Somewhere in America



Senate delay on stimulus ‘irresponsible’: Obama

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Somewhere in America, a man loses the job he has held for more than thirty years.  Somewhere in America, a woman cleans out the office she had occupied for close to a decade.  Elsewhere in the United States, a teen unsuccessfully tries to find work.  He knows he needs to help his Mom and Dad; each toiled in the factory that closed just down the street.  A young woman searches for a professional position, just as she has for the two years since she graduated form the University.  Each of these individuals is not startled by the headline, Economy Shed 598,000 Jobs in January.    All ask, where have the “experts,” Economists, and elected officials been?  

There is a stark reality barely revealed in this report. For the many who live somewhere in America, the statistic is not news.  It is the culmination of life or strife as it has been in the United States for a long time.  Countless experience the misery of an economic crisis that consumes them.  There is no joy in jobs lost or the threat of more layoffs to come.

What occurs most every moment, somewhere in America is the reason President Obama stated in his recent address, this country needs a stimulus package now, not tomorrow, not in a week, or in a month.  At least, “3.6 million Americans  . . . wake up every day wondering how they are going to pay their bills, stay in their homes, and provide for their children.  That’s 3.6 million Americans who need our help.”

What the President does not say is that these numbers represent only the persons we know of.

Somewhere in America, in a rural residence, children cry.  There is no food in the cupboard.  Mom, who is the sole supporter in this family, has been out of work for months.  Dad, too depressed, left his loved ones long ago.  He labored part-time for years.  When the economic downturn began, in 2007, he realized he could not even count on temporary employment.  Nor can the young one who hopes to enter college; she understands “career path” may be a euphemism from the past.  Today in America, the streets are not golden.

As Senators and Congresspersons, all of whom are gainfully employed, bicker, and build an Economic Stimulus Bill filled with pork, and, or tax cuts that benefit only the rich, somewhere in America, a mother cannot buy food for her son.  A single father, without a High School diploma, wonders how he might hold on to his factory job and still adequately prepare his daughter for school.  Somewhere in this great country, educational institutions go without textbooks.  Perhaps, it matters not, the students cannot read.

Somewhere in America, a cancer patient is refused treatment, for, although he has insurance, the policy will not cover the costs.  

A firefighter is given a furlough.  In California, State workers are forced to take  an unpaid leave.  Somewhere in America, a  plan to bring recovery to America cannot wait.

Elsewhere in this country, citizens, the few secure in their circumstances, argue over the proposed stimulus package. Certain that all is well, at least for them, these affluent Americans say the situation is not dire.  They encourage their Representatives not to sign on to a incentive measure that might spend money on other than they, personally, think right.  Meanwhile, somewhere in the United States, a family in the frozen Midwest is thrown out on the cold streets.  The mortgaged house, the five had lived in for near a score, went into foreclosure.  

In a country, where the words “economic crisis” is not hyperbole, few wish to help move the nation forward.  People rather quarrel.  Free speech is fun for those who still feel safe.  Today, the public does not ponder the bridge that collapsed in Minnesota two summers ago.  August 2007, was eons ago.  The public does not hear the stressful sounds of a viaduct ready to crumble.  The roar of engines is too loud, or perhaps, when the conversation turns to fiscal responsibility the screams from silly squabbles drown out the noise steel makes when it bends and breaks.

People plump with power, profits, or an ideology can safely ignore federal government studies that show “Nearly a quarter of the nation’s roughly 600,000 major bridges carry more traffic than they were designed to bear,”  When an American lives elsewhere in America, it may matter not that  the “Federal Highway Administration data from 2006 shows that 24.5 percent of the nation’s bridges longer than 20 feet were categorized as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” (data from Utah and New Mexico was from 2005).”

Rarely do individuals reflect on what does not affect them directly.  Many are happy to refuse to see what is invisible to their eyes let alone the reality numbers might represent.  Empathy, elsewhere in America can be elusive.

People who have a roof over their heads rather rant.  Those who toddle off to the office much prefer to rage.  It is “pork” they say.  The Obama stimulus plan is nothing but needless government-funded expenditures.  “Taxes must be cut;” screech the tycoons and venture Capitalists.  These influential persons of means make telephone calls.  The rich reach out and touch Republican and Democratic Legislators alike.  Why?  Because they can.  Powerful persons have access, the privilege of the affluent.  The plight that occurs somewhere in America is alien to them.

Insulated and isolated, the wealthy worry not.  Elsewhere, many in the Middle Class cannot imagine what it must be like to live somewhere in America.  Most do not believe an economic catastrophe will become a personal truth.

Those whose children are enrolled in private schools, or in public school out in the suburbs subsidize their progeny’s education.  They wonder why others cannot.  Perchance these individuals have not traveled to somewhere in America.  Persons whose families are well-funded, who hear, and see no evil on the streets of this nation, do not imagine that somewhere in America might ever be where they live.  

These citizens, comfy, cozy, and content with what is, have no need for the Head Start programs now cut from the stimulus package.  Education for the Disadvantaged, another program now eliminated from the Bill, will not have an effect on friends or family of the economically-established.  Persons who have the ability to care for their own do not understand the plight of those they have never encountered.

Thus, they exclaim, the “fat” must be removed from the stimulus package, and so it is.  

School improvement stipends were removed from the proposed fiscal plan.  These critical contributions, in a  country, which ranks low, or last, in many categories of learning seems unnecessary.  Child Nutrition grants are lavish in the minds of the physically and financially satiated.  Surely, the well-off say, there is no need for such remunerations.  

Individuals who are safe and sane do not wish to sponsor programs such as Funds for Violence Against Women.  These planned provisions were erased from the proposition.  Persons not in harm’s way questioned why would society wish to assist those ladies who did not chose their companion wisely.  

Food Stamps surely are wasteful spending, say the scornful and satiated.

These same persons are happy to see an end to what they think exploitive expenditures.  Dollars expected to be doled out to The National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA, National Science Foundation NSF, and the Western Area Power Administration were also expunged from the package.

Firefighters are now forsaken. Cash for the Coast Guard was deemed redundant.  Payments for better prisons, are said to be decidedly pointless.  Community Oriented Policing Services COPS Hiring programs, are among the allowances that have been cut.  Apparently, community safety is not critical, at least not for those who think private industry better cares for any communal needs.  

That may be why these same individuals decided dollars devoted to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC were also wanton.  Certainly, these would not stimulate the economy.

Perchance, the persons who live elsewhere in the United States, do not realize that cash spent on services contributes to jobs somewhere in America.

