In Debt or Indentured Part Two: Education

People Politicon In Debt or Indentured - EducationThis is the second part of a multiple part series taking a deep dive into our current political and economic crisis in America. Partisan politics, unfettered corporate spending and recklessness along with a shift in our social acceptance of debt, is having far reaching and potentially devastating affects on our way of life, on the American Dream. With each installment we will take a closer look at some of the major pieces of this very complex puzzle and try to understand them and bring them into perspective. Use this opportunity to take a broader look on the political and social economic state of America and how each of us, as a small pieces of the puzzle, can make a difference.

In Debt or Indentured: Education

Another way the many middle class families have come to see the equity in their house is as a way to afford higher education for their children. As tuition prices for university and college educations have continued to explode, it became unreasonable for American families to be able to just save their way to a higher education for their children. Instead of demanding intervention from their government, the American middle class looked to their hidden savings in the form of home equity. For those that did not own their own home though the options dwindled to scholarships, grants and loans. With availability limited for students to receive scholarships and grants, many students are forced into borrowing in order to gain their degree. Writer and Editor Marcia Clemmitt dives into the ways which college pricing and affordability have changed over the past three decades in her report “Student Debt Is the College-loan System Fair?” Clemmitt observes, “Many analysts call current education-debt level truly alarming, arguing that college loans saddle students with long term burdens that can affect their choice of jobs and ability to shoulder other responsibilities such as mortgages.” The fear of analysts exemplifies that, as soon as, those students graduate from college, they have debt already strapped to their backs. Interestingly, these analysts are not only worried about the graduates’ ability to chose the job they want but the analysts are concerned that these students will not be able to get into the next big debt adventure for many adults…a mortgage.

The facts behind rising college costs are murky at best, but much has been attributed to state budget constraints and rising costs for services. Regardless of the reasons for the ballooning costs, student loans have far exceeded them by rising 375 percent from 1982 to 2005 (Clemmitt, 879). The debt being incurred by middle class Americans is phenomenal with total college debt surpassing America’s credit card debt in 2010 (Tompor). Part of the reason that college debt has become such an issue for the American middle class families is because there are safeguards in place for low-income families where they qualify for government grants and financial assistance. On the other hand, most middle class families do not qualify for these subsidies from the government and are instead made to rely on loans to pay for their further educations (Clemmit, 880). This has meant the cost to graduates has been growing substantially and as reported by Justin Pope for The Huffington Post titled “Average Student Loan Debt: $25,250” the debt for the average student is a large burden to leave school with. Graduating students were also met with nine-point-one percent unemployment (Finnegan). Priming students to become accepting of debt has been what the American middle class has come to embrace as their trade-off for participation in the American Dream.

That’s it for this part of In Debt or Indentured. We hope that this has given you some important things to think about. Use some of what you have learned here to look beyond the mere message our politicians are presenting to what the ramifications of these actions has on all of us Americans. Our country started down a slippery slope over a decade ago. We seemed to have stopped the free fall it had become, but do not fool yourself. We are still on the precipice of another long fall. Let’s just hope we all can learn, and grow, from the last spill we took.

Check back soon for the next installment of In Debt or Indentured.

In Debt or Indentured Part One

People Politico In Debt or IndenturedThis is the first part of a multiple part series taking a deep dive into our current political and economic crisis in America. Partisan politics, unfettered corporate spending and recklessness along with a shift in our social acceptance of debt, is having far reaching and potentially devastating affects on our way of life, on the American Dream. With each installment we will take a closer look at some of the major pieces of this very complex puzzle and try to understand them and bring them into perspective. Use this opportunity to take a broader look on the political and social economic state of America and how each of us, as a small pieces of the puzzle, can make a difference.

