Category Archives: Economy

A Time for New Beginnings

new beginnings

New Beginnings Resale Shop

In a time when many people are facing economic uncertainty and others are becoming more concerned about our impact on the environment, community-minded entrepreneurs are looking for ways to make a living and make a difference. For Janice Bergeron, owner of New Beginnings Resale Boutique in Limington, starting her own business also became a time of incredible personal growth.

Bergeron opened the shop in the Limington Meadows building on Route 25 in October of 2011 following a painful divorce. “The locals call the building the chicken barn,” she said, opening the door to the space where neat rows of clothing hang in well-organized sections. “People come in and say they are surprised at how clean it is. Local people say they depend on New Beginnings, that they buy all their clothes here.”

Bergeron, who grew up in Whitman, Massachusetts and moved to Maine a year after her marriage, was an at-home mom of seven for 27 years. Over the years, she often lamented the bags of clothing she discarded as the kids outgrew items, thinking how she would love to open a shop. After her divorce, she needed income to support herself, and the old dream of a consignment store became a reality.

“With the divorce, I was shaken. I didn’t have any skills. I wasn’t sure how I was going to survive.” At the time, Janice’s sister, Kathy Bergeron, was managing the Limington Meadows building–a space belonging to the late Charles and Cynthia Libby who were well-known antique dealers before their passing in 2006 and 2011 respectively. Kathy asked Janice, “If you could do anything, what would it be?” When Janice said she always wanted to run a consignment shop, Kathy suggested she take her tax return that year and open up the store. That was the beginning of New Beginnings, and the beginning of a new life for Janice.

“It’s given me confidence. It’s given my daughter confidence,” she said.

Janice stocked the shop from various sources. “A consignment shop went out of business, so I bought racks and inventory. I’d go yard-saling. I got two car-loads from a person who was simply looking to get rid of a bunch of clothes.”

As fate would have it, space at Limington Meadows became available at just the right time. “It was a huge leap of faith,” Janice said, and having sister Kathy next door has been helpful. “She’s been the key in teaching me the ropes.” The Limington Meadows shops include antiques, a bakery, a housewares shop, and a jewelry business as well as the consignment shop.

The biggest surprise for Janice has been the response of her customers. “I’ve been in consignment shops before and it’s not personal, like they expect people to just come and go.” But at New Beginnings, customers come in regularly, and there is a connection Janice didn’t expect. “I wasn’t expecting the positive reception from the local people. People are very excited by the option here.”

The boutique stocks children’s and women’s clothing, accessories, wedding and formal gowns, plus sizes, shoes, and jewelry. Janice’s daughter, Shania, works in the shop, as well. “She recently sold her first wedding gown,” Bergeron said proudly, acknowledging that the venture has given her teen confidence, too.

New Beginnings Resale Boutique is open Friday and Saturday from 9-4 and Sundays 1-4.

Social currency

Waterboro Reporter

Waterboro Reporter

The photo above was provided by the owner/publisher of the newspaper for which I work. The Waterboro Reporter is a locally-owned, weekly community paper that pays me for the articles I write–many about sustainability, local farmers and business people, local non-profit organization, school news, town government and activist groups. The Reporter is, I believe, an important part of the “local circle.” It is a free-to-read newspaper, with printing costs and content (read: writers like me!) costs covered only by advertising dollars, not readers.

I love the idea of currency circulating from one local business to the next local business via paychecks and purchases. This is the essence of a local economy. It also creates a type of social currency: measured only in goodwill and reciprocity.

Here is a real example: Last month, the Reporter sold advertising space to local businesses and printed up some ads that readers were sure to notice as they read the content of the paper. Then the Reporter collected the advertising money from those businesses. Last week, the Reporter sent me a check for my articles. I cashed my check on Saturday and went immediately to the Newfield Farmer’s Market–where I bought close to $25 worth of stuff. Now, if the market then took out an advertisement in the following week’s paper, the local economic circle would be complete! The money would just continue circulating–maybe going to out to a local antique store or the local supermarket–but eventually, hopefully, coming right back around and around and around.

THIS cycle is exactly what I’ve been writing about/advocating for the past four years!

