Friday, September 28, 2007

Bad Bitch

I love the work I do even if I do not always love my job. If it were all enjoyable and rewarding they wouldn’t have to pay you for doing it. As Director of Housing Services for a non-profit housing counseling agency, I have had a role in helping 685 people become homeowners. Most of these people were low income. The majority was African-American. Many were moving out of public housing. Many of them were single mothers. Most of them were the first in their family to ever achieve homeownership. Many of them had only worked sporadically until the advent of Welfare Reform.

These clients of mine attend a year-long program called Homebuyers Club. A Homebuyers Club is more than just a series of meetings teaching the fundamentals of purchasing a home. A meeting of a Homebuyers Club often resembles a revival meeting or AA meeting. Clients share their setbacks, their challenges, and celebrate their successes. Clients learn improved money-management skills and they learn how to repair and maintain their credit. They learn how to avoid being victims of unscrupulous people who prey on the financially less sophisticated. They open checking accounts and stop using check-cashing services. They learn that to get ahead you must learn delayed gratification. They budget and save money. Some of them work with us for three or four years before they are ready to purchase a home. They have to not only change their circumstances but also change their way of thinking and change their values.

These clients, when they purchase a home, do not get the exploding ARMs and sub prime loans one hears so much about, but get FHA fixed-rate loans. Most of them take advantage of down payment assistance programs such as the American Dream Down payment Assistance (ADDI) program or other assistance programs. The thing that contributes more to their success than the down payment assistance is that we help them believe that the American Dream is possible.

For most low-income people, homeownership is the key to building wealth and giving their children a better life than they had. Homeownership creates a sense of self-esteem in a person. It makes them more invested in their community. Studies show that in a comparison of renters to homeowners, holding the variable of income fixed, that children of homeowners have fewer pre-marital pregnancies, commit less crime and do better in school.

Unfortunately, not everyone who expresses an interest in our program makes it to home ownership. Many inquire but never follow through. Other try but drop out. Even those who drop out however may benefit. They may learn how to repair and protect their credit rating. They may benefit by leaning why a “whole life” insurance policy is not as good as a “term” policy. They may learn that an income tax “rapid refund” is a rip-off. So, even those who do not become homeowners may benefit from being in the program. Also, one never knows what seed may be planted that germinates years later. But you know that many other who you encounter don’t “get it”. They cannot be convinced they there is any reason to try to improve their life.

Last Saturday, I went to an event at a public housing project where we offered the clients a service we call a “Front Door”. This is a one-on-one counseling session where we review the client’s income, debt, and credit and if they chose to pursue homeownership we help them develop an “action plan”. One of my clients on Saturday was a young black girl in her early-twenties. She was the mother of three children, by three different fathers and was not receiving child support. Two of the fathers were incarcerated and one she did not where he was. She worked at a job that barely paid above minimum wage. She had never graduated from high school and did not have a GED.

She was wearing a low-cut V-neck dress. I can’t help myself; when a woman is showing cleavage, I look. Tattooed across her chest were the words “Bad Bitch”. I could not see the first “B” or the “h” but could read the words.

I wondered what would cause a young girl to so brand herself? Is it the total sense of helplessness? Is it the hip-hop culture? Was it done in a drug-induced state? Does it make her more attractive to men in her social circle? Did she ever have anyone in her life that said to her, “that is not a good idea”?

I had to tell her that her chance of achieving homeownership was very slim in her current financial circumstances. Her income was too low to qualify for even the most generous assistance programs. I suggested she join a companion program to our Homebuyers Club, called “Financial Fitness” where she could learn some improved money-management skills. I told her we offer the GED classes at our center and that if she would get her GED, she could find a better paying job and make more money, and then pursue homeownership. She said she would think about it.

There are plenty or resources to help a young lady like this. Our programs are not operating at capacity. We never have to turn anyone away. There are programs that help people get their GED, there are job-training programs, there are programs that teach grooming and “Dress of Success”. There is no shortage of programs offering support. But how do you reach people and make them believe that there is a better way to live?

Welfare reform has been a great success in ending the welfare enslavement of many Black Americans, but we need to do more. We should not be content that millions of Americans are trapped in despair and poverty. No young girl should grow up and assume that it is the norm to be an unwed mother who drops out of school by age sixteen. No young man should have to assume he will be in prison or dead by the time he is twenty.

How can they be made to believe that there can be a better way to live? I don’t know. I wish I did. But we should not give up. We need bold programs; not programs that make people dependent on a government handout, but programs that break the cycle of poverty. Perhaps we should pay a girl $5000 if she graduates from high school and is not an unwed mother. Maybe we should pay a young boy $5000 if he can graduate from high school and has never been arrested or gotten a girl pregnant. In the short run, it may cost more to help people break the bonds of poverty than to subsidize their poverty, but I think we should do it.