In Debt or Indentured – Introduction

The American middle class is now swimming in debt that is pouring in from every direction. The middle class is faced with stagnant wages coupled with inflationary prices on energy and food, health insurance costs that continue to grow well beyond the rate of inflation, education debt, exorbitant cost of child care, and a dwindling number of well paid job prospects even for those that have higher education. These aspects coupled with The Great Recession have driven workers to stay in jobs that demand longer hours and with more tasks at the same rate of pay. Fear of unemployment and the debt that they owe has driven many American middle class workers to feel lucky to just have a job. They do not speak out because of their debt that they owe on credit cards, car loans, mortgages, and the steadily rising educational debt incurred by today’s students. With bankruptcy law changes that were heavily lobbied for by the banking industry and credit card industry, have made it virtually impossible for average Americans to qualify for bankruptcy bargaining to reduce the most of common middle class debts.

American household debt has been on the rise as credit became more available to middle class workers during the mid 80’s, 90’s and the first half of the 2000’s. With this new access to credit the Americans middle class families just as their government began to spend well beyond their means. Associate professor and Department Chair of Personal Finance and Planning at the University of Missouri Robert O. Weagley reported in an article for Forbes Magazine titled “Big Difference Between Chinese and American Households: Debt” that “The average US household debt is 136% of household income […] if we include federal borrowing, the United States number increases an additional $109,792 per household, to $224,303 per household or 266% of average household income.” This is a dramatic number that demonstrates how the American middle class has become reliant on cheap credit and borrowing. Professor of Economics at New York University Edward N. Wolf explains in his working paper “Recent Trends in Household Wealth in the United States: Rising Debt and the Middle-Class Squeeze—An Update to 2007” that “Indebtedness, […] skyrocketed in the early and mid-aughts [2000’s]; among the middle class, the debt-to-income ratio reached its highest level in 24 years.” Acquiring debt in America has not only established a way for Americans to live outside of their means through the use of credit cards, it has become blasé to go into debt in order to pay for a college education, afford transportation, buy one’s house, and even make daily necessity purchases. This has not always been the case in America.

Credit card debt in America exploded during the 1990’s through to the beginning of the Great Recession when credit became scarce and liquidity dried up as banks became unwilling to even loan to each other in fear of what bad debt the other bank might be holding. During this time period of easy qualification and exorbitant credit limits being doled out America’s binged. Writer Susan Tompor reported in her 2010 USA Today article “Student loan debt exceeds credit card debt in USA” that revolving credit in America stands at $828 billion, this included credit card debt. As Americans have become more accustomed to hearing numbers in the trillions, this number may have lost some of its sticker shock, but to put that into prospective, this is $2,760 owed by every man, woman, and child in America (based on a citizen population of 300 million). Although new lines of credit have been reduced following the financial collapse in 2008, existing borrowers have continued to use their credit cards. Karen E. Dynan and Donald L. Kohn said it well in their Federal Reserve report, “The Rise in U.S. Household Indebtedness: Causes and Consequences.” Dynan and Kohn claim “substantial evidence suggests that households are not always fully rational when making financial decisions” when discussing the American willingness to go into debt. Though Dynan and Kohn are primarily focused on housing debt they identify one of the reasons Americans have been willing to use credit cards so frivolously. The drastic rise in housing prices through the 1990’s into the mid 2000’s gave a false impression to many middle class American families that they were richer than they actually are (Dynan and Kohn, 6). By seeing the equity in their housing as actual banked money, many middle class Americans lived well outside their means knowing that they could refinance or sell their home and still end up with a net profit overall. This of course turned out to be a folly when housing prices plummeted during the economic down turn leaving many home owners upside-down in their mortgages.

That’s it for this part of In Debt or Indentured. We hope that this has given you some important things to think about. Use some of what you have learned here to look beyond the mere message our politicians are presenting to what the ramifications of these actions has on all of us Americans. Our country started down a slippery slope over a decade ago. We seemed to have stopped the free fall it had become, but do not fool yourself. We are still on the precipice of another long fall. Let’s just hope we all can learn, and grow, from the last spill we took.

Check back soon for the next installment of In Debt or Indentured.

Speak Out Against GOP War on Women

move-on-war-on-women-ad-people-politicoHere is a new ad that was just released by MoveOn.org. This ad is making the rounds quickly and even getting a nod from Bill O’Reilly. Though he doesn’t agree with the message, he does think it is powerful in its delivery.

