The GOP and their Personal Responsibility Problem

It’s become increasingly clear since last week’s U.S. Presidential election (though it was pretty clear even before that) that there are a fair number of people who are in crisis. People who are now going off the rails. Wives running over their husbands, people committing suicide, relationships in tatters, and so on—so much of it related to post-election angst.

It sure doesn’t help that the fella who had the not-so-good fortune of losing seems to be the leader in this parade of “just can’t let go of the dream.” Mitt Romney on a conference call to supporters reportedly told them that Obama had a bigger turnout because of the freebies he promised his core constituents. His core constituents of course being the Blacks, Browns, and whoever else—mind you, I just paraphrased but it gets to the heart of what Romney stated. For starters why is Romney still having so-called private discussions? Dude after that 47% incident maybe you need to watch what you say in so-called private discussions. This is 2012; nothing is private.

I am less concerned though with what Romney said and more concerned about Romney’s sense of personal responsibility. Look, Romney is part of a group that believes heavily in personal responsibility and it seems to me that personal responsibility is a two-way street. That means a willingness to acknowledge one’s shortcomings and take responsibility for them. The truth is Romney and his clan had a weaker strategy and more importantly they greatly discounted how much the changing racial and cultural demographics would mean in this election. Funny thing is both on my blog and in columns I have talked extensively about America’s browning and what that will mean to America. Guess Romney and the folks he employed don’t read my work or the work of any of the other folks out there who have discussed these issues. Sorry, Mitt. Let it go.

Closer to home in Maine, in the continuing saga of GOP folks losing their minds, we have outgoing Republican GOP Chair Charlie Webster.  “In some parts of the state, there were dozens of black people who came in to vote,” Charlie Webster said in an interview. “Nobody in town knew them.” When I first saw this report, I was flabbergasted. Egads! Whole dozens of Black folks showed up in towns just to vote and no one knew them. Of course Mr. Webster didn’t name any towns, so the accuracy and veracity of his claims is suspect already, but the implication for those of us who are Black and who make Maine our home is that we don’t belong.

Choosing to live in Maine as a person of color is already an arduous task. For starters, Mainers aren’t always the most overtly warm and friendly bunch and in places like this it takes time to build connections. I have a Black associate who lives in the same town as me and has probably been here almost as long as I have, yet we rarely see each other even in a city of only 16,000. Now one might think surely we should see each other often, after all there aren’t that many Black folks here, but the reality is we are out living out living our lives.

There is also the fact that Webster’s assumptions play into the outdated notion that Blacks aren’t in Maine. Yes, Maine is a pretty homogenous state but Blacks have a deep history here in this state and to imply otherwise continues to show just how outdated and out of touch from reality the GOP has become.

If there were some voting hijinks going on, I hardly think anyone was sitting around and making a plan that included an idea to bus some Black folks into Maine. Maine has 4 electoral votes; sure, every one of those votes counted but not nearly enough to plan for the type of deception that Webster’s words seem to imply.

The bottom line is that the GOP needs to take a little responsibility for their loss and their inability to connect with the current electorate and not the one they dreamed of in their heads. Let go of these dangerous and harmful fantasies, guys.



I really did not want anything to do with the final presidential debate; frankly these debates are starting to make me rage. Of course circumstances put me in a situation where I ended up listening to parts of the last debate and catching the running commentary on twitter.

The debates are simply good theater, the candidates are putting on a show for us and since most Americans are too busy to actually read/research the candidates we look to the debates to tell us all we need to know about the candidates. The funny thing, is that the debates and the entire election season with the campaigning and the billions of dollars being spent to one up the competition, shows us just how not exceptional we are as a nation despite this belief we hold that we are an exceptional nation.

I will take Obama any day over Romney, but that doesn’t mean I am jumping with joy because the truth is presidents for all the power they hold are essentially Cheerleaders in Chief. As this recent piece in the New York Times covers, no one who wants to truly make deep, systemic changes in this country is going to be elected and if they do, they will learn real soon, that we as a nation only like surface change. To create change is to acknowledge publicly that we have problems and when you think America is the “hope of the world” it can be hard to admit that the only thing we are excelling at these days locking up our citizens. Yep, America is the winner in the “Race to the Cell”.

