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The Last Full Measure of Devotion

This is re-blogged from my other site, “Just Visiting.”

MzSusanB's Just Visiting

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There are a couple of things you need to know about me: I am not a political animal and I do not watch television.

I watch streaming, via Netflix or Amazon, but I do not watch broadcast television or cable TV. I’m usually a season or more behind in even knowing what’s out there.

Currently, I’m watching Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” which is copyright 1990.

On November 19th, 2013  — just next month — it will have been 150 years since the national cemetery at Gettysburg was dedicated. 150 years since Abraham Lincoln gave us a two-minute address that continues to be relevant today.

In July, I visited Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois, which is on grounds managed by the National Park Service. It’s strange visiting a place like that, knowing what would happen in the Lincolns’ future — that he would be elected President, that one of their sons would die…

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Nickels & Dimes

In today’s news cycle, the big story (well, there are a couple of them swirling around) is the Republican idea for the replacement of the ACA (Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare”).

I haven’t read the bill yet, to be honest; I’m reading a book called Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. This book is about people who work low-wage jobs and how difficult it is to get out of them.

When I think about my desire to serve my neighbors as a representative in Congress, I’m scared to death: I’d be a fool not to be. But I’ve worked my share of low-income jobs, and I know, I know, we’re not being heard on Capitol Hill.

My first job was as a cashier in an A&P grocery store. I’ve worked in bookstores, clothing stores, and a PetsMart store as a pet trainer. I’ve worked in offices as a temp, and I’ve worked in offices as a full time paid worker. I’ve lived in my friend’s basement, I’ve kept my car going $10 at the pump at a time.

I’ve worked with injuries and through illness, because I couldn’t afford to take time off. An unexpected visit to an urgent care facility could take an entire day’s wages.

Currently I work in a low-income, HUD -subsidized apartment community. Some of my tenants are elderly, and live on about $850 per month. Others are on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) which is about $234 per month for one child. Some people are not employable — perhaps they’re chronic alcoholics, or disabled but not yet been awarded Social Security Disability.

Some of my tenants have jobs.

If you’re a single mother and working at the local White Castle, this is how it breaks down:

$8.00 per hour x 30 hours per week (so that you’re under the threshold for benefits) = $240/ week wages x 52 weeks/year =$12,480 gross annual income.

HUD mandates we calculate rent on estimated annual gross income (yep, before taxes) — but if you have a child, we deduct $480 and calculate your rent on your adjusted gross income. So:

$12,480 – $480 = $12,000 adjusted gross income. Also, HUD mandates that 30% of your adjusted gross income goes to rent, so $12,000 x 30% = $3600/12 = $300 per month for rent.

Remember, you’re making $240 a week gross. If you think ahead, and you’re paid weekly, you can put $75 out of each check aside towards your rent, but you still have your other bills, like transportation and possibly childcare.

How do you build yourself a better life with this? It’s not impossible, but it’s damned hard.

There is a very real and very unfair burden on the lower and middle class of America.

We’re expected to pay for everything.

I want to change that. I want the balance scales to sit more evenly. I want my friends to have more take home money in their paychecks, and I want that $8 an hour White Castle worker to have a better shot at being a middle class earner.

I want to teach my  fellow Americans in Congress that the Middle Class of America isn’t a steer you can gut and drain — we are the backbone of this country, and in order to keep the backbone strong, you have to keep the core strong.

I’ve been told that I’m not ready for this because that I don’t have enough connections, that I’m not activist enough, that I don’t know the “right” people. Maybe these things are true, but what I do have is heart. I’m willing to give my heart to my neighbors and do this job for them, and it will be my job, my only job. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a nurse, I’m not a minister; I don’t have another career to fall back on.

So when you start hearing ads for candidates, think about that — what else do they do?

 

 

 

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Energize Me

Saturday was a busy day: back-to-back meetings of “Tools of Democracy, Action, and Protest” hosted by Suzanne Jackson of the Midland Township Democrats, followed by the March General Meeting of the Citizens for a Democratic Society. Overall, these meetings are energizing and great networking opportunities. They bring together all levels of knowledge, expertise, enthusiasm, and skill.

