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New Money

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A stranger who does not know me defended me online today because we are brothers in the foxhole of economic calamity. I'm living in a garage and he's living in a friend's basement. The numbers are staggering yet the numbers are invisible. The number of Americans who lose their homes each month is equal to the number who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina.

Where is our presidential flyover? Where are our FEMA trailers?

I once thought myself smarter than the average bear. I was once ahead of the game with a nice house and new car and I thought myself compassionate and caring. But now I look back at that person who was once me and I wince at my own ignorance. Mother Theresa opened a house in San Francisco and she ordered the carpets be taken up and the hot water heater disconnected because, she said, "To understand the poor we must live as the poor." I thought that I understood what that meant, but I didn't know anything of the sort.

I've learned a lot in fifteen months; I've learned that it really isn't that hard to wash your clothes in a tub. That milk only lasts three days in the mini fridge so it's better to drink it up than to let it go bad. Mustard doesn't need refrigeration and mosquitoes go home after nine o'clock. I have found myself more closely connected to strangers and humanity than at any other point in my life. Invisible bonds and transcendental communications connect me to them. I was in Burger King ordering a dollar cheeseburger when another man my age with graying, shaggy hair and fading tee shirt asked me, "How you doing?"

I looked at him and understood instantly that this was no casual comment. This was a personal question because he had identified me and picked me out of a crowd by my own faded tee shirt and shaggy hair as one of the lost and imaginary. I recognized him as one of my own brethren and I understood his three-word communication like a secret code between spies. With three words he was asking if I had a place to sleep and to wash and to use the toilet. He asked because in the precarious life those things are important, and he asked to connect with me and me with him.

For a homeless and unemployed man I stay quite busy. I wake in the morning with the sun when the heat makes it impossible to stay on the love seat. I begin by washing myself in the same tub that I do laundry with. I shave without shaving cream by using hand soap. I'm fortunate to have a light beard; it takes me three days to work up a decent five o'clock shadow. Then I begin checking my e-mails and then checking the want ads. Sometimes I have to just leave the page open and move on. It's too difficult to take the want ads all at once so I'll come back to them.

There's make-believe jobs that offer mysterious work for imaginary pay, want ads that don't specify what you're applying for or what you'll be paid. Then there are the ultra specific jobs, "Must be able to translate Latvian into Korean dialects. Must have Masters degree or better from Ivy League School and be able to work part-time nights and weekends."

The only question that really makes me angry is, "So, have you found a job yet?" It angers me because it implies that this is my fault or that I'm not trying. I recently had a person respond to my article, "No Ordinary Utensil," which is about homelessness and personal value. Well, this fellow was a social Darwinist and he had plenty therefore everyone else should have plenty, too, and if they didn't it was because they weren't as smart as he was.

He had read in the newspaper that there were thousands of new jobs opening up all across the country and that most of the unemployed were just lazy. It's easy to get upset with people like that and you must remind yourself that they are just ignorant and that sometimes we are blinded to others shadows by the bright lights of our own lives.

I explained to this gentleman that his philosophy was no less than the law of the jungle and because the lion hadn't jumped on his back he thought that the jungle was all right. I explained that Homo heidelbergensis were known to care for their sick and to feed those too old or too sick to hunt, thus locating his personal philosophy somewhere between that of a herd animal and a cave man.

I read another story of how the economy was improving because the Norfolk railroad was hiring fifty people. I've worked for the railroad. Are you a boilermaker, a machinist or a pipe fitter? Are you under thirty years old?
Can you work long hours and then no hours at all for weeks on end? Do you understand that on a whim you can be laid off and maybe not called back for a year? If you are working outside it will be in all weather and all conditions and that most everything that you work with is measured in tons. There are more ways of being killed on the railroad than can be imagined. It is not a job for the casual or the careless, not a job that they're likely to grow old in.

I read Robert Gibbs' comments and all I could do was to laugh at the cluelessness of it. They really believe that they have done great things and they really, really, really don't understand why we don't profess our undying love for this administration. I've been rereading Churchill so I'll throw out one more quote. "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." That's the Obama administration in a nutshell.

They've set themselves an agenda and then they compromise and wheedle and backslide and make deals until each bill is an unadulterated cow pie. Then they pass it and chalk it up on the score board saying, "Ta da!" and wonder why there is no applause. Gibbs got mad because he was tired of criticism, but I'm tired, too. I'm tired of living in a garage; I'm tired of not being able to find a job and I'm tired of our people living like this. I'm a big boy and I can take it but every time I go to the grocery store I see women with small children and I think to myself, "Oh my god!"

Gibbs is a fool but no greater fool than Obama. You see, I don't want a pony or a unicorn, I want something more, I want a future. Maybe I'm crazy and maybe if I had the money I would be on drugs because I want to alter my reality from what my eyes actually see. I've seen people sleeping in cars and in tents and I've seen them scraping up pennies trying to get a biscuit at McDonalds and I've seen a mother with children leave because she didn't have enough money to feed her kids Happy Meals.

So if that makes me the professional left, then so be it because it certainly makes them the amateurs. I was talking with a friend about the New Deal and you can't live in a garage or a tent or a basement without thinking a lot about the New Deal. You read the words of FDR and they are filled with iron and thunder and determination. He called big business and the bankers every name under the sun including a cancer and a plague. Then he vowed to do something about it and then he did!

Even the name "New Deal" was about a government admitting that things were screwed up and that it was their fault and not yours! That the government was going to commit itself to a new covenant with the people, a New Deal. A chance to start over, a chance for a future. So Obama and Gibbs can point to the score board and say, "Ain't we doing great?" And my answer is, hell no! You'd need half an ass to work your way up to half-assed.

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I who am I? Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obscures who it is that (more...)

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