My parents divorced when I was 10. I felt loved by both parents, they just didn’t love each other. Financially the divorce was difficult on both sides. I spent the impressionable years of my life pretty poor in a town in upstate New York. My mother lived in an apartment in the projects. My father in an apartment on the other side of town. I had what was necessary but never had name brand clothes. I was never hungry (but I know my mother went hungry some nights) and I received free or reduced lunches at school.

I started working at 11 or 12 years old. Just so I had some money in my pocket. Menial tasks at a grocery store owned by my uncle. I was one of the lucky ones. Many kids in the projects didn’t have anything to do to make any money and nothing to do when they weren’t in school. Bored kids get into trouble. Trouble with drugs, trouble with petty crimes. I am grateful for the job and for the gymnastics program at the local YMCA as well as the youth ice hockey program. Things which kept me busy and out of trouble.

I was an average student. I did well on tests but was often late with assignments or had not fully completed my homework. It wasn’t for lack of effort or that I had an issue with the work. I was busy. My parents were busy. When they got home from work after a long day, the last thing they wanted to do was to go over my homework and check up on me. They wanted to spend some family time. Some of the projects required extra material which we needed to buy. I am sure my parents would have figured out a way to buy what I needed. I didn’t want to stress them out so I often just never brought it up. I remember one assignment from 6th or 7th grade. I needed to cut out the political cartoon from the newspaper a few times each week and write an explanation on it. The end project was creating our own cartoon. I remember the embarrassment of not having this fully completed. We didn’t get a newspaper at my house. I was too respectful to cut one out of the library’s paper. I could afford to buy the paper myself maybe one time per week. My final project was a pencil sketch on a piece of loos leaf notebook paper. Others had pasteboard done with colored markers or pencils. I was so embarrassed turning mine in.

Why didn’t I ask for help? I WAS A KID!! Maybe 12 years old! Is this the fault of the teacher? No way- the class had maybe 25 students in it. I was one of maybe 5 or 6 classes she taught each day. I wasn’t a trouble maker. I flew below the radar.

The USA is the richest country on earth and probably the richest country in history. We have accumulated wealth at an unprecedented level. But that money is not evenly distributed.

Poverty is the defined as a “lack of access to basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter.” The term can also apply to those whose conditions prevent them from acquiring education, medical help, or stable employment due to a lack of money. In the United States, the government sets poverty thresholds and guidelines each year to indicate the income a person or family needs to cover their basic needs. These measures are based on the Consumer Price Index, which measures the costs of goods and services. The U.S. poverty guidelines fail to consider regional differences in cost of living. Thus, the experience of poverty may vary widely from state to state.

In 2022, the poverty guideline for a single-member household is $13,590 a year. An individual earning at or below this amount is considered to be living in poverty. The threshold increases by $4,720 for each additional household member, making the poverty guideline for a two-person household $18,310 a year and $27,750 for a family of four. To put that into perspective, a minimum-wage worker earning $7.50 an hour earns $15,000 a year working full-time, putting them below the poverty threshold for a family of two. The seacoast of New Hampshire where I live, I find it hard to believe that a SINGLE person making less than $25-30,000 would be able to make it.

Unfortunately, poverty is also associated with worse health outcomes, lower living expectancies, substandard housing and homelessness, and poor educational opportunities. In 2020, the U.S. poverty rate was 11.4%, up a percentage point from the previous year. The rate varies widely from state to state, with most wealthy states having a poverty rate below 9%. In contrast, the nation’s poorest state has a poverty rate twice that. Nationwide, more than thirty-seven million Americans fell below the poverty line in 2020. Of these, 17.9 million fell below half the poverty line – with an income of $13,123 for a family of four.

The Republican Party wants you to believe that they are the party of fiscal responsibility. That a vote for them will help put money in your pocket. The truth is far from that. The current debt ceiling fight shows once again they are more concerned with the top 1% than the rest of us.

