Being poor is . . . [read more to better understand poverty]

Being Poor.

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Let’s Talk About Poverty

When was the last time you dug through the couch cushions for loose change in order to put gas in your car? Had oatmeal for dinner because it was the cheapest meal you could afford? Had to decide between paying a utility bill or buying groceries? Or didn’t purchase a medication that your doctor prescribed because you couldn’t afford it?

Like many I have skirted the edges of poverty as a young adult.

My first child was born while I and my husband were still in college, and our family often subsisted by eating oatmeal and Jiffy corn bread. I was “homeless” for a brief period after flood waters suddenly surged into my home, submerging the first floor and my vehicle. I didn’t own much back then, but I mourned the loss of my car. It was painful hitch hiking around town with two small children until I had the down payment for another car. For awhile my kids I and lived doubled up with a girlfriend and her kids to share expenses.

Later on during graduate school, I was a “welfare mother” for two years. During the years since then, I repaid the government many times over in taxes as a high wage earner. Now that I’m retired and living on Social Security benefits, it’s not improbable that an expensive chronic illness and a long life won’t impoverish me or my husband, whoever lives the longest.

Poverty looks a lot different today.

So many unskilled jobs are only part time work at minimum wage. Even families with two working parents struggle to live on $15,000 year (before taxes). Many white-collar older workers who lost their jobs during the recent recession have emptied their retirement accounts to pay bills while at best working for much less, if working at all.

Then there are the college students with massive student loans looming over them whose college degrees haven’t resulted in meaningful job prospects. Many are filling jobs often reserved for unskilled workers. At the other end of the spectrum are the elderly, especially the widows. How do the widows manage financially after losing a spouse and the social security benefits that spouse had been receiving?

Today one in five children is in a household living below the poverty level – over 22% of the children in Butler County. Over 77 % of the students at local elementary schools qualify for free & reduced rate meals.

I am thankful for the safety net that got me through the rough periods in my life. That’s community grace! But not everyone has access to an adequate safety net, and many fall through the cracks.

We might comfort ourselves with the faulty belief that today’s safety net is adequate to help today’s poor — especially if we think we’re never ever going to need it ourselves.

We can’t delegate the safety net to governmental offices and churches with ministries to help the poor among us and expect it to be adequate. Everyone needs to step up to do their part in giving a helping hand where one is needed — and I’m pleased to say that a lot of people are doing that in our community.

Because helping the poor is what Jesus would be doing if he were here today – and because our helping the poor in his name is what makes Jesus here today.

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Hunger in the Heartland – Oh my!

Test your knowledge by taking our Hunger Quiz ??????????????????????????????

True or False? [answers below]

1. One in six Americans do not have access to enough food.

2. Most persons who experience hunger are homeless and out of work.

3. Few children experience hunger because there are programs to care for them.

4. Most persons in low income households would be fine if they just worked harder.

5. Even college educated adults struggle with issues of hunger in this country.

6. Lack of adequate nutrition only affects a child’s growth.

7. In school, children living in food-insecure households perform just as well as children who have enough nutrition daily.

8. More than 2 million rural households experience food insecurity.

9. Urban counties have the highest poverty rates in the U.S.

10. Nearly 49 million Americans don’t have dependable, consistent access to enough food due to limited money and resources.

THE FACTS

• Hunger is a reality for 1 in 6 people: including hard-working adults, children, and seniors who are forced to go without food due to limited resources.

• Hunger is not an issue just for the homeless and those living in poverty. In the Feeding American Network, 36 % of households served have at least one working adult.

• Lack of resources prevents nearly 49 million people from getting enough food.

• 17 million children live in food-insecure households. Hunger affects their physical, cognitive and behavioral development.

• Children in food-insecure households are likely to experience fatigue and difficulty learning in school. School lunch programs help but don’t solve the whole problem.

• Insufficient nutrition puts children at risk for illness and weakens their immune system. In adults, it can contribute to physical illness and mental health problems.

Answers:
1. True. 2. False. 3. False. 4. False. 5. True. 6. False. 7. False. 8. True. 9. False. 10. True.

Adapted from: http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-facts.aspx

For more information about food insecurity in El Dorado, Butler County, Kasnsas — and ways you can help — see: Kids Need To Eat (KN2E)website – kidsneedtoeat.org.

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Corporate Welfare and Whiny Rich Entitlement

Regardless of your views regarding the wisdom of the government’s bailout of AIG in 2008, it’s hard not to be incensed about the lawsuit filed its former CEO Maurice Greenberg.

Greenberg currently owns 12% of AIG’s stock. That’s a huge amount and much of it was most likely accumulated as a result of a bloated pay package while AIG’s CEO. He and his sons have controlled a major portion of the insurance industry: a family that’s probably the 1% of the 1%!

Bailout summary

American International Group, Inc. (AIG) is a multinational insurance corporation and the world’s largest insurance and financial services corporation in 2006. It’s also a provider of life insurance and retirement services for companies, institutions and individuals (affecting the retirements of a whole bunch of you’s and me’s).

In the fall of 2008, AIG was in crisis and on the verge of filing for bankruptcy protection due to imminent insolvency as a result of risky bets on mortgage-related investments. While CEO at AIG, Greenberg himself surely was involved in decisions that contributed to its dire condition in 2008.

There weren’t any private investors willing to save the company. So the U.S. government came to the rescue as AIG was considered “too big to fail” – that is, its bankruptcy would have had a devastating ripple effect that could push the country into a catastrophic depression.

