Friday, November 30, 2012

Payday Lenders Looking for Loopholes - and Finding Them!



The story goes that W.C. Fields, who made no pretense of being religious, was visited in the hospital by a friend who found Fields in bed reading a Bible. Fields was very ill, in fact many feared that he was dying. The friend asked, 'Fields, what are you doing reading a Bible?!'
Fields replied, 'Looking for loopholes!'

In Texas, payday lenders are experts at looking for loopholes - and finding them!

A few months ago, I wrote a column in the Dallas Morning News about the need for more stringent oversight of the payday loan industry, particularly regarding it's compliance with Dallas' local ordinances, the laws passed in the last session of the Texas legislature and industry 'best practices'. Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed and I were also guests on 'McCuistion', a local public televisoin talk show, where discussed the very same thing with Rob Norcross, lobbyist for the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas.

Finally, this past summer, I was interviewed about the hardships of low income consumers caused by a chain of auto title lenders who are transferring existing looans to the suburbs in ourder to circumvent compliance with Dallas' regulatroy ordinances.

This isn't made up stuff! Nor is it rampant speculation. Consider this report from Forrest Wilder, writing for the Texas Observer...

"One day a few weeks ago, on my way to work, I walked into a Cash Store near my house in East Austin and took out a $1,500 loan. I wasn’t broke, but I sure would’ve been if I hadn’t later canceled the loan. Thankfully, Texas law allows you to cancel a payday or title loan within 72 hours, without penalty. Otherwise, repaying it in 10 installments over five months, fees, interest and principal amounted to $2,362.23—an effective APR of 612 percent. My motivation was journalistic curiosity: What is the retail experience of a typical payday loan customer? How easy is it? As easy as, say, buying a TV or toaster oven? Would there be a high-pressure sales job? Would it be hard to figure out what I was getting into?"

"I picked the Cash Store—a medium-sized, Irving, Texas-based chain with five locations in Austin and 133 statewide—at random. Cash Store is owned by Trevor Ahlberg, a major Republican donor who lives in Irving and enjoys big-game hunts around the world."   "The store I visited is located in a busy shopping center anchored by an HEB supermarket. The interior was clean and sparsely appointed. A trio of well-groomed young Hispanic women were stationed at partitioned stalls, like tellers in a bank.""Within 45 minutes, I had $1,500 in twenties counted out to me, arranged like a fan on the counter. The first payment of $408.72 was due in two weeks. I left the store with the money, but I was also confused. I had gone in looking to take out a payday loan but had left with something else."

"“We don’t do a payday loan,” the Cash Store employee told me when I asked for one. “It’s an installment loan.” Indeed, small taped-up signs in the store stated that the Cash Store doesn’t offer “deferred presentment transactions”—the technical term for payday loans—at its Austin locations. Moreover, the employee told me that they were “pretty good about loaning up to half of what you make in a month.”"

"The total amount they were willing to loan me was, in fact, more than twice my monthly income, despite a recently enacted ordinance passed by Austin City Council that explicitly limits the amount of a payday loan to 20 percent of monthly income. The ordinance also prohibits payday shops from offering installment loans that include more than four installments—an attempt to slow down the cycle of debt many consumers get into with these loans."

"Also: I was never provided with a newly required disclosure form that explains in plain English how much the loan costs, compares it to other types of credit and provides contact information for the state Office of Consumer Credit Consumer Commissioner."

"As serendipity would have it, I had stumbled onto the latest mutant creature in the wild and wooly world of Texas payday lending. “What you’ve come across is really important,” said Ann Baddour of Texas Appleseed, an Austin-based group that advocates for social and economic justice. “It looks like they have found a loophole within a loophole,” one that allows Cottonwood Financial (d/b/a Cash Store) to escape new, albeit meager, licensing and disclosure requirements passed by the Texas Legislature as well as more stringent rules adopted by Austin, San Antonio and Dallas."
"(Ahlberg did not a return a voicemail left at his office. The Texas payday industry’s main trade association, the Consumer Service Alliance of Texas, also did not reply to requests for comment.)"

