The world isn’t black and white.

Over at my PeaBoard this morning I was reading a thread about one women witnessing her neighbor taking anything and everything from his foreclosed home before it was locked tight.  She wondered if she should do anything or call anyone about it.  Over all the responses were no, not your business.  One response, though, got me thinking.

A poster stated that she didn’t understand why people blamed the banks for all their troubles.  They signed the loan documents and they couldn’t make the payments.  For the most part, I agree with that assessment on many people losing their homes.  Buyers got in over their heads, greed, not enough money sense and over buying did them in in many cases.

The world, though, isn’t that black or white.  Right now our state of politics leads a lot of people to think it is.  On one side you have Democrats wanting to punish banks for taking advantage of people, selling them loans they knew they could never afford.  On the other you have Republicans saying that people have free will and should have known the loans would screw them in the end.

For the record here, people did tell Jason and I during the heyday of the bad loans we should go out and buy.  We were already in a finical hole  I knew would take us years go crawl out of so we did the right thing, we continued to rent rather than take on a loan.  I’m not bragging, just pointing out that plenty of people knew what was coming long before it ever hit.

My dad always taught me, there are two sides to a story and I try like hell to get and see both sides before I come to a conclusion.  Plenty of people bought into the hype, the constant drum beat heard throughout the land calling them to home ownership.  We’re told over and over again we’re not adults until we own, we build wealth on owning, it’s stupid to throw your money down a hole.  And hell, home values go UP!  And so will your income!

And so, people bought.  Some bought small homes as starter homes but many didn’t.  They bought a home on par with what their parents worked themselves, or saved themselves, into right out of the gate.  The shows on TV made us think we needed granite in the kitchen and a whirlpool tub in our master bedrooms.  Without the, we thought, we weren’t doing well.

We bought these homes with no money down, at the height of a housing bubble that even I, who is not in anyway at all financially acute,  could see couldn’t last.  We bought on credit.

Who can blame us? Our Government lives on credit.  We sell our debt to China to finance our needs now, all without having to cut back.  If our Government could do it, why can’t we?  We can make the minimum payments on our credit card and still take that trip to Disney.  Save money?  Well, that’s what credit cards are for.

The biggest problem with that way of thinking was that once the house of cards crashed down people who did the right things, paid with cash, saved, bought what they could afford, well they got screwed too.  People started getting laid off and couldn’t afford their bills either.

They began to plow through their savings, and live on their good credit.  Until the money was gone and their credit was trashed.  Now we’re in a black hole of finical instability as a country.  And we’re scared.  We’re so scared people are doing things they shouldn’t be proud of, spitting at elected officials, using racial slurs against our President.  People are demanding our Government fix this.

The problem is, the situation isn’t black and white.  The Government can’t ride in and save the day without spending a lot of money it doesn’t have.  It can raise taxes, but the people who pay the taxes can’t afford more.  They can borrow it, but China isn’t really being very nice as of late.

And sort of like a child who learns if they cry long enough mom will give him the cookie, if we bail everyone out now, what happens when, down the road after they do it again, we don’t bail them out again?

Right now we’re in a scary place.  We need to realize that there will be pain here, both at home and in our Government.  There has to be.  Some people can be helped but others will lose their homes and savings.  These aren’t bad people or people we shouldn’t care about.  We should care about our neighbors.  In some cases though, we have to let people fail so they don’t continue to make the same bad choices.

Jason and I have learned that, the hard way.  Our family has helped us out but we’ve learned and continue to try and make smarter, better choices because we failed.  Our lives aren’t a zero sum game where there is only one right answer and one wrong answer.  We can’t save everyone from every problem they have and expect different results down the road.

I don’t envy our leaders right now.  People don’t want to hear the truth, the bad news.  Sometimes though, we need too.

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The first item I’ve found…

Here’s the first thing I’ve found in the Health Care Reform Bill that give light to the lie of “we won’t raise the taxes of those making less than $250,000 to fund the bill.”

In 2013 FSA contributions will be capped at $2500 down from $4000 to $5000 currently.  You will also no longer be able to use FSA to purchase over the counter items like aspirin, band aids  or cold and flu medication.  How is this raising taxes?

You put money into your FSA from your pre-taxed income.  If you have a plan that has a $3000 deductible you can no only plan to cover $2500 with your FSA account so you will be on the hook for the last $500 out of your post tax income and now paying taxes on $500 you did not before.