For those of us who work with the most vulnerable among us, there is a growing sense of frustration as we see that poverty in this nation has changed. The face of poverty has changed and it looks more and more like us. Our smartphones and cars may hide those facts and the stiff upper lipped American way of keeping our financial lives private, hides a great deal. Ask any social service provider what they are seeing and they will tell you, that today’s client in need is just as likely to be a college educated person with no easily solvable problems and a solid work history as the stereotypical single mother with no education. It’s just easier to have the appearance of still being financially stable when we who are experiencing the economic downturn personally, still have the accoutrements and trappings from our formerly middle class lives. It also doesn’t hurt that many of us and I include myself since in recent years I have struggled financially are reluctant to share our business and talk about how bad things have gotten for us.

To some degree we have no one to blame but ourselves when we see politicians not discussing the issues that affect the millions who struggle daily to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. After all why would politicians want to discuss those issues when we ourselves can barely admit to family and friends that we have hit hard times? Yet in a nation that is sinking, we need to talk, and talk often on these issues.

Child poverty is a very real issue in this country; I see it every day at my job. Child poverty is the only reason I have a job at the moment. Out of the 35 most economically advantaged nations, America and her exceptional self, ranks number 34 in child poverty. That means you see child poverty too but don’t notice it because we expect child poverty to be a black, brown or tan face in a third world country. However ask any school teacher in America and they will tell you what child poverty looks like because they see it in the classroom. It’s Suzie who comes to school and has a bellyache every morning, because she is not getting enough to eat and her parents are too pride filled with American exceptional-ism to fill out the paperwork that would officially label them needy so that Suzie can actually have a full belly and focus at school. Instead we say Suzie has attention deficit issues, which is easier to acknowledge than the fact that Suzie is going hungry in a nation of plenty.  Ask Suzie how exceptional America is when at a tender young age she knows food is not a given. I see American exceptional-ism every day at my center when the same group of kids is more eager to eat the snack then to play in a fun activity after school. Not too damn exceptional if you ask me.

Our infant mortality rates are horrid for such an exceptional nation and social mobility here is a myth compared to most of Europe, Canada and Australia. Yet half of America is looking at Mitt Romney and his “success” and despite the fact that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have no fucks to give for the little guy, they will vote for these guys because the Horatio Alger myth is deeply ingrained in our psyche. This belief that hard work will turn us into millionaires is the lie we tell ourselves because we can’t handle the truth.

The problem with avoiding the real discussion on how unexceptional America and what our real issues are is that we keep putting a patch on the roof when really what is needed is a new roof. Eventually the patch job will fail and when it does, it is taking the whole damn house with it.



The last thing I should be doing today is writing a blog post since I have oodles of work for the day job and I am trying to wrap up a submission for paying work and these days I need all the paying work I can get. But after watching last night’s debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, I just had to blog. Shit, Mitty is the gift that keeps on giving a like a case of untreated clap.

For starters can I just say that at the end of the day, I feel like almost all politicians are disconnected from the realities of modern life in America. Instead we are being sold this dream that one day good jobs and prosperity will be ours again and frankly, I think that shit is gone with the wind. We are all Scarlett O’Hara looking for tomorrow and well, we will just be waiting. Modern technology and advancement has made many jobs obsolete, it’s really not that hard of a concept to grasp. Most of the growth industries are low paying service jobs that are actually very much needed, someone needs to wipe our asses in the nursing home and it’s the type of gig that can’t be outsourced. Yet we will dance around the fact that these types of jobs need higher wages.

Politicians love to speak to the middle class and I am sure at one point in time that was a great strategy, the problem is the true middle class is almost dead. Most of us have slid down into the working class but in a nation that only likes upward mobility, none of us are addressing the elephant in the room. So, we allow our politicians to talk of this middle class and we still believe the dream that we ourselves are middle class. Funny thing is today’s middle class looks a lot like the working class of decades past. For most of us in the so-called middle class, if we lost our jobs and didn’t replace them right away, within a year or two if we were lucky, we would be taking up resident in the local homeless shelter or living in a cardboard box. Today’s middle class has little in the way of real assets with our homes that are often worth a lot less than they used to be, serving as our only real asset.  Wages are stagnant and the cost of everything is up, most of us play the bill shuffle game which is better than our friends in the real poor class who can’t even play that game; but let’s stop being delusional, we aren’t middle class. In 2012 in America, there are the rich and then there are the rest of us with a few levels of the rest of us. However as long as we can buy that $4.59 pumpkin latte occasionally, still use our credit cards and present as middle class, that’s our story and we are sticking to it.