They’re amazing places to brainstorm.

One of the folks from the CDS suggested that it’s not a good idea to go after the Democratic incumbent, that he’s the most liberal we have.

Being perceived as liberal isn’t in and of itself everything.

Going against an incumbent Congressman is a gargantuan attempt, I’ll admit, but the things I want to do for the St. Louis area can’t be done at the City Council or County Council level. Bills to lower the tax rate for the middle class and raise them on corporate earnings have to originate in the House of Representatives. Bills to streamline Veterans’ benefits have to originate in the House. Bills to provide more accessibility to mental health care have to originate in the House. Bills to provide job training and parole revision have to start in the House.

We can’t settle for “how it’s always been.”

How it’s always been has put us where we are now.

 

 

 

Democratic National Committee, Democrats, politics, Uncategorized

Where To?

“Susan’s strength and integrity are essential parts of her being — currently working at a low-income, Section 8 subsidized apartment community, she connects with her residents by having an ‘open door’ policy: whatever they share with her, stays with her, and she will work to help them within the means allowed to her. She is compassionate, passionate, and understanding. She listens. She has friends and supporters already — in the LGBTQ community, the Union communities, law enforcement, low income — her appeal is broad. She doesn’t talk down to people – she’s able to take complex ideas and simplify them for better understanding. She’s approachable.”

That was the biography that was submitted on my behalf to Brand New Congress, a grassroots organization recruiting people to run for Congress.

I can’t sugar-coat things: we’re a mess, but alienating each other is no longer the way to go. The Democratic Party will continue to be progressive, but for some it won’t be as progressive as fast as they would want, and, by that same token, others people want more moderately paced change.

You can’t please everyone all the time.

To renew the Democratic Party, I think we should first try to define what our values are — are “our” values that much different from “their” values, after all?

People are still poor. Jobs are still underpaid. Education is still needed. Training is still necessary. Can we trust business to “do the right thing”? Is it enough to leave it to each of us to donate what money we can spare to help those who have less?

The other night, I was “interviewed” by several ladies in a Senior Center, and, while their questions were all over the board, I had to take the time to really wonder if running for the 1st Congressional District of Missouri is something I want to undertake. After a bout with a cold, laryngitis, and  major/minor crisis of faith, I can honestly say, “Yes, I do.”

There is no other candidate like me.

Other candidates may have more education, the incumbent may have more connections, but no one has spent time like I have getting to know people in different social strata: Low-income, elderly, disabled. Furry. Kinky. Union. Non-union. Salaried. Hourly. Vegetarians. Barbeque aficionados.

I love getting to know people, and I want to know how I can help you  reach your American dream. I want you to contact me and tell me your concerns — what do you see that needs fixing? Perhaps that’s the crux here — the political elite that is currently in Washington has forgotten that they’re there to serve the people — all of the people, the minority as well as the majority; that their raison d’etre is to make life better for us, not harder…

Let me know what you think —

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats, politics, Uncategorized

Show Me the Money

The Chicago Tribune published an article about the estimated cost of protecting the President and his various family members. http://preview.tinyurl.com/hvkkt2w 

It is estimated that protecting Mrs. Trump costs New York City $500,000 per day. Half a million.

Now, as a you might know, I grew up in New York City, in Queens, and went to high school in Manhattan. The Atrium at Trump Tower opened in 1983, and I remember my friends and I hanging out there, drinking coffee and people watching amid the pink marble. The tower’s neighbors include Rockefeller Center, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and the fabled Tiffany & Co. jewelry store.

I’m sure that the Secret Service and NYPD are feeling the stress of trying to protect a tower from other rooftops. And Fifth Avenue traffic, insane at the best of times, now has to be more tightly controlled and routed. I haven’t heard yet what kind of protests are occurring, but let’s add the cost of crowd control. If the Secret Service has to rent in the Tower, that could cost up to $1.5 million a year (which, of course, will go into the President’s coffers).