Why is the ad so powerful? It shows women quoting some of the horrible things that prominent members of the Republican Party have said about women and reproductive rights. The actors then announce that women are not happy with these statements and wonder what is going on with the GOP.  And it’s true; it has been truly disturbing to hear misogynistic comments that have come not just from showmen trying to increase ratings, but presidential candidates and others in public office.  Mitt Romney has said he agrees with these statements, he just may have not used those exact words to agree.

I don’t know what they are thinking on the Right, and perhaps that is why I get so frustrated with them at times. But this time, I really don’t understand who thought that declaring war on women is a good thing? What do they hope to gain out of such blatant disregard and disdain for women? Seriously!

Here are a few short words from the women featured in this ad at MoveOn.org.

The brave women who appear in this ad are throwing the words of Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum, and others back in their faces—helping to expose their archaic views. Three of these women shared their reasons for putting themselves on the line to bring women’s voices to the debate on women’s health:

Katherine: “I’m outraged that there is even an argument about insurance coverage for female contraception, much less the right to contraception itself.”

Ann: “Lack of reproductive choice has been at the heart of multiple generations of premature death, trauma, and suffering in my family.”

Michelle: “As the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, it is my duty to protect and fight for HER rights and her future.”

Katherine, Michelle, and Ann are part of a nationwide movement standing up against the GOP’s war on women. All of them need your support to continue the fight.

Take a look at the ad for yourself and really sit back and think about what these statements say about the people who wish to represent us. And though we can categorize these as “women’s” issues, I guarantee you they affect each and every one of us.

Women are at the forefront of this argument, as they should be, but they are not the only ones that will be, and are, affected by these atrocious attacks on civil liberty. Birth control and contraception has had a huge society changing effect on all of us. We know this. We have seen the changes over the last quarter century. And we a thousand or two years of more history to compare it to.

Come on now People!

Contraception is About Women’s Health Not Politics

women-concerned-about-health-careWe have all heard the arguments recently and they are getting louder and louder. The most recent attempt at hamstringing women’s health care came at the hands of a horribly conceived and widely misconstrued bill known as the Blunt Bill. Even though it was narrowly defeated (51 for to 48 against), I think it is important to take a moment to talk about what this bill and other legislation like it would really do. In many ways it is amazing to even see birth control and contraception even being an issue. This argument was out in politics a quarter century ago. It not only seemed to be settled but we also have seen decades of benefit from birth control being widely available and accessible. As this proves our memories are short and our reason can be clouded. Let’s take a loot at a few of the main political arguments.

Contraception is Used For Much More Than Prevention of Conception

Different kinds of contraception are used for more than just birth control by millions of women. The Pill is used to alleviate a range of women’s medical conditions. To assume contraception is strictly used to stop conception would be to exclude nearly half of all women who use it.

Depending on what study you look at (or which side of the argument you are on), upwards of 15-20% of women taking contraception do so for purely non birth control related reasons. This number is impossible to narrow down since every study has minor variations in what and who meets their criteria. Regardless of this though, the fact remains that millions of American women use contraception for other reasons than birth control.

There is a reason contraception has been touted as one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Impacts go far past the simple impact of stopping conception. Attempting to legislate contraception from a standpoint of birth control misses the real crux of the issue and therefore misses the real consequences or benefits.

Stop Legislating Religion

Religious beliefs should not be put into legislation. In fact legislation based of belief or faith should be cleared completely off the table. In a time of technology, information and the ability to process huge amounts of information, we should be legislating from facts and data:

  • It would cost an estimated 18 billion dollars a year in unintended births that would need to be covered by families, insurance companies, or the government.
  • There is no quantifiable data whatsoever to suggest that having access to contraception turns women into mindless rampant fornicators. In fact, if this was the case, perhaps contraception would have to be covered by insurance companies just as Viagra is.
  • If women can no longer afford to treat medical conditions prevented by this medicine, larger health care expenses would loom in these women’s futures.
  • And what of the quality of life for unwanted children, especially those that end up with severe psychological damage because their parents cannot care for them. What is the cost of foster care for 18 years of a child’s life?
  • Can we discount the responsibility of the great many Americans that know they cannot afford or otherwise give a child what is necessary and need to have a good childhood and family experience? What about the majority of Americans, who understand they can only afford one or two children. More children than they can afford means less opportunity for everyone in the family.
  • Republicans should certainly understand that what this legislation entails is a corporation, contracting with another corporation (the insurance company), and having the ability to tell the second corporation how to run its business, while possibly interfering with state legislation requiring insurance companies to cover this prescription in the same way it covers other prescriptions.

