Monday, July 25, 2011

Bush Contributed Far More To the Deficit

I try to not demonize anyone, but this graph from the Washington Post shows it clear as day: most of our deficit, by a longshot, is the result of Bush's policies, not Obama's. Read it and (we all) weep.

George Bush's tax cuts contributed more to the deficit than ALL of Obama's spending combined. This is sobering. Bush's Medicare druge benefit/giveaway cost more than Obama's Health Care Reform.

Why do we live in a nation where partisanship trumps the simple ability to look at objective data and make an informed decision for the betterment of our nation? I am willing to take my lumps and give till it hurts, as long as I feel we are all in this together.

Until we can all grow up a bit, and realize that we are truly in this together, that what keeps us apart is not as important as what we have in common, we are going to get in worse and worse trouble. And we will leave this nation poorer than we found it.

I believe Tea Partiers are concerned about the deficit. I met many of them at Rand Paul's victory celebration. But I will never understand why their outrage about deficit spending came so late.

They want to leave a better nation for their children and grandchildren. So do I. Why can't we recognize the humanity each of us posses and work together on reasonable solutions to solvable problems? Why indeed.

We should be wary of those who would keep us scared, and keep us at each others' throats. They have a reason for wanting this to happen. As they said way back when, follow the money. It always leads back to the source.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I am standing by President Obama because he stood by me

I have come to realize that one key difference between the more extreme elements of the Republican party and mainstream Democrats is how we view luck, fate and work. Democrats, I believe, endorse hard work, as do people everywhere. In fact we endorse it so much that when Bill Clinton was president the unemployment rate dropped to a historic low of around 4%!

But in addition to endorsing hard work I feel Democrats have more of a sense of "but for the grace of god go I." Homeless people, we understand, are not bad people, are not failures. They may be people with substance abuse problems who need treatment, but we understand that we all could be just a few really bad breaks away from being just like them. There but for the grace of god.

People who are upside down on the mortgages and need help are not stupid, greedy idiots who should be tossed on the street. They are people who bought into the hype of an actively sold myth, perpetuated by the housing industry, and greased by the total deregulation of the mortgage brokerage industry, courtesy of Republicans. They made bad bets, yes, but if we can keep them in their homes and in the process help save a neighborhood too--thereby keeping up everyone's home values and keeping things from sliding into urban decay--well, maybe this isn't so bad.

Republicans, I feel, do not have this sense of grace. If you're homeless, even in today's horrid economy, you probably are lazy, probably deserve it. Does you kid deserve it too? No, but that's your problem buddy, not mine.

If you are about to get foreclosed upon--even if the bank in fact could renegotiate your mortgage to something that would make more sense--well, tough luck man. You should have worked harder. What, job gone? Move to Texas. Or India.

I get it, I will never convince anyone on the extreme right about anything. I know. But I have to say that their feelings about the lazy sucking up government dollars when they could be working, that is just pure bullshit.

I know because I benefited from, and am immensely grateful for, President Obama's much-maligned stimulus.

You see I was laid off in late 2010 through no fault of my own. That's why it's called getting "laid off" and not called getting fired. I earned some severance pay from my job, and then was on the government dole, collecting unemployment as I looked for work. And I looked, and I looked some more. I went on interviews, I called all my friends and contacts, I beat the bushes. And every week I collected my $405 in unemployment. It kept us from the streets. Along the way I took what jobs I could, but it wasn't enough to keep me from going back on unemployment when I had to. I didn't feel bad about this, or like a failure. I worked for years for this money to be there for me when I needed it.

Thanks to President Obama my family could afford healthcare in the form of a greatly reduced fee for COBRA insurance. Thanks to stimulus money it cost $400 per month, instead of its usual cost for a family of three, around $1300. If we had to pay the full price we would again would have been on the streets, or living with one of my parents. Again, thank you President Obama.

My reduced-rate COBRA lasted through July 2010. With a stroke of great luck Randi secured a job with health insurance that started that following August. We never had to be afraid to get sick, thanks to President Obama.

(I used to joke about health insurance: "Hey man, now I'm insured! I'm going to get sick now ALL THE TIME!")

I had a hard time finding a job thanks to, you know, the Republicans destroying our economy. But thanks to President Obama's extension of unemployment insurance we were able to stay in our new apartment too. True he had to cut a deal with the devil, i.e. extending the ridiculously irresponsible Bush Tax Cuts to do it, but he helped save one family at least, us. Thanks President Obama.

These are small things in the grand scheme of it all, but there are millions of families like mine. We worked hard, we saved for rainy days, and then we still got blasted. And we all should take a moment to not only thank President Obama, but defend him as he's being attacked for protecting us.

And then, guess what? Eventually I got lucky enough to find a job a couple of months ago, knock wood! I no longer am collecting unemployment insurance, of course, and am in fact paying my fair share of taxes, happily!

And for all those years while I worked in New York I paid more than my fair share, because I lived in a humanistic Blue State, and the money made in New York pays for all the various and sundry disasters that seem to strike Red States like clockwork. Thank god they are so anti-government, those Red States, or else they would have to actually pay for the services they suck up like vacuums. As they say there is no free lunch. It's just that the rich Blue States--which have a lot of what in them? That's right LIBERALS--pay for the buffet so we can all eat in this nation during times of famine.

Because that's how we roll. We believe that but for the grace of god there goes all of us. And they have the nerve to talk about religion.

Monday, July 18, 2011

One Year In Kentucky

As the moving truck pulled away last July I wondered just what was going to become of me, and how I was going to deal with Kentucky. I had some sort of dark, grim thoughts on my mind, that's for sure. I guess you could say it was black humor, or at least I would like to think it was.