"What’s different about Cash Store’s loans versus a “regular” payday loan? Instead of signing a postdated check for the amount due, like you would in a true payday loan, the Cash Store had me sign a photocopy of a blank check. That small change apparently has magical powers. Voila! Not a deferred presentment transaction, not a payday loan, not a credit access business, and apparently not subject to Texas regulations."
"Experts I consulted said the arrangement looked legal on its face, but raised troubling questions about the state’s convoluted and extraordinarily lax legal apparatus surrounding payday and title loans. (You can view my contracts here.)"

"“There are new products in the payday and auto-loan field that raise questions,” said state Sen. John Carona, a Dallas Republican who chairs the Senate Business and Commerce Committee. “These approaches appear to skirt local ordinances as well as state law. Carona said he would consider filing legislation to address the problem next year."

"Leslie Pettijohn, the head of the state Office of the Credit Consumer Commissioner, warned Carona’s committee in October that attempts to circumvent the new law “threaten the whole integrity of our system of interest rates and usury laws.”"

I've said it before, I'll say it again: there's something wrong with a business model that depends on exploitation to make profit!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Accommodation: A Community Conversation


On the first and third Thursdays of each month (at Highland Park United Methodist Church and First United Methodist Church, respectively) CitySquare's Public Policy Department hosts it's Urban Engagement Book Club. 

By far, the book I most looked forward to us reviewing was 'The Accommodation' by Dallas Observer columnist, Jim Schutze. It's a primer on the history of race relations in Dallas and one which has evoked strong emotion, pro and con by nearly everyone who has read it (and many who haven't!). 

After a number of our book clubs we have what we refer to as 'community conversations' during which we have guests who engage in a dialogue with us designed to help us understand the issue on which the book is focused. Our guests for the conversation after the review was Jim and Rev. Peter Johnson, longtime Dallas civil rights activist and former regional director for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). I have a great deal of respect for both of these men and they made this a very special event. 

We recorded this book club and we look forward to doing more of this in the coming year. 

Hope you enjoy this! I certainly did!


By the way: kudos to Randy Mayeux who did a masterful job of reviewing this book in the author's presence - no small feat! Thanks Randy for the excellent job you do for us every month!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The 'Anti-WalMart'?





There may be those of us who feel conflicted about reports of WalMart's low prices and it's poor pay of it's employees. There appears to be a little considered option (for reasons that appear to be widely unknown - certainly unknown to me!) - Cosco.

CEO Jim Senigal appears to have unraveled the mystery of paying your workers a decent wage and providing customers with low prices.

"Costco's average pay, for example, is $17 an hour, 42 percent higher than its fiercest rival, Sam's Club. And Costco's health plan makes those at many other retailers look Scroogish. One analyst, Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank, complained last year that at Costco "it's better to be an employee or a customer than a shareholder.""

"Mr. Sinegal begs to differ. He rejects Wall Street's assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street's profit demands."

"Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco's customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers' expense. "This is not altruistic," he said. "This is good business.""

"He also dismisses calls to increase Costco's product markups. Mr. Sinegal, who has been in the retailing business for more than a half-century, said that heeding Wall Street's advice to raise some prices would bring Costco's downfall."

""When I started, Sears, Roebuck was the Costco of the country, but they allowed someone else to come in under them," he said. "We don't want to be one of the casualties. We don't want to turn around and say, 'We got so fancy we've raised our prices,' and all of a sudden a new competitor comes in and beats our prices.""

"At Costco, one of Mr. Sinegal's cardinal rules is that no branded item can be marked up by more than 14 percent, and no private-label item by more than 15 percent. In contrast, supermarkets generally mark up merchandise by 25 percent, and department stores by 50 percent or more."

""They could probably get more money for a lot of items they sell," said Ed Weller, a retailing analyst at ThinkEquity."

"But Mr. Sinegal warned that if Costco increased markups to 16 or 18 percent, the company might slip down a dangerous slope and lose discipline in minimizing costs and prices."

"Mr. Sinegal, whose father was a coal miner and steelworker, gave a simple explanation. "On Wall Street, they're in the business of making money between now and next Thursday," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness, but we can't take that view. We want to build a company that will still be here 50 and 60 years from now.""

