Christmas in July – a better time to help

Having worked with several human services agencies as both a volunteer and Board member, one of the challenges is the timing of cash flow and the need for more of it. Many agencies are funded through a combination of federal, state and local money and donations from the faith community, foundations, businesses and individuals.

During the holiday season, these agencies are blessed with an inflow of giving that would honor Christmas or Hanukkah. Those donations are greatly appreciated and are used judiciously throughout the year. But, the time of greatest need is during the summer months, when the kids are off from school.

Much of my effort has been around helping homeless families climb a ladder back to self-sufficiency. The families we help work, sometimes more than one job, but cannot make ends meet or an event has caused them to lose their home. The event could be the breakdown of a car, significant healthcare expenses, reduction in hours at work or the loss of a job.

During the summer months, the working parent(s) are finding and paying for ways to look after children. Also, their hours are cut back due to people being on vacation and shopping less. Or, they work in the school system and are not paid during the summer months. Yes, we have helped teachers and teacher assistants who are homeless.

Rather than waiting to give in December, look into places you normally give and donate during the summer months. Whether it is your money, clothing, books, goods or time, the donation will be greatly appreciated. In fact, small groups of people often can perform duties – stuffing envelopes, setting up crafts, providing day care, etc. that will be beneficial. Look at each organization’s website and see the best way to volunteer.

I have witnessed some wonderful organizations who take their stewardship roles very seriously. They do more with less, but sometimes it is hard. It should not have to be this hard. Thank you in advance for your consideration of helping them make it through.

Be mindful of your news media sources

We are a nation divided. We must find one another again. We must engage in dialogue rather than talking past one another. We must be mindful of our news media sources of information.

While we mourn over horrible tragedies like the police shootings, the too common Black deaths occurring at the hands of police or the mass shooting or terrorist tragedies, we tend to look for simple answers and culprits to blame. We have grown too accustomed to moments of silence and are reluctant to have needed dialogue around underlying reasons and possible solutions.

Our childish political polarization stands in the way of that dialogue and it truly must come to an end. We must task our leaders to stop their zero-sum antics of “I win/ you lose” and start leading. And, as citizens, it is incumbent on us to be truly informed with uncomfortable data.

Right now, we tend to get our information from biased sources that tell us what we want to hear. Or, we may get it from shallow or conflicted sources that gloss over a news story and miss key points or may not cover a story at all as it is not entertaining.

We live in a country of opportunity, but not all get a fair shot at that opportunity. Our problems are complex, especially around gun deaths. The causes include poverty, lack of education, crime filling the void of opportunity, lack of mental health access, entertainment violence, inherent bigotry, and gun access, e.g. Our biases predispose us to a gut level reaction, when we should guard against that.

At the heart of the matter, violence is not the answer and should not be condoned. Violence against those here to protect us is even more abhorrent. But, we should not lose sight that violence against our Black and Brown citizens is occurring with too much frequency.

Let’s start talking and listening to one another. And, let’s be truly informed from reputable news sources and not from our own echo chamber. Otherwise, we will miss the point.




You told us you were the financially astute one

I hear often that people may not like what one of our US Presidential candidates says about people, but at least he is a business leader and knows finances. Are we really sure about that, as the evidence I see from policy statements, comments and history seems to run counter to that argument? Yes, he is a successful sales person, but business is littered with sales people who have been disasters as business managers. The key reason are the skills that made them great sales people do not often translate to management.

Most financial experts and pundits view Brexit as a poor move on the UK’s part. The financial reaction to markets, currency, budgets, real estate, etc. that is already happening is a sign of headwinds in the future. Many companies who placed Europe headquarters and plants in the UK are considering moving them. It will only get worse should Scotland and/ or Northern Ireland leave the UK. Yet, there was Donald Trump in Scotland, saying how a great a thing Brexit is the day following. He did not even bother to note where he was standing, as Scotland voted to stay in the EU if they could.

Also puzzling is Trump’s tax plan. As measured by the Tax Foundation and other tax expert organizations, his tax plan would increase our $19 Trillion debt by almost $12 Trillion over the next ten years, a more than 60% increase. It should be also noted he has said he will eliminate the debt in eight years. How? With an annual budget of $4 Trillion, how do you plan to do that with a $12 Trillion debt increase. How would you do it without it, is a more realistic question, which he has no answer for. Maybe we should take him at his word, as he has told us “I know taxes better than anyone. Better than anyone in history.” Even if that was the case, it is his math I am concerned about.

Further, his stance against globalization runs counter to what business and GOP leaders advocate for. While people have lost jobs over the last 35 years, it is due to a variety of factors, including technology, outsourcing, offshoring, downsizing, industry obsolescence, etc. Business has always chased cheaper labor and will continue to do so. The key worry should be technology as new manufacturing plants in the US do not have three thousand workers, they have three hundred.

But, like Brexit, what is not factored in is the number of foreign companies who have their North American headquarters and plants in the US. These plants employ American workers. So, globalization arguments must look holistically at the pros and cons, so we can avoid the mistake of a Brexit decision. Trump should know this as he has taken great advantage of cheaper labor from abroad. Yet, he does not want to tell the whole story as it does not fit easily on a bumper sticker.

