Friday, November 2, 2012

Are You Better Off? Scott Weighs In

It's a question that Romney supporters are fond of throwing around smugly, one of those supposedly undeniable truth statements that are supposed to stop you in your tracks because there is no way to answer it without admitting that the person asking is correct in their assumptions. In this case, the assumption is that Obama hasn't made anything better in America. It's a weird about-face, as it is usually the incumbent asking the question as way of underlining how good they've been at their job.

Since we are only days away from the 2012 Presidential Elections, I'm feeling rather motivated to actually answer this question. The last four years haven't been especially easy for anybody not in the top 10% (you know, the people who own the country, it seems), but I think it's fair to answer the question on an individual bases, considering that the question is meant to motivate my individual vote.

Anyway, comparing November 2008 with November 2012, am I better off now than I was four years ago?

Four years ago, I was:

*Laid off after fifteen years with the same company, because the sudden economic downturn crippled the entire industry in a matter of months.

*Subsequently laid up with the Swine Flu for a month (Happy Holidays!) with no medical insurance.

*Suddenly stuck with not being able to afford classes after having started attending college night classes again the previous year.

*Living in a house suddenly worth $30,000 less than it was two years ago.

Today, I am:

*Working for a new small business owner that isn't squeamish about hiring new employees during an Obama presidency, despite all Right Wing claims to the contrary.

*Still in possession of my house, thanks in part to extended federal unemployment benefits that helped me to stay afloat for the year and a half I was unemployed, and helped me stay financially intact enough so that I was prepared to survive the year and a half I was forced to work for an exploitative business owner who denied his employees federally-protected overtime pay and made Labor Day a non-payed holiday.

*One class away from obtaining my degree, thanks to Obama's improvements to the Pell Grant system, including allowing Unemployment benefits to be disregarded when calculating Pell Grant eligibility.

*Living in a state that was ravaged by a hurricane (ironically sharing the name of the employer that laid me off four years ago), and seeing my state survive and recover from the disaster with the help of immediately received support from FEMA, the organization that Romney has gleefully contemplated defunding in past interviews.

Is everything 100% better or back to normal four years later? Of course not. I'm still without medical insurance, and the medical insurance I will be eligible for soon will undoubtedly cost me more than it did when I last had it. Also, I love my new job, but I'm still not close to restoring my financial situation to what it once was, and real estate values still haven't recovered enough for my mortgage lose its underwater status.

But am I better off than I was four years ago, unemployed at the beginning of the worst recession since the Great Depression, licked to the curb by my career occupation at a time in which College Graduates and Six-Figure-Salary professionals were already begging for entry-level positions, sick with an as-of-yet undiagnosed pig disease as I watched Obama being sworn into office?

You bet your ass I am.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

The REAL Reason Behind Romney's Fake Donation Drive

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, most political junkies are no doubt being bombarded with the videos of Romney putting on his Emergency Donation Drive while ignoring repeated questions shouted out to him regarding his feelings towards FEMA. Having called FEMA both "immoral" and "an abomination" (or is that 'Obamination'?), reporters were obviously eager to see what he had to say about the relief organization as it was currently attending to needy hurricane victims up and down the East Coast. If you missed it, here it is again. Try not to giggle too much.

Other info regarding this shameful exploitation photo-op has been so numerous, it's hard to pick a favorite. Whether it's the campaign purchasing supplies and displaying them as donated goods in case donation turnout was low, people only being allowed to greet Romney if they had donations to give him while shaking his hand (to the point of allowing some to hand over already donated items as they met him), only directing donated good to swing states on the East Coast, or the fact that both The Red Cross and FEMA both specifically state on their sites that donated goods are far less effective to them than cash donations, there's definitely something for everybody to harp on.

What's missing, however, is what this photo-op was meant to do in the first place. Of course, the fact that it failed so miserably means that we will never hear the message that was meant to follow the performance of this ill-conceived Saturday Afternoon Special. However, sometimes the intention is just as important as the result, so it's a little disheartening that most of the news outlets are dropping the ball on this one.

Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whenever "Small Government" Republicans rally against the evils of government spending to help society's needy, they always double-back and cover their Christian Idealism tracks with the claim that charity is of course a good thing, but that this Charity should come from the churches and community, not inefficient government programs. Romney's display of community charity flopped while those inefficient government programs were saving lives and assisting in recovering from the wreckage, so they'll never get a chance to use this as the selling point that they hoped it would be, but this photo-op was not meant as a promotional for Team Romney's Disaster Relief as much as it was supposed to be a clear demonstration of how mobilized community charity can fill the shoes of organizations like FEMA.

The lesson learned from this sad demonstration is just as damaging as the teenage birth rates from states with abstinence-only sex education. Community and religious organized charity (which the Republicans always assume are one in the same, by the way) are welcomes and needed, but lack the ability to match even a fraction of the ability our government has to mobilize rescue and relief crews during a national emergency, weather related or otherwise. This, and it scares me that I need to actually spell this out for some people, is what our government is supposed to do; protect its citizens from threats both foreign and domestic. The Right was so successful in selling the Terrorism threat as the new Red Scare that they've managed to convince a lot of people that the domestic part of that protection only refers to crime and terrorism, and not the other disasters that can befall this countries people.

It is under this confusion of what the government is meant to protect us from that the Republicans try to convince us that FEMA, welfare, healthcare, firefighters, law enforcement, and a host of other programs meant to protect American citizens from tragedy and despair are not actually the job of the government, but of the citizens themselves. Or more specifically, the corporations that will eagerly privatize these organizations the moment Republicans open the door for them. because when you're faced with a disaster and need rescuing or support, what you really want is a for-profit organization deciding whether or not saving you is beneficial to their fiscal budget. Which, coincidentally, is what Republicans like Romney have been gleefully demanding that the government do; check the pocketbook, and don't respond until you're sure that rescue and relief will come in under budget. Fools rush in, after all.

So yes, Romney's little Donation Drive was a laughing stock. But it's the policies behind the photo-op that we should be laughing at, and loudly enough so everybody hears us.
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