By Marion Algier – Ask Marion
America is a country divided against herself and unless there are some serious changes and healing on the horizon it seems almost certain that a debate over the viability of the state of our union or a split into two is almost inevitable. The past four years, under the reins of President Obama, have taken us further down the path of division; exactly opposite of what people hoped and voted for or would have predicted in 2008. America now finds herself more racially divided than at any time since the 1950’s and early 1960’s. Socially there is an ever growing chasm between people of faith and secularists, between the rich and the poor, with an ever declining middle class, as well as a growing resentment against seniors, which will only become worse if our youth remains jobless and if ObamaCare goes into affect.
With all the talk about unity, social consciousness and so-called brotherly love by the left, in reality that is exactly what is missing and what will be the undoing of America as a country, a society and all the way down to individual families themselves if Americans do not change. This issue was perhaps why we needed a Romney-Ryan win even more than their leadership and ‘know how’ to fix our economy and to create jobs. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s personal lives and beliefs embody exactly what America is missing and what is needed to turn America around. Yet it seems that too many Americans have already bought into the Nanny State mentality, where government takes care of them and everyone else, rather than individuals striving to take care of themselves, work their way to the top and help those around them who need a hand up being the goal and the norm.
We hear a lot about America’s safety net for people in need, an equal playing field for all and that a big part of our financial problems as a nation is because of all the entitlement programs that have been over-burdened by the poor economy over the past 4 to 5-years. And on the flip side we hear the counter argument that charity must begin at home, that help for those in need should come from family, friends, and local community donations to rescue centers and churches, and that the Federal government’s creation of a nanny state must be reversed.
Right now we are straddling a fence where our safety net is full of holes and in many instances slanted as to who qualifies yet we are over-taxed to provide services and have no control or input, plus the difference in services provided and who receives them from group to group and from state to state is immense. Yet those who say they are against an entitlement society where the government provides the safety net, are generally not willing to give the time, money or continuing assistance needed and definitely not for the duration generally required when their friends, family, neighbors or people in their community require a hand up, in the way our Founding Fathers did.
Americans are great in the face of a major crisis to send money, supplies and even physically volunteer when there is a natural disaster or an attack like 9/11 or when there is publicity and entertainment involved like benefit concerts or TV shows where a chosen few get a new home, but they quickly lose interest and generally do not follow through after the initial event slips out of the news or if it requires more than a fast, easy and one time effort. They are also generally not nearly as forthcoming when it is a single person or family in their circle of family, friends, neighbors or even church who needs assistance and their patience and length of involvement is just as fleeting in those incidents if they do get involved.
Having followed 6 middle class couples and individuals, including several entrepreneurs, through the process of the undoing of their lives and their attempts to survive and regroup, including our own personal experience of supporting one of these individuals while trying to get them help through the system, I would say that at this point both sides are partly right on this issue and both sides are deeply lacking in their results and commitment verses their rhetoric. The answer lies in fixing and curtailing federal government involvement, curtailing state government involvement but having them oversee the public safety net, and providing as much help locally and privately as well as individuals taking the words, “I am my brother’s keeper” to heart. But the only way that any of this change can happen is if America returns to her roots and her faith and we actually do what our forefather’s did.
1. Tom and Mary moved from California to Iowa and then to Texas over the past 21-months after starting a new business a little less than 3-years ago, and it has been a constant roller coaster ever since. A year ago at this time they found themselves at a decision point of whether to call it quits or re-organize the business and start over (far too long of a story to cover here in detail). They chose the latter and after a very bleak 2011 holiday season and a 24/7 commitment on their part plus a lot of volunteers and ‘on the come’ work from others, the company was on an upward swing from late January 2012 until mid-summer. Then in August all but one of their 2012 projects, plus a big international shipment of their products, went on hold virtually at the same time until after the 2012 elections (which in reality meant early 2013), as everyone held their collective breaths awaiting the election outcome and what it would mean to their bottom-line. Politics aside, unfortunately for the sake of the business the election didn’t go their way and the last project (a small one) on the books for 2012 went on hold as well the week after the election until February as the reality of tax hikes and the implementation of ObamaCare hit home to small business owners. Then came the icing on the cake… They also had their largest accounts receivable client file bankruptcy and within the same week had to move without warning on October 1st because of a change of ownership and pet rules where they were living and therewith the momentum of the downward rolling snowball kept growing… They had previously invested all their own savings an retirements into the company.
