Uprising with the People

Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I caught this clip on the local news. What do we have here? A Black woman expressing discontent with President Obama. Now having had a chance to make the rounds to some of my favorite bloggers this morning like Field Negro and a few others, there are some that want to down play what this woman had to say. To recap in case you aren’t up for link clicking, this gal expressed her unhappiness that her financial situation has actually worsened since Obama took office. Now anyone who thought that Obama becoming POTUS was going to magically make America a happy and prosperous place for all clearly had been smoking herbals. No one man can be all things to all people. Clearly Obama has faced some challenges that his predecessors never had to face namely the rise of nut jobs aka Palin, Beck, etc. There is also the fact that a certain segment of the American population will never see this man as a legitimate president. Hell, a video could be shown clearly showing Obama being born and well folks will still believe what they want to believe.

However I thought what this woman said was brave and for many millions of American a true statement. Is she literally eating hot dogs and beans? My guess is no but more like the comfortable standard of life she thought would be rightfully hers by a certain age is no longer a sure thing. Instead of financial stability my guess is there is financial instability. In fact just before my local news showed that clip, there was a piece about how food pantry use was up in some of Maine’s most well heeled towns. I am talking places with multi million dollar homes and views of the ocean and the inhabitants of such spaces needing to go to a food pantry for food. Don’t know about you but that shit doesn’t compute, of course thanks to my job I am regularly in touch with members of the formerly middle class who need some help.

For many when Obama was elected back in 2008 we felt the spirit of change, problem is we had no idea what change would look like. While we are now being told the recession officially ended last year, the fact remains that for millions there are no jobs and what jobs exist do not pay a living wage. If the economy is stagnant it’s because people who are financially fearful tend to hang on to their money. Marketers and retailers are starting to realize that frugality is not a passing thing, it’s the new reality yet for an economy driven by consumption it’s a bad thing.

As far as Obama while he has had many barriers the fact remains he and his economic team did not take the economy seriously enough and frankly I think that is going to bite the Democrats in the ass come November. No, our President and leaders are not meant to be our friends yet in America we have a silly habit of wanting the powers to be to relate to us, to make us feel good. If you think I am lying think about the last POTUS, dude wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box but he made folks (well some folks, the ones who vote apparently) feel good. So to reward those good feelings he in return got 8 years to fuck up our nation. Spent all the money on silly wars but damn it he made us feel good.

Obama on the other hand does not make us feel good, shit we look at him and some of us get mad. Some of us support him on the basis of his Blackness (I’m talking about my fellow Black folks) but lately even Blackness is not enough to keep us from grumbling. If you can’t make the people feel good and or deliver some change that results in a few shekels in folk’s pockets so Friday dinners can be had, well you have a problem.

As I see the Tea Party growing in this country despite the clear level of stupidity of most of its members that tells me we as a nation are getting ready for some change. Yet for some reason this change feels a lot less positive than the change we witnessed in November 2008.

Today’s post is brought to you by Kell’s Think Tank. Kell answered the call from the series I was trying to do about the economic downturn…enjoy and if anyone else wants to submit a guest post, email me at blackgirlinmaine@gmail.com

After 10 years in the telecommunications industry, I decided it was high time to shift gears and pursue the career in communications I had always dreamed of. When I shared this dream with colleagues and friends, many of them were aghast and incredulous. “What if you never find your dream job?”, some asked. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a fulfilling career, so why do you want to risk it?”, a few folks wondered out loud. “Aren’t you afraid that you may fail?” an old acquaintance asked. Not to be outdone, a dear friend of mine finally asked what everyone else was probably thinking: “Are you crazy?”

 WordNet, defines crazy as brainsick: affected with madness or insanity; “a man who had gone mad”. I knew that my decision to leave the telcom industry, apply to graduate school, and pursue a communications job where I can interact with the media, draft and edit press releases, memos, and articles, build brand awareness, and incorporate social media in traditional environments was a bold and courageous move. But, was I cuckoo? Hardly.

 Sure, I decided to pursue my career goals while America lay in the grasp of soaring unemployment, a mortgage meltdown, and a near financial collapse. But, I don’t think I have gone mad, I think I have tapped into a well of courage, tenacity, and mettle that had been dormant for longer than I care to remember. For me, deciding to pursue a career in communications was a no-brainer. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from Temple University and spent a semester abroad in London, England as a marketing and communications intern at a Top 40 radio station.

I spent the better part of my career in telecom developing and maintaining strategic relationships with customers, writing and editing training materials and procedural documents, and prepared and presented PowerPoint presentations to senior leadership. I chaired monthly brainstorming meetings and managed a $15M annual budget. Telecommunications touches nearly everyone’s lives so what better place to hone my communications skills than a telephone/cell phone/broadband company that consistently ranks in the top 20 of the annual Forbes’ Fortune 500 ranking of America’s largest corporations?

So, armed with a toolbox of transferable communications skills and a wealth of experience, I bid adieu to my telecom tenure and said hello to the next phase of my career. I began my first semester in the Master of Arts in Communication program at The Johns Hopkins University last fall and never looked back. Since then, I have become a blogger, a researcher, and an author of literature reviews on media issues. I have sharpened my critical thinking skills, learned about a variety of research methods, and how to evaluate the work of others.

 As a Johns Hopkins student, I landed an amazing Public Relations internship at an award-winning national newspaper. I drafted and edited press releases and pitched stories to reporters. I supported an amazing team of publicists in developing and implementing special projects and had the opportunity to learn about both internal and external communications being executed in a deadline-driven environment.

