:
Remember...As long as I breathe,
my hope burns bright!

-----The Reckoner

The Squawker's Introduction to Ramen Noodle Nation

It's about time, that there was a blog to speak for those of us who have been left with out a voice, where our life's reality is not shown in books, media or anywhere else anymore. Where only the lives of the wealthy are allowed to be shown in books and television, as the days of Willa Cather, Alice, and Laverne and Shirley are long gone. The truth about the collapsing American dream and finding a life outside the constricting box that has been drawn for so many as consumerist materialism falls off a cliff. Some of us see what is coming and already have been living it, while others remain asleep in the decline, that accelerates faster. This blog will be about telling the truth, and speaking for those who have been pushed to the margins. It was named after Ramen Noodles, the cheapest food, that many who live on the cusp turn to for sustenance and to fill their bellies. --The Squawker

The Reckoner's Introduction To Ramen Noodle Nation

Greetings, one and all: this is the Reckoner speaking. I'll now take a moment to introduce myself, though not in the conventional way.

For a start, the Reckoner does not provide his real name, age nor hometown, due to his role in sensitive work that – were those details to become known – would pack him off to White Paper Purgatory, and expose him to retribution. Alas, we do not live in an age where full disclosure from inside The Belly of The Beast is encouraged, tolerated or rewarded; quite the contrary.

If Deep Throat spilled those Nixonian secrets to Woodward and Bernstein today, he'd probably be looking at an idefinite stay in the Guantanamo Gray Bar Hotel for Life, courtesy of the National Defense Authorization Act that “Mr. Hope And Change” himself, President Barack Obama, signed into law.

Indeed, it speaks volumes about the times that the bill's biggest opponent is Ron Paul, who comes across as an eloquent defender of civil liberties, even while his dream Presidential Administration would serve up more of the same old lasseiz faire economics that's pushed this nation so deeply into Greenmail Purgatory...but I digress.

My nom de plume, however, is taken from “The Public Defender,” an August 1931 RKO Studios melodrama. The film stars Richard Dix as Pike Winslow, a rich playboy who uses some extra-legal means, shall we clear his girlfriend's Dad in a bank embezzlement scheme. These methods include beating up the bad guys – who just happen to be on the bank's board of directors – and leaving a nice little calling card, saying: “The Reckoner.”

If this sounds like Batman, you're onto something – Winslow even has two faithful associates to help him in his vigilante pursuits – the scrappy “Doc,” and “The Professor,” who come off as rough parallels to Robin, and Alfred, the loyal butler, respectively. Winslow, of course, fills the Bruce Wayne role, even if Chez Reckoner screams of “Batcave On A Budget.

At any rate, I've never forgotten this film since I first eyeballed it, circa 3:30 a.m., on Chicago's ABC affiliate, Channel 7. Low-budget, it may be, but this film gives you telling glimpses of people's attitudes toward their government (crooked 'n' corrupt) to the core, cops (ditto) and banks (so greedy, they'd sell candy canes to diabetics)...but with unemployment reaching levels of 25 percent, what cause did people have for optimism? What sort of seat did they earn at the table? What role was there for them to play? What future could they expect in such a stacked environment?

That, in a nutshell, is the rationale behind this give our fellow “99 Percenters” the voice that's continually denied them in the mainstream media, and a political arena still stuck in the “Test Drive Reaganomics” mode that's effectively stalled the conversation – now into its fourth decade – about how why letting the “haves” run amok wasn't such a hot idea for the rest of us. In doing so, the Squawker and myself will lob plenty of unpleasant questions, and convey some ugly truths, to get our readers thinking beyond the standard talking points rolled out to squash real discussion.

It is high time – no, make that, past time – to provide a voice for those who haven't been invited to join the party, and, most of all, afflict the comfortable....without any concessions to fashion, be it cultural, musical or political. This blog, then, is the equivalent of “The Public Defender”'s calling cards – to shake up the static that's hanging over us all, before it's too late to bring up anymore objections. What you do with those suggestions once we post them is up to you. Suffice to say, however, that mollycoddlnig the status quo isn't anywhere near on our collective agenda. So speaks the Reckoner.