"IF shareholders mind Mr. Sinegal's philosophy, it is not obvious: Costco's stock price has risen more than 10 percent in the last 12 months, while Wal-Mart's has slipped 5 percent. Costco shares sell for almost 23 times expected earnings; at Wal-Mart the multiple is about 19.Mr. Dreher said Costco's share price was so high because so many people love the company. "It's a cult stock," he said."

"Emme Kozloff, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, faulted Mr. Sinegal as being too generous to employees, noting that when analysts complained that Costco's workers were paying just 4 percent toward their health costs, he raised that percentage only to 8 percent, when the retail average is 25 percent."

""He has been too benevolent," she said. "He's right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden.""

"Mr. Sinegal says he pays attention to analysts' advice because it enforces a healthy discipline, but he has largely shunned Wall Street pressure to be less generous to his workers..."

Read the rest of the article here...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Understanding Structural Inequities, Disparities and Disproportionality...

Two things always surprise me about writing a column for a newspaper: who reads it and who likes what they read.

Those who agree don't always take the time to write. But there are those who will always let me know that they agree - or disagree - with what I've written. People are free to disagree. There are some whose comments sometimes make me rethink my position. Others clearly think I have more space than I do to express an opinion (the column length is 630 words). 

This month was no exception. 

There were those who replied who clearly agreed and appreciated the perspective. Others who are obviously still smarting from their candidate's failure to win the election, were less inclined to agree, or had what they thought, were salient criticisms. 

For instance some had real problems understanding the column's references to 'structural inequities and disparities'. Which is particularly interesting since Texas' Republican dominated state legislature clearly understands what these terms mean. They even set up a address the issues resulting from the problems they create...

"The Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities was created by Senate Bill 501 in 2011 to help address disproportionality and disparities in Texas health and human services. Senate Bill 501 established the center as the Texas State Office of Minority Health to assume a leadership role in working with state and federal agencies, universities, private groups, communities, foundations, and offices of minority health to decrease or eliminate health and health access disparities among racial, multicultural, disadvantaged, ethnic, and regional populations." 

"Senate Bill 501 provides for a comprehensive approach and allows Texas to maximize resources and produce better results through the development of recommendations for strategies that cut across every system that contributes to disproportionality and disparities for the same populations. The legislation also established the Interagency Council for Addressing Disproportionality which is composed of representatives from various state agencies and community-based interested parties, including former foster care youth, representatives from the medical community, and representatives from community- and faith-based organizations."

"Disproportionality is the overrepresentation of a particular race or cultural group in a program or system compared to their representation in the general population. Disparity is the condition of being unequal and refers to the difference in outcomes and conditions that exist among specific groups as compared to other groups due to unequal treatment or services. A health disparity is a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social or economic disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect people who have experienced greater social or economic obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, mental health, physical disability or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion."

"Disproportionality and disparity in the treatment of children, families of color, and vulnerable populations in systems is embedded in the structure, in policy, in practice and in individual relationships between workers and their clients. It has its roots in historical conditions, and it arises from factors such as poverty, education levels, income, household composition and the lack of resources."

"Significant gains have been made in reducing disproportionality within the Texas child welfare system. This work has laid the foundation for expansion and continued improvement across other health and human services agencies."

"...eliminating disproportionality and disparities calls for the reform and in depth look at all programs that serve our vulnerable citizens, including health care, education, juvenile justice, and housing. This approach cuts across every system that contributes to disproportionality and disparities for the same populations. The Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities will serve as a vehicle in addressing and eliminating disproportionality and disparities in the Texas Health and Human Services System as well as other systems that serve children, families, and vulnerable populations. Success is dependent on mutual accountability at every level so that the end result is equity and fairness in all health and human services delivery."

Were there voters across the country fearful that such an understanding at the federal level was unlikely if the President was not reelected? I think that's a reasonable conclusion. 

I think it's equally clear, that there are those who are so threatened by the prospect of changes in current systems which will result in greater opportunities for the poor and minorities that they refuse to acknowledge, let alone understand the need.

