A few straightforward suggestions to fight poverty

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

The above quote comes from the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. Its subtitle is also telling – “Poverty and Profit in the American City.” The dilemma is we have a poverty problem that stretches from urban to rural America. Yet, it manifests itself daily in the eviction courts of American cities and towns, whether it is from apartments, houses or mobile homes.

The book speaks of how fragile the rental community is regardless of race, yet the black community tends to have a higher rate of exposure to evictions in urban areas. Unexpected expenses, transportation problems, and tragedies can push people paying a very high portion of their rent over the edge and out the door. Ideally, 30% of family income should be toward housing and utilities. Too many of these folks are paying well above that percentage.

It should be noted that there are other drivers of fragility. Some have opioid and other dependencies. Some are fragile due to too many children that stretch the budgets of even the best planners. Some are in downward spirals with unsupportive landlords. And, many of those unexpected expenses that arise are healthcare related.

What are some suggestions to remedy these issues? Based on my experience as a volunteer Board member helping working homeless families and my reading, I would like to throw out some ideas for consideration.

First, we need to talk more about it. America has a huge disparity in distribution of wealth which is not talked about enough by leaders. Where and to whom one is born are greater predictors of success as the American Dream  has waned for too many.

Second, we need to fund more family planning efforts not less. There is a high correlation between poverty and large families. When family planning is funded and birth control access and education are increased, poverty declines, system health care costs decline and abortions decline.

Third, more mechanisms to reduce evictions need to be in place and funded. Crisis assistance funds show success in helping keeping the electricity on and, when funded, reducing the number of evictions. Stopping homelessness (or fragility) before it starts can make a huge difference and will have a positive echo effect.

Fourth, we must invest in impoverished  areas making them more suitable for families both with opportunity and resources. In their absence, crime and other poor influences fill the void.

Fifth, while I have concerns about the new Tax law with its impact on debt and heavy emphasis on the wealthy and corporations, a huge opportunity was missed when we could have added an increase in the minimum wage tying it to automatic increases due to wage inflation. I worry that less money than expected by the law’s drafters will end up in the hands of workers.

Sixth, we must address our opioid crisis in America. To be frank, cutting access to healthcare and mental care insurance benefits are not the answer. We must stabilize access and cost of healthcare, yet opposite measures have been taken in the past few years under the guise of political gain.

There are many more ideas, but these will help. On the investing front, many locations have seen success with using historical tax credits leveraging private money. There is a concept called ABCD (Asser Based Community Development) which shores up or repurposes an deteriorated asset creating jobs.

But, first we need to talk about this real and pervasive problem.

 

 

 

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A few hard truths

In the land where entertainment and sports news get much more attention, a few hard truths need to be communicated. On the first Saturday of the new year, here are a few of those truths.

Our capable intelligence community is convinced with a high degree of certainty that Russian elements influenced the 2016 Presidential election and continue to sow seeds of discord to disrupt the US. This is a continuing attack on the US by a foreign entity that our President and this Congress have largely chosen to ignore. My suggestion is to ask your Congressperson, Senators and President what they plan on doing about it?

The US Tax Plan was passed to a lot of fanfare and chest beating under the guise of stimulating the economy, but it still needs a larger sales job on disbelieving Americans. Giving a lot of money to rich people and corporations is supposed to trickle down, yet do we need to add $1.5 trillion more to an increasing debt? Do we need to further stimulate an economy that has had 103 consecutive months of economic growth dating back to June, 2009? Do we need to stimulate an economy that just posted 2 million added jobs for the seventh year in a row, with a continuing run up of the US stock market? Nonpartisan economist groups have posed the same questions.

Let me get this straight, is the Republican Party for states rights or for federal rights? It seems to differ based on where the power lies. The White House has announced that 95% of coastal areas will be subject to offshore drilling to the dismay of governors who want to foster their tourism and fishing industries. Further, the Attorney General wants to crack down on states who are now selling regulated medical and retail marijuana changing an earlier Obama order to allow states to do this. Both of these decisions are getting heavy nonpartisan pushback from state leaders and it is my understanding the White House was asked not to do this.

Finally, the US continues to declare the cut in funding to countries that do not cooperate with us. This is not necessarily new, but we seem to be bullying others more and to what end? We are not the biggest funders to these places and China, India and Russia are easily picking up more influence as we decrease ours. The Pakistan PM basically said it is not a big deal if they lose US funding. The question to ask as we beat on our chest, is who are we trying to convince, the other country or a base of uninformed voters?

That is all I have for today. Unfortunately , the answers to these points can be summed up in one ugly word, “politics.” Have a great weekend and 2018. One thing is for certain is it will be interesting one.