So, we should look at the man’s history. His companies have taken advantage of the bankruptcy process on four occasions. He will say many companies do that, but many do not do it four times, and companies the size of his tend not to do it all. But, his judgment on other businesses is something to look at with several failures that did not go the bankruptcy route. He likes to counter the three class action court cases alleging misrepresentation by him and Trump University as the students were satisfied per surveys. The surveys were taken early in the process, but let me ask if Trump University was so successful, why is it not still in business?

Trump is a successful business man, but I would not deem him to be a good leader of people or business. Good leaders deflect credit to others, while poor leaders tend to pat themselves on the back too much. It is all me. How many times have we heard him say how smart he is and how stupid others are? Back to the math, he said if he was President, the Supreme Court decision against Texas’ abortion clinic laws which led to closures, would have been the other way around with the justice he would appoint. Mr. Trump, the decision was 5 to 3. You would have still lost. And, so we will we, if this candidate with all of his bigotry, ego, thin-skin and financial skills wins.





Questions and more questions

I have written before that we do not ask enough or the right questions of our leaders and candidates. Why, what, how, when, where, how long and how much? If we would just ask the why questions more, we would be far better off.

Here are a few to ask:

Why have we not made changes to gun governance since the significant majority of Americans want certain measures?

What do you plan to do about our $19 Trillion plus debt problem, especially with the interest burden becoming such a big part of our $4 Trillion annual budget?

Why are we not doing even more to combat climate change (or in the case of some, why are you blocking climate change actions)?

Why are we not funding Planned Parenthood even more, when they help reduce unwanted pregnancies through education and birth control thus reducing abortions and healthcare costs based on actual data?

What do you plan to do about retraining people for jobs that have been reduced due to technology, declining markets, offshoring, outsourcing, etc.? 

Why do some people feel they are more American than others based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc.?

Why must you be against something because your opponent is for it?

When did collaboration become a dirty word?

What data do you have to support your contention or plan or better yet, when did using actual data become a negative?

When did we start tolerating bigotry in our national leaders, especially since this has been a reason to not vote for racist candidates in the past?

There are many more to be asked, but we could start with these few.

North Carolina’s General Assembly fumbled yet again

Our North Carolina (NC) General Assembly gained global attention by introducing a law called HB2 in reaction to a law passed in its biggest city, Charlotte, to better accommodate transgender people in bathroom choice. The state-wide HB2 law passed earlier this year, in essence, does the following:

  • Overturns the Charlotte law and makes it state-wide that transgender people can only use the bathroom of their birth gender or if they have had an operation to officially change their gender.
  • Strikes the words referenced by LGBT from protection of discrimination. not just transgender folks.
  • Eliminates the ability for anyone to bring suit in state court should they feel discriminated against (the only recourse is in more expensive and elongated federal court).
  • Eliminates the ability of a city to have a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage of the state, in this case the federal minimum.

The push back has been significant and will continue to be so. Two companies have changed plans for moves or expansions in the state. What is not known is how many companies have taken NC off its relocation list. What is known is several performers have canceled tours in NC and the semi-annual Furniture Mart in High Point, which is very lucrative to the state saw a 10% fall-off and will likely see a bigger fall-off in October. And, the NBA has been pressuring the state officials to change the discriminatory aspects of the law, as they will likely move next year’s planned All Star game from Charlotte.

Yesterday, our NC legislature decided to only change a part of the law that impacted the right they took away for anyone to sue in State court. This impacted everyone, but the added back feature reduced the original time limit to one year from the previous three before HB2. So, they left in the two unconstitutional features and added $500,000 for legal fees to fight lawsuits, since our Attorney General decided not to defend an unconstitutional law (the appellate court in VA has already ruled on a VA case, so the AG sees efforts to fight as futile and a waste of money).

On a positive note, three onerous features in a Mississippi law aimed to limit the rights of LGBT folks and others were ruled unconstitutional. This is why party matters, as our conservative friends have used cookie cutter language from a group called ALEC to do a state-by-state assault on the rights of the disenfranchised, whether they be LGBT citizens or Black and student voters. As the GOP leadership and pundits try to distance themselves from the GOP presidential candidate, it should be noted that he is the mirror image of the ugly parts of the party. They have been fairly active in the discrimination business long before their bigoted, racist and xenophobic candidate has made them hide their eyes in shame.

I am a 57-year-old heterosexual white man and this is just not right. We should highlight this organized discrimination effort. We cannot tolerate bigotry in our leaders. We must shine a spotlight on fear mongering as a means to sell poor policy positions. We must look for underlying truths. When leaders cheerlead us in the discrimination efforts, we are truly investing our time in the wrong kind of leaders.

As a NC citizen, I get to see a series of leaders unwind the image of our state which will hurt people and the economy. This is not the first law that will be ruled unconstitutional passed by this and the previous General Assemblies. Call me crazy, but that is not only wrong, it is a waste of money and time.