Here are the 10 states with the lowest household income:

  1. Mississippi – $65,156
  2. West Virginia – $65,332
  3. Arkansas – $69,357
  4. New Mexico – $70,241
  5. Alabama – $71,964
  6. Kentucky – $72,318
  7. Louisiana – $73,759
  8. Oklahoma – $74,195
  9. South Carolina – $76,390
  10. Montana – $76,834

8 of the 10 states with the highest poverty rate are controlled by the Republican Party with the GOP controlling both the governors seat as well as the legislature. If the Republican Party was really the party of fiscal responsibility and the party that will put more money on your pocket wouldn’t they be doing a better job?!

House Republican use First Vote to Gut IRS Funding.

In a meaningless vote because it cannot pass the senate and if it did would face certain veto the new GOP led House of Representatives used their first vote (221-210) to claw back more than $70 billion — or nearly 90 percent — of new funding for the IRS making easier to cheat on taxes.

The republicans said that they were fighting against the weaponization of the IRS and fighting for the middle class. Does it matter who is cheating on their taxes? Obviously a large company or wealthy individual is going to have a team of accountants and lawyers to skirt their taxes. This is money that goes to pay for infrastructure. For schools. For defense. Things which benefit every American.

Much of the funding will go to much-needed improvements to the agency’s computer systems. “Or should we have an IRS that operates the way Southwest Airlines did last week, to the dismay of the American family,” quipped former Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.).

According to the Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget The IRS Funding Repeal could cost over $100 BILLION and encourage tax cheating. Does the tax code need to be made more fair? Absolutely. BUT- it is also our responsibility as American citizens to pay what we owe. Whether you are an individual; A small business; or a giant corporation. No one likes to pay taxes. But no one wants to drive over a bridge that may fall down or have their children attend schools in need of basic supplies.

The GOP talk about a balanced budget but in their first piece of legislation put us potentially in a $100 billion hole. I just wish the House would stop wasting time.

The Importance of Local Reporting.

I’m old(er). When (and where) I grew up there was a local daily newspaper. A local weekly newspaper. A regional newspaper and a few statewide/national newspapers. Often there were articles from the bigger newspapers in the regional or local daily. BUT on occasion the bigger newspapers picked up news from the local papers.

The debacle of the George Santos election and reporting in New York has pushed news coverage to the front lines again. What happened at The NY Times? NY Post? Long Island Newsday?

After the New York Times and other publications FINALLY reported that newly elected Rep. George Santos probably didn’t descend from Holocaust survivors or run an animal-protection charity, or [gestures broadly] any of it, many suggested that it would have been more helpful for the press to dig into this before the election.

“This would all have been exposed before the election if local newspapers were not running on fumes,” tweeted former Senator Claire McCaskill.

A few news cycles later it emerged that actually the local press had reported on the Santos story. A local paper, the North Shore Leader, had declared that the Republican nominee was “most likely just a fabulist—a fake.

It is just an embarrassment. Santos’ entire life is m most likely a lie. Santos is a really just a petty criminal from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is currently wanted in Brazil on criminal charges of committing elder fraud and check forgery. He stole checkbooks from the elderly patients of his late mother – who was a home healthcare nurse – and forged the checks to steal merchandise, according to prosecutors in Brazil.

What is striking is that his new colleagues in the republican party seem to be OK with it. How ironic that Republicans would cast out Liz Cheney, a lifelong conservative, for seeking truths about a different liar, but about Santos, the party of Honest Abe has remained silent.

Now it seems he is being accused of extensive campaign finance violations. Are any of us surprised?

For our democracy to work we need to be focused on more than getting power for a party and keeping power. There are realm issues that need to be worked on.

I want us to be better than all of this.

We’re Going to Miss Their Greed and Cynicism

As I get ready to post this, the GOP is in the middle of an absolute meltdown as they try to elect a Speaker of the House. It may not seem important but the House of Representatives cannot function or do any work without a speaker. Members cannot even be sworn in.

The GOP for close to the last 20 years has been a policy free zone. They have no policies or ideas. Now there is a group of 20 who are basically holding the government hostage. It may seem funny, but this joke is getting old.