 So, while I continue my search for my dream communications job, I continue to do what I have always done quite well: multitask. I enrolled in a Public Relations Writing course where I have weekly writing assignments which will make a great portfolio. I network on LinkedIn and keep my Facebook and Twitter pages up to date because as the saying goes, “Be ready so you don’t have to get ready or people will think you are crazy!”

Cutting back is hard work

Like a lot of Americans this economic downturn has gotten real personal, in the past month between client cut backs we are operating with over $2000 less than we did just a couple of months ago. Thankfully we still have income but when you start losing a couple thousand dollars, it means the only way to make the basic bills is to really start cutting back.

For me this is beyond surface cuts, I already got rid of newspaper and magazine subscriptions and premium cable a while ago. No, this month meant looking at things like the grocery bill which has always been a tad high. The older I have gotten and the more refined my palate has grown, so has my grocery bill. I only eat farm fed beef, which a pound of ground beef goes for $8, my milk of choice comes from a local farm that sells quarts of milk for $2 a quart plus a $1 for the bottle deposit (thankfully that is refundable)  which with kids means we easily go through $10-12 a week in milk alone.

Now with times so tight, there are certain things I don’t want to give up mainly my local beef and milk and local produce when in season but everything else is negotiable. So my challenge is to reduce the grocery bill to $400 down from the normal $500-550 in winter months (mind you this time of year, elder boy is at his dad’s so that bill is only for 2 adults and a 3 year old).

So yesterday I went shopping and spent a whopping $187 for groceries for 2 weeks with a few bucks left over for milk and produce, can I just say that cutting back is hard work. In order to keep the bill down, rather than one stop shopping at the local chain store, I went to several stores to catch the deals. Now back when I was a single Mama I used to shop like this so its not new to me but admittedly after 13 years of not being single, its an adjustment.

However the biggest challenge is going to be living with the $150 from now until the 20th that I have allotted for miscellaneous spending. I would like to say I am doing a no spend challenge but really this is a modified version where its the don’t spend so much challenge. To the super frugal person reading this they may be wondering how is this cutting back, believe me this is cutting back in a large way. I am now writing down everything I spend and let me tell you its not the big shit that gets me its the little shit. Just Sunday I spent $41 on bullshit….play dough for the kid,a few items at the store. Truth is money has always gotten away from me.

Now the plan is to spend as little of that money as possible and come the end of the month, dump it in my savings account.  Eventually I do want to have no spend days but I know myself well enough to know if I go from what I used to spend weekly to no spend, it would be like starting a diet, starving myself for a few weeks and then having a binge session.

Yet, I gotta say living on less is hard work, though at the same time I recognize that even in the midst of my own financial storm, I am blessed to still have something for extras, when so many are struggling to just keep the lights on and food on the table it almost feels wrong to say I only have $150 for miscellaneous. Though I should add some of what that must cover is things like my dry cleaning (have a few meetings this month with funders for work, must look decent while begging for my cause), new shoes for the little one (going through a growth spurt) and of course my weekly pack of butts (yeah, I know….better to quit).

Anyway I will keep you posted in two weeks and let you know how well I do on this first go around with less money.

By the way, so glad to see that Tom Daschle has withdrew his name, I mean really that was not a small tax issue at all. If only we could get these damn companies that are getting gubment funds (aka, our money) to realize that when you get a government handout, it pretty much means you can’t have the extras in your budget….just ask folks living off government entitlement programs. We need to scrutinize these banks like we do aid recipients…if some single Mama in middle America can’t own 2 cars to qualify for cash assistance then a bank or other entity getting a handout shouldn’t be giving out bonuses or having lavish retreats. Come on man, where’s the common sense?

No money, no cry…

So yesterday, a whole lotta folks went to work in the US only to learn that they were about to join the ranks of all those other folks who in the past year have lost their jobs. Yep,  the good ole American economy shed what, 70,000 gigs in one day and we know more cuts are coming. If you still have a piece of job with a 401K plan, your plan is worth less than it used to be and if you are unlucky, you might work at one of the many companies that is cutting the employer match. On the bright side, you still have a job.

With news like this becoming the norm, why is it any wonder that the consumer confidence level keeps dropping….really? One does not need a Ph.D in economics to know the economy is hitting everyone and now is the time to hold onto whatever piece of change you have. I suspect this summer folks will be opting to take stay-cations rather than vacations…swap homes with friends, camping at the local state park or my personal favorite, no vacation. Seriously, the spousal unit and I have not taken a vacation in years and barring a miracle we won’t be taking one this year.  

Last week, I had to do the food pick-up for my job, since we are small non-profit the local food pantry gives us food for our program. Anyway it was my first time at the food pantry, and I gotta tell you, some of the folks there surprised the shit out of me. Nice middle class looking folks shopping for eats at the pantry, that’s when I knew this shit was getting real, when I saw Volvos parked out front and saw folks with bags getting in them.

No ya’ll we are in a financial crisis so thick that I really don’t know how we are going to save ourselves. Next month, I have to deal with having less money myself as one of the hubby’s clients has reduced their work with him. It seems I won’t need any willpower to forgo that drink from Starbucks since right now having done the budget, I simply won’t be able to afford one more than once a week if I am lucky.

No man, we are all crying the blues but I just want to know where is my bailout?