Over the course of a year, with money earned from my writing gig, I’ve bought local maple syrup, a Community Supported Agriculture membership from a local farmer, and an order for a year’s worth of beef from a Limerick neighbor. I’ve shopped at the local supermarket and had countless lunches at local restaurants like the Clipper Merchant Tea House and the Peppermill. I’ve donated money to charitable causes (guess where I went on Saturday afternoon, after the market? The Limerick Historical Society penny auction.)I’ve bought incense,books, toys and other interesting stuff at local gift shops. My love for Plummer’s Hardware and the Limerick Supermarket is well-known.

Much of this I’ve documented here on Localista and shared with my facebook friends and my email list, which is also free publicity for the local businesses I love. In turn, these businesses provide me with excellent customer service and great products.

The money I spend comes from a locally owned paper whose only income–I will stress this again–is advertising. This is a newspaper that has been amazing to publish all the stories I’ve written with a sustainability slant, promoting the kind of “buy local” philosophy I hold dear. The Reporter doesn’t “sell” newspaper coverage. It covers stories we think are interesting and important whether or not an ad is purchased; however, think about that local cycle a minute. Now think some more…

Readers, please shop locally, and if you shop at one of our advertisers, let them know you saw their ad in the paper. Supporting each other, in a local economy, is the foundation of freedom from corporate control. Be part of the circle!

Sequester Savings #1: A Running Tally of How the Sequester is Affecting My Spending

dumpster diving photos 001

So, the sequester has the talking heads buzzing about how much, if any, effect the sequester budget cuts are going will have on the economy.

As a family whose income is going to be reduced 20% for five months starting sometime in April, we are already working on our family budget and figuring out how to “not spend” that amount–because we don’t think we should have to sacrifice the savings we already have (or even the savings we were planning on putting by) to the cowardice of our legislative and executive branches of our federal government. Cowardice, yes, because the brave move would have been to tell the people of this fine country, honestly, that we are in a mess and we need to cut spending and we need to raise taxes, both. Instead, they chose to “let the sequester happen” and take zero responsibility for their failure to govern or lead.

So, they won’t get a penny of my savings account. We will instead withdraw that money from the economy.

My plan is to post regular Sequester Savings entries. I won’t be able to keep an exact tally. How to account for “what I didn’t spend” as opposed to “what I did spend?” You don’t get receipts for NOT spending. Unless you create one. Like today.

Daughter: Can you go to Waterways (a local coffee shop)and get us some lattes?
Me: We can make coffee at home. We are saving money.

Total savings: $7.50 directly OUT OF THE LOCAL ECONOMY.

I’m also in the middle of baking a loaf of homemade bread. My usual loaf of 12-grain bread costs about $4. A quick search on the internet shows a loaf of white bread homemade costs between 36-45 cents a loaf. Huh.

It will be interesting to compare grocery totals for months pre-sequester to months post-sequester. I’m counting March as post-sequester since we are starting the economizing now.

This is list of things I’m cutting out:

$ coffees and lattes anywhere but home
$ breakfast out once a week at local restaurant
$ books–kindle, Amazon, bookstores
$ pizzas from pizza shops (making my own instead ALL the time)
$ lunches and dinners out–take turns making lunches at home, peeps?
$ clothes for me for the next five months; I’ll make do with what I
have
$ theater, movies, or a concert unless it is free
$ entertaining at home, i.e. parties–unless it is potluck it isn’t happening!
$ jewelry, makeup, shoes–almost goes without saying, right?
$ extra trips that burn gasoline

You may wonder if I plan on having any fun at all. Sure. Libraries have books last I checked, so I don’t need to buy them. Coffee at home is fine. My homemade pizza and bread–yum and fun to make. A game of cards of mah-jong with friends down the road is fine entertainment. Scrabble anyone? How about a walk, bike ride, swim?

On the other hand, I’ll miss eating out, I really will.

But the main point is this, Federal Government: I’m not bailing you out with my savings. I hope the economy feels the pinch. I hope, finally, you duly-elected officials start doing your jobs, work together, and figure out how to balance this budget, starting with entitlement reform and ending with closing the most egregious tax loopholes.

Oh, and raise the minimum wage while you are at it. Have you seen the stats on wealth inequity lately?