Possibly, the prosperous do not recall that poverty produces greater poverty.  Persons who love to engage in arguments, think it fun to find fault with each and every point,   These individuals, whose intention is to wrangle, do not wish to acknowledge, as Nobel Prize winner and Princeton Professor of Economics and National Affairs does in his most recent NewYork Times column.  “As the great American economist Irving Fisher pointed out almost 80 years ago, deflation, once started, tends to feed on itself.”

As dollar incomes fall in the face of a depressed economy, the burden of debt becomes harder to bear, while the expectation of further price declines discourages investment spending.  These effects of deflation depress the economy further, which leads to more deflation, and so on.”

Hence, as a country we stand still.  Democrats and Republicans are divided.  Congress cannot or will not decide to support an authentic stimulus package.  Policymakers will do as they have always done, dicker, and deliver little.  What may ultimately pass will likely be more irresponsible than it might have been.  

When somewhere in America is not where you are; nor is it a place you chose to imagine as real, then you do not reflect upon the parent who has not had a paycheck for years, or the child who cries out for a but a mere morsel of food.  Sadly, somewhere in America, for members of Congress, and for citizens comfortable in their circumstances, is a place far, far, far, away.  

In truth, were the quarrelsome to look out their window, they might see, somewhere in America is right next door.

Sources for Somewhere in America . . .

Universal Pain; Effect of Economic and Emotional Depression

EEdprssn

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

Teresa Madison forlorn and torn by life’s dilemmas contemplates a reality she never considered before.  Death by one’s own hand may be the latest and greatest in preventative medicine.  Suicide can be a cure for what ails a person, or at least many have come to believe this is so.  In her age group, more people deliberately take their lives.  Only months ago, Ms Madison perused an article that appeared in The New York Times; Midlife Suicide Rises, Puzzling Researchers. Teresa was not perplexed.  Ms Madison knows to her core society is consumed with ills.  Physical, mental, emotional, financial woes, and a sense of finality overwhelm individuals in the United States.  Teresa feels heaviness in her heart when she opens her mailbox and sees the bills.  Her empty pocketbook cannot ease her pain.  Nor does it alleviate the aches her family feels.

Ms Madison hears people speak of hope for the future.  Countless say change is on the horizon.  Yet, in this election year, this workingwoman does believe the solutions offered are realistic.  She listens to the rhetoric and recognizes the aspirants do not feel the common peoples’ pain.

Each of the candidates speaks of the current financial crisis and foreclosures.  Health Care is also an issue.  The Democratic Presidential hopefuls promise Universal Health Care.  Yet, none of the possible nominees propose a Single Payer not for Profit  plan.  Each candidate expects Americans to pay for the insurance they desperately need.  The cost of coverage may be reduced; nonetheless, citizens will be required to pay for the policies.  A Choice Plan may claim to make Health Insurance more accessible; however, those who work and struggle to meet medical expenses understand this strategy will not serve them well.  A Plan for a “Healthy America,” provides little comfort for those who are not fit and already feel the pain of being a bit too affluent to qualify for assistance.  “Potabilty” while a wondrous concept is not practical for a person who is uninsured, underinsured, or who can barely benefit from policies that exist.

Perhaps, Americans will not need adequate coverage in the future.  If the country continues to experience an economic downturn, people may just choose to end it all.  Some may sing the song, “Suicide is painless,” as they pull the trigger, pop the pills, or inhale toxic fumes.

Historically, research shows, rates of depression and suicide tend to climb during times of economic tumult.

In an article published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press, researchers compared suicide data in Australia from January 1968 through August 2002 with economic problems such as unemployment and mortgage interest rates.  The study found that economic trends are closely associated with suicide risk, with men showing a heightened risk of suicide in the face of economic adversity.

“For some people, suicide is the rational option when they see no future,” says Ken Siegel, a psychologist in Beverly Hills.  “One’s house is very much a projection of one’s self.  To have a home taken away is tantamount to having part of yourself taken away.  There is embarrassment.  For many, it’s overwhelmingly unconquerable.”

In the most severe cases . . . authorities have linked suicides with the financial stress of foreclosures . . .

“Suicides are very much tied to the economy,” says Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of The Stress Institute in Atlanta.  “It’s a public-health issue.”

Teresa works as a Realtor; she has for more than three decades.  Ms Madison is well aware of how the housing market affects families.  She read the report, Foreclosures Take an Emotional Toll on Homeowners,  and  thought  how true the words were.  Teresa Madison saw the housing bubble as it floated through the hills of Southern California.  At the time, admittedly, she too was overcome with joy as the ethereal enthusiasm drifted through the air.  Only a few short years ago, Teresa was as most in the Golden State were, elated as the equity in homes rose.  For Ms Madison, the higher prices meant greater income, certain security, and a sense of stability, or at least that was her hope.  When the housing bubble burst so too did Teresa’s.  Now, as Teresa Madison skims through the pages of classified advertisements in search of another job, she sees the headlines Foreclosures skyrocket 65% in April, and she thinks of   how this will  further her  dilemma.  How will she  be  able  to  pay  her  medical bills.

Although vibrant, Teresa Madison is aware of the fact that a serious illness could devastate, even destroy her.  The middle age white woman, while successful in her work was never able to save as she had thought she might.  Teresa was not a compulsive shopper as her dear friend Silvia is.  Strapped with debt, Silvia slit her throat and every other part of her body.  Depression or the drugs her physician prescribed almost did Silva in.  While others may think Teresa has reason to resort to drastic measure, Ms Madison never would.  Her faith in the Lord and her love for her family sustains her.  

Teresa has two children that need her.  Her daughters are adults now, and one would presume they could take care of themselves.  However, Tammy needs more than merely emotional support.  She needs someone to take her from doctor’s appointment to surgeries.  Trips to the drug store are numerous and while Tammy drives, she is not always able to get into her automobile and travel from home to the pharmacy.  Movement is not easy, although Teresa daughter tries.  Mostly, Miss Madison cries out in pain.  Much of her distress is caused by guilt.  The rest is all too real.

Tammy had tumors as a child; one was in her brain.  Her thyroid was also a concern.  Ultimately, the gland was totally removed.  The younger woman is affected by other illnesses.  None are observable in a casual exchange.  However, health issues are omnipresent in the younger woman’s day.  Nights are not better.  Indeed, as the sky grows dark, so too does Tammy’s demeanor.

The medication necessary for survival slowly took Tammy’s life.  The girl, now near forty still breathes, and mentally, she is extremely active.  However, with each twinge Tammy twists and turns.  Her every moment is as torture.