Mr. Trump, who has spent the last two weeks at his estate/club in Florida (and is on his way to a third consecutive weekend there, utilizing Air Force, of course), is racking up the bills as well.

The boys are traveling abroad, opening properties in Dubai (yes, one of the countries, whose immigrants were not banned from travel into the United States), the Dominican Republic, and Vancouver. Protection hotel bills for the boys’ Uruguay trip topped $100,000.

All of this, of course, is on our dime — yours and mine — via our taxes. Is this the best use of our taxes. I thought Republicans were the party of fiscal conservatism.

Should any of this money be funneling back into the President’s own pockets?

What’s interesting to me is the quiet from Capitol Hill. Since it’s a Republican President, and a Republican-controlled Congress, there’s no call for diversification from businesses, etc.

I suspect that the President’s days are numbered; that Congress is biding its time until they finish slashing and burning the programs they feel are entitling and wasteful, and fast-track whatever regressive bills require the President’s signature. Once his liabilities outweigh his usefulness, they will quickly impeach and convict him — I figure around March or April 2018, just before the mid-term elections. My guess is by then, if not before, Congressional Republicans will suddenly become aware of the President’s detrimental behavior and it will be a center-ring circus to showcase their collective horror and mea culpa to restore the nation’s dignity.

Uncategorized

Integrity: The Lifeblood of Democracy

U.S. Senator from Missouri Roy Blunt wrote the other day, “Senate Democrats continue to set new records with the time it takes to confirm the president’s well-qualified cabinet nominees. We need to get the government in place, and it’s time for them to quit standing in the way.”

And I replied, “Roy. That was a naughty, naughty falsehood and you know it. The Education Secretary was horrifically unqualified for her position except that her family had oodles of money. Shame on you.”

President Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court justice was never given the courtesy of a hearing for the year the late Justice Scalia lay in his grave.

I do not understand what Capitol Hill uses for integrity.

Lying seems as easy as breathing, when viewed from this distance. Lying, falsehood, “alternate facts.”

Where is honor? Where is integrity?

Why is party loyalty put above loyalty to country?

I want to run for elected office.

I want to represent us — the people who work hard and are taxed harder. We are the lifeblood of this nation, and we are not being heard. We should not have to live paycheck to paycheck. We should not struggle to pay for housing and childcare. We should not have to fear anyone’s interference with who we love and spend time with.

It’s 2017. No matter how hard someone tries to legislate it, we can’t go back in time; we can only move forward with it and make it better for those following us.

Democrats, politics, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk

The other day, when I realized I really, really do want to run for the US House of Representatives, an old schoolmate asked me how popular am I?

I don’t know.

I’ve never been the person who got invited to the “cool” parties. I wasn’t in the “cool” cliques. I didn’t matter to me then. It doesn’t matter to me now.

What does matter to me is that this election cycle, like no other in my lifetime, overwhelmed my feelings —  I’ve felt frustrated, I’ve felt frightened, I’ve felt powerless. Worst of all, I’ve felt hopeless and helpless. I know I’m not the only one who’s felt this way — regardless whom you voted for.

I don’t understand feeling hopeless and helpless, even though I have felt these emotions, and my way of dealing with these particular feelings is action. I have to do something.

I readily admit I’m a novice at politics, but I’m a quick study. I’ve been working with low-income people for the last few years (and frankly, most of us are dangerously close to meeting the area median income). I work for an hourly wage, I’m taxed, and I live paycheck-to-paycheck.

I have a car note. A couple of credit cards. A personal loan. I’ve been married. I’ve been divorced. I like ice cream and road trips.

I’m a lot like you.

The American middle-class is the lifeblood of this country, and yet it has been deliberately and methodically, exsanguinated. My goal is to stop the bleeding.

My action plan right now, is to meet with people, in coffee shops, small groups, book clubs, wherever, and fact-find.

What do you need that your current representatives are not providing? Do you feel that the billions of dollars in tax money collected are mismanaged? Do you feel that tax collecting is done under implied threat of violence?

I want to hear from you!

Let’s talk!

 

 

 

Democratic National Committee, Democrats, politics, Uncategorized

What’s in a Word?