Ignoring the Elephant

Elephant at the Washington D.C. Zoo

Elephant at the Washington D.C. Zoo

With all this talk of sequestration and deficits and budgets, there is a huge elephant in the room pretty much ignored by politicians who are scared out of their MINDS to even whisper it: Social Security.

What is responsible about drastic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending if we REFUSE to put Social Security and Medicare on the butcher block as well?

Why are politicians scared to talk about it? Because the generation known as Baby Boomer has our country by the you-know-whats simply because of sheer numbers. Ever since they were running around college campuses in the 1960’s this generation has gotten its own way.

And now they are retiring.

And we’ve known this day was coming for 40 years.

And we’ve refused to deal with it proactively.

According to the Social Security Administration website, life expectancy for those reaching adulthood has only increased, on average, a mere 5 years. The main problem is not life-expectancy. It is the huge size of the Baby Boomer generation, the SSA says. There are simply too many of them and not enough coming up behind to pay. http://www.ssa.gov/history/lifeexpect.html

Well, that may be, but why not start there? Raise the retirement those five years. It would be a start. In fact, I have to wonder why it hasn’t already been implemented. Apparently, nobody wants to go there. Guess why? Those Baby Boomers VOTE!

I say nobody, but that isn’t exactly true. I found this on the Heritage Foundation’s website (a conservative think-tank, for those who aren’t familiary):

While lawmakers from both parties squabble over tax rates, a fiscal crisis is looming on the horizon. Entitlement programs — Social Security and Medicare to be precise — have unfunded obligations of $48 trillion. By comparison, the fiscal cliff carries a price tag of roughly $650 billion. As lawmakers talk about another debt-limit increase, they need to think seriously about America’s long-term obligations.
(click the quote to read the entire article)

The article goes on to outline three solutions.

1)Fix the annual adjustment rate to reflect true inflation rates
2)Increase the retirement age to 68 and then link it to life expectancy
3)Focus benefits on those who need it–as originally intended.

So as not to be one-sided, let’s take a look at a progressive plan to fix the problem. The Center for American Progress (a liberal think-tank) published this:

Is there room in Washington for a true bipartisan agreement on Social Security reform that increases national savings, individual ownership, and ultimately retirement security? It’s a tall order, but doable if both progressives and the president are willing to consider the following four-part framework for bipartisan Social Security reform:

At least they are talking about it! But what of their proposals? I have to admit I found them to be rather convoluted, but I’ll try to simplify. Come on progressives, ya’ gotta dumb it down a little for the average American. But here goes.
1)A universal 401K plan with matching dollars provided by the U.S. Government.This would also include a flat-tax savings deduction on income taxes.
2)Increase taxes on the rich
3)Balance the budget and in good years, save the money, don’t spend it.
4)Bipartisanship

Gasp! Cooperation? What a novel idea!

Once again, I believe it all comes down to power and politics, and both political parties are equally to blame. It’s time for those of us in the middle to move ever more firmly into the middle and to begin to encourage others on the near left and right to join us. We should not be held hostage to two over-reaching political parties that are over-influenced by the power elite and money elite on both sides with their deep pockets and bribery.

It is also imperative that the younger generations band together on this and other issues in order to have equal voice at the ballot box. If we don’t vote, the large voting block of Baby Boomers will stomp all over us, leaving us with huge debts, a decimated economy, and a bleak future.

Social entitlements to the Baby Boomer generation is the big, gray, wrinkled elephant in the room. There it is. Take a good look. Now what are we gonna do about it?

Maybe it is time we go back to some good old-fashioned values and begin to take care of our own elderly again, and then begin to reduce the entitlement spending. Again, smaller and more local control is better, less complex, and therefore more manageable. Local communities can (and will, if necessary) take care of their own.

I see consensus up there on those ideas for changing Social Security. You have a Progressive think-tank talking about balancing the budget and saving money. You have a Conservative think-tank talking about giving benefits only to those who need it. I bet both would agree to raising the retirement age incrementally. The only thing left, really, is to stop playing politics and cooperate! We the people need to demand it of our representatives.

Pass the word, write to your representatives in Congress, and talk…and consider switching to an alternative political party or declare yourself an Independent. That’s what I’m gonna do, asap. It’s time.

Federal Government Employment Really Bigger Under Obama?

