Divided Nations

Dear Abby:

I’m torn. I’ve been in an open relationship for quite a while now. We share partners between us. There’s a few. Occasionally one will quarrel with another, but on the whole it’s worked out really well. Until recently.

Within the past year one of the lovers has become increasingly erratic. He takes time to berate some of us, then tries to be nice. Though, we don’t actually believe he’s sorry for what he said. Actually, he doesn’t even apologize.

He lauds over us his superiority and says that his stuff is more important than ours. He has always given more to the communal property in the relationship, but now he’s saying that he’s been doing too much.

I just don’t know how long we can last with him. Some of our neighbors are actually threatening him. He just goads them, tells them to go ahead and try. I’m afraid any fight is something some or all of us will get dragged into.

We’re at our wits end! What should we do?

Sincerely,

-Formerly United Guys and Gals

Of course, this is a thinly veiled commentary on President Trump’s rhetoric regarding the United Nations.

The United Nations, or UN was founded by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt and 50 other member states in 1945. Its function was mainly to provide defense and secure against another world war.

Intergovernmental associations of OC the utmost importance to national security and prosperity, and downplaying the cooperative nature of the United Nations is a danger to all.

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America the hateful?

What a terrible week for the Country. External threats, such as North Korea and Iran loom large in the political arena, but it’s the domestic disturbances that are invading the national consciousness.

  • On Tuesday, President Trump retweeted a cartoon of a train bearing the Trump logo killing a CNN reporter, just days after a protester at a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, was fatally run down by a driver who participated in that rally. The cartoon reads “Fake news can’t stop the Trump train.” Thirty minutes later it was deleted from Trump’s Twitter feed.
  • Texas A&M University has called off a white-supremacist rally that was scheduled on campus next month. The rally organizer said he was inspired by the Unite the Right demonstration in Charlottesville for his White Lives Matter event planned for Sept. 11. Known white supremacist Richard Spencer was invited to speak at the event.
  • Charlottesville riots left one dead and nineteen injured, following a car slamming into a crowd of people. The gathering of alt-right protestors coming to oppose the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee collided with leftist counter-protestors, and a large-scale riot erupted, with white supremacist driver plowing into a crowd of people.
  • Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, brought down a Confederate monument Monday night. The monument, which is engraved with “The Confederate States of America,” is of a Confederate soldier. Activists had previously campaigned for its removal. Protesters tied a rope around the statue and pulled until it fell over, doing extensive damage to the piece.
  • Boston Police arrested one person suspected of shattering part of the city’s New England Holocaust Memorial. The person is suspected of throwing a rock at one of the memorial’s six glass towers at around 6:40 p.m. Monday. The memorial was also vandalized in June. A 21-year-old man was arrested for the first incident.
  • The Lincoln Memorial was vandalized with red spray paint, stating what appears to be: “Fuck (law, or perhaps Islam)”.
  • A Google software engineer wrote a contentious memo that has “enraged advocates of greater diversity in the technology industry. The memo has also served as a rallying cry for conservatives and the alt-right who view Google — and Silicon Valley — as a bastion of groupthink where people with different opinions are shamed into silence.” The memo proposed that differences between men and women — like a woman having a lower tolerance for stress — help explain why there were fewer women in engineering and leadership roles at the company. He said efforts by the company to reach equal representation of women in technology and leadership were “unfair, divisive, and bad for business.”

-Stories as reported in New York Times, Daily Beast,
CNN, Fox News, and Washington Post

I get through all of these, and there are more that I could list, but I feel sick. This is what we’re dealing with right now.

But, I continue on, finding that the father of the poor young woman who was murdered at the Charlottesville rally forgives the man who had driven the car. His compassion, even in the face of unimaginable grief, is something that I think many of us would have a hard time practicing.

Yes, the world is terrifying. Or it can be. And it’s contentious being an American. But we can do better. We can be better.

America is beautiful because of its diversity, and its tenacity.

It’s the “W-Word”!!!

The W-Word? What in the world is that?

W-E-L-F-A-R-E

Welfare. Certainly many a number of opinions on it.

So, sometime over the last week I was playing cards. We usually play once or twice a week. At this game topics range from business affairs, the political landscape, entertainment; whatever happens to come up. There are some strong opinions expressed. Oftentimes there’s no small amount of agitation. And yet sometimes I get filled in on things I may have missed.

During this particular game, the discussion of President Trump’s war on welfare to work was brought up. I was admittedly not familiar with this aspect of his policy, so I started where I always start when it’s time to begin research: Google.

Basically, it comes down to the Trump Administration’s budget proposal, which shows significant cuts given to various welfare programs, and requirements proposed for recipients to either work or volunteer if they are able to do so. Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

But what is welfare?

definition (Oxford Collegiate Dictionary):
1wel•fare \ ‘wel-,fare\ n [ME, fr. the phrase wel faren to fare well] (14c) 1: the state of doing well esp. in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity 2 a: aid in the form of money or necessities for those in need b: an agency or program through which such aid is distributed
2 welfare adj (1904) 1: of, relating to, or concerned with welfare and esp. with improvement of the welfare of disadvantaged social groups (~legislation) 2: receiving public welfare benefits (~families)

And that seems okay – caring about the well-being, happiness, fortunes, and prosperity of others.