But overnight with no personal network around them, they found themselves without funds, borrowing against their old car (the good one had been sold for former needs of the business), no business on the books until January (luckily there was a January project that had funding in place and they have a few new things in the works), and having to move.
They immediately began looking for jobs (but age and over-qualification in the eyes of the interviewers worked against them plus the potential of 50K students looking for seasonal work from UT); they tried to make new sales and initiate new projects, but these are generally large sales and large projects so just like the projects that had gone on hold, people generally wanted to wait; and they tried tapping into their personal social circle as well as private and governmental options for temporary assistance, with full intention of paying people back as well as paying any help forward; things they did after the 2011 downturn and had done throughout their lives.
They didn’t qualify for unemployment or welfare and after 3 months still have no answer on food stamps. They slept in their car with their dogs 12-nights scattered throughout October. Neither the government programs and only one church would give them rental assistance (a total of $150); most no longer do it due to lack of funds. (And for anyone who lives at an extended stay type facility, there is no rental assistance help available) And so far all but one of the food pantries they have tried are virtually worthless. The gas to get to them is more than the cost of the loaf of bread, bag of black beans and bag of noodles plus a couple of odd items you get. And if you are living in your car you often can’t cook or eat what they give you, except the bread. The little family they do have are presently also going through tough times themselves or have always depended on Tom and Mary for help. They already had a storage unit in California filled with their personal memory items and the few things they didn’t sell before leaving the state and now had to pay for a second one. Luckily thanks to one very generous couple, a high school friend and his wife, 5 smaller monetary donations and help from a couple people in kind, for which they will be eternally grateful and indebted, and the sale of everything they had including their wedding rings that was saleable, they have gotten off the street, eaten enough to survive and feed their dogs and had the ability to look for jobs 24/7 without sitting at a 24-hour McDonalds with free Internet. And the one generous offer from a cousin and his wife to let them come live with them (across the country if they can leave the business and get themselves and their things there), gives them hope… just knowing that they have a place to go! And after a couple months of applications there are finally jobs in the future, but not soon enough to cover this month’s bills.
2. In California, a very progressive state, we watched the system fail a former business associate of my husbands. She had no family, few friends, an estate that was left to her, and she was suffering from schizophrenia that had started progressing at a much accelerated rate from when we first knew her.
She saw people who weren’t there, heard voices, and imagined people were in her house and stealing from her as well as sabotaging almost every activity of her life. She imagined they were throwing and spraying things on her, her pets, her car, and her surroundings, even on airplanes or at temporary job sites. But California had passed laws that would not allow adult social services or any other governmental agency to pick someone up for their own good; have them tested, and help them get the treatment they needed to become a functioning contributing part of society unless they or immediate family agreed or they were a danger to themselves or someone else, even at the encouragement and with calls and documentation from extended family, friends, law enforcement or attorneys.
We watched this woman squander her inheritance by hiring detectives, body guards, house cleaners and buying endless in-house camera systems and recorders and buying and selling real estate to move away from her imagined attackers until she lost her business contacts, her home in the down turn of the California real estate market, her car and ultimately drained her bank account when all she needed was medication.
We personally supported this gal with funds, food, and endless attempts to find a way to get her help for years. It cost the city, county and state a fortune in emergency calls and the cost for personnel and resources to support those calls, until she finally ended up on the street with her dogs. Another failure of the unbendable myopic system because we have lost our common sense, allowed nonsensical laws to prevail and have allowed government to mismanage the programs, care and funds needed to help the people involved.