Side of the Angels

A CFO once said during a meeting I was involved with “at least we are on the side of the Angels.” He was referring to a decision a Committee had made which was a conservative reading of the law. If they were wrong at least they would not be at risk.

I use this example as many decisions are made these days that run counter to what experts using data and analytics might say should be done. A good example is happening as of this writing in the US Congress. A law is being passed which goes against what several nonpartisan economic and budget organizations are saying will happen. It is also being sold as more than it is, which is a windfall for wealthy people and investors. These lawmakers are not on the side of the Angels on this issue.

Earlier this year, the President of the United States decided to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. As a result, our country was not invited to a conference last week to plan ahead. We are the lone country in the world that will not be in the accord. Ironically, the accord permitted flexibility to reshape how we comply, so leaving was merely a political statement. Being a lone wolf on one of the two most important topics in the world does not leave us on the side of the Angels.

We must do our homework and make decisions based on data, analytics and nonpartisan opinions of experts. Making decisions off rhetoric and lobbyists’ wishes   tends not to be on the side of the Angels.

 

 

Note to young folks – Republicans are leaving you holding the bag

As a former Republican, now Independent voter, it is very hard to defend what my former party stands for. What used to be a party that boasted fiscal stewardship with a little heart, now is fiscally narrow-minded and mean-spirited. There are three major themes that have emerged during the Trump version of this party, all of which are leaving young people holding the bag.To summarize, they are:

  1. ignoring a huge debt problem, making it worse with the Tax Bill,
  2. ignoring the impact climate change is having and will have on our planet, and
  3. ignoring the wishes of young adults eliminating net-neutrality, demeaning civil rights of those who are not white heterosexuals, and denigrating free press.

Note, I placed three separate, but related issues into the third basket, as I see each in a composite context to restrict the rights of information to the masses.

On the debt problem, we are currently at $20.6 trillion US debt. But, that is only part of the problem. In the fiscal year ended September 30, 2017, we had a $666 billion deficit with $3.3 trillion revenue falling short of the almost $4 trillion in expenses. The Congressional Budget Office projects the debt to grow by $10 trillion over the next ten years without the impact of the Tax Bill. That would put us at over $30 trillion in 2027. When the Tax Bill impact is thrown in, the debt could be as high as $32 trillion. Note, with a $3.3 trillion annual budget, it would take us ten years to pay the debt if we spent no other money and there was no interest cost on the debt. What this means is there will be a reckoning that will come in major tax increases and major spending cuts which will hit young adults,

Ignoring climate change is a fossil fuel industry funded requirement placed on Republicans. In the book, “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” by Miriam Horn, these hard-working folks see what climate change is doing everyday, yet they have to tiptoe around Republican politicians in their states to explain what is happening to water, crops, topsoil, fisheries, bayou, etc. without using the word climate change. Even though we have many great things going on to combat climate change in the US, our country was not invited to the most recent climate change planning event with other major leaders. Fortunately, our business, city and state leaders don’t necessarily need Washington to make a difference, but it would be great to see what we could do when DC is not putting up roadblocks.

The net neutrality issue is frustrating, as with the Tax Bill, it favors those with money and not those folks the President promised to help. What will backfire on the GOP, is young folks are passionate about this issue and know Ajit Pai’s name as the demonized head of the FCC. Yet, it goes part in parcel with the restriction of flow of information. The media are demonized because they dare criticize the President. Civil rights are being squashed unless you look like the President – what he said about Charlottesville is insulting and distasteful. And, communication companies like Sinclair are being greenlighted to buy even more local stations and influencing their content.

None of us can sit on the sidelines and let this happen, but especially our younger voters. If we do not demonstrably deal with the debt and climate change, these failures will come home to roost. But, the attack on the free flow of information by this President and his party is also dear. It is a way to combat the changing demographics in America that do not support the GOP. Instead of wooing new voters, the strategy is to step on others. This observation comes from a former Republican who left the party ten years ago.

Please lend your voice to fight for better stewardship. These leaders are not even talking about issues that are of import, such as our infrastructure, water and healthcare needs, in addition to the three problems noted above.

 

 

 

Contact your Senators, Congressperson and President

It would not be a surprise to know that the US Congress and White House are highly dysfunctional. They have long ago forgotten why they are there. It seems opinions of the donors and oligarchy are the only ones that matter. We need to make our voice louder and consistent. Irrespective of any party affiliation, we must cease with the tribal BS. The party you support does make mistakes, many of them. Don’t just accept them because they are made by folks in your tribe. And, if you think it is only the other party, think again.

Please call your Senators, Congressperson and President and tell them messages they need to hear.