And if you are just not the “show me the facts” kind of person and want to go from the gut, go with your belief. Pope Benedict XVI has told you what your belief should be by saying that healthcare is an “Inalienable Right” and said it’s the moral responsibility of all nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens.” I doubt the Pope meant only those that can afford it, should get it.

When Advocating Freedom Don’t Legislate Against It

Another big side of this argument that continues to astound me is that the same groups that shout so loudly about freedom are the ones pushing so hard to eliminate freedoms for anyone that might have a different opinion.

Freedom : Noun ~ Ability to act freely – a state in which somebody is able to act and live as he or she chooses, without being subject to any undue restraints or restriction.

Freedom talks about an individual’s right to choose what is best for them, not the right of a corporation or religion to dictate what is best for that individual person.

This is why the government, corporations, and religious organizations should not interfere with the insurance companies they partner with in covering contraception. The individual person can make a choice based on their own beliefs, ideals, health conditions, lifestyle choices, or any other reason whether or not they will use contraception.

It is not the employer’s business what a person’s life is outside of their job. It’s not the church’s right to have intimate details on its employee’s health. Our health care system is such that the majority of Americans receive health insurance through their employers. Your employer should not determine what will be covered by a third party healthcare plan.  It is up to the government to make sure we have access to the best health care and the personal freedom to choose what is best for us.

Further Reading About The Benefits of Birth Control

Politics of Regulations – Product Safety

congress3I recently found myself standing in the body lotion aisle at the store recently, realizing that my search for a paraben-free lotion was going to be more difficult than I originally thought. Parabens are preservatives that are widely used in personal care products such as makeup, moisturizers, hair care, and shaving. There has been some speculation that these preservatives’ estrogenic activity may be linked to an increased cancer risk. Until more studies have been completed, I decided a “better safe than sorry” approach was warranted. Our family lives in a dry climate and we use a lot of hand and body lotion. We use it so quickly that shelf life isn’t really an issue.

While researching the issue online, I came across EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database. If you really want to become depressed about the chemicals we put onto our bodies, enter your favorite products into the database and see what they may be doing to your health! And keep in mind; women aren’t the only consumers of these products. Anyone who uses hand lotion, soap, shampoo, etc., can look their favorite products up on the database.  I, like most Americans, have been lulled into complacency, thinking there was some governmental agency that regulated the ingredients in anything that goes into our bodies. However, the FDA’s own website verifies that the Food and Drug Administration isn’t authorized to approve cosmetic ingredients. The FDA also cannot require companies to test their products for safety, and manufacturers are not even required to report problems to the FDA.

I started reading the ingredients on the products in my bathroom: shaving cream, lotion, hair gel, shampoo, conditioner, etc. I realized that without some sort of advanced chemistry degree, I was in way over my head.  How was I supposed to make an informed decision on the safety of these items based on the ingredient list? Especially since companies are not required to list all of their ingredients on the package. And a search of the internet didn’t help me with a list of safe products from an unbiased source.

I understand the call for less governmental intrusion, but do the American people understand that corporations are the ones deciding what I put into and onto my body? Some of these chemicals make their way into body tissues; some are inadvertently ingested or inhaled (lipstick, face powder, hairspray…).  Corporations exist to make money. If they can make a product cheaply, and no one knows that a certain ingredient (or combination of ingredients) is harmful, what incentive do they have to replace that ingredient with something safer?

Without some sort of oversight, corporations will do what is in the best interest of their stockholders. The best interest of the stockholders is profit.

Do the politicians calling for more deregulation realize that they themselves and their loved ones are all putting themselves at the mercy of companies for whom greed is their main purpose? Regulation serves a very real and very important purpose: the protection of the American people.