"Next time you see me back East," I told my friend Mike, who had helped me move, "it might just be in a body-bag."

Okay, maybe not the funniest joke. But my world had turned upside down. I moved from a dynamic, vibrant city and neighborhood, filled with friends and family nearby to a big fat question mark. An apartment complex whose pavement was as smooth and undisturbed as glass, on a lazy, hot July day. No one was out, life seemed a good deal emptier than I knew before. How, I wondered, will I ever be able to survive this? Survive moving, in effect, to the suburbs. Survive rebuilding my life, despite myself?

One year later I have some of those answers. The truth is that while I did not physically die as I joked with Mike I did sort of die in other ways. The me that I had clung to is gone. In its place is someone different in many ways. I hope better, but I know different in many important aspects.

After we first moved here Randi and I had a few weeks to get settled in before her academic year began. I was bitter, and frustrated by just about everything. Envious of the perceived success of everyone else. Here I was, 38, unemployed, a failed journalist (I thought), a failed everything (I thought). And not even a particularly great dad for Stella, because I was consumed with anger over ending up in Kentucky.

I tried for us to have good days, Stella and I, and I even succeeded, but I was in a bad period, a dark time. There were many afternoons I simply did not feel up to "parenting" her so actively and let "Sesame Street" do the job for me, with its accursed Elmo. Or some other cartoon, I became pretty familiar with most of them, and can still sing the songs.

I looked for work, without much success, unsure of what I even wanted to do. I wrote a pair of cover stories for highly regarded local publications, but these did not lead to job offers. I had been at Forbes, an editor at the website no less, and I could not get a job anywhere in my new town. It was a letdown, and a big blow to my ego.

I started to see a psychiatrist that I found through Angie's List, because I didn't know anyone to ask. He turned out to be wonderful, and, surprise, not only also a Jew, and one native to Louisville, but an active member of the synagogue we started to gravitate to, Adath Jeshuron. Louisville, I started to understand, was a very small world.

At AJ the cantor, David Lipp, a wonderful man, introduced us to another journalist, named Andrew Adler. Andrew was like me in many ways. From the East Coast, living in Louisville, and now moving to be with his wife and family in New Orleans. But he had one last story he had to write for The Courier-Journal, the local paper. For the section called "Love Story" about, well, love. Randi and I were his subjects. So within two months of moving here we were featured prominently in the local newspaper. The world got smaller.

I wrote about how Louisville and New York were different, tongue in cheek, for The Huffington Post. It went viral in my new city, and all of a sudden a lot of people knew more about me. Again, the world got smaller.

I wrote a story for Louisville magazine, and went on assignment with a wonderful guy named John Nation, a photographer. He took some great pictures for the article, and we became fast friends. John has lived here for decades and seemingly knows EVERYONE. He also has a daughter, Grace, who babysits for us on occasion, and is a lovely person to boot. Again, the world got smaller.

Stella, was now in the Adath Jeshuron preschool. A man named John Gage plays music for the kids. I introduced myself to him at a performance. He has been playing music locally for decades, and, again, knows EVERYONE. Again, the world got smaller.

The article I wrote for Louisville magazine, about local banking, did not turn into a job. But a few months after it ran I emailed the CEO of a bank I had written about for the article to let him know I am available for any work he may need. He gave me a writing test, which I guess I passed. Then I was interviewed by the person who is my current boss. In other words, I got the job. Again, the world got smaller.

Two months after landing here I formed a band, because I needed something to do, and love music. My bandmates are Scott Stinebruner, Tim Caruso and Steve McDonnel. They are not only great musicians, and writers of music, but now three of my best friends in Louisville. Sometimes Tim's amazing wife Savannah babysits for Stella, and graciously agreed to cat sit for us recently. We came back and the cats were in better shape than when we left them. Again the world got smaller.

My new job pays more than I made at The world didn't necessarily get smaller but it definitely got better financially.

I have found that Louisville is a city of open hearts and smiling faces. If you are kind to people, and agreeable you will soon be shocked to find how friendly and interconnected everyone is.

One of my favorite new co-workers is a woman named Carolle. She knows my (still relatively new) friend Marcus who writes for the Courier-Journal. Her husband is an accomplished author and fixture on Louisville's arts scene, and has been for decades. Carolle knows EVERYONE, including Muhammad Ali, The Greatest. Talk about the world getting smaller.

The CEO of my company went to the same pre-school Stella currently goes to. I think you get the picture.

I could go on, but I hope you see where I am headed with this. My life was finished, but them, somehow, it began to mysteriously fill the cup again. But this time I was different. I am no longer a journalist but in PR and marketing. And I am glad for the change, initially to my surprise. I read "How To Win Friends And Influence People" and I find I am fact am winning friends, although I think it's a stretch to say I am influencing people. But it's made me 100%more open to the good in people and in life.

Today I am happier than I have been in a long time, and though I still see my doctor, and my therapist too, I, knock wood, feel a corner has turned. I was burned out in Brooklyn, in some ways already dead. Writing about brokers, and investing, and business and money, money, money. It was all fine, but I hated the competitive pace. I hated not feeling like the people that owned my old firm didn't know me, because they didn't. I hated feeling like I was always trying and failing to climb the totem pole to earn respect.

Today the people I work with are just nice to me, and everyone wants me to succeed. It's a great feeling.

Forgive me if I ramble.

I died, in a way, and was reborn. I didn't expect it, but now am open to what's to come. And what is that thing to come? Only my life.