As a lass, Tammy was told the drugs she needed would add pounds to her posterior.  Her legs and arms would swell.  The small frame she once had would be forced to carry quite a load.  She did not imagine what would actually occur.  

Serious weight gain placed pressure on Tammy’s spine.  Today, the vertebrae break easily and often.  Stress fractures fill the severely ill woman’s medical files.

Excessive amounts of cortisol have helped Tammy to exist.  Yet, the side effects have lessened her quality of life.  Her teeth deteriorated.  Recently, they were all pulled.  Dentures are in Tammy’s near future.  Before her fortieth birth date, she will be fitted with porcelain plates.  Might Tammy or her Mom find a better policy to cover the burgeoning costs?  Is this family underinsured?  Perhaps, but most, if not all insurers consider preexisting conditions.  Pre, post, present . . .

Tammy circumstances have been a constant in Teresa’s life.  She works and worries how will she continue too pay the price.  Hospital invoices pour in, just as they did when times were good.  Even when Ms Madison’s earnings were greater, she was never able to afford a home.  She helped others buy beautiful abodes and sell these stately properties.  Still Teresa could never save enough to secure a down payment.  Frugal as she is financial stability has escaped Teresa Madison.

Since the subprime mortgage meltdown altered her ability to make money, Teresa has fallen behind in her rent.  A landlord who loved her, and whose house Teresa and Tammy had lived in for more than a decade finally insisted the Madison’s must move.  Teresa was grateful; the owner of the property considered all the upgrades Teresa had done and subtracted the cost from the amount owed.

Ms Madison with all her connections was temporarily able to secure another rental apartment; however, the stairs were a problem.  Tammy could not climb these.  A third residence was found.  Still the two women once more were evicted.  No matter how much money Teresa brought in, it never seemed enough.  She was able to stay in a neighborhood that suffered little from the foreclosure catastrophe.  However, Tammy’s circumstances and hence the cost worsened.

Days ago, as Teresa pondered what would she do next she read the account . . .

On a brisk day last fall in Prineville, Ore., Raymond and Deanna Donaca faced the unthinkable: They were losing their home to foreclosure and had days to move out.

For more than two decades, the couple had lived in their three-level house, where the elms outside blazed with yellow shades of fall and their four golden retrievers slept in the yard. The town had always been home, with a lazy river and rolling hills dotted by gnarled juniper trees.

Yet just before lunch on Oct. 23, the Donacas closed all their home’s doors except the one to the garage and left their 1981 Cadillac Eldorado running. Toxic fumes filled the home. When sheriff’s deputies arrived at about 1 p.m., they found the body of Raymond, 71, on the second floor along with three dead dogs. The body of Deanna, 69, was in an upstairs bedroom, close to another dead retriever.

“It is believed that the Donacas committed suicide after attempts to save their home following a foreclosure notice left them believing they had few options,” the Crook County Sheriff’s Office said in a report.

Teresa Madison reflects on the reality and realizes she cannot cry.  She has shed too many a tear.  Ms Madison is left to ask, how much more can any of us endure.  Foreclosures and health care concerns are only a fraction of what consumes Americans.  Teresa understands her story will not make the nightly news.  Few will ever meet Tammy.  Neither woman can afford to attend fundraisers.  Nor do lobbyists represent Teresa or Tammy.  If either of the Madison women had time or energy to travel to a free rally or a town hall forum the chances that they would be seen or heard are slim.

Teresa and Tammy have heard many platitudes from Pharmaceutical companies, private insurers, and even from politicians.  Each has received pounds of boilerplate letters.  These communiqués explain why Tammy must wait, or why a request for care is denied.  Doctors who have attended to Tammy for decades cannot hasten the process.  Nor are these proficient physicians powerful enough to alter a reality that enslaves them as well.  When talking with many trained professionals in the field of medicine, Teresa hears of their frustration.  

Those who believe in the Hippocratic Oath cannot avoid doing harm, no matter how hard they try to heal the ill and injured that enter their offices.  Current policies preclude a physician from offering authentic and adequate preventative care.  It is just too costly is the conclusion of many.  Others note an investment in prevention ultimately will curtail the initial disbursement.  Moreover, imagine the savings if the sick did not need to continually spend billions of dollars on drugs, diagnosis, and driving from doctor to doctor.  Oh, how Tammy and Teresa would be blissful if they were not led by symptoms and side effects.   The quality of life might have been different if much had been done differently and early on.  At least thoughts of how death might relieve fiscal and physical trauma would have been diminished.

Doctors may not openly speak of how they too suffer when a patient passes or is parallelized by pain,  However, quietly, on occasion, a practitioner may mention how he or she is hurt by the current structure.  Had Tammy been more than a patient, in pain, and only assigned minutes to consult with a specialist, she may have seen the literature.  In 2003, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a Proposal of the Physicians’ Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance,  which advocates that American policymakers adopt a truly Universal and not for profit plan.

Some say a Single Payer Not For Profit Health Care system will cause delays, and lessen the quality of treatment.  The Madison’s muse how might that be possible.  Each day they wait and wonder, when will the doctor see them.  How many more months will slip away before a surgeon is given permission to perform a necessary operation.

As Teresa and Tammy Madison watch the election coverage, they think of there own.  They too are exposed to much scrutiny.  The Madison must also address the issues.  These two ordinary citizens understand every person has his or her tales to tell.  As Teresa and Tammy sit by the television far from the crowds and the candidates, they ask, ‘Will those who aspire to live in the White House ever address what affects the average American?’

Teresa, who has long trusted in the Lord, continues to “hope” that he will be the agent of “change.”  Daughter Tammy, who has also been a person of faith, at times, fears her conviction wanes.  Suicide may not be painless; nonetheless, she trusts she can endure whatever anguish death may bring.  She has withstood life, a broken health care system and an economic structure that causes much distress.  Tammy frequently thinks “yes, she can” live or die.

Scars, Sores, Suicide, and Sources . . .

Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story

A soldier’s story is our story.  On this April afternoon, I attended a memorial.  Americans in my local community, as well as those in every other region of the country, mourned the recession. People pondered the reality; this war affects our daily lives and our fiscal stability.  In my neighborhood, Michael Prysner, an Iraq War veteran offered his theory on the theme, Recession and the Iraq War; A Soldier’s Story.  I share an introduction to his tale and an invitation.  Please peruse the musings of Michael Prysner.

Twas the day before any other day in the lives of average Americans.  It was April 24, 2008.  Countless people traveled about in late model luxury automobiles.  A few could not afford such finery.  Still, those of lesser means were able to retain a vehicle of sorts.  In the United States, a motorized metal chariot is considered a must.  In many nations, car ownership is thought lavish.  Certainly, those with money enough to drive from place to place have not a care in the world.  Yet, here most individuals in carriages are stressed.  