In 2008 and 2009, the United States extended financial support to AIG  that totaled as much as $182.5 billion. Today, the company is in robust health and the United States has reported a positive return of $22.7 billion on the bailout.

Greenberg’s lawsuit

In his lawsuit against the government seeking $25 billion in damages, Greenberg whines that the 14% interest rate on the government loan was “punitive.”

Complaining about a 14% interest rate – now that’s something that only a super-wealthy investor with an “entitlement” mentality would have the audacity to do. Compare that to the astronomical interest rates charged by payday loan companies.

Keep in mind that Greenberg is asking you and me, as taxpayers, to pay the $25 billion in damages that he seeks in his misguided lawsuit against the US (that stands for “us” taxpayers, not the wealthy individuals and corporations that pay low if any taxes due to tax loopholes enjoyed by corporations (aka Corporate Welfare).

Wealthy entitlement at its worst!

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What parents need to know about guns

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Deaths and injuries of young children from firearms are not accidental:

they can be prevented.

This is the first of a series of occasional blog articles about firearms.

A True story*

One morning  a preteen boy had a friend over to watch TV and play games. The boy’s dad was at work but his mom was home. At some point the mom told the boys that she needed to run to the store and would return quickly.  As soon as she left. the boy took his friend to his parents’  bedroom to show him a handgun hidden in a shoebox in the back of a high shelf in the closet.

When the mom returned home, she found her son’s friend dead from a gunshot wound. The boy said it had been an accident – they didn’t know the gun was loaded. The boy was arrested and murder charges were going to be brought against him in adult court. A plea agreement resulted in a much lesser charge in juvenile court and the boy was sent to an out-of-state treatment facility.

One mother buried her son and another lost custody of her son.

The Data

  • Hundreds of children under age 15 die each year due to unintentional injuries from firearms in our country.  
  • Thousands more are injured by firearms and many suffer permanent injuries such as paralysis and brain damage.
  • In addition many children use guns to commit suicide.
  • Most “accidental” deaths and injuries occur when children are playing with or showing weapons to friends. The easy availability of firearms in homes is a contributing factor.
  • At least one third of homes have firearms in them – but only 39% of families keep their firearms locked, unloaded, and separate from ammunition.
  • A study of gun deaths of preschools (ages 0-4) found they were 17 times more likely to die from a gun accident in the four states with the most guns.

 What patents need to know.

 A play date in the home of your child’s friend can become deadly.

 What parent can do to protect children from death and injury.

 If you have children living or visiting your home, it is safer not to have a gun in your home.

  • Before allowing your child to play in a friend’s house, ask the friend’s parent if there are guns in the house and how they are stored.
  • Find out if parents who are gun owners have taught their children about gun safety and practice good gun safety themselves.
  • If you choose to own guns, don’t keep them where children might find them.
  • Use basic gun safety precautions recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
  1. Lock it up: Always keep the gun unloaded and locked up. 
  2. Separate the parts. Lock and store the bullets in a separate place. 
  3. Hide the keys to the locked boxes so kids can’t find them. 

Sources include: 

 * This incident is documented in court records, but the details are modified because this can and has happened many times in our nation.

 

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Community Pride and Grace

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Welcome, neighbors, to our community blog. This is the first of somewhat weekly blog conversations that we invite residents of Butler County (Kansas) to have with us and each other.

Pete is the peanut butter and Judie the jelly of the sandwich of our lives together (some of you know Peter from his “Changing Lanes” blog). One of us grew up in upstate New York and the other in Wisconsin. We have moved a lot during our adult lives, living much of the time in the Midwest. We are a blended family that includes six adult children and their families scattered across our great nation. 

Butler County is where one of our sons and his family established themselves six years ago. During our visits as we met people and experienced life in this community, it began to feel like home to us as well, culminating in our relocating here about two years ago. Since then our life has been an accumulation of small things — personal observations, interactions with others, volunteering, community events, home improvements, and the like. 

We plan to blog about current events, civic life, and issues relevant to life in Butler County. Some postings will be a solo effort, and others collaborative. In some respects it’s presumptuous for newcomers like us to observe and comment on our community. After all, most of our friends and neighbors have been here much longer — some for generations. One lives in the house where he was born 85 years ago!

Seeing the world through the eyes of young children, what for us has become commonplace is newly a source of wonder. Similarly, this blog is an opportunity for you to see life in Butler County through our eyes as recent transplants. It also is an opportunity for us to expand our knowledge through your collective voices as commentators on our blog post (that’s what will make it a conversation). 

We invite you to converse with us and other readers via the El Dorado Times’ comments feature — to suggest topics for our blog, share your views, and expand the discussion. Avid discourse among a diverse population living in community is part of the glue that both tests and binds us as we strive to discern common ground.   

We aren’t always going to be on target, and you won’t always agree with us — and that’s where grace comes in. Grace intervenes to steer a community of sundry peoples, beliefs, and thinking to live, work, and pray in harmony. It’s the influence of God’s spirit, the source for the kindness of a stranger.

Much of Butler County’s history is rooted in notable self-sufficiency. People step up to the plate to build, enhance, and preserve their community, with a laudable continuity of duty and deserved pride. However, this can also foster a protective sense of ownership that sees things as better than they might really be or could be. When we let it, grace enables us to see what might otherwise go unnoticed or unheeded. Our hope is that our blog conversations with readers will include ways our shared community might meet these challenges.

We look forward to getting to know you and our community better as we experience Butler County together through this blog.

Grace be with you,

 P&J

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