I will probably never hear from Bad Bitch.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Alan Greenspan Calls for $3 per Gallon Gas Tax

Watching Alan Greenspan on BookTV Cspan2 Sunday night I felt like I was fortunate to be sitting in the presents of a wise sage. He was being interviewed to discuss his new book, The Age of Turbulence. The next day I rushed out and purchased the book at Borders Books for 40% off of the $35 retail price. (Free plug for Borders) I look forward to reading it.
In the past, as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Mr. Greenspan had to be reserved. If Greenspan sneezed the world economy could catch a cold. Now, out of office Mr. Greenspan is speaking his mind on a variety of subjects and it is obvious that he has thought long and hard on the things about which he has opinions. With the mind of an economist, his utterances are not emotive but reasoned rational arguments.
In the hour, or maybe longer, interview he explained why he was a “libertarian-Republican” and not a “right-wing Republican”. He told of his relationship with Ayn Rand and the impact she had had on his intellectual development. He explained why he viewed China as a partner and not a rival and why Chinese investment in the American economy was a positive development. He discussed the dangers of growing income inequality and how this gap could lead to a dangerous populism. He spoke of the evolving roll of intellectual property and how it was replacing manufacturing as a creator of wealth. He explained how world trade was making the world a more integrated and a less dangerous place. He explained why Bill Clinton was one of our best “Republican” Presidents.
One of the things he discussed that most impressed me was global warming and how to combat it. He said that it was his conclusion that the scientific evidence is irrefutable that global warming is real and a very serious threat and that we must combat it. He said that there is no way to combat global warming without reducing the output of CO2 emissions. To do so we must get the cost of CO2 up in order to get the use of C02 down. The worse single source of CO2 emissions is the private automobile. To significantly reduce CO2 emission, he thinks, we need a gas tax of about $3 per gallon phased in overtime with the revenue rebated to the public as tax cuts. He says this could be achieved without wrecking the economy.
While there are many promising technologies that could flourish, he said, if only gas cost more, the most promising technology is battery-powered vehicles. Hybrids may be an interim promising step but the solution is battery-powered vehicles where the consumer recharges his car overnight. The reason why this is so promising is that it does not require a new distribution system, as would be the case with some other proposed alternatives. Also, we would all be charging our car overnight when demand for electricity is low, thus maximizing the use of the infrastructure already in place.
I know that many of the people who have long warned of the dangers of global warming are not going to welcome economic solutions to the global warming crisis. They are not going to be content until we change human nature and people are no longer “greedy”. Expressing love for Mother Nature however and persuading people to change their evil ways is not going to solve the problem. Without the application of economic principles, the problem of global warming will not be solved. Unfortunately, at the present time no politician can get elected to office while advocating a $3 per gallon gas hike, but with people of the stature of Alan Greenspan calling for rational solutions, policy makers may develop the nerve to provide leadership and offer serious solutions. I just hope that the cowardliness of politicians and the ideologically driven obstructionism of environmentalist do not cause us to wait until we are beyond the point of no return.
I am glad that Alan Greenspan is saying the things that need to be said.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Moveon Democrats Show Their Contempt for the Military

General David Petraeus, the U. S. Forces Commander in Iraq, is a man who has served his country faithfully for 35 years with honor and distinction. He is a 1974 graduate of West Point, graduating in the top 5% of his class. He was the General George C. Marshall Award winner as the top graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Class of 1983. He earned a PH. D in International Relations from Princeton University in 1987.

His awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Defense Superior Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal for valor, the State Department Superior Honor Award, and the NATO Meritorious Service Medal. In 2005, U.S. News and World Report recognized General Petraeus as one of America’s 25 Best Leaders. In January 2007 he was confirmed unanimously by the U. S. Senate to become the U. S. forces commander in Iraq.

Last Thursday, the anti-war far-left organization called him a traitor. The full-page ad sold to Moveon by the New York Times at a discounted rate, cleverly playing on the Generals name, and in large print asked, “General Petraeus or “General Betray Us”? They accused him of lying in his progress report to Congress.

Calling General Petraeus, the man who is leading our troops in time of war, a traitor is disgusting and beyond contempt. As one who was serving in Vietnam at a time when anti-war protestors carried Viet Cong flags and Jane Fonda visited our enemy and posed for pictures on an anti-aircraft gun, I can imagine how the troops in the field must feel when their Commander is called a traitor and politician vote to endorce that view.

Following the ad, the Senate voted 72 to 25 to condemn for the attack. Some Democrats joined Republicans in this vote including high-profile liberals such as Diane Feingold, Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, and John Kerry. Other Democrats, many of whom had voted to confirm him as Commander back in January, refused to condemn the attack on Petraeus. The Democratic Senators who are seeking their party’s nomination for President, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, were among those siding with Moveon. Barak Omaba was present but choose not to vote and Senator Joseph Biden was absent, campaigning in Iowa.

Ads like this are polarizing and I guess that is the point. It motivates the base of the party and forces people to choose sides. The Presidential candidates can no longer waffle. They must decide if they will serve as puppets of Moveon and show their contempt for America's military leadership or if they will vote for decency and condemn those calling our top General in Iraq a traitor.

I don’t know how this will play out in the polls, but Democrats, while pleasing the fringe, may loose support in the middle. Also, nastiness like this may push moderate Republican who question the wisdom of our policy in Iraq, back into the Republican fold. Not all Democrats and Independents share the contempt for our military shown by the Moveon Democrats. As one who has been critical of the Bush Administrations decision to go to war and the conduct of the war, and who also has developed other dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, my loyalty to the Republican Party has been slipping. Events like this remind me why I am still a Republican.

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