So it’s no surprise that politicians play along with us since we ourselves aren’t comfortable with truth then again Americans in general don’t like the truth. We like myths and fairy tales, they make us feel better. It’s why being a wedding planner is a great business and from my view damn near recession proof; we will go into debt to have one perfect day because we somehow believe that one perfect day will make for a great life.

On that note, politicians are funny and Mitt Romney is even funnier. I think it’s clear that he and running mate Paul “pump me up” Ryan think that women need to know their place (get yo ass home by 5pm to cook dinner now, ya here) after all Mitt cares about you broads. Mitt cares so much so that when he was governor of Massachusetts he had a binder full of women to find good ones to work in his administration.

I learned last night that if we want to decrease violence in our society that we need more two parent households, again 2 parents in a shared space is magical, bad shit never ever happens when you have two parents in a home. Never mind that half the guys in recent decades, who have snapped and committed mass murder, generally came from 2 parent households. Perhaps there is violence because we are a violent nation, we care less about the least among us instead paying lip service to the least among us but stripping away every useful service that people need to not be violent. Treatment for mental health, real services to lift the poor up, again, all shit that is gone with the wind and while I am talking about Mitt Romney, our friends in blue the Democrats don’t do much for the truly poor either.

Maybe I am growing old and losing my own shit, but I am starting to think that to create real and humane change that creates an environment where we all can thrive is for us, that’s you and me to be an active part of the community. It means more than watching a debate and voting, it’s about being present in our communities, knowing our neighbors, doing business with our neighbors and with millions of people creating change at a micro level maybe just maybe we will see some change at the macro level. Yet to take even that step means we need to put away the fairy tales and stop waiting for others to save us.

This week all of America had a chance to see a side of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which I am pretty sure Mitt wishes he could take back. Thanks to secret videos shared with Mother Jones magazine and the larger world, the largest take away for me is that frankly Mitt Romney lacks empathy. Sadly what was revealed in those tapes of Mitt talking honestly with his supporters is that he has no clue about half of America which for a guy who wants to be a leader of all of America is not a great place to be.

In the days since the release of the tapes, it would be easy to just dump on Romney and frankly Mitty makes it real easy to just take a ginormous shit all over him, however in trying to be a little less snarky I am going to say what Mitt revealed about himself is something many of us are suffering from…empathy is a dying art in the United States.

Sympathy and empathy, to not only intellectually know the difference between the two and also practice both is a skill few of us have. Most of us aren’t even aware that we are not empathetic beings; too much of what we think is empathy is really just sympathy at best.

We can go back to the point in the political climate when the distinction started being made heavily between the red and the blue states and flyover country. Sure those were handy ways to describe the political climate, but we did it at the expense of dehumanizing the inhabitants of each of these areas. Instead that distinction started us all on the slippery slope of where America literally divided herself into two countries and the inhabitants never meet in the middle because we are too busy, only seeing the world through our own lens and passing judgment on the others.

Thanks to technological advancement in the form of social media, what could be a tool for reaching consensus and truly learning about those we other, is merely an even more efficient tool for sticking to our own belief system no matter how flawed because we can create our own echo chamber. As a result the social and political climate is even more fractured and empathy is dying an even quicker death. Hell, empathy is on life support at this point.

We are at the point women can’t even bond as women in the ways that our elders and ancestors did many decades and centuries ago because well, I am right and you are wrong and I can’t hear you.

Sure Mitt is a cocky and arrogant man with no clue but frankly most of us suffer from the same problem. This country needs many things to get back on the right track, and while good paying jobs, solid public schools and universal medicine are at the top of the list perhaps we need to make empathy a priority as well. Most of us can’t do much to change the biggies, but we can make a difference by practicing empathy or at the very least becoming aware of when we aren’t practicing empathy.

As for Mitt, I won’t say he’s lost but maybe it would be best if he lost this election so he can sit back and reflect and maybe learn about this empathy thing as well. He might then understand the role of his own privilege and realize that while we didn’t all start the game on third base as he did, that doesn’t make us moochers.