Last week, I attended a meeting of the Hadley-Lincoln Township Democratic Club.

One of the speakers was Stephen Webber, who was recently elected to head up the Missouri Democratic Party. Stephen served two tours in Iraq as a Marine, and represented the 46th District in the Missouri House of Representatives for 4 terms. He is 34 years old, which means I was out of high school for two years when he was born.

His task is to bring the national Democratic message to Missouri and disseminate that message to the committees and clubs throughout the state.

What is the Democratic message?

I wish for the life of me I knew — because we’re “for” lots of different things, and our lots of things have us running in different directions.

One word I’ve heard associated with Democrats is “progressive,” and, frankly, that word feels mildly uncomfortable to me; it feels too fast, even though the definition is that of a gradual change. As I’ve gotten older, I don’t like change to come as quickly as it used to, but do I want change so the lives of my step-daughter and her sons will be better.

Despite an obstructionist Republican House and Senate,  it was progressive thinking of the Democrats to implement the ACA, so that more Americans are covered by health insurance and eligible to receive care than ever before in our history.  While it is not a perfect system, the imperfections can be worked on and corrected without gutting the whole thing

It would be a huge step backward to take it away from us without a replacement.

It would be — dare I say it?? — regressive.

Oh, sure we could go back to paying cash-out-of-pocket for services, but who has $80 or $90 sitting around for blood tests to find out what’s wrong? “Yeah, sure, Doc, whatever you need to do, as long as it doesn’t cost $125.00. That’s all I have in my bank account.”

So maybe being progressive isn’t such a bad thing and we could be like Hill Valley’s Mayor Goldie Wilson — “Progress is his middle name.”

.

 

 

 

politics, Uncategorized

Look Out Below

The other day, at work, while worrying about deadlines and waiting lists and TANF letters, I had an epiphany of sorts.

Like many others across America, my nights have been restless; I wake in the morning wary about what I’ll read in the news. Updates through the day aren’t better: legislative bills to sell of public lands (i.e., national parks, etc.), confirmation hearings for people who have never worked in the sector they are being charged with; executive orders signed with no input as to the ramifications.

I voted in my first election when I was 18: Mario Cuomo was running for Lieutenant Governor of New York State. He had spoken at my eighth grade commencement at Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica, Queens, New York — the very same Jamaica, Queens, that our current President hails from. Mr. Cuomo’s children also attended ICS, so I was happy and proud to cast my vote for him, and I am just as happy and proud that his son, Andrew, was elected to the same office.

And now we are here, a million years from yesterday. To quote “The Godfather”: How did things ever get so far?

In one of my friends’ posts on Facebook, someone suggested that we are here now because the incentives to be President should change, and that got my hamster wheel brain turning. I realized that serving the people of this country, in whatever fashion possible, is its own incentive, and so I wrote in response:

“What more incentive does one need than to lead the nation forward while preserving and protecting the values outlined in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights? The Presidency, and Congress, are not offices to get rich from; they are the repositories of the peoples’ trust in you for their future and the future of their progeny.”

As a nation, what are our values?

I believe our values were clearly outlined for us in the three documents our Founding Fathers drafted for us to follow: Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the soul of our country. Each amendment to the Constitution and Bill of Rights that is ratified by 38 of 50 states (3/4) is an agreement that our culture has changed to a degree and is deserving of acknowledgement.

Elected officials who seek to curtail these rights inherently do not trust their constituents, but the rights this country were founded on has inspired others (“Liberté, égalité, fraternité”), and human nature will always strive for freedom and happiness.

This does not make us weaker.

It makes us stronger.

politics, Uncategorized, Unionism, Unions

Are We Done Yet?

40-hour workweek

Overtime pay

Holiday pay

Employer-based health insurance

Fair wages

Sexual harassment laws

Public education for children

No more child labor

No more sweat shops

Collective bargaining

Workers’ safety

Workers’ compensation

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Americans with Disabilities Act

and many, many more.

(For my Pop, who was walking the picket line at the NY Herald Tribune when I was born.)