Or, more broadly, you maxed out your FSA at $4000 each year because you have medications you need each month, a $1500 deductible and two kids who get colds and banged up.  You used the FSA each year to cover these items, which can also cover saline solution, humidifiers, thermometers and many OTC birth control options.  You did this because you aren’t the best at budgeting and being on a tight budget it helped to not pay taxes on that $4000 each year.  Now you’re on the hook for $1500 in taxes you weren’t before.

Yet, I’m being told I won’t pay more taxes.  Actually, I will because we use the FSA to lessen our tax burden each year.  Though it is somewhat honest.  I’m not paying a new tax, I’m just having to pay on an old tax I never did before.

Battle lines are drawn.

Today is the day.  Zero hour, the time of reckoning.  Protesters chant outside our capital, in front of the White House, instead of their Sunday afternoon movies people have CNN, Fox and C-Span tuned on their TV’s.  The house has already begun voting on a series of votes leading to the big one, the bill that many American’s don’t want.  A vote that will be done on a straight up or down vote, not through normal voting procedure.  A bill that they didn’t want to vote on to start with, one they are pleading with the Senate to fix after they pass it.

Personally, I think they have the votes.  This bill will pass but the Senate won’t “fix” the bill, why should they?  They passed a bill they liked and it’s not up to them to do anything at this point.

I really love a group of guys who run a site called HillBuzz?!

I do, I do.

HillBuzz started as a way to support Sec. Clinton in her bid for the Presidency in 2008 when she lost her party’s spot the became Democrats for McCain.  Yes, a few gay men from Chicago turn their backs on Pres. Obama and worked actively for  Sen McCain.  And guess what?  Now that they see more clearly how the Democratic Party is guilty of the sins the accuse Republicans of, they are working hard for Gov. Palin.  And pointing out where the Dems are failing and lying.

I love these guys.  First, I happen to love gay men.  Accuse me of whatever sort of bigotry you want for saying it but I’ve found gay men more pro-women than women, more honest and frankly far better to debate with than anyone else I’ve ever met.  They watched as Clinton was accused of things no male politician would have ever been accused of, her wardrobe picked apart, her ability to govern with boobs questioned.  And they called the Dems on it.  When the pack turned on Palin, from spreading rumors her youngest son was her daughters to the hoopla over her and her families wardrobe they called the media on that too.

Now, I disagree with their whole hearted support for Palin for Pres in 2012, I think she’s too mired in Christian Conservativisim for my more secular view, but I do agree.  If Obama’s eldest was older and his youngest still a baby afflicted with Downs no one would have even thought to accuse the family of hiding his daughters love child as his own.  The only reason they did it to Palin was because she is conservative and a women.  And a conservative who preaches abstiance as the  main part of sex education must be brought down when their own child becomes pregnant.  After all, handing out condoms has worked so much better.

And for heaven’s sake, a women with a baby just can’t be President!  Who would watch her child!  No one would even blink an eye if she was a man.  It would be assumed that his wife would be the primary care giver to the baby and that, of course, would be peachy keen.  Men aren’t allowed to be the primary care givers to their children right?

Watching as formerly avid supporters of the Democratic Party realize that as the Dems  lob accusations of racism, sexism and gay bashed bombs at the Republican Party they, the Democrats, are more likely to be guilty of those sins that Republicans.

On the whole, Republicans want less intrusive government, who will live and let live.  GWB was for an amendment banning gay marriage.  That didn’t get traction just because liberals were opposed.  Members of his own party put the breaks on that too.  There is no way in hell we should amend our Constitution to effectively make a group of people second class.

Boystown still has a lot of more progressive ideas but what I love most about them is this.  While they helped support McCain they got to know Republicans, befriended them.  When they did that they realized that most conservatives don’t care about sexuality, skin color or religion.  They learned that conservatives aren’t the evil hate mongers they are portrayed as and they go out of their way to highlight the double standard.

If Rep. Massa had had an R after his name instead of a D, there would have been no way his sexual escapades wouldn’t have been outed long, long before now.  And there is no way in hell he would have gotten away with continuing his behavior in DC.  Now, I think Massa is a fool and a confused fool at that and I don’t completely buy into his accusations that the only reason he was outed was because of his vote on health care.  But I do think that he pissed someone off enough to let the dogs loose on him.

So, check out HillBuzz.  I find it refreshing and funny.

This is what’s wrong with us

There was a horrific murder in Milwaukee recently.  A mother and her two sons, 3 and 4, were murdered then their apartment set on fire.  When the story first broke the roommate and a 6 week old baby were missing.  The newborn was found on church steps in his car seat.  The missing roommate?  Dead.