In every neighborhood, numerous persons are now out on the street.  Some only have a car to count on.  They do not have the money to purchase the petroleum needed to run the vehicle.  The price of fuel is high and steadily climbing.  Rates of unemployment have increased.  Job security decreased.  The value of homes has dropped.  However, few citizens can afford to remain in what was once their shelter.  Foreclosures are frequent.  Mortgage brokers and a lack of reasonable banking regulations have helped to create a meltdown within the marketplace.

In America, there is an economic crisis.  The government cannot assist the common folk.  All available funds are spent on wars in the Middle East.  Residents in the richest country in the world are worried.  Will they survive?

This was the question asked at vigils throughout the nation.  In conjunction with MoveOn.org people in this country spoke of how the Persian Gulf wars have affected the economy.  Recession and the Iraq War were the themes.  In Boca Raton, Florida Mike Prysner, an Iraq war veteran spoke of his experience in country and how those relate to the fiscal calamity Americans face.

May I introduce Michael Prysner and his Winter Soldier testimony.  With permission from the informed, informative, and inspirational author, it is my great honor to present  . . .



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt1

A soldier’s story?

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally published on Friday, March 21, 2008

Michael Prysner’s Winter Soldier testimony

The following statement was delivered at the Winter Soldier event, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, and held in Washington, D.C. from March 13 through March 16. The event featured the testimony of numerous Iraq war veterans about their personal experiences. The author is an Iraq war veteran and the Party for Socialism and Liberation’s congressional candidate in Florida’s 22nd District.

When I first joined the army, we were told that racism no longer existed in the military. A legacy of inequality and discrimination was suddenly washed away by something called “Equal Opportunity.” We would sit through mandatory classes, ensuring us that racism had been eliminated from the ranks, and every unit had its own EO representative to ensure no elements of racism could resurface. The Army seemed firmly dedicated to smashing any hint of racism.

And then Sept. 11 happened. I began to hear new words like “towel head,” “camel jockey” and-the most disturbing-“sand n*gg*r.” These words did not initially come from my fellow soldiers, but from my superiors-my platoon sergeant, my company first sergeant, my battalion commander. All the way up the chain of command, viciously racist terms were suddenly acceptable.

I noticed that the most overt racism came from veterans of the first Gulf War. Those were the words they used when they were incinerating civilian convoys. Those were the words they used when this government deliberately targeted the civilian infrastructure, bombing water supplies knowing that it would kill hundreds of thousands of children. Those were the words the American people used when they allowed this government to sanction Iraq-and this is something many people forget. We’ve just learned that we’ve killed over 1 million Iraqis since the invasion; we had already killed a million Iraqis before the invasion throughout the 90s through bombings and sanctions.

‘Haji’ was the enemy

When I got to Iraq in 2003, I learned a new word-“Haji.” Haji was the enemy. Haji was every Iraqi. He was not a person, or a father, or a teacher, or a worker. But where does this word come from? Every Muslim strives to take a pilgrimage to Mecca, called a Haj. A Muslim who has completed that pilgrimage is a Haji. It is something that, in traditional Islam, is the highest calling in the religion-essentially, the best thing for a Muslim made into the worst thing.

But history did not start with us. Since the creation of this country, racism has been used to justify expansion and oppression. The Native Americans were called savages. The Africans were called all sorts of things to excuse slavery. A multitude of names were used during Vietnam to justify that imperialist war.

So Haji was the word we used on this mission. We’ve heard a lot about raids during Winter Soldier, kicking down people’s doors and ransacking their homes. But this mission was a different kind of raid. We never got any explanation for these orders, we were only told that this group of five or six houses were now property of the U.S. military. We had to go in and make those people leave those houses.

So we went to these houses and told the people that their homes were no longer their homes. We provided them no alternative, no place to go, no compensation. They were very confused and scared, and would not leave-so we had to remove them from their houses.

There was one family in particular that stands out: a woman with two young daughters, an elderly man who was bed-ridden and two middle-aged men. We dragged them from their houses and threw them onto the street. We arrested the men for not leaving and sent them to prison with the Iraqi police.

At that time I didn’t know what happened to Iraqis when we put a sandbag over their head and tied their hands behind their back; unfortunately, a couple months later, I had to find out. Our unit was short interrogators, so I was tasked to assist with interrogations.

A detainee’s ordeal

First, I’d like to point out that the vast majority of detainees I encountered had done nothing wrong. They were arrested for things as simple as being in the area when an IED went off, or living in a village where a suspected insurgent lived.

I witness and participated in many interrogations; one in particular I’d like to share. It was a moment for me that helped me realize the nature of our occupation.

This detainee who I was sent to interrogate was stripped down to his underwear, hands bound behind his back and a sandbag on his head-and I never actually saw his face. My job was to take a metal folding chair, and as he was standing face-first against the wall, I was to smash the chair next to his head every time he was asked a question. A fellow soldier would yell the same question over and over, and no matter what he answered, I would smash the chair next to his head.

We did this until we got tired, then I was told to make sure he stayed standing facing the wall. By this time he was in an extremely broken state-he was shaking uncontrollably, he was crying, and he was covered in his own urine.

I was guarding him, but something was wrong with his leg-he was injured and kept falling to the ground. My sergeant told me to make sure he stayed standing, so I would have to pick him up and slam him against the wall. He kept falling down so I’d have to keep picking him up and forcefully putting him against the wall.

My sergeant came by, and was upset that he was on the ground again, so he picked him up and slammed him against the wall several times-and when the man fell to the ground again I noticed blood pouring down from under the sandbag.

So I let him sit, and whenever my sergeant starting coming I would warn the man and tell him to stand. It was then that I realized that I was supposed to be guarding my unit from this detainee, but what I was doing was guarding this detainee from my unit.

I tried hard to be proud of my service. All I could feel was shame.

Face of occupation is laid bare

Racism could no longer mask the reality of the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I have since been plagued by guilt-anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk, who we rolled onto a stretcher and told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children, like the one who cried hysterically, and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl, like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.

We were told we were fighting terrorists. The real terrorist was me. The real terrorism is this occupation.

Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon employed by this government. It is a more important weapon that a rifle, or a tank, or a bomber, or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile.

While all those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them. Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round; they don’t have to fight the war, they merely have to sell us the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way, and they need soldiers who are willing to kill and be killed, without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb-but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow the orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight.

The ruling class-the billionaires who profit from human suffering, who care only about expanding their wealth and controlling the world economy-understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interest. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to die and kill is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior.

Soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen have nothing to gain from this war. The vast majority of people living in the United States have nothing to gain from this war. In fact, not only do soldiers and workers gain nothing from this occupation, but we suffer more because of it. We lose the limbs, endure the trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag-draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without health care, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $400 million a day on this war.

The real enemy is here

Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country, to make the rich richer. Without racism, soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war. I threw people onto the street in Iraq, only to come home and find families here thrown onto the street in this tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis that is already leaving hundreds of Iraq war veterans homeless.

We need to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land; they’re not people whose names we don’t know and whose cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know well and people we can identify-the enemy is the system that sends us to war when it’s profitable; the enemies are the CEOs who lay us off from our jobs when its profitable; they’re the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; they’re the banks that take away our homes when it’s profitable.

Our enemies are not 5,000 miles away. They are right here at home, and if we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers we can stop this war, stop this government, and create a better world.



Winter Soldier Mike Prysner testimony, Pt2

Humans Inhumane. Furry Friends Abandoned in Foreclosures

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Americans like to think of themselves as humane.  We set up societies to ensure the four-legged creatures will be protected and cared for.  People build playpens and homes to shelter their furry friends.  We coo and hold close the littlest, most dependent, beings we call doggies and kitties.  Man’s best companion is the dog that sits by his side, or the cat that curls in a ball on his lap.  We carry photographic images of our pals.  Some store these in their cellular telephones; others post the likeness of their “pets” on a computer screen.  We love the beings who return our affection unconditionally.  Yet, throughout America babies are being abandoned.  

The small and cuddly beings who share their lives with us have become a casualty of foreclosures.  People lose their home and then their minds, hearts, and souls.  One can only surmise.  What occurs in America?

Reports of this crisis are beyond belief for many.  In a civilized society, animal abandonment is epidemic.  This seems such an enigma.  It is difficult to believe that benevolent people, when in distress, might forget their principles and their pets.  It is a challenge to accept that living beings are left behind, with little care or thought, as homeowners’ head for the hills.  Yet, tis true.  In America today, our beautiful babies are left to fend for themselves.  Few survive without food, water, or the heat an occupied shelter provides.

Nationwide, our neighborhoods scorned Michael Vick for animal cruelty.  Letters and calls pour in to the courts.  The formerly famous athlete, now know for disrepute, was justly sentenced to prison for his abusive behaviors.  Yet, individually, en masse, Americans allow their bow-wows and meow-ers to die, slowly, without the comfort of the person they once thought a companion, their best friend, care giver, and protector.

Pets becoming casualty of foreclosure

By John Simerman

Mercury News

December 22, 2007

BRENTWOOD — The kids at Stay & Play Pre-School take their afternoon naps among a few new friends: a pair of large turtles, rescued after months alone in a foreclosed Discovery Bay home.

Other animals weren’t so lucky.  One — a pit bull puppy — died tethered to a fence in a Pittsburg backyard.

“People are losing their homes, and animals are the fallout of that,” said Cecily Tippery, a Coldwell Banker agent who specializes in foreclosed properties, and now also in rescuing pets left behind.

Here in one of the nation’s foreclosure hotbeds, Tippery and her colleagues say they have found several pets in abandoned homes — enough to spread the animal care workload among them.

At one Antioch property, they found a dachshund, a Chihuahua, a beagle and a dead turtle.  A Calico cat turned up at an Oakley house.  A litter of kittens remained in still another empty house.

It is another sorry aspect to a foreclosure epidemic that has hit east Contra Costa harder than anywhere in the East Bay.  Although local animal control officers say there’s no evidence of a big spike in abandoned pets, stories of often starving animals left behind in foreclosed houses have begun to crop up across the country.

In Ohio, animal control agencies have scrambled to find space to take on an increase in abandoned and stray pets.  In Arizona, pet lovers have launched an e-mail network to help find homes for abandoned animals, according to reports.

“I’m sure there is an increase in it,” said Michael Parker, acting senior animal services officer in Stockton, at the epicenter of the nation’s foreclosure boom . . .

People do not know how to care for themselves.  Sadly, and certainly we do not teach young children the finer points of finance.  Economic mastery is not required in schools or in society at-large.  Few truly understand how to best secure shelter for themselves, or for loved ones.  The logistics of  how to best purchase a home is elusive for the vast majority of Americans.  We rely on experts.  Yet, for reason unknown there seem to be few experts on love, reciprocal reverence, and how to live humanely.

One would think in homes, churches, and schools we learn the importance of relationships.  Humans are gregarious creatures.  We give affection and wish to receive fondness.  No living being genuinely wishes to be alone; nor is survival effortless without another to aid and support us, even if only emotionally.  Animals of every type have a symbiotic relationship.

Yet, apparently, humans do not fully comprehend this.  Little beings, who fill our lives with joy, are not as possessions.  Rover, Rex, Tiger, and Tillie are not our property  People must  protect and provide for our pals.  Those unfamiliar with our four-legged family members, by law, cannot care for our fuzzy children.

One sticking point: The pets are considered personal property and cannot be removed until 18 days after a foreclosure sale.  The banks, the agents say, do not want the agents to feed them.  They do it anyway.

“My first impression was, how can somebody do this to these animals,” said agent Trish Balocco.  “We’re not supposed to take care of them.  How can you not?”

One Contra Costa County animal control official said the law requires the banks, or whoever owns the home, to tend to the abandoned animals.  Lt. Joe Decosta said he expects more forsaken pets as the wave of foreclosures and the economic fallout washes away more homeowners.

“As times get harder, there’s more cruelty.  You get animals that suffer more.  You’ve got people that can’t feed themselves,” he said.

Decosta said banks may misconstrue the law.  Part of the problem, he said, may be the legal definition of the animals as property.

“There’s no clause for them being a living being,” he said.

“If there’s no water for them, no heat, no shelter, no food, something’s suffering.”

Misery intentionally inflicted upon the babies is not legal, not humane, and beyond belief to those of us who truly care for our fellow creatures.  I wonder.  Perhaps, part of the problem is we call them “pets.”  We do not realize that while humans may stroke the little beings, the action is to pet; the animal is our brother.  Language is only part of the paradox.

Statutes treat these breathing beings as though they are less worthy, as if they are property, possessions, objects that we can and will throw away when they have outlived their usefulness to us, the supposed owners.  Yet . . .

In my life, Mitzi purrs expectantly each evening as I prepare the bed.  She sits sweetly as sheets and blankets are placed neatly.  When all is ready for the night, the little ballerina bounces up and moves to the center of the comforter.  Mitzi looks at me, her Mom, and says, “I’m ready.  I think it is time for us to sleep.”