We’re Going to Miss Greed and Cynicism

Jan. 2, 2023

By Paul Krugman

It’s 2023. What will the new year bring? The answer, of course, is that we don’t know. There are a fair number of what Donald Rumsfeld (remember him?) called “known unknowns” — for example, nobody really knows how hard it will be to reduce inflation or whether the U.S. economy will experience a recession. There are also unknown unknowns: Will we see another shock like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

But I think I can make one safe prediction about the U.S. political scene: We’re going to spend much of 2023 feeling nostalgic for the good old days of greed and cynicism.

As late as 2015, or so I and many others thought, we had a fairly good idea about how American politics worked. It wasn’t pretty, but it seemed comprehensible.

On one side we had the Democrats, who were and still are basically what people in other advanced nations call social democrats (which isn’t at all the same as what most people call socialism). That is, they favor a fairly strong social safety net, supported by relatively high taxes on the affluent. They’ve moved somewhat to the left over the years, mainly because the gradual exit of the few remaining conservative Democrats has made the party’s social-democratic orientation more consistent. But by international standards, Democrats are, at most, vaguely center left.

On the other side we had the Republicans, whose overriding goal was to keep taxes low and social programs small. Many advocates of that agenda did so in the sincere belief that it would be best for everyone — that high taxes reduce incentives to create jobs and raise productivity, as do excessively generous benefits. But the core of the G.O.P.’s financial support (not to mention that of the penumbra of think tanks, foundations and lobbying groups that promoted its ideology) came from billionaires who wanted to preserve and increase their wealth.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that Democrats were pure idealists. Special-interest money flowed to both parties. But of the two, Republicans were much more obviously the party of making the rich richer.

The problem for Republicans was that their economic agenda was inherently unpopular. Voters consistently tell pollsters that corporations and the rich pay too little in taxes; policies that help the poor and the middle class have broad public support. How, then, could the G.O.P. win elections?

The answer, most famously described in Thomas Frank’s 2004 book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?,” was to win over white working-class voters by appealing to them on cultural issues. His book came in for considerable criticism from political scientists, in part because he underplayed the importance of white racial antagonism, but the general picture still seems right.

As Frank described it, however, the culture war was basically phony — a cynical ploy to win elections, ignored once the votes were counted. “The leaders of the backlash may talk Christ,” he wrote, “but they walk corporate. … Abortion is never halted. Affirmative action is never abolished. The culture industry is never forced to clean up its act.”

These days, that sounds quaint — even a bit like a golden era — as many American women lose their reproductive rights, as schools are pressured to stop teaching students about slavery and racism, as even powerful corporations come under fire for being excessively woke. The culture war is no longer just posturing by politicians mainly interested in cutting taxes on the rich; many elected Republicans are now genuine fanatics.

As I said, one can almost feel nostalgic for the good old days of greed and cynicism.

Oddly, the culture war turned real at a time when Americans are more socially liberal than ever. George W. Bush won the 2004 election partly thanks to a backlash against gay marriage. (True to form, he followed up his victory by proclaiming that he had a mandate to … privatize Social Security.) But these days, Americans accept the idea of same-sex marriages almost three to one.

And the disconnect between a socially illiberal G.O.P. and an increasingly tolerant public is surely one reason the widely predicted red wave in the midterms fell so far short of expectations.

Yet despite underperforming in what should, given precedents, have been a very good year for the out-party, Republicans will narrowly control the House. And this means that the inmates will be running half the asylum.

True, not all members of the incoming House Republican caucus are fanatical conspiracy theorists. But those who aren’t are clearly terrified by and submissive to those who are. Kevin McCarthy may scrape together the votes to become speaker, but even if he does, actual power will obviously rest in the hands of people like Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And what I don’t understand is how the U.S. government is going to function. President Barack Obama faced an extremist, radicalized G.O.P. House, but even the Tea Partiers had concrete policy demands that could, to some extent, be appeased. How do you deal with people who believe, more or less, that the 2020 election was stolen by a vast conspiracy of pedophiles?

I don’t know the answer, but prospects don’t look good.