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Graph From Political Loudmouth on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Political-Loudmouth/281168802721

I just saw a graph on Facebook that supposedly shows that the Obama government actually employed fewer people than the last three Republican governments.

Can this be true, or is it some sort of skewing of facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics? If it is true, why don’t we know this?

Are our society, politics, and government so large now we citizens cannot get a grasp on what is really happening? This is unhealthy in a democracy or any kind of government.

Time to re-localize ourselves–local government, local education, local economy, local community–all within our immediate grasp, not too convoluted to analyze, transparent…

The Sequestration Fiasco

june 24 2011 124

Does anyone else think this whole supposed sequester “debate” is a political scam perpetrated by BOTH parties?

Here’s my thought: both Democrats and Republicans know we need to reduce our budget spending and raise revenue in order to get our fiscal house in order, but neither wants to be “the bad guy” who makes the tough choices. So our lovely political parties are going to let the sequester happen, and neither side will claim responsibility for the sequester and will instead blame the other side…in effect, political stalemate. This, instead of being brave and making tough choices with reductions and taking responsibility for those choices. And if it is a political stalemate, neither party loses. Only the American people lose.

It’s not a bad move, if you are a political party. You don’t stick your neck out. You can skew the facts and figures as fuel for your next campaign and light the match from behind your safety wall of political rhetoric. The politicized news agencies will blow on the flames, igniting a wildfire of ire on both sides. The smoke and flames will obscure the truth…whatever that is. Great plan. If you are a political party.

Neither party is willing to admit, out loud, that Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare (as well as defense and other items) have to be cut and revamped if we are going to have a responsible budget. Dems refuse to admit that the government is bloated. Repubs refuse to admit that we need increased revenue to pay down the debt we’ve grown.

No one wants to think about China.

We the people really need to withdraw our support from both parties, in my opinion. They are not working for us. They are too busy starting fires.

To read more about the sequester, I’ve put together a list from a number of sources from both sides and the middle.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/02/19/172425370/whose-sequester-is-it-anyway

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/19/obama-seeks-sequester-scare/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21508658

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/02/18/bowles-simpson-debt-sequester-budget-plan-politico/1928819/

Shopping Local for the Holidays

Sandra Waugh Watercolor of Red Rowboat

Sandra Waugh Watercolor of Red Rowboat

Dear Reader:

How are you doing on your holiday shopping so far? I’ve been taking advantage of lucky opportunities that pop up–like yesterday’s trip to Portland for a Jim Brickman performance at the Portland Museum of Art.

Heading toward the museum for the performance, I noticed a Reny’s department store across from the parking garage. Hello! I don’t get into Portland that often, so the chance to pop into one of the branches of a Maine-owned department store was like an early Christmas present to myself.

Reny's Department Store Logo

Reny’s Department Store Logo

I’m fairly pleased with my local shopping progress this holiday season. I’ve bought books by Maine authors at public readings, handcrafted jewelry from the funkiest little shop--Maine Jewelry and Art--in Bangor on Plaid Friday (local answer to the mall’s Black Friday horror story), c.d.’s directly from musicians at performances (ahem, did you catch that Jim Brickman reference up there?), makeup from a local Avon rep, clothes from that Reny’s excursion yesterday, and a few things at Goodwill.

Fly Fisherman painting by Sandra Waugh

Fly Fisherman painting by Sandra Waugh

I’ve also ordered Christmas cards from my good friend and fine artist, Sandra Waugh, who lives right here in my town. That is her “waughtercolor” at the top of this page, such a cute, little red boat skillfully rendered, floating between sea and sky. This and other select paintings are for sale right now, but Sandra also creates beautiful watercolor portraits of loved ones, children, and pets from photographs you mail to her, like this one of the fly fisherman.

I am in awe of that kind of talent! Please visit her website at http://www.waughtercolors.com/ and/or private message her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/messages/waughtercolors

With the shopping well-underway, I guess it is time to start looking toward decorating the tree and holiday recipes. Food shopping for holiday meals can be a bit challenging (I need an egg source!), and I will write about that in another post as we get closer to Christmas. In the meantime…

I challenge you to buy at least ONE item this year from a local merchant or small-business owner, knowing that when you do so, much more of that money gets sent back into the local economy than if you spent the same $$’s at a mega-corporation. Want more reasons? Visit the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website for the Top 10 Reasons to Support Locally Owned Businesses.