  • Please do not pass a Tax Bill that favors the elite and tell us it does not do so. That is an insult and a lie.
  • Please do not pass a Tax Bill that increases our debt. It is expected by the CBO to go up by $10 trillion and will be over $30 trillion in 2027 without the Tax Bill. What do you plan to do about it?
  • Please do not support candidates that are legitimately accused by multiple women of sexual assault. If a party supports a candidate or incumbent who defames the office, they need to be chastised openly and continuously.
  • Please cease kowtowing to the whims of donors that get you to make less prudent decisions such as pulling out of the Paris Climate Change Accord or freeing gun rights even more, when we need to govern guns better.
  • Please work together to improve the Affordable Care Act and make it more sustainable, ceasing efforts to undermine the imperfect law.
  • Please support the rights of every American and cease beating up on the media. They are hard-working people who try to get it right. If they admit mistakes, that is a sure sign of good intent. We could learn from that.

That is all for now. Do call them. Emailing using their template is fine, but you will tend to get a form letter. If you leave an email, ask them to call you. THIS IS OUR COUNTRY! We need to take it back.

 

Congress – Please listen to the nonpartisan economic groups

Early this morning the Senate passed their Tax Bill, complete with hand written amendments and no public hearings. Senator McConnell declared it a victory for the American people. But, which people? From my reading the people doing a touchdown dance already have an awful lot of money. 52% of Americans disapprove of this bill, but only the opinion of the privileged few matters.

On NPR yesterday, I heard Congressman Kevin Brady, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, smugly say we do not believe the projections of Congress nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation who measured the Senate bill as increasing the debt by $1 trillion and saying this bill is not as kind as portrayed to people in poverty and middle class. But, Congressman, why do the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Fix the Debt and The Concord Coalition say pretty much the same thing?

Without public hearings, Republicans did not take the time to know this. What should be surprising is the two Senators from Kansas voted for this bill after a similar state bill had to be unwound last year after it decimated Kansas’ economy and budget.

Outside of Senator Corker, my former party seems to have forgotten what fiscal stewardship means. We are projected to have a debt of $31.5 trillion in 2027. I want to hear what Congress plans to do about that.

As a former Republican, this continues to support why I left the party. Passing a bill to get a win is no way to pass good legislation.

Please feel free to use a variation of this to let your Senators and Congressperson know of your concern. I added that they call me with a response to my concern and not send me a form letter.

A few painful truths

We are overlooking some very painful truths primarily for short term gain. As I chatted with staff members for several US Senators, I found myself saying “you sound like a young person; you do realize we are leaving this problem for you?” I hope they start thinking more about what I said because of what we are ignoring.

The reason for my question is Congress has passed one Tax bill and is debating another that will increase our $20.5 trillion debt by at least $1.5 trillion. Yet, not only are we ignoring the $20.5 trillion debt, we are ignoring that the Congressional Budget Office projects that figure to grow by $10 trillion without the Tax bill impact. So, in 2027, the debt could be $32 trillion if the Tax bill is signed into law. This is beyond poor stewardship – it is malfeasance. We would be screwing those young staffers I spoke with.

Unfortunately, there is more. Our leadership has decided to make the US the only country in the world to not support the Paris Climate Change Accord. Not only are we denying hard truths and overwhelming scientific evidence, we are shooting ourselves and planet in the foot. Renewable energy is passed the tipping point and we risk getting left behind as other nations invest in Innovation for the new economy. Fortunately, cities, states and businesses are carrying the banner dropped by our leadership, who is being relegated to the kids table at Thanksgiving. At the next post-Paris event, the US may not be invited at all. If we don’t deal more decisively with climate change, we will be screwing those young staffers and their children.

A final issue to mention, but not the final problem we are ignoring, is the US is retrenching from our global leadership role to the delight of China and Russia and chagrin of our western allies. The President gave a speech in Vietnam this month similar to the one made in Davos earlier in the year. America will retrench to a nationalistic country seeking bilateral agreements. On each occasion, his speech was followed by Xi Jingping who gave the global leadership speech the US normally gives. What our President fails to understand is globalization lifts all boats and our economy benefits more than if we look to maximize only our share. This concept has been called the “Nash Equilibrium” in honor of the Nobel Economics prize winner who developed it, John Nash. If we retrench, we will be harming our future growth and screwing those young staffers.

As I mention, these are not the only things we are ignoring – poverty, job losses due to technology advances, healthcare costs, environmental degradation, infrastructure, better gun control, etc. Yet, should we not alter our path set by these leaders, this path will be defined in the future as the period when the US gave up its global leadership role. And, the world will be a lesser place because of it. Sadly, I have witnessed these words spoken by more than a few global financial and security experts.