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Oppositionalism: The Greatest Threat To The People’s Welfare

4:35 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

locking horns

locking horns by useless no more

Yesterday, I went to the kindergarten graduation ceremony at the local public elementary school. One of the teachers, who happens to be a member of my church and a card-carrying Republican, spoke briefly of a new after-school program that she has helped initiate. It is designed for children who are in danger of not having the basic skills necessary to begin first grade – a type of program that is quite common around the nation, but that had been sorely lacking in this rural Virginia county.

I was choking back tears as this teacher called about two dozen children to the stage – most of them from desperately poor African American families – and presented them with hugs and certificates. Knowing that she also invests a considerable amount of her personal time making home visits and tutoring these students, it dawned on me what a significant difference she makes in the lives of young children who have an incredible number of obstacles thrown between themselves and academic success.

This remarkably dedicated kindergarten teacher reminds us of how incomplete and misleading the typical left vs. right dichotomy can be. It would be easy to consider her Republican voting record and her conservative views on issues such as abortion, gay rights, and gun control, and to conclude she has little in common with progressives such as myself. From this, it would be easy to assume that, like some Republicans, she takes a “blame the poor” attitude toward poverty issues and has little compassion for those who are suffering in this economic crisis. Because of such stereotyping, it would be easy to ignore the fact that she is dedicating her life to helping poor children in a woefully underfunded public school system.

Those of us who get pigeonholed into easy categories of left/right and Democrat/Republican often fail to see the common bonds we share with our so-called political enemies. We cannot allow differences on a handful of “hot-button” issues to be exploited by those with political agendas and ambitions. If people of good will and legitimate concern for the common welfare continue to beat up one another based on these outdated categories, more sinister forces that have no concern for the people or no particular stake in partisan politics will further consolidate their power.
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Who Will Speak For The Poor?

6:12 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

Judging by last night’s speeches, nobody. Almost two hours of blather about deficits, energy, deficits, technology, deficits, education, deficits, competing in the global marketplace, deficits, why America is so great, and oh, did I mention deficits? In all of that, there was not a single mention of the millions of Americans who are suffering greatly in the face of persistent unemployment and poverty.

Obama did give a few nods to the need for job creation, but nowhere in his speech did he directly address the grinding economic reality that continues to plague the land. He talked as if the crisis were over. 

Nowhere did he recognize the collective stress, anxiety, and trauma that dominates the psyche of our fractured populace as millions of the formerly middle class are dealing with a year or two of being jobless. Nowhere did he propose programs to help those who have lost their homes, their insurance, their livelihoods, and are at risk for joining the permanently dependent underclass. Nowhere did he offer support or encouragement for the thousands of charities that are dealing with crushing needs and dwindling donations.

Had someone just awoken from a ten-year coma and watched this speech, they would have marveled that the Republicans had elected a black president, and they would have gained zero understanding of the desperate situation of our economy. It would have seemed as if the “State of the Union” was pretty darn good, and that we have a president who is wisely looking to secure the long-term health of the nation in a changing world.

But in reality, the “State of the Union” sucks (if by “Union“ you mean average Americans). Before this crisis hit, the gap between rich and poor was already growing, and the middle class was already shrinking. Now, we are quickly becoming a majority of serfs ruled by the wealthy elite. By ignoring the plight of the suffering masses, and focusing exclusively on “business-oriented” solutions, Obama has made it clear which side of the economic divide he serves

Which is the same side that Paul Ryan and Michelle Bachmann serve. It was an enlightening experience to watch the “official” and “unofficial” Republican responses, and to realize that all three speeches could have been written by the same person.

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Watercooler – He Has Sent The Rich Away Empty

11:56 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

As I was preparing for Sunday school, I came across this passage from the Gospel of Luke. It’s from Mary’s song of praise (The Magnificat) for the coming birth of the Christ child, and it’s quite relevant to recent political events:

His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation

He has shown strength with his arm

He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly

He has filled the hungry with good things

He has sent the rich away empty

(Luke 1:50-53)

What’s on your mind tonight?