Throughout the night, the little bundle of love and fur hums with delight.  The Boy joins us, after he ensures the house is secure.

When we awake in the morning, we move in unison.  I exercise on the floor.  The Boy watches from above.  He glances at me and chatters at the birds as they fly past the window.  Mitz awaits her massage.  In the meantime, she observes my activity.  She knows when the cycle is complete.

Once done I feed the babies, before I prepare my own meal.  Water dishes are refreshed.  Food replenished.  Litter is cleaned.  The babies and I work together.

There is not a moment that passes when in the presence of the Boy and the Girl  that they are not my priority, and I theirs.  When away from them, I think of them constantly.  The distress they express when they realize I might leave lets me know they worry about me.  I see them even when they are not near.  I am told when I am away they watch expectantly for my return.  

As a friend, a parent, a person who thinks herself humane, I could not leave kitties or a bow-wow without water, a comfortable well-heated or cooled place to, no shelter, and no food for the defenseless loves . . . As I learn of man’s inhumanity to his fellow beings, my heart breaks.  Please someone help me understand why humans are so inhumane.

Survival.  Sources. Are Humans More Fit . . .

The Yellow Brick Road, The Campaign Trail, And Us

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Americans, mired in debt, desperate for adequate Health Care, fearful of foreclosures, and worried about a protracted war, cry out for change.  Compatriots wish for a wizard, one who will work for the common folk, and not solely for self, a Commander-In-Chief who will acknowledge the current crises, and lead us into a Land like Oz.  We want America to be the perfect country.  We wish to be known as benevolent, caring, compassionate super power.  We yearn to say aloud with conviction, “There is no place like home!”  

Throughout the nation, citizens are thankful we have an opportunity to transform this country.  Americans have the right to vote their conscience.  In the land of the free and home of the brave, we can and will advocate for the values that made this country great. Citizens will walk through snow, sleet, ice, and rain to cast a ballot for the man or woman we think right for the homeland.

Democrats and Republicans alike hope to improve this nation and their station.  The difference may be in degrees.  For now, those most desirous of a Progressive revolution are the downtrodden.  Democrats yearn for an event that will take away from the daily grind.  Those on the Left hope for a gust of wind that will place them in the Emerald City where life is Green and clean, and where average people are the priority.  Thus, Democrats participate in the process; they are intimately informed.

Iowa Caucuses, New Hampshire primaries, and the polls.  Do we have a consensus?  Is there a crisis on the campaign front? Might the race be too close to call, or is it all merely a manufactured media myth.  We are told Hillary is ahead, or she was.  Perhaps Edwards has the lead.  Barack Obama is closing in, or was with the help of Oprah, maybe.  Some skeptics say the throngs of fans want to touch a celebrity.  The Obama/Oprah ogling will not necessarily equate to votes.  Bill Clinton can do what no other has.  Certainly, he will boost the New York Senator’s numbers.  However, the charismatic Clinton may not be enough; or perchance he is or has too much, too much power, influence, and baggage.  No one is ever certain what the other Clinton will say or do when he publicly steps onto the stage.  John Edwards might be the come from behind kid.  This man and his family have seen and experienced hardships.  After the pain of his son’s death he, and wife Elizabeth have been on a shared mission.

This synopsis is Democratic politics in America, or is it?  There are whispers of Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson in the halls of Iowa and New Hampshire hotels.  The media mentions these notables may wish to accept another position.   On the hill, the same is said.  Each is considered experienced.  Any of the three would be an ideal Vice President or Secretary of State, or so we are told.  What we do not hear is what Americans would think if they were not told what to believe.

We read the research.  A survey can be slanted to produce the desired results.  Apparently, the polls are designed to deliver the information that the candidates, the campaigns, the columnist think our countrymen must know.  Americans have head the rumors, the rhetoric, and the railed against such surveys.  Intellectually, we understand that studies are skewed.  Yet, we, the people repeat what we are told.  He cannot win; he is too short.  She will polarize the electorate. He is too Black, or is not enough of an Afro-American.  He understands how divided the country is, and he will work to change the system.  He has his place; it is just not in the White House.  He would make an excellent Secretary of State, an Ambassador, or perhaps he serves us best in Congress.

Even the most articulate and educated cannot resist reiterations.  Knowledgeable learned scholars, just as everyday students of the issues succumb to the standards.  Perhaps, since few of us have the opportunity to validate what we trust is likely true, we surrender to the situation as it is reported.  Thankfully, there are moments that allow us perspective.

On the eve of the New Year word spread far and wide.  In electronic communiqués, reality and reason were evident.  New Hampshire voters shared their experience, their distress, and disgust.  Citizens in the land of the free, and home of the brave, are afforded only select choices.  One candidate is dismissed before the electorate can cast a ballot.  Yet, a few spoke out in dissent.  

New Hampshire resident, Helen distressed and distraught wrote to her friends after she received a telephone call.

I just received a political phone call asking if I was going to vote in the primary.  Then she asked if I was voting for a Democrat would it be Hillary, Biden, Obama, Edwards and a couple of others, and I told her she left the best one out – Dennis Kucinich. And she asked, “Is he a Democrat?”  It turned out that she is working for the Clinton campaign.  If she’s representing the Clinton campaign, that’s another reason not to vote for Hillary. The young lady did thank me for the information!

Imagine, within the Clinton Camp an campaigner, a spokesperson for the presumed future President knows nothing of another Presidential hopeful.  A vibrant voice of the people is muffled so succinctly.  The sounds Dennis Kucinich makes are silenced before those that live in the cloudy skies of politics-as-is can hear them.  Fortunately, among the electorate and the friends of Helen there are those who like to label themselves ‘”enlightened” and proud of it.’

A few more-than-typically-well-informed voters care enough to look behind the golden curtain.  Some in Iowa and New Hampshire understand they do not live in the Land of Oz. These compatriots comprehend, even if they themselves are prosperous, others are not.  As good citizens these individual believe to their core they must act in accordance with the Constitution and consider all people are created equal.  Helen cares for the common folk.  See recognizes that Dennis Kucinich lived in dreadful poverty.  He will do more than express false or fragile piety; Kucinich will relate and react to a circumstance that is real for him.  This voter longs for a President who does more than posture and profess.  For this compassionate soul, it is time for true change.  

Like Helen, other people in New Hampshire [and Iowa] do not wish to follow the yellow brick road just because they are told that is the way to the Emerald City.  A few know to trust that promises of fortune, or a solid foundation do not come when, for the most part, the status quo is sustained.  Universal Health Care with Insurers in charge will not cover those who cannot afford the cost at any price.  War will not end if one soldier remains in Iraq to “secure the peace” within a sovereign nation.  