Of course, this only deals with structural (systemic) inequities in the delivery of public support services. It doesn't address inequities in the private sector - access to credit for businesses, lack of economic development in areas of concentrated poverty; the presence of food deserts and food swamps - which result both from poverty and market bias. Nor does it deal with other issues related to areas where public and private systems are linked, like, for instance, the criminal justice system and prison reentry. But disparities and disproportionalities abound in our culture and those seeking office, whether at our statehouses or the White House, cannot blithely dismiss people 'takers' in their ideology, politics or even their humanity. 

Find out more about the Center for Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, here. 
To learn about one of the initiatives of the Obama Administration to address disparities in education of African-Americans check here and here

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Analysis of the 2012 Presidential Election Results


My November column in the Dallas Morning News was published last week. For those of you who can't get behind the pay wall, here is the full text...

_______________________________

GOP, meet the ascending electorate

Those of us who follow politics are drinking from a fire hydrant of postelection analysis. The close popular vote and clear Electoral College victory revealed changes in American politics as complex and challenging as are the issues facing President Barack Obama in his second term.

The vote revealed what some have referred to as an ascending electorate. We’ve all heard the figures by now: 93 percent of blacks, 71 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of Asian-Americans voted for Obama. The president won 60 percent of the youth vote (ages 18-29) and garnered 67 percent of single women voters.

There is palpable angst in the Republican Party over this outcome, and serious GOP politicians and strategists know something has got to change. Yet Mitt Romney’s assessment of his defeat — an insulting, offensive suggestion that only the poor could have failed to have voted for him — completely overlooks the possibility of a poor campaign strategy or ineffective messaging.

He instead blamed “gifts” given to a growing segment of the American electorate that is hooked on entitlements. He went on to speak derisively of “free health care” being a “huge” gift to someone making $25,000 to $30,000 a year, essentially explaining away the margin of defeat among key demographics by suggesting that votes had been “bought.”
Such an evaluation shows an unseemly disdain for voters, willfully ignoring the fact that for some citizens, seeking the American Dream is not about getting rich but rather about addressing structural inequities and disparities in our economic system through policy change. This constituency has the same rights as a person of means to vote for candidates who most adequately speak to those concerns.

The GOP campaign avoided substantive conversation about the concerns of this constituency, relying instead on marginalization of its issues and a variety of efforts to suppress minority voter turnout. It was a losing strategy.

Americans living on their own fiscal cliff can’t ignore issues of inequity. A recent Pew Center Research study reports that the wealth of Hispanics fell by 66 percent between the years 2005 and 2009. Asian-American household wealth fell by 54 percent. Black Americans’ wealth fell by 59 percent. By comparison, white wealth fell by only 16 percent. Nearly a quarter of Hispanic and black families surveyed had no assets beyond the family car, compared with only 6 percent of white families.

Likewise, the persistent achievement gap in education threatens the future of our country. Kati Haycock, president of Education Trust, a children’s advocacy group, warns, “African-American students are less likely than their white counterparts to be taught by teachers who know their subject matter … they are less likely to be exposed to a rich and challenging curriculum and the schools that educate them typically receive less state and local funding than the ones serving mainly white students.”

The Centers for Disease Control reports that mortality rates for black children are nearly 2.5 times those of white children. Blacks and Hispanics report higher instances of coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Disparities in preventable hospitalizations associated with these diseases, if eliminated, could save $6.7 billion annually.

It’s easy to judge some Americans harshly, lecture about “dependency” and demean citizens as “victims” — all the while devising policies that create obstacles to polling places. After being ignored, threatened, caricatured and insulted, the Election Day votes of these Americans — as well as others who know our nation can do better — should have come as no surprise.
As Republicans continue to search for answers, perhaps they should consider this paraphrase of a movie title from a few years ago: “They’re Just Not That Into You.”

The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr. is vice president of public policy at CitySquare. His e-mail address is gbritt@citysquare.org. He blogs at www.changethewind.org.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Blessing: Near The Cross


This may be a controversial post for some. Carlton Pearson is no longer a 'traditional' Christian minister - and some have branded him no Christian at all. However, this video is from 20 years ago and the power of this song still has impact. 