Yet, anytime legislation is created to focus on the public good, there are going to be conceptions of winners and losers.

What of American policies in welfare?

Early welfare systems in America were based on the British “Poor Laws”: “These laws made a distinction between those who were unable to work due to their age or physical health and those who were able-bodied but unemployed. The former group was assisted with cash or alternative forms of help from the government. The latter group was given public service employment in workhouses.”

Changes were made throughout the 1800s, including a push to use caseworkers to evaluate claims. According to the Constitutional Rights Foundation, “During the Great Depression of the 1930s, local and state governments as well as private charities were overwhelmed by needy families seeking food, clothing, and shelter. In 1935, welfare for poor children and other dependent persons became a federal government responsibility, which it remained for 60 years.”

This “federal government responsibility,” known as the Social Security Act, was enacted to provide for the general welfare by establishing a system of Federal old-age benefits, and by enabling the several States to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare, public health, and the administration of their unemployment compensation laws; to establish a Social Security Board; to raise revenue; and for other purposes.”

Welfare history continued to be made when in 1996 President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Under the act, the federal government gives annual lump sums to the states to use to assist the poor. In turn the states must adhere to certain criteria to ensure that those receiving aid are being encouraged to move from welfare to work. Though some have criticized the program, many acknowledge it has been successful.

Which finally brings us into the current charged political climate. Under the Trump Administration’s budget proposal (introduced now nearly two months ago), the proposal was for the reduction of spending to welfare programs “from food stamps to tax credits and welfare payments by $274 billion over a decade, largely by tightening eligibility for these programs, according to administration officials.

According to Statistic Brain, who pulled stats from the US Dept. of Commerce, the number of Americans receiving welfare government (non-Medicaid) assistance was 67,891,000 in 2016. This breaks down into roughly:

  • 41 million people on SNAP
  • 10 million on unemployment
  • 7.5 million individuals living in a home that receives housing assistance
  • 4.3 million received TANF (during previous 12 month period / graphic below shows TANF from 1996-2010)
  • 4.5 million received some other type of assistance

 

families-receiving-welfare

This remains a hotly debated topic, with arguments on both sides. Each can give statistics to back their case, such as:

“Three quarters of households using SNAP contain children, seniors, or people with disabilities, said Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Without SNAP, the country would have had 3 to 4.5 million more people in poverty during the recession, she said.

or:

“In December 2014, in Maine, the local government chose not to renew its waiver of the Welfare to Work program. At the time, there were 13,332 people who were claiming Stamps and were not exempt from the program; by March, the number of claimants had dropped 80%! More than 9,000 people had decided (or coincidently happened) to either get a job or choose to not claim.

The thing is, I can find statistics from different research organizations, and the results appear contradictory. It’s all in how the information framed. If it comes down to a matter of policy, than the proposed welfare to work provisions seem okay. If it comes down to a consideration of citizens, maybe not so much. For me, I’ll always err on the side of helping those in need, even though there may be some who would take advantage of that.

“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
Mahatma Gandhi

The week that was

When I first started Michael’s Musings, oh, some point early in the Obama Administration, I really just wanted a platform to rant and rave about what I saw as wrong with politics. Or, what I saw as right about Obama. Or, honestly, who knows. I made one post, and have since moved that to the trashbins of cyberspace.

Still, I’m civic-minded, and I see many things going wrong, and some that are going right. (It seems we always focus on the wrong, and rarely on what’s going right.) I’d like to devote my Sundays to writing about politics, about civics. About discourse that I muse about. So that’s going to be my Sunday devotional. Starting today.

This past week, Jon Ossoff lost in Georgia.

For the record, I was sick of hearing about this race.

I live in Florida. I’m a registered Democrat. The amount of emails was mind-numbing, mostly asking for money, and not giving me a damn lick of information that I cared about.

Problem number one: The message.

What is it you want the American people to know? The voters? The immigrants? The wealthy and the poor, the blue-collar and white-collar? And, most important, you need to stay honest.

Problem number two: How we lose.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about political races, about why we get into politics, about how we run campaigns. (I’m using the Royal “We” here, but I’ve considered running myself from time to time.) I have to believe that we get into politics to make the world, our world and our nation, a better place.

In my opinion, there’s a way to do it, even if you lose. Be better.

That’s it. Be betterDon’t smear, don’t snipe, don’t attack. You may not win a race running it fair, clean, and good. But if the only way you can win is by playing dirty, are you even winning?

That’s the nation that Trump became president in. We live in fear, and we live in troubling times. But even in losing, we can show the nation a better way.

I love the line from Hamilton: The Musical:

George Washington speak-sings, “If I say goodbye, the nation learns to move on. It outlives me when I’m gone.”

Be the example. That’s the point of politics. Be better. And that’s all I have to say for this week.