In the Granite State, the constituency can be hard to sway.  A body of voters can challenge the conventions, and they do.  When Aprille received two similar survey calls, she responded with glee, then revulsion.

I have had 2 phone calls just like that one and I did the same thing. The most recent one asked if I was voting for Clinton, Obama, or Edwards. I said….”There are a heck of a lot more candidates running, why aren’t you mentioning them?” She said, “Who are you voting for?” I said…”I’m planning on voting for Kucinich.” She said, “Kucinich?” I said…..”Yes, Kucinich. And if you refuse to include the other candidates, then this is a bogus survey!” As I was hanging up, I heard her say that this survey was paid for by the Hillary campaign! What the bleep!?

Indeed. Might Americans consider what is true.  Contrived, campaign rhetoric, and more importantly push polls [political telemarketing masquerading as a poll], do not give the constituency a choice.  It is all good and well that the people are promised they can take their country back.  However, in truth, as long as the public is told who will win, who is electable, and who is not worth a mere mention, then this election will be just as those we witnessed in 2000 and 2004.  Cast your ballot.  Then, let the courts decide.

America, as long as you vote as the wizards of Wall Street tell you to, if you cast your ballot for the person you believe will win, because that is what the broadcaster say is “spot on,” then this country will not belong to the people on Main Street.  Each time we choose the person defined as a victor, we give up our freedom.  We are but munchkins, ruled by the glorified little man who stands behind the curtain and  pulls the switch.

In fantasylands, citizens may never suffer.  It seems people do not need to settle.  Wizards work wonders.  The people only follow their lead.  In America, if we are all to prosper, life must be  different.  People in pursuit of happiness cannot take jobs just to survive, as they do now.  They must not marry solely for money, food, or shelter.  We can no longer vote for the candidate of “hope and change” while aware of the fact that this person is solidly part of the system that ensures our life is miserable.

In truth, in America, there are no glittery gold pavements, or yellow brick roads, that lead to Emerald Cities.  We, together, the common man, woman, and child, with a leader who fully relates to our plight, must build these communities.  Wizards who can offer us a heart, a brain, or courage do not dwell in the White House or on the campaign trail.  We the people can make magic if we choose to think and act for ourselves.

If life is to be grand, we need to  accept that Presidential hopefuls are humans.  If a leader is to lead well, he or she must be able to relate to what we go through, for they have lived, and continue to live among us.  If a candidate speaks of our carbon footprint, we might ask, what is yours.  When asked of trade agreements, might we muse, Mister or Madame Presidential hopeful, how has such a pact transformed your life.  Talk of deep pockets could prompt a look into the purse that strings an aspirant along.

Americans must be more realistic and less enamored with emeralds that they do not own, if they are to chose someone who will truly represent them.  Just as a small paycheck alone will not secure our future, a political aspirant who speaks for the elite will not help bring us to the bargaining table.  The cash of a spouse who lost his or her job will not bring endless smiles. Nor will our contributions to a campaign that is beholding to corporate influences help cure our ills.

If we wish to live in the Land of Oz, Americans must create it.  We, the people, and a President, who is, as we are, must take our country back.

In our everyday existence, we accept that good looks and charm will not keep us warm at night.  Nor, will the pretty one provide adequate Health Care.  When on the streets, in the office, or at home we acknowledge that a sweet-talker does not have our best interests at heart.  We recognize a colleague who wants only to climb.  A snake-oil salesman smells of no good.  A song and dance does deliver more than a tune.

Common folks flee when they encounter scams during their daily deeds.  Yet, come election season, when Presidential candidates whisper words of all-I-want-to-hear . . . unless we are Helen, Aprille, or perhaps you, and I, citizens will follow the yellow brick road and forget who paints that pavement.

In 2008, and in all the years hence, let us remember that unless and until we recognize the wizard is in each of us, and in a nation united for a just cause, there will be no change.

Words for Wizards, and We, the People . . .

It is The Economy . . .



The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

It was a lovely June morning.  I was watching Cable News Network when Wall Street Correspondent Susan Lisovicz appeared and reiterated her summary of two economic indicators. One report was astounding and not good.  The other optimistic, or not, depending on your point of view or how deeply you probed.  The two were connected in my mind.  Foreclosures were up, way up.  Consumer spending was as well, slightly in contrast to an earlier slump.  Three [3] billion dollars worth of wares are nonchalantly walking out the doors of the nation’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart.  However, this was not mentioned in the morning broadcast.  What does it all mean?

People were purchasing products.  A few bought for their homes.  However men and women, for the most part focused on necessities.  Of course, there are the “super-rich,” the extremely affluent.  These wealthy wonders are unscathed.  They continue to consume with abandon. 

However, for hundreds of thousands, the masses, there is no comfy habitat to fill with goodies.  Home improvements are a construct of the past, their past. Many Americans could not and cannot make necessary repairs to what once was their pleasurable palace, their meager plot of land.  The bank rescinded the homeowner’s claims to “their” property. Under current economic conditions, life for many American is a crisis.

Citizens of the United States, the world’s superpower feel powerless.  Consumer debt is high. Financial stability is faltering.  Personal liability is languishing.  Credit cards charges exceed rational limits.  Our countrymen cannot function as they once did.  Flittering funds about is not practical; today it is not possible for most.  The sub-prime debacle burst the American bubble.  The bricks and mortar began crumbling when first-time homeowners were given opportunities they could not afford.  The home market alone is not affected.  Every aspect of our lives is intertwined with each other.  Our income influences our purchases.  The cost of living is tied to take home pay, benefits, the expense of doing business, the price of goods, gas, and the buying power of the public.  Nothing stands in isolation.

Today we all reap the rewards of our earlier reckless disregard for the dynamics that govern each event we experience.  In the words of Alan Greenspan, a man that does not often speak for me, this is the result “irrational exuberance.”  Today, this is the news in brief.

Foreclosures jump 90% over last year.
Figure pushed up by slowing real estate market, subprime meltdown.
June 12 2007: 5:29 PM EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Home foreclosures in May jumped 90 percent from a year earlier, reflecting a poor spring housing market and foreshadowing even higher levels later in 2007, real estate data firm RealtyTrac said Tuesday.

The May foreclosures – a sum of default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions – totaled 176,137, up 19 percent from April, the firm said in its May 2007 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.

