Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Shall I Say of These Things?

Gas has hit a national all-time high of $4.11 a gallon.

IndyMac bank has been taken over and other banks stand on the brink.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake testified before Congress about the state of the economy.

President Bush in response to the state of the economy said, "I'm not an economist. I'm an optimist...I do believe we are growing." The rest of the nation doesn't see this growth.

We've spent $750 BILLION on the Iraq War.

We spend more than that on importing oil.

The Consumer Price Index is at the second highest rate in 26 years.

The nation's leading economist and architect of Former President Ronald Reagan's supply side economics and trickle-down theory was on NPR Tuesday, July 15th. He stated, "this is deeper and longer than the last few recessions. They lasted a year, then recovered." That was from Professor Martin Felstein.

President Bush, in the waning days of his failed presidency, wants to eliminate any possibility of ordinary people to get home loans. He is moving swiftly, with his Republican cronies, to do away with down payment assistance.

Have we become a country that is only for the wealthiest of the wealthiest few?

My little suburb, Kirkwood, can't seem to build million-dollar McMansions fast enough, squeezing out the more traditional, 100-year old homes. The taxes on a $395K home for sale was quoted at $4900 a year.

My grocery shopping habits have changed. I pass over the organic chicken and even the "natural" chicken. My meals are including more rice and pasta. My kids are drinking more water and treats like eating out are more rare.

When I do eat out now, usually for a meeting, I order appetizers or split a meal. Yesterday, my husband and I had brunch at Majestic Restaurant in the Central West End. We love this Greek Restaurant and it has been a favorite of our's for ten years. The generous portion sizes and family atmosphere have always been the attraction. Yesterday, I noticed the bacon was less thick and fewer pieces than normal for my traditional breakfast at $5.15. I pointed out to my husband that the recession is hitting everywhere.

I am preparing to buy school clothes and school supplies for my children. The department stores and even Target aren't top on my list for my daughters. I visited Once-Upon-A-Child resale store and have been conversing with one of my Mocha Mom friends about clothes swapping. I am not going to buy lots of new crayons, markers, paper, and new book bags like I did last school year.

My elder sister called me on Sunday and rather nonchalantly told me she had to have surgery. I went with her to the pre-op visit and learned she has a very large tumor resting on her colon, invading her gallbladder, and reaching into her liver. She is only 55. She has lived through discrimination as a tall woman, born in 1952, and coping with epilepsy. She had medical issues including a couple grand mal seizures over the last five years, so she missed her age-50 colonoscopy. Yet, her sweet, gentle innocence looked at me and said, "my life is in God's hands."

I watched The Today Show ( briefly this morning and Matt Lauer was interviewing three top economic advisers regarding the economy. He had flip charts next to each of them with their three top things to fix the economy. The one that made me the angriest was Forbes. He, along with the Republicans, tend to think we aren't in a recession. He talked about more tax cuts (i.e., making permanent President Bush's tax cuts), strengthening the dollar (i.e. letting more foreign companies buy up America much like InBev bought up Anheuser-Busch). The one I really liked was Crammer when he said get rid of ethanol - that will help with the food prices and turn to natural gas - that will eliminate our dependence on oil. The lone woman on the panel suggested we keep the prices high (gas) to reduce the demand and eliminate our consumer nation status (we buy a lot of foreign goods). I listen to this and I wonder, will any of it make difference when every day people drive down I-44 heading east into St.Louis, alone in their gas-guzzling cars.

My brother-cousin is leaving in a few days. He has been here for close to three months. His mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away a month later. He stayed to close up her estate. I have come to cherish spending time with him. He will be greatly missed.

School starts next month. My youngest son will be a freshman. He is in a "good" school district. There will be other kids who will start and not finish. California just reported that one-fourth of their students will not finish high school. That includes 30% of Latino and 41.1% of Black students. My stomach cringes. It is not all the teachers. It is not all the fault of No Child Left Behind, even though I detest that deplorable and underfunded program. The teachers can't fix family problems, poverty, lack of health care, lack of jobs, and gang violence.

I'm sitting here pondering these things. CNN reported yesterday that mortgage brokers knowingly lied to borrowers, steering them to sub-prime loans for the higher commissions. NPR did a story earlier this week about a Latina who was tricked into a loan that ended up with mortgage payments of $3000 a month, she ended up in foreclosure a month later.

"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you." James 5:1-6.

I'm sipping a nice cup of Ethiopian Yigarchaffe and I wonder about all these things.

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