Mitty, you have a connection problem

Dear Mitty, (May I call you that?)

Whatever would we do without you? Seriously! Already this week alone you have shown us how things might look under a Romney regime (oops, presidency). I mean you wasted no time showing us how you would deal with enemies of America, facts and tact be damned, just start running your mouth…good going! I imagine you learned that approach in all your years of running Bain Capital and hey you were good at that, really good. Shit, everyone knows the same skills that one uses to make bushels of money are probably what one needs to run a country, after all country, company, they are all the same.

Just today, you were very gracious and answered a question I had been wondering about, here on my little slice of the digital world. I wanted to know what exactly is middle class in 2012 and it seems today, you told the whole world that in Romney land, the middle income folks are those having an income between between $200, 000-$250,000 a year or less. Thanks Mitty, I always had a funny feeling I really wasn’t middle class and you definitely confirmed that for me and millions of others. In fact you were asked if $100,000 was middle income and you very clearly told George Stepanopoulos that $100,000 is not middle income.

Now Mitty, you are a rich and powerful guy and you are entitled to live by your own rules, but maybe someone who works for you should pull your coattails and inform you that the median income in the USA, that place where you want to run things is a meager hair over $50,000…a year!  It seems your plan if elected is to reduce taxes for middle income Americans. One small problem is that by your standards there aren’t going to be many folks taking advantage of that benefit since most working stiffs make far less than $200,000.

I understand that in Romney land, $200,000 is probably chump change but just to give you some perspective, remember that time when you made that $10,000 bet? Well there are plenty of people living on like $10,000 a year. No, I am serious. I actually see these people every day in my work, see I provide social services to people in need and in Maine (that state next door to New Hampshire, where you go to relax) has a lot of poor people. For real! You should stop by some day and I would love to show you what I see.

Look, Mitty, all jokes aside you have a connection problem. Most people in America like to think they are middle class and you basically just told em they are poor. Remember, when you said, “you aren’t very concerned about the poor because they have an ample safety net.” Well Mitty, I am here to tell you they don’t…in fact in America we have plenty of people with no net.  By the same token there are a lot of people who don’t care for President Obama, who would be happy to vote for you, but the more you talk, the less likely some of those folks may be to vote for you. After all, you can’t go around popping people’s bubbles and telling them they are poor and therefore you aren’t concerned about them.

Anyway, I have taken up enough of your time, best of luck to you.


Black Girl in Maine

PS: Seriously, you should come and visit me, just so you can see up close what life is like for the poor people and no, 211 can’t help them.

It’s that time…time to talk politics. I don’t get into politics too much in this space but with this being an election season and seeing what I am seeing this year in my work, I am very interested in the outcome of this year’s elections. Truth is I like Obama, even though he really isn’t from Chicago (hey, I am like Mainers, dude you gotta be born there to claim that status) and while he hasn’t done all that I had hoped he would, he is better than the alternative. Speaking of the alternative, ole Mittens announced his running mate, a nice looking wholesome all American cat straight from the heartland…Paul Ryan. Those two together look like something straight out of Central Casting, “Send me two all American white guys with good hair and strong faces.” Sadly the prospect of these two cats in charge of this nation, makes me want to pack my bags and move real fast!

On a side note, Paul Ryan is like 3 years older than me! When the hell did guys running for president or even vice president become only 3 years older than me? Ack!

Anyway Paul came out the gate today with a speech designed to rile folks up, the folks that are concerned about the direction this nation is going, folks who want to “take back their country”. Look, can I tell you something? When I hear language like “take back my country” I start to break out in a cold sweat, as a Black woman, going back in the way-way machine is not my idea of a good time.  Shit, the way-way machine of days long past is not a beautiful place for most of us, frankly the quality of life was questionable for anyone other than heterosexual white men.

Yet some of us look back nostalgically on the old days, and want to go back, never mind you won’t ever go back. See, the good jobs you used to have, don’t exist anymore, some guy in the third world does the job you used to do or else some machine does it and the robber barons have no intention of sharing any of their wealth with you, but they want you thinking that they will.

Anyway, Paul gave us a glimpse of what he thinks in his speech today:

“Janna and I tell Liza, Charlie and Sam that America is a place where, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.