Happy Holiday Shopping, everyone!

Election Day–Does It Really Matter Who Wins?

U.S.A. Election Day

Ralph Lauren vneck sweater / J.Crew twill jacket / Levi’s Made & Crafted mid rise jeans / Converse shoes, $14 / Tommy Hilfiger bag / Tommy Hilfiger Sid Cable Knit Multicolor Scarf, $98 / Tommy Hilfiger perfume, $52

I am voting today–and I’m going to check a box for President–but I’m really only going because of the state and local races and questions, where I (perhaps naively) believe my vote actually makes a difference in my life and my community. When it comes to the Presidential race, eh, shrug, not so much.

Either Obama is going to win and we’ll continue with this gridlock as the Republicans block everything for the sake of politics…or Romney is going to win and we’ll start hearing, “I inherited this mess…so don’t blame me” as the Dems begin to block everything for the sake of politics. And they’ll all start talking about 2016.

Meanwhile the Federal Reserve and corporate cronies will go ahead and do their own thing, laughing (at us) all the way to the bank.

Read what economists think about the affect of the election on the economy on CNN.com

Line Dry Summer

ClothespinsDear Reader:

Clotheslines and Downton Abbey

I had every intention of switching my summer clothes-drying experience from indoor electric to outdoor clothesline early on in the season, but like many projects, this one was pushed back until today. I had wanted to buy one of those cute little round umbrella type clotheslines that you mount into the ground and under-plant with fragrant herbal ground-covers like thyme, oregano, and camomile so that your clothes-hanging experience becomes something akin to tip-toeing through the tulips or maybe pretending you are a buxom housemaid in the employ of Downton Abbey.

This morning, however, I was talking with Neighbor Debbie whilst sweating on the elliptical machine in our community gym, and we began talking about the humid weather, the rolling-in of late-afternoon thunderstorms, and the necessity of her getting her laundry off the line in time. I stammered around a bit about how I meant to get a clothesline but just hadn’t made the time.

“I just strung a line between the trees,” she said in her practical and very lovely and precise British-sounding South African accent. “It works wonderfully.”

“You don’t get any pine pitch on your laundry?” I asked in my far-from-the-mother-tongue Maine accent (although, if you think about it, we Mainers with our dropped “r’s” are closer to British English than, say, mid-westerners).

Laundry in Basket

“No,” Neighbor Debbie said. “Not yet.”

Okay, so there was no excuse for procrastinating on this project anymore. I went down to Plummer’s Hardware (now an Ace Hardware store; more on that in another post) for a length of clothesline–$7.99 plus tax. I scoped out my property. Yup, there was a pine tree on one side of the wood line and an oak on the other. We’d cleared out the brush just underneath and in front, and the afternoon sun was beating down there as if to spotlight the perfect location for my line. In ten minutes, I was good to go.

Outside the Clothes Dryer

Why Line Dry?

Maybe it isn’t necessary to explain why I am choosing to dry my laundry au naturel, but for those who are interested I will list my reasons:

1)It is better for the environment. Electricity powers the clothes dryer appliance in my cellar. Electricity is often generated from coal-fired power plants. Coal mining can have detrimental environmental effects. Coal burning can have detrimental environmental effects. While I don’t think we can get away from burning coal completely, reducing the amount of electricity we use can only be a positive step toward a saner environmental situation.

2)It is better for my bottom line. Sunshine and fresh air are free. Electricity is expensive. Any way I can save on my electric bill every month is money I can spend locally at the farm stand, etc.

3)Line-dried clothes smell divine.

4)It is one more way I can use my property which makes me feel just a little more self-sufficient. Let’s say the power goes out. I can still dry my clothes. (I also have a small, wooden, folding clothes rack on which to dry small items. It may behoove me to get a few more . . . and start using that woodstove down cellar in the winter. Wood heat is very dry. I might even be able to string a clothesline down there.)