 

 More Reading on Regulation and Product Safety

President Obama’s State of the Union Address 2012

people-politico-president-barack-obama-debatingThe President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, gave his 2012 State of the Union Address. Whether you love or hate President Obama, there is no denying that he knows how to give a great speech. President Obama is a very charismatic speaker using a great amount of intelligence and elegance when he speaks. Whether you agree or disagree with what he said last night does not change the fact that he is great at addressing America.

Watch the web enhanced video of the 2012 State of the Union Address


It’s always interesting to see how the fact checkers rate these addresses. Not just the State of the Union Address but the many other speeches, policies, rallies and other promises that are made by politicians. They are so easily lost in the tumult that is politics that no regular person, like you and I, can keep track of it all. So I like to wait at least a day for all of the fact checking places to do their due diligence. Then I peruse through them to see what was real and was smoke. I urge everyone to take a few extra minutes and check several different sources yourself, especially about the political issues you care most about.

It turns out that on the scale of what was true and what is reality President Obama’s State of the Union Address turns out to be mostly true! This is great news and a refreshing change of pace from the last administration. I always hate when we hear great promises or “facts” about what they have done or not done only to find out it was a thinly veiled attempt to earn favor, and far from the truth. Unfortunately, our first impressions are often the strongest. This means it is much harder for us to “unlearn” the lies we hear first instead of being able to believe the truth we learn later. Unfortunately this is widely known and is an often used tactic in politics. Know they use it, so you can guard yourself from it.

President Obama definitely covered the full gamut of issues that America is facing. There is a lot to talk about for sure and it will be interesting to see what, if any, action is actually taken. President Obama took a tougher stand last night during the State of the Union Address than we have seen before. We can only expect this “toughness” to increase over the course of the election year. I do appreciate that even though President Obama was talking tougher, he was still addressing everyone with respect and dignity. This is something that is unfortunately becoming more and more rare.

Formation of Committee to Investigate Misconduct of Big Oil and Wall Street

I think this was one of the biggest, most important announcements from the State of the Union Address, the formation of a Committee to formally investigate big corporations. If this actually happens, and actually gets to a place that they can actually do their job, it has the possibility to illuminate the insanity that our financial system and its corporations that puts on the people of American and the rest of the world. This decision alone could reach deep into the workings of our government and economy to expose the massive issues and broken systems that have brought the world economy to its knees. It amazes me how fast people have already forgotten how close we were to a calamity of massive proportions. Hopefully this will help to expose these issues and help us move forward to a solution in the future.

I know these are high hopes, look at how crippled some of the others have been. Tied up in the bureaucracy but more importantly the lobbyists pushing their congressman to fight against these common sense steps to a better America.

Combine the Citizen’s United, political partisanship, election year politics and it will honestly be a miracle if anything gets done at all this year. However, I am still hopeful that something will be, or at least could be, accomplished. We have to keep on trying and keep on pushing forward. Contact your representative and urge them to action!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Political Book Deals

government-buildingThe flurry of holiday shopping is underway and now is a great time to stock up on all those great political books you have seen through the year.

With the presidential election coming up here in 2012 it is time to make sure you are up to date on all of the hot topics of today.

With the horrible state of our politics, the misrepresentation in much of our news, and emotional tempers running hot, it is hard to have a clear, objective look at the political layout of today.

Along with reading the papers, surfing the online news sites and watching both network and cable news it can’t hurt to back up your political ideals through the wide variety of great political books as well. The more sources you gather your political information from the better. We as people are able to sort out the facts from fiction when we have enough information from enough sources. With this bounty of real and factual information we can make truly good choices when it comes to election time and our decisions on politics.

Our political systems works so hard to manipulate the voters instead of educating voters. That is why it is up to you to be sure that you remain truly educated on the political topics of the day.

Barnes and Nobel is having some great deals this Black Friday. They are also planning on some great blowout prices come Cyber Monday. Use the link below to get 50% off the books and other political media that suits your needs.

Barnes&Noble.com

Grab some great deals this holiday season!

Once you are done reading these make sure to pass them around your friends and family. Ask them to share what political books and media they have as it can only help everyone increase their understanding of our incredibly complex and dysfunctional politico environment.