Watercooler – Arizona Moving Toward Wealth-Based Organ Transplant Process

6:32 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

"...Unless you live in Arizona, that is." (graphic: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital via Flickr)

If you need a certain type of organ transplant and live in Arizona, you’d better have a big bank account:

Effective at the beginning of October, Arizona stopped financing certain transplant operations under the state’s version of Medicaid. Many doctors say the decision amounts to a death sentence for some low-income patients, who have little chance of survival without transplants and lack the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to pay for them…

… Organ transplants are already the subject of a web of regulations, which do not guarantee that everyone in need of a life-saving organ will receive one. But Arizona’s transplant specialists are alarmed that patients who were in line to receive transplants one day were, after the state’s budget cuts to its Medicaid program, ruled ineligible the next — unless they raised the money themselves.

This policy lies in fundamental opposition to everything that progressives believe – and this is just the beginning of what we’ll see in the coming years. The time to stand up and fight is now.

What’s on your mind tonight?

Watercooler – Signs Of The Hard Times

7:16 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

Houston Food Bank (photo: Michael (mx5tx) via Flickr)

Yesterday, as I ate lunch with my son’s kindergarten class, I noticed that a janitor was standing by the trash can. When the kids went to dump their plates, he would collect any food that had not been touched (a roll, a piece of pizza, etc.) and put it in a garbage bag he was holding. He had collected quite a bit of food, enough to feed at least a dozen people

I can’t say for certain why he was doing this, but my hunch is that he was taking it home for his family or his neighbors. My county is approaching 20% unemployment, and the local food pantry/emergency assistance program is constantly getting tapped out.

Collecing leftovers at the elementary school to feed hungry folks in the community is definitely a “sign of the hard times.”

What signs have you seen in your community? What’s on your mind tonight?

Campaign 2012 – Why We Need To Focus On Saving The Middle Class

7:27 am in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

 

photo: Eva the Weaver via Flickr

(In my hypothetical campaign for the presidency, this would be an early stump speech.)

Good afternoon. Thank you all for coming out. I’ll get right to the point. There are three basic principles behind this campaign. First, we are for systemic change to the process of government. Second, we are for preserving the environment and fostering a sustainable way of living. And third, we are for saving the middle class. I’ll get to the first two principles in good time, but today, I’d like to focus on the third – on saving the middle class.

A friend of mine has challenged me on this third principle. He asks why I’m focusing on the middle class instead of the lower class. He wants to start with the folks at the bottom of the ladder – those who are hungry and scrounging for food today; those who are sick and being deprived of medical care today; and those who are cold and homeless because they couldn’t pay their electric bill or their mortgage yesterday.

In any of the previous elections in our lifetime, it would have been very appropriate to run a campaign on those concerns of the lower class. It would have been a refreshing breath of fresh air to hear a candidate speak mainly about the needs of the poor – of the struggling folks who are barely getting by, who live each week on the brink of disaster -  instead of playing to the hopes and desires of the middle class who are already comfortable and secure.

But this year, in this campaign, things are different. The middle class is not as comfortable or as secure as it once was – not even close. I don’t have to share the statistics with you. You know how tough times are. Already, millions of Americans - through no fault of their own – have lost their jobs, their homes, their life’s savings, and their faith in the American dream. And millions more live in constant fear of joining those ranks.

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Watercooler – October Added Jobs, But Unemployment Remains Steady

7:18 pm in Economy, Executive Branch, Government by Jim Moss

photo: solid state via Flickr

ADP, a privately run employment report, just released it’s findings for October:

Private-sector employment increased by 43,000 from September to October on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest ADP report released today. The estimated change of employment from August to September was revised up from the previously reported decline of 39,000 to a smaller decline of 2,000. Since employment began rising in February, the monthly gain has averaged 34,000 with a range of -2,000 to +65,000 during the period.