5)No one ever burned down their house drying their clothes outdoors on a line. House fires are started in improperly maintained dryers all the time. From Vent Check International: But according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) clothes dryers accounted for the largest share of appliance and tool fires between 1994 and 1998. There were 14,300 clothes dryer fires in U.S. homes in 1998, resulting in 19 deaths, 312 injuries and $67.7 million in direct property damage. http://www.vcisafety.org/dryer_vent_fires.cfm

I suppose if the pine trees caught fire and spread to the laundry, and the laundry happened to be dry, and a piece of burning bath towel landed on my roof . . . well, maybe it could burn my house down. But if those pine trees are alight, I figure there’s little chance of saving the house anyway.

Electricity Maine

Electricity Maine

Speaking of saving $$$ on electricity AND going local, there is an option out there for us Mainers that accomplishes both goals. I heard about Electricity Maine last winter from my friend, Becky, but like my clothesline project, I never got around to actually checking into this Auburn-based company until today.

Here’s the scoop. Currently, Bangor Hydro and CMP customers have a choice when it comes to energy supply companies. The default is an out-of-state company. The new kid on the block is Electricity Maine. This Maine-owned company is located in Auburn and purchases electricity from the New England Power Pool which is where all the New England power generating companies market their energy. Then Electricity Maine sets a competitive rate (currently .0707 per kWh) for the supply portion of your electricity bill. (The transmission costs are still controlled by CMP and Bangor Hydro–they take care of the lines and boxes and reading meters, etc.)

It is easy to make the switch. It took me about 2 minutes, one minute of which was spent logging onto my CMP account to find my account number.

If you are a Maine resident and are interested in saving a little money on your electric bill and supporting a Maine-owned company versus an out-of-state company, log onto http://www.electricityme.com/. There is a really, really good FAQ page on there, which is where I got the information for this blog.

Fluff and Fold

So, about four hours after pegging the laundry to the line, I went back out with my basket and brought my fresh sheets, etc. into the house. Without the camomile and thyme, it wasn’t quite the Downton Abbey experience.

But it was nice . . . Outside the (Electric Clothes Dryer)Box.

Hard Right

Home Work

Dear Reader:

Following is a snippet of conversation I had on a social networking site. I was commenting on the following quote which had been posted as a photo from something called Suzie’s Daily Quotes.

“It is wrong to tax a working person almost to the breaking point and then give it to someone who is able to work but refuses to.”

Twenty people had already “thumbed-up” their approval of the statement with no question, no mention of nuances, nothing. Being me, I rose to the bait. In that respect, I guess I got what I deserved. Read on.

Shelley : I agree, too, except.. it is hard to get a job in this economy, especially if you are maybe not above average in smarts, didn’t get a chance to go to college, and used to work in a paper mill or shoe factory or textile shop. What do we do about people who want to work but there is no work because we’ve shipped all the blue-collar jobs to sweatshops in third-world countries?

Dorcas Hardliner (name has been changed): To Shelley: Why can’t you take a job, such as McDonalds, or is it because they don’t pay what you used to get at your old job? I’m sick and tired of hearing that there are no jobs, when the paper has them everyday! So quit bitching and go find a job! If I can take a lower paying job than what I was used to, than you can or anyone can!

The conservative political right. They may have some decent, worthy ideas. They may be good, hardworking, nice people in general. But boy, oh boy, do some of them have a problem with communication.

This is the topic of today’s ruminations, my dear readers. The comment above exemplifies everything I despise about the voice of the political right in this country. Its vitriol. Its condescension. Its resentment. Its hate.

I was shocked by the absolute venom spewing forth from “Dorcas” aimed at a person she a)never met b)knows absolutely nothing about and c)said she partly agreed with her. And on a Facebook wall, to boot!

(Not to mention the fact that “Dorcas” so quickly assumed I was a welfare recipient who wasn’t even trying to find a job. I’m not, by the way. Interesting how people read so much into a little Outside the Box thinking? Or maybe it’s just “thinking” that throws them? Hmmm…)

Read it again and ask yourself, is it any wonder that some of us have a hard time separating the right’s IDEAS from its ATTITUDE?

There’s nothing wrong with sharing political statements/satire/photo commentary on a social networking site. This one was simply one of hundreds, maybe thousands, of facile quips that validate certain personal prejudices and political beliefs. Here we have one that is politically conservative, but as such it is no different from the silly little leftist sentiments that get thrown around regularly on the sites.

Ironically, I also happen to agree with the statement–but only if it is taken literally.