The roommate, as it turns out, master minded the murder of these three and with the help of two men slaughtered two innocent children.  Over what?  She was mad the women had had a baby, the 6 week old, with a man she still loved.  The guys helped for a paltry $800 they stole.  When her photo was being run on the news they got scared and killed her to try and cover their own asses.

The murders were violent and I’m not able to read the whole account much less retell it without crying uncontrollably.  She set up and helped murder two innocent children because she didn’t like their mother.  They knew her, trusted her and she participated in their murders.  She did not stand on the side lines while her scum helpers did the deed, no she actively murdered two babies.  She was beyond scum, beyond evil.  What she was I have no words for.  Her cohorts did the world a favor, though I wish they’d drawn her murder out so her last moments were as terror filled as the babies were.  She died too easily.

Her family ran a glowing obituary calling her “Betty Boop” and how she was the loving aunt and daughter.  This is what’s wrong with our society.  This thing, in my eyes she’s below human, murdered a women and two of her children over a guy.  As this happened in a not great part of town I’m going to go out on a limb here and state he was probably not a great catch anyway.  She was cruel and from what I’ve read, seemed to enjoy the terror she was inflicting on her victims.  And here her family is posting an obituary talking about her as if she was a random victim of an accident or an illness.

We have no shame any longer.  The mother of Dylan Klebold wrote an amazing book in which she talks about her grief and shame warring with each other.  She spoke of how she grieved for her son but would feel guilt over doing so given what he’d done.   This family shows no shame over their “loving” daughters actions.  No, they post a death notice that is glowing.

I don’t deny a family grieves, and I wouldn’t say they shouldn’t.  I’m sure that there were things about this women that they loved and will miss.  I’m sure they hurt, but where is their shame for the wreckage their loved one left behind?
Without shame we have no rules about what is right and what is wrong.  If we remove shame from everything there is no reason to avoid actions.  I’m not implying that we should shame single moms, people with mental illness or even people who have made mistakes.  But people who feel some sort of remorse for bad choices also feel shame over them.  Remorse and shame go hand in hand.  Shame is a natural negative consequence of an action and we need to stop acting as if all shame is bad shame and we shouldn’t feel it.  Maybe if we had two baby boys would still be alive.

Don’t get too excited fellow Republicans

So, Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate.  To a seat that Sen. Ted Kennedy held for 47 years.  In Massachusetts.

I can see where Republican’s could get a lot giddy about that.  Massachusetts is pretty damn blue but the people who live there are very independent and don’t like being seen as push overs.

Martha Coakley really didn’t run the greatest of campaigns and why would she think she needed too?  She slammed her opponents in the primary and Brown was pretty down in the polls for a good deal of the race.  But a perfect storm hit the voters of Massachusetts and Coakley make some pretty big mistakes in off the cuff remarks.

Here’s the thing, the voters didn’t vote just for Scott Brown and this wasn’t a vote against Pres. Obama or the Health Care Bill.  They voted for him because voters are sick and tired of being taken for granted, for our elected officials continuing to dismiss our worries and because we’re all making less and spending more on basic needs while we’re being told that another set of taxes is for our own good.

It was a warning shot to the Democrats but that’s mostly because they are the ones in power now.  Though, to be, honest I’m not sure how the hell they aren’t getting their agenda accomplished.  They have a greater majority than Pres. Bush did when he was legislating for 8 years.  Jon Stewart said it best: “It’s not that the Republicans are playing chess while the Democrats play checkers.  It’s that the Republicans are playing chess and the Democrats are in the nurses office because they glued their nuts to their thighs again.”

No, the Republicans won a victory here because they are the only option.  If the party really wants to continue the momentum into the 2010 elections they need to stand  for something not just against the Democrats.   They also have to get on board with Health Care and be more out there with what they want to see to make it affordable and remove barriers to people obtaining it.

The Republicans also need to have a plan on how to fix people’s paychecks.  And tax cuts aren’t the only options, people get testy when they think the people with money are getting all the breaks.

Voters still remember Pres. Bush and are a lot hesitant to vote for Republicans again.  In short, we need more Republicans who aren’t Christian Conservatives.  We need Fiscal Conservatives who are more worried about limiting the scope of big government, allowing the States to govern themselves and staying out of people private lives and bedrooms.

While the Christian Conservative movement brought the party into power in the 90’s that isn’t going to work in the 2010’s.  Young people aren’t coming on board with the platform because they think of the GOP as anti-gay, anti-minority and anti-anything but white Christians.   If the party wants to survive and thrive it needs to prove that it’s not.

In short, the Republicans need a make over by November 2010.  I’m sure they will pick seats up in the House and Senate but unless they actually begin to show people that there is room for them under the big tent it will be a short-lived victory.