We Americans look at one another’s success with pride, not resentment, because we know, as more Americans work hard, take risks, and succeed, more people will prosper, our communities will benefit, and individual lives will be improved and uplifted.

But America is more than just a place…it’s an idea.  It’s the only country founded on an idea.  Our rights come from nature and God, not government.  We promise equal opportunity, not equal outcomes.

This idea is founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, free enterprise, self-determination and government by consent of the governed.”

Romney and Ryan say they are part of America’s Comeback Team and it seems the Comeback Team believes that hard work and playing by the rules is all you need to succeed….excuse me while I go roll around on the floor. Dude, I know plenty of people who worked hard and played by the rules and all they have to show for it, is shit and an early death if they are lucky. If you guys get elected, I am sure it will be even easier to die early.

Look, the truth is success in this country is about more than hard work, determination and playing by the rules. In most cases who you know is far more valuable than any of your hard work, hello! George W Bush anyone? It’s about connections more and more. Look at the student loan fiasco, while the focus has been on the millennials and their struggles, there is plenty of Gen X’ers who went to college, worked hard and while I am thankful for what I have, hell I will probably die owing that Sallie Mae bitch.

So who knows where this thing is gonna go, but if you think the stories I share about my work and shoeless kids is heartbreaking, I have no doubt in my mind that we all will be seeing shoeless kids if America’s Comeback Team starts running the show, might even be our kids without shoes.

PS: I need my rights to come from the government.



The unemployment rate isn’t going down and President Obama and his merry crew are wondering what to do. Of course Mitt “flip flop” Romney says if he gets elected he will get the unemployment rate down and see to it that Americans can have things like vacations! Look, I like Obama and I don’t care for Mittens, but the truth is no one is going to decrease the unemployment rate because corporations in the quest for efficiency have made the American worker obsolete.

If you think I am kidding, read this piece from the New York Times and think about it. On the surface it might make sense that technology companies being all cutting edge and shit, don’t have mere customer service reps but really the decrease of humans goes beyond technology companies.

Remember when companies first automated their systems back in the quaint dark ages; if the menu didn’t have what you needed, you could always press 0 for an operator. Guess what! You pressed 0 and a real live human came on the line and helped you. Those were the good ole days when your problems could get solved. However some rocket scientist decided do away with the operator, we don’t need no stinking operator…now you get stuck in a loop waiting and hoping that your problem can be solved since no matter how detailed the menu, I always have a problem that needs that human touch.

Just this past week, I had to call that big scary agency that makes Americans shake in their boots better known the Internal Revenue Service. Let me backtrack, I actually went to their website to see if we could work out a plan since according to their site, if you owe a small amount now defined as $50,000 or less you don’t need to jump through any hoops to get a payment plan. By the way, they doubled that figure, used to be if you owed more than $25,000 you had to deal with the really special department made up of super agents, but with the economic collapse I guess too many people owed money so that raised the limits.

Anyhoo, despite going all bankrupt and shit last year, I still owe these fine folks some cash and wanted to make a payment plan. The online system couldn’t help me since my situation is apparently unusual and it didn’t register all my account information. After two attempts online I bit the bullet and called them and waited 45 minutes to talk to a human, that was after calling one day and waiting 20 minutes and just saying screw it. Hellooooo! Big government agency that handles incoming cash, get more humans! Seriously! I can’t even imagine how someone who has a job that isn’t flexible could place a call to these folks. In the past year every time I have called I am on hold anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour before I speak to a human being.

Next up, I had cable woes this week and again, no humans and the automated voice couldn’t register my complaint, thankfully after 15 minutes I was finally connected to humans. I will say that my local cable company that behemoth known as Time Warner Cable while they lack on the customer service side, they rock on the technician side! My tech came out this morning…Sunday morning and fixed all my problems. The problem is in order to get to the technicians I have to deal with customer service and that is where they fail.

Also what’s up with all this outsourcing, I have called large companies in Maine and the people at the other end of the line clearly are not Mainers. What? No Mainers in need of jobs? I think not.

My point is, too many times companies in a quest to make sure they maintain profitability for their shareholders and owners decrease staff, outsource to cheaper areas or automate and when this happens, someone is going to be jobless.