It IS wrong to take money from a hardworking person and to then give it to someone who CHOOSES not to work but instead to live off state and federal welfare. (Apparently 20 others did as well, as they all signaled their approval in the usual thumbs-up fashion.)

However, there is something insidious about the statement. There is hidden between the facile lines an implication that welfare is wrong. We hear a sly whisper that anyone who takes welfare is lazy and could get a job if he or she really wanted to. There is an attitude of “I’m better than you are simply because I work and you don’t.” It implies that all taxes are going to worthless bums, conveniently ignoring the reality that taxes also go toward defense (a pretty large chunk, in fact), Social Security, Medicare, education, the arts, medical research, etc.

In fact, I recently read in Harper’s magazine about the number of families in poverty receiving federal cash assistance. Back in 1996, 68 out of 100 families with children living in poverty received help. In 2010 the number was 27 out of 100. (July 2012, “Harper’s Index”, pg 9.)

According to the pg 54 Index Sources, this info came from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Click HERE to read a report on poverty put out by the CBPP. The gist of the report? We are sinking further into poverty every day of this recession.

Thumbs-up on that anybody?

I wrote back to Dorcas with the following:

Like I said, I agree in general. I worked as a cashier at Shop n Save while putting myself thru college and was not too excited to see people on food stamps eating steak while I made do with hamburger helper. That being said: Dorcas, I’m glad I’m not in that position, I’m grateful that I made good choices, and I’m super grateful I didn’t have some tragedy happen to me and I really, really hope nothing tragic happens to you so that you have to listen to someone say this sort of thing to you. ps: I’ve never been on welfare, but I do practice compassion.

I just can’t believe the incredible ill-will and vitriol spewing forth… there are people who use the system and there are people who are truly in a scary situation. And I’ve always said this about government: Government steps in only when people fail to act. If compassion and charity had been adequate from the private sector (churches included), then the government wouldn’t have had to step in in the first place. Soo, if we don’t want government taking our money and distributing it, then maybe we should start giving it to those in need who we feel truly need it. Just a thought.

And…wow…I wasn’t even talking about me (I’m quite comfortable financially, thank you for your concern). It was a generalized point about the loss of good American jobs because we like our cheap stuff at WalMart made in Chinese sweatshops. You know who benefited from the off-shoring of our jobs? CEO’s and big-time investors in the stock market. We want people to work? Buy American. Buy local. Hire someone local to sew our clothes instead of schlepping down to Wamart or Target. Until we start buying local and stop shopping at those places, we have nothing to complain about. But that’s just my opinion.

Not too surprisingly, “Dorcas” hasn’t written back. A few others did chime in with more thoughtful, helpful, insightful, rational commentary–so the right isn’t completely wacky, I guess. Still, there seemed to be a general resentment out there that people less fortunate somehow were “taking” from them, even “killing” them. Really?

Look, people. Many folks out there are in tragic circumstances. Some people make bad choices as young adults (and haven’t we all? and aren’t we kinda’ lucky those bad choices didn’t end up defining us?) and have a hard time pulling themselves out of the mucky mess they are in. Bad things DO happen to good people–sickness, injury, car accidents, death, divorce. There aren’t alot of good-paying jobs out there. Unemployment is high. We can’t all work at McDonalds.

(And what about those awesome McDonald’s and Walmart jobs? If anyone is interested on how easy it is to live on Walmart wages, read NICKEL AND DIMED, please!)

Yes, there are chronic welfare abusers. Yes, there are generations of families who have lived off the hard work of good, decent, honest people and have done nothing but pop out litters of kids. Yes, I think that the MOST money a welfare-recipient receives should be LESS than the lowest-paid employed taxpayer earns. Yes, job training programs are better than simple handouts. Yes, food-stamps should have stricter limits on what people can buy. Yes, the government is really not that adept at ferreting out the abusers from those who need a hand up. Yes, yes, yes. I agree.

I’ll tell you what, though. Telling someone on Facebook to “quit bitching and go find a job!” isn’t going to strengthen this country, and it isn’t going to solve the problem.

In my opinion, the best way to solve the problem is to a)support local businesses b)buy locally-grown food and products c)support local charities who know the needs of the community.

The best way is to make big government unnecessary by taking care of our own.

And that’s MY hard line. . . Outside the Box.