3. Two other couples we have met have gone from independent business owners who had homes, were looking at retirement and are very much part of the fabric of their cities who have also fallen on difficult times because of the down turn of their businesses, that they have fed for several years now with their savings and pensions, because of the economy and the outcome of the election to barely surviving yet they also qualify for no public assistance. Both have had to rent out all the extra rooms in their homes to survive and have both had to lay off people, putting them onto the unemployment lines as well.
4. The last two, both minorities in the target groups of Uncle Sam’s Plantation, worked for the state and were part of government unions. One received a widow’s pension as well. Both received food stamps within a week or two. The second is now getting disability. And both qualify for several federal programs in addition to the food stamps.
We cannot afford the large ill-managed system that we have now that really only favors people who will become part of Uncle Sam’s Plantation and can be used by the Democrat party or special interests as guaranteed voters or those who know how to game the system that we all pay for but really helps no one in the long run. But we ‘as a people’ no longer give of ourselves, support our churches and synagogues nor want to put ourselves out to help someone in need at a level that allows us to replace the entitlement system.
When our Founding Fathers and ancestors settled this new land called America and people moved to a new town, needed help for whatever reason or were newly married and starting out the entire community came to help build them a house, raise a barn, donate part of their provisions or give a gift of something needed no matter what the reason nor the sacrifice on the givers end. Even when I grew up, in a small city near Los Angeles in California, people from the neighborhood would help new neighbors unload their moving truck, a welcome wagon representative would stop by with goodies and tips and the ladies on street would each bring by something homemade for lunch or dinner to help the lady of house from having to cook as she got settled. Neighbors and church members would bring food when someone passed away and the men in the community would help widows or families where the man of the house was disabled with repairs and chores. And until recently churches, community centers and private charities would help people in need find shelter, get some decent food, help them find jobs through their connections and help them pay their bills until they were back on their feet.
Instead from what I have observed, most people these days don’t even acknowledge that someone they know is experiencing difficult times and even if they are asked for help directly they often ignore the the request. If they do help it is often a one time minimal effort and then they stop communicating with those friends, family, neighbors, etc. And later they act as if it never happened, they never heard about it or cut off their relationship so they don’t have to look at themselves and that they didn’t help.
When I was growing up family, friends, associates and even strangers would step in if they heard anyone in the community was in need. If they had a lot they would contribute funds or help accordingly, often anonymously. If they had less, they would send at least a little. Even people who were barely making it would split what they had and even take people in. And they would continue to help as long as needed as long as the people they were helping were either indigent or trying to help themselves.
We are hearing the right assert themselves against Big Government, the Nanny State, and government spending… which are all good things, but in order to get rid of or reduce those entities, the private sector including churches, private charities, and each or us must get involved and be willing to help those in need, even when it demands sacrifice. You cannot have it both ways. It is something that former Fox host and now owner and creator of TheBlaze, Glenn Beck, has been preaching for years.
Things are going to get a lot worse instead of better. Elections have consequences and one of the consequences of Election 2012 is Obamanomics which will create a lot more people who are going to need help.
The problem is that the government mismanages the money and programs, uses its programs and help to selectively create a dependent class or their help is disorganized and is difficult to access on the local level. Plus the system makes you a beggar before it helps you and even if you do qualify it is barely enough to survive on, let alone enough help for people to move forward. And from my observation both race as well as knowing how to work the system are also factors. But on the other hand, even though we know our friends, family and others are in need and could be out on the street, most of us are only willing to help if it does not make us uncomfortable, is easy and requires no real sacrifice on our part.
It is time that we decide what type of America we want to live in, what that type of America is worth to us and then get involved to save or create what we want. Otherwise whether we consciously decide or do nothing and it is decided for us, Big Brother will take care of us to a point and with strings attached… but only as much as it helps him and not enough to allow most people to escape the government’s clutches. The choice between independence and a nanny state, which includes a public or private safety net system is at the heart of America’s survival and if we choose Big Brother entitlements the America we grew up in and that our Founding Fathers left us will cease to exist.
“If you ever have to make the choice between making your car payment or paying your rent, make the car payment. You can sleep in your car, you can’t drive your apartment or home.” …Pops and the Commissioner on Blue Bloods