You want to get Americans working again; you need Americans to have access to jobs that pay real living wages and not this service economy shit we are all in. Sure a few of us have good jobs with bennies but most of us are piecing our shit together. Our standards have decreased too, fuck a vacation, we just want to earn enough to pay all our bills, and not have to do the bill shuffle game and maybe even have some dental insurance so we won’t be wearing dentures by 50.

Safety net…oh you mean the safety string?

Mitt Romney’s foot in mouth moment has inspired me to take a few minutes to post, since today being a half day of school for the wee lass and a full day of work for me means this is a long day. Yet when the guy who looks like he is going to be the GOP nominee starts uttering ridiculous shit, well I have to say something.

In case ya missed it, yesterday Mitt Romney basically stated that his focus is on the middle class, not the very rich (for obvious reasons) and not the very poor because the very poor have a safety net. Really? They do? Mittens you are talking an area where I know the deal, see I guess you’d say I have been in the helping poor people business now for 15 years and let me tell you the safety net is not a net. It’s a few strings at this point.

Can we start off with the fact that half of Americans are technically poor or low income, in other words they are making less than $50,000 a year. Now depending on where you live and how you live, 50G’s will keep you fed and housed but as far as building wealth or any of that shit, it’s not happening.  Thing is a lot of those people in that classification are living off way less than 50G’s a year, hell some may barely have any money at all. Someone asked me the other day, don’t all families with kids get tax refunds, I said no…and it’s true, the earned income credit phases out in the upper $40,000’s but thanks to what I am calling the poorification of the US., it means an whole lotta folks do get these credits and subsequent refunds. They aren’t getting tax refunds because they have kids; they are getting them because they are poor or low income. When so many people with kids are getting tax refunds that it’s perceived that they are obtaining them due to the kids but it’s really because they are broke, that says a lot!

In America we don’t talk money, it’s not polite but the reality is more of us are sliding into economic despair and hardship and frankly a lot of formerly middle class folks are learning we have no nets in this country. The only real net program we have is food stamps or SNAP benefits as they are called these days. Yet guys like Newt Gingrich sneer and call President Obama the “food stamp” president as if Obama is standing on street corners passing out food stamp cards. If more people are on food stamps than ever before it’s because people cannot afford the ever increasing cost of food.

The safety net is barely there, in states like mine the governor wants to cut people off the Medicaid program because we can’t afford it. Never mind most of these people are on it because they for starters they meet the income qualifications which last I knew in Maine could be near $40,000 a year. Sure that sounds luxurious but if you have a family of 3-4 on 40G’s a year and your employer doesn’t offer you coverage, how else do you get it?

When people like Mitt Romney and well-meaning but clueless people say there are safety nets they are talking out of their ass. Government assistance to the poor is limited and drying up, again using my current state as an example; heating assistance to low income folks was slashed and in a state that heats with heating oil that is bad news. Average Maine family will go through at least 800 gallons of heating oil in a winter and with prices starting at damn near $3.50 a gallon and up and the  average allotment of assistance coming in at $300 tops that means someone will be cold. Hell, someone could die.

Programs for housing have waiting lists across the country, when I last lived in Chicago; the waiting list to get on Section 8 was closed, even in Maine it can now take upwards of 3 years to get into subsidized housing. Three years is a long time to scramble for affordable housing. Let’s talk food, even with food stamp assistance; it takes creativity and ingenuity to make your benefits last all month. Despite the tales of carts laden with junk food, steaks and lobsters, the reality is not everyone who receives food stamps gets hundreds of dollars for some it may only be $100 a month; it’s based off individual economic circumstances. For many, local food banks, pantries and soup kitchens are the bridge to eating all month. However they too are hurting. I just took a call a few days ago from a local food pantry asking for help with a food drive, they are now seeing over 100 families a day when they are open, the demand is greater than the supply. I am seeing more hungry kids at my center and there is nothing worse than asking for help to keep kids fed and being met with a lackluster response. Local agencies and churches can barely keep up with demand.

So we have the government who in recent years has reduced its programing to the poor, we have local agencies that simply do not have the means to help everyone and we simply have more people in need of help. Now where is that safety net?

To Mitt and anyone else who thinks like him, I say you need to get off high street and come on down to commoner lane and spend some time talking to people who are struggling. You may learn a thing or two.