October’s figure is within this recent range and is consistent with the deceleration of economic growth that occurred in the spring. Employment gains of this magnitude are not sufficient to lower the unemployment rate. Given modest GDP growth in the second and thirds quarters, and the usual lag of employment behind GDP, it would not be surprising to see several more months of lethargic employment gains, even if the economic recovery gathers momentum.

The longer this sloth-like recovery continues, the more people will be dealing with long-term unemployment and will slip over that cliff from middle class into poverty. This isn’t going to be pretty for anyone, but perhaps it will generate enough populist momentum to break the two-party/corporate stranglehold on public policy.

What’s on your mind tonight?

(Un)Common Ground: Two Worlds, Not Quite So Far Apart

8:14 am in Democratic Party, Elections, Liberalism, Politics, Progressivism by Jim Moss

photo: Matt Stratton via Flickr

(This is the second half of the introduction to a book I’m writing on how progressives can make new friends in unexpected places in this shifting political reality. Here’s the first half of the introduction.)

In many ways, I lead a double life. By day, I seem quite conservative. I am unabashedly Christian and speak fervently about the decline of American values and the need for spiritual renewal. My theology is quite orthodox, and I have little tolerance for those in the church who want to water down our doctrines or soften the demanding message of the Gospel in order to accommodate the changing culture.

In addition, I fit the stereotypical image of what a “nice, young conservative man” looks like. I am a Southerner. I am a preacher’s kid. I went to a traditionally conservative Presbyterian college. And I became a preacher myself and have served in mostly conservative congregations.

I am heterosexually married with two kids, and my wife is a full-time stay-at-home mother. I am cleanly shaven and have short hair. I have no piercings or tattoos. I dress conservatively – usually an Oxford shirt and khakis. I own a mini-van. And I am a member of the PTA.

Of course, none of these traits are the exclusive property of the right side of the political spectrum. But taken as a whole, they do suggest someone who votes Republican – which is why many people have been quite surprised when they discover my true political feelings.

Because by night, I am a progressive political blogger. I write passionately about poverty, the plight of the middle class, the environment, health care, and the scourge of corporatism, Those who are familiar with my work would have no doubt that I am at home in the progressive movement. On The Seminal and now at MyFDL, I have found my kindred spirits and the people with whom I choose to make a stand.

But here’s the part that will surprise a lot of people: I feel the same way about the conservatives with whom I worship and practice ministry. These two very different spheres in which I move are not at all in contradiction.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Watercooler – Washington Is Silent On The Alarming New Poverty Numbers

7:38 pm in Economy, Government by Jim Moss

On Thursday, it was announced that 1 in 7 Americans now live in poverty – a disturbing fact which received little attention on Capitol Hill:

The reluctance of political leaders on both sides of the aisle to directly confront the fact that growing numbers of Americans are slipping into poverty reflects a stubborn reality about the poor: They are not much of a political constituency.

"We talk to many people on Capitol Hill who do believe poverty is important and is a blight on our nation," said Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of national organizations that advocates for the poor. "But we are also up against a general recognition that poor people don’t vote in great numbers. And they certainly aren’t going to be making campaign contributions. That definitely puts them behind many other people and interests when decisions are being made around here."

Matthew 25:40 – "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did also for me." I guess Jesus wouldn’t have been much of a politician.

What’s on your mind tonight?

Watercooler – 1 in 7 Americans Now Officially Poor

7:00 pm in Uncategorized by Jim Moss

More good news on the economic front:

The percentage of Americans struggling below the poverty line in 2009 was the highest it has been in 15 years, the Census Bureau reported Thursday, and interviews with poverty experts and aid groups said the increase appeared to be continuing this year.

With the country in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, four million additional Americans found themselves in poverty in 2009, with the total reaching 44 million, or one in seven residents. Millions more were getting by only because of expanded unemployment and other assistance.

What’s on your mind tonight?