“After a barely perceptible dip in April, foreclosure activity roared back with a vengeance in May,” James Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

“Such strong activity in the midst of the typical spring buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,” said Saccacio. “Certainly not every community nationwide is seeing an increase in foreclosures, but foreclosed properties are becoming more commonplace and adding to the downward pressure on home prices in many areas.”

RealtyTrac said there was a national foreclosure rate of one foreclosure filing for every 656 U.S. households during May.

The second report Lisovicz discussed seemed to affirm the Administrations assertion, the economy is strong. Spending increased in May 2007, well more or less.  If anyone were to read the numbers carefully, they would clearly understand being better than bad is not the best.

Consumer spending rises slightly in May
By Anne D’Innocenzio
Associated Press
Thursday, June 7, 2007

NEW YORK: Americans shopped hesitantly in May, giving retailers some relief from a dismal showing in April but still raising questions about how strong consumer spending will be in the months ahead.

As the nation?s merchants reported results Thursday, the disappointments included Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Macy?s Inc. and teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Costco Wholesale Corp., Kohl?s Corp. and luxury retailers like Saks Inc. beat expectations.

It was clearly a bounceback from April. … It wasn?t a blowout, but the gains were a solid snap back,? said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics LLC, a research company in Swampscott, Mass. Still, Perkins and other analysts said the performance reflected a slowing consumer spending trend.

The ICSC-UBS sales tally of 51 stores rose 2.5 percent in May, down from 4.5 percent a year earlier but a sharp improvement from April’s 1.9 percent drop. The tally is based on same-store sales, which reflect business at stores open at least a year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer?s health.

Its a slowing trend that we have been seeing since February, said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at the ICSC. From February through May, the index averaged a 2.2 percent same-store sales gain, compared to the 4.1 percent average in the same year-ago period.

Well, this data is not the worst.  It is what it is.  America is under siege.  We have built a barrier around ourselves.  In our desire to quench an insatiable thirst for things, we have created a system that allows for a pretense of purchasing power.  We collect goods and serve few.  Citizens of this country or civilians overseas suffer. 

In our desire to have, to hold, and to consume gross quantities of clothing, furniture, computers, compact discs, on, and on, we have made life extremely expensive.  Granted the goods are cheaper, then cheaper still; and while the quality is questionable, that is another discussion.  What matters now is the means for achieving the ends are perhaps, not practical or ethical. 

Companies, catering to, or pandering to our cravings cut services.  Corporate moguls lay off workers, reduce benefits, and out-source manufacturing.  Here and abroad, laborers are not appreciated or treated tenderly.  Human toil, sweat, blood, and tears are not honored.  These characteristics are not valued.

Profits and earnings take precedence. Guaranteed employment with dignity is an antiquated concept.  Production with man in mind in non-existent.  Money is the great motivator.  Dollars are more significant than human life and sustenance.  Sadly, we have few funds to provide nourishment or to purchase the materials that we need.

As I reflected further, I concluded, what is occurring daily, people are out of their homes and buying more makes sense.  There was a discernable relationship between the two reports.  It seems, now that people are no longer strapped with mortgage payments that are beyond their ability to pay, they can afford to go shopping.  However, the average Joe or Jane can only shop in stores that advertise lower prices.

Wal-Mart, arguably, the most serious corporate offender, exploiting an expectant public, is the preferred proprietor for many.  In fact, this company was also in today’s news. I discovered that indeed merchants are seeing more customers in their stores. Stock is “flying off the selves.” Commodities are placed into shopping carts. However, people are not buying; stealing sounds good when you are down and out.

Wal-Mart facing theft costs at $3 billion or more
By Anne D’Innocenzio,
Associated Press Writer
Article Last Updated: 06/13/2007 05:06:11 PM PDT

NEW YORK (AP) _ Shoppers at Wal-Mart stores across America are loading carts with merchandise _ maybe a flat-screen TV, a few DVDs and a six-pack of beer _ and strolling out without paying. Employees also are helping themselves to goods they haven’t paid for.

The world’s largest retailer is saying little about these kinds of thefts, but its recent public disclosures that it is experiencing an increase in so-called shrinkage at its U.S. stores suggests that inventory losses due to shoplifting, employee theft, paperwork errors and supplier fraud could be worsening.

The hit is likely to rise to more than $3 billion this year for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which generated sales of $348.6 billion last year, according to retail consultant Burt Flickinger III.

Flickinger and other analysts say the increase in theft may be tied to Wal-Mart’s highly publicized decision last year to no longer prosecute minor cases of shoplifting in order to focus on organized shoplifting rings. Former employees also say staffing levels, including security personnel, have been reduced, making it easier for theft to occur. And a union-backed group critical of the retailer’s personnel policies contends general worker discontent is playing a role.

Wal-Mart declined to offer any explanations for the rise in losses, but denied it has cut security staff and said employee morale is rising rather than falling.

Yes, life is good in America.  Wal-Mart employees are content. There are plenty of sales associates on the floor.  Customers are comfortable.  They find all that they need in this big box store, and can leave without paying for the goods. 

This makes sense.

By and large, our dynamic and innovative economy has helped Americans live better and more comfortable lives.

In a time when our President proudly proclaims fiscal strength, foreclosures, shopping, and stealing are rampant.  Undeniably, we have a vibrant and inventive system.  Fiscally, our decisions are sound.  We understand how to spend and steal.  I guess life is good when you cannot afford the roof over your head, when shopping is saved for those rare occasions when you can safely pilfer the merchandise.  Yes, it was a beautiful day in June.

Economic News Reports and References . . .

  • President Bush Delivers State of the Economy  Report. Federal Hall. Office of the Press Secretary. January 31, 2007
  • Wal-Mart facing theft costs at $3 billion or more, By Anne D’Innocenzio.  Associated Press.  June 13, 2007
  • Foreclosures jump 90% over last year. Cable News Network. June 12, 2007
  • Spending our way to disaster, The consumer debt bubble in the United States could make the stock bubble seem like nothing. By Justin Lahart. Cable News Network. Money. October 3, 2003: 10:32 AM EDT
  • How much money should you borrow? By Andrew Montlake.  British Broadcasting Corporation. Friday, April 27, 2007
  • The Challenge of Central Banking in a Democratic Society, Federal Reserve Board. December 5, 1996
  • Broken promises  NAFTA cost U.S. jobs and reduced wages, By Robert E. Scott.  Economic Policy Institute.  October 4, 2006
  • Wake Up Wal-Mart: Always Low-Down Lies?
  • Three new policy papers explore and offer solutions to working Americans? diminished prospects, By Nancy Coleman, Karen Conner, and Stephaan Harris. Economic Policy Institute.  February 22, 2007