Tweet the Super Committee the Peoples Will

older-womanSo this has seemed to fade into the news cycle somewhere but a huge and potentially country changing decision is looming in near future. What will be the Super Committee’s decision and/or suggestions going to be to our current financial crisis? Will the Super Committee be able to craft a solution that satisfies both the Democrats, Republicans and the American People?

The hope is that they will have some ingenious solution to make our pains go away. The hope is that they will bridge their differences and come up with an all-encompassing compromise that will make us all do our fair share.

The reality is that they are very unlikely to come up with anything of substance at all unless we speak up.

With the very idea of compromise seeming to be a bad word in Washington recently. Compromise and working together is openly shunned. It is unlikely that anything real will happen. The current political strategies of obstructionism are wreaking havoc on our country, our government and most notably the people of the United States of America. We are all suffering because of the quagmire of politics right now.

We have seen in recent days that the voice of the people can make a difference should we shout out loud enough.

Stand Up For Healthcare has created a handy little tool to help you get a list of your representatives and their twitter accounts. There is currently a campaign now to inundate our representatives with what the people really want through Twitter in hopes that they will actually represent us and provide what we ask for.

I hope all of you use the tool provided below to make your voice heard. We the people are being systematically silenced but we can use the tools of today to keep out voice. Use yours.

 http://www.standupforhealthcare.org/tweet

Planned Parenthood is About Women’s Health

Political Maneuvering Threatens the Health of Millions of Women

planned-parenthood-busThe attacks on our basic services continue. This time they are targeting women’s health. The government wants to make outrageous funding cuts Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides a broad spectrum of essential services to millions of women. Their opposition chooses to focus on one facet of service to women in order to justify the cuts. Planned Parenthood provides invaluable health care services for millions of women, without the burden of narrow, shortsighted, and religious views. Politicians seek to cut funding through the guise of required budget cuts that only go after the services they are ideologically opposed to. Shameful.

Planned Parenthood helps millions of women a year through services and education. They provide preventative care, help women deal with serious health concerns, reproductive issues, and provide education regarding healthy pregnancy.

Many of these women have little to no income, and cannot afford regular health insurance and health care. Planned Parenthood provides a safe and non-judgmental place where women can seek medical help and counseling. Those who could not seek treatment elsewhere would go untreated, were it not for this organization, ultimately costing Medicare and other social services so much more.

They also provide a place for teenagers who are sexually active or are considering becoming sexually active to get some education, health care, and contraception, in most states without requiring parental consent. In some cases, teenagers who are too afraid or embarrassed to ask their parents have a resource for this information, preventing teen pregnancy and disease.

Planned Parenthood is a vital part of our support structure for these women and help to prevent many preventable and treatable deaths per year.

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Planned Parenthood provides the following services and many more to low income women nationwide:

  • STD Tests
  • Pap Smears
  • Breast Exams
  • Birth Control
  • Reproductive Issues Education
  • Service for Title X Patients

Stand With Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood plans a week-long demonstration throughout the country to counter the misinformation being spread by anti-choice demonstrators and Republicans pushing these funding cuts beginning March 7th.

Write your representatives and tell them it is totally unacceptable to cut funding to such a vital group as Planned Parenthood. It is especially insulting when they are willing to sacrifice the health and well-being of millions of women and children, but are unwilling to give up tax breaks for the upper 2% of Americans (which would greatly decrease the need to make these kind of budget cuts in the first place). It is totally un-American to force its most desperate people to sacrifice so much when the politicians will not sacrifice even a little.

If you can head out to one of the demonstration areas and join Planned Parenthood in their Truth Tour, please do so this week. Show your support for them and the millions of women they support. Don’t let the ridiculous Politico environment continue to erode our most basic services, our safety nets, that help to keep this country and its people strong. Stand up, stand tall, and support the rights of the people and the services they use. Fight back, stand proud and help Planned Parenthood keep the funding it needs to keep reaching out to millions of low income women.

Please go and sign the petition in support of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood supports millions of women nationwide who depend on their services for their own personal health.

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