For those of us who grew up in the church, or have been in the church for a long time, know the tremendous hope offered by this hymn. It speaks of an ultimate triumph we experience now and which we believe will be fully realized in the future. 

This song inspires me. It is one I still love to sing and I hope it blesses you this morning...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind

Samuel Beckett
1906-1989



Playwright, Novelist, Director

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Friday, November 23, 2012

'How Children Succeed...' Less of a Mystery than We Think?


Larry James, Randy Mayeaux (who reviews our books for our Urban Engagement Book Club) and I, assisted by our Public Policy Coordinator Keilah Jacques, have just selected our books for next years' UEBC. One of the books I'm looking most forward to reading and having a conversation about is "How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character", by Paul Tough.

Tough, a journalist and former editor for the New York Times and Harper's Magazine, interviewed about the book and it looks to be a very important read that reminds us of what we already know: there's more to the capacity of our children to learn than I.Q. and test scores. Equally, if not more important is the determination to succeed, the willingness to work hard and character that enables them to persevere through life's challenges. Of course we need a community of caring adults to nurture, challenge and support children with these qualities, but the book challenges the notion that we need to consign our children to dead end lives.




CitySquare's public policy focus on education will be an important one. I'll release a list of the books and when they'll be reviewed soon. In the meantime, you can get a jump start by reading "How Children Succeed..." ahead of time and preparing to be a part of the community conversation afterward. 

Urban Engagement Book Club is held on the first Thursday of each month from 12:00-1:00 pm at the Highland Park United Methodist Church. Each third Thursday we meet at First United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas at the same time. 

See you there!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A WalMart Shopper in Support of Striking WalMart Employees

I'm a WalMart shopper...

And I will support the striking employees of WalMart on Black Friday...




Their call for increased wages, more and better hours, and better working conditions is right. And I think it is the right thing for them to go on strike. There is a unique balance between our demand for goods and services and the goal of work that recognizes the rights of the worker, including supporting and nurturing family life.

My second real job was working in the kitchen at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. I was about 17 years old. I worked there after school and on weekends after football season. My younger brother, Lyndon, worked part-time, year round.

Not long after I started working there, our supervisor began scheduling us to work nearly every Sunday from 11-7. This was a conflict in the family, because we attended church every Sunday. Shady Grove Baptist Church is a relatively small Baptist church in East Dallas. My grandfather was the pastor and our family played prominent roles in worship service.

My grandfather would have understood if we had missed worship occasionally to work on Sunday. We wouldn't be the only members of the church who worked in a hospital. But in our family, worship wasn't just about presentation, it was a conviction. We worshiped on Sunday because we believed that this is what we were obligated to do...and we loved worship and our church.

After no less of three weeks of this scheduling, my mother went and talked to the head dietitian and explained to her our situation and told her that if working on Sunday from 11-7 was a requirement then we could no longer work there. We could work all day on Saturday and any time we weren't in school. But on Sunday, we could only work from 4:30-7:30.

It was not a long conversation. When it was over, we still had our jobs, and we only worked on Sunday from 4:30-7:30.

We worked Christmases. Thanksgivings. New Year's Days, occasionally on Easter Sunday afternoons.

But we were also teen-agers. There's a huge difference between a wage for part-time student workers and their schedules and those of adults with children. I cannot imagine having to have that type of conversation with my family's livelihood hanging in the balance. Or this job making the difference between whether or not I would have enough to pay rent AND eat that pay period.

These are the choices WalMart workers have to make.

I worked at a department store for a year or two before being called to pastor a church. I worked in the warehouse and sometimes on the floor serving customers. The most I ever made, was $10,000 a year. I remember the last raise I got on that job - about 10-15 cents. An older man, Louie, who was the custodian and who had worked in that department store for more than 10 years. Got a larger raise...and had his hours reduced.

WalMart workers report this as a common occurrence.

There are some who say that this...among many other reasons is why they don't shop at WalMart. Perhaps that's the right thing to do. I'm probably justifying my patronage by saying that 'not' shopping at WalMart, in some way makes them more vulnerable. We all 'benefit' from WalMart's low prices and their influence on the economy. They force small businesses out of business. They also force their remaining competitors to lower their prices. Many of us have 401k's wrapped around the axle of their prosperity.

Here's what I can do...

After meeting with WalMart workers last week and hearing their stories, I can come and pray with them before their protest. That's what they asked of me and other clergy there. I can encourage them.

And I can not shop there Friday.

It may be fair to brand this as an area in which I'm being hypocritical and that's probably fair. But their cause is just. And they need to be supported. You and I can argue how you feel about my inconsistency later. The question now is, how will you support them?

Monday, November 19, 2012

'Teached' is in CitySquare Public Policy Department's 2013 Documentary Screening Schedule

One of my favorite (although at times nerve racking!), initiatives we have at CitySquare to promote public awareness about issues related to poverty is our documentary screenings.

We started in 2011 with the popular film, 'Waiting for Superman' and have since screened films that have dealt with hunger, the plight of black men and immigration, among other topics.We're putting together our list of films for 2013 and we're going to try something a little different.

One of our screenings will be a three part documentary entitled 'Teached' about inequality in public education. Education is key if children trapped in poverty are to be provided a pathway out of education. I believe all children can learn - and learn at high levels - however, all children don't have the same opportunities, let alone advantages. 'TEACHED' is a short film series that candidly assesses the causes and consequences of our nation's race-based “achievement gap," looking at continuing inequalities in our public school system and taking viewers into those communities where the effects are most severe to hear what solutions the students, parents, teachers and others have to offer.

Normally we have a pretty lively discussion with a guest panel that offer insights based on their areas of expertise related to the film. We'll have a different and we hope more challenging format with this short film series.

More to come on this as we finalize our preparations. I just wanted to give you a heads up to let you know that 2013 promises to be another great year in which CitySquare continues to tackle the root causes of poverty and confront the systems that sometimes have barriers that make it difficult for our neighbors to live out their dreams.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Government Doesn't Create Jobs" - Really?!


The most unconsciously spoken meme spoken by people whose ideology outstrips their common sense is that 'government doesn't create jobs'. 

Of course government creates jobs! And we all want government to create some jobs! Here are just a few of the jobs government 'doesn't create'. Periodically I'll be posting pictures of jobs which government can't 'create' but clearly does!. 

Share them with someone who goes into ideological auto-pilot and spouts this talking point...












Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Papa John's More Than a Sore Loser

So there are some sore feelings around last week's presidential election. Some are along political partisan lines. Some of those sore feelings are clearly because of race. Others, I think are just spite.

The worst sore losers? Well one is John Schnatter. Maybe you don't know his name, but you know his face. He's the 'John' in 'Papa John's Pizza. Schnatter was an Romney supporter and, as you may have heard, Romney loss. 

Now in his concession speech, Mitt Romney did exactly what you are supposed to do. He expressed his thanks to his supporters and his family. He congratulated the President and he pledged his support and his prayers. That sends the signal to his supporters that the campaign is over, we accept the outcome and we come together as a country. 

Schnatter missed the memo. 

Because the candidate he supported lost the election, John Schnatter decided that he is so disturbed by one of President Obama's policies that he's taking desperate measures. The policy is the Affordable Care Act (I actually think 'Obamacare' is disrespectful. But since the President says its OK, I'll use it occasionally). 

Obamacare requires employers with over 50 full time workers provide health care coverage for its workers. John Schnatter believes this will increase his business costs, and add a whopping 10-14 cents to the cost of a pizza. So he's considering cutting his employees hours so he won't have to provide health care. 

"Schnatter...made the comments Wednesday night inside a small auditorium at Edison State College's Collier County campus. In August, he made national headlines after telling shareholders the Affordable Care Act — commonly known as Obamacare — would result in a 10- to 14-cent increase for customers buying a pizza."

""I got in a bunch of trouble for this," he told the students. "That's what you do, is you pass on costs. Unfortunately, I don't think people know what they're going to pay for this."
Schnatter, a Mitt Romney supporter and fundraiser, said he was not "pro or against" the reform law but likened the government's involvement in health care to its operation of the U.S. Postal Service, saying "the worst entity in the world for running the thing is the government.""

Of course, Schnatter's not the only electoral Grinch. There are others, including Applebee's restaurants considering similar action.

We now live in an era in which regular working stiffs have succumbed to the idea that businesses can do whatever they want to do. Unless it means that the working stiff proponent loses his or her job. The small business owner who believes he's one sale away from reaching Fortune 500 status is similarly committed to such ethos. 

But there's something wrong with this. And I refuse to believe that it's not seen by most of us. 
Now, I don't eat Papa John's Pizza. I've been to Applebee's maybe three times in the past 20 years. For me to say, 'I won't be back', won't make a dent in their business. But this is poor corporate citizenship. It's unfair to workers. And it is a sorry display of democracy. 

I think more people ought to at least say so...


Saturday, November 10, 2012

For Those Who Would Change the Wind



George McGovern 
1922-2012



Former U.S. Senator (D), South Dakota
1963-1981

"The highest patriotism is not a blind acceptance of official policy, but a love of one's country deep enough to call her to a higher plain."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Civic Lesson: The Electoral College...


So, we're having some blowback from some people who feel that voting in this years election is meaningless because of the Electoral College. The reasoning is pretty specious, because all elections are not about the Presidential election or the Electoral College. However, there are those who do not understand the Electoral College. It's pretty timely because we might see this happening tonight. So here it is!

Thanks to Khan Academy! It's a great resource!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election Day is Almost Here! Here's a Little Help, Now Go Vote!








Ok, you've missed early voting, Tuesday's coming and you know who you want to cast your ballot for President, but you're not sure about those other races?

I know it's intimidating. As a matter of fact, I'm sure that's one reason many people don't vote. Most people aren't political junkies so they haven't been paying attention to what seems to be a million politicians running for office.

Here's a little help. This sample ballot will let you know every congressional and state race you will be voting for if you live in Dallas County (sorry, if you live elsewhere, I can't be of much help to you!)

You still have to do a little homework, but here's the link to the League of Women Voter's Guide. You will find virtually everything you need here to find out where to vote and the politicians stances on relevant issues. Trust me, it's excellent.

Spend some time reading about the candidates. Filter through the noise. Think about the kind of country, state and county you want and which office best helps achieve that desired end.

There's also a bond initiative on the ballot. Here's some information on that.

You've got all the tools you need. Now GO VOTE!

By the way, this is a post for today AND tomorrow. This election is just that important!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Did What We Learn from Katrina Help Us with Sandy?

I'm back!

For a number of reasons, I've taken a few days off from posting. Quite a bit has happened since I've been away. The U.S. economy created 177,000 new jobs. That makes over 5 million jobs in the last 8 months. I had a birthday. Tuesday is Election Day (if you're registered and haven't voted PLEASE exercise your right on November 6!). And the so-called 'October Surprise' in the election may not be a person or a data point, but an event - a natural disaster: Hurricane Sandy...

A confluence of a hurricane, a northeaster and the most populace and internationally significant region has produced human suffering the likes of which we haven't seen since Hurricane Katrina. And I think that's worth remembering.


Hurricane Sandy Devastation



Hurricane Katrina Devastation

The national reaction to Sandy's devastation has been remarkably different from that of Katrina. While there are always people who ignore evacuation warnings and those who do and return to find that they have lost everything. Yet I think we have been far more sympathetic to those victimized by Sandy than the victims of Katrina and the broken levees.

I've not heard anyone berate those who have stayed behind with Sandy

I've not heard anyone wonder aloud whether or not we 'need' a boardwalk in New Jersey

I've not heard one person suggest incompetence on the part of the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, whose please for help were at least as poignant as those of then New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin.

Granted, mistakes were made by the Louisiana state and local government in 2005. In due time, we will identify mistakes made in the Tri-State region. The difference in attitude can be explained, in part, by the response of President Obama when compared to that of President Bush during Katrina.

My hope is that it is also a sign that we have learned some lessons about human suffering. Maybe we have learned that all people are vulnerable to catastrophe and simply because you lack wisdom, foresight or money, doesn't make you less worthy of compassion and support. And perhaps we have learned that the 'boot straps' that we call on people to use to pull themselves up can be lost in a hurricane...or